Friday, October 2, 2015


I got two new things that started this foray into watercolor faces: Jane Davenport's book The Whimsical Face and a set of watercolor markers by SEI. I'm thoroughly enjoying the two, but I am having trouble getting the proportions just right. In any case, here are my sketches...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Black and White Zentangle

I've been doing zentangle for a few years now. I started when I saw a book in an art store in Montpelier, VT. I saw the tangles and knew I could do it myself based on the doodles I have been drawing my entire life. Well, that blossomed into a really enjoyable hobby and I'm hoping to maybe sell some of them at some point, but right now, I'm just LOVING the creative process of making these pieces.

They are a lot of fun to make and I can get completely lost in them. Many nights I look up andI can't believe the clock is reading 2am. I put on music and go. I've created my own pattern book that I use very often, copying something I've seen online or a pattern I have created myself. I've introduced this art to many people, some people love it some people are meh.

I use a variety of paper and pens. I have found that the Sakura white gel pen is best of writing on black or dark papers. They don't skip or clog up like some of the other pens. For the thicker lines, I use the white Faber-Castell marker. I haven't used the Sharpie paint pens, yet, so I'm not sure how those work. Best bet, Sakura gel pen and Faber-Castell white marker. Paper can be any black paper, Definitely use acid-free because the acid in the paper will change the ink from white to yellow.

For the most part, I've been doing a lot of 5x5 black paper, but I have done a 9x12 and a 12x12 and they look pretty awesome.

If you're looking to add some color, DO NOT get Souffle gel pens. The packaging says they work on dark paper. They do NOT. They cost $25 at Michael's and are not worth it as the pens do not do what they advertise.

Here are my latest doodles in black and white...
5x5 white ink on black paper

5x5 white in on black paper

9x12 white on black paper

Bad lighting on the picture - sorry. 5x5 white on black paper

12x12 white ink on black scrapbook paper

5x5 white ink on black paper
If anyone is interested, here's my doodle pattern page on Pinterest. Tons of good ideas.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Count Down to Vacation

Almost there...

Six months in the planning and now there's less than a week to go before the big trip!!!

This past weekend, we participated in the Wings for Autism at Logan Airport in Boston. This is a program to help kids with autism and their families practice the airplane experience. My son has never flown, never been to an airport, and never sat in a contained vehicle for longer than 3.5h. I really wanted to do this program so I could see where his sticking points might be.

The night before the program, something didn't sit well in his stomach and we had a few puking incidents, making for a tough morning as we were both tired and he was obviously not feeling well. Since this program only comes once per year and we were leaving in a week, I pushed my luck and took him anyway.

What went well

  • Standing in the short TSA line to get to the x-ray machines
  • Putting belongings on the conveyor belt and going through security
  • Getting on, being on, and getting off the plane

What didn't go so well

  • Waiting in the line to get on the plane
  • Pulling him away from the windows
  • Wandering around the parking garage, trying to find the car...more later

Let me explain...
We got to the airport just in time for our 10am time slot. I parked in central parking, which I'm apparently unfamiliar with because I swear I could have walked from home in less time than it took me to get form the car to the terminal. Literally, I walked through the garage, across a bridge, and through more garage to an elevator up to the 4th level (more on this in a moment,) through a set of doors and onto a moving sidewalk. Then we went through a doorway, onto 3 more moving sidewalks, through a foyer, onto another elevator and to the gate. I thought I had given myself lots of extra time, but I got to the desk with only minutes to spare.

Please note, there are signs everywhere about writing down your parking spot number, which I didn't do because I memorized where my care was parked, G16. This is important to remember later.

So, we checked in at the desk and got our tickets and got into a very short line to the first TSA checkpoint. This took maybe 5-10 minutes, not realistic at all. I've flown a lot and it's rare to get a line that short. Then, we went to the x-ray machines. I encountered no problems putting our belongings on the belt. I wasn't sure if he'd freak out at putting the bag on the belt because sometimes he freaks out at the grocery store belt. Nope, no problem. He even walked through the metal detector alone, but was caught by a TSA agent on the other side as he was ready to run. Then, we picked up our stuff and headed to the gate.

