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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Take the #FamilyDiningWeek Challenge and Giveaway

Disclosure: Live Well Omaha Kids partnered with me for this post. All opinions are my own.

What does dinner time mean to you? If you have children, it can often mean chaos and a big hustle to get food to the table and get the kids there, too. Now that our kids are older. it's harder to make family dinners work. So when I was approached by Live Well Omaha Kids to blog about the Family Dining Week Challenge and Pledge, I knew I had to participate. The week of October 19 - 25 has been named Omaha Family Dining Week by Mayor Jean Stothert.

Sean and I have always put a focus on sitting down at the table as a family as much as possible. We turn the TV off and have a no-screens rule. Then we talk about our day over dinner. I read an article once that said the one common denominator among Rhodes scholars was they sat down to have family dinners together. I used to tell my kids, "We're getting you a scholarship so sit and eat."  

Family meal time seems to be dwindling--even in our home. We still work hard to make a family meal a reality as often as we can. Sometimes we eat early to make it to activities or we eat late--with our kids being older, I don't feel as pressured to have the exact same meal time each night. There are so many good reasons to eat together as a family, but some of the facts on the website surprised me. 

In addition to nutritional benefits, family dining has other benefits, such as:
  • Reducing stress
  • Improving communication among family members
Dining together more than four nights per week is also attributed to:
  • Reducing risk of depression in teens
  • Reducing teen drug use
  • Reducing teen pregnancy
- See more at:

How about you and your family? Do you want to join us in bringing back Family Dining?

Live Well Omaha Kids is also sponsoring a giveaway on my blog. For those who take the pledge, you can win a $15 HyVee Gift Card. Enter below for your chance to win. 

For more chances to win a $15 HyVee Gift Card, please stop by these blogs and enter their giveaways, too.

Midwest Mammas

Sensory Mama Saving Cents

Liv, Laugh, Love

Mom Saves Money


Oh My Omaha

Family Fun in Omaha

Curtain and Pen

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Restaurants, Autism, and "The Look" -- #SensoryBlogHop

I'm so excited to be participating once again in the Sensory Blog Hop. It's a monthly hop where those of us who are or love people with sensory issues can have a moment to speak our minds. So far, I appear to focus on restaurants...every month...

I don't mean to focus in on dining out, but at the same time, I hear over and over how people who have kids with special needs don't eat out because it's hard. And last month, I was challenged (nicely) by Full Spectrum to post about how we handled reactions to our son and his behaviors at restaurants. Gauntlet thrown - challenge accepted. And as easy as it was for me to say 'challenge accepted,' the reality is that going back in time to those years is very hard. It's picking the scab off of a wound and it goes back to a much darker time in my life. The place where we didn't know who our son would be or what he could or could not achieve. (Spoiler alert - next month I'm talking about figuring out what you can achieve with sensory issues.) To catch up quickly, here's where I talked about The Sounds of Restaurants and here's where I talked about What Would You Do

So the look, the stare, the commentary--usually unpleasant at best. I am happy to note that I don't remember a single time anyone said anything derogatory to us. I'm forever grateful for that. If anyone would have said something while we were in the midst of those years, I would have either become an instant emotional wreck or I'd have come back verbally attacking and being generally ugly in return. It would have depended on the day and if I was fed up with the world or feeling like I was a pond scum parent. Now that Nathan is older (12 years old), I can look back with a few more hours of sleep under my belt, with a larger tool kit of information and with an arsenal of assorted word weapons and deflectors. 

Now I aim to educate. I'm the first one to let folks know my child has autism. Autism Awareness--we've come a long way baby in just 12 years. The numbers have gone in Nathan's lifetime from 1 in 150 to the current statistics 1 in 68. If I get anything that could resemble a look, a stare or if there was a comment, I'd hit education mode. I usually say something like, "It's ok, he has autism." With the new 1 in 68--every person knows SOMEONE with autism. I give them a little information about Nathan, "It's a little loud in here for him so he'll be covering his ears a lot." Once they see I'm willing to talk, I get a LOT of questions...about someone else's child. I hear all sorts of questions...well my cousin's son or my sister's daughter has autism. That child does xx, is that normal for autism? I answer questions as best I can, often give them a resource card listing the Autism Society of Nebraska website where they can get more information. 

