Halloween Storybook Roundup

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall is my favorite season, and Halloween is my favorite holiday.  When Bear got old enough to understand that some books were about this time of year, it was no surprise that I went nuts finding lots of them to read with him.

We started at the library, but at ours the seasonal books have a lending limit of one week.  Obviously that's not going to cut it for an obsessive spectrum kiddo who wants to read his favorite 5 times a day for weeks on end.  But, it was a great opportunity to narrow down specific books it was worth purchasing.

I put so much time and energy into creating our Halloween children's book collection I figured it makes sense to share it here to save some legwork for those of y'all on a similar quest.

It's worth noting that not all are specific to the holiday - some are about the season in general and some have themes of overcoming fears that I find Halloween offers the perfect opportunity to discuss.

So in no particular order... here are the books my boys and I love reading together every fall!

2015 Update

 Five Little Pumpkins is a board book transcription of the cute little song they sing in preschools this time of year.  I was completely charmed the first time I heard it at Bear's preschool when he was smaller, and I was excited to find this little book now that Dude is preschool age.  He loves it, and we've already read it dozens of times this October.

This Pop-Up Haunted House book is done in a rhyming meter, with each pop up page illustrating a different spooky theme like werewolves, ghosts or witches. I think it's very cute and manages to be cartoonish enough that the 3 year old isn't scared. Just be cautious with the pop ups themselves - while they appear sturdier than some I still wouldn't leave this book unattended in small hands.

2014 Update

Goodnight Goon is a parody of *shudder* Goodnight Moon, and its mere existence makes me incredibly happy. There's also a Runaway Bunny parody by the same writer (The Runaway Mummy) that I'm having a little trouble finding in matching board book format I look forward to adding to our collection.

Halloween Hustle has a bouncy meter and is loads of fun to read out loud!

Room on the Broom is a sweet story of compassion and friendship that I think is a new classic.

The Night Before Halloween is a charming spoof of Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Inside A House That Is Haunted is a nice little Level 2 Scholastic early reader.

Sesame Street Happy Halloween is a spoof of Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven featuring The Count, and I just love it.

Which Witch Is Which? is another cute Sesame Street story featuring Elmo and the gang.

Halloween Jack is a cute board book featuring a few classic creatures aimed at younger children.


Please note... I am in no way affiliated with the book retailer these titles are linked to, and I receive nothing more from this post than the warm fuzzies I get from sharing beloved books with young readers.

Pastafarian Pirate Fish Craft Pumpkin

Friday, October 18, 2013

I had this foam pumpkin on the shelf for years.  I was paralyzed by the momentousness of the decision of what to carve on it.  Because a craft pumpkin is forever, y'all.

And then, at last... one fine autumn eve... I was touched by his noodly appendage and granted inspiration.

Presenting... the Pastafarian Pirate Fish jack o' lantern.


Despicable Me Halloween Candy Bags

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When we decided to do a Despicable Me family costume this year, I assumed it would be easy to find coordinated candy bags since the licensed Gru and minion costumes are all over the place.  (Not so with Lucy, you have to piece that together yourself.)

No luck with the candy bags, so I decided since I was making minion costumes for the boys I might as well made candy bags, too.

We already limit the number of houses to 10 or so, a number Bear can manage without getting (too insanely) overstimulated.  Plus, the boys are only 5 and 1 and just don't need that much candy.  Since most candy bags are big enough to hold all the candy I buy to secretly eat all October for over 100 trick or treaters, I figured it was just as well to downsize.

Project Supplies
Tote bag(s)
Black felt
White felt
Craft glue

Basic copy & paste and Word skills, plus access to a printer are also important.

Difficulty Level
Parental Scale: one cocktail, optional
Parent-Child Togetherness Scale:  your kid is old enough to use scissors but young enough to not yet be sniffing glue

I found these 8" x 8" tote bags at the dollar store.  I'd have preferred black, but the color selection was limited and at 2 for $1 I wasn't going to be picky.  I went with radioactive minion yellow.

I found this Gru logo and pasted it into Word for sizing, then printed it on paper to use as a template. 

This is the logo printed onto plain paper and laid out on a standard piece of white felt (you can find sheets of felt in the craft aisle at Walmart for about 33 cents each).  The craft bags are 8 inches square, so I did roughly a 6" logo.  You can adjust the size using the ruler in Word.

Cut a black circle for the background and a white circle for the G.

Carefully cut the G out of the template and trace it onto the white felt circle.

 1) Technically you can skip cutting the white circle, I just found it easier to do that way.

2) Trial and error taught me you'll get a cleaner look if you trace the G backwards (not shown here).  That way there are no stray pen marks on the finished side after you cut it out.

If you're using something like Elmer's glue or a glue gun, have at it. 

If you're addicted to the convenience of spray adhesive like I am, retire to a well ventilated area and place felt pieces on a disposable surface. I go out in the garage or on the back patio and use old newspaper or a chunk of cardboard from the recycle bin. 

Make sure you are applying the glue to the back side of the felt G, then carefully place it on the corresponding black circle. Seriously, if you are anything like me, double check the whole forwards/backwards thing.  Spatial relationship skillz! I do not have them.

Decide it's silly to wait for the glue dry on the logo before adhering it to the bag.

Spend several minutes trying to turn the still fragile logo over while the spray glue residue on your hands makes it stick to your fingers and fall apart.

