Where I Go For Blog Inspiration

I'm lucky enough to be at the inaugural We All Grow Summit in LA. During one of the sessions someone asked where bloggers find inspiration for posts. It's a question often asked and one that I ask myself from time to time (a lot). I've been blogging for more than four years and there are moments when I sit at the computer and wonder what the heck to write. 

But when inspiration hits - I stop everything, sit down and write. Even if that means writing in my towel in my hotel room. 

[photo credit: Unknown Mami]
Here are a few places I go when I need Blogspiration

On Wednesdays when I'm wondering what to write, I pour my heart out with the things I can't bring myself to say and link up with Shell of Things I Can't Say.

Mama Kat's Writers Workshop is great. I sign up for the newsletter and every week I get new writing promptsEven if I can't link up that week, it's a good resource to have. It's almost like having a weekly homework assignment. The prompts make me think outside the box and write. The Where I'm From poem is one of my favorites - it took so much for me to write it but I'm happy I did. And I love reading them. If you write one - let me know. I'd love to read it. 

Mama Kat also has a Vlogging Workshop - I am determined to do more vlogging this year.  Especially after all the great information I've learned while at #WeAllGrow. While I'm inspired to do more vlogging, sometimes I don't always know what to blog about. I like that Mama Kat shares prompts. So far I've only done one vlog this year...but like I said, I'm determined to do more.  

Margaret Mason of Mighty Girl has an awesome book called - No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog - I LOVE IT! It's a quick read and just a great resource for those days when you're like what the heck do I write

My #WeAllGrow bestie, Claudya of Unknown Mami is a wonderful source of blogspiration. She has a Sundays in my City & a Wednesday Wishes  link up. And every Friday she puts out a Flying Chancla Report - a round up of things from the Internet. Write a response to something you've seen or read. (But remember - give credit where credit is due.)

I'm definitely feeling the inspiration and the love at #WeAllGrow and I am surrounded by inspiring women and storytellers (like Claudya, Ana, JeannetteVanessa, Ruby, Monique Maura and Diana to name a few). I am grateful to have found them on line and meet them in real life. When all else fails - I look to those that inspire me to keep me going and get me writing. 

Where do you go for blog inspiration?
A photo posted by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez (@laliquin) on

Kale Caesar Salad {with Roasted Chick Peas}


I am determined to eat healthier. I like healthy food but I also like bad food. It's the bad that has gotten me into trouble. I usually make bad choices at lunchtime. As a mom who works outside of the home, I don't always remember to bring my lunch to work. And then I'm forced to buy lunch. And when I'm in a rush, it's easier to make poor food decisions. But I'm working on it. 

Two weeks ago I discovered a new salad place - Fresh & Co - a quick walk away from my office. I love that I can order on line and then walk to pick up. I've ordered from them 4 times and each time I order the same thing: Kale Caesar salad. And after all the extras, my salad is between $10 - $12. I don't know about you but it always hurts me a little to spend so much money at lunch especially salad because I could buy the ingredients for less than 20 bucks and have lunch for a few days.

I decided that I was going to recreate my new favorite salad. (Truth is - I really want Norrin to eat more greens. He's pretty good with broccoli but he will also eat romaine lettuce - no dressing. I need to make sure I have plenty on hand!)          

When I order my salad I usually add chickpeas and chicken. And one of the things I love about a Caesar salad are the big crunchy croutons but in making healthier decisions, I wanted to cut out the croutons. I decided to roast the chickpeas so my salad still had a crunch. You guys - if you love chick peas like I do and never had them roasted - you are missing out. Roasted chickpeas are now my new obsession. And super easy to make.  

Roasted Chick Peas

2 (15.5 oz) cans of chick peas - drain, rinse, dry
2 tablespoons of olive oil 
whatever seasonings you like - I used salt, pepper, garlic (w parsley) and Italian seasoning. Next time I may sprinkle some parmesan cheese mid way. 

Preheat oven to 400 - 425. Toss chickpeas with olive oil and desired seasonings. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn and continue for another 20 25 minutes. Keep checking. 


Kale Caesar Salad (I made myself a single serving)

Romaine lettuce and Kale (about a handful or two of each)
Toss greens with fresh lime juice. I used the juice of 1 lime. (I love the tartness of lime and it adds a little kick. I don't care that my lips are stinging and that I'm making funny faces.)
Cherry tomatoes (about 7) - halved 
1 - 2 tablespoons of Caesar salad dressing (I used Paul Newman's but use whatever you like or feel free to make your own.)
Toss all ingredients
Add roasted chick peas (as much as you like)  

I skipped the parmesan cheese but feel free to add.  
Other add ins: cucumbers, peppers, broccoli or grilled chicken

If you can wash, chop and prep all the ingredients on Sunday, you can build a few salads during the week. This is perfect for lunch and/or a quick after work dinner. 


