Gifts for VSCO Moms

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While many of the holiday shipping cut-offs are today or in the next few days, there is still time to get those last minute gifts thanks to our friends over at Amazon (especially with those PRIME Shipping perks). As a VSCO Mom (Child of the 90s raising a VSCO girl), I am okay with being one of the world’s okayest moms and doing this last minute shopping thing, so I thought some other VSCO Moms would appreciate a gift guide with options to send to your fellow mom friends, send to the kids for ideas, or even just gift yourself when you get a gift card to get whatever you want (jealous!).

This gift list will include items to make your life easier, VSCO Mom must-haves, and environmentally friendly ideas. In some cases, I received a product in exchange for including them in this guide and in other cases I just found them on Amazon myself and thought they’d be great to share.

Lotus Trolley Bag and Produce Bags

The Lotus Trolley Bag is a four-bag system that rolls up to the size of a yoga mat, contains an insulated cooler bag and pockets for eggs and wine bottles, and helps to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags. GET YOUR OWN SET HERE! The system spreads out across a standard-size grocery cart (I tried this at Aldi and while I hate to say it, the cart was too wide for the system) and helps you organize at check out and have a system for unpacking your bags at home. Add to it the food safe, durable and multipurpose Lotus Produce Bags (available here, in a 9-piece set) to be even more sustainable and eliminate those bags in the produce aisles. Both are available at Amazon and can shipped to you before Christmas.

Air Fryer + Accessories

If you don’t have your hands on an air fryer yet, I suggest this Instant Pot version. If you have, or know it is on your “I’ve been a good VSCO Mom” list, grab yourself The “I Love My Air Fryer” Gluten-Free Recipe Book – Includes 175 gluten-free recipes for fast, delicious meals the whole family will love and comes in right around $10!

Stickers…and Scrunchies…

For your laptop, cell-phone (hint – I use this clear cell phone case and just slip the stickers with the backs still on between my phone and the case), or your Hydro Flaskthese stickers give you lots of options and you can even share with your VSCO Kids.

I’m also suggesting this multi-pack of scrunchies because I have three girls who always steal the hair-tie or scrunchie I have around my wrist. And these ones I’ve linked have the most adorable bows on them!

Other Ideas

There is STILL TIME to get your items added to this list! Let me know what you suggest and as long as shipping can be handled before Christmas 2019, I’ll add to this post. So, what would you add?

Mother’s Day Flower Pots

The kids planted these flowers for me at church. As much as I wanted to preserve the *perfect* cleanliness of our rental vehicle, it is much like our lives- you can’t keep everything clean. Life is messy and looks different for each of us, just as these pots show.

Like some of you, I am a mother. Unlike some of you, I didn’t have a strong desire to become a mama and became one when I didn’t plan/wasn’t ready/wasn’t on my terms. But it was in God’s timing and His perfect (even if I still struggle with the circumstances) way. I didn’t have that wondering, that wanting to fill an empty womb that you might be facing. And while I can’t change that or change your situation, I can give you hope that God is in the waiting and stillness. He is ready to bless on His timing.
Or maybe your hands and heart are overflowing with an overwhelming abundance of little sticky hands and sassy attitudes like I have and you feel lost and alone and unsure when your YOU will resurface but you’re not wishing the days away. The moments are long but the years are fast. Your flowers might be strewn all over the world around you – maybe that chaos makes you happy or maybe it makes you desire a box to contain the mess. Maybe you love every single moment – even the ones when your four year old screams “I’m going to turn you to blood” and wish time would stand still. God sees you and knows your heart and I promise even those crazy moments have a purpose for greatness.
Whatever your life might look like at this very moment, on this holiday or any other day of the year, I want to encourage you that God loves you and sees you as His – dirt on the floor or blooming flowers. We can’t expect to keep everything clean and perfect or for someone to provide the box to fit all these things of life in. What we can expect is His love, mercy, and presence on the good days and the bad. Isn’t that beautiful?

Training Tuesday: Starting Over

The post below is part of a series of posts about the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events for which I have been selected to be a 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon official blogger. I’ve received my race registration fee in exchange for promotion of the event. All opinions are 100% my own.  

With less than 100 days until go day, I’m proud to say the recommitting to myself has felt amazing! Even with a work trip, this week of my “unofficial” training rocked!