I wanted the experience to be as close to our real travel day as possible, so I packed his carry-on and I let him pull it. He actually liked to pulling it, so that was good.

At the gate there were snacks and goodie bags. My son has recently been diagnosed with a serious nut allergy, so we stayed away from the snacks. Instead, we opted for looking out the windows. There was no way I could keep him away from the windows, but pulling him away when it was time to board started his decline because then we had to stand in line for about 20 minutes to get on board the plane. During that entire time, he was throwing Fruit Loops on the floor and trying to pick them up and eat them. I just had them in a bag, not in a snack container, so they were everywhere. He wanted to run with some of the other kids, but those kids had two parents, one to stay in line and one to watch the running kids. It's just me, so sorry kiddo.

There was lots of whining and eye-rubbing and pulling during these 20 minutes, which made me seriously question my decision to take him vacation. He did remember the PowerPoint presentation I made him and kept quoting, "Wait our turn. Be patient. Stay with Momma." However, they were just words. There was no understanding behind them.

And I realized that I had forgotten to put his chewie necklace on, so he was putting his fist in his mouth, chewing on his jacket and putting everything in his mouth.

He was fine on the jetway and fine getting on the plane and walking down the aisle and getting in a seat and being buckled. I have to say I breathed a sigh of relief at that. I think it was like getting in the car for him. He's used to getting in and getting buckled, so it was no big deal. The sun was in his eyes and I closed the shade, but once he realized that the shades open and closed, that's all he did. They came by with snacks and he liked his snacks. I brought an empty sippy cup and put water into it for him. He was great on the plane.

On the way off the plane, he got to stop in the cockpit and see the knobs and levers and meet the pilot and co-pilot. He couldn't have cared less. I snapped one picture with most of him cut off and both of the pilots heads cut off. You have to be quick with this kid.

Back in the terminal, we went right back to the windows to watch the planes. I could only stay there for so long and when it was time to go, the tears and crying started. I dragged him away from the windows and back through the terminal, onto the elevator, through the foyer, onto 3 moving sidewalks, through a doorway, onto another moving sidewalk, through a set of doors, through the garage, across the bridge and through more of the garage. That's where everything fell apart. I knew I was in G16, but where I thought we had parked was labeled 4Y. With a screaming toddler in tow, my brain stopped functioning. I could not figure out how to get from 4Y to G16 and I started to question my memory of G16.

You have to pay before getting back to your car, so I paid in the foyer. We walked around so long that I had to pay again at the exit. We wandered around in 4Y, Z, X, and W forever. I remembered passing a white Subaru Outback just like mine on the way in, so I figured that was the right level. Every time we passed a white SUV, he screamed, "Momma's CAR!" Needless to say there are a lot of white cars and he must have thought I was denying him something. Eventually, after hearing him scream at the top of his lungs for probably 20-30 minutes, I was about to call security to drive me around until I found my white Subaru Outback, but decided to check the map one more time. I saw that there was a ground level...hence the G. When we got down there, I saw my car immediately. The rows are labeled with numbers on the G level, whereas they are letters on the 4th level. By the time we got to the car, I was ready to sell my son to the gypsies and go live on a secluded island with just me, my cats., and a frozen daiquiri.

He proceeded to fall asleep before we even got off the airport grounds. Thirty minutes of screaming takes a lot out of you. I, also, needed a nap. Thankfully, I will be parking off-site when we go away and the shuttle will bring us right to the terminal and they give you a card with your car location on it that the shuttle driver uses to find your car.

Lessons Learned:

  • Bring something for him to play with while waiting in line.
  • Put Fruit Loops in some kind of snack container.
  • Get there in plenty of time to let him run a muck and expend some energy.
  • Don't forget the chewlery.
  • Don't lose the car.
  • Allow for plenty of time for looking out of windows.

I'm glad I did the program and I hope I'm a little better prepared for our trip next week.

Vacation Part 1
Vacation Part 2
Vacation Part 3

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Autism Awareness Day

So, as I've posted before, I'm raising a son who falls on the autism spectrum. It has taken me a year to embrace the diagnosis, but I think I'm finally there.  I created this graphic for my Facebook page and got a lot of likes and requests for custom graphics. I think it came out well.

