That Article on Salon

It started last night when Pauline posted it on FB and asked for thoughts. Then today I saw it all over my twitter feed. It’s an article on Salon.com called The day I left my son in the car by Kim Brooks. The article is very long but extremely well-written – it’s worth your time.

An article she mentions is also worth your read: The Overprotected Kid, by Hanna Rosin. If you haven’t read them both please go and read them, then come back.

Edited to add these other links:

This step-by-step story about a mom who is investigated by CPS for allowing her 6 year old walk alone in their neighborhood.

This interesting article by law professor David Pimentel which says among other things: “Of particular concern is how the trend toward overprotective parenting is reinforced by legal standards.”

I’m interested in your thoughts.

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As for me, it was around last year at this time that we allowed Matilda to walk to school on her own. She was at the end of kindergarten, school is just under a mile away and there are 4 crossing guards on the route. After a practice walk or two we let her go, hearts in our throats the entire time. And we got raised eyebrows over our decision. Weren’t we worried? What if something happens? It’s a residential route, full of other (older) kids walking and riding their bikes and yet I felt judged because we let our 6 year old walk.

In fact, just today today Matilda and another 1st grader neighbor walked to school together. I saw another mom and her 1st grader leaving to walk and I suggested he just join the girls “no, I feel safer if I go with him!” was her reply. Everyone has their own reasons, but even in a safe and pretty tight-knit community that fear is still there.

And now I’ll transition to the “did-our-parents-really-let-us-do-that” game that Ms. Brooks mentions in her article. I played around with google maps today and learned that from 1st grade on I walked a half a mile to school every day – my older brother and I walked with some neighbors. I’m pretty sure we walked home, too. I know when I was older I was a latch-key kid (my mom was a teacher at my school, so she got home a bit after I did). In middle school the walk was closer to a mile. In the summer we’d sometimes walk or ride bikes about 2 miles to the pool – which was on a pretty busy road with no sidewalks. I’d walk to soccer practice at the park about .5 mile up the hill.

All the kids in my neighborhood spent countless hours in the woods and ravine behind our houses. We built a city of forts, caught crayfish and built damns. We swung on vines and hunted for wildflowers. In the winter we’d drag our sleds to an awesome hill on the other side of the woods and spend hours sledding and building ramps to see who could get the most air. I don’t think anyone ever broke a bone. I have no idea who owned the land, but us kids were allowed to roam free through the woods.

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that red mark was my house, the woods were our domain. So many great memories spent in those trees.

There are stories of my brother and his friends “trying to find the end of the road” on their bikes, which was nearly 6 miles away. I remember a few times in middle school being allowed to walk to Friendly’s over a mile away, so I could get ice cream with friends. Summer nights were spent playing in packs until long after sundown. We’d have epic games of “ghost in the graveyard” that spanned several blocks.

I do wish my kids could have that kind of freedom. And they are still so young, perhaps they will. Part of the reason why they won’t is just location. Looking back now, the location of my childhood house was ideal. It was a neighborhood full of families and our houses backed up to a large wooded area. There is nothing like that were we live now. Yes, there are parks and streams and places to explore nearby, but they aren’t places you can build a fort or pick wildflowers. And while our immediate neighborhood has sidewalks and is easy to navigate, the pool and ice cream and even the library require crossing major 4-lane roads in heavy traffic.

But the biggest issue is this fear of leaving kids alone to explore and learn and be independent and then being judged, or worse – arrested  – for it. It’s not necessarily actual danger most people are worried about. It’s the fear of being judged, of being labeled a bad parent.

I just saw a parent on FB talking about a great volunteer program for 14-16 year olds which will be run by the city this summer… “it’s from 9-3 but there is after-care available!” she said. Because we live in a world that makes us fee like 14-16 year olds need a babysitter after 3 pm.

I’m not sure the solution. What do you think?

My Bookshelf

I know I’m oh, about 4 years behind the masses, but OMG did you know you can get library books on your Kindle? I knew about it yet only set up my account about 4 months ago. I used to be a much better reader – reading 2-3 books each month. In fact, in Toledo I was part of the best bookclub ever. No really – we were awesome. When I moved we were just shy of our 8 year anniversary, with all but one original member (she moved away). I think many of that core group is still going strong, 14 years after the first meeting.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that with the kids being older I feel like I finally got my reading mojo back and being able to get books on my Kindle is feeding my obsession. During vacation I finished one book and completed 2 more. I’m burning through titles left and right and need your suggestions. Here’s are my most recent reads and my thoughts… if you like similar stuff, hit me with titles I should check out!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I started out not liking the narrative style of this book but was quickly swept up in the story. I found myself craving it when I wasn’t reading. I burned through it in about 2.5 days on vacation. 

