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New Book – explores the transition from elementary to middle school

Well, I did it! My book is published. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pull it off, but I’m excited I could make it happen. If you look at my prior post from four weeks ago, I was just starting to write it.

You can order it on Amazon.

What prompted this spark? It started at an IEP meeting, believe it or not. We were going over my son‘s transition to middle school. The physical therapist, Dr. Blake, was at the meeting. She suggested I write a book about it. I agreed, but simply didn’t have the time.

If you know anything about creating a children’s book, there is an enormous amount of effort that goes into creating it. Literally hundreds of hours coming up with a storyline, character development, illustrating the pages, color schemes, formatting. It’s a huge effort.

I walked away from that meeting, and the idea stuck with me. I started to wonder how I would start the story. I wondered how I could make the storyline interesting. And what I would write about for thirty pages (the average children’s book is 30-35 pages).

By the time I got to the weekend, I had the basic storyline in my head. I think it came together quickly because I already had the character development done.

I typed it out, and sent it to the editor for review. We went back-and-forth with comments to finalize it. Once it was complete, I went to work on illustrating each page. I think I might’ve mentioned this already in my prior post.

And now here we are! Although very intense, I enjoyed the process. I had fun illustrating every page. My emotions ran high for some of them, like with the age progression and the graduation scenes. It all served to remind me that my baby was growing up. I kept a box of kleenex beside me.

The story gives you a glimpse of what its like to leave a place that you’ve known for so long, and to go to a new environment. In this case, it’s leaving the cocoon of elementary school and going out into the wilds of middle school. A lot of us been through that, and its especially challenging for those affected by autism. They need support with transitions. But it can be done! It may just take a little longer.

Thankfully it didn’t take long to publish. Amazon has an amazingly fast turnaround. My goal was to give it to the teachers before school ended. It would be my goodbye gift, and a thank you for all the great years (except 2020 of course).

I haven’t gotten much feedback yet, I hope they like the book! I hope you also read my whirlwind creation. It’s available on Amazon in paper and e-book format. It’s free if you have Kindle Unlimited. I will also upload it to Barnes and Noble, Apple, and wherever e-books are read. Comment below and let me know if you read it, and what you think of it.


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New book coming!

Until last Friday, i had no plans to create another book. The idea was brought up at an IEP meeting for my son, one of the teachers brought it up. I told her it was a great idea, but I simply didn’t have the time. So many hours of effort go into writing the storyline, then illustrating the pages.

But then a seed was planted in me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. My mind wrestled with how i was going to start the story.

I woke up Saturday morning with the idea still stuck in my head. We went for a walk and I noodled over it some more. It took another day for my mind to process, and by Sunday morning i was typing out the storyline. It all just came together.

I sent the draft to my book editor for review. Then I started planning out how I was going to illustrate each page.

My goal is to give this book as a goodbye present to the teachers as we leave our elementary school. So i figure I only have four weeks to make that happen. Thats not really enough time. But I will do my best to get it done.

I will have a different approach to make the creation process easier. I won’t do as many full page illustrations as my other book. Hopefully it’ll help the creation process go faster. I also won’t draw as many people or have many characters. In my last book there was a whole cast of people – teachers, friends and family. This new book will be more simplified.

I did apply for the book to be submitted to the Library of Congress. I don’t know why, but you make your submission BEFORE the book is published. I remember how disappointed I was when they didn’t accept the submission for my first book. I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.

Stay tuned! My goal is to create a couple pages a day, and have the full draft ready in a couple weeks. Yes an ambitious goal. But I think its doable, as long as I keep things simple and focused.

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Funny Rubber Chicken Theme Birthday Party

Funny yellow rubber chicken

When my son was about to turn 13 and become an official teen, I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. All he wanted was a rubber chicken. And that was it.

The grandparents asked about what to get him. I told him he simply just wanted a rubber chicken. Then a seed was planted in me. I decided to make his whole birthday a rubber chicken theme. What could be more fun than that?

I went to Pinterest to get some ideas. There were quite a few cakes out there already. I guess this wasn’t such a new idea after all.

Since we were still in the middle of a pandemic, and the vaccine wasn’t available to children yet, we made the party really small. Just our immediate family. But I still wanted it to be fun and special. And memorable. I brought out the silhouette cutting machine and made rubber chicken cut-outs. Thirteen of them, one for each year. Then on each chicken we wrote what we appreciated about him. I guess you could call them chicken affirmations. I then taped it to the wall above his computer, where he was sure to see it.

Then I designed a rubber chicken greeting card and pattern gift wrap.

Funny rubber chicken birthday card

Then the day finally came. Little did kiddo know what was in store. He saw the rubber chickens on the wall and read the affirmations. Then we presented him with his gifts and he opened them one by one. It was just as he asked. A rubber chicken.

Of course the grandparents weren’t content to buy just a chicken. They searched Amazon to find other theme-related gifts. They found a toss game, playing cards, and even a t-shirt. Who knew that a yellow dog toy could be so popular? We couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. Kiddo was mildly amused.

