Blues Clues Birthday Party

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shortly before he turned 2, Dude went through a phase where he threw himself at the TV while shrieking "Waaaaaaaannnntt Bwwwuuuuuueee!!!" And slapping his hand on the wall a lot and shouting "Cwue!"

So I had a pretty good idea what to do for his 2nd birthday party.

To tint the frosting, I sat one of the clue stickers in front of me and kept fiddling with my Wilton gel colors until it was close enough.

For Blue's face, I used Photoshop to scale down the the template I found here - I traced around it with a toothpick. It's worth noting that I should have actually looked at a picture of Blue before I frosted, because in the show her nose is dark blue, not black.  If I'd noticed that I'd also have done the outline to match the nose.

I chose a font I liked for the number 2, blew it up in Word and printed it on card stock. Then it was easy to cut out and trace around in fondant with an Exacto knife.  I didn't even have to print two sizes, I just eyeballed one of them bigger.

The name banner represents the flag that Blue holds at the beginning of every show with the episode name on it. That shape was easy to freehand, though it would be easy enough to make a card stock template to trace in Word.

I also put 3 paw prints around the side of the cake - I just forgot to take a picture of them. Those I also traced with a toothpick around a card stock template I printed from a paw print image I found online.

Shovel and Pail
Dude talked a lot about Shovel and Pail, so I wanted them to make an appearance. Turns out? It's hard to find sand toys in late fall. Thank goodness for a kind eBay seller who deals in bulk 'assorted colors' plastic sand buckets. I emailed the seller to explain I needed the specific color combination for a Blues Clues birthday, and not only did they enthusiastically agree to help, they also tucked a few little Blues Clues freebies into the package (you can see the stickers poking out of the pail, that was one of them).

For Shovel's face, I stared at a lot of pictures of him. Then I broke out the Sharpies and crossed my fingers.

For Pail's face, I cut the shapes out of felt from the craft bin and glued them on. This was a nice approach because if I messed one up I just remade it, no worries about a permanent mistake. (The challenge is finding glue that will stick - they only stayed on a few weeks with Elmer's.)

Handy Dandy Notebook
For the Handy Dandy Notebook - known lovingly over here at Chez Geek as the "danny guk guk" - I was delighted to find endless options on eBay.  We opted for the one that has several dry erase pages in addition to the paper ones. It also came with the iconic green striped crayons and a pack of extra pages, as well as the "clue" post its I used to help me tint the frosting. This site is listed on the back of it:

Finding Blue herself was a bit of a challenge, seeing as how the show has been off the air nearly a decade.  But as luck would have it, thanks to global intellectual property theft our international partners in capitalism, you can readily obtain a shiny new Blue on eBay for a surprisingly reasonable price.  Just plan ahead - shipping takes a few weeks.

Dude was so very happy, and promptly ran off clutching his new best friend.


Update: nearly a year later, after much of love and roughhousing, she's still holding up very well considering her questionable origins. So if you child can't live without their very own Blue, it's worth the 15 bucks to eBay her from China.


I pinned this post to my Blues Clues Birthday Party board and my cake decorating board.

Special Needs Student Resume 2014 Update

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I knew when I wrote my original Getting To Know You: Special Needs Student Resume post that I would need to revise it as the years went by, because our kids have this sneaky habit of growing up and changing on us.

So here we are again, staring down the start of a new school year. Most of us are have a shiny new pile of fears about how our kids will handle the transition to new schools, new teachers, new aids, new therapists, new classmates. Heck, I wasn't sure how mine would handle needing a new backpack (pause to thank the Powers That Be for Angry Birds Star Wars)!

Each year we face the daunting task of communicating who they are and what they need to new instructors, plus updating familiar staff on how their needs have changed. But we accept the challenge because we want everyone in their lives to understand what wonderful people they are, and what they need to thrive.

For our part, my older son is moving from his Gen Ed placement with a 1:1 to an outplacement at a school with a dedicated curriculum for autistic students, which we are both happy and sad about, for all the predictable reasons. And we're in EI transition planning with my younger son, which means moving him into the district in which my older son has been crashing and burning. So no worries there, right?  He'll be getting his own version of this resume just in time for the dreaded 3rd birthday.

All of this is why I developed the special needs student resume. And why I decided to share it with all y'all. And since I get most folks would rather chew off their own arm than write a resume, why I also created a free template to make it faster and easier to make your own.

Go forth and advocate!

View and download a PDF of this 3 page sample special needs student resume (1st Grade)

View and download a PDF of a 2 page sample special needs student resume (Kindergarten)

Download a dotx Word template for creating a Special Needs Student Resume


I pinned this post to my Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder board.