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – count me among the millions of fans of this book. I adored it. I stayed up way too late to read it. I was sad when it was over. The characters were so real it was like I knew them. Two thumbs way up.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Once I finished E&P I eagerly downloaded Fangirl. It was ok, I just didn’t relate to the characters. I enjoyed the writing but I didn’t devour it like E&P.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – I had started this just before vacation and at first I was feeling more Fangirl than E&P about it. But it grew on me and I was cheering for Lincoln by the end. I read this trying to figure out who would play each part in the movie. 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed – I went into this book expecting to hate it. For some reason I thought it would be like Eat, Pray, Love (which I hated… like threw the book at the wall hated…but finished because I was reading for above-mentioned bookclub). Turned out that I really enjoyed Wild and now I want to hike more.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – I picked this because I enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees when we read it in bookclub and went into reading it not knowing anything about the story. Oh I loved this book, I found myself wanting to visit Charleston again and seek out the street where the house was and then I was was shocked to find out when reading the author’s notes that Sarah Grimké is a historical figure. Now I want to read more about her.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – I just could not get into the style of this one. I gave up after about 120 pages. It reminded me of the “choose your own adventure” books of the 80’s but not in a good way. The rewinding and starting over was too much. I usually don’t stop reading mid-book but I found myself dreading reading so I returned it.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – nothing heavy, just an easy read which delighted me. I began reading on vacation and finished the day after we got home. 

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – I really liked the first half of the book but then it kind of fell off a cliff and seemed rushed and odd. I liked it ok – I think the characters were well developed, but only until the midpoint when everything got weird. It was a fun distraction, but not sure I’d recommend it.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson – I loved Devil in the White City and enjoyed Thunderstruck so I thought I’d give this one a try. I really wanted to like this book…the subject matter (Americans living in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich) was interesting but I found myself constantly bored. I felt like I was slogging through pages. Gave this one up when another book became available and don’t regret not finishing. 

Didn’t I tell you I was on a reading roll?

Currently on hold at the library:
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – just downloaded – will start tonight!
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn- I had a love/hate relationship with Gone Girl, so we’ll see if I like this one.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

What else should I add to my list? Any titles to avoid?

A Day In The Life

I’ve seen these pop up around my corner of the net and so I decided to add one of our days to the mix. I’m always fascinated to see how other people spend their day, especially others with young kids. So, here’s what happened on Monday, February 24.

6:00
Mark, who gets up at some ungodly hour, kisses me goodbye. I promptly roll over and go into a half-sleep, waiting for Madman to wake up. It happens between 5:30 and 7:00 most days so I never really fall all the way back to sleep.

6:23
BOOM! The sound of Madman jumping off his bed signals he is awake. I crawl out of bed, hit the bathroom then go into his room to make sure he doesn’t wake up his sister (she’s NOT a morning person so even a little extra sleep for her is needed). He’s sunshiny and happy as usual, chattering on about a dinosaur and an alien in some epic story. Still bleary-eyed, I help him get dressed and ready.

6:41
We’re back in my room where I get Madman set up with my laptop and Netflix while I try to doze the remaining precious minutes until my alarm goes off at 7:15. He spends the time building with a handful of LEGO and saying “wook a dis!” with every creation, so I am unable to really sleep.

7:15
My alarm goes off and I grumble and get out of bed for good. While Madman continues to watch Ninjago I head to the bathroom to shower. I washed my hair last night so it doesn’t take long for me to be ready and dressed.

7:25
Matilda has joined Madman on my bed, watching Netflix as she gets ready. I shoo her into the bathroom to brush teeth and hair. I get jewelry on and pick out a sweater and we all head downstairs.

7:30
I make the kids breakfast smoothies and start considering what I want to take for lunch. I give them their smoothies in front of the TV (PBS Kids) and head back upstairs to do my make-up. Tour all the bedrooms gathering dirty clothes and putting them down the laundry cute. I only have to yell for the kids to stop fighting twice while I’m upstairs, not a bad morning.