ICYMI: Being an Autism Mom & Life After Loss {on Latinamom.me}

Did you know, I'm a contributing writer for Latinamom.me? I am and I love it! I also love writing for a site with so many women I care for and admire - including Claudya aka Unknown Mami. Latinamom.me is "the premier bilingual destination for modern Latina moms to connect, share advice, chismear and be entertained." And in case you missed my posts there this month, I wanted to share a snippet here.   

It's not easy being an autism mom. But sometimes one of the most challenging things isn't dealing with your child - it's dealing with other people. Other people can be tough to handle. While I am open about talking about Norrin's autism - there's a fine line that some folks have been known to cross. Over the years, I've learned to laugh about those moments.

Earlier this month, I wrote about it and the post went viral! Go on & read why -  My Everyday Life as an Autism Mom.




***
I also got a chance to interview wellness coach and author Kenia Nunez. The Long Island, New York mom of three is a wellness coach who has made it her mission to help others. Learn more about her book, her journey and how she learned to love herself after losing her husband to cancer - How One Latina Mom Survived Personal Tragedy and Made it Her Mission to Help Others. 


Being Given the Opportunity To Grow - Thanks to My Amigas & Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant. All opinions are my own.


I was on vacation with my family and happened to be scrolling through my Facebook feed when Ana Flores announced the We All Grow Summit – I knew I had to be there. As a mom who juggles blogging, a full-time job and motherhood – I don’t have many opportunities to attend conferences. We All Grow will be like no other conference and I am beyond excited to be a part of it.

Ana Flores has been such an influence in my blog writing – she has provided knowledge, encouragement, and inspiration. Her motto has always been “When one grows, we all grow.” And it’s not just something she says. In the years that I’ve known her, she has helped me grow.

with Ana Flores 2013
I applied to be a Storyteller – even though it was beyond my comfort zone, I was eager to share my story. While I wasn’t selected to be a Storyteller this year, my amazing blogger buddy – Claudya aka Unknown Mami – was. And she invited me to share her journey with her. Which I’m excited about because it means I get all of the fun, without any of the pressure. I know Claudya will be great and I will be there cheering her on.

I’ve known Claudya for a few years. I was reading her blog before I even knew her name or what she looked like. Her writing has made me laugh and cry – she is smart, creative and funny. The first time we met in real life was like meeting an old friend and chatting on line is just as fun!



In just a few days, I’ll be on my way to the We All Grow Summit in LA. I cannot wait to give Ana and Claudya hugs. It will be a tremendous learning experience and I will get to see so many friends. I am especially excited about the Smartphone Photography Walking Workshop – as it’s a chance to learn and explore LA.

Even though I have so much to be excited about, I’m still nervous. Traveling to LA from NY is a long trip - 2448 miles to be exact. It’s hard for me leaving my family behind. And conferences always make me jittery – what will I pack, what will I wear, who will I meet? It’s like walking into the cafeteria on the first day of school.

Luckily, I’ll have the new Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant with me. I’ve been wearing Dove deodorant for years and I love the new spray. It goes on instantly dry (for a cleaner feel) and leaves underarms soft and smooth. And unlike sticks or gels, Dove Dry Spray won’t leave me with any goopy residue. So no matter what I wear or pack – I will feel fresh and clean all day long. And since it provides 48-hour odor and wetness protection, it will get me through my long travel days.

So with my friends by my side and an antiperspirant I can count on – maybe there isn’t anything to be nervous about. Now all I need to do is figure out what clothes to pack…


The Transition to Kindergarten When Your Kid Has Autism {My Turning 5 Experience in NYC}

When Norrin was diagnosed with autism in 2008, I felt like I had fallen down a rabbit hole. And by September 2010, I had found myself in the darkest corner of the deepest hole. I had lost a baby during my 14th week of pregnancy and it was Norrin's last year before starting kindergarten. As a way of coping with my depression, I returned to graduate school. And one of my course assignments was to create an online presence. So I decided to start a blog - AutismWonderland - to chronicle the transition to kindergarten. 


The blog was meant to be just a semester project. But by December, I felt the need to continue. Between 2010 - 2012 I wrote about the schools I toured, the application process, the rejection, the search for an attorney, filing for an impartial hearing/suing the Department of Education and Norrin failing kindergarten. Those two years were the most trying of my life.        

Last year I launched Atypical Familia because I found myself emerging from the rabbit hole and I felt it was time to start over.  

I've since connected with a support group of autism parents in The Bronx. Many of them are going through the Turning 5 process. And it has brought back so many memories. Being in that moment makes it so hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Many have asked me about my experience and how I got through it. These series of posts from my AutismWonderland blog will take you through our Turning 5 journey.

2010

10/20 The Pool of Tears - I cried. A lot. I didn't write a post about every breakdown I had. But I spent a lot of nights like this.