"Introduce your Special Needs child to school staff with free student resume template by @ShesAlwaysWrite - #Autism" Tweet this!

Autism Visual Tool: Reversible Stop and Go Sign

Monday, June 23, 2014

My toddler's OT recently started playing Stop and Go games with him. It was about the same time he started trying to elope and learned to open all the deadbolts, break child locks off door handles and pull furniture over to open the hotel lock, so I was certainly interested in anything that might help keep him safely indoors.

With that in mind, I took the OT's advice and created Stop/Go signs for all the doors.

I wasn't expecting much, but we diligently pointed the signs out to him each time we went through the door and talked about how we can only go outside when it's green. And how only a grownup can change it from red to green, because it took about 2 minute for him to give that a shot.

We also make an extra big show of changing it from red to green on the back sliding glass door to distract him from our other hand slipping behind the drape and undoing the new lock he hasn't noticed yet.

I have to say it's been surprisingly helpful.  Within a week of starting to work on this he and I went for a walk around the neighborhood to check out the garage sales. He slipped my grasp and bolted towards one he saw halfway down the block.  There was also a car coming, because of course.

I yelled "STOP" because that's what a mom does when her toddler is running headlong into danger.

To my absolute shock, he actually did. And waited for me to catch up. And when I got there and hugged him and the driver nodded to me they'd noticed what almost just happened, I quietly thanked our genius OT for teaching me how to teach him this.

It's worked out so well for us I wanted to share the signs I made so you can give it a try at your house.

They're sized for a standard letter size piece of paper.  I recommend using card stock.

They're aligned so you can print Stop, flip the page over and run through the printer again to get the Go centered within the Stop.

I purposely made two PDF files because I'm terrible about just hitting "print" and ending up with two pages of signs. By making myself open two files, I remember to pause between printing to flip the page over.

I recommend laminating them so the hole punched area doesn't rip with repeated use.

Hanging the Signs
I used a hole punch and some yarn from the craft bin to hang them with.

For the front door, I used a Command strip hook.  (It's totally the one left over from hanging a Christmas wreath).

For the back sliding glass door, I used a suction cup I found in the tub toy bin, but I bet a Command strip would work just as well.

You'll have to experiment with height for your kids - we had to find a balance between high enough he couldn't keep pulling them down but low enough he could still see them well.

Other Uses
I also made a spare without a hanging string to keep in the Regulation Station (someday I'll get around to blogging that). It's good for playing the Stop/Go games and grabbing when an impromptu visual is needed to get through the random situations that pop up with the kids.


I pinned this post to my Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder board.

My Son Is Better at this Than I Am

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bear was having a rough time coping with his little brother this morning, who was giving us all an especially hefty does of ear-splitting two-year-oldness.

Bear got really quiet, then, almost in tears, he said "I want to say a mean word. It starts with s."

I gently asked him to come talk to me. Did a quick mental check of the angry words I sometimes let fly and vowed to do better. Wondered if he'd heard a new word at school.

He sat on my lap and put his head on my shoulder while I told him I understood that it some days it can feel hard to have a little brother, assured him he wasn't in trouble, and asked him what word he felt like saying. 


Oh, my heart. I wish he could stay this sweet and innocent forever.

Autism Resource: Potty Training Visual Schedule

Sunday, May 18, 2014

After much failure and desperation potty training my first son, I made this visual schedule. To my surprise and delight, it really helped him with the process planning. We were still in the midst of realizing he needed an autism diagnosis and running around trying to make that happen, so at the time, visual schedules were very new to me.

Unfortunately for us, his interoceptive sense is clearly impaired, so even though it helped him with the "how" he still sometimes struggles with the "when."

The reality is that it took over 4 years from when he first indicated interest in the potty to when we could mostly consider him able to know when he has to go during the day (nights are another thing).

Because of that, I pretty much hate anyone with a "my kid potty trained in a week" story. They can go right to hell. But on their way, if they could pick me up another package of pullups that would be great because I forgot them at the store today and I don't want to do the sheets again in the morning.

This came up because we're entering potty training hell with the little Dude. 

Although Dude doesn't seem to be as challenged by it from a sensory standpoint, he's giving it the full blown 2 year old treatment. Going on the potty was AWESOME when it was his idea - one weekend a while back he went 12 times and I was all OMG it might not take 4 years!!

And then he realized that the whole potty situation wasn't just his idea. He slammed on the brakes and I'm scrambling because not even M&Ms are working any more. Which is just maddening because see Exhibit A: full weekend of success when he felt like it.

