Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hollywood Cookie Diet--A 'Gimmick' that WORKS!

So I was doing okay with my weight, maintaining at least, and thinking I could improve on it, maybe even lose some pounds. I felt in control.

And then my doctor lowered my thyroid medication (thyroid issues are what made me gain the weight in the first place), and I gained two pounds.


I needed something to make me feel in charge again, not just get my weight back in control but hopefully lose some pounds, too.

I've heard, as you probably have too, the ads for the Hollywood Cookie Diet on the radio. At first, I have to admit it sounded very gimmicky to me. You've got the whole popular culture love for celebrities with the 'Hollywood' part, and then of course everyone loves cookies, so you can definitely see the appeal, but would a diet with cookies in it really work?

But I also admit that down under all that was the thought, "Hey, I love cookies. Wouldn't it be cool if it DID work?"
So, when I was given a chance to try a sampling of The Hollywood Cookie Diet, I jumped on it. I would get to eat cookies! And maybe have a laugh or two at my own gullibility for thinking I could lose weight doing so.

So I tried it.

And here's the thing: I tried this diet for 4 days, and I lost four pounds.

Yes, really.

The cookies, first of all, are good. They're about 150 calories each, and they will fill you up for a couple hours, and they have the nutrients you need to keep you from filling up on junk food. You have as many as four (though I would usually do three) cookies a day, and then have a "sensible dinner."

Well, that's the rub, isn't it? If you feel hungry or deprived, you won't usually opt for a sensible dinner. I've found that I've had trouble with that in the past, because I'll spend my mornings and afternoons trying not too overeat and to make healthy choices. I may even do okay with a sensible dinner that first day. But inevitably, the next day I'll go to pick up the kids, and I'll be hungry from trying to eat right, and they'll be hungry because they didn't eat much of the school lunch, and they'll want me to grab some fast food and I'll do that, rationalizing to myself that I've been eating well until then and...well, you see how that can sabotage the whole "sensible dinner" thing.

But with The Hollywood Cookie Diet, I would eat a cookie for breakfast, slowly, savoring it (because, hey, it's a chocolate chip cookie!) and then one at lunch, and then at 3:30, when I picked up the kids, I'd take a cookie with me. They're individually wrapped, and easily portable, and if the kids wanted some fast food, I'd be there with my cookie and I wouldn't be tempted.

And I could have a sensible dinner that evening with the Engineer.

And that's all there was to it.

I'm one of those people who really needs to work on my concept of diet, because in the back of my head I think of dieting as depriving myself in some way. And I think that's one of the reasons I responded so well--I didn't feel deprived because I was eating cookies!

Also, knowing that the cookies are about 150 calories each, I was easily able to track how many calories I was consuming. On a day when the Engineer was playing golf, I fixed something for the kids and then just had low-cal microwave meal myself for dinner.

The Hollywood Cookie Diet also worked well for another bad habit I have. I tend to want to eat comfort food when I am stressed. So, one day, I went ahead and had that fourth cookie when I was feeling stressed. I got my comfort food, and I didn't overeat.

You'll have to decide, of course, if you have issues similar to mine that will respond well to this program.

I ended up ordering more cookies because, as I say, it really did work for me. The samples I was sent were all chocolate chip cookies, but I really like oatmeal cookies, so I ordered a box of each so I could continue The Hollywood Cookie Diet. They also have lemon cookies. Each box contains 12 cookies, enough for 3 days if you are eating 4 cookies a day plus dinner, and a box of cookies is just 19.95, which for two meals a day plus snacks for three days is pretty good--that's about $1.67 a serving.

Ordering was another positive of this diet plan for me. First of all, you can just do it online--no phone call full of sales people, no pressure to buy more. You don't have to commit to months on a plan with The Hollywood Cookie Diet, either--you can order just a box of twelve cookies (three to four days' worth) if you want. If you DO order more boxes, you start getting a discount--buy three boxes of any type of cookies and you get one free.

I chose regular shipping, and ordered my cookies last Friday. The process was simple and professional, and the email notification said that I should receive my shipment after 2-5 business days. Right now, my package (I have a tracking number) says it will get here tomorrow, so that's a pretty good estimate. You can pay more if you want faster shipping, there are several options.

Viv's Take: As someone who has a slow metabolism, tends to overeat more than I should and exercise less than I should, The Hollywood Cookie Diet definitely gave me a plan I could live with, and stick to, so I highly recommend for anyone like me, who needs that extra jumpstart to lose weight! For more information, visit

I received one pack of 12 cookies to try out the diet and give my honest assessment. Since this review posted, Sunset Health asked my permission to post my testimonial on their website. I will not be compensated in any way for my testimonial.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Talking Up the Weight of Silence

Heather Gudenkauf's book, The Weight of Silence, is a difficult book to read.

First, the main storyline is every parent's nightmare. One sunny August morning, a small town awakens to find that two girls, best friends Calli and Petra, have gone missing in the night.

But the girls' disappearance, though chilling enough, is only the surface of an entire web of silence, deceit and old secrets that weave throughout the book, giving rise to more questions even as we solve the mystery of the two missing girls.

