Summer Dinner Planning to make Busy Days Easier

Dinner Plans_imageIf you are anything like me, planning dinners and grocery shopping are not your favorite activities. Every time I go to the store I ask for input on the list from my kids but they never have anything to contribute, which makes it even harder when I have to guess what the kids might want on any given day.

This year, I decided to try to make the grocery shopping easier and dinner planning more streamlined by designating certain days of the week as having different themes. The themes, like fish night or chicken night, can have different recipes each week for variety, but my hope is that having a theme for the night will give me a more “standard shopping list” each week and take a lot of the thinking and planning out of my week.

Summer Dinner Themes:
Sunday – Breakfast for dinner such as Waffles, Pancakes, Eggs, Bacon, and Sausage. If you want to get fancy, try crepes, Ebelskivers or Eggs Benedict.
Monday – Alternating weeks of hamburgers and paninis.
Tuesday – Taco Tuesdays which can be anything Mexican like tacos, enchiladas, burritos, taco pie or quesadillas.
Wednesday – Fish night so anything fish or seafood goes.
Thursday – Chicken night. Same as fish night. Use all of your favorite recipes. My kids have track practices on Thursday nights so I’ll mostly choose crock pot recipes or dishes that I can prep before practice and finish quickly when we get home.
Friday – Pizza night…because everyone just loves pizza.
Saturday – Noodle night including spaghetti (of any shape), baked ziti, stuffed shells, manicotti, or ravioli.

I think following this plan will make shopping and planning easier. I can also get better ideas of what my kids want if I ask them to name a chicken dinner they want than just to ask what they want out of hundreds of options.

List Tip: I found the coolest app that let you make electronic shopping lists that work better for me than paper. The app is called “List Ease” and it was free in the App Store. You can type in or scan items that you often buy and then move them around from your pantry list to an active shipping list. I don’t have any relationship with this app, but I do use it and really like having it on my phone because I can just move items around from list to list as I plan and shop.

Three cheers for easier meal planning and grocery shopping this summer!


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Write and Run Update: May 23, 2016 Week

Write Run Challenge Week Image 2This is my second week of my Write and Run Challenge. This is more of a typical week for me as far as the number of days running. I usually run four to six days per week. So, here is what I have accomplished so far:

Monday, May 23rd – Run: 2.42 (3894 meters).
Write: 672 words

Tuesday, May 24th – Run: 6.0 miles (9656 meters)
Write: 1220 words

Wednesday, May 25th – Run: 0.0 (Cross Training with Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. I did Level 2 today.)
Write: 199 words

Thursday, May 26th – Run 5.0 miles (8046 meters.)
Write: 205 words

Friday, May 27th – Run 0.0 miles (Day off!)
Write: 886 words (oops, that was NOT good!)

Saturday, May 28th – Run 6.0 (9656 meters)
Write: 880 words (I tried…but I fell asleep)

Sunday, May 29th – Run 5.5 (8851 meters…I’ll admit this is an estimate. My daughter made me switch watches with her because hers was about out of battery. Seems to be a theme…)
Write: 3485 words

Grand Total for Week: 40103 meters (almost 25 miles) run, 7547 words written. Maybe one word per one meter is too ambitious. I’ll keep trying.


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May 2016 Youth Track Meet…My Kids did Great!

Track Meet KidsAs you may know, my kids run for the local track club. My son runs for his high school but participates for the youth track club when his high school season is over. This year, his high school team was second at the state meet and the girls were state champs! Last year, the boys won and the girls were second. Hopefully, next year they can both pull out a win.

We absolutely love both the high school team and our youth team. You can’t ask for a better set of coaches, many are even volunteers, and awesome kids. I suspect that most of you who read this have the same feelings about your teams. There is just something special about runners.