Unfortunately, autism awareness will last the day and then everyone will forget. This message reminds people that while Autism Awareness Day is April 2nd, those of us with children on the spectrum live with it day in and day out. There's no shutting off the blue light. Melt downs, stimming, self-harm, staring into space, communication issues, and so much more are part of our daily lives.

All I can say is before you judge a child or parent, remember that everyone's fighting a battle.

Monday, March 23, 2015

April Vacation - Packing and Lugging

 WAY too much stuff...

As any parent knows, kids require a lot of stuff. My son is still in diapers 100% of the time, so right off the bat, I need day diapers, night diapers, and swim diapers. There's half of my suitcase right there! So despite having lots of suitcases of varying sizes, I decided on a matching set of Nautica suitcases, one for me and one for CW. I rot them at TJ Maxx/Marshalls

I got the medium one and smaller one. I have a suitcase the size of the large one, but thinking about dragging that around made my back and shoulders hurt, so I went with the medium and small. I like this set one, because they match and I'm a bit OCD about that kind of thing, but also because they'r eon 2 wheels. I have suitcases on 4 that you push around upright, but I have found that when you need to pull them sideways, the wheels kind of suck in that regard. With the two wheel design, I can also stack the suitcases.

Convenienly enough, the smaller one fits perfectly sideways on top of the other one near the handle or tethered to the front. While I'm usually not great at foresight, the idea of dragging all this luggage through Logan while also trying to keep a 4 year old at bay forces one to ponder the future.

On top of the two pieces of luggage that will be checked, I'll also be bringing a few pieces of carry-on luggage. I plan on one for me, one for him, and an extra one with diapers and changes of clothes. I want to have two of them easily accessible, one for me and one for him. In trying to make things easier, I ordered this rolling backpack for his stuff. First of all, it's adorable and he loves Curious George, but also, it has wheels and a strap in the back. I'm not sure if he'll pull it or for how long, but the wheels will help him if he does decide to take ownership of his bag. I got it at Amazon, but Toys-R-Us also has the bag.

According to the research I did online, the under seat storage space of the JetBlue A320 at the window is 17" wide by 17" long and 9" tall. This backpack is 18" long by 13" wide by 4.5" tall. So, it'll stick out 2 inches, but that won't be an issue. I will be packing his snacks, busy bags, DVD player, DVDs, and diapering stuff in this bag, so I have to be able to access it.

The little carryon will have a change of clothes for him, a change of clothes for me, and all the diapers. I have been out in public when I've been puked upon and there is nothing worse than being covered in puke with no change of clothes. If he gets himself so worked up that he throws up, I need to have a spare set of clothes as does he. If I pack the little bag with all his diapers, that'll save a huge amout of space in our checked bags. Additionally, I'll use this bag when we go out so that I'm not leaving my Coach bag in the stroller when I have to leave it behind to go on rides.

Getting Ready to Fly

Nothing Like a Good Book
My biggest anxiety for this vacation is CW on the plane. No matter how much preparing I do, the sound of the engines can't be described, the length of the flight can't really be explained, and the hustle and bustle of the airport cannot be fully realized, but we can try. I bought the book, "The Noisy Airplane Ride" by Mike Downs and David Gordon. We read this on a regular basis and make lots of noise and while reading it.

Making it Personal
To make the experience even more personal, I created a PowerPoint presentation that we read KeyNote on my iPad. In it, I put pictures for every step of the way, from packing our bags, getting up early while it's dark, navigating the airport lines, putting our bags on the conveyor, and buckling in our seats all the way to chewing gummies when we land, getting our bags, going to the zoo and Sea World and Legoland and then going home. I even pulled the exact things we'll see like pictures od JetBlue lines and planes, Logan airport in the exact lobby where we'll be, animals we'll see at the San Diego Zoo and Sea World, and pictures of our hotel in San Diego. I'm hoping by him seeing pictures, he'll get a little accustomed to what we'll see on our vacation.

Practice Run
I signed us up for the April 11th Wings for Autism event taking place at Logan airport. I got my confirmation and I'm looking forward to attending, mostly so I can see where his sticking points may be. I think he'll be excited to get on a plane. He's going to love to see all the people and say hi to all the kids. Waiting in line will be tough for him as will putting the bag on the conveyor. He has trouble with this at the grocery store, so I'll be curious to see how he'll do at the airport.