Final Base Building Week

Monday 1/21: 1.53 miles, 12’29″/mile

These were treadmill miles, following a plan from RunCoach. (Psst, if you are signed up for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events, you can get this app and training plan, too!) I did some speed work and strength on these achy legs and it felt great! Unfortunately my days were full of work so I sat A LOT during the week, so kicking it off like this was perfect!

Tuesday 1/22: 4.5 miles cycling

The knee was not feeling it, so I was happy for this cross training, but it was also good for pushing through a busy morning at the gym. Yay for moving!

Wednesday 1/23: 1 mile, 11’51”

I felt it and I still hate the treadmill. End.of.story.

And that was that. I came home with a good amount of steps under my belt and rest needed. I took down the Christmas tree and spent time where I needed to, with the kids. But in my heart, I knew this week moved mental mountains!

PSST! If you’ve read this far and are ready to sign up for the Marathon or Half, make sure you do and let them know I sent you by using WILLISDSGPM19 as your code when you sign up. You’ll save $10 when you do! Register here.

Marathon Monday: 2018 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Somehow, I let the lax feeling of not needing to train trickle all through my life and took a much needed break from the busy-ness last week. It’s finally time to share my race recap from the 2018 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon – UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon! // This post may contain affiliate links.

If you’d like to read more about my previous experiences, check them out here!

Marathon Monday: 2018 Pittsburgh Half Marathon Recap

Pre-Race  – Greg and I had enjoyed the pre-marathon carb-load dinner my work puts on and actually made it home and to bed at a decent hour. I slept extremely peacefully and woke at 4:30, right on time to get ready to leave by 5. We had laid out our “flat runners” the night before and basically just had to get dressed, heat up my breakfast, and go.

We got a slightly late start because we were trying to figure out what long layers to add as the morning brought a light mist. Even with a delayed leaving time, the commute from Kittanning to Pittsburgh wasn’t bad. But we hit the North Shore right at 6:00 when roads started to close and our smooth sailing plan to get into the garage on General Robinson was faulted.

We sat in traffic and I sipped on my pre workout drink from BPI Sports (pro tip, the Blue Lemon Ice is amazing, use MRSWILLIS to save 20%), trying not to look at the time. We were parked by 6:20 and I had a mental breakdown once we got out of the car because our gear check bag was packed to the gills and looked like it could burst. Of course, we didn’t bring a backup so I was freaking out.

(insert superhero husband who sacrificed taking a hoodie and fixed the problem)

About 6:40, we’d gotten on the T and to Gateway Station. It was eerily calm. There was no line for gear check. No line for porta potties (I went twice in 10 minutes). We found a random stranger to snap some pictures of us after we paused for the National Anthem and start of the hand-cycle race.

Just before the Elites were off and running, Greg and I said goodbye. Off he went to his relay handoff on the North Shore (right where we parked) and I got into Corral D. I could see the pacers for the 2:30 and 2:45, but couldn’t get right where they were. I didn’t let that stop my feelings that I seriously could do this thing I’d heard about, setting a personal best (aka PR). I didn’t train with a running group, it was going to be okay.

At 7:30, our corral had made its way to the starting line and the time I’d been waiting for since my time crying on the hill in 2017 had finally come.

First 4.4 Miles: Elapsed Time 0:53:13 or 12:06 per mile

That first mile is so full of fun and excitement. Between my eyes darting to my left to see if I’d catch a fellow YFit Fam member cheering on the crowd to the “tunnel” by the bus station, I just felt so full of life and energy. Mile one is super familiar ground to me, it’s where a lot of my training is. As I neared the end of it, I couldn’t believe how fast time had flown by. According to the clock, I was right about an 11:45 for the first mile. No way! Hadn’t I just been sick?!?!

I knew I needed to slow things down, so I started to pray and listen to my breathing. Everything felt so good, but all I could think of was “okay, when will the wheels fall off this year?”. As I rounded the corners to take Penn Avenue back into the city, I started to focus on my water plan. I’d brought a Propel with me for electrolytes (I’m keto, so no Gatorade for me), but I wasn’t ready for that. Water? Yes. But right past the water station was my office and the possibility of seeing a co-worker. Since I hadn’t seen anyone I knew yet, I held out hope but ended mile two with the water stop and a buzz of my watch telling me I’d slowed it down just enough, to right about 12 minutes.

