Sunday, June 29, 2014

My First Runnerversary!

Today is my very first runnerversary!  Exactly one year ago today I completed my very first 5K!  Running is something I never dreamed I’d enjoy, and now that it’s been a full year since I became a “real runner” (that still feels weird to say!) I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic.

My very first 5K was the Southport 4th of July Freedom Run and my goal was to finish.  I wanted to celebrate my runnerversary by participating in the Freedom Run again, but there were too many scheduling conflicts and I was unable to make it to the beach.  Instead, I decided to share a few pictures and thoughts as somewhat of a delayed “race recap” to commemorate the occasion!


Here is my bib!  I keep it pinned to a bulletin board in my workout room to keep me motivated.

Here are a few pics before the race.  Adam and my brother, Joe, ran with me.  It was Joe’s first 5K also.

The race started on the waterfront.  By the end of C25K I was averaging about 13 min/miles.  Into my first mile I was so caught up in race day excitement I remember hearing my running app say– average pace, 9 minutes.  I immediately slowed down in an attempt not to burn out!

This guy participates while holding the flag each year.  It makes my arm hurt  just thinking about it.

My parents caught up with us shortly after mile 1.  The course was pretty shaded and breezy until this point.  I remember most of mile 2 and the beginning of mile 3 having little to no shade.  I ran towards tree’s shadows just to get a break!  Once the course went back towards the water it felt 100x better.

The last stretch was rough.  I remember Stronger by Kanye West playing on my iPod and I kept going.  Here’s Joe booking it to the finish line.

We finished!  We decided that after we finished an actual race we would be “real runners.”

Here’s Adam and I after the race.  I finished in 38:01 and Adam’s official time was a few seconds ahead.  He could have easily left me in the dust, but he stuck with me the whole time.

Although a 5K may not seem like a big deal, this was a HUGE day for me!  Adam was actually surprised I didn’t cry (I did cry the first time I ran 2 miles without stopping!).  The second I crossed that finish line I was in awe of what I had accomplished.  The first time I ran jogged 3 minutes straight I told Adam not to talk to me because it was too hard to focus on jogging and talking.  And here I was, running for 38 minutes straight!  My goal was to complete a 5K, so I worked my tail off and did it.  Since then I’ve continued to challenge myself and improve.  It felt pretty amazing to see this screen!

Thanks for celebrating my runnerversay with me! 🙂  I plan to do my own 5K around my neighborhood this afternoon just for fun!

What’s something that was a huge accomplishment for you?  Do you remember your first race?  Are you currently working towards any goals (fitness or nonfitness)?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Creating a Literacy Rich Environment + review/giveaway with FarFaria

As a former teacher I’m often asked what I think about education-related topics.  I usually do my best to talk around the questions and offer my most politically correct answer.  The truth is there are so many hot topics in education I don’t always feel comfortable giving my honest opinion.  So many people think they know what should be done to reform education, but I’ve found most of those people rely on the latest trend instead of actual research.

Did you know there’s a critical window for literacy development which occurs from birth until age three?  This breaks my heart because there are so many parents who are unable to or unaware of how to help their child during those early years.  Now, before you write me off thinking “My kid is smart, s/he’s in preschool, I don’t have anything to worry about…” research shows that children are more successful when there is a school-home partnership, so hear me out! 🙂

Immersing children in a literacy rich environment is vital in a child’s education.  It was natural for me to do this in my classroom and it’s funny to see my teacher tendencies spilling over into my life as Mommy.  Simply put, “literacy rich environment” is an educational buzz phrase for literacy everywhere.

Today I’m going to talk about some easy, organic ways to create a literacy rich environment for your toddler.  I’ll also be reviewing C’s new favorite app, FarFaria, and next week a lucky reader will win a subscription to FarFaria for their child!

1.  Read, read, read!
This isn’t earth-shattering by any means, but there are many different ways to read with your child.  Did you know there are three ways to read a book?  You can read the words, read the pictures, or retell the story in your own words.  Many adults and children only focus on reading the words, but for young children, reading the pictures and retelling the story is just as important.  It’s developmentally appropriate and gives them the opportunity to practice language.  While it’s important to practice reading throughout your day, it’s also a good idea to have a designated reading time.  This shows your child that reading is a priority.

