Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Five: Missing Acorns & What Not

The week after Thanksgiving has been a blur! I still don't feel caught up but we have jumped back into a "normal" routine again. Monday was a shock to the kids' system after 5 days at Grandma and Grandpa's farm!

Here are a FIVE highlights from this (actually the past two) week:

What We Did

"Qwirkle" went from a boardgame gathering dust in our game closet to a new favorite, thanks to Leah's Qwirkle preschool learning ideas! She has great suggestions for sorting and other fun activities with the Quirkle game squares. (Sorry, I don't have any pictures!) A little clothespin reindeer project turned out really cute and I will share more next week - see picture above :)

We spent time outdoors searching for Oak trees, the Outdoor Hour Challenge's topic of the week, and building forts in the woods over the past two weeks. Though we couldn't find a single acorn (fat squirrels!!!), we DID find oak leaves and some other treasures!

A photo posted by Amy W (@creativeaim87) on

What We Learned

Where squirrels are plenty, acorns are few!

E has been learning about the letters A and B this week. He does tracing and coloring worksheets for each letter but I am really laxed with that at his age. Mostly we read a lot of books and identify our fridge magnet letters.

What We're Reading

We checked out a few of Max Lucado's Hermie books from the library and they have been really cute. I have read "Flo The Lyin' Fly" more times than I care to admit! E loves that one.

Karma Wilson's books were a new discovery this week as well. Christmas in the Barn is another great book for the Christmas season and I love Anna Dewdney's artwork! Recognize her from the Llama Llama books?

What's New

Snow comes and it goes and it comes and it goes around here. The Christmas decorations are up and Christmas cards are in progress.

Little brother is 18 months old now and the rowdiness an rough housing in our house has greatly increased. Outdoors is the best place for us to be!

What's Mom Doing

I am reading Alive in the Spirit by A.W. Tozer and compiled/edited by James L. Snyder.  I have learned so much about the Holy Spirit himself, living each day in step with ths Spirit, and how this looks in the church and our imdividual lives from Tozer's writing.

"If you can understand it and explain it, it is probably not the Holy Spirit working." (p. 30)

God has used this book to change my life and to help me better understand my relationship with the Holy Spirit. I highly recommend it! You can find Alive in the Spirit on

I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Tell me about your Friday 5!

Joining up with Preschool & Kindergarten Community Weekly Link-Up, Homeschool Blog and Tell, and Mommy Moments.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Alexander Hamilton's Guide to Life {Book Review}

W wore a "man bun" while reading about Mr. Hamilton (must have been the style back then!).

Besides being the face of the $10 bill, I knew very little about Alexander Hamilton until reviewing Jeff Wilser's book, Alexander Hamilton's Guide to Life.

This book is a comedic biography that gives the reader a look into the personality, personal life, and attitudes of our first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Each chapter is broken into topics from self-improvement and career advancement to romance and leisure.

Alexander Hamilton's Guide to Life paints a picture of this arrogant, assertive, and brilliant man's life and puts the fun back into biography reading. He sounds like a pompous jerk but he knew his stuff. And, no, he wasn't one of our Presidents ;)

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hello, Goodbye Snow

Our first snow finally showed up!

I made the first footprints down the sidewalk on an early morning rainy and snowy run. The roads were slick and slushy but it was a refreshing change of season. I like snow in November and am quite sick of it by March.

Christmas lights are here and there around town and I'm definitely listening to Christmas music every day. Our lights and mini tree are going up this week, too!

The kids and I made a snowman and enjoyed the fresh snow "crunch" under our boots but soon after...

Our snow was gone. The happy little snowman is now a lonely single snowball surrounded by green grass.

The time with my family was wonderful and my mom even managed to herd our entire group for family pictures. My husband and I took a rare picture together as just the two of us. It was like engagement pictures all over again. We're just 5 years older, that's all ;)

I ate too many slices of pumpkin pie but 'tis the season. I snuck in a few run and yoga sessions this week as keeping a routine helps to work through the holiday season.

