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How I Took 2-3 Minutes off My Running Pace

I definitely need to preface this post with I am not a fast runner. I ran track all through high school and when I first got into long distance running nine years ago after I graduated, I was a solid runner, running a Boston Marathon Qualifying Pace like it was no big deal. Nine years, two kids, and a lot of inconsistency with running, and my pace has slowed down dramatically. 


I picked up running again two years ago when we were living in Georgia. Never doing long races, but an occasional 5k here and there. I ran very slow, sometimes averaging as high as 13 minute miles. I surely thought that all my dreams of ever making it into the Boston Marathon were shot. But running is something that I've always loved, so it's something that I'll likely always do. 

This fall when I did my three half marathons in five weeks, I surprised myself by running two of those races at a pace just under 10 mins/mile. For people who are working hard at increasing their speed, you know that barrier is like wonderland, and the feeling of getting under 10 minutes is really just the best. Since then, I've been averaging a lot of runs even faster, at about 9:45-9:30, and sometimes popping up a little over 10 minutes, but for the most part, I'm in a season of getting faster and stronger. I had someone ask me yesterday to share what I did to get faster, so that's what I'll touch on in today's post. 

Increase Mileage: If you want faster legs, you'll need to increase the mileage that you're putting on them, no matter what race you're training for. If you're training for a 5k, but consistently work yourself up to running 6 miles at a time, come race day, those 3 miles will be so much easier, and you can push yourself harder because you know you have less miles to work through. I've noticed as I've put in more effort throughout the week, and run 5 days a week instead of 3, that I'm stronger, and have more endurance to push harder in my races. 

Join A Running Club: This used to intimidate me so much. I've always looked into running clubs, but never joined because I was so slow and thought that I would be running by myself all the time and that I wouldn't be able to keep up, but that hasn't been the case at all! There are literally so many people, running at paces all across the board. Some ladies that I've become really good friends with run a bit faster than I normally would run on my own, so I'm forced to keep up with them when we do our group runs. They're averaging low 9 minute miles sometimes, so if I wanna hang, I gotta keep up, instead of doing 11 minute miles like my brain often wants to do. I'm a member of the Utah Running Club, and I love it so much. 

Do Speed Work: No one likes hearing this right? Speed work gives me flash backs to suppressed high school memories, that I try to forget about, but it's true, if you want to get faster, if Boston is the goal, you NEED speed workouts. I try to get this in 1-2 times per week. Yesterday I did 6 x 300m hill repeats, next week I have 7 x 400m at 5k pace. These workouts are shorter than a typical weekend long run, but the effort is so much greater. If you can get your legs pushing and working hard during speed workouts, it will translate over to those longer runs! Right now I'm doing a modified version of the Hal Higdon Half Marathon Advanced training program, and I like it because it has the speed workouts already there for you. You just have to go and do them. 

Hire A Running Coach: This isn't something I've done yet, but I'm in the lottery for the NYC Marathon, and if I make it through the lottery, Derek and I have already agreed on me hiring a coach. This race will truly be a once in a lifetime chance for me, and I want to feel like I belong in NYC, and that I know I've done all I can to be my best come race day. It's a dream to run all the World Marathon Majors, and NYC will be the first of six boxes to cross off. 

These are all my tips for how I've been increasing my speed, if you have anything that's worked for you, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

12 Children's Books About American Heroes

One thing I really love and remember from my childhood is the large seasonal collection of books that my mom kept in our home. I remember at the beginning of each new month or holiday season my mom would rotate the books on the coffee table in the room that my brother and I played in so that we would be exposed to learning about each holiday, season, etc... 

This is something that I really strive to do with our kids, but our collection isn't quite what I want it to be yet. I've felt inspired the last few weeks to start teaching jay about "American Heroes" or the people who really helped to make our country what it is. Whether that's President's or everyday people that stood up for what they believed in and became national icons, I want my kids to know why America is so great. In Kyle's monthly Scholastic Book order this month, there were so many fun picks (and I had to exercise strength to not buy them all), but I thought I'd share some of my favorite finds with you all as well! 


Discount Code to Midway Ice Castles!

