Adventure doesn’t need a price tag

How many times do you hear “I’m bored, what should we do?”

This question comes up quite often around our house.  The answer usually sounds something like “I don’t know, we can’t afford to do (You fill in the blank) ”

Money has been a struggle for our family for as long as we have been a family.  It didn’t get any better with the addition of baby #2, if anything money has been even more tight, but I’m more determined to make sure my children have what they need to thrive even if it means I go without.

For a child to thrive I feel they need to be released from the confines of the house, be allowed to explore & see new things.  I was starting to feel like this was not an area I could be successful with our current financial situation.  There are all these great places, designed for children to help them learn and explore but most of those places come with a price tag.  I do not like the feeling of defeat, especially when it involves my children, so I started searching for places we could take the kids that were free.  Free in the sense of no admission charge, of course some of our new-found adventures come with a price tag in the form of gas used to get there.

So in case you’re in a similar situation and feel like you need new ideas for things to do with your kids (or even a significant other), I feel I should share some of our newfound adventure ideas from this summer.

We’ll start close to home and move on from there.

Take to the streets (or sidewalks would be safer)!

We are fortunate to live in a small community, there’s a city park, safe neighborhoods, a river and a school all within walking distance (even for the short legs of a three-year old).  Take your time on these walks, it doesn’t always have to be about fitness, although the physical activity becomes an added bonus.  When you slow down and take your time on these walks you’ll be amazed what you may discover!  Children seem to make the best discoveries on things that adults typically would over look, so do not rush them, let them be little.  My son has stopped to admire something as small as ants or as large as the water tower.  He’ll stop at a flag and bring his hand to his heart, I’ll take those moments to teach him the pledge of allegiance because I can’t be sure they’ll teach him that in school anymore.  We recently took him to the track at our local school and the two of us started running, I didn’t figure he would make it long before he needed to stop and walk but his little legs just kept going.  We ended up running the better part of a half mile before we ran out of daylight and had to head for home.  On the walk back home we crossed paths with a lady walking her dog, my son says “Hi!  How doin?  I ran 50 miles!” My husband feels he will be a good fisherman since he is a natural at exaggerating when it comes to measurement.

Splash in puddles.

Summer often brings storms, storms often bring rain, rain often leaves puddles and puddles are great entertainment for a child.  Obviously I wont take my kids out when there’s lightning nearby, but when the skies clear up we like to take a walk with the sole purpose of seeking out puddles to splash in.  Sure it leaves our shoes soaked (thankfully sandals dry out quickly), it leaves our clothes drenched and sometimes dirty (that’s what washing machines are for) but the most important thing is it leaves the biggest smile on my child’s face (and mine too)!

Visit a local park. 

Although we live in a small community with only one park, we live fairly close to a larger community with many parks.  One of these city parks has a small petting zoo and great paths that are great for pushing a stroller on.  We took the kids here one evening to see the animals (most of which were penned up in the barn for the night) and to walk the paths.  Explore the parks in your area, if you always visit the same park, find a new one to visit.

Let’s not forget the county parks.  Our county has several parks all within a short drive from our house, some I would even consider to be biking distance under the right circumstances.  One park has a suspension bridge, another has a paved path through the woods (perfect for pushing a stroller or a child on a bike).  We live about 20 minutes from a county park in a neighboring county that has many trails along the river bluff and through the woods for low-key hiking, a creek that has some great wading spots when the water is a bit lower.  This particular park has a lot of wide open grassy areas, picnic areas, designated campfire rings with firewood piles to use for no extra cost and several play grounds.  On a recent visit to this park I was sure to pack extra clothes knowing my little dude would enjoy playing in the creek after our hike.  The trails aren’t really stroller friendly so I opted to use the carrier for little miss.  We saw horses out for a trail ride & runners out for a jog (which little dude referred to as running guy and running girl and tried to run with them).

Don’t forget you share the trail and you should always try to leave it better than you found it, pick up after yourselves, your pets and since not everyone abides by this don’t be afraid to pick up after others.

Take me out to the ballgame!