Then for the cake, i was going to also bake something to go along with the theme. But kiddo requested his favorite – the Oreo cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. Who can say no to that? Off we went to get a slice of his favorite cake.

Overall it was a really fun day! The unusual birthday theme brightened everyone’s day. It was just what we needed to distract us from the craziness of the pandemic.

Of course this theme is not only good for pandemic times, its a fun theme that everyone will enjoy. If you’re looking for something unique for kids both young and old, this is it. I could see this used for other occasions too. As I write this, I’m envisioning a teacher putting these all over their classroom.

If you’d like to make your own rubber chicken cut-outs, i’m happy to share the images i used to create them. The easiest approach is to use a cutting machine such as a Cricut or Silhouette. If you don’t have either, you can always trace and cut by hand.

i recommend using colored paper. I used the Astrobright copy paper, i picked up a multi-colored pack from Office Depot. Construction paper would work just as well. Then i used googly eyes, you can get those at any craft store.

Just right click on these images to save them to your computer. You can resize them with the software that comes with your cutting machine. Or with an image editing software such as Photoahop.

Please note these images are for personal or educational use only.

Any questions or comments? Chime in below. Enjoy and have fun with it!

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New Book Release – Story About How Covid Pandemic Affected Kids (Autism Special Needs)

Several years ago I met this guy named Arree Chung. He was an author and came out with a course on how to make children’s picture books. He called it Storyteller Academy. I didn’t have any interest in making a book, but bought it anyway to support his efforts. I found the creative process behind that very fascinating, and I’d watch bits and pieces over the years to learn more about it.

Fast forward to August 2020 and I was feeling like I wanted to tell a story. As you all know Covid reared it’s ugly head. It affected my young son Adam who is mostly nonverbal and autistic. He suddenly couldn’t go to school anymore. And if you know anything about special needs kids, school is a HUGE source of support. They need it not only for education purposes but also the social/emotional aspects. For autistic people it provides a structure and routine that they need.

Not having school left a big gaping hole in Adam’s life. It was hard to see what my son went through, so I started working on a book to tell his story.

I had Storyteller Academy to show me how to make a picture book. The next step was learning illustration. I had ZERO experience. Sure I’m a graphic artist and can make greeting cards and gift wrap. So that experience helped. But illustration is a whole other thing!

I bought the iPad Pro and downloaded Procreate. Then poured in hundreds of hours learning basic illustration.

There were many times I just wanted to give up. I slowly realized what kind of effort was involved in making a picture book. I didn’t know making a children’s book was SO MUCH WORK. It blows my mind.

But slowly the story came together. Every time I finalized a page, I would show it to Adam to see if he could understand what was going on.

When all the scenes were done, I had professionals review it to make sure everything was grammatically correct and the storyline made sense. Then I compiled the book, and submitted it to Amazon for review and publishing.

The story starts with Adam slowly waking up. He thinks it’s just going to be another school day. But as he quickly finds out, that is not going to be the case.

We all know what happens next. While quarantined at home, Adam goes through several twists and turns. Many emotional ups and downs. He struggles to make sense of the situation. But he has the support of his family and surrounding community.

Order your copy today. I have the story available on paper or as an e-book. Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the story for FREE. CLICK HERE (you will be redirected to Amazon.com).

Spanish translation also in the works! Stay tuned.

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Outdoor Nature Birthday Party – Ideas To Create Fun Memories For Kids

When my son’s birthday was around the corner I started looking for ideas. I discovered that the nearby parks offered birthday parties. And they’re very affordable! I just love the outdoors so was really excited about this idea. One in particular was just down the street from us. They have themes including Amphibians and Reptiles or Butterflies and Insects. They also have a naturalist who can help you come up with a theme. 
 
The great thing about these parties (at least from the parent perspective) is that you just show up with the food and they take care of the rest! The party includes a program led by a naturalist, a covered picnic area and a craft for the kids to make and take home. No party favors needed. As a busy parent I can’t tell you how much I appreciate these programs. I don’t have time to put together a Pinterest-worthy party, but I do want to something fun for the kids to enjoy. 
 
To give you an idea of how these programs work here is an example. My son loves birds and was excited to be part of this group to learn more about them.

The naturalist talked about the birds local to our area. They then went on a nature walk to go birdwatching. The park had several nice binoculars to loan out and he was excited to use one. After they returned they talked about their discoveries. They also wrote down their findings in a journal booklet.

The open grounds gave the kids plenty of space to run around and play. And it was a beautiful day so they really enjoyed themselves.

If your area parks do not offers these programs not to worry! It’s not hard to come up with an outdoor theme and activities. You can even host the party in your own backyard. Here are some recommendations as you plan your outdoor party.

Book well in advance. If your area parks offer birthday parties the time slots will fill up quickly, especially if you’re booking for a Saturday or Sunday. Some allow reservations six months ahead of time, book as soon as you can.