As you read The Weight of Silence and learn more about the girls--outgoing Petra, the joy of her over-protective parents, and best friend Calli, who hasn't spoken in over two years and still has "accidents" at the age of seven--you may find yourself, as I did, wanting to rail at the adults in the book, for even the most well-intentioned of them contribute to "the weight of silence" that overshadows Calli's world.

Antonia, Calli's mother, in particular, frustrated me to no end. As a mother, I found her behavior irresponsible and damaging, perhaps even more willfully so than that of Calli's father, Grif, who "likes his alcohol."

On the surface, Antonia seems like a devoted mother. Although she allows her children to roam the woods behind their home, Antonia has taught them all about nature and wildlife. She climbs trees along with them, takes them on picnics and shows them which berries are safe to eat.

But there is more to Antonia than meets the eye. In fact, Antonia's marriage, her past with the town's sheriff, the mystery behind Calli's refusal to talk--all of these secrets are linked to the disappearance of her own daughter that day in August.

And although, as a child, Antonia herself grew up in this same town, by these same woods, that once fearless daredevil of a girl is gone. The reckless tomboy who gave as good as she got has been replaced by a tired, secretive woman protecting the image of a happy family that hasn't existed in a long time. She has become resigned to a dysfunctional existence.

This, to me, is what is so exasperating--Antonia's complicit acceptance of her lot in life, not just for herself but for her children. We get the sense that Antonia feels that she has made her bed and so she must lie in it, that she knows she has made bad choices and yet is unwilling to take action to rectify that. As a Mom, I found her stubborn inability to walk away from her mistakes and make a better life for her children completely inexplicable.

The Weight of Silence delves into all the lives of a select group of very flawed people, trying to make the best of their lives, and it's that glimpse into the human psyche that makes the book at once so compelling and, for me as a mother, so difficult to read.

See a trailer for The Weight of Silence here.

Viv's take: A mesmerizing, perplexing and ultimately deeply thought-provoking detective's tale, Heather Gudenkauf's The Weight of Silence will keep you up at night turning the pages to discover the truth. This taut, well-written work is no light summer reading.

I wrote this book review as part of a Mothertalk blog tour for The Weight of Silence.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hallmark Giveaway! Edge of Motherhood and Encouragement Cards for Kids

A recent national survey commissioned by Hallmark revealed two-thirds of moms say they handle the imperfect moments of motherhood by sharing funny stories with other moms about their experiences, and that 8 in 10 moms turn to each other for candid, empathetic, and unapologetic support and reassurance that “we are all in this together.”

That certainly rings true for me--just last week I was on Twitter sharing some special "motherhood" moments with other Moms and celebrating Hallmark's new card lines. One of them, the "Edge of Motherhood" line, is perfect for connecting with other Moms.

The card on the right from the "Edge of Motherhood" line is my favorite! Online, you can even personalize it with your friend's name. It says, "If you ever need to talk, you can call me." Inside it reads: "There'll be screaming in the background... I'll have to hide in a closet to hear you... It'll be awesome."

Isn't that perfect?! They start at just 99 cents, too! Yay, budget.

For kids, Hallmark’s new collection of encouragement cards for are designed to help parents provide an extra boost of confidence for kids as they experience “everyday” moments – whether it’s the first day of school, taking a test or trying out for a team.

My guys, as you know, already started school. They BOTH had tests yesterday, in fact, and the Owl was really sweating his, so I could see these encouragement cards coming in handy. Some of the cards include originally recorded sound clips too, which play when your kids open the card! These cards also start at 99 cents (the ones with sound retail for $2.99).

Both collections of cards are available at select Hallmark Gold Crown stores and other retailers where Hallmark cards are sold. And some styles of the “Edge of Motherhood” cards are available online (full collection is only in stores).

The fabulous folks at Hallmark have provided us with an AMAZING giveaway to celebrate the new launches--not one, not two, but THREE winners will receive 5 cards from EACH new collection, Edge of Motherhood and encouragement cards for kids! Woohoo!

Here's how to enter: Please leave a comment below with your opinion on the new cards for initial entry (required).

Additional entry methods (optional): Tweet about this giveaway and link to the tweet, blog about this giveaway and leave the link or start following me on Twitter! Really, guys, I want to get up to 1000 followers on Twitter, and that means I have almost 200 to go, so tell your friends! Leave a comment below for each additional entry method, and if you refer a follower to coolmomsrule on Twitter, I'll give you an entry for that as well!

So that's a total of 5 entry methods, and with three winners--well, you have a great chance at bringing home the prizes in this giveaway! Contest ends Friday, August 28, so get hopping (or Tweeting!).

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why I Won't Run BlogHer Ads on My Site Any More.

So, today I received a nice letter from the folks at BlogHer Ads. It reads, in part:
Hi Vivien,

I was reading your site today and read that you received some products from Earthbound Farm -- how awesome!

Unfortunately, even though this fits within our guidelines of being less than $40, writers should not write post a review if the review is sponsored by a company. We are trying to land many advertising deals right now and these types of posts have the ability to hurt our sales team's efforts.

