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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pizza Ranch Living Hope CD - Review and #Giveaway

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the Living Hope CD in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 



Have you been to Pizza Ranch? We are blessed to have several in Omaha and I found it interesting that as I was being selected for the Living Hope CD project, my daughter and her Bible-reading church friends were picking Pizza Ranch for their celebration lunch. They had no idea that I was trying to participate in this project and I had no idea that the three of them were picking Pizza Ranch. 

My daughter is reading "A Chapter a Day" in the Bible. By doing one chapter a day (M-F), she will read the entire New Testament in a year. She's completed this twice and is looking for a third year in a row. Every couple of months, our youth pastors take the kids who have read every day out for a special lunch. So last week, it was Pizza Ranch. When I asked why they picked that restaurant, one of the girls piped up and said, "Because they play Christian music there."

Interesting to me that our children pick up on things that seem so small or insignificant, but have Kingdom impact. I love that Pizza Ranch has taken a stand and plays uplifing music while we eat there. And from that interest in uplifting people comes the "Living Hope CD". Wait until you hear the music on this CD. It has been absolutely wonderful to listen to as we drive around town. We are learning the songs we didn't previously know and we all sing along together on the familiar songs. All of our favorite Christian artists have a song somewhere on this CD. It's amazing!

If you would like to hear from the artists of the album the reason for the songs and get a little more 'insider information' about the CD, be sure to check out the Pizza Ranch Music You Tube Channel. 

And as a very important side note, we have so many friends with autism who follow a gluten-free diet. That's how I found Pizza Ranch for the first time when they initially opened in Omaha. They offer Gluten Free menu items (that actually taste good). For anyone needing to follow a Gluten Free diet, Pizza Ranch allows you that flexibility in a restaurant.




About the Living Hope CD Project:
On June 2, 2015, Pizza Ranch released a CD called Living Hope containing twelve songs from many of their favorite Christian artists.  Most of the songs are brand-new and written exclusively for this CD around the theme of Hope.  Artists include Colton Dixon, Francesca Batistelli, Ellie Holcomb, Sidewalk Prophets, Kevin Max, Bart Millard, Passion Band featuring Kristian Stanfill, Michael W. Smith, and Mark Schultz.
The CD will be available to purchase for $5 plus tax exclusively in Pizza Ranch restaurants or for download at pizzaranch.com/livinghope through August 31.
From Adrie Groeneweg, President & CEO of Pizza Ranch, Inc.:  "This album has a very special meaning for Pizza Ranch.  Although Pizza Ranch is not in the music business, many things have been happening, conversations have been taking place and doors have been opening for this album.  Through these events, I believe it was obvious that God has been behind this for His specific purpose and putting it on our hearts to collectively create this project.  As such, we call this our miracle album, Living Hope."
About Pizza Ranch:
Adrie Groeneweg had a dream that started in Hull, IA, in 1981, when he was just 19 years old.  It was simple.  Why does everyone have to drive out of town to get a pizza?  With just six specialty and single topping pizza recipes developed by Adrie's mother, Lorraine, Pizza Ranch was born.  Pizza Ranch's vision and mission is to glorify God by positively impacting the world and to give every guest a legendary experience.  They have 190+ locations across 13 states including Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. 
The Giveaway:

I'm so excited that Pizza Ranch and Propeller Consulting have agreed to give one of my readers their own Living Hope CD. To enter, please read the rules and use the Giveaway Tools form below. Good luck!
  • Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. 
  • If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. 
  • If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. .
  • Winner is subject to eligibility verification.
  • Winner must reside in US or Canada. 



Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

AMC Announces Expansion of Sensory Program #SensoryBlogHop


When I attended the Autism Society of Anerica National Convention, I was thrilled to hear from AMC Officials that they will be expanding their Sensory Friemdly Movie program later this year.

If you've never heard of the program, AMC was the first movie theater chain to launch "sensory friendly" film showings. Currently held on specific Saturday's at 10:00 am, the movie is shown without trailers, the lights are left up a little bit, and the sound is turned down. Wandering is allowed and while we are working to teach our kids when you can (and can't) talk in a theater, the atmosphere is more relaxed. Currently the program includes G or PG films. They are all geared at younger children. The next film will be August 22 when they will show "Underdogs." To see the titles and participating locations, click here for the listing.

