Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Be Authentically, Uniquely, Distinctly You! {Book Review}


Distinctly You by Cheryl Martin isn't your typical self-help book that tells you to look "inside yourself" to discover who you really are. She points us to the true source of our identity — God.

Martin begins by explaining that God has meticulously planned our design from our looks and intelligence to our personality and heritage. Everything! He made us with something specific in mind that is perfectly matched with our specific blend of abilities and characteristics.

While the world picks on those who go against the "norm", God created us to stand out, to be unique, the best we can be... to be distinct.
"When you are distinct, you allow God's Word to be your standard for living, not popular opinion or popular culture; not what your neighbors or co-workers are doing, or what your favorite television show espouses, but God. It is impossible to experience distinction as God intended by going your own way or following the crowd." Distinctly You, p. 115 (emphasis added)
Martin delves deeper into the life of godly distinction by defining twelve "blockers" and twelve "builders" of becoming distinctly you. She encourages the reader to ditch the cycle of comparing, competing, and coveting and instead strive to do your best and be authentic — to run the race God created you for.


Being a woman of distinction means seeing yourself as God's masterpiece and following the example Jesus set for us.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. EPHESIANS 2:10 NLT
The distinct woman is discrete, discerning, and diligent while being gracious, friendly and kind to others. She humbly walks in God-confidence as a daughter of the King.
"When I encourage you to control you, don't judge, mind your own business, be likable, and be confident in your value, I'm not talking about having an attitude of arrogance or pride. Instead, it's a God-confidence rooted in the knowledge of who you are: a daughter of the King." Distinctly You, p. 216
I enjoyed reading Distinctly You and found it very encouraging as I am living out God's will for my life. Living against the grain of this world isn't comfortable but pressing on in the confidence that God made me for this gives me great courage!

Learn more about Distinctly You on Amazon.com
Visit Bethany House on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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

Monday, April 25, 2016

Training Week 16: Third "Blogiversary" + Blogger Perks

Only FOUR weeks left 'til race day! Two more weeks of "peak" and then on to the taper. Join me for a Weekly Wrap with Holly and Tricia.

Here's some of the current events in our household...

Baby W arrived at "11 month old" status! Maybe I should call him "Toddler W" now. Turns out he's not just teething but in fact had another ear infection. He's almost done with the antibiotics now and those stinky top teeth still haven't popped through yet! Prayers for his ears are greatly appreciated as he may be needing tubes if the ear infections continue this frequently.

Life to the Full hit the third blogiversary (blog + anniversary) milestone on Saturday! When I started this blog back in 2013 as a motherhood + running writing outlet, I had no idea I would still be writing three years later. I have made many blogging/writing faux pax and I'm sure I will make many more as I continue to write. That's how growth happens! Move out of the comfort zone >>> make mistakes >>> learn from them >>> pressing forward.

Flash back to 2013...

2013: The Beginning of Life to the Full

Honestly, I used to believe that blogging was a tad bit nerdy but my perspective has greatly changed. I have learned so much from other writers and many doors have been opened that I didn't even know existed!

Here are a few blogging "perks" that I have ran across over the past few years:

Five Perks of Being a "Blogger"

  1. Improved Skills in Writing and Expression. When I compare my first posts to my writing now, I am still far from perfect but I have learned how to better express myself and throw my thoughts into words. What better way to improved your writing than to just write! (and read... and write... and read some more)
  2. Training Log Accountability. As a "running blogger", keeping a training log is a great way to stay on track and be kept accountable by other runners even if none of them live nearby! I am a solo runner in a mostly non-runner town and it's helpful to have others who aren't afraid to call me out if I'm slackin'.
  3. Social Networking. "Link ups" are one of my favorite parts of blogging. It's all about connecting with other bloggers/writers of similar interest and encouraging each other. Heidi and Tricia's Weekly Wrap and the Five-Minute Friday group are two of my favorite link-ups. 
  4. Review and Giveaway Opportunities. ...because who doesn't like free stuff?! Book reviews and product reviews have been two of those unexpected doors that opened in the last year or so. I love reading new books and trying new products. Giveaways are great because I get to share the products with my readers! A few of my favorite reviews have been: MEGA Bloks, Grab Green household products, and the book "Hope Unfolding"
  5. Ambassador Relationships. Another door that opened through blogging was ambassadorships through program and company relationships. Working with NuttZo has been a great new experience for 2016 along with Honey Stinger, Bethany House, SLS3, Moms Meet, Sweatpink and the Assocation of Food Bloggers. These relationships have opened up new opportunities for reviews and paid writing.
Blogging has grown to be more than I ever expected and I am thankful God has opened new doors of opportunity! I look forward to see what this new year has in store.