There are a couple of options of how to fix this, you can have a review page on your site or a separate review site and in both cases you can write a one-sentence teaser with a link to the full article on your main page.
See, I told you it was nice. I especially like the part that even though the (about $6 worth of snacks I received) were less than their guidelines for bloggers, they don't like that the review was "sponsored" by the company.

Hey, you've read my reviews. When I don't like something, I say so. I don't write positive reviews of items unless they make the grade for me. Nobody bought my opinion on Earthbound Farm's snacks. I tried them (because how can I review something I haven't tried?) and I reviewed them. Simple as that.

You know how BlogHer Ads knows that I received the snacks? That's right, because I told them so, right there in the review. I'm an ethical blogger who discloses that information in her posts.

I especially like how, although they are making revenue from placing ads on my site, they want me to create another site and link to it rather than reviewing items on my site. It's inconvenient for them.

So, Viv, you might be saying, you're earning a lot of money from them, then, right? So they have a right to say stuff like that.

Well, let's see...this month, looks like I earned a whopping total of a little over 2 dollars and a quarter from BlogHer Ads. Only I didn't, really, because if your revenue is under $25, they hold it until it gets above that level. In fact, I can't remember the last time I got a check from BlogHer Ads.

In case you don't know it by now, I don't make a profit on this site. On Cool Moms Rule!, when I review something, whenever possible I give it away on the site. Obviously, I couldn't do that with the carrots and apples I ate (eww, gross) so I do see BlogHer Ad's point--that's almost $6 worth of stuff!

In the interest of full disclosure, sometimes items are too big for me to pay shipping for a giveaway on the blog. When I can't afford even to run a giveaway (though I have eaten the costs before and done that, too, because I like my readers to have giveaways), I'll donate that to CITA, which is a local charity, or to a shelter here where a friend of mine volunteers--the Owl will be volunteering there this year, too.

If I somehow end up ahead after all that (but I haven't yet), I also pay for my domain name now, and business cards, and the occasional blogging conference.

Last year, for example, I went to BlogHer, and I paid for that myself. No sponsorship, no strings attached. The year before, I volunteered to work at BlogHer, and that just paid for the conference sessions--again, I paid for my own airfare and hotel.

This year, I didn't go to BlogHer at all. Not only couldn't I afford it (I did put up a donation button on my blog--and then I took it down, because in this economy, I just didn't even feel right asking you guys to buy me a cup of coffee, let alone help me go to BlogHer), but I was getting soured on, ironically enough, the material side of BlogHer. All the swag, all the sponsors, all the entitlement that some of these women seem to feel, like they should be bought and paid for.

NOT all of them, of course. There are some wonderful, committed bloggers out there (and you know who you are!) who just write quality posts and reviews and love doing it (like me, I hope. I mean, I hope you think I write quality posts!). If you want to read more about what I mean, Mommybloggers said it better than I could (Jen is linked in my sidebar and wrote a great post on this very subject, the way mommy bloggers are getting a bad rap from new greedy bloggers just wanting "stuff").

So, anyway, getting back to the whole BlogHer Ads thing, you might be wondering why I went ahead with BlogHer Ads, if my blog might run afoul of their site policies--and the answer is, I never re-upped to BlogHer Ads after they changed their ad policies and became more radical. I bought my own domain name (remember, we used to be owned by blogspot), and never sent in new paperwork, and I honestly forgot to take the ads off of my site, because as I said, I can't remember the last time I got a check from them.

So, really, BlogHer Ads did me a favor when they wrote me, because they reminded me to take down their ads, and speak with my own voice, and to hell with the hypocrisy of their policies.

Oh, I didn't get into that, did I? The hypocrisy part. BlogHer asked me to be a reviewer a while back, and on THAT blog, I can accept money for posts all I want--provided it comes from BlogHer. And then, I link to that blog from this one, and they're happy because there's that "one sentence link" thing going on. For some reason, this is more ethical? I'm closing that BlogHer Reviewer blog up, believe me. I only ever wrote one post, for something I would have reviewed well anyway, because that's the only way I'll write, but even one post was probably too many.

So yeah, I'm happy to be done with BlogHer and their ads.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Snapily Back to School Coupon Codes!

Your kids want to stand out in the crowd. They're always looking for the hottest new trend out there.

And you want them to have the supplies they need for school, while still letting them express their personalities.

So why not let them personalize their own back-to-school products to make a truly fun and unique statement this school year?

From sharing a scrapbook of summer travels to decorating lockers with 3D “flip effect” photos and posters or creating one-of-a-kind notebooks featuring photos of best friends and family, Snapily has the best gear for that back-to-school cool.

How does Snapily make these "flip effect" photos, posters, and notebooks anyway?

In a nutshell, Snapily is the ONLY photo-technology company that has developed a new 3-D, flip animation using lenticular printing technology that literally allows you to bring your photos to life (flip-book style) on notebooks, scrapbooks, postcards, wallet-sized business card, or stationary.

Wow! Snapily sure is cool. Need even more proof?