Winter has been oddly warm so far but I'm still dreaming of a white Christmas. The snow and ice will arrive soon enough and then it will be time to break out the ice skates! E said he is going to play hockey by himself this year.

My Workout #WeeklyWrap:

11/21 MON: (Treadmill) 4 mi, 00:34 @ 08:24 pace.

11/22 TUES: Runner's Yoga (25:28)

11/23 WED: 5.01 mi, 00:43 @ 08:33 pace. I increased my pace between light posts but kept it relatively easy. Too icy for speedwork outside!

11/24 THURS: Happy Thanksgiving!

11/25 FRI: 5.17 mi, 00:46 @ 08:48 pace. My sister-in-law and I "ran off" some of the Thanksgiving treats and enjoyed our visiting time :) We are both quality time people and that run and a coffee date later that day were the best!

11/26 SAT: Runner's Yoga.

11/27 SUN: Off.

Did you run a "Turkey Trot" race this week?
What was a highlight of your Thanksgiving?

 Linking up with Holly and Tricia's Weekly Wrap Up.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Finding the Non-Training Rhythm

Parts of Minnesota were nailed by snow last Friday (2 feet in some areas!) but we ended up with nothing. Not even an inch!

I'm thankful we missed the big stuff and didn't lose power — I feel for those who are still without — but secretly I am excited for our first snow of the winter. Looks like it's coming tonight and just in time for Thanksgiving.

A non-training routine has formed in my running/cross training and finding a rhythm again feels awesome. That first month after the marathons made me feel like a chicken with my head cut off.

Do I want to workout (Um, no)? How far should I run? What pace? An easy run again? AHHH Where is the training plan?!

Transitioning from the training plan to "free running" feels awkward. It's a process.

For the sake of fitness, and without anything of the competitive sort in the near future, here's the rhythm I'm sticking to:
  • Easy Run (30 to 60 minutes)
  • Yoga/XT
  • Speed or Hill Intervals (30 minutes)
  • Yoga/XT
  • Long Run (60 minutes)
  • Optional Run or XT Day

The plan is laid back with enough structure to motivate me.

If I said I didn't have the urge to run another marathon in the Spring, I would be lying. That 3:15 is calling my name but it will take time and higher mileage than my past 40-mile training weeks to get there. My gut feeling says that now's not the time.

For everything there is a season, as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3:1. While I'm sure he wasn't talking about running, there are seasons when you are able to do less and when you are able to do more.

When I feel antsy — I am turning 30 in 6 months! — I am comforted by the words of a wise, green little philosopher... ;)

Image Source

Patience, indeed! As I count my blessings this week, these two Yoda-sized people are at the top of my list. I am ecstatic for this "short" week, upcoming time with family and hopefully a large portion of pumpkin pie.

May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots of family, friends, and food!

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. PSALM 107:1

My Workout #WeeklyWrap:

11/14 MON: (Treadmill) 5 mi, 00:40 @ 08:00 pace.

 As weird as it sounds, I have really been enjoying the treadmill lately!

11/15 TUES: Runner's Yoga (25:28) while the kids napped AT THE SAME TIME. It was a miracle!

11/16 WED: (Treadmill) 3.61 mi, 00:30 @ 08:19 pace.

Speed and hill intervals of 400m with 400m jog after. I plan to work in one low mileage speed or hill session each week now.

11/17 THURS: Runner's Yoga.

11/18 FRI: Off.

11/19 SAT: 8 mi, 01:02 @ 07:42 pace.

11/20 SUN: Off.

What are YOU thankful for?
What goal are you chasing these days?

 Linking up with Holly and Tricia's Weekly Wrap Up.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Maple Leaves & Helicopter Seeds + Academics' Choice Review

We were on the hunt for Maple leaves and their helicopter seeds (or "samaras") for this week's Outdoor Hour Challenge.