.....

Fargo Marathon Training Week 16:


Monday, April 18

Easy-Effort: 6.01 mi, 00:55 @ 09:09 avg pace.

This morning's run was very rainy and windy. The dog was in trouble for digging a hole under our fence so he had to join me. A good run might leave him with less energy to dig holes!


Tuesday, April 19

 Speed Intervals: (Treadmill) 5.5 mi, 00:43 @ 07:45 avg pace.

1.25 mile @ 7:22
 1 mile @ 7:01
 .75 mile @ 6:46
 .5 mile @ 6:32
(2 minute jog in between each set)

I really have enjoyed doing speed-work on our treadmill. The intervals are easier to keep track of and the pace keeps me accountable!

Wednesday, April 20

Strength Training: Hip raises, leg raises, bridges. Plank variations for 7:00 total, broken up into 1:00 and 1:30 minute intervals. Walked to the store with the boys to get groceries.

Thursday, April 21

Tempo Run: 6.75 mi, 00:52 @ 07:39 avg pace. 2 x 2.75 miles (.5 mile recovery jog in between) @ 7:38 and 7:20.

This was another super windy morning! The temp said 40°F but it still felt quite chilly with that wind. I was running out of gas on those intervals but I reminded myself that Fargo's race may be like that for the entire 26.2! Wind in North Dakota is almost a guarantee.

Friday, April 22

"Easy Effort" with double stroller: 3.25 mi, 00:30 @ 09:17 avg pace.

If only race day could be like today... Absolutely perfect morning for a run. All sun, no wind, warm enough. We took it nice and easy with the dog tagging along.


Saturday, April 23

Long Run: 15.13 mi, 02:00 @ 07:55 pace. WU, 13.1 @ 7:49/mile, CD

Sunday, April 24

Off.

Total Mileage: 36.64

What's new in your "current events" for this week?


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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Creative Playtime with MEGA Brand Inc

My childrens' eyes lit up when the mailman brought the MEGA Brand box to the door. They really like the mailman on fun mail days, especially when mommy is reviewing toys!

As an Academics' Choice Advocate, I was sent two construction toy sets by MEGA Brands Inc. to review. We received the 1-2-3 Learning Train set:


And the Block Scooping Wagon set:


Needless to say, the two toy sets didn't stay separated for very long. Soon after opening, all of the Mega Bloks were mixed together. That is actually one of my favorite features of Mega Bloks — different toy sets can be added together, further expanding the building fun!

Over the past two weeks, our boys — ages 3 and almost 1 — have spent so much time pulling around the wagon, driving the train and building towers (and also destroying towers).


Overall, I would give these toy sets a very positive review. Here are a few reasons why my kids and I enjoyed the 1-2-3 Learning Train and Block Scooping Wagon:

  • Encourages Creative Play. A simple set of blocks can entertain children for SO long (... like 45 minutes!) and the creative opportunities are endless. Our toddler used his imagination to create all sorts of buildings and vehicles. As for the baby, I'm not sure what he was building... but he was hard at work! 
  • Age Appropriate for 1 Year Old+. The Mega Bloks are a great toy for our season of life with a toddler and a baby. The blocks are cool enough to be considered "big boy toys" for the toddler and they are also not a choking hazard for his little brother.
  • Tool for Learning Colors and Counting. Our toddler enjoyed sorting the blocks by color. Some of the train set blocks come with number stickers which make more learning opportunities for toddlers!
  • Make Clean Up Fun! Picking up the blocks with the Block Scooping Wagon served as a motivation for our toddler to pick up his toys. Instead of a dreaded "chore", picking up the blocks was a game! 
  • Fun for Parents, Too. I enjoy building with Mega Bloks nearly as much as the kids do! My husband and the boys spent time together building things... and breaking them... building... and breaking... (the vicious cycle).

Playing with our Mega Bloks was also a great "sharing exercise". Both boys want the same blocks at the same time. This is good practice because these two have a lot of sharing ahead of them!

The 1-2-3 Learning Train is available for $19.99 and the Block Scooping Wagon is $34.99 on the Mega Bloks website.


Do you have any Mega Bloks sets in your home?

Disclaimer: I was given these products free of charge for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Linking up with Mommy Moments.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Training Week 15: Marathon Monday GIVEAWAY with E-Hydrate #MomsMeet

It's MARATHON MONDAY!!! 

High five to all the runners in Boston today! Today I am sharing Fargo Marathon Training Week 15 and a GIVEAWAY with Holly, Tricia, and the Weekly Wrap crew. But first, a quick trip down Boston memory lane...