Snapily is also offering discounts for Cool Moms Rule! readers:

SNBTS20OFF - 20% On all orders over $20 (only for Back to School products) SNGEN20OFF - 20% On all orders over $20 SNBTSFREENB - Free Small Notebook on orders over $25 (Back to School promo) SNGEN5OFF - 5$ off On all orders over $25 SNFREECARD - Free flat card, pay only for S & H.

Healthy Lunches (not just for kids) And A Contest, Too!

Processed meats and preservatives don't make the best choices when it comes to a healthy lifestyle--but that's what's in many school lunches. When it comes to preparing and dishing out hundreds of meals a day, most schools have to opt in favor of long shelf life items bought in bulk, and sometimes good nutrition takes a back seat to budget concerns.

So how can you, with budget concerns of your own, make healthy choices for your kids? And while you're at it, what are you eating these days?

Brown-bagging your own lunch can actually save you money--an average of packed lunch runs around $3.25 as opposed to the $8-10 you'd spend eating out--and with Earthbound Farm organic foods, you don't have to substitute quality for cost.

Earthbound Farm sent me some of their certified organic snack items, conveniently packaged in snack-size servings, to try out.

And they. were. Awesome.

The Apple Slices were crisp and juicy and not too tart. They come in 5 2 oz bags for $3.99, so that's a week's worth of apple's for school lunches! They also make a great snack.
When the kids want a 'big' lunch, we'll pair them up with some peanut butter for dipping or a sharp cheddar cheese and crackers, but they're fine on their own.

I also tried out the mini carrots Earthbound Farm offers.

We've always called them 'baby' carrots, and I think they are my favorite vegetable (don't raw vegetables just taste better?). Earthbound Farm's Mini-Peeled Carrots snack pack comes with 10 2 oz bags for $2.99, and these were as fresh and firm as could be, as well as having that natural sweetness that makes me such a fan. Since the Owl has braces, he can't eat these right now, but these would last the Rhino and I a school week as well in our lunches.

In addition to the tasty, healthy organic snacks I sampled, Earthbound Farm also offers these favorites, all certified organic:
  • Organic Carrot Dippers with Ranch Dressing. Another great way to get more veggies! (3 packs for $2.89)
  • Grab & Go Salads: Caesar Salad, Mixed Baby Greens or Baby Spinach Kits. These salads are a convenient choice for Moms on the go, as the box ($3.69) includes everything you need: salad, dressing, topping, even the fork and the clamshell package (which can be used as a bowl). Smart!
  • Organic Raisin snack packs. Why don't I eat more raisins? I don't know, because they're sweet and juicy and I grew up with them (my Mom likes healthy snacks too!). (6 1.5oz boxes for $2.99)
Earthbound Farm also has a contest going on right now for your kids! I'm including all the information just as I received it so I don't mess anything up ; ) :

Earthbound Farm has some news for your readers. The company has just launched a web-based contest seeking quotes from children for the inside of its clamshell salad labels. Kids will be encouraged to submit quotes thanking those who purchase organic for helping protect the future. If you’re interested in posting this contest on your site for your readers participation please let me know.

For each child’s quote that is chosen, they have the opportunity to win:

1. A $500 US Savings Bond for your child’s future education

2. A $500 donation in your child’s name to their choice of one of these dedicated nonprofit environmental organizations:
American Forests
Beyond Pesticides
Environmental Working Group
Healthy Child Healthy World
Natural Resources Defense Council
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Pesticide Action Network North America
Union of Concerned Scientists

3. Winning quotes will appear on the back of our new salad labels and on the Earthbound Farm website!

We’ve switched to post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic for our salad containers, and we’re designing new labels that carry the PCR symbol. Winning quotes will appear on the back of those labels, and on our website, too. We’ll add a new winner every month through the end of 2009!

To enter the contest, visit

This contest is open to legal US residents who submit their entry with the permission of their parent or guardian, and who are 17 years of age or under at that time. Winning quotes will be identified by first name, age, and city/state on the Earthbound Farm website and on package labels. Parents or guardians must provide their name, e-mail address and daytime phone number in case their child’s entry is a winner. Either adult or child must provide their Social Security Number to receive their prize and register their bond. Earthbound Farm respects your privacy; we won’t share your personal information with anyone else.

Viv notes: This contest is SUPER easy to enter! Just click on the link, and have your kid(s) finish this quote, in 35 words or less: Thank you for choosing organic. It matters to me because ______________________.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Savings on School Clothes from French Toast!

Stop and moment and reflect. With the school year about to begin, how much are you prepared to spend on your kids' school clothes?

Now that my boys are teens, they pretty much just throw on jeans and a t-shirt every day. You'd think it would be cheap to dress them, but their clothes set me back a pretty penny compared to their elementary school days.

Back then, although they attended a public school, they wore a uniform of polos and either khaki pants or shorts. Getting them dressed in the morning was easy--no arguments about what they were wearing--and I always knew if I needed to do laundry (just count the polos in the closet!).

If your kids are wearing uniforms this year, (lucky you!) French Toast offers a unique combination of quality and style, and if you price out an entire school wardrobe for your kids, you'll find it's actually reasonable. In fact, the cost of a complete French Toast school uniform wardrobe for a boy or girl is about $120 (see breakdown below).