Last year we had an incredible expirience where we got to fly out here to Utah and spend the weekend in Heber City, exploring and seeing all the amazing sites that the town has to offer. Unfortunately when we were there, the weather wasn't very good, and it was causing the Midway Ice Castles to melt! It was so sad that we wound up not being able to go! I'm so excited to be teaming up with them again this year, and that I'm able to offer a discount code to all of you! If you're planning on heading out to the Ice Castles this year in Utah, or any of the states they're in, use the code "happykids" for 15% off your tickets! See the information listed below for details specific to each location!




UTAH:
WHAT: Elaborate, acre-sized castle in Midway, UT made entirely from ice. One of four Ice Castles in the United States.
WHERE: Ice Castles at Homestead Resort 700 Homestead Drive Midway, UT 84049
WHEN: Tickets On Sale Now!
VISUALS:Amazing ice formations including icicle-dripped archways, canyons, caverns, and ice-carved tunnels.
  • Attraction includes an interactive winter playground with ice slides, thrones, fountains, and maze-like passages.
  • Kids and families can zip down ice slides, crawl through tunnels, and explore different icy rooms in the stunning Narnia-like wonderland.
  • Experience the natural brilliant blue tones of the ice during the day, or see ever-changing, colorful LED-lights embedded in the ice twinkle to music at night. Built by hand and made from more than 20,000,000 pounds of ice, the Ice Castles in Midway, UT are pure, unforgettable family fun!
NEW HAMPSHIRE:
WHAT: Elaborate, acre-sized castle in Lincoln, NH. One of four Ice Castles in the United States.
WHERE: 64 Railroad St Lincoln, NH 03521
WHEN: Tickets On Sale Now!
VISUALS: Amazing ice formations including icicle-dripped archways, canyons, caverns, and ice-carved tunnels.
  • Attraction includes an interactive winter playground with ice slides, thrones, fountains, and maze-like passages.
  • Kids and families can zip down ice slides, crawl through tunnels, and explore different icy rooms in the stunning Narnia-like wonderland.
  • Experience the natural brilliant blue tones of the ice during the day, or see ever-changing, colorful LED-lights embedded in the ice twinkle to music at night. Built by hand and made from more than 20,000,000 pounds of ice, the Ice Castles in Lincoln, NH are pure, unforgettable family fun!
MINNESOTA:
WHAT: Elaborate, acre-sized castle in Stillwater, MN made entirely from ice. One of four Ice Castles in the United States.
WHERE: 201 Water Street N Stillwater, MN 55082
WHEN: Tickets On Sale Now!
VISUALS:Amazing ice formations including icicle-dripped archways, canyons, caverns, and ice-carved tunnels.
  •  Attraction includes an interactive winter playground with ice slides, thrones, fountains, and maze-like passages.
  • Kids and families can zip down ice slides, crawl through tunnels, and explore different icy rooms in the stunning Narnia-like wonderland.
  • Experience the natural brilliant blue tones of the ice during the day, or see ever-changing, colorful LED-lights embedded in the ice twinkle to music at night. Built by hand and made from more than 20,000,000 pounds of ice, the Ice Castles in Stillwater, MN are pure, unforgettable family fun!
COLORADO:
WHAT: Elaborate, acre-sized castle in Dillon, CO made entirely from ice. One of four Ice Castles in the United States.
WHERE: Dillon, CO
WHEN: Tickets On Sale Now!
VISUALS:Amazing ice formations including icicle-dripped archways, canyons, caverns, and ice-carved tunnels.
  • Attraction includes an interactive winter playground with ice slides, thrones, fountains, and maze-like passages.
  • Kids and families can zip down ice slides, crawl through tunnels, and explore different icy rooms in the stunning Narnia-like wonderland.
  • Experience the natural brilliant blue tones of the ice during the day, or see ever-changing, colorful LED-lights embedded in the ice twinkle to music at night. Built by hand and made from more than 20,000,000 pounds of ice, the Ice Castles in Dillon, CO are pure, unforgettable family fun!
WINNIPEG, MB:
WHAT: Elaborate, acre-sized castle in Winnipeg, MB made entirely from ice. 
WHERE: Winnipeg, MB
WHEN: Tickets On Sale Now!
VISUALS: Amazing ice formations including icicle-dripped archways, canyons, caverns, and ice-carved tunnels.