But in the olden golden days, we sometimes got 'the look.' People would stare and glare as Nathan would start crying as the fast eater parent quickly wolfed down the last few bites. How did I handle the stares? In public, I ignored them. Too bad. It's not like I've never eaten where a tired, cranky or unruly toddler has disrupted an entire restaurant. So my kid is rocking and flapping and starting to cry--deal with it. I just couldn't cope with one more thing in those moments. I was on as much sensory overload as Nathan with trying to keep him calm until we got him outside. In private, I cried--a lot. I cried that we disrupted restaurants, I cried that people can't 'see' his disability, I cried as I grieved for the dreams for my son vs. the reality of life, and I cried as I hurt for him. I didn't know why he melted down in restaurants--still don't. I have guesses, but no solid proof. But a mom knows when her child has needs and knowing I couldn't fulfill them was heartbreak for me. 

Here's the bit of hope I want to leave  you with. While we got some stares and some glares, they were few and far between. Most of the time, we got smiles and nods of encouragement. The people who stopped to say something would tell us what a great job we were doing. People told us that Nathan was blessed to have us for parents--that one still makes me cry. He's blessed to have us? Ha! We're muddling through not really knowing what we're doing, but we've learned through Nathan to discover different joys in life. Our world opened up in a whole new way. While I might not have chosen this path for myself, I can't imagine any other life. 

Most memorable--one precious woman who put her hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear, "Keep up the good work. He's a great boy and you're a terrific mom." With a squeeze of my shoulder and a sunny smile, that angel left the building and restored a piece of my heart. It was a really down day and she gave me enough encouragement to just keep trying. 

So in answer to the challenge--how did we handle stares, glares and comments?

  • Comments -- we didn't get any but now I'd come back with something snappy like, "He's got autism, what's your excuse for being rude?" (Seriously--I don't tolerate rudeness!)
  • Stares -- smiles, or ignore. I chose to never stare back...stares are interesting because we interpret them so differently. I learned over time that most stares were people trying to understand or figure out how they could help. It wasn't mean or nasty. It was curiosity...and I'm into education. If a smile would encourage a question where I could educate, bring it on. 
  • Glares -- I still ignore them. Let them stare. I've got a super power--I'm an autism mommy and a sensory specialist. What are their credentials?
Have you encountered the stare, glare or commentary? Has it been positive or negative? I'd love to hear from you. 

Be sure to check out the other Sensory Blog Hop Blogs below:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Omaha Giveaway - The Phantom of the Opera: Halloween Organ and Film

Disclosure: I was provided two tickets to this performance plus two tickets to give away. No other compensation given and all opinions are my own. 

Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera
Have you heard what is going to be happening at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha? For one show only, on October 22 at 7:00 p.m., you can once again see the historic theater in it's full glory. The mighty Wurlitzer Organ will once again play during a showing of the classic film, The Phantom of the Opera.

The Wurlitzer onstage at the Orpheum Theater Omaha

The Phantom of the Opera: Halloween Organ and Film featuring organist Clark Wilson will be sure to please. I was blessed to hear the Wurlitzer last year through Omaha Performing Arts. I can't wait to hear it again...and add the visual of a silent film. Clark Wilson is one of the most prominent and recognized scorers of silent photoplays in America today. He works exclusively with the Organ in developing accurate and historic musical accompaniments as they were performed in major picture palaces during the heyday of the silent film. I've heard him play at one other organ event and he is impressive in his attention to detail and ability to bring out the best in a pipe organ.

Clark Wilson
Excellent seats are still available at a mere $15 per ticket. Purchase tickets online through Ticket Omaha.

From an Omaha Performing Arts Press Release:
Channeling the 1920s experience, this special production of the classic horror film, The Phantom of the Opera, makes for the perfect Halloween festivity. Complimented by the Mighty Wurlitzer organ, the silent movie stars Lon Chaney as the deformed Phantom haunting the Paris Opera House.
Wilson is one of the most prominent and recognized scorers of silent photoplays in America. He works exclusively with the organ in developing accurate and historic musical accompaniments as they were performed in major picture palaces during the heyday of the silent film. The musical style of the time remains intact; no attempt is made to distract from the picture by using themes or styles that entered the musical scene years later. Most important of all, the film remains the focus and star of the performance.