12/6  Whatever It Takes - My Forrest Gump's mom moment.

12/10 Turning 5 - Part 1 - The real beginning of the process. The difference between having a "typical" kid and one with special needs. The tours, the applications - all the things that needed to be done. 
2011 

1/22 Autism Ain't Cheap - Just in case you didn't know. Especially in a city like New York, it can feel like a huge racket. 

1/26 Trying to find an attorney Pro Bono - Some suggested I try to find an attorney to take my case pro bono, so much easier said than done. This is a recap of a phone call I tried to make. What's not in the post: Even though I work for attorneys - not a single one was willing to provide any guidance. Not even my boss - whose spouse is an attorney (that works at a major law firm) and has done special ed pro bono cases in the past. I asked my boss if the spouse could provide a name of someone in NY - not to call in a favor. My boss said, "I'll ask and let you know." My boss never did.  

2/15 Settling isn't an option - During the process, someone told me to just settle for a public school.  

4/6 The $93, 000 Question - Of course, the only school that accepted Norrin was the one completely out of our reach. 

4/16 The Big One - a Recap of my Turning 5 meeting with The DOE. It's funny, in a not so funny way.

5/19  Hope is on the Horizon Program - Touring the Horizon program at P.S. 25 (The Bronx), a public school special education program for kids with autism. 

6/28 Stepping Up Melting Down - After attending Norrin's Stepping Up Ceremony - I question my decision for the millionth time.

9/11 Doubt - This was the beginning of a very tough school year. I knew that I would have to start the search all over again. 
2012 

3/21 I Cannot Lose Him - Starting the Turning 5 process and searching for a new school all over again. After touring a District 75 school - P.S. 10 - in The Bronx. 


4/18 - All I Want For The Boy - Have you ever filled out a school application for a special needs child? They are often pages long and tedious to fill out. But there's always one question that makes me pause and think about all I want for my kid.

5/8 Sometimes Things Fall Apart - By May I was already physically and emotionally exhausted. So much had happened between September and May that I couldn't blog about. And this day was just one more thing to add to my long list of things that had gone wrong. 

5/12  Student of the month - There are 10 months in a school year. There were 6 students in Norrin's class. Was I wrong to think that every kid be picked for student of the month at least once?  


5/15 That One Time I Went All The Way To Brooklyn - Remember when I was all like "I'll do whatever it takes"? I didn't think it meant trooping it all the way to Brooklyn.  


6/27 He Failed Kindergarten - Yup. My kid failed kindergarten. No, I wasn't disappointed. I didn't even care. 

7/2 Letting Go of Mainstream Dreams - The first day of Norrin's new school. 


8/20 Suing the Department of Education - During Norrin's kindergarten year, I had to file for impartial hearing twice. Once for reimbursement and once to secure private school placement.    


The Turning 5 process kicked my ass! I don't ever remember feeling so helpless and stressed out. But it was the road that led me to the most appropriate school for Norrin. 

If you're down the Turning 5 rabbit hole and you're having trouble seeing the light - trust me when I say, you will. IT GETS BETTER! Not easier, just better. Your fight will have been worth it. Because once you get your child in the right school, life becomes a little bit better and not so stressful. HANG IN THERE! 

Our Stay at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort

Disclaimer: As a Niche Parent Blog Ambassador, we were provided with complimentary stay at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort during the Niche Parent Conference. All opinions expressed are my own. 


2014 was a good travel year for us as a family - we visited Walt Disney World twice! In June we stayed at Disney's Art of Animation Resort and in October we stayed at the Coronado Springs Resort. (Our October trip was also our first mother and son vacation but that's for another post...)

The Coronado Springs Resort is one of Disney's moderate priced resorts. Which means its the best of both worlds: luxury and value.
Relive the romance of Spanish-colonial Mexico as you follow in the footsteps of explorer Don Francisco de Coronado at this Resort hotel. Find your own mythical city of gold in a Southwestern-themed haven of brightly colored Casitas, rustic Ranchos and beachfront Cabanas encircling a glimmering 22-acre lake. Each accommodation provides a unique escape and a welcoming home away from home.
images via https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/coronado-springs-resort/
Coronado Springs is a beautiful and sophisticated resort. You know you're on a Disney property but you're hit over the head with it. It was romantic enough for a honeymoon vacation and still had the amenities of a family friendly resort. 

But was it right for our family's special needs? Yes and no.


What we loved about Coronado Springs

It's a Disney property. You can never go wrong staying on a Walt Disney World resort property. Coronado Springs is part of Disney's Animal Kingdom® Resort Area. We were able to travel to/from the airport and the WDW parks by bus. It was so easy!

The Pool & Amenities. There were 3 pools: 2 small (quiet pools) and one large. The large pool featured a water slide that Norrin LOVED. The large pool was also near the arcade, food stand and playground/volleyball area. 