And it gets better – Cool Moms Rule! readers may use coupon code: QPPR75 for Free Standard Shipping on orders $75 or more. Follow THIS LINK to visit the homepage and automatically apply the discount.

School Uniform Prices from French Toast:

6 tops- 8= 48.00
4 pants- 15= 60.00
1 sweater 15= 15.00


6 tops- 8- 48.00
2 pants- 13= 26.00
1 skort-10= 10
1 shorts-10
1 sweater- 13

Totals- 107.00

Sunday, August 16, 2009

These quick and easy recipes from Quaker Maid found their way to my inbox. With time running out and parents running around like crazy to get ready for school, they're perfect for our Back to School Bonanza series. Enjoy! ~Viv

Easy Summer Meatball Dinner

One 15 oz. can whole potatoes, drained, rinsed, cut into chunks • 1 cup chopped onions • 14.5 oz. beef broth • 32 oz. tomato sauce • 1 cup water • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper • 12 oz. frozen mixed vegetables • Approx. 15 oz. meatballs.

In a large saucepan, combine potatoes, onions, beef broth, tomato sauce, water, Italian seasoning, pepper and vegetables. Bring to a boil on stovetop. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Add meatballs, cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.

Meatball Pitas – Back to school

1 package of Mama Lucia Italian Style Meatballs
8 small pita breads
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup cubed feta cheese
1⁄2 cup chopped black olives
1⁄2 cup chopped shredded lettuce
1⁄2 cup chopped onion
1⁄4 cup parmesan cheese grated
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of oregano

Heat the meatballs on the stove top with red pepper flakes and oregano. Heat the pita breads in the oven on low heat until warm. Once heated, place 2-3 meatballs in each pita bread. Top with feta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. As cheese begin to melt, top off with lettuce, onion and black olives. Serve “taco style” for a snack or main meal.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Great Parents Make Great Schools Work.

According to “The Economy’s Impact on Back to School,” a report issued by GreatSchools and Harris Interactive, nearly two in three parents (64%) believe that the economic recession has made it even more vital to volunteer in the classroom this school year.

The good news for teachers facing cutbacks at their schools? 53% of parents surveyed say they plan to volunteer at their child's school this year, an increase of 20% in average over last year's survey. The greatest rise is in African American parents: an impressive 60% plan to do so this year, up from just 23% last year.

But there's bad news as well--nearly half of those enthusiastic parents cite the lack of volunteer opportunities as one of the main challenges standing in the way of their being more involved in their child's education.

“As American families prepare for back-to-school season in this economic climate -- when family, school and state budgets are tighter than ever -- there is a silver lining: parents,” said Bill Jackson, founder and president of GreatSchools. “ is a wake-up call to parents and teachers alike to clearly communicate on ways they can work together.”

The study also looked into the ways economic cutbacks have influenced the school choices parents make:
  • More than three in five parents (61%) believe the quality of education will suffer because of school cutbacks.
  • Nearly one out of every four parents (24%) have begun rethinking the type of school their children should attend going forward.
How prepared are parents for school?
  • 93% plan to buy school supplies ahead of time.
  • 47 percent of (only 47 percent?!) find out ahead of time which subjects their child will be learning.
  • 39% have kids start reading more frequently as the school year gets closer.
  • 33% cut down on TV and video games.
  • Almost 90% plan to save money on school supplies this year by reusing old supplies and waiting until after school starts to avoid unnecessary purchases.

Inspiring Action: The Great Parents Pledge

The Great Parents Pledge from GreatSchools is focused on inspiring parents to commit to greater levels of involvement in the coming school year. Parents choose GreatSchools to connect with each other – to find the right schools, share stories and advice, and get their parenting questions answered. A Webby Award-winning site, GreatSchools is now expanding its reach and impact with its College Bound initiative. The GreatSchools website also features tips on avoiding the summer ‘brain drain’, a shopping guide for affordable school supplies, and a back-to-school quiz to help families get off to a smart start. For more information, please visit

Friday, August 14, 2009

McAfee Family Protection--set your mind at rest

If you've been reading Cool Moms Rule! for a while, you'll know that I have two teen boys who just (Monday!) started high school.

If you haven't been reading for a while, I'll pause for all the sympathy I know my fellow Moms are sending me right now at this revelation.

Because teenagers are fascinating, fabulous and frazzling just as a subset.

And teenage boys are especially...challenging.

They don't always confide in you.

Strike that.

They *never* confide in you. You have to pry those secrets out. (Tip: Younger siblings are good for that).

Plus, with teens you are working on a whole Trust/Responsibility dynamic. You want to trust them (and my kids, knock on wood, are basically good kids), and they want more rights, and with more rights goes increased responsibility, and there's this whole cycle going on.

And one of their new rights is: a computer of their very own. They each have one now, and yes it does make my heart flutter sometimes to think of this.

Their responsibilities? Backing up their important stuff regularly (and by important, I mean not just those latest tunes, guys, but your homework), and adhering to our common sense rules about online behavior (only chatting with online friends they know through IRL interaction, not giving away personal information to any strangers, etc).

One of my biggest scares with the boys was when my oldest, the Owl, would run into problems on the old computer because of something he'd seen online that he "just had to" download. Usually, it was a game or a software patch.