7:45
I collect Madman’s empty smoothie cup and remind Matilda to keep drinking. She’s not a breakfast person and even smoothies are often left unfinished. Head into the kitchen to empty the dishwasher. Find we forgot to turn the dishwasher on last night so I shove a few more things in it and turn it on. Throw a pot of water on the stove since I’ve decided to take egg salad for lunch and need to hard boil some eggs. Do a few stray dishes and put them on the rack to dry.

7:55
Remind Matilda again to keep drinking. Start loading backpacks (Mark made lunches before he left). Realize Madman has a form that needs to be filled out so I do that. Make sure Matilda’s new shoes are marked with her name, find a snack to throw in her bag and put all the bags by the back door. Check work email.

8:00
What the heck is that smell? Oh, it’s the trash. Take it outside. “Matilda, for the love of god, please drink your smoothie and stop writhing around on the floor!” Brush her hair for the third time today.

8:10
Make some toast while the eggs finish cooking. Eat one egg and make egg salad with others. Pack up my lunch and add it to the pile of bags at the back door.

8:25
Tell Matilda to gather all the coats and boots. She dumps them all on the living room floor and the kids start to get ready to go. Tell Matilda to finish her now hour-old smoothie before she starts to get her gear on.

8:30
I take all the stuff out to the car (2 very full backpacks, my purse, laptop bag and lunch bag). Start the car so it warms up. Take the recycling out. Come back in and set out stuff for Mark to make dinner. He usually makes dinner but I made mac & cheese last night and he’ll just have to top it and throw it in the oven tonight.

8:40
Herd the kids to the car, get them buckled in and head to school. Get in car-line for preschool drop off.

8:45
Madman heads into school and Matilda and I park on the street to wait until she can get out. They go to the same school in the mornings but preschool drop off is at 8:45 and she can’t go inside until 9:05. So we sit in the car and chat. We usually use this time to review some school stuff. Since it’s Monday and we don’t have her spelling list yet, I give her math problems to solve while we wait. I check my work email in between problems.

9:05
I give her hugs and she runs up to the door. I head to work.

9:15
Arrive in my office. It’s still a mess from my event last week. Resolve to clear out all the crap by the end of the day. Chat with office mate, then take my lunch down to office kitchen. Chat with others along the way. Whoohoo! Donuts in the kitchen! Have half a donut while chatting with coworker. Return to my desk.

9:30 – 12:15
Crack open the first Diet Coke of the day
Edit content I was given for a mailing and hand off to designer
Get update from staff member on a project.
Meeting on donor recognition
Collect content for another mailing, start editing for audience.
Chit-chat with officemate about projects
Call PureBarre to redeem my Groupon (I’m scared that I won’t be able to move after the 1st class).
More editing and writing.
Call pediatrician to schedule appt to adjust Matilda’s meds. He can see her today, which is great but means I’m going to have to leave early. Say thankful words about my employer’s family-friendly workplace. Leaving early also means I can’t go to Target at lunch like I planned. Bummer.

12:15
Lunch with other coworkers who packed. Conversation ranges from the best Lenten fish fries in the region to odd things our kids have stuck up their noses. Fun stuff.

12:50 – 2:30
More editing and writing. I have a ton of stuff going out over the next 6 weeks, all of it needs to be approved by various people and given to the designer so my life it all about content generation right now.
Take a break from looking at the screen to clear out some of the event stuff.
Realize I need to call school to tell them not to send Matilda to after-care since I’ll be picking her up.

2:30
Meeting with staff member on program progress. Pop in to chat with co-worker across the hall for a few minutes.

3:00 3:15
Hustle to finish up stuff that needs to be to the designer by the end of the day. I’m nowhere near done nor is my desk clean. Looks like I’m working from home tonight and “end of the day” will be the true end of the day.  Leave to pick up Matilda.

3:30
Pick up my best girl, who looks like a ragamuffin as usual. Get yelled at by her teacher because I didn’t walk the 30 feet to the door and instead waited by my car like about 30 other parents. I didn’t see any of them get yelled at.
Head to doctor’s office as she chatters all about her day. Then we listen to Frozen and I cringe because OMG I’m so sick of this soundtrack, please make it stop.