2.  Talk about books.
Again, a no-brainer.  However it’s important to talk about the book with your child before, during, and after reading.  Print concepts and text features and extremely important for pre-readers.  This includes pointing out things like the front and back of the book, title, where the story begins, etc.  One-to-one correspondence is an important skill in both reading and math.  While you’re reading, model pointing to the words or have your toddler help you.  This will also help them understand that print goes left to right.  It’s important to let your child turn the pages.  If your child gets excited about a particular part, stop and talk about it!  It’s more important for your toddler to be excited about the book than for you to finish reading.  Afterwards have a little conversation.  Depending on your toddler, this may be primarily one-sided, but that’s okay.  Last night C was really into The Foot Book; I read it three times!  Afterwards I asked him to show me his feet.  He proudly grabbed his toes and said “Feet!  Feet!”  It’s important to choose texts that interest your toddler. 

3.  Talk about letters & words everywhere!
Label items in your house.  If there’s a word on your child’s shirt, talk about it.  Today C and I both wore Duke shirts so we had a nice little conversation this morning about the letter D.  When we go grocery shopping C holds my list.  While he’s too young to read my list now, I talk to him the whole time– We just put bananas in the cart.  The bananas are yellow.  Here’s where I wrote bananas, it starts with a B (I’m looking forward to the day he can cross items off the list for me!).  If we’re playing with play-doh I usually make the letter C for him, and usually he tries to make his own.  C has plenty of toys with letters– magnets, stamps, blocks, letters for the bathtub and fabric letters.  It’s great to use these items, but talking about them while you’re playing makes the experience more authentic for your toddler.

Disclaimer:  Aside from a subscription to FarFaria, as well as one to give away, I was not compensated in any way for this review.  All opinions are my own based on my personal experience.

Tablets are a great way to incorporate literacy and excite young learners.  C’s grandparents gave him an Android tablet for Christmas and it has been exhausting trying to find age appropriate, quality apps.  Recently I was contacted by FarFaria about a review/giveaway opportunity.  FarFaria is like an online children’s library.  It has over 600 books and adds 5 new books each week.

FarFaria has a variety of reading levels.  I absolutely love how they leveled the books.  When I taught, parents always asked me what level books their child should get at the library.  I loved that my parents wanted to help, but levels are confusing because they depend on the book or series.  Just because a child is in second grade doesn’t mean “level 2” is an appropriate choice.  FarFaria gives a range for their levels that corresponds to literacy development instead of a specific grade.  

The app is extremely easy to navigate; it reminds me of my nook!  I love the menu.  It has bright colors and is easy for little ones to understand.  We spent most of our time at Preschool Playground.

Once you choose your “island” you can search for books based on popularity, what’s new, reading level, and title.  When you find a book you like, you can add it to your “favorites” list.  If a book is on under your “favorites,” you don’t need to be connected to the internet to view the book.

FarFaria has a huge variety of books.  There are plenty of genres and topics.  I especially like FarFaria’s emphasis on non-fiction text.  Educational research tells us that non-fiction texts are often more difficult for children to comprehend.  However, we know the ability to understand and process non-fiction text is a life skill.  It is important to expose children to nonfiction text and features unique to nonfiction, such as headings, at an early age.

When you view a book you have the option to have the book read aloud.  This feature is vital to young readers.  We especially loved this feature while visiting Sing Along City.  C loved singing and dancing to the songs!

As the narrator reads the words change color.  This reiterates print concepts such as reading left to right and one-to-one correspondence.

All in all, FarFaria is an amazing app (available for iPad and Android) and I truly believe it is helping me create a literacy rich environment for C.  I will definitely be renewing my subscription!  Enter below to win your own subscription.  I will choose a random reader on July 5!!

How do you incorporate literacy into your daily life?  What’s your favorite app?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Race for the Cure 5K {Race Recap & PR}

Last weekend I competed in the 18th Annual Triangle Race for the Cure 5K.  You would think after I ran 13.1 miles a 5K would be no big deal… but I was actually pretty nervous.  This was my first 5K since Halloween and my first race since the Rock N Roll Half Marathon.