Watch a town team baseball game, on a recent visit to a neighboring town we stumbled upon an in progress ball game with two local town teams.  There was no admission, we simply had to find a patch of grass to sit and enjoy the game.  If you know anything about kids, you know they do not have very long attention spans, it has been a couple of years since our family has gone to a baseball game because we know we’d have to cut it short when little dude loses interest and what a waste of money that would be.  This was perfect! Little dude enjoyed the couple of innings we watched.  If you’re in MN and interested in finding a town team near you click here.

Take a kid fishing!

We are lucky to have a lot of lakes in our neck of the woods.  This weekend we decided to take little dude fishing but we couldn’t find a sitter for little miss.  She isn’t quite boat ready yet and I didn’t really want to miss out on this experience so we opted to leave the boat at home and headed to a local fishing pier.  MN fishing pier map is a great resource for anyone in Minnesota to find a near by fishing pier.  This adventure was relatively low-cost as we already have our fishing licenses, poles and tackle.  We did end up spending a little money on worms and snacks, this particular expense could have been avoided by bringing snacks from home.  Remember you are setting the example for your children, practice responsible sportsmanship and follow your local fishing regulations.  We require little dude to wear a life jacket when he is on a boat, fishing pier or dock, and generally require him to wear one whenever he is playing in or around water.  Little dude reeled in his own fish (once) and actually held several fish!  He was so excited every time a we would catch a fish.

Prepare for take off/landing!

My dad recently had an eye doctor appointment at the VA in the cities, he had asked for someone to come with in case he couldn’t drive after.  At first I was hesitant to go, daycare was closed that day meaning I would have to haul both kids on a couple of hour car ride each direction and occupy their time while waiting for my dads appointment to wrap up.  I’m not a big fan of bringing children, especially infants, into a hospital setting when it’s not necessary because you never know what they may be exposed to.

This doesn’t mean I’m a germaphobe & I don’t freak out when my son decides he wants to lick the dirt in his sand box (it stays covered to keep the neighborhood cats from using it as a litter box).  

My dad offered to let us take his vehicle, which was good because I really needed new tires, but it also meant I didn’t have to spend anything on gas.  Before we left I had packed a lunch and snacks for the kids.  I also tried to come up with something fun to do with them while we waited.  The VA clinic is close to the Mall of America, but I wasn’t in the window shopping mood.  The clinic is also very close to the airport, so I started thinking of places we could park and watch the airplanes take off and land.  Little dude always gets excited when he sees an airplane flying in the sky and even more so when we drive through the cities and he sees them closer as they approach or depart from the airport.  I decided to do a quick google search of airport viewing spots, and discovered that MSP has a great Aircraft Viewing Area.  We drove under runways, right into the heart of the airport (at least that’s what it felt like).  There was ample parking, nice picnic benches, sitting benches & grassy areas.  This was the perfect way to pass the time as we waited, little dude was enthralled by the airplanes taking off and landing.  When my dad called to say he was close to ready for us to pick him up, we were only minutes away.


I’m sure this only skims the surface of fun things to do that cost little to nothing but I hope it gives you some ideas of things you can do if you find yourself at a loss for what to do.

It’s ok to be flexible!

I scoured through free half marathon training plans for hours. I finally found a plan that checked all my boxes:

  • Time from start until race day
  • Start out low mileage
  • Increase mileage responsibly
  • Good mix of running with cross training & strength training
  • Not complicated
  • Free

In the past I would print off the plan, stick with it for almost a week then life would get in the way and my work schedule wouldn’t mesh with the plan. I would have to work on the day my long run was supposed to be done. In hindsight, it’s highly likely I didn’t put much thought into finding a plan that started out with low enough mileage.  This often lead to me feeling overwhelmed from day one and not capable of increasing my mileage the next week.  I also found the different types of runs within a plan to be a deterrent (read excuse, because that’s truly what it was).  Without a fancy running watch I didn’t feel I was capable of doing a fartlek or tempo run.

What I didn’t consider all those times before is that just running the planned distances or times would have been ok.  Training my body to move and exert more energy over a prolonged amount of time would have helped far more than just giving up and winging it come race day. I also never took the time to integrate the training plan with my daily schedule.  Doing so would have helped me to see ahead of time when a long run would interfere with a work day and then I could have adjusted accordingly.