More to come...

Part 1
Part 2

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

April Vacation Planning Part 2

So, now...the flight is booked, some safety things have been put in place, the mini van with car seat has been reserved, and I've secured a stroller rental once I get there. What's next?

Besides the overall anxiety of traveling across the country with an unpredictable autistic kid, the next thing on my list to tackle was going to be activities on the plane. Boston to San Diego is a long haul for anyone, but when you're going on 4 and the furthest you've been is a car ride to Vermont, this was going to be a challenge. I envisioned a complete meltdown where the plane would make an emergency stop or a quick u-turn to toss us both off the plane. So, activities were paramount.

As with anything I do these days, I immediately went to Pinterest, Etsy, and Google and did a variety of searches for: busy bags, DIY toys, toddler projects, etc.

Testing, testing...1, 2, 3
One thing I did do was to make the item, test it out on him to see if he liked it and them put it away in a secret spot, not to be seen again until the airplane. I was worried about making things he'd care little for and then be stuck on the plane with boring activities. While many people say to wait until the trip for your child to see anything so that it's new and exciting, I really didn't want to be stuck on a plane with activities he didn't care about.

Here are the ones I actually decided to make:

Stories on a Stick
I like the idea of little puppets on tongue depressors to tell a story. I found these three on the Preschool Printables blog. Lots of great printables, so check them out.
Preschool Printables: Free That Cat Puppet Sticks

Becuase my son loves Daniel Tiger, I printed out this image and cut the characters out on my Silhouette Cameo and pasted them to tongue depressors along with a picture of the trolley. I plan on finding or writing a little story to go with them. I'll keep you posted on that.
While these were drying on my desk, he wanted to play with them so badly and kept picking them up and wandering off with them. Into the stash they went.

Magnet Fun
He already has the Curious George magnet play set and I plan on bringing it with us on the plane. It's not really big, perhaps the size of a half sheet of paper, but the pieces are small and I found out the hard way that when dropped, the magnets pop off and go everywhere.

Since I already had the metal case, I made more magnets to play with. I used the mini wooden shapes that are already painted and sealed from Michaels and I glued a magnet to the back. Pictured is a different project with the shapes glued to a dowel. I didn't do that, just glued a magnet to the back.

I did go a little crazy and bought every package of shape. They are small and you can get 3 for $1, so I got them all.

If you do this, I strongly suggest NOT using neodymium magnets. They are too strong for this project and little hands and tend to pull out of the glue and stick, without the shape, to the metal.

Gone Fishing

I loved this idea of fishing with magnets, so I made a set for my son. I didn't follow the pattern so that all the fish were the same size or anything like that. I cut out two fish shapes (eye-balled it), and then glued a paper clip to the inside so that a little loop was sticking out the top. 

Like this, but using felt...

SINGING TIME IDEA: Fishing game...paper version...with downloadable templates (this would be fun for the grandchildren- maybe made out of felt or fabric... when we don't know what to do, we can go fishing for ideas... like make cookies, or take a walk, etc.)Then I used a neodymium magnet and glued it using E5000 glue to the tip of a dowel and let him pick up the fish.

I tested it out first. He loved just picking up as many fish as possible and walking around with them. You have to be careful of kids running with the dowel. You can always make the fishing rod with string and short stick.

Once I saw how much he liked it, I put this in the secret place.

Felt Fun??
I saw so many activities with felt that I knew I had to make some of these. I have to say while they are adorable and I figured he'd enjoy them, these were not the big hit I expected them to be.
Fun snowman crafts - Snowman Felt Board by Amanda Formaro CraftsbyAmanda.com

I made this one and tried it out. He liked it for about 3 minutes.

Felt Board- Tutorial

While I didn't go to this amount of detail, I did make some cars, a road, tress, and house. Again, he had about 3 minutes of this before he wandered off.

Lastly, I made roads like these and packaged them up with some new cars. I didn't introduce him to this activity since this one will be for the hotel room. I don't want to be picking up cars that roll away the entire flight. I know he'll like the cars, not sure about the roads.
Good idea for a felt board

We're still 4.5 weeks away from our trip, so I will be making more activities for him for the plane ride.