3:45
Doctor is not on time. Shocking. Have Matilda work on her spelling words. She uses my phone to email them to my parents who will quiz her via FaceTime later in the week.

4:00
See doc and get a new Rx. Take it to the pharmacy where there is a 45 min wait. Text Mark with an update.
Have Matilda work on her spelling worksheets (she gets a worksheet with 12 activities on it each week, she has to choose 3 to do before Friday). She completes all 3 activities for the week before the prescription is ready.

4:50
Finally pick up meds, am shocked a the price and text Mark.  Pay through gritted teeth and head home.

5:15
Arrive home to Mark and Madman. On normal days Mark picks up both kids and is home by 5, with me getting home around 5:30. Chat with Mark about the confusion our new insurance plan is causing. Head upstairs to change into workout gear.

5:40
Dinner is on the table and both kids are refusing to eat. I have a banana and peanut butter since I’m working out later and don’t want a big meal. Have epic stand off with Madman who is refusing to even try the mac & cheese although it’s his favorite food. Matilda eats her required number of bites then makes herself a PB&J. I wonder why I bother cooking.

6:15
Hug the kids and head to PureBarre for my first class. I’m nervous. Arrive and fill out forms, redeem Groupon and find a spot in class. Proceed to have a tiny, sinewy, peppy woman kick my butt by making me do “just one inch more”. Holy crap that workout is hard.

8:00
Arrive home still soaked with sweat and concerned about my ability to move my… everything… tomorrow. Go upstairs to kiss Matilda goodnight and find her still reading. I lay down with her and take over the reading… we finish the rest of her chapter book.

8:13
Head downstairs for some reheated dinner. Check the news, twitter and FB. Update this post

8:32
Pull out the work I didn’t complete today and get to work editing.
Upload file to the designer with promise of the one missing section tomorrow after I get the info I’m waiting on.

9:52
Close laptop.
Check twitter on my phone and realize how sore I already am from PureBarre. Hunt up some prescription-strength ibuprofen.
Put away the few things still left out from dinner.
Chat with Mark for a few minutes before heading upstairs.

10:06
Sneak into each kids’ room to give them a kiss.
Fall into bed (having done the requisite bathroom routine). Read Attachments on my Kindle until my eyes can no longer stay open.

10:36
Lights out

We are never ever ever painting again*

THE LIVING ROOM IS PAINTED. It is DONE. I know…. you’re as relieved as I am after all the complaining I’ve done on social media. Sorry about that.

This post is here to counteract all the DIY home improvement blog posts about how painting is so quick and easy and “we got it knocked out during naptime” because NOPE. Not in an old house.

As I mentioned before, these walls are bare, never painted plaster that were wallpapered so long ago it was before the days of pre-pasted paper. So. They were kind of a mess. And since our living room has a wood-burning fireplace that has been used the walls had some soot and years of dirt/grime on them. You can kind of see in the background of this picture how they looked mottled and patchy.

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With family Christmas happening in 2 weeks at our house, I was determined not to have those walls as the backdrop in the photos. And, it’s not like we weren’t planning in this. We bought the paint at a major sale several months ago. All we needed was the motivation (see family visit comment above) and the time (ha!).

3 (4?)weeks ago I tackled scrubbing the stubborn remnants of wall paper glue off the entryway walls. I’m sure if you’ve ever removed wallpaper you’re scoffing at me because it’s not all that difficult. But this wasn’t modern paper. All of the wallpaper and backing was gone, leaving behind a sandpaper-like thin residue of decades old paste on the walls. This involved 13 ScotchBrite Heavy Duty Scour Pads (no, generics do not work as well – believe me we’ve tried them all), very hot water, vinegar and tons of elbow grease. Every inch had to be scoured hard, then wiped with a clean rag. The corners and edges near the trim was the worst. Our tiny entry way took me about 3.5 hours just to clean. We still had over 250 square feet of living room to tackle.

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note how awful the baseboards are in the entry

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prying off the plastic corner shields the previous owners had on all the corners. You can see what the wallpaper looked like here.

We hired Michelle’s daughter to play with the kids and keep them out of our way for 3 hours on a Saturday while Mark and I took on the living room. We got about 85% of it done, later figuring out that adding a bit of washing soda to the water helped loosen the glue. By the time we finished just scrubbing and cleaning the walls we had logged about 15 man hours of time already.