There’s absolutely nothing that says once you pick a training plan you have to stick to it with no room to wiggle. Taking on a training plan with the mindset that you must do exactly what that plan says when it says, is a recipe for failure.  It’s ok to be flexible, change the plan to fit your schedule if need be.

This time I was taking a different approach to training than I have in the past. I made sure to start small, I basically was looking for a lazy couch potato to half type plan. It had to be doable for this out of shape momma with a horrible track record of actually training. Once I found the plan I wanted to use, I took the time to actually write each workout in my daily schedule book (which I majorly rely on for just about every aspect of my life).  Of course with a rotating work schedule I had to adjust which days I am scheduled to do my long runs and my rest days. Basically I now have every workout penciled into my schedule from now until the day I am supposed to run my first ever full marathon.

Here’s the kicker… just because it’s on the schedule for me to run Monday, cross train Tuesday, run Wednesday, rest thursday, run Friday and Saturday and rest on Sunday… it doesn’t mean I have to do it exactly as planned. If the weather is horrible on Monday and the forecast is ideal for Tuesday, why not switch the cross training to Monday and log some miles on the stationary bike and save the run day for the nicer weather the next day. Also, if you feel run down, sick or hurting… please allow yourself a break. Take an extra rest day or modify to a distance or activity that will not aggravate whatever is ailing you.

Last week I was lucky enough to get sick, in addition to being run down from my daughter not allowing me to sleep.  I tried with all my might to stick to my plan, I had taken so much pride in sticking with my training for as long as I had, that I didn’t want to screw it up.  I took to the treadmill a day later than scheduled and realized I wasn’t 100% yet and the logical thing to do would have been to stop but my stubborn side kicked in and I finished. That short run took what little energy I had and left me drained for several days. I ultimately had to skip two planned runs but I now realize that is ok.

I got back at it Monday, a milestone for me considering in the past I would have given up at that first detour. I felt great and would never have known that I skipped two planned runs in the days leading up to then. Today was supposed to be a cross training day, I planned to go to the gym and do some time on the stationary bike. My best friend asked if I had planned to go to the gym, when I told her my plans she asked if I would be up for an outside run instead.  That’s not what is written in my schedule book… but it’s ok to be flexible!  There’s no reason I can’t switch my Tuesday and Wednesday workouts.

There were so many excuses I could have come up with to not run today… it’s not my plan, it’s too cold, she runs much faster than me, did I mention it’s too cold?!  It was 21 degrees when we took to the trail, she accommodated my slower pace by running four very fast miles prior to meeting up with me to run the final two.  I discovered I had proper clothing for running in these temps and the March sun helped it feel much warmer than it actually was. I also finally came to realize it is ok to be flexible and adjust to whatever life throws at you. Thankfully for today, life threw a very supportive friend my way that always pushes me to better myself!

Like I need another reason to love Lace Lockers

After my post reviewing Lace Lockers the owner, Carol ‘STASH’ Stanley, reached out to me and sent a pair of Lace Lockers for my little dude.

I put them on his shoes immediately. Woohoo no more untied shoes, no more double knotting!  He pointed to them and asked “what’s his name”?  I asked him what he wanted to name them, after a little thoughtful “hmmm” he excitedly named them Jack.

I am a firm believer in paying it forward.  Thanks to STASH for gifting a set to my little dude, I am helping to get a group of kids hooked up with their own custom Lace Lockers. Sometimes it’s little things that can put a big smile on your face and I hope the kids enjoy their gift.

Go out and do something nice for someone!

Product review – Lace Locker

Hello again!  Time for another product review for a product I received in my IRun4Ultra Ambassador welcome package. In my previous product review I listed all the goodies I received so I will spare you the time and won’t go over all of it again.

This review is for the Lace Locker.

I can’t honestly say I have had a lot of issue with my shoes coming untied when I run, now that most running shoe companies have switched to the flat lace.  I do know it can be an issue though and I tend to double knot my shoes just to avoid the trouble.

In the past I used speed laces, although the purpose of that was to be able to shorten my transition time during a triathlon. Those were a pain to install and I found it to be extremely challenging to change them from one shoe to another, I ended up using them on my running shoe for the remainder of their life and didn’t have to worry about shoes coming untied.