As the path took me through Penn Avenue, so familiar, I started to recognize some of the runners I follow on Instagram but had never introduced myself too. Being too shy and too focused, I kept on. The Birmingham Bridge was ahead and there was no time to talk – I needed to breathe. This mile was right above 12 minutes again, but I always feel mile 2 to 3 is one of the longest.

One of the shortest miles then flew by, looping through the start of the North Shore. Thanks to a water station and a quick downhill, the climb up toward Urban Impact‘s cheer zone. They were blasting K-Love and I couldn’t help but give thanks for my church family that I knew was praying for me. Just after mile 4, I look up and see “my verse”, Philippians 4:13.

Miles 4.4 to 10: Elapsed Time 2:01:01 or 12:07 per mile

I honestly don’t know where exactly this tracker was, but I think it was on the back side of North Commons. What got me pumped was I had just received a text that Greg’s relay team had crossed the 4.4 mark. What surprised me was there I was, about 8 minutes behind, getting MY text. I started mile 4.4 at a 12’06” pace and felt pretty amazing.

The thing was, I’d stood up in front of most of my co-workers in January (before I fell) and said my goal was a 12’12”. Even if the wheels fell off, a 12’30” was attainable, but being that close to a 12’12” I couldn’t help but feel excited.

My Nike+ watch was telling me things I just couldn’t believe, through mile six and passing by the first relay handoff, I was maintaining that 12-ish minute pace. Incredible. The time flew by.

Next thing I knew, I was head down and running up the West End Bridge. I looked down and my watch stopped. Well crud. Good thing I was wearing my FitBit Versa, which I still hadn’t  haven’t taken the time to calibrate. At the least, it has a stopwatch, so I got to Mile Marker 7 and hit GO.

West End is a great part of the course from a crowd perspective, but it really isn’t all that great on the body. Uphill. Uphil. Uphill. Then down a quick hill (to which I had someone come barreling down behind me, scaring me for my life). Then an all too brief flat (on which a college friend was handing out drinks and in my case a fist bump, high five, and hug) that led to more uphill, uphill, uphill.

This is where my asthma started to kick in last year. This year, I prayed and I listened to my breathing. Nothing seemed off and I couldn’t help but shed a few tears of joy. God really did have this under control.

As I crested the top of the first hill up West Carson Street just before Mile Marker 8, I looked down and could just see thousands of people. I’d never seen that before, the back of the pack usually is much more spread out. But this year, I wasn’t the back of the pack. What I was seeing wasn’t any chaos, it was just runner after runner taking a water break.

This is where I almost lost it, though. We come down a hill to water and there were so many runners in my part of the course that seemed new to running. One stopped right in front of me with no warning. I might have yelled a bit more than I should have, but I had a PR that was about to get smashed! Others were weaving a lot which was dangerous on all the cups. I just dug in and took the course and the day for what it was. And my stopwatch? It read 12:02.

Leading up to the Incline is one of my favorite parts of the course. It’s uphill, there’s no hiding that. But it is lined with JROTC students. I put my left hand out and high fived every single student along that part of the course. This got me through and next thing I knew there was Highmark Stadium in my sight and I got the text that Greg had finished his leg. It looked like I wasn’t too far behind them!

I weaved off a little in hopes the Florastor mister was working, but no luck. Have to give a little shout to them here because being on an antibiotic the week leading up to the race, I needed a good probiotic to help out. They kept me running!

Here’s a shot of me and Greg post-race at a photo opp they set up. 

Mile Marker 9 was just off in the distance, which meant so was Greg. I took off my (now broken) Nike+ watch and got ready to hand it to him with my (unopened) Propel.

Miles 10 to 20K (12.4 miles): Elapsed time 2:30:35 or 12:07 per mile

As I scanned the relay exchange, I couldn’t see my husband. When I did see him, he wasn’t looking my way so I started to yell. Turns out, he was shocked by my speed as I was and wasn’t ready for me. There was no time for a kiss and a GET THIS this year, just time to toss my watch and water to him and keep going. I had a PR to CRUSH, remember?

The fastest mile of the course was just ahead, at the top of a hill. Wait…my text alert just told me I was doing a 12’07”, so why was I seeing the 2:45 pace group (which runs about a 12’35”)? I was so confused and a got a little frustrated in this mile. As I looked at my feet and questioned what had changed between the first 10 miles and that moment, I spied what I think my boss was trying to explain to me – paint that maps out the shortest part of the course. IDK if it was that or gas company marks, but I took it and focused and got up that hill to the fast and flat mile 10.