Now here is where I turn into the total gushing Mom and brag about how they did this weekend.
Noah – 16 years old
110 Hurdles = 18.10 (PR of 0.23 seconds) YAY! – anyone know how to make him 3-step the whole way? When he does, that time is dropping like a rock!
400 Dash = 52.99 (PR of 2.32 seconds) YAY!
Long Jump = 5.92 meters (PR of 0.86 meters) YAY!
400 Hurdles – 1:01.91 (no PR. His best is 59.59. But, this was his last event of an 11 hour day so not too back for the circumstances)

Piper – 11 years old
1500 meter Run = 5:41.40 (PR of 8.11 seconds) YAY!
3000 meter Run = 12:39.01 (PR of 2.55 seconds) YAY!
Discus Throw = 9.92 meters (no PR but her form is looking better so I think I PR is coming soon).

I also found that my kids really like to have the Gatorade Recover Protein Shakes at meets. They may only drink one or less during the whole day but they feel a little better after a hard event if they get a little protein in them. My kids can’t stand to eat sandwiches at meets so I need drinkable protein like smoothies, which I also make and freeze the night before. You can freeze them and then when you get to the meet, take them out and let them thaw. If you know of other drinkable protein or protein chews (like gummies), please let me know.

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Write and Run Update: May 16, 2016 Week

Write Run Challenge Week Image 1This is my first week of my Write and Run Challenge. My kids have a track meet this coming Saturday so my runs this week will actually be lighter than a normal week since I run with my daughter. On meet weekends, the program eliminates the long run and I won’t run on the day of the meet. So, here is what I have accomplished so far:

Monday, May 16th – Run: 0.0 (I do cross training of spin bike and strength on Mondays).
Write: 1042 words

Tuesday, May 17th – Run: 3.2 miles (5150 meters)
Write: 2148 words

Wednesday, May 18th – Run: 0.0 (Cross Training with Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. I did Level 2 today.)
Write: 1175 words

Thursday, May 19th – Run 3.0 miles (4828 meters…I’ll admit this is an estimate. My daughter made me switch watches with her because hers was about out of battery.)
Write: 1451 words

Friday, May 20th – Run 2.0 miles (3218 meters)
Write: 0 words (oops, that was NOT good!)

Saturday, May 21st – Run 0.0 (at my kid’s track meet for 11 hours – they smoked it this meet!)
Write: 0 words (I tried…but I fell asleep)

Sunday, May 22nd – Run 0.0
Write: 860 words

Grand Total for Week: 13196 meters run, 6676 words written. Ok, that is not what I was hoping for. Next week, I will do better!



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Today Begins the Write and Run Challenge

write run challengeI have a lot of friends that write for a living. Whether you write novels, blog posts, articles, technical report or even email. You use your writing skills on a daily basis. In fact, some of us write as much or more than we run. Over the next three weeks, I need to crank out about 50,000 words in order to finish drafts on my next three books, which are in various stages of progress. To push myself to meet the challenge, today I am starting a Write and Run Challenge.

The challenge is simple. For ever meter I run each week, I will write one word. For example, if I run 5000 meters (5K), I will write 5000 words. Trust me though, it is a lot easier to run 5000 meters then it is to write 5000 words so this is why it is such a challenge.

To meet my 50,000 word goal, I need to run 50,000 meters or 31 miles. That doesn’t sound too difficult. Last week I ran about 20 miles. For the running part, I feel confident. The writing is another story…or three. I will keep a tally of my daily runs and writing and report them on the blog. If you are a runner and writer, take the challenge with me and let me know how you do.


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Top 5 Things to Know about Your Kid’s First Track and Field Meet

Top 5 First MeetMy kid’s track club had their first meet this weekend. They had a great first meet and got a look at some of their competition for the season. Luckily, this is season number eight for us so we are well prepared for the day with tents, chairs, food, drinks and equipment. But when you are first getting started, it can be intimidating to see everything that is going on and to figure out the schedule of events.

I asked my kids to tell me the most important things for new athletes and parents to know for their first meet and this is what they said.