So when I got this product I was thinking it would be a big deal to put them on my shoes so I avoided using them on my recent runs as I was usually pressed for time. Well needless to say I should have taken the few seconds to look at the Lace Lockers and the instruction sheet because I would have realized it was super easy to install!

So let’s get started with this!

Product packaging:  this product is very light weight (bonus:  who would want to add a heavy product to their running shoes) and I am pleased to say the company did not over package. A small piece of paper with the instructions & the Lace Locker pair both fit into a small plastic bag. So many companies over package their product creating a lot of unnecessary waste, so I was pleased to see this. It also made it easy to toss in the front pocket of my gym bag without adding a lot of bulk.

Product price:  According to the Lace Locker website these run anywhere from $7.95 to $10 a pair.  It appears there’s a link on the site for a BOGO offer, so you could get 2 pair for $9.99.  This company uses its profits to provide scholarships to send young women to college who could otherwise not afford to attend.  Your purchase of this product will be helping others not just padding some executives bank account.

Product ease of use:  as I mentioned before this product is very easy to use. It took maybe a minute to put on my shoes. I was worried at first that I would have to take it off completely in order to loosen my shoes to take them off but I was able to loosen my laces without undoing the product. The velcro type closure didn’t seem to destroy my laces either.

Product intended use:  the intended use is to prevent your laces from coming untied. I mentioned before this was not really an issue for me but my little dude has a pair of tennis shoes that have to be double knotted always!  The same product I put on my size 8 women’s shoe fit on his size 9 toddler shoe, no problem.  If I was willing to give up my set of Lace Lockers I would keep them on his shoe because, let’s face it, trying to keep a toddler still long enough to double knot & untie said double knot is a workout in its own way!  Plus, the ones I received say “I rocked 13.1” and he hasn’t run a half marathon yet!  From a non-running perspective, I could see these being extremely useful for keeping laces tamed while riding bike in “street shoes”.  Before I started using clip-in bicycling shoes I always struggled with my laces getting tangled in the chain. If you ride bike using any type of shoe that doesn’t already have a lace taming feature Lace Lockers would be a perfect and inexpensive solution to keep you safe!

Product design:  Lace Lockers are lightweight as I previously mentioned, I say it again because if they were heavy they would not be on my shoes!  They are low profile, in other words not bulky!  The other concern I had at first was that it would bounce as I ran, the design kept it snug to my shoe with no bouncing.  This product comes in a variety of designs/colors. Remember how I said I wouldn’t share mine with my toddler because he hasn’t run a half marathon yet. Well I think the LaceLocker Pair Lockit Orange would go perfect with his shoes.

In conclusion, I would recommend this product to runners & cyclists for peace of mind.  I would also recommend Lace Lockers to parents of little busy bodied toddlers, keep their laces secure without the battle of trying to double knot those little laces!

Worn out but not gone

It’s February 21st and 63 degrees!  Depending on where you are reading this, it may not seem like that is very significant, but I assure you this is significant to anyone living in Minnesota or the upper Midwest in general.  

On tuesdays I only work 4 hours, my best friend jokingly named this short shift my “princess shift”.  The kids have to go to daycare while I work and keeping them there a few extra hours gives me a chance to get a few errands done and have a little me time.  I have been trying to get to the Y most tuesdays to get a little workout in before I go to pick up the kids. 

So after today’s Princess shift I headed to the archery range to do a make up shoot for missing yet another scheduled shoot. First I made my obligatory child-free Target run.  After shooting I went to the Y for a run. 

I had originally planned on running on the dreadmill but remember I said it was 63 degrees out… yea, well in Minnesota,in February, 63 degrees means you get outside and enjoy it before the snow starts flying again (which is rumored to be two days from now). I set out on the trail but didn’t have my Garmin running watch so I didn’t have a great way to really stick to my 4 minute run:1 minute walk ratio that I have normally been doing on the treadmill. I decided to run for the entire length of one song on my play list before taking a one minute walk break then I would start a new song. I set a 15 minute timer to let me know when it was time to turn around. This was not only the first run outside for me since fall of 2015, it was the first outside run with my new shoes.  