The night before I had an awesome dinner of salmon, qunioa, sauteed kale/tomatoes, and asparagus.  It was protein and carb packed… and delish!

Race day we headed out around 5:45.  They had shuttles for runners/spectators so parking was a breeze.  We had plenty of time to warm up and stretch– which is something I’m usually bad about on race days.

The race vibe was great.  Thousands of people were decked out in pink (HH2HT made the news!  Woop!).  The surrounding neighborhoods and businesses decorated also.  Several people had their sprinklers out, which I greatly appreciated!  There was also a church singing group performing towards the end of mile 2 that helped give me a little extra umph to get to the finish.  

The course started at Meredith College, looped around downtown, and finished on Hillsborough Street.  I was trying not to focus on a PR, but I really wanted a PR.  One of my summer goals is to improve my 5K time, so this race is my official “beginning of summer” time.  My unofficial time was 34:10 and my official time was 34:05.

This was the first race I actually beat Adam!  He says he didn’t let me beat him on purpose, but I’m not quite sure.  I finished 784th out of 1200+ participants.  I averaged just under 11 min/mile which is a pretty decent time for me.  I had a similar pace for the St. Paddy’s Day 8K back in March and averaged 12 min/mile during my half in April.  The course wasn’t too bad– it had some hills but they were mostly small and had a downhill shortly after.  You can see I started to struggle as the elevation crept up around mile 2.  Thankfully the weather was great which made the hills easier.  Here are some more stats from my Garmin (man, I love that thing!)….  

After the race we went to the Farmer’s Market for brunch.  I had the most fabulously delicious omelet you could ever imagine.  When we got home C and I chillaxed a bit and we both ended up taking a 3 hour nap.

All in all, it was a great race for a great cause (if you missed the race but would like to donate, visit here) and I’d definitely do it again!  I’m excited I PRed and am motivated to up the speed work to see how I can improve by August!

What are your summer fitness goals?  Are you racing this weekend?  What’s your favorite before/after race meal?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Only Recipe You’ll Ever Need {Chess Pie Squares}

Someone gave my mom this recipe at a bridal shower over 30 years ago.  Since then it’s become a family staple.  These chess pie squares have bribed my brothers to move me in and out of apartments.  They’re always popular at potlucks.  I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like them.  I almost don’t want to share this recipe because chess pie squares are pretty much the only thing I know how to make well!  However, I love you guys so I’ll spill my secret dessert weapon 🙂

1 yellow cake mix (make sure to get the “pudding in the mix”)
1 stick of butter
4 eggs
4 C confectioner sugar
8 oz cream cheese (softened)

First Layer:  Mix cake mix, butter, and one egg.  Press in a 9×13 pan.  I find metal pans work best.  I usually use parchment paper, but it’s not required.

  Second Layer:  Mix 3 eggs, sugar, and cream cheese and pour over first layer.  Don’t mind the paci on the counter… they’re everywhere 🙂

Bake at 325 for 35-45 minutes.  I usually bake mine for the full 45 minutes; you’ll know they’re finished when they’re golden brown.


What’s your go-to recipe?

Monday, June 16, 2014

“When are you having another baby?” …add it to the list!

I had a major Pinterest fail last September that resulted in a trip to urgent care and some stitches.  I chatted with the doctor as he worked on my foot.  Naturally, we talked about our kids.  He said “the days are long but the years are short.”  I thought this was an odd saying; I’d never heard it before.  However, as I went home with my 5 stitches I thought about his words– The days are long, but the years are short.  It sums up parenthood completely.

C is almost two!  TWO!  How did that happen?!  The time has flown by.  I’ve spent the last two years trying to figure out motherhood, improving my lifestyle, and attempting to maintain some sense of sanity.  Things I never dreamed of doing suddenly became the norm.

Now, almost two years since giving birth, I finally feel like I’ve found my groove.  C and I have a regular routine, Adam and I are used to budgeting on one paycheck, and physically I feel better than ever.  There’s this feeling of calmness that’s hard to describe in words.  That feeling of “ahhh… life is good.”

