Primrose Family Dance-off…Let’s Go!

Recently we had our own little family party to celebrate the Primrose Schools Family Dance-off Event. Fueled with healthy snacks like fruit, popcorn and turkey roll-ups – we hit the dance floor (aka our living room) and let loose! I taught Jackson and Annie how to do the Running Man, The Sprinkler and The Moonwalk. They showed me some “more current” moves like The Robot. It was a lot of fun to be silly…a great stress-reliever and an inexpensive way to have fun together as a family!

Primrose is hosting a video contest right now…check out our entry -“Let’s Go!” We’re crossing our fingers and toes that we’ll win the grand prize of $5,000! If you like it, please vote for us between now and March 19th.

The Family Dance-off supports Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a non-profit organization that raises funds for more than 170 children’s hospitals, which collectively treat 17 million children annually for every illness and injury imaginable.

If you want to enter a video for a chance to win, too…here’s all you need to do!

1. Record a 30-second family dance video.
2. Visit Primrose to upload the best take by March 19.
3. Share the uploaded video with friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
4. View dance videos and vote daily (individuals can place five votes per day)!

For information about the Dance Off, how to submit your own video or vote for a winner – click here. Did you enter? Be sure to leave a comment so we can all vote for you, too!

I was provided a Primrose Family Dance-off Party Kit for my participation in this campaign. All thoughts and opinions (and crafty dance moves!) are my own. I proudly support blog with integrity.

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Note to Self: Avoid Melt-Downs By Taking Care of Myself!


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Thanks to Crystal Light for sponsoring this post. To learn more about how Crystal Light can flavor your day with 30 refreshing flavors, visit http://www.facebook.com/crystallight.

Girl’s Night Out Painting Pottery Circa 2010.

Yesterday I had myself a little, mini meltdown. After I got the kids ready for and off to school, I went straight into a meeting and then back to my home office to buckle down for work. With four assignments to tackle (all due today) I found myself distracted by almost anything that caught my eye (the pile of dishes in the sink, the laundry pile growing by the washing machine, tweeter chirp on my computer, and the clock ticking away.) I only have until 2:00 p.m. each day until I pick up my youngest from preschool to finish whatever needs to be done .. and it’s never enough time.

Sure enough, it was time to pick up Annie and I was no where near finished. I thought I could get away with writing while she played “quietly” but the result was even more frustrating then the fact that I was behind in my work. It’s like they have a sensor and know that you desperately need to concentrate – so the demands amp up. Suffice it to say, it was not my proudest parenting afternoon and I felt like I failed at both my role as mommy and writer (and we won’t even talk about my role as housekeeper!).

Sometimes it’s hard to find the time, the money or the energy to take care of yourself when your consumed with taking care of your family, your home and your job. I’ve found that making time for “me” often takes some creative thinking (and a little help from my friends) but it can be done. And more importantly, it SHOULD be done. As I’m getting older I’m learning that taking care of myself is crucial if I’m going to be able to take care of anything else. And not to toot my own horn, but I’m a pretty important component to keeping the Patrick family a float!!

One of the things I did recently was start a “Life List”. When I turned 40 in January I realized that it was important to put my dreams to paper and take steps to achieve what was possible. Creating the list was exciting in itself – because I allowed myself to think big without concern about money, time or even ability. Now when I hear about something cool someone did instead of thinking “wish I could do that, too” I just add it to my life list and think … “maybe I will!”

As great as a Life List is, it doesn’t really help keep you sane during the day to day chaos of life. Here’s a rather random list of some things that I’ve found help me take care of myself … emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Make Use of Downtime
I spend almost every afternoon and evening taking kids to and from places. Soccer, baseball and swim team practice, gymnastics, car pool line…I spend a lot of time “waiting”. Sometimes sitting around is just what I need and I take a book, magazine or journal to spend the time relaxing. Other times, I need a little grown-up interaction and spend the time talking to other moms. And yet other times, when I’m feeling particularly stressed and there’s room to do it (like at the soccer or baseball fields) I walk. It’s one of the ways I can get in some exercise (which I don’t do often!) and it almost always makes me feel better.