It's already been FOUR YEARS since I ran Boston. Boston was the most miserably hot marathon I have ever ran but the trip with my mom was amazing. Severely chafed and exhausted from the heat (and running for 3+ hours, I suppose), I wandered for a few blocks after crossing the finish to find my mom in the crowd. That felt like another marathon in itself!

The race, spectators, sight-seeing, clam chowder and Boston Cream Pie all made for such an amazing experience for my mom and I. Those are wonderful memories I will never forget!


This week's training hit 45 miles total and that is considered "high mileage" for me. To prevent injury or illness, running a high mileage week means the need for proper rest and recovery is higher too.

Personally, I recover best after a hard workout by:

A. Wearing compression socks immediately after a quick shower.
B. Re-hydrating and eating something nutritious (besides just doughnuts).

Recently, I was given the opportunity to try E-Hydrate's Protein On-The-Go and Hydration Drink Mixes. E-Hydrate's RTM (Ready To Mix) pouches are super handy. After your workout, just add water, shake it up and you're ready to go!


The Protein On-The-Go pouches are a great post-workout option for recovering those broken down muscles. The pouches for adults contain 25 grams of clean, natural protein and the kids' pouches contain 10 grams. The Protein On-the-Go tastes great (no weird aftertaste) and, yes, the kids' Cinnamon Roll is DELICIOUS!

A single pouch of E-hydrate’s Protein On-the-Go retails for $3.49 and a 3-pack box retails for $11.49.


My sweet little sampling helper enjoyed trying the Kids Protein On-The-Go and Kids Hydration Drink Mixes. He's such a goofball! Okay, maybe we're both goofballs...


I preferred the Kids Hydration Mixes because they have a great flavor, contain only 15 calories and are also caffeine and taurine-free. The Adult Hydration Mixes were also tasty but, because they contain the Energy Blend, I wouldn't want to consume them regularly. I already drink coffee in the morning and that's all the caffeine I need!

A 10-pack box of the Adult Hydration Drink Mix retails for $9.99 and a 10-pack box of the KIDS Hydration Drink Mix retails for $9.99


Receive 20% off your first order on E-hydrate.com by using the promo code "MOMSMEET"!

Now here's your chance to try E-Hydrate!

Enter to win TWO E-Hydrate Sample Packs (a $50 total value). Each sample pack contains: (2) Protein On-the-Go pouches (Chocolate and Vanilla) (4) Hydration Drink Mix sticks (Lemon-Lime, Red Berry, Orange, and Grape) (4) KIDS Hydration Drink Mix sticks (Strawberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Grape, and Apple)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
.....

Fargo Marathon Training Week 15:


Monday, April 11

"Easy-Effort" with double stroller: 7.05 mi, 01:03 @ 08:56 pace.

 Running in the wind with the stroller never feels quite as "easy" as planned... It sure felt good to get the kids outside though. 18 mph winds and the dog even stuck with us the whole way!


Tuesday, April 12

 Speed Intervals: (Treadmill) 5.05 mi, 00:40 @ 07:55 avg pace.Alternating 1:00 and 2:00 speed intervals with equal recovery jog in between. 7:22, 7:01, 6:46, 6:32, 6:10

I'm still feeling like I'm just fighting a cold or something. There I am, justifying why I didn't just wake up and run outside in the early morning! I slept in 'til 6:30 and ran later that morning. The run got done and I can't say I regret an hour extra of sleep. I think my body needed it.

Wednesday, April 13

Strength Training: Hip raises, leg raises, bridges. We spent most of the day outside playing and I skimped on the strength training for the day. Loading children in and out of swings must count as an arm strengthening exercise!

Thursday, April 14

Tempo Run: 8.02 mi, 01:02 @ 07:41 avg pace. 2 x 3.25 miles @ 7:30, 7:28/mile. .5 mile recovery jog in between.

This was one of those mornings where I realllly didn't want to get out of bed. Baby woke up crying at 4:45 am and I gave him a dose of Tylenol for those nagging top teeth that STILL haven't come in. Alarm went off at 5:15 am and I probably growled a little bit and rolled out of bed.

I told myself, "I won't regret getting up early to run." And I didn't. It was almost 50 degrees outside with a slight drizzle but barely any wind. The shorts running weather, chirping birds and sunrise made it totally worth it. {notice the enthusiastic thumbs up}


Friday, April 15

"Easy Effort" with double stroller: 5.01 miles, 00:48 @ 09:30 avg pace.

Running with the stroller is so challenging when the wind is whipping!!! That's why I hesitate to call this an "easy-effort". I walked in some of the super windy parts to save my legs for the long run. 2.5 miles to the grocery store, ran in to pick up a few things, and 2.5 miles home.