And though we are very careful, he ran into some of those annoying ads that pop up all over your screen.

And once, a virus.

To be safe, I had to wipe the whole hard drive, and start from scratch. Not fun.

Which is why I installed McAfee protection on our old computer. I've trusted McAfee for years as the best anti-virus protection around.

And now, thankfully just when we need it with all these computers in the house, there's McAfee Family Protection.

All you have to do to protect the computers* in your home is install McAfee Family Protection on each one, and you're good to go.

It works for...well, everything!

First, it protects your kids against spyware (that's like what I mentioned above happened to the Owl, where your personal browsing history causes ads to pop up all over your screen).

And of course McAfee has always been my own first defense against viruses.

But it does more.

McAfee Family Protection filters YouTube videos so that your kids don't access content you find objectionable, and even alerts you (through a text message or by email) instantly if your kids are giving out their personal information to strangers over the internet.

If that whole Trust and Responsibility dynamic I mentioned has gone seriously south and you really need to keep a close eye on your kids for a while, you can even record their instant messaging and social media interactions with others.

You can block questionable email addresses if you are worried about cyberbullying.

And McAfee Family Protection even lets you limit their time online.

I know of at least a few parents who could really benefit from this last option, when their kids are having trouble budgeting their online playtime with schoolwork and chores at home.

Including us, really. Our kids often need more than a gentle reminder to get off their computers. Usually it comes down to me yelling, red-faced, at the top of my lungs, "I said get off NOW!"

I wouldn't be surprised to her my head's spinning like Linda Blair's in the Exorcist at that point.

Anyway, trust me, this is a tool you'll actually use. I trust McAfee because I feel that they have the most up-to-date protection out there, and it's really easy to work with for even those of us who are, perhaps, not the technical gurus we'd like to be.

No, don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about here. You know if you're that woman--the one that has to ask her kids how to take a picture with the new camera.

Yes, even you can use McAfee Family Protection.

Now, you may have noticed that I've included this review in our Back to School Bonanza series. That's because, through August 31, 2009, Cool Moms Rule! readers can save $5 off of McAfee Family Protection using this promo code: 5familyprotection.

In addition, if you have any questions you’d like to ask an expert, McAfee’s Chief Cyber Security Mom, Tracy Mooney, is available at or at

*System requirements:
  • Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 1 (SP1) or higher
  • Microsoft Windows Vista (32-bit platform only) and Windows Vista Service pack (SP1) or higher
  • 10 MB Hard Drive Space
  • 800x600 or higher Screen Resolution
  • 128 MB RAM
  • Active Internet Connection
  • Microsoft® Internet Explorer 7.0 or later
  • Mozilla Firefox 1.5 or later
  • For up to 3 PC
I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of McAfee and received a sample to facilitate my candid review. In addition, McAfee sent me a blanket and care package to thank me for taking the time to participate."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guest Article: Back to School with ADHD

The following article, full of timely and valuable tips for all those Cool Moms who face the additional challenges of school-age kids with ADHD, is part of the Cool Moms Rule! Back to School Bonanza series. ~Viv

Back to School with ADHD

by Jeanne Gehret, M.A.

September 13-20 is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness Week. When I mentioned this to the mother of a child with attention problems, she laughed. "I wish I only had to think about ADHD one week a year," she said. "For us, it's a year-round concern. I guess this refers to when it's uppermost in our minds because of starting school."

I agreed. More than any other time, September's when we parents of kids with ADHD establish the accommodations necessary for our children to survive and thrive in school. In truth, however, our efforts continue all year long. As the parent of a child with ADHD, you can help your youngster transition comfortably and successfully into a new school year by asking yourself these four questions:

What new people or routines will my child encounter this year?
How can I prepare my child to do well in each setting?
How can I help the adults in each setting deal effectively with my child?
What can I do at home to support my child's educational goals?

In answering these questions, here are some suggestions.

Ten ways to help make school great this year for your ADHD child:

1. Meet the teacher(s) as early in the school year as possible. Establish yourself as the child's advocate who has your youngster's interests at heart and is willing to cooperate for the best academic experience. Mention previous classroom accommodations and techniques that worked. Even if your youngster has an individualized education plan or 504 plan, don't hesitate to mention the highlights. This helps teachers use effective strategies from day one, even if they haven't had time yet to sort through documentation.

2. Exchange email addresses and phone numbers with the teacher, and establish preferred contact times. Whether your contact is daily, weekly, or monthly, it is best to check in regularly, even when things seem to be going well. This allows you to smooth out bumps on the path before they become roadblocks.

3. Give your child something to boost his confidence such as a popular new item of clothing, encouraging notes from home in his lunch, or a worry stone. For older kids, a motivational bookmark or a special photo may prompt a smile.

4. Know your school's processes for getting help for children who are having difficulties in school. Does the teacher or school do academic screening? When the screening process identifies children as having difficulties, who provides the services? Once interventions are in place, how long before the child's progress is re-checked? What methods are used for monitoring progress?