But as the population with sensory needs is growing (and aging), AMC realizes they need to add to what they have. Coming this fall, there will be a second date added each month and they will be showing films that are gears towards a little big older audience and they will include some PG13 films in the series. Since my son with autism is now 13, I was thankful to hear this news. He's managaed to move from sensory friendly to a regular movie, but he has friends who still can't do it. I'm grateful to AMC for recognizing the need and expanding the program.

Did you know about the Sensory Friendly Films? And what do you think about the expansion?



Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop -- a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it's like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo! Want to join in on next month's Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!




Saturday, July 18, 2015

Did this just happen? #BlackDayBook and My Reality Check



Anyone else feel like the older you get, the more out of body 'surreal' moments you experience? I had one such experience tonight that still gives me goosebumps.

Let's go back to the beginning - 25 years ago. My BFF from high school was the first of all of us friends to be pregnant. We were all still in college so it was exciting to think we'd all have a little niece or nephew to dote on. (I know we're not related by blood, but you KNEW we were all going to be aunts to this baby.) Then comes the call--I have a beautiful baby boy named Marcus...pause...and he has Down syndrome. In that moment, all I could say was congrats--and it's going to be ok. Even though I didn't really know much about Down syndrome and we all knew many things were not ok.

Fast forward to the elementary years. There were some ups and downs along the way, but the boy who was obsessed with puppets and had every Disney movie memorized was starting to come out of his shell. He would repeat complicated passages from multiple movies and act them out. If you didn't spend much time around him, you probably had no idea what he was saying because it was garbled and almost impossible to understand unless you knew the movie he was parroting.

Then came the teen years where Marcus started creating stories - sometimes quite elaborate ones - where he would weave different favorite characters together into one place and one new story. Then he started assigning his friends and family parts in those crazy shows--that were always going to be musicals. So the @MarcusMusical twitter handle was born.


Marcus today.
Now fast forward to last night. Marcus is 25. Marcus still dreams up musicals and plays. He wrote a One Act play that I got to see performed. And today, for his birthday party, we celebrated the release of Marcus Sikora's first book, Black Day: The Monster Rock Band. And what I saw was an absolutely surreal, out of body moment in my life. My baby boy, the shy one who couldn't, then wouldn't talk, reading his part of the book that he authored. And we saw the preview for the DVD which is coming soon.


Marcus & Mardra Sikora reading the Black Day Book

The kids were enthralled.

Then I got to purchase my own real live copies. And I got them autographed. The boy that we prayed so hard for when he had open heart surgery as a baby, the one we walked the floor with as his first babysitters, the boy who so many people in society believed would never amount to anything is a pubished author signing his autograph. Be sure to head over to BlackDayBook.com and get your copy. 


And a big shout out to Kitchen Sink Cookie Company for making the official monster cookie for Black Day. (They are delicious!)



Friday, July 17, 2015

Village at Copper Mountain Activity Pass Fun Times

Disclosure: I was provided free passes in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.




Have you ever tried to plan a vacation that appeals to an elementary aged, a middle school aged, a high schooler, adults and senior adults? Might I tell you up front--good luck! Good news for me, we booked a vacation at Copper Mountain in Colorado. We were able to stay in a condo at "The Villages." Our condo happened to be in East Village, but it's a 4 minute walk (or take the free shuttle) to Center Village where all the main action and attractions are located.

We got the summer activity passes (you can purchase daily passes for $49 or season passes for $109). My readers can save $10 off a daily pass or $20 off a season pass with this coupon. We used daily passes which gives unlimited lake activities (bumper boats and lake bikes), lift rides, Diggler, mini golf, equiptment hauling, and climbing wall. You also get 3 Bungee jumps (trampoline), 1 Zip Line, and 1 GoKart ride. There's more fun in a pass than you can imagine. And there was something for each one of the age brackets on our trip.


Zipline & Water Activities:

Almost all of us tried out the zipline. It goes over the (shallow) lake and the folks in the water boats may try to squirt you with water. But, thankfully, no matter how close they are, they can't reach you. Phew. The water boats and water bikes were a big hit. We managed to get there early on a couple of days and were able to spend almost an hour on the boats/bikes with nobody else in the water. When other familes would arrive, we would graciously give up our boats and move to the next activity. But the water activities were our go-to favorite at all times. 