The Food Court. I love that Disney properties offers a variety of foods and beverage. It's reasonably priced* and definitely kid friendly. I didn't have the opportunity to check out the restaurants but that was because there wasn't any time. What I also appreciate about Disney is that they also cater to guests with food allergies - there is something on the menu for everyone to eat.  


*I didn't do the meal plan but did buy the refillable cups.


The Room. We stayed in a standard room with 2 queen beds. And it was quite roomy and comfortable. There's a small fridge and plenty of storage. I loved all subtle Disney details in the decor. The room is ideal for a group of 4.



     *****
#FamiliaTravels WDW Tip: Did you know that if you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort you can visit any other Disney Resort property? While there isn't resort-to-resort bus transportation, you can travel from a WDW park to the resort of your choice. But if you have your own car - you visit any of the other resorts. This is great if you want to scope out a property for future vacations or lunch/dine at another restaurant.
    
     *****

Why Coronado Springs wasn't the right fit for our family

We stayed at Coronado Springs because it was part of the Niche Parent Conference. But it's not a resort I would choose to stay at again. Not at this point in our life. While Norrin and I loved the resort and the amenities - it just wasn't the right fit for us.

Norrin has autism and safety is a constant concern. My main concern about the resort were the pool areas. Norrin loves the water and has no sense of danger. The 2 smaller pools did not have lifeguards on duty, so it was "swim at your own risk." The larger pool had maybe 1 - 3 lifeguards and many blind spots. There also wasn't a lifeguard/attendant at the top of the water slide area - an area that isn't visible from the bottom of the pool. And none of the pool areas had a gate - making it easily accessible to run in and out of the area. So it wasn't as relaxing as I would have liked it to be especially since Joseph wasn't with us. 

The playground was open space with several blind spots. Norrin is quick and it was hard to keep an eye on him while he played. I also knew that at any moment he could run out of the playground area and into the pool.

The other concern was the 22-acre lake. While there was a lake at the Art of Animation resort, it wasn't as much of a focal point. There was one section of the lake where you could walk right in. The lake just added another layer of worry for me. 

That being said - I did see a few parents with older children on the spectrum staying at the resort. And there were also many other families there as well. I saw kids Norrin's age running from the pool back to their hotel rooms alone (something I could never let Norrin do) and parents lounging poolside while their kids played. So it is Coronado Springs is a family friendly resort.

Norrin may be 9 but he is still young in many ways and I need to be mindful of that when we make our travel plans. So while Disney's Coronado Springs may not be the right fit for us, someday I am certain it will be.     
   


This New York Mom's Secret For Traveling with Little Movers #MomsTrustHuggies

Disclaimer: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MomsTrustHuggies #CollectiveBias


This week is winter break - YAY! Not really. Having a child with autism and being a working mom, school breaks are tough. Working motherhood in the city that never sleeps requires a lot of juggling and multi-tasking. For New York moms it means food shopping at lunch and picking up must-have items - like value diapers - before or after work. Working in Manhattan, I feel lucky that there are 2 CVS stores near my office. 

But back to school breaks and navigating NYC. I don't have many child care options so during school breaks, I take days off from work or I take Norrin into Queens to my mother. Taking Norrin into Queens is a 60 minute subway ride. Which isn't that much of a big deal since I've taken the train with Norrin for years. But public transition can be challenging especially in the early years.

But my secret to navigating NYC with my kid is to travel light. It's that easy. 



From the moment Norrin learned to walk I ditched the stroller. And on days when it was me and him, I packed light. New York City is too big, too crowded and too crazy to travel with kids and a ton of bags. When I see moms pulling out 20 different toys, I can't help but think - why? Little Movers on the go don't need every toy or a bunch of snacks; it's all about the bare necessities: few diapers, a travel size pack of wipes, 1 - 2 books and one healthy snack. I usually carried a durable tote or cross body bag so I can have my hands free.

Potty training hasn't come easily. And Norrin was in diapers years after being out of a stroller. Having a 3, 4 or 5 year old still in diapers can be challenging especially while running around town. The brand that I always trusted to get us through a hectic day was Huggies. Huggies made it easier because I knew 2-4 diapers tossed in my bag would last me the day. Placing them in a plastic bag kept them flat and easy to find in my big bag. (While I carried a changing mat, I didn't always use it because not all bathrooms in NYC have tables. And I perfected the art of changing Norrin's diaper standing up in a bathroom stall.) And the rare occasion that 4 wasn't enough, I knew I would find a CVS close by. 

Norrin hasn't worn diapers during the day in years but Huggies is still the brand I always recommend to moms for the Little Movers in their life.       

What are your mom tips for running around town with kids?

And for @CVSHealth savings - click HERE to save on Huggies Snug & Dry diapers, Little Movers diapers and Huggies Wipes clutch.   




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