Have Something to Look Forward To
I’ve found that if I have something coming up in the future that I’m excited about I get through some of the tough and mundane tasks. A big vacation certainly works, but sometimes we don’t have the money for that. So I try to schedule things here and there way ahead of time so I can take advantage of the anticipation of good things to come. Girl’s Night Out, a mani/pedi appointment, a class at a scrapbooking store … they all give me motivation to “hang in there!”

Indulge in Little Treats
I’m a shopper and it’s been difficult to stay on a budget as we are paying attention to our big financial picture. While I’m doing a good job overall, sometimes I just need a little treat to keep me going. Sometimes it’s a candle or a new book, other times it’s a new shirt. Online saving programs like Zuilly, Groupon or LivingSocial help save me money. And if all else fails, a while back I subscribed to People Magazine (a guilty pleasure!) and no matter what – I know that on Friday afternoon comes along – so will my celebrity trash talk! It’s a nice escape from reality!

Ask For Help
I’m lucky to be able to work from home and have a somewhat flexible schedule so I can attend a bible study on Friday mornings. When I’m able to go – it’s so great to feed myself spiritually and be around fabulous moms who support me. I also have friends outside of this group who I know I can count on when things go south. We often babysit for each other, help each other with tasks or errands and provide hugs and a listening ear whenever we need to vent.

I realize today that yesterday I should have called one of my friends to help with Annie so I could get my projects done and avoid a mommy-meltdown. Sometimes I just need a kick in the pants to remember that I can’t do it all alone. And more often than not – I don’t have to.

So what’s your coping strategy, special treat or advice on taking care of yourself?


Remember, visit http://www.facebook.com/crystallight to learn more about how Crystal Light can flavor your day with 30 refreshing flavors. I was selected and paid for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

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A Winner!

Wow! Lots of folks entered to win the PopSecret Prize Pack. Wish I could give you all one, but through random.org number 92 was selected…

AStarrA who said “Mmmmm popcorn 🙂 Thanks for the chance!”
Congrats AStarrA! For those that didn’t win, stay tuned. I have a lot more contests planned for the future…so keep reading Still Living The Dream!
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Nutty for Nutella

On Friday I was the hit of my bible study/play group because I brought Nutella for everyone to try!
Have you had this Hazelnut spread? It is delicious. My friend Tanya has an awesome crepe recipe so we had Nutella-filled crepes for a mid-morning snack. Many of the moms had already tried Nutella (and some consider it a staple item in their pantry!) For me, it was my first time to taste it and I was impressed.
Nutella has been a favorite of Europeans for decades, and when used in moderation with complementary foods, Nutella is a quick and easy tool to encourage kids to eat whole grains, such as whole wheat toast, English muffins, toaster waffles and bagels.
The spread does not contain peanuts or peanut ingredients, nor does the product come in contact with peanuts during manufacturing so it’s perfect for those who have peanut allergies.
One of the moms told us about how she spreads a little Nutella on slices of bananas as an after school snack for her kids. Another mom puts it on graham crackers as a desert in her child’s lunch.
It’s pretty rich, so a little goes a long way. I’m thinking of substituting Nutella for chocolate next time we do smores! Nutella doesn’t need to be refrigerated so we decided it would be a perfect thing to pack for our next camping trip!
So what do you think? Are you and your kids nutty for Nutella? To get a $1.00 off coupon for Nutella, visit them on the web at http://www.nutellausa.com/. They also have a sweepstakes right now and you can win a case of Nutella.
Sweet!
I was selected to be a MommyParties Nutella hostess through MomSelect. I received a party package with Nutella samples, recipes, coupons and goodies to distribute to my guests. I was not compensated for this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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My Father Died Today

My father died today.

He’s been sick for awhile. Cancer – I think. But I’m not sure which kind.