  1. The day is going to be long. Most track meets take seven to 10 hours depending on how many athletes are entered and what events they are running. There are two types of schedules that a meet may follow. Many meets run on a rolling schedule where the start time for the first running event and an order list of the following events which proceed one after another. Meets often assign a start time and age group for the first group at each field event with a list of subsequent age groups that follow one after another. Other meets are set to a specific time schedule with a time assigned to each running or field event.
  2. It is going to get hot. Spring and summer track meets can start off at a comfortable temperature but soon get blazing hot, especially here in the south. Do your best to keep cool between events by using cooling next cloths and wraps or misting fans. The cooler you stay, the easier it will be to run when it is time for your next race.
  3. You are going to get hungry but not want to eat at the same time. Running hard can make you hungry but the temperatures may make you feel like you don’t want to eat. I used to take sandwiches for lunch but the kids would never eat them. I switched to smoothies, which they like much better. I make the smoothies the night before and freeze them in Tervis tumblers. Once we get to the meet the next day, I sit them out to thaw and by lunch time they are ready for the kids to drink.
  4. You may have a running and field event at the same time, but don’t panic. Regardless of how long a meet takes, my kids almost always have a running and field event at the same time at least once during the season. The typical protocol is to check in at your field event and tell them that you have to go run. Most meets will let you leave, run and then come back to complete your field event. If the meet officials are not willing to do this, talk to your coach about the best procedure.
  5. It is going to be FUN! Track meets are fun. You will have great races and some not so great over the course of your career but you should always be having a great time.

If this is your kid’s first track meet, it will seem like chaos at times, but don’t panic. Most meets are laid back and they want the kids to participate in all of their events and have a great time.

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Aqua Jogging…It’s a Real Thing and Can Help Your Running

Aqua Jogging 2Aqua jogging…have you heard of it? It is a real thing, it is harder than it looks, you do feel like an idiot when you start but it can really help your running. Aqua jogging is running in water without letting your feet touch the ground.

Running in water is a great substitute for actual running on roads or trails when you have an injury or want to workout with no impact. The basics are pretty simple. You need a deep pool and a float vest. A cute little pool ring might work, too.

Getting Started
Starting an aqua jogging program is generally easy if you have a pool accessible. You need a deep pool, a float vest, and if you want to ramp up your workouts, water weights. Make sure that the pool is deep enough, at least, at one end, that you cannot touch the bottom. If you are going to a public pool, try going when the pool is not crowded so that you have a clear lane for running.

Good Running Form
The hardest part is learning how to use proper running form in the water. When I first started, I found myself leaning forward in the water as I ran. Try to keep your body is the same alignment and form as if you were running on the road or a track. Move your legs, feet and arms in the same manner as you would as if you were running outdoors. It will seem difficult at first, but give it a few laps and you will begin to feel more comfortable and will be able to gain speed.

Types of Workouts
When I started aqua jogging, I simply went up and down the pool for a specific distance trying to perfect my form. I grew up a swimmer so I often equate swimming distances with running times. In general, if you are a decent runner and swimmer, I find that a 400-meter run is roughly equivalent to a 150 to 200-meter swim. Of course, water running will be somewhat slower than a full swim.

You can design your pool running workouts to mimic your road or track workouts. You can do an easy or distance run by aqua jogging for a specific time period. Or, you could run sprints, tempo or threshold workouts by using the equivalent distances or the pace clock at the pool to keep track of your intervals.

Regardless of how you choose to aqua jog, it is a great way to add to your running workouts without additional impact to your joints or to rehab after an injury.


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I’m What Age for Track and Field?!

How Old Track SeasonTrack season is kicking off here is South Carolina and with a new year, come new age groups for many kids. My kids run USATF meets. Running has different age rules compared to come other sports like swimming. In swimming, kids age up on their birthday so if the day they turn 11 they swim 11-12. For running, you are considered the age you will be on December 31st of the current calendar year. Therefore, in 2016, you age for track and field and cross country is the age you will be on December 31, 2016.