5. If your child takes medication for ADHD, notify the teacher and the nurse. Make sure that your child knows when and where to go for his daily dosage. When starting meds or changing doses, be sure to let the school know. Have a clear conversation with your youngster about if and how to explain to others why he takes meds.

6. If you have after-school childcare, make sure your child knows how to get there and is familiar with the surroundings. Visit the childcare facility with your youngster before his first official day there and let the staff know of ADHD issues and any medications.

7. Think of ways to form bonds with classmates -- parties, trips to a playground, or walking to the bus stop. Make your home inviting to other children. When your youngster socializes at home, you can monitor any ADHD problems and help when needed.

8. Minimize distractions at home so that you can focus on your child's adjustment to school. Be pro-active about scheduling physicals, buying school supplies, and getting prescriptions refilled. For the first few weeks of school, cut down on non-academic disruptions like visiting relatives, shopping, major cleaning projects, remodeling, and visits to the vet.

9. Establish a school-year routine. Make a list of no more than five things that your child must do each day after school, such as reviewing with you what's in his backpack, doing his homework, and returning his completed homework to the backpack. When kids are prepared, they become confident and free to focus their attention on doing their best.

10. Make sure that your child gets enough sleep. If she takes stimulant medication, you may need to adjust the timing of the dosage so that she can relax at night. Other helpful bedtime routines may include story time, relaxing music, a foot rub, and special blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals.

If you suspect your child has ADHD, or other learning difficulties, make sure to address it immediately. See #4 above and be proactive.
I'm not making any promises. But if you attend to these ten issues by the end of ADHD Awareness Week, you may enjoy a day, even a season, when ADHD is not front and center on the refrigerator of your mind.

Jeanne Gehret is the parent of a child with ADHD and learning disabilities and is the author of three picture books that comprise The Coping Series from Verbal Images Press. Eagle Eyes includes a song for getting ready for school and other coping mechanisms that Ben uses after he's diagnosed with ADHD. Houdini's Gift shows Ben using a reward chart as motivation to complete his daily responsibilities. The Don't-give-up Kid describes the invention devised by very creative boy while he discovers and copes with his dyslexia. For more on these books, see To learn about ADHD Awareness Week, see

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Announcing our Winners!

First, here's the winner of the My Secret Circle giveaway, secure internet connections for girls and their IRL friends!
Courtney said...

My husband's best friend is a single dad of a tween girl - this is something that both he and she can feel good about! Thanks for the giveaway!

Congratulations, Courtney, I'm sure he'll love it (and how sweet of you to think of your husband's friend!).

Now, here's the winner of our Brown Bear and Scrambled States giveaway, chosen by the Random Integer Generator.

This giveaway was so popular we're planning more like it in the future. We had 77 (wow!) comments on our post (yes, I know, this was a great prize, wasn't t? I'm so excited!).

And the winning comment was...

*drum roll*

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2009-08-12 17:34:43 UTC

Comment #73 was Julie D, mom2ways on Twitter and the Mom behind several blogs.

Congratulations, Julie D!

What's New With Cool Moms Rule? Back to School!

My kids started school yesterday.

That's right, yesterday, the most ridiculously early day ever for starting school in Florida. I mean, it's literally a hundred degrees out here today, people!

The boys are doing fine, actually getting up on time this morning, too, and they seem to like their teachers okay (though pre-calculus has the Owl a bit worried). This is the Rhino's first year in high school, and he is taking it in stride. The Owl, of course, is an old hat at this, though even he had some excitement on their first day, in the form of an (impressively mature) classmate, new to our school and to Florida, who came into the Owl's first period class yesterday, announced, "I have seizure issues," explained how to deal with the situation in case something happened, and then, unfortunately, succumbed to a serious seizure in the classroom.

He was taken to the hospital and even returned to school later in the day (I am really admiring this kid's courage), and the Owl appears unfazed by the incident, though he did relate the account with a little more ghoulish relish than I would like.

I told him to make sure he is there for the kid, because I imagine if he was stressed out yesterday, and that contributed to the seizure, coming back today and dealing with everyone's curiosity is going to be tough.


The rest of you, I hope, start school at a more reasonable date?


Because tomorrow, we are starting our Back to School Bonanza!

We'll be running a series of posts to help you prepare for the coming school year, including some quick and easy recipes, and tips to help you maybe save some bucks this time around.

Oh, and of course there will be a giveaway or two!

Which reminds me, it's time to announce the winners to our two recent giveaways today!

That's coming next, promise.

Time for an Epic Getaway?

It's August. The kids have been home for months. School is starting soon and no one is ready.

Feel like getting away?

How about Colorado?

I know what you're thinking--Colorado? That's where all the great skiing is, right? Don't people go there in winter, when it's snowing?

Well, yes, they do, but what you may not know is that Colorado is packed with summer activities for the whole family. And during the summer, when crowds are down and prices are too, you'll find it's actually the perfect time to visit.

And Epic Summer makes it even better for families this season.

Epic Summer: A Colorado Adventure offers 4 and 7 day all-inclusive family vacations with old-fashioned family fun activities like horseback riding in Beaver Creek, whitewater rafting and scenic gondola rides above the Rockies. You can even pan for gold!