Actually, he’s been sick for a long. long time. Since I was little and he left. Really, since the war.

He fought in Vietnam before I was born. He was in the Marines and from what I can gather (from my grandmother and my mom, when she was willing to speak of him) he signed back up for a second tour of duty after he saw his friend die during his first tour.

“To get even.”

He came home and met and married my mom after discovering she was pregnant. With me.
I always believed it was my fault our family was the way it was. Broken.
Because she wouldn’t have married him if I wasn’t on the way.

Alcohol. Gambling. Physical and emotional abuse. Adultery.

Luckily I was somewhat oblivious to what my mom went through. But when I was seven and my sister was four, my mom told me that he was leaving and then we got coloring books.

I guess I’ve been grieving his absence for a long time. After he left the first time, he really never came back. I didn’t understand why. I wanted a real family. I was embarrassed that we weren’t normal. I was mad that my mom was always working and that she was always angry. Mostly, I just wanted a daddy…someone to wrap his arms around me and tell me everything was going to be ok. But he couldn’t ever do that – even when he was around. Because HE wasn’t ok.

When I was in college he called. It had been more than a decade since I had seen or heard from him. I didn’t know what to say. He called a few times more and after my husband and I graduated from college we travelled to Florida to “meet” him. We had several meals together, which we paid for. We picked him up a random locations in our rental car…a block from “a friend’s house”. We think he was homeless. But he didn’t say and we didn’t ask.

But he was definitely sick. He told us stories we knew weren’t true and spoke of the purple heart award we knew he hadn’t won. He had been married and divorced several times. I heard later that he often told girlfriends that he was a widower…that my mom had died. It was unclear to me whether or not he knew that it wasn’t true.

I grieved not having a father throughout my entire life. At the big events – for sure. A father-daughter dance in Middle School. My high school graduation. Parent’s Day at College. My wedding.

But more so during the not-so-significant events in my life. When I fell off my bike and skinned my knee. When someone picked at me at school. When a boy broke up with me and broke my heart.

In the end he died alone after weeks with hospice arranged through his affiliation with the military – not through loved ones. There won’t be a funeral. Or memorial service. Or celebration of his life. He’ll be buried and that will be that.

Whenever I watch my husband and my daughter interact…I am so happy. So thankfully and glad that Annie has a lap to sit in and two, big strong arms to protect her. But something inside me also aches…knowing I never had that. And even though I am sure I’ve known for a long, long time that it never would, there’s something pretty final about learning that…

My father died today.

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And the winners are….

Seriously – how cool has it been lately on Still Living The Dream? So many giveaways! It’s like being an audience member on Oprah’s Favorite Things Show. Only you’re not getting thousands of dollars worth of prizes. Or a chance to meet the rich and famous. Or the opportunity to be on TV. But otherwise – exactly the same. Right?

Well here’s what you DO get on Still Living The Dream. Tips about cool products. When someone tells me they have a cool product, I say – let me be the judge of that. Usually they’ll give me one to try out and then I pass on the information to you. If it’s good – hooray! I love free stuff that’s cool and I always ask for another one so I can give one to a winning reader!

Speaking of winners, we’ve got two this morning!

1. The first one is for the fabulous Dotmine Planner and it is…….
#34 Steph G who said… “I love the Ditzy Flowers”

2. The second one is for the Movies on Demand Gift Certificate and the winner is….
#10 jennem who became a Public Google Friends follower of Still Living The Dream!

Congrats to both of you! For everyone else – there’s a new contest up for a $25 Visa Gift Card and Pop Secret Party Pack! Be sure to enter!

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Pop! Camera! Action! (A Giveaway)

Do you love Awards Season?
Did you watch The Academy Awards on Sunday?
Were you AT The Academy Awards on Sunday?!! Yeah. Me either. But one of my life list items (#23) is to walk the red carpet and attend a show.