Next time...more planning.

Part 1
Part 3

Friday, March 13, 2015

Count Down to April Vacation - First Installment

Trip to Southern California: April 2015

So, here's something a little different from my usual creative posts. I will be traveling with my son in April. We're going from Boston to San Diego and this will be his first plane ride. Here's the catch, he's autistic. I'm so stressed about the trip that I'm afraid my anxiety will rub off on him and make him freak out more and then neither of us will enjoy the vacation. Not good.

4/19 - fly from Boston to San Diego
4/20 4/22 - stay in San Diego (Sea World and San Diego Zoo)
4/22 - pick up friends at San Diego airport, drive to Carlsbad to stay at Legoland Hotel
4/23 - 4/25 - Legoland and Sea Life aquarium
4/26 - fly back to Boston

In preparation, I've been over-planning our trip. Going over every detail again and again and trying to guess what his sticking points will be. In some ways he's easy because he falls into the mild to moderate part of the spectrum and he's such a happy kid. He likes to say hi to everyone and he has a big vocabulary, so he'll name everything he sees and some things he doesn't dragons, cows, and monkeys. Where he's delayed is in his communication skills. He can't tell you if he has a headache, if he's tired, if he has a leg cramp, or if he had a bad dream. He will go through a litany of things trying to name the one thing that's affecting him. Like if he wakes up in the middle of the night, presumably from a bad dream, he'll ask for cookies, music, milk, the cat, blankets, Nana/ get the idea.

My strategy is to keep him busy the entire trip. My next few posts will be about the things I'm doing to try to alleviate the stress we'll likely both be feeling.

Months before leaving...

I've read both sides of the argument for and against direct flights. On the one side, people say that breaking up a trip will allow a child not to have to be contained for an extended period of time. On the other side, breaking up the trip will uproot a child and perhaps cause more stress. I went with a direct flight because I figure once I get him on the plane and situated, I don't want to break that up. We may have to walk around the plane or he may want to sit on the floor and play in his seat, so be it.

I'm a big JetBlue fan and even though the cost was ridiculous (my son is too big/old to sit on my lap and needed his own seat,) we're going direct. The TV at every seat was a big plus as well as slightly wider seats. Boston to San Diego will be a 5+ hour flight and I probably don't know what I'm getting into.

Wrist leash...
Since I will be lugging bags, typing into kiosks, talking to gate agents, waiting in the terminal, and going through TSA, there's no way I could hold my son's hand the whole time and do everything else, so I purchased the Gripsterz wrist leash ( What I like about this is the velcro strap that goes on his wrist and the fact that the length is adjustable. There is a plastic ring for a child to hold onto, but my son would never hold it, so the strap on his wrist is preferable. Just in case, I didn't want to wait until our trip to find out this is just a gimmick, so I tried it out. While it doesn't keep him from grabbing things close to him, it does keep him from running off and that is what I really need.

CARES harness (
My son is little for his age, like really little, but I didn't want to lug a car seat and I didn't want him in just a lap belt, so I purchased the CARES harness from It cost maybe $70, but it's one of the only ones that is FAA approved. I think he'll do better in a 4 point harness as that's what he's used to in his car seat and stroller.

Car rental...
I reserved a mini van for when we're in San Diego and Enterprise has a car seat rental that can be included (for an extra cost.) It's a bit more expensive, but worth it so that I don't have to lug one with me and we can just get in the car and go once we get the car. I also went with Enterprise because I can pay with a debit card. While other car rental companies have better rates and cars, I don't have an unsecured credit card, so my choices were limited. I've rented from them numerous times and I've always had a good experience.

Stroller rental...
Here's another area where I was trying to limit the amount of stuff I'd have to lug around with me, so after some research, I found a company called Toddler's Travels in San Diego ( I rented a stroller from them called the City Mini. The weekly rate was $45, but with delivery and taxes and such, it was around $85. Well worth it so I'm not struggling with an umbrella stroller in the airport, if you ask me.

Those are just the first few things I took care of. Like I said, I'm completely OCD about planning this trip. More to come...