Maple by Lori Nichols was our book of the week. This is one of our favorites about a little girl named Maple and her baby sister, Willow.

We collected leaves of many different colors on our Fall walk two weeks ago:

When we went out on another walk last week to check our leaves, the soft and colorful leaves are now mostly brown and very crunchy. And it was quite cold and windy! Finally it feels like November.

We had a great time searching for these leafy treasures and will be on the lookout for Oaks and Acorns in the upcoming week. The kids love going "hunting" for the perfect leaves!

This week I also reviewed three learning resources for Academics' Choice. Here are my thoughts on these products by Rock N' Learn, Heidi Songs and Oceanhouse Media:

Rock N' Learn Letter Sounds Silly Sentences

Learning the alphabet letters and sounds is right up our alley in this almost-four-year-old stage. E loves this book's "game show" style and asks to read this book many times a day. The sentences are indeed silly and the accompanying pictures prove to be entertaining. This is a board book which is great when you have little siblings around trying to destroy everything.

Along with the Letter Sounds Silly Sentences board book, Rock N' Learn has many other resources from Pre-K to 5th Grade & Up. I haven't checked out their DVDs yet but I would be interested in exploring their "Learn a Language" resources. The website also has some printable freebies.

Rock N' Learn's Letter Sounds Silly Sentences board book is a great resource for developing pre-literacy skills. We give it a thumbs up.

Sing & Spell the Sight Words DVDs

The kids and I tested out Volumes 1,2 and 4 of Heidi Songs' Sing & Spell Animated DVDs. Through singing, simple movements and repetition, these songs are designed to help children memorize the words and jumpstart their reading and writing skills.

Each volume that I review covers the words listed:

Volume One: and, are, can, for, go, have, he, here, is, like, me, my, of, on, play, said, see, she, that, the, they, to, was, with, you and I'm Done (the Period Song.)

Volume Two: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, white, gray, pink, an, at, big, do, down, has, in, it, no/yes, not, small, this, too, up, we, what, who.

Volume Four: A (word), all, am, as, be, by, came, dear, did, friend, from, good, had, his, I (word), if, love, made, nice, now, out, over, put, some, then, very, will, and your.

E and even W were enthralled by all the action on the screen but they preferred to just watch rather than imitate the motions for each song. I thought the Sing & Spell DVDs were very busy, certainly repetitious - and quite annoying. They were fine to review but I would not buy them myself.

One Fish Two Fish Read & Learn App

This was one of my favorite Dr. Seuss' books as a kid and I still love reading Dr. Seuss to my kids. As I mentioned in my review of The Lorax app, I am not a fan of putting cell phones or iPads in front of my children. Children enjoy working through this interactive book (doesn't every kid obsess over smart phones?!) but it doesn't compare to reading the actual book with your child.

The One Fish Two Fish Read & Learn App is well-designed but we prefer the real book reading experience. I'll pass on the Read & Learn apps.

(Screenshot Source)

Have you gone on any nature adventures this week?

Joining up with Preschool & Kindergarten Community Weekly Link-Up, Homeschool Blog and Tell, and Mommy Moments.

Disclaimer: As an Academics' Choice Advocate, I was sent these products free of charge for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Embracing the Race {Book Review}

Running and the journey of life have so many parallels.

Life is full of uphills and downhills, depressing rainy days and perfect sunshiny ones, painful chafing and runner's highs, walls and second winds, agonizing disappointments and surprising victories. It really is a marathon!

Lisa Preuette is a follower of Jesus, wife and mom of two and she shares her insight into running and faith in her book, "Embracing the Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner's Soul".

An avid runner, she’s completed multiple races from 5K to full marathon. Actively involved in women’s ministry at Southeast Christian Church, she thrives on encouraging others in their faith. She resides in Taylorsville, KY.

Lisa sent me a copy of her book and it has been such an encouraging read. Even better — Embracing the Race was released TODAY!