Best of all, the whole vacation is worry free. It's all planned out for you. Epic Summer will pair your family up with a local guide who'll show you around and even do all the driving for you.

Visit the Epic Summer website, and take a look at the video there. You'll see just how fun a summer vacation in Colorado could be for your family.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog and giveaway campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Epic Summer and Vail Resorts. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Race to Witch Mountain Blooper Reel!

Disney's Race to Witch Mountain with Dwayne Johnson comes out on Bluray and DVD today! I'll be reviewing the Bluray version for you tomorrow, but in the meantime I thought you'd all enjoy this blooper reel from the film!

WTF fiiter: Breastfeeding Doll. Really?

The Orlando Sentinel (yay, FL newspaper! Go, home town folks) has Mom blogging section called Moms At Work (who knew?) and they just put this up on Twitter: a breast-feeding doll story.


Yes, I know, breast-feeding is natural. Although my boys didn't seem to think so. When they were babies, my oldest never took to "the nipple" even with the help of a lactation consultant. I live in fear that my kids will have inexplicable cravings for breast milk whenever they see one of those oil derricks pumping, since that's the only way they would take my breast milk, from a bottle after I pumped. I think I used to have dreams of hearing that whump, whump, whump breast-pump rhythm in my sleep.

But I digress. This doll works when the child puts on a special vest. The doll responds by making sucky faces and trying to suckle when it is put up to the vest, and crying when it is pulled away.


Blue Moon, Second in the Immortal Series

I just finished the second book in Alyson Noel's series, the Immortals: Blue Moon.

We were on vacation in Washington, DC recently (more on that in another post), so I am (as usual) behind schedule on my To-Do list, and it was nice to plunk myself down and spend a pleasurable afternoon reading.

I was wondering where this series was going to go, because there are a few questions left after the first volume, but Ever and Damen's immortality is also well-established.

To recap a little, in book one of the Immortals we are introduced to Ever Bloom (yes, I know the name is a bit heavy-handed), who is tormented by unique abilities after the rest of her family dies in a tragic accident. Ever can sense people's thoughts and see their actions in her mind simply by casually brushing against them, and her powers are driving her crazy.

Reeling from her family's death, Ever tries to shield herself from all outside influence, until new student Damen comes along. Though Ever has no recollection, she has known Damen in previous lives. Damen, the love of her life and an immortal, has waited centuries for her to resurrect after having lost her repeatedly to mysterious "accidental" deaths in each of her prior incarnations.

His suspicions aroused by so many tragic coincidences, Damen learns that his ex-wife Drina, also an immortal, has been responsible, not just for Ever's previous deaths, but the accident that killed her family, and this time he is able to help Ever discover her true potential as an immortal, allowing her to destroy the evil Drina forever.

Whew. And that's just the first book! As I said, I was wondering where the series was going, because now that Ever has embraced her immortality and dealt with her family's death, what do the couple really have to fear? You'd think, being immortal, and with Ever growing stronger every day with her powers, including the ability to manifest items out of thin air, life would be easy.

But in Blue Moon, teenager Ever is tortured by insecurity other teen girls can relate to. Though a virgin herself, she is intimidated by Damen's long--and very experienced--love life, including ex-wife Drina. Her insecurity keeps her from taking the next step with Damen and becoming intimate, causing friction between the two. When another new student, Roman, begins to befriend everyone else in the high school, including Damen, Ever cannot help feeling even more threatened--and then suspicious. Surely Roman can't be as charming and innocent as everyone thinks he is!

When Damen--the always-healthy immortal--sudeenly falls sick, loses his ability to manifest and even turns against Ever himself, she knows her suspicions are justified. But how can she take Roman down when the whole school is on his side?

I enjoyed Blue Moon, but I have to say that there are some similarities cropping up in the Immortals to the Twilight series, and not for the better. Alyson Noel is a more experienced and talented writer than Stephanie Meyer, but she is falling into the same trap of writing a book in which the love interest is distancing himself from the main character and risks alienating her audience. Girls who identify with Ever will be frustrated with the way Damen treats her in this book, and how little a role he plays as the book goes on. The (frustrating) cliffhanger ending is reminiscent of the second book in the Twilight series as well.

Still, I find myself looking forward to the third installment, due out in February, where Ever must deal with the consequences of the actions she took in her efforts to save Damen and banish Roman from their lives.

My take: Blue Moon is well-paced, the characters are interesting, and it kept me turning the pages until the very end. I would like to see Ever's two best friends come through for her more often--they seem far too likely to fall prey to other influences. Trust and betrayal are common themes that are re-visited often. Ever's trust in others frequently seems misplaced, which leads to her having to act, too frequently, without the aid of others. There is opportunity here to reinforce, rather than downplay, the importance of friends you can count on when things go wrong in your life, and I would like to see more of that in Blue Moon.

Parents: This young adult book has some mature themes that could open up valuable talking points with your teens, but which may make some parents uncomfortable. In Blue Moon, Ever's virginity and her desire to consummate her relationship is discussed at length. Her best friend is openly gay to his friends, but has not come out yet to his parents.

Read an excerpt from the book at the Blue Moon website!
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