Until then, I try to tune in on TV every year (wearing my sweats and eating a big, bowl of popcorn). I enjoy watching all of the hoopla surrounding the shows. The outfits. The hosts. The commentators. The speeches. For me, which actors or movies actually win don’t really mean as much as everything surrounding the awards.

Not a lot of controversial speeches or outrageous outfits this year, darn it. But still, a lot of talented people in one place is fun to watch. I wish I could live in that world, for just a day or two. Ah, the outfits. The jewels. The prestige. The SWAG!

If you’re not up for an acting or directing award this spring either, I’ve got something for you that will make watching the shows more fun. How about a Pop Secret Gift Pack? One lucky Still Living The Dream reader will win a pack that includes a $25 Visa Gift Card, a 3-Pack of Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter Flavor Popcorn and 1 Box of Raisinets Candy. Pretty cool, right?

Pop Secret is a staple around our house. Doesn’t have to be awards season – we pop it up almost everyday after school! But there’s something about watching a movie (or watching a show that celebrates movies!) that calls for a bowl of popcorn.

If you want to be more than a spectator and are in the spirit of the season, Pop Secret has a way for you to show off your “acting” and “directing” skills (and win prizes!) as well. Visit Pop! Camera! Action and direct the kernals for a chance to instantly win one of thousands of netflix subscriptions and earn a sweepstakes entry for a chance to win the ultimate at-home 3D movie theater grand prize!

It’s a Giveaway!

So do you want a Pop Secret Prize Pack with a $25 Visa gift certificate, a 3-pack of PopSecret popcorn and a box of raisinets candy from Still Living The Dream? I have one to give away and all you have to do to enter is leave me a note in the comments section and I’ll pick a winner at random.org on 3/8/11. Easy peasy!

Want more chances? Alrighty then! Leave a separate comment for each of the items you do below!

  • Follow me on Goggle Friend Connect (scroll down and look to the right of this blog to sign up). If you already follow me – you rock! You still get another entry – just comment to tell me so.
  • Tweet this contest (you can use this phrase if you’d like) Win a PopSecret Prize Pack at http://bit.ly/hnVL9w #popcameraaction @momsparkmedia @jpatrickcomm
  • Follow me on twitter @jpatrickcomm

By the way – Did you know that Nestlé Raisinets have been a favorite treat for over 80 years, they provide a ½ serving of real fruit in every ¼ cup and are a natural source of fruit antioxidants? Me either! Pretty cool, huh?

I am a Pop Secret Blogger, courtesy of Mom Spark Media. Thoughts are my own. Winner of the Prize Pack will be selected via random.org on 3/8/11.

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Being a Mom is Hard – Ten Reasons I Know It’s Worth It

Annie, Mom and Jackson circa 2007

Being a mom is hard.
Period.

I’m not just talking about juggling schedules, funding activities, getting three square meals on the table, encouraging personal hygiene such as daily baths (but mooommmmm, I took one yesterday!) and making sure the countless number of forms are turned into school on time. (Although this is a big part of being a mom!)

I’m talking about the way you put your own heart out there when you send your kids into the world each day. How much it hurts when you know your child is hurting. How bittersweet it is to see your kids grow up and get bigger each day – knowing certain phases of their life (and cuteness!) will never return.

Annie is nearing the end of her preschool “career” this spring and will be starting kindergarten in the fall and Jackson will be in 4th grade. I’ve been really aware of what their growth means to me when I see moms with babies and toddlers at the store or in church or at the YMCA….shuffling bottles, diapers, blankies and pacifiers. I thought as long as I had a little girl in preschool, I’d still be part of that new mommy club. But I’m not. And I’m happy (think of all the extra money I save on diapers alone!) But I’m sad. As my kids get a little older, they also get a little more independent and I worry. Am I still needed? Do they still adore me? Can I still protect them?

I mean, it’s been a long time since my nine-year-old told me that I was his princess and that he wanted to marry me and even my five-year-old daughter kind of rolls her eyes at me when I say something dorky. (I’m just waiting for the “Ma-THER. Pleeezzze!) phase.