  • Attraction includes an interactive winter playground with ice slides, thrones, fountains, and maze-like passages.
  • Kids and families can zip down ice slides, crawl through tunnels, and explore different icy rooms in the stunning Narnia-like wonderland.
  • Experience the natural brilliant blue tones of the ice during the day, or see ever-changing, colorful LED-lights embedded in the ice twinkle to music at night. Built by hand and made from more than 20,000,000 pounds of ice, the Ice Castles in Winnipeg, MB are pure, unforgettable family fun!
EDMONTON, AB:
WHAT: Elaborate, acre-sized castle in Edmonton, AB made entirely from ice. 
WHERE: Hawrelak Park, 9330 Groat Road, Edmonton, AB T6G 2A8, Canada
WHEN: Tickets On Sale Now!
VISUALS: Amazing ice formations including icicle-dripped archways, canyons, caverns, and ice-carved tunnels.
  • Attraction includes an interactive winter playground with ice slides, thrones, fountains, and maze-like passages.
  • Kids and families can zip down ice slides, crawl through tunnels, and explore different icy rooms in the stunning Narnia-like wonderland.
  • Experience the natural brilliant blue tones of the ice during the day, or see ever-changing, colorful LED-lights embedded in the ice twinkle to music at night. Built by hand and made from more than 20,000,000 pounds of ice, the Ice Castles in Edmonton, AB are pure, unforgettable family fun!
Find all of the details for your visit: IceCastles.com

My readers get to save off admission! Fun and Unique experience with your family at Amazing Ice Castles! Save 15% off tickets using promo code "happykids"


An Easy Football Tablescape + 2 Game Day Recipes



I'm going to be a little honest. Derek loves watching football when he gets the chance throughout the fall and winter months. Me on the other hand, I could really care less. However, tell me to invite a bunch of friends over for a football game and let me turn it into a party for a small crowd? I'm all in. 


I used to get really stressed out about throwing parties and making sure everything was just right and worrying about all the details, but I've got it down to such an easy science at this point that I can go from, "the house is a disaster", to "party in the basement!" in about one hour of work. 


Once I've gone through the house and have straightened up the messes, I hop onto my computer and print off some cute and easy printables, 100% of the time found on Pinterest. I put my kids to work cutting them out, and then have Derek tape them together. While they're busy doing that, I get work done in the kitchen.



I find parties are really easy to do if you have a few key entertaining essentials on hand. My cake stand, serving trays, burlap table runner, and glass water dispenser are workhorses for us in terms of throwing a party. I also find keeping the food simple is an easy way to not feel stressed out either. 



For this game day spread I decided to keep things really easy by just letting everyone do a DIY sandwich bar with Hillshire Farm® Turkey, and Ham lunch meats from Walmart, and then I also cooked up some Buffalo Chicken Tyson® Any’tizers® Snacks, and served them along side a large selection of vegetables, and my favorite ranch dressing. And because kids are a part of every single thing, I like to keep some quick and easy Ball Park® Hot Dogs on hand along with some Ball Park® Hot Dog Buns as an easy option that will keep everyone happy. If you have just a little bit more time on your hands, two of my favorite game day recipes are shown below:


Grilled Ham and Cheese with Chipotle Infused Gouda:
This recipe is a favorite that I fell in love with a couple years ago. It's a great and flavorful way to use up some Hillshire Farm® Smoked Ham that you have sitting in your fridge, and it the perfect blend of sweet and smoky flavors working together for one amazing sandwich. 


Ingredients:(Yields 1 sandwich)
2 slices Bread
2 oz Chipotle Gouda
4 thinly sliced pieces of smoked ham
3 tbsp chopped parsley
3 tbsp caramelized onions

Directions:
Caramelize your onions by sautéing them on medium low heat in olive oil for thirty minutes. When onions are done, butter one side of each slice of bread. Put the butter side down in a pan on medium low heat, and then quickly layer the cheese, ham, parsley, and onions. Cook for two minutes, or until first side is golden brown, then flip and cook the other side for two minutes. If needed cover the pan to help the cheese melt. 