Then I remembered Bear's visual schedule and stuck it back on the wall. So far, Dude's quite enthusiastic about it and keeps going into the bathroom to name the items on the list. He won't actually do them when I ask yet... but this is autism, people! It's a step in the right direction and I'm calling it progress.

If you think this might be helpful at your house, you can download a free printable PDF of this potty training visual schedule here.

It fits on a normal sheet of paper. I laminated mine because, well, I didn't laminate the first one and it got all mangled from enthusiastic hands pointing at the pictures halfway through the washing step.

Hopefully this will help your family's journey to potty independence as much as it's helped ours.  Here's to dry sheets and clean underpants...

This post is pinned to my Autism & Sensory Processing Disorder board.

Easy Personalized DIY Gift for Teacher Appreciation Week

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

 It's Teacher Appreciation Week!

If that strikes fear into your heart as well, come sit by me and have coffee split a bottle of wine while I tell you all about my new secret weapon: Tagxedo!

As many of you know, I was reluctant to go down the Pinterest rabbit hole. That said, if it wasn't for my new religion I'd never have found this amazing site. I had to start a whole new pile of post-it notes (i.e. gestating pins-to-be) just for all the ideas I have for using it.

And no, they're not paying me. They don't even know I exist. Well, maybe they do now, since yesterday I ponied up a donation to thank them for saving my neck here in the land of small children and people who expect homemade cards from them.

Anyway. Teacher week. You've so go this.

1) Go to the Tagxedo site.

2) Click Load to give it the words. ( can come in handy for this.)
You can point it at something like a blog post or type in your own. The default settings make repeated words show up bigger, so if you want the person's name to be really big put it in a bunch of times.

3) Play around with colors and fonts and shapes until you lose your mind.  Click the History button to go back through thumbnails of all the versions. Finally settle for one 43 clicks back you're pretty sure you liked better than the one 27 clicks back.

4) Click the Save and Share link to choose from a list of formats and sizes
Be sure to choose a larger resolution if you plan to print (I usually pick 4MB png).

This is what you'll get (but with your own shape and words and colors and... you get the picture.)

5) Make your card.

I prefer to crop the colored border with the site name on it before I make the card.  I print it on the bottom half of a standard letter size piece of card stock so when you fold it in half, it becomes the cover of a card you can write inside.  It's a piece of cake to do in Photoshop but you can also do it in Word pretty easily.

Since my son struggles with writing, I also added a simple message so all he had to do was sign his name.  You can easily leave yours blank if it's no big deal for your kiddo to write a little thank you.

I used a Kindergarten manuscript / letter learning font because I thought it was cute in this context and because I wanted my son to be able to read it. You might want to make your own with something fancier.

If you want to use the message I made, you can download this PDF.  Just flip over the card stock with your word cloud printed on it so the interior message gets printed on the back and is oriented correctly when the card is folded.

If you're me, this takes 6 tries. Spatial relationship skillz! I don't have them.

Fold the card and have your kiddo write what needs to be written. Voila! Teacher = appreciated.

Most people just send the card, but I haven't been able to do much for the class lately due to work.  So I poured all that working mommy guilt into a gift basket of school supplies from the class wish list.  I put the card on that.

Then you get to send it to school and bask in the glow of being the cool family at the next PTO meeting. (That happens, right? I wouldn't know. I avoid those things like the plague.)

Or, in my world, you get to be the one who puts in all this works and sets it on the shelf right next to the door so you won't forget but the special needs transport arrives 15 minutes early with a different driver they'd failed to notify you about and you're frantically trying to get shoes on your kid sooner than his routine dictates while preparing him for the idea he's never before seen the person about to drive him and then the substitute driver starts the damn van while he's walking in front of it and completely freaks him out and then you finally get him settled and sent off and you come back in and see the gift sitting on the shelf, right where you left it.

This post? I totally pinned it.

May Flowers Layer Cake

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I made this on a whim when we were having friends over for a springtime cookout, and I was really happy with its cheerful simplicity.

It only takes beginner level skills and I think it could be a nice offering for a bake sale, brunch, or outdoor gathering. The color scheme is ideal for a baby shower, and it could even work for a casual bridal shower.

I used my go-to old school Betty Crocker cookbook yellow cake recipe because it's foolproof, sturdy enough to stand up to manipulating and generically tasty enough that no one's going to complain about wishing it was chocolate (Which... and I realize this is blasphemy... I find too heavy for warm weather desserts). 

If the April shower gloom starts getting to you, this is one one to bring your own May flowers.

Here's my pin of this post.