But even though she’s not an infant or toddler, Annie is still little and I know she needs me. She came home from preschool upset recently because they were working on learning how to set up and eat their lunches on their own because in kindergarten they won’t have someone there to do everything for them. She was worried because she couldn’t quite get the Capri Sun straw out of the plastic wrapper and puncture the pouch. I told her not to worry, that we would work on it together and the other day when she did it all by herself – she couldn’t wait to tell me all about it.

And even though Jackson would rather play baseball with his friends then watch a movie about princes and princesses with me, I know that he still needs me when at night when it’s quiet we talk about what happened at school that day and he shares the little things that bother him, or make him happy. I get a chance to give him advice and support him. But mostly I just listen – and I know that means a lot to him.

One thing that we all like to do together as a family is go to the movies. We go to the movies A LOT! In preparation for the March 11th release of the movie, “Mars Needs Moms,” (and to remind myself that no matter how old my kids get, they’ll always need and love their mom!) I’ve compiled the top ten things I think Annie and Jackson would miss most about me if I was abducted by aliens!

1. Long drives.
It started when the kids were babies and couldn’t sleep unless they were riding in the car and just kind of never stopped. From time to time, we love to go on car rides with no particular destination in mind. Often it’s after a long week of going in a hundred directions. After it’s dark, we’ll get in our jammies and take a ride around surrounding neighborhoods, looking at houses we like and just talking about our day. It’s a chance to calm down and reconnect. And our kids love it even more then we do!

2. Involvement.
I’ve made it a point since the kids were little to be involved at their schools. I’m lucky because I work at home that I have some flexibility to be up at the school during the day to volunteer in the library, classroom, etc. I’ve been homeroom mom for Jackson several years, on the board of Annie’s preschool, the chairperson of several events, den mom of Jackson’s cub scout group. I know their teachers well and what goes on during the day. It means a lot to Jackson and Annie that I’m part of their lives in this way.

3. Unconditional Love.
There have been times in my life when I have felt that I had to earn the love I received from people in my life. I don’t want my kids to ever feel like that so even though I make a million parent-related mistakes each day – I make it a point to tell my kids that I do and will love them no matter what. I can be angry at their actions or behavior, but that never means I don’t love them.

4. Have fun.
I try not to take myself too seriously (even though I’m really competitive!) and I try to carve out time for fun for my kids to act silly and just play. We don’t have a big (if one at all!) fund for vacations and entertainment so sometimes that means just riding bikes around the neighborhood or playing a board game in the living room.

5. Pray before dinner.
When Jackson was a toddler we let him come up with our family prayer and we say it every night before we eat. It’s simple…we hold hands and say “Dear God – thank you for this food, thank you for this family. Amen” and then we clap. It centers us and reminds us of two very special things we have that others don’t that we shouldn’t ever take for granted. I like that it came from my son’s heart. I think it means a lot to him that we still care enough to say it every night.

6. Character Band-aids.
Sometimes even boo-boos that don’t bleed need band-aids and while I’ve cut corners in other ways over the years I always spring for the deluxe band-aids…you know, the ones with strawberry shortcake or power rangers on the. My kids know that no matter how old they are, I’ll always have a band-aid for them…”they good ones!”

7. Books.
I’m a sucker for books. I almost never say no when Annie or Jackson ask me to buy them a book. I can’t help it. I remember how much books meant to me growing up, especially a trip to the library or book orders at school. I encourage my kids to read, hoping they’ll love books as much as I do. And we read often at night together.

8. Art.
I’ve always encouraged my kids to get dirty and dive into play-dough, paint or markers. I think coloring out the lines is good and that purple trees and green cats on a drawing are beautiful. I hope that my kids learn later from this that taking chances and being different is ok – but for now I know that just like that I don’t get angry if they get paint on the floor!