BBQ BAKED BEANS:
This is one of my all-time favorite crowd pleasing recipes! I made this for the first time for a fourth of July party a few years ago and everyone told me they were the best beans they ever had. No surprise that six years later I'm still making them. Most of the ingredients can be found in your pantry, and then top them off with some Wright Brand® Bacon and you're good to go! 

Ingredients:
8 slices bacon (the thick kind), halved
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 28oz cans Pork and Beans
3/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp dijon mustard

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325°F In a large pot render the fat out of the bacon (don't cook it all the way, just enough that the fat comes off, but not cooked enough that you would want to eat it). Remove the bacon from the pan, and set on paper towels to get rid of the excess fat.

Sauté, the onions and peppers together in the drippings from the bacon until soft. About five minutes. Remove the peppers and onions from the pot, and drain on paper towels as well. Drain the remaining bacon grease out of the pot. 

Put the pot back on the stove over medium heat and add the peppers, onions, beans, BBQ sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and mustard. Bring the mixture up to a simmer, and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Transfer the entire bean mixture into a 9x13 dish and then place the bacon slices on top. Bake low and slow in your preheated oven for 2 hours.

When the beans are done cooking, there will be a lot of liquid in your pan. Remove the bacon slices carefully from the top, and place them on a plate for a minute. Take a slotted spoon and transfer the beans to another 9x13 pan, draining off as much of the excess liquid as possible. Then arrange the bacon slices back on the top of the beans, and place under the broiler for 5 minutes. At this point you can either cover them with foil, hop in the car and head to your BBQ, or grab a fork and dig in!

What are your favorite game day recipes? Be sure to share all your good ideas in the comments below!

Printables: 

Miss Fong Diaper Bag Review (unsponsored)

For the last year I've been using this Oh Joy for Target diaper bag that I got for Christmas in 2016. I LOVED that diaper bag when I got it, but then around November this year the zipper broke off, and then Em found a pen and completely graffitied it, so it was definitely time to get a new bag. 


Outfit Details: Jacket // Bag // Dress // Shoes

I have loved the look and style of the Fawn Design bag for ages, but it was so expensive. Part of me really wanted to buy it, purely to support another Utah business owner, but the other part of me could not justify spending that much money, regardless of the good deed of supporting a small business. 


I went on Instagram and asked you guys what your diaper bag recommendations were, and so many of you recommended this Miss Fong bag to me.  I was hesitant to purchase it based on the name, because I thought it was going to be a cheap piece of junk from China, but my friend Landen told me that her sister Janssen knew the owners (update: Janssen has said she doesn't know the owners so this could be a piece of junk from China), and that made me feel a lot better about getting the bag too. That and the bag only cost $44, and I had an Amazon gift card and only paid about $13 when all was said and done. 


I've used the bag for several weeks now, and people have been asking for my thoughts, so I figured I'd do a full review for you! Things I like about the bag: 

  • It's a backpack. I love backpack bags because I'm typically carrying Em, or pushing her in my stroller, so I love being hands free and not having to worry about a cross body knocking into me or her constantly. 
  • It seems to be good quality. I haven't had any loose threads, the lining doesn't have any tears, and nothing seems to be falling apart from what I can see.
  • It has an insulated pocket for a baby bottle. We've used it a few times and it works well. 
  • It does well in the rain. I've been caught in the rain with it several times, and water hasn't affected the look of the outside of the bag, and moisture never got in the inside of the bag. 
  • It's roomy, but not huge. At this point in parenting, I'm not bringing 1,000 things with me all the time. But it is roomy enough for a diaper and wipes, my phone, wallet, and keys, a water bottle, and a couple toys. If I had a newborn and was carrying a swaddle blanket and an extra outfit, I'd imagine it might get stuffed really fast. 
  • It comes in so many colors! Black, Brown, Blush Pink, and Grey! 
I only have one major con with this bag, but it's enough that it actually really drives me crazy. There are pockets with zippers on the side of the bag, and when I have a sweater on, the zipper manages to snag my sweater, pull a thread loose, and then make a hole in my sweater. It's done this to two of my cardigans so far, and since I have a capsule wardrobe, it's not like there is an abundance of extra sweaters in my closet right now. So, that's a huge bummer, but a problem that I assume won't happen when sweater weather is over.   