Each day in this devotional book starts with a key Scripture followed by insight into the life of a runner and the relation to our walk with Jesus Christ.

One of my favorites was about embracing the hills on your run as well as in the journey of life. Hills are tough (oh yes they are!) but they are a very necessary tool to gain strength.
"Running hills breaks up your rhythm and forces your muscles to adapt to different stresses. The result? You become a stronger runner." Eamonn Coughlin, 3-Time Irish Olympian
Lisa related Coughlin's quote to the hard times in life that threaten to kill the soul and squash the spirit. Even in the hardest times when going on another step doesn't seem possible, she shares that we can praise our Lord Jesus Christ who walks with us every step of the way.

The Lord equips us with strength for the steep hills in life and, through His promise to never leave or forsake us, our faith is strengthened.

Lisa does a wonderful job of describing the walk of faith through a runner's eyes and her writing is so relatable for runners and non-runners alike. I have enjoyed her writing so much!

As I mentioned before, today is Embracing the Race's release date so stop by to check it out for yourself and read more of Lisa's writing on her blog,

My Workout #WeeklyWrap:

MON: Runner's Yoga, 30:29

TUES: (Treadmill) 4 mi, 00:34 @ 08:24 pace. Election day treadmill run while watching "The Hungry Caterpillar" on Netflix with the littles.

WED: Runner's Yoga.

THURS: 5.24 mi, 00:49 @ 09:24 pace. So much WIND!!! Ran to the grocery store and back with the kiddos.

FRI: (Treadmill) 4 mi, 00:34 @ 08:25 pace. Some 400m intervals with 400m jog.

SAT: Runner's Yoga with sidekick 2.0.

A photo posted by Amy W (@creativeaim87) on

SUN: Off.

What is your favorite running-related book?

 Linking up with Holly and Tricia's Weekly Wrap Up.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Exploring More Bugs - Our Stink Bug

First off, happy Veteran's Day and THANK YOU to all those who serve or have served our country! It's important to remember that this freedom came with a price.

On a much lighter note than all of the election buzz, let me share our latest bug with you:

E found this little bugger and had him crawling all over his coat. We did our research (or wikipedia'd it) and found that it was a brown marmorated stink bug.

Bugs of his kind are not well received as they accidentally arrived in the US and are considered to be an agricultural pest - and they like soybeans! They survive the winter by entering homes in the Fall and living there... Not in our house, please. (source)

Later we wrote on the sidewalk in "cattail fuzz" after a cattail sword fight with his brother (of course).

There is so much life to explore outside this Fall. The kids and I are trying to take it all in before everything freezes solid.

Coming up next week we are going to hunt for Maple leaves and seeds for the Outdoor Hour Challenge!

As for indoor time, we worked through a couple more activities from God's Little Explorer's Week 1, which focused on treasure hunting and the letter "X". E cut out treasure hunt pieces, we hid them around the house and he used his homemade binoculars on the hunt.

He also made an ABC notebook (with a lot of help from mom) using the stylish mustache duct tape he picked out the store this weekend:

Our Favorite Books This Week: 
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
  • Lentil by Robert McCloskey (We have to read this one at least twice a day!)
  • Bearymore by Don Freeman
  • The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey
  • Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border

As for my "Mother Culture", I read in bits hear and there throughout the day. If you are new to Mother Culture, check out Karen Andreola's post here. Along with the Bible, I am working my way through a couple other books. Slowly but surely!

My Reading List:
  • For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
  • Embracing the Race devotional by Lisa Preuette - Review coming next week! 

What adventures have you been on lately?
Do you have Maple trees in your area?

We are using the free version of God's Little Explorers Preschool Curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime for activity ideas with our 3.5-year-old and the 1.5-year-old spends his time finding trouble or hanging on Mommy's legs. 

Joining up with Preschool & Kindergarten Community Weekly Link-Up, Homeschool Blog and Tell, and Mommy Moments.