9. Traditions.
I remember certain things from my childhood that still mean a lot to me now. Things we did often. Things I could count on. Summer trips to the mountains where my grandfather grew up. Sunday dinner at my grandma’s house at noon. Notes from Santa on Christmas morning. I try to do things for my kids that make holidays and every day special. Little things like telling them “life is good” before they leave for school to opening one present on Christmas Eve before they go to bed….I’m hoping some of our family traditions stick and become traditions of their own someday.

10. Home.
There’s a song called “home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes. I love the lyrics “Home, please take me home. Home is wherever I’m with you.” I think I’ve made “home” a comfortable and safe place for my kids. That they feel supported and loved and protected by the four walls of our home and the arms of their parents. When things get bad (someone bullies them at school or they don’t make the team), I want them to know they can always come home and be around people that love them. I hope that’s what I’m creating. I hope it’s how I’m making a difference. I hope it’s what they love most.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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They’re Baaaccckkkkk!

Doves. They actually came back a couple weeks ago but then it got really cold and they left.

I was like, “Ha, take that doves!” But they were completely unfazed and they’re back and cooing at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. and they don’t stop all day.

Curse you. Doves. Curse. you.

I know. I have issues.

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Review and Giveaway: Dotmine Planner

Managing the schedules of two kids takes talent. Throw in the little detail of my own business to run, and well – coordination is everything. Especially because I work out of my home in a very deadline oriented line of work (freelance writing). At any given time I have at least five to six different projects going on with several different clients – so keeping track of what’s going on is vital.

I have a lot of modern day technology to keep me on track – but I recently got my hands on a pretty little planner and I’m so excited!

It’s old school, you guys. You use a pen and hand write things in it. And for some reason – that really helps me with my to-do lists. At the end of the day, I like to write down what I need to (and some things I hope to) accomplish so it’s there in black and white. The problem is – I usually do this on spare pieces of paper that become misplaced in the chaos I call my kitchen.

The folks at dotmine planners have come up with good looking planners that help people keep it together. They have three lines: life-time.mine, family-time.mine and time.mine. All three lines are a little different – but all the planners are really – well – pretty!

I have the robin’s egg blue, leather, 7×9 inch life-time.mine planner. LOVE IT. In addition to a two-page spread for each week in the year-and-a-half time period (which I am using to write my daily to-do lists), it has a page to reflect upon what you want to accomplish personally and professionally that year, a master schedule planning guide (I love feeling like I’ve mastered something!), a place to keep track of work contacts and notes, a place to keep track of personal contacts (think plumber, doctors, teachers, neighbors) and a cool pocket in the back (to keep receipts I usually lose!)

I love the plain blue cover and the inside floral patterns. The weekly schedule has perforated margins for “grab and go” lists make errands easy and it has a pretty ribbon bookmark to keep me on the right page.

So there’s hope that I can actually write that article on physical therapy AND get Annie to soccer practice on time AND get Jackson to baseball practice at the right field AND get field trip forms signed and returned AND make it to the PTO meeting at the right date AND….(I know you can relate)

It’s a Giveaway!

So do you want one? How about FOR FREE?! Well lucky you – I have one to give away and all you have to do to enter is go to http://www.timemine.com/ and tell me which one you want! Leave the name of your favorite planner (excluding the “Borders exclusive” planners) in the comments section and I’ll pick a winner at random.org on 3/1/11. Easy peasy!

Want more chances? Alrighty then! Leave a separate comment for each of the items you do below!

  1. Follow me on Goggle Friend Connect (scroll down and look to the right of this blog to sign up)
  2. Tweet this contest (you can use this phrase if you’d like) Time is precious – win a Dotmine planner/organizer http://bit.ly/eELCm4 @timemine @momspark
  3. Follow me on twitter @jpatrickcomm
  4. Follow @timemine on twitter

This review was made possible by MomSpark Media. I was provided a planner in order to review – no other compensation was received. The thoughts and opinions stated in this post are mine alone. The winner will be selected at random via random.org on 3/1/11.

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