Diggler:

A diggler is an all terrain scooter. The base is a little wider (more like a skateboard) and the wheels are thicker and can go over dirt as well as cememt. The younger kids loved riding these (although we saw many teens & adults on them, too). One quiet afternoon, Rebekah even got to race Ben--the man in charge of digglers. It was a strong race, but Rebekah prevailed. 


Bungee Jump:

The bungee jump was not what I expected. It is really a trampoline jump with bungees to help you go higher and be able to do acrobatics that you might not normally be able to do. It was a lot of fun and Rebekah's #1 favorite activity. She bounced as many times in a day as she could and she mastered the backflip. All three of my kids and dad & I did the bungee jump. Lots of fun!


Go Karts:

Copper Mountain boasts of having the only go kart track in Summit County. And what a fun track it is. With 7 minute rides, you can really get some racing in during a go kart race. We could be found at the track every day. Sean & I are go kart kids at heart so we made sure to use all of our kart passes. 



Rock Wall & Mini-Golf:

The rock wall looked like fun, but not one of us is truly a climber so we may have gotten a photo or two, but left the climbing to those with real skills. We did spend time on the golf course repeatedly. It's a fun little 18 hole course with some unique hazards and traps built in. We did a lot of laughing and made great memories on the links. 


Ski Lift and Center Village Open Air Park Area:

The ski lift runs year round in Center Village. The American Eagle lift is smooth and relaxing. It's about a 15 minute ride each way and when you reach the top, you can learn about the equiptment used on the mountain, stop for a bite to eat in the restaurant, or you can have your bike hauled up on the lift so you can take the amazing mountain bike trails down. Lots of choices. We went on the ride to catch the views and they were spectacular!



Ski Lift View
Ski Lift View of Center Village

"The Square" and playground in Center Village

All in all, our time spent at Copper Mountain made us feel like kings on top of the world. We look forward to returning soon for another relaxing mountain getaway. 



Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Birthday, America!

Today is a day that we celebrate the freedom of our country. And I usually post some sort of photo to represent the day. This year, I'm thrilled to have photos taken by my son, Andrew. We were at an early 4th of July celebration event and he took these photos. Enjoy!

Happy 4th of July!





 





Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Old Fashioned Novel and Devotional - Review and #Giveaway

Disclosure: I was given a copy of these items in order to facilitate my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


I was part of a review team that got to not only review the DVD of "old fashioned" the movie, but I also got to read the novelization of the movie and received "the old fashioned way" devotional. I loved getting the chance to look at all the pieces of this project. It was a wonderful thing to be able to share the movie, the book and the devotional with my teenagers as well. It shows them the way their father and I dated and married. It gave us a terrific opening to talk about why abstinence is important to us and to share that we practiced abstinence until married. Definately an 'old fashioned' way to date and marry if you believe all that is in the media and on TV.  Keep reading for your chance to enter to win your own Old Fashioned prize package, but you can purchase anytime at this website.

About the novelization/book Old Fashioned:
Turning his back on his reckless lifestyle, former frat boy Clay Walsh has settled down to turn an antique shop in a small Midwestern college town....and to purse lofty and outdated theories on love and romance.  But when Amber Hewson, a free-spirited woman with a gypsy soul, rents the apartment above his shop, Clay can't help being attracted to her spontaneous and passionate embrace of life.  Amber also finds herself surprisingly drawn to Clay, but his ideas about relationships are unusual to say the least, and they bring to light her own deep wounds and fears about love.  They say opposites attract, but can Clay and Amber move beyond their differences and their pasts to attempt an "old fashioned" courtship?

I loved the book. I probably loved the book more than the movie becasueyou get a better sense of the depth of the struggles the characters face when you read their innermost thoughts. But, I also loved the movie and found it was the best way to communicate with my kids. This is a visual society and giving them a movie to watch emphasizing values we believe in was much more impacting than a book they didn't (and probably wouldn't) read. 