Running outside has its pro’s and con’s. The con list is short:  

  • harder to keep an eye on time if you are training in a way that requires you to run for a certain amount of time 
  • it is usually a lot more challenging physically than running on a treadmill. 

The list of Pro’s is far too long for me to name it all but a few things that top my list:  

  • scenery is far better then staring at a wall or the timer on the treadmill
  • You can’t beat fresh air and sunshine
  • It’s free!

On today’s run I saw a logo painted on the trail from last years Mankato Marathon.  Of course time and weather has worn it down making it look a bit rough, in fact to some it may not even be recognized as their logo at all. I couldn’t help but think that like that logo time and life events has worn me down.  To many that see me they wouldn’t recognize me to be a runner but just as that logo will be repainted and refreshed with time, I too will be refreshed with enough time and a little work (ok A LOT of work).  The runner inside of me may be a little worn out but it is definitely not gone!  

Seeing that logo today was a great reminder of the goals I have set to achieve this year. 

Product review – Munk Pack

So back in December my sister convinced me to apply to become an ambassador for IRun4Ultra.  Disclaimer:  I have never run an ultra and do not intend to do so this year.  Even though, to date, the longest run I have ever completed has been a half marathon I was selected to be 2017 Ambassador.

One of the perks of being an ambassador for products and organizations is getting free stuff!  A couple weeks ago I got a box of cool gear and product samples from companies that support active lifestyles. Who doesn’t love happy mail!!!

I failed to take picture of all the cool goodies they sent but here’s an idea of all the goodies they sent to the Ambassadors…

I got a cool IRun4Ultra shirt & trucker hat (to be honest I will probably wont wear the trucker hat but my little boy sure loved wearing his Boppa’s hat). I also got a logo decal for my car, IR4U temporary tattoos, a pack of Lace Lockers for my shoes, two samples of HotShot, a sample pack of Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel & a Maple Pear Quinoa Oatmeal fruit squeeze pack from Munk Pack.

My first product review is for the Munk Pack oatmeal fruit squeeze pack. Another disclaimer:  I am not being paid by this company to write this review.  Once again I failed in my blogger-ly duties and tested this product without taking any pictures, I promise to do better next time.

Product packaging:  this 4.2 oz BPA- free squeeze pack was flat enough to slip into my purse as I rushed out the door to work. It was durable enough to withstand being squished by my wallet, schedule book & all the other things I carry in my purse. Not a drop of oatmeal in my purse after my 15 minute commute. I could see tossing a few of these in the diaper bag for the kids and myself as a great on the go snack. Otherwise they would be great for back packing or day hikes, kayaking, long bike rides or just about any other outdoorsy type activity.  The only apparent downfall is the packaging is not microwave safe, which turns out to not be a true issue… on the go you aren’t likely to have a microwave and as I will cover shortly it is completely unnecessary to heat this before eating it.

Product Nutrition:  Yet another disclaimer:  I am not a dietitian and can only speak for my own dietary needs.  This product is vegan, Gluten-free (that’s something I am familiar with due to a friend living with celiacs), non-GMO & whole grain. It is only 90 calories, low fat, 3G of fiber & 2 grams of protein. Again, I am not a dietician, I won’t even pretend to fully understand nutrition labels but these are some of the things I look at quickly if and when I take the time to read them when shopping. I also look at the sugars when buying food for my diabetic husband, this particular flavor is made with maple syrup and had a little more sugar than he needs to have on a regular basis but wouldn’t hurt him when he is being highly active.  It is made with real fruit and I could pronounce all ingredients, there’s gotta be something positive to that!  I ate this for breakfast at work around 6:30 am and didn’t start feeling hungry again until about 11am. Normally I eat oatmeal for breakfast at work about 7:30 am and get hungry again by 10:30 am. Of course there can be many factors that affect my hunger but I was pleased with how it kept me feeling full longer. I also have a very sedentary job, I sit at a desk unless I decide to be ambitious and raise it to standing height even then I am not overly active.