East Carson was a little quieter than I recall, but I think I was just motivated. Even with my frustration, my watch was still saying I was close to a 12-minute mile. Head down again, and next thing I knew, there was the split!

There’s a “little” hill up Birmingham Bridge that has been my nemesis. It was always my slowest mile, in fact, I walked it last year to the tune of almost 15’00” per mile (ouch). This year, I saw that 11, saw another just over 12-minute split on my watch, and up that bridge I went. Turning onto the hill of 5th Avenue, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’d done it. I was going to PR unless I came to a complete stop and rested for ten minutes. Whoa.

The crowd starts to tell you there is just a mile left, but I don’t believe them. Not until I crest the hill and start to feel the downhill slope.

Miles 12.4 miles to 13.1: Elapsed time 2:38:04 or 12:04 per mile

You guys. Writing this post is the first I took the time to figure out how on earth I pulled my entire pace down by 3 seconds in 0.7 miles. The answer? I dug in and pulled off an average pace of 10’55” per mile that last stretch!!!

How did I do that? Well, the hill for one. Then there’s a lot of weaving but as I got to the next to last turn, there was my boss’s wife and another co-worker’s wife. They cheered me on, said I looked strong and that I was doing amazing. When they were out of sight, the tears came. I was so freaking happy, I cried.

That last right turn and my eyes started to dart for Greg. I’d surprised him again, but he caught my run to the chute on video, yelling THAT’S MY WIFE and I knew just how proud he was of me.

The run doesn’t stop at 13 miles, so when you see that marker you have to keep pushing…and push I did. No stopping until I was fully under those big yellow arches. I just wanted my medal and to see if I could stomach a banana (not really). Enter selfie mode.


Three Half Marathons, Accomplished.


I didn’t even know my official time, but I knew this was a PR and a BIG one. I texted my dad so he could tell mom and the kids I was done – and they texted soon back that they were so happy for me. I look down and see that my total average pace was a 12’04” and that I’d finished .04 seconds over my big OMG GONNA THROW UP IF I COULD PULL THIS OFF goal I didn’t speak to ANYONE – a 2:37 *point anything*. .04 away.

You guys. I did it. I crushed it and there is no doubt in my mind this was a God thing. Redemption for years battling food. Redemption from mental anguish over my past relationships. Redemption from being the “fat friend”. Redemption from the toll four babies has taken on my body. Redemption from going from crying on a hillside in 2017 to slipping at CrossFit and twisting three vertebrae to falling on my face and knees. Redemption felt amazing.

This was seventeen minutes forty-one seconds faster than 2017 and fourteen minutes thirty-one seconds faster than 2013. How about that for a PR bell ring?!?!

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and cheers. Thanks to my parents and brother for helping with the kids. And most of all, thanks to my amazingly supportive husband. This day will live on in our family history, for sure. xoxo

And with that, my journey to the 2018 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon – UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon is finished. To see how I’ve been doing since, follow me on Instagram!

Total Miles of 2018: 216 miles
May totals: 20.43 miles, 12’04” pace
April totals: 72.82 miles, 12’21” pace
March totals: 59.06 miles, 12’24” pace
February totals: 38.41 miles, 12’06” pace

January totals: 20.63 miles, 12’40” pace

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Obligations

When I started this blog, I was obligating myself to one more thing in a growing pile of obligations.

As you can tell, this space hasn’t yet made itself a big priority in my life, but it is something that I feel is worthy of my time and energy. There are many things floating around in my mind, but the obligations of daily life have been a bit pressing so far this year. And the thing is, I’m right where I need to be with all of them.

Like right this moment, as I am typing, I have a pile of things I should check off my to-do list, but I feel the need to spend some time here on my blog and talk to either myself or the world. I want to share so many things with you all, I just want to be sure none of my other obligations are suffering, first.

In the last week, I’ve really been narrowing my focus in life, trying to get myself to a place where I am more organized and committed, paying attention to one thing at a time. My physical being has led to this naturally. I suffered a minor injury in December and am now on a healing track. That healing track requires that I take some “me time” and get adjusted at the chiropractor three times a week this month, twice a week the next, and once a week the next. I’ve also had to put (the intense) CrossFit on the back burner. But I’m still here and I’m still doing, I just am doing things a little slower.

What obligations do you find yourself re-prioritizing in 2018? Here’s one of mine – making sure this kiddo and her three siblings smile lots.