If I Can Take A Moment To Be Real Honest

The last month or so have been a little rough for me emotionally. Between getting bronchitis, the stomach flu, all of Em's recent milestones, the highs and lows seem to sway from one extreme to the next. That paired with the fire hose that the holidays always are, I found myself going into January feeling pretty exhausted. New Years goals? Well I started Monday off great and everything went downhill from there... so, there's always next week. 


I want to talk about something that has been weighing really heavily on me the last few weeks though. It felt like such a heavy burden until I actually talked about it with Derek a few days after Christmas when we were running some errands in Idaho, and I realized the freeing power that comes from sharing our burdens with other people. Suddenly it felt like this weight that I'd been dealing with for over a month felt so much lighter when I was able to just get the courage to yell it out to the universe. 

The truth is, I'm deathly afraid of Em dying. Obviously the reality that her life may be shorter than others is something we've known for years. The oldest living person with HPE is 32, so we know that it's likely going to be terminal at some point, it's just a matter of when. 

I've gone the majority of her life with this knowledge in the back on my mind, but never really thought about it being a serious reality that I stressed over. The last month or so though, I've kept thinking that it's going to happen, and that it could be sometime soon. 

I remember a doctor telling us when she was born that there are a lot of things that the brain is expected to do around 18 months, and when those things start happening it can start to be too much for them and things start to go downhill at that point. So I think I find myself on the edge of my seat with each new milestone thinking, "this is a miracle, but is it going to be the thing that puts her over the edge?" 

Know how parents think when their kids sleep in, "they must have died", and as a parent you half think that for a few minutes, but then you hear them playing in their room so you know all is well? A few weeks ago I woke up panicked and really thought that Em had died in her sleep, and I sprinted in and barged through the door to find her ticked off that I woke her up. 

When we were in Idaho I went to buy something at the store, and on the way home I saw a house with a ton of Christmas lights and thought, "Em would really love those lights" as if she wasn't here to see them. I could have just gone home, got her in the car, and showed them to her. 

I find myself frequently lost in a day dream about how much I freaking love her. Yes. That's the best way I can describe a mother's love. I freaking love her. And I just want her here forever. And I should probably see a therapist. That's all for today folks. 

My Tips for New Years Exercise Goals



With the New Year here, everyone is setting themselves up with new goals. A lot of people, including myself are adding health and fitness goals to their list of things they hope to accomplish. While I am obviously continuing with my running goals that I set from last year, I am also incorporating some at home cross training with the popular BBG program. My mentality for this is that if I want to get faster as a runner, my body needs to be stronger all over. I'll be doing running three days a week, and BBG three days a week.

In addition to a new workout routine, our family will also be incorporating a clean eating meal plan into our everyday routine starting next Monday. So we're really making big efforts to cut some of the junk out of our lives. despite the fact that we're not overweight by any means in our home, we could definitely eat better, so we're excited to start that next week.

I've been an avid goal setter for most of my life, and I'd like to share some little tips with you to help you get on track with your goals for the New Year:


Start Small: Everyone wants to eat better, workout a ton, and look like a Hollywood fitness trainer, but if you stack on too many goals all at once, you're setting yourself up to crash and burn. When I started working out again last year, I simply just started with working out, then I added in healthier eating, and then added in workout supplements,  and on and on and on. Pick one thing you can change now, and then when that's mastered, add a new goal.


Get Your Workout in Early: In the mornings we wake up, get the kids to school, and then while they're at school, I get my workout in. Some mornings I'm really slow to get moving, and since I don't drink coffee, sometimes I have to get creative with my energy sources on the days I'm really dragging.

One product I've recently started using is Alert Caffeine Gum. It has 40mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to one 12oz soda or 1/2 a cup of coffee, and is just the right boost I need some mornings to get going on my run. It's super inexpensive at just $2.99, and you can buy it at Walmart, or my personal favorite, Amazon!


Use workout Supplements: If you're just starting to workout and are discouraged to keep going because of how sore you are, take BCAA's. I talk about them more in this post here, but drinking them with your water when you're just starting out helps reduce soreness by leaps and bounds. Also drinking protein powder post workout helps with muscle recovery as well.


These are all my major tips for helping with your exercise goals! If you have any tips that have been game changing for you, leave them down in the comments below!