Product taste:  I love oatmeal but I was a bit apprehensive about eating cold oatmeal & a product that is gluten free, vegan etc… The flavor was very enticing to me as I LOVE maple brown sugar normal oatmeal, I also enjoy pear. Of course once I opened the twist top and looked in the spout it kind of had the appearance of thick applesauce or some of the foods I recall wearing while introducing my son to baby food. I took my first… ummm… bite, sip, taste, squeeze?! No matter what you call it I was pleasantly surprised. Consistency closely resembles thick applesauce with small bits of oats. Flavor was exactly as described… maple & pear.

Overall I really enjoyed this product and immediately wanted to know where I could buy more. I was sad to discover no stores near me sell it, but it is sold in a town I visit frequently, you can also buy it direct from their website. I will be buying some on my next visit to Rochester, and maybe then I will remember to take some pictures and share them with ya’ll. This is a product I would gladly let my son grab for a snack without feeling guilty. There are five different flavors:  maple pear quinoa, apple quinoa cinnamon, peach chia vanilla, blueberry Acai flax & raspberry coconut.  If you are interested in more about this product you can find them on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.

As far as the other products I will do reviews on them at a later date!  I hope you enjoyed this product review as much as I enjoyed testing out my sample.

My workout is not insignificant 

The last few weeks I have been silent.  There has been so much going on and taking time to blog was just not happening. 

I have managed to make it to the Y usually about twice a week to get a run in. In the month that I have been back to running I managed to see my mileage and pace improve. I am still logging low mileage but it’s not about jumping into this where I left off, thank God, if I did that I would not train I would just sign up for races and be totally unprepared as I follow my just wing it approach to running.  Last week as I took to the dreadmill I got about 10 minutes into my work out when some guy started off on a near by treadmill. He set it to some insane incline and an impossible speed. The treadmill was making a high pitch squeal in protest to his demands. My ears were hurting so bad I almost stopped my workout. Staff came walking through the floor in search of the source of the noise, once he realized where it came from he made him turn it off. The young man wasn’t very happy about it and said he only had 5 minutes to go. Mid run and completely winded I turned to the guys and said if he started up the machine again I would have to leave. Staff told the guy he couldn’t let him continue because it clearly bothered others. The guy milled around a bit before coming over to ask if I had music I could listen to because he didn’t know how he was supposed to finish his work out.  Now this touched on a sore subject for me because I had spent a few seconds rummaging through the center console in car before before heading in and found a pair of headphones so I could listen to music while I ran.  As I walked towards the life center from the locker rooms I went to plug the headset in only to remember I had upgraded to the iPhone 7 recently and it no longer took the traditional plug in. Thankfully this young man also had an iPhone 7 and he had the adapter, he offered to let me use it so he could finish his 5 minutes of whatever he was doing. I took him up on his offer, after all I don’t really want to be the person standing in the way of someone completing a workout anymore than I want someone standing in the way of me being able to complete mine. After his 5 minutes he came over and I gave back his adapter and  we exchanged thank you’s.  He went on to explain he is training for the NFL combine and has a strict training plan to follow. I wished him luck and continued huffing and puffing my way towards the end of a 30 min jog. It amazed me what this young man was able to push himself to do for a chance at a career in the NFL.  

One great thing about running at the Y this last month has been hot showers that last longer than 6 minutes.   Ever since our basement flooded this fall we are lucky to get 6 minutes of warm water in the shower before the water turns cold. For me that is not enough. I have long, thick hair and I could barely make it through washing my hair even if it was the first and only thing I would do. Meaning if I showered at home I didn’t shave, didn’t really get a good scrub clean either. I found the showers at the Y gave enough hot water for me to do all my shower stuff and wouldn’t turn cold on me. Thankfully we were finally able to replace our water heater and the plumber was here Sunday to install it. I was so excited to be able to take a hot shower in my own house that lasted long enough for me to do all my shower stuff. 

Of course, right as it seems I am making improvements in my running I would get knocked back down. I have spent the last few days feeling run down & sick. Needless to say there will be no running this week for me, as frustrating as it is for me I understand that my body needs the rest and I will get back at it when I am better.  

The last couple weeks I have been extremely busy, on the go a lot, not taking time to make sure we are eating healthy and not getting enough rest.  I am not about to promise great changes but to keep us healthy going forward I have to at least make an effort to do better.