Come up with a Plan B just in case the weather isn’t cooperating.

Decide on a theme. It can be as simple as squirt guns and water balloons in the backyard. Or it can be nature theme. A Wild Kratts theme is fun if your kids are into that show. If you have an older kid they may have fun roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.

Offer foods related to the theme. I made these for S’mores Brownie Cupcakes. They were a real hit!  I don’t have an official recipe. All you do is use a box of Ghiradelli brownie mix. Then crumble graham crackers and place on top. 

Bake the brownies according to the directions on the box. Then once it’s done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. 

Top with a large marshmall, then place a Hershey piece in each one. To brown the cupcake you can stick it in your toaster oven. Broil for a minute until golden brown. Be sure you are attentive or your marshmallow will burn.

Activities

There are many fun activities for kids that incorporate nature. A scavenger hunt is one that comes to mind. This is not only great for a birthday party but other nature outdoor theme parties. Or even just your everyday walks. 

I created an easy to print list that you can use,  click here to download the PDF. 

Don’t have a printer? No problem! Make a list from paper.

After the kids are done with the hunt, they can take their finds and turn it into something else, such as using the pine cone to make a bird feeder. Simply spread peanut butter, shortening or honey. Then roll in bird seed. Tie a string at the top and hang from a tree branch.
 
Do you have any fun ideas for an outdoor nature birthday party? Just chime in the comments below. 

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Welcome to my store!

Welcome to my store! Yes there isn’t much haha. I am in the middle of creating and illustrating my first children’s book. Hopefully it will be complete by the spring of 2021! Then after the book is published, I will have time to give this store more attention.

I’ll start with offering the name pattern on a variety of products – blankets, beach towels and luggage tags. The name pattern is pretty much what I’m known for, so we’ll go with that for now.

Who am I? If you’re completely new to this site here is a background about me. I am a graphic artist. I got my start on Zazzle in 2006. I also opened an Etsy shop in 2007. So I’ve been around for a while. I enjoy pattern design and creating stationery.

I got my start in blanket design by accident. I created one for my son with his name in a variety of fonts. Everyone who saw it loved it and wanted one. I started creating blankets for friends and started offering it on Etsy. Since then I’ve created hundreds of these name pattern blankets. As a pattern designer I really enjoy creating these.

This is the blanket that started it all!

Let me know if you have questions.

Cindy Bendel

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Snowman Soup Labels – Free Printable – Inexpensive Holiday Gift Idea

Printable Snowman Soup Labels Bag Toppers

Looking for an inexpensive and fun holiday gift? Check out these snowman soup packets. We’ve handed them out to neighbors, classmates, teachers, volunteers and church members. We’ve even given these to the mailman. 

What do you need to make these?

  • Hot cocoa packets. I like to buy the big box at Costco.
  • Marshmallows. I usually get mine at Target, but the grocery stores have them too.
  • Candy canes. 
  • Sprinkles. I get these at my baking shop. But they are available at Target, grocery stores and places like Michael’s.
  • Sandwich bags
  • Color printer
  • Cardstock
  • Stapler

They’re very easy to put together and a fun family activity. The kids will enjoy making these. And of course you should always have a taste tester for these. We need to make sure it’s good to drink right? ;)Once you have assembled each snowman soup packet, finish it off with a bag topper. I have free printable labels available, to download click on this link. It’s a JPEG images of the labels (four to a page). For best results, use a color printer and cardstock. If you don’t have either you can send it off to your local copy shop. My nearest one is the UPS store

Once printed out, use a scissor or paper trimmer along the light gray lines. Then fold each in half, place over the bag and staple. These labels add a bit of charm. Your snowman soup will be well received and enjoyed. 

If you want to go a step further, you can put these in a mug and hand that out. You can find inexpensive ones at the dollar store. I could see a red mug going really well with the snowman soup. You can also add chocolate such as kisses. Or a chocolate foil snowman. That would be really cute.

Enjoy! If you make these let me know how it went.

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Back To School Wall Print – Hot Air Balloon Adventure – Printable Download

Hot Air Balloon Inspirational Quote Poster Wall Art

After being out of school for several months, we are Back To School next week! I know a number of us are nervous and excited about what to expect. Our school district starts virtually with the hopes that we will go back to in-person learning at some point.

Our school emphasizes the positive, and I think it’s important to keep that mindset with the new school year. It will be challenging no matter who you are – teacher, parent or student. We are charting new territory but I think we can rock it! So I started making wall prints to remind and encourage us for forge on and do our best. 

I wanted an adventure theme. Because whether or not you realize it, we are making history. People will be looking back at this period of time. You and your children will be part of a story that will be told in years to come.

So here is what I came up with – a colorful hot air balloon. A cheerful bright vibe. Something to start your day with the right mindset. Something to remind you when things aren’t going so well. Something to remind you that Yes, this can be exciting and full of adventure.

To download the print, click here.

Don’t have a color printer? I also have this available as a coloring page.