Saturday, April 16

Long Run: 20 mi, 02:46 @ 08:19 avg pace. Today was rainy and cold! Despite the weather, this run felt relatively comfortable. I still think getting that first 20-miler of a training plan out of the way is the hardest and the others to follow aren't so bad.


Sunday, April 17

Off.

Total Mileage: 45.13 miles

What is your favorite method for hard workout recovery?


Linking up with Holly and Tricia's Weekly Wrap Up and Erica and Smitha on the Wednesday Giveaway Roundup.

I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program (greenmomsmeet.com), May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Easy Like Coffee | Five-Minute Friday


Our Five Minute Friday Word: "Easy".

What's a "free write"? No editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write!

00:00 START the timer!
______________________

Why can't life be easy?

This week has been extra challenging and I'm not even sure why.

Cranky children, inability to please everyone, mountainous laundry, and little things that just build up 'til I'm ready to throw my hands in the air and call it a day by 10:00 a.m.

Coffee, anyone? 

Coffee is easy and sometimes I think an extra cup of coffee will help. At least I can caffeinate my frustrations!

Being a stay-at-home mom sounded easy before I actually jumped into the trenches of full-time motherhood. I had this vision in my mind that my house would be clean and the days would be relaxed. My presumptions were off by a few miles, but I will say the joy of raising up these boys is worth any of the struggles that arise. It's not easy but as I look over the past few years, I see growth in myself (and the boys, too, literally growing like weeds!).

If life was easy, it's very possible that my flesh would convince me that I don't need God at all. As a certain sweet toddler would say, "I do it myself!"

Struggles are humbling.

Trials grow the faith.

Hard days remind me of my weakness and my constant need for God every second of every day.

If weakness is a crown
Then I kneel before You now
And lay it at Your feet as an offering
And if You hold everything
Then don’t let go of me
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings
Oh great God of power
I have lost my strength
This is my desperate hour
I’m calling out Your name
"I Cry" by Leeland
______________________

05:00 STOP the timer!

***Lyrics added after the timer***



Monday, April 11, 2016

Training Week 14: Life Happens

Today I'm joining up with the Weekly Wrap hosted by Holly and Tricia where we join up with other active women to connect and support each other in our activity goals. I started joining up with them two weeks ago and I love their camaraderie!

The past week was a tired one! The littlest has been doing some major teething and he's wearing this momma out. Those top two teeth have been so stubborn for my baby!

We attended my Great Grandma's burial on Saturday and my teething baby boy was dedicated to the Lord on Sunday. This weekend celebrated the beginning of two new lives — my Great Grandma's new life in Heaven and this new journey of walking with our baby boy along the path of life.
You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand. PSALM 16:11

As for marathon training, the lessons I'm learning in Greg McMillan's book, "You (Only Faster)", have taken on a whole new meaning in training for this marathon. This is one of my favorites:
"The training plan must fit your body, not the other way around... The goal being that you stay fresh and excited for training, not fatigued and unmotivated." Greg McMillan
In training for past marathons, I have had that concept reversed. No matter what I was feeling or what life threw at me, I wanted to stick to that training plan.

McMillan's lessons have taught me that life happens and marathon training needs to adjust accordingly. Training needs to adjust for different seasons of life to keep the stress of a workout and the rest and recovery time in a healthy balance. When the balance is lacking rest, we end up fatigued and injured.

I am not super prone to injury (now that I typed that something is bound to happen!) but when I get too tired my immune system suffers. In training for each of my past marathons, I'm pretty sure I've been sick with a nasty cold or sinus infection at least once per race!

This week I fit in the training and did my best to listen to my body. I'm still feeling wiped out so who knows what training will bring for week 15; hopefully some extra rest. Let's just take it one run at a time.

Six weeks 'til race day and I'm getting excited!

.....

Fargo Marathon Training Week 14:


Monday, April 4

Easy-Effort: 7 mi, 01:05 @ 09:15 avg pace.

I woke up with a sore throat and feeling a cold coming on. My immune system really takes a hit from the lack of sleep but I sure can't complain about the extra cuddles from this smiley little man! Please come in, top teeth, PLEASE!


Tuesday, April 5

 Speed Intervals: (Treadmill) 5 mi, 00:41. WU, 1:00 hard effort with 1:00 jog recovery x 15 (3 intervals at 7:22, 7:01, 6:46, 6:32, 6:10 pace), CD.

Running in the early morning wasn't an option today so I hit the treadmill that night. Doing my speedwork on the treadmill has been really helpful because it keeps me accountable to the paces and it's a whole lot safer than running fast in the dark!