I also loved the devotional. It goes into more depth and allows my husband and I to encourage and facilitate conversations with our kids about our beliefs. That's been the most instrumental part of this review process. Finding ways to connect with our kids and be able to share our beliefs without preaching sermons to them or getting in their face. We've had lively discussion and debates. They are smart kids and they have opinions--often strong ones--too. In having discussion and debates, we get to know each other better. They learned a few things they didn't know about their parents. And we learned over and over that our kids often 'get it,' even when we think they don't. I learned that my kids are awesome and even when they disagree over things, they are open-minded enough to listen. On some things, I am shifting my position because of their logic and their arguments. 

About the devotional:
Contrary to popular opinion, being "old fashioned" doesn't mean you're dull or unromantic.  In fact, a true old fashioned relationship can be more exciting and romantic than anything you've ever experienced!  So what does it mean to do things the old fashioned way?  Sure, it means opening doors, holding out chairs, and taking things slow.  But a true old fashioned romance goes much, much deeper than that.  Inspired by the motion picture Old Fashioned, this book will show you how to reclaim the lost art of romance by introducing you to romantic love as God intended it.  Regardless of your past mistakes, where you've been, what you've done, or where you are now, you can find and create a love that will last a lifet ime!  As you work your way through this forty-day journey of inspiring readings and questions for reflection, you'll discover all the unique and amazing benefits of doing things the old fashioned way.  And before you know it, you'll be well on your way to creating a love story for the ages.   
Now for the giveaway - 

I'm excited to announce that I get to give one lucky winner a complete "Old Fashioned" prize package including the DVD, the Novel, and the Devotional.

Please note the giveaway rules: 
  • Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. 
  • If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. 
  • If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.
  • Only US and Canada addresses are eligible to win this prize package. 



Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Vino Van Gogh Painting Class and #Giveaway - Omaha Area

Disclosure: I attended a class for free in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts an opinions are my own. 

I'm sure you've heard all about those wine and paint parties. But have you ever gone to one? I hadn't, but I'm hooked now. What fun! I had the opportunity to paint a painting called Spring Sunset with Vino Van Gogh and I loved the experience. Vino Van Gogh is a unique painting experience because instead of being in a building where you have to bring all your own food/drink, they meet in local restaurants where you paint and can eat and drink the house specalties.


Painting from start to finish
My painting was done at Frernando's Mexican Restaurant off 75th & Pacific. I was able to take my mom with me and we had a great time together. It was fun to hang out and talk and laugh...and pig out on nachos. (I'm still stuffed from those giant nachos!) We decided we might not be the best painters from our class, but we had fun and that's what mattered. I thought of it as painting memories with my mom.


Mom and I with our finished paintings


Even better, I was at the same class as two blogging friends. I hadn't met them in person before, just through their blogs, but it was very fun to connect faces to blogs. I met Becky who blogs at The Modern Jane Austen and Rachael who blogs at Love Yourself Green. Be sure to keep reading because not only do I have a giveaway on my blog, each of them is giving a lucky winner a painting class, too.



Robyn (me), Rachael and Becky with our finished paintings
Now that you've seen some of what we did and heard about all the fun we had, who wants to win a certificate to attend a class? Enter using the Giveaway Tools form below. 

Enter the Giveaway!


When you have entered here, be sure to enter the giveaways at - 

The finished painting.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the dads.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Black Day: The Monster rock band (Children's Book) Releases Today #BlackDayBook

Disclosure: I was given a PDF copy of the book to read in exchange for my review...and I'm super stoked that Marcus' book is in print as of today!



There are some things that are so thrilling to me that I can hardly breathe because I get so excited. This review is one of them. I've been honored to review a lot of authors over time. I've even met some really famous authors and even had lunch with a few of them after book signings. I even go to church with a famous author. Even with all the author blessings I have in my life, to hold in my hands and read the book Black Day: The Monster rock band holds extra special joy for me because of who the author is. 

Congratulations, Marcus Sikora. Another dream of yours has come true today! 

And to Mardra Sikora, co-author and mom to Marcus, wowza! Mardra and I have been BFF's since high school and my husband and I hold the honor of being the first babysitters for Marcus. So when I see the Black Day books and hold one in my hand, I cry because he's my boy, too. 