Debate letting the logo dry and then sewing it to the bag so your kids can't peel it off like a giant sticker.  Ignore the voice of reason, forge ahead with glue plan.

Carefully measure Estimate the spacing Slap that sucker on the bag and think about making a cocktail as a reward for being such an awesome freaking mom that you just fabricated custom made Halloween candy bags.  Realize you're high from the glue because you forgot to open the garage door and head off in search of the adhesive remover, because you can't take your contacts out with felt glued to your fingers.

Pro tip: These cute little bags may be the perfect size for limiting your child's Halloween intake, but the flip side is they don't provide enough overflow that you can allocate a stash of your own.  The solution to this problem is buying extra for the trick or treaters and "forgetting" to get that bag out of the Top Secret Candy Hiding Place on Halloween night.

This is my Despicable Me Halloween costume Pinterest board
This is my pin of this Despicable Me Halloween candy bags post.

Tick Tock

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I had the dubious honor of learning that a pregnancy after having had one child on the autism spectrum means being bombarded with variations of "soooo... what are the odds this one will be autistic too?"  Ya know, because people are always so tactful about deeply personal things like reproduction.

For the record, the latest numbers put the odds for my second child at 26%.

We told ourselves that the odds were on our side.  We told ourselves that we knew what to look for. We told ourselves we would know what to do.  And we hoped.

By the time my precious little Dude was 8 months old I could no longer deny he was missing communication milestones. By 10 months old it wasn't getting any better.  I knew what I was seeing because we have unfortunately been there, done that. At 11 months, I called Early Intervention. For his first birthday, he got a full blown evaluation.  They found a significant speech delay - my 12 month old was communicating at a 4 month level - and a borderline cognitive/developmental delay.

The best thing I can say about all this is at least people stopped saying "aren't you glad this one is normal?" (File Under: People I Deserve a Medal for Not Throat Punching)

Just a few weeks after the Dude's initial EI workup, Bear had his routine neurology checkup.  I went in knowing I had to ask a question I deeply, desperately did not want to ask.  But the Dude was 14 months old and the clock was ticking... I was painfully aware that 15-18 months is the age regressive autism commonly sets in.

So, I asked him. "Is it possible to have classic and regressive autism in the same family?"

He said yes, of course. I told him that was the wrong answer.

He was quite concerned about how things were going with Dude and was glad to hear we already have him in therapy through EI.

It's been several months and we saw him again this week for Bear's checkup.  He was, of course, interested in that wrinkled eyebrow, frowny face doctor way when I told him the Dude had slightly regressed developmentally, developed dangerous sensory seeking behaviors and was now up to 3 EI therapies a week.  I asked him if he thought a Developmental Pediatrician might be a good idea; he said absolutely and quickly recommend two he has worked with.

The thing is, I don't want my baby to be an interesting case for one of best pediatric specialists in Chicagoland.  I don't want my kids to be so fascinating that the fancy doctors tell us we ought to have a genetics study done.  And I really don't want a Very Important Doctor to tell me I should take my baby for a consult with one of his colleagues. 

I know I'll get in trouble for saying this, but I'm gonna say it anyway: I don't want my baby to develop autism.

I can already hear the haters and the trolls warming up their keyboards.  But seriously? They can suck it.

This does not mean I love my autistic son any less.
This does not mean I will love my baby any less if he does develop autism.

I love both my boys with the full ferocity of a mother's heart.  More so, even, because the world is not a welcoming place for those born with different brains.  And it tears me apart knowing they will have to work so much harder to find their way.

I watch the days and weeks tick by and I wonder what will happen.  The Dude is doing very well in therapy, and we celebrate his successes.  But there's a shadow clouding my joy.  Because what if?

He's definitely got Sensory Processing Disorder.  We will not be surprised if he receives a Language Processing Disorder diagnosis. The speech therapist was happy to hear that we'd scheduled a hearing test because they're seeing the same things that concern us... and the hearing test was fine, which sets us on a path for a potential Auditory Processing Disorder diagnosis someday.  The red flags marking the path to a place on the spectrum keep piling up.

My precious little Dude is the joy of our family.  He is loving. He is engaged.  He looks into my eyes and smiles and - a year belated and coaxed out with endless months of speech therapy - says Mama.

He is a force to be reckoned with. The sun at the center of our family universe, his gravitational pull brings Bear out of his world and into ours more than anything we've ever tried.  The Dude is not just a gift himself, he gave us the gift of a richer relationship with our Bear.

I find it both easier and harder to raise a baby who notices my presence, mimics my actions, wants my attention.  And bittersweet; it was almost better not knowing how much of this I missed out on with my beloved Bear.

I hear stories about how devastated parents are when their children regress into autism and, honestly, I've been grateful that my Bear was a classic case.  Because I couldn't imagine the pain of bonding with your child and then watching that fade away.

Except that now I can. And it scares me to death.

I'm scared that all I may get is another few months with my Dude before he follows his brother into the internal world he so happily inhabits when it's autism's turn to have him.

I'm scared I'll forget what it was like, to have him smile at me and lift his arms to be held.

I'm even more scared I'll remember what it was like, and the pain will be too much too bear.

As with any child, I carpe every diem with him.  And I watch the calendar.  And watch for signs.  And wonder as each tomorrow dawns if this will be the last day he looks into my eyes and smiles.