Wednesday, April 6

Strength Training: Side lunges, hip raises, leg raises, bridges. 3 x 2:00, 4 x 1:00 plank variations.

Thursday, April 7

Tempo Run: 7.61 mi, 01:00 @ 07:51 avg pace. Super windy but 37 degrees felt warm. 2 x 3.25 miles with .5 mile recovery jog in between. 7:41 and 7:37 avg pace.

This morning was very windy with a mix of rain and sleet. Thankfully it wasn't coming down too hard. The sleet felt like pin-pricks on my face. Our dog joined me for the warm up and the first 3.25 interval. That was enough for him!


Friday, April 8

Long Run: (Treadmill) 12 mi, 01:38 @ 08:09 avg pace. 6 miles @ MP 7:40/mile.

This was originally planned to be 8 miles @ MP but I had to listen to my body and cut it short. I know I hadn't recovered from yesterday's tempo run but today the long run had to happen instead of the easy run. Life happens and running fits in around it!


Saturday, April 9

Easy-Effort: 3.1 mi, 00:29 @ 09:21 avg pace joined by my husband. I actually ran without my watch (!?) so that pace is just a guestimate. Running watchless is so freeing!


Sunday, April 10

Off.

Total Mileage: 34.71 miles


How do you adjust your fitness routine when life happens?



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

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Keep Your Spring Cleaning Green #GrabGreen #MomsMeet


Spring is officially here and it's time for some major power cleaning! There are so many different laundry and cleaning products to choose from yet effective and non-toxic solutions are harder to come by.

As an ambassador for Moms Meet, I was given the opportunity to try Grab Green's eco-friendly and innovative products.

That's the key. Grab Green's products prove to be both non-toxic and safe than leading brands without losing their cleaning effectiveness. They were also the first to launch a pod-based laundry detergent, solvent-free power degreaser, non-toxic garbage disposal freshener, and a naturally derived cookware/bakeware cleaner. Pretty cool, huh?

Let's start with the laundry because there is always plenty of that to do!

3 in 1 Laundry Detergent Pods


The 3 in 1 Laundry Detergent Pods were one of my favorite Grab Green products to review (along with the Dishwasher pods). No more measuring detergent! For my medium to large loads of laundry, I threw in two detergent pods. With all the laundry that needs to be done, I would like to buy these pods in bulk! It would be easy to blow through the whole bag in a month.

These detergent pods are available in Gardenia and also in a fragrance-free option. The Grab Green products smell amazing, thanks to their unique and handcrafted aromatherapeutic blends of essential oils. The 3 in 1 Laundry Detergent Pods were powerful enough to cut through the grease on my husband's work clothes yet still gentle enough to use on our kids' laundry.

A 24-pack of Grab Green's 3 in 1 Laundry Detergent Pods retails for $8.


Bleach Alternative Pods


The Bleach Alternative Pods brighten colors and whiten whites while removing stains and odors, sans the harsh chemicals. A pod can also be dissolved in 16 oz. of water to be used as a grout cleaner and carpet stain remover.

I cloth diaper our baby and I used the Bleach Alternative Pods on the first wash cycle of a large cloth diaper load (I wash them twice). The diapers cleaned up nicely though I will use two pods the next time I wash diapers — similar to the Detergent Pods — to see if it will have a more powerful whitening effect.

A 24-pack of Grab Green's Bleach Alternative Pods retails for $7.


Automatic Dishwashing Detergent Pods


The red pear with magnola Dishwashing Detergent Pods were another one of my favorite Grab Green products! These detergent pods cleaned the dishes and removed any grease without any residue lingering behind. Our dishwasher actually smells good while it's washing! Crazy. And the pods are free of dyes, chlorine, and phosphates.

The kids get really excited when it's time to load the dishwasher!

A 24-pack of Grab Green's Automatic Dishwashing Detergent Pods retails for $8,


Garbage Disposal Freshener & Cleaner


We don't have a garbage disposal in our sink but our neighbor tested them out for me. She's awesome! The report on the garbage disposal freshener was positive. Similar to the other Grab Green products, the fragrance was wonderful and cleaning power was effective.


Enter to Win!


Enter the below giveaway to win the same kit I received from Grab Green (a $35 value).



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Shop at Target to save 10% on Grab Green, but hurry offer expires 4/23 (no coupon code required)! Want to save another 50%? If you email a copy of your Target receipt to support@GrabGreenHome.com they will send you a 50% coupon to be used on www.GrabGreenHome.com.

Connect with Grab Green on:

Linking up with Erica and Smitha on the Wednesday Giveaway Roundup.

I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program (greenmomsmeet.com), May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.