Would you like to win two tickets to the show?
Enter below using the Giveaway Tools form.
Remember - if you click on settings in the top right corner and select "Show All at Once," it will make your entering faster and easier.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

LeapFrog #FitMadeFun #MommyParties

Disclosure: I was provided materials mentioned in exchange for hosting a party and review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I can't tell you how excited I was to find out I got to host a Fit Made Fun party sponsored by LeapFrog, CLIF Kid ZBar Protein and Mommy Parties. I was sent a party box including two LeapFrog Activity Bands, multiple boxes of CLIF Kid ZBars and activities and ideas for the party. We had all the neighborhood kids over and had a fantastic outdoor fun time. 

The new LeapFrog activity band--to me--was a mash up between a tamagotchi and a cross fit wristband. It tracks activity, has cute characters that need you to move to give them energy joules (my daughter is still convinced she's giving her puppy a crown). The more active you are, the more joules your animal gets. You can also take care of your pet to unlock bonus features and items. 

To me, the biggest surprise was that my 12 year old son took to it faster than my 8 year old daughter. Nathan loved it and is still more likely to make sure it's charged than his sister. I don't know if it's an autism thing or a 12-year old boy thing, but he loves the premise. He goes out to exercise (burn off steam) after school before starting homework. He's set it to talk to him after about an hour to take a 1 minute activity break. It's the same concept of the 'brain breaks' they get during school. For him, taking one minute to move and be active will recharge his brain so he can go back to work and work faster than before. 

To learn more about the LeapFrog Activity Band, click here for activities and information

The CLIF bars were a much bigger hit than I thought they would be. The kids...and moms...all loved them. I had a few icks to the Chocolate Mint--but the grown ups loved that flavor. My kids are now begging to have one every day as a snack. And with the excellent nutrition, I feel better about this than a lot of other snacks they like. We tried Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Chocolate. Filling and great taste plus they are made with natural ingredients and better for you than other snacks--it's a win all around.

Here are a few pictures (action shots) of some of the kids doing their activities. It was a fun party and a great way to get active with LeapFrog. 

Nathan wearing the LeapFrog Activity Band.

The band told us to do jumping jacks for
60 seconds. Nathan led the way (so it's blurry).
Some of the girls doing handstands and cartwheels.

Boys making their own rules & game.
They were sword fighting with wiffle bats. 

Friday, October 03, 2014

Salonpas Pain-Relieving #Giveaway

Product suite

Welcome To Our Salonpas Pain-Relieving Sweepstakes~
Hosted By Tammie's Reviews, Giveaways and More and Michigan Saving and More
Sponsored By Salonpas
Pain is something we call all admit is not easy to deal with and finding options that other than replying on a narcotic is a bonus. Salonpas offers you that option by providing products like those seen above in the picture. These products do what they claim to do and so much more by relieving your pain and offering you peace of mind in that you can actually function and get the things that you want done completed. You can read Tammie's thoughts on this product by going HERE.

Robyn's Thoughts: I am thankful that I generally do not have to handle pain or pain management. However, on those instances where I am in pain due to muscle aches or injury, I am reluctant to use too much pain relieving medicine. The side effects aren't good for me. I have not yet tried Salonpas, but like that it is patch, gel or spray. I wish I would have had this product when I sprained my ankle! I hope you will enter to win the giveaway. 

Onto The Sweepstakes~
  • One reader will win Salonpas products approximate retail value of $100
  • This Sweepstakes will end Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.
  • This is open to the U.S. only
  • Winner will be notified by emil
  • All entries will be verified
  • One entry per household
  • Void where prohibited by law
  • Must be 18+ and older to enter
  • Full terms and conditions are on the entry form below
Enter below and Good Luck to you!
**Remember - If you click on options (top right) and select show all entries, it makes entering faster and easier than ever.**

Disclosure-Coolestmommy's Coolest Thoughts was not compensated either by free product or payment. I have not been compensated for this post. All opinions and experiences are my own. Open to the US, must be 18+. Confirmed Winner(s) will be contacted by email and have 24 hours to respond before a new winner will be drawn. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law. Entrants must only enter with either one email address, IP address and/or Facebook account, anyone found violating these rules will be disqualified. It is at the sole discretion of the admin of the giveaway if the winner has met the rules or not. The sponsor(s) will be responsible for product shipment to winner(s) of the giveaway. Sponsor will be responsible for prize fulfillment. This event is in no way associated with, sponsored, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest or any other social media network. The disclosure is done in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. For questions about this giveaway or to have me promote your product, Please email Tammie at
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