Marcus is an incredibly funny guy with imagination that never ends. He gives some of the best hugs on the planet. He is an actor and singer as well as a writer. Oh, and he happens to have a spare chromosome. He's got 3 of #21 which means he has Down syndrome. But I never want that to be what defines him--he's Marcus, he's awesome, and he's a published author. The other label is meaningless to anyone who knows him.

As of today--his birthday--he is a published author. And I've read it and I have to tell you it's totally amazing. It's a hard-cover, full color story with beautiful illustrations by Noah Witchell. The talented Noah is also helping animate the DVD short and if I understand it all correctly, he's making the movie 3D. Awesome!!! (PS--shameless plug for the DVD as my oldest boy, Andrew, is the voice of Dracula.)

We are not big Halloween fans in our house--but the idea of monsters seeming scary and needing to neutralize the 'scary monster thoughts' makes this book perfect. It gives monsters voice to show they aren't mean or scary. They just want to have fun like the rest of us. They want friends and to be able to make a band if they want. So if you're a Halloween lover, you will love the book. If you're like me and one the fence about the whole day, you'll still love the book. 

About the book:
Brad is a paper boy who wants to be a rock star, so when he discovers the band Black Day playing in old Professor Hammer’s garage, he really wants to join.
The band’s monsters have a different idea and send him away, “No humans!”
Brad sets out to change their minds, but the monsters have bigger problems than finding a bass player.
Halloween may never be the same again.

The book is $20 and can be purchased online at the Black Day Book website for delivery in July. Or you can order online at My Book Orders and for Omaha peeps, the Bookworm at 90 & Center is carrying the title as well. Don't miss the book signing on July 11 at 1:00 p.m. at the Bookworm. Marcus would love to meet you and sign your book. (My suggestion for Omaha folks - buy your copy now and bring it to the signing...then you KNOW you have it!)




And let me leave you with a little bit more about the author. 
Marcus Sikora is a 25 year old creative soul who has Down syndrome and lives in Omaha, Nebraska. He has acted on stage with local and national companies as well as written a short one act. Black Day: The monster rock band is his first book for children. When he’s not watching theater, singing, or working out, he’s contemplating the sequel, title yet to be determined. You can connect with Marcus and his adventures via Twitter @marcusmusical, on Facebook at GrownUpsAndDowns, and BlackDayBook.com.

Make sure you get yourself a copy of this book!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pirate's Code: The Adventures of Mickey Matson DVD Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this DVD in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 



Who likes to have movie night at their house? I know we do. Yet, having kids with such a large age span (ages 17, 13, 9), it makes finding 'appropriate' movies that interest everyone a little challenging. It made me excited to have the opportunity to review Pirate's Code: The Adventures of Mickey Matson for this reason. It's an action movie, but one that is appropriate for all ages to watch. I didn't have to worry that words or gore would be bad for my 9 year old, and at the same time, my 17 year old would be willing to watch it with us--even if it's a little beneath his age--because of the action.

Well, we all thouroughly enjoyed the movie and are now planning to get the previous Mickey Matson movie. It was such a pleasure to watch a family friendly film and not worry about what we might see. We were able to sit back as a family, enjoy popcorn, each other's company, and a terrific movie. Keep reading for the opportunity to win your own copy of this DVD below. Or order a copy of the movie here.  Since it has the Dove.org Family Approved seal, you know you are watching a movie that is safe for the entire family. I can't tell you how happy we are to have a new series of movies we can be on the lookout for to purchase and share over and over as a family. 

About the movie:
In this follow up to Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure, Mickey Matson is at it again; this time pitted against the evil Admiral Ironsides and his gang of pirates who are intent on destroying civilization.  They're new invention, the Tesla Coil, is a weapon of mass destruction that will send an electromagnetic pulse throughout the world, destroying every electronic device in existence.  With the help of a secret organization, Mickey and his best friend Sully embark on a mission to stop the pirates from taking over a submarine and stealing the last part needed to complete their devastating weapon.  If Admiral Ironsides succeeds in his plan, civilization will be sent back to the Stone Age.  It's a race against time, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.  
The giveaway -

Please enter using the Giveaway Tools form below. Must reside in the US or Canada in order to enter. If you have won this DVD from another blog, you are not eligible to win again. Please see all the terms and conditions for the giveaway and good luck!






Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. 
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