For most kids, the age is pretty close to their actual age. My daughter turns 12 in June so she will be 11-12 all year for both track and cross country. My son, who is currently 16, turns 17 on November 30, 2016 so he will be 17-18 for track and field season even though he will actually be 16 for months after the season ends.

You can find the breakdown of age groups and birth years on this website: USATF Youth Age Divisions. Here is the current age group list for USATF meets and the corresponding birth years.

Age Division Year of Birth
8 & Under 2008+
9 – 10 2006-2007
11 – 12 2004-2005
13 – 14 2002-2003
15 – 16 2000-2001
17 – 18 1998-1999

Many teams will take 5 and 6 year-olds, but while they can compete in local meets, kids have to be 7 years-old to complete at the national level. Also, kids like my son, who will be 17-18 for three years can compete as long as they do no turn 19 years old before the national meet in July.

Some kids love to have January birthdays so they are competing in their actual age all year long. But if you have a child with a fall birthday and they are stuck in an upper age group, remind them that older kids will push them to run faster. Also, as you progress to older age groups there are more events available for you to compete in so you have more options for races and more time to develop your skills in those events.

I know two kids who have birthdays on December 31st. Whie they both hated their birthdays for track and cross country running, they both did great running against the older kids which gave them a lot of confidence as they moved through the age groups. So, tell your kids to embrace their new age group this season and have a great run.


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Do I Have to Race to be a Runner?

Do I Have to RaceThere is a lot of focus these days on road races, trail runs, and runs with obstacle courses. But, do you really need to race in order to be a runner? I don’t think so.

There are a lot of reasons to go for a run that have nothing to do with racing or beating your best time. Here are just a few of the reasons why you might want to go for a run without worrying if it will help you PR at your next race.

  1. Explore new areas
  2. Control your weight
  3. Regular exercise boosts your health
  4. Endorphins boost your mood
  5. Running clothes are cool
  6. Running with friends or family can be fun
  7. Cheer for your kids at cross country meets
  8. Feel like you accomplished something
  9. Clear your mind and boost creativity
  10. Listen to podcasts or music 
    It’s true that running races can be a lot of fun but as you can see from this list, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to go on a run without wearing a bib number.
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Top 5 Reasons I Love 5Ks Road Races

Top 5 Reasons I Love 5KsWhen you starting looking at potential road races the choices can be overwhelming. There are so many different distances 5K, 10K, 10 mile, half marathon, marathon and many more. At least where I live, you can’t pass a weekend without finding at least one run somewhere in town. Out of all of the possible races, I like the 5K the best. A 5K, or 5 kilometer, race is 3.1 miles, 16,638 feet or 196,416 inches if you really want details. Five kilometer races are my favorite for these reasons:

1. Reasonable training times fit in with work and family. If you have limited time to train but want to find a race length where you can complete and try to lower your time, you may like a 5K. Generally, your longest runs for a 5K are no more than 10 miles and if you are more of a casual runner, you may not even run that far.

2. Not too long for speed. If you like to get your speed up, a 5K is short enough to feel like you can push your speed without having to conserve too much for later miles.

3. No need to carry water bottles or energy foods. 5K races usually have at least one or two water stations along the route which is plenty for the distance. Also, I’ve found that unless I’m running more than five miles that I do not need water for training runs. (This may change when temps skyrocket in summer months.)

4. It’s the easiest distance to learn to run without walking breaks. Since a 5K is typically one of the shortest road races, it is the easiest to learn how to run the distance without needing to walk. If you are a beginner, it may take 12 to 16 weeks to work up to a full run for a 5K, but you definitely can achieve the goal.

5. They are fun! 5K races are fun. Most runs have a theme or a charity attached. Some people dress in crazy clothes and costumes to fit the theme. During Christmas runs, some races even give prizes if you run the race wearing antlers. Most races have awards and some bigger races have food vendors and music for an after party.

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