Just when I feel like I’ve got it going on… Just when I feel like supermom because C and I went to story time, grocery shopping, on a run and I still managed to get a shower and dinner on the table… Just when I feel like I can just take a second to breathe… I get this:

I know (or at least hope) most people who ask this aren’t trying to send me into a panic attack, but the second this question comes up a million things run through my head:  Should we be trying?  Are we waiting too long?  Is there something wrong with me? Oh gosh, I’m going to lose my mind…

There are certain things you don’t ask a woman– Are you pregnant?  Then there are certain things you don’t ask a pregnant woman– Are you sure that’s your due date?  You look SOO big!  I think “When are you having another baby?” should be on the list of things you don’t ask a mom.

To those of you who don’t have kids this question may not seem like a big deal… Just like texting a full-term pregnant woman to ask if she’s in labor (not funny, by the way).  But to mothers, and maybe even some fathers, it’s not a question you want to hear.  

Here’s why “When are you having another baby?”  should be added to the don’t ask list!

1.  They may be trying.  For all you know they may be charting cycles, checking temperatures, and talking to doctors trying to figure out why it’s been over a year and no baby.  I’ve seen women struggle with fertility issues.  It’s a gut-wrenching process.  And while we know 99% of the time something like that is absolutely no one’s fault, there’s a lot of guilt and heartbreak that comes along with such circumstances.  This simple question might feel like a punch in the stomach.

2.  They may not want another baby.  Maybe they don’t want to be this generation’s Cleavers.  Or, maybe they desperately want to, but can’t afford that idyllic lifestyle.  Maybe their hands are full.  Kids are expensive and parenthood isn’t easy.  Maybe they don’t want the two kids, dog, and picket fence society says equals happiness.  Don’t look at them with pity because they’re content with the way things are and not how you think they should be.

3.  They may not be ready.  Sometimes a mom needs time to focus on herself.  Maybe she’s working towards a goal that has nothing to do with being barefoot and pregnant.  Maybe she’s spent the last year losing 30 pounds and is horrified of gaining it all back.  Maybe she [they] just isn’t ready!  To someone who isn’t a parent three stair-step children might seem perfect.  However, every family and situation is so different and nobody really knows how parenthood is going to go until they dive in the deep end.

I’ll sum up with this… I would love to have another baby; I would love for C to have a brother or sister.  It’s something I’ve spoken about with close friends whom I feel comfortable.  However, if you’re a postpartum nurse relentlessly pestering your patient who gave birth nine hours ago, you shouldn’t be asking.  If you’re a stranger in Wal-Mart looking at a mother and son with pity saying “when are you trying for a girl,” you shouldn’t be asking.  If you’re not a close friend or family member (& even then it’s iffy) you shouldn’t be asking.  So when you feel like asking “When are you having another baby,” remember:  it’s on the list!

What’s the most outrageous thing someone has ever asked you?  What else should be on the “don’t ask” list?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Zucchini Pesto Pasta

A while ago I posted this picture on Facebook.  A lot of my followers were interested in the recipe so here it is; sorry it took so long!

This recipe is not a Make Ahead Meal, but I’m sure it could be adapted into that format.  I somewhat made up this recipe on my own.  I googled a few zucchini pasta recipes and made this one based on what I had in my pantry.  Enjoy!

2 chicken breasts 
Mrs. Dash
3 zucchinis
1 C grape tomatoes (or 1 regular tomato)
1/4 C parmesan cheese
2 T olive oil
1T basil
1 clove garlic

Cook chicken.  I used a little Mrs. Dash for seasoning.

While the chicken is cooking make your “pasta.”  I have this julienne peeler.  Place “pasta” in a baking dish.

Combine parmesan cheese, olive oil, basil, and garlic in food processor to create pesto.

Cut up tomatoes.  Add chicken, pesto, and tomatoes to the zucchini.  Warm in oven for 20 minutes at 325.


Have you tried making vegetable pasta?  What’s your favorite recipe?

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