On to the paint! We decided early on that we wouldn’t even try to get the trim painted this go-round – with 3 windows with muntins, a bookcase and french doors there was just no time. That will have to wait until after Christmas. But, since we were priming anyway we decided to prime the baseboards and crown moulding along with the ceiling so they were at least uniformly white. We used a stain/odor blocking Sherwin Williams primer on everything. While we could be sloppy with most of the application, where the baseboard meets the hardwoods and the ceiling took forever. But, over the course of a weekend I managed to get everything primed and ready for the color.

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child labor

Now, as I said we had the pain already. We had purchased 2 gallons of Spalding Gray for the living room and 2 gallons of Popular Gray for the adjoining landing and stairway. We had already pilfered some of the Spalding for the upstairs bathroom but we figured we had enough left to get us through the living room. But I panicked and decided we needed another gallon because the walls were soaking up the paint. I grabbed a gallon of paint from the shelf in the basement to take to the Sherwin-Williams store for shaking/mixing and while I was there asked them to mix another gallon for me. When I got home I panicked. The color I had taken and had another expensive gallon made was Popular Gray – the lighter color for the hallway. I freaked out on twitter when someone suggested I take the paint back and have it tinted to the darker color. Duh! I went back and they tinted it to Spalding Gray – BUT, of course that can’t be the end of it. Popular Gray is mixed into a bright white base. Spalding Gray is mixed into a deep base. So my new gallon was still a bit lighter than the other gallon and a half we had at home. So, we decided to use the lighter version as a first coat, hoping a top coat of the true Spalding Gray would work out.

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Cutting in – the biggest time stuck ever. 

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You can see here the difference between the paint mixed into a bright white base and mixed in a deep base

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This stubby brush? A new discovery for me and it became my best friend when cutting in.

We plugged along with the color, with me cutting in and Mark later doing the roller work. Another afternoon of hiring a babysitter to corral the kids, a few hours of the kids going feral while closed in upstairs, a couple of very late nights and FOUR COATS OF PAINT LATER (1 primer, 1 base color, 2 final color) the room is done. DONE DONE DONE. (well, at least until I decide to tackle painting all the trim).

And I love it.

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someday I’ll post better, daylight photos

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Christmas mantle 2012

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MUCH better in 2013

*this title is likely a lie, but there is a reason painting projects only happen about once every 3 years around here. And sorry about the TSwift earworm.

Mac

My apologies for the rambling post and glut of photos, but I have tears streaming down my face as I write this.

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It was October 2001. Mark and had just celebrated our 1st anniversary that summer and we had been in our new house nearly a month and had discussed getting a dog. Mark and I wanted the same thing – a large dog, a rescue, not a puppy. But after al lot of talk we had come to the conclusion that we should wait about a year before adopting a dog.

Then one night we watched the movie “Return to Me” and while David Duchovny and Minnie Driver gave decent performances it was the dog, Mel, that won us over. At the end of the movie I turned to Mark and said, “We need a dog just like that. Let’s do it now” and he agreed.  We were on Petfinder.com that night.

I came across the listing for “Slick” at the Toledo Humane Society. He was 2 years old, a lab-shepherd mix (they thought) and he had big, dark puppy eyes. We went to meet him and he was the mellowest dog we’d ever met. They warned us that he was prone to ear infections and was sensitive around his ears so we were gentle and gave him his space. We could see his personality right away and knew he was our dog. Paperwork was filled out and we scheduled a time to come back to get him.

When we arrived to take him home, several staff came out to greet us. Slick had been at the Humane Society for several months. As a large adult dog he wasn’t what most people were looking for; he had long fur, was prone to shedding and got lots of ear infections. He wasn’t overly affectionate and shied away from anyone touching his head because of his sore ears. But the staff adored this sweet boy and they were so excited for him to be adopted. We happily took him back to our new house where he quickly came inside and pooped under the dining room table. Our first thought was “oh no! What have we gotten ourselves into?”

There was no need to worry as that was the one and only time he ever did that. He didn’t answer to Slick (there was some confusion as his name on some papers was Slick, on others it was Flick) so we changed his name to Mac (yes, after Apple computers), which he took to right away. He really was the best dog – housebroken and trained. He never strayed from our yard, even when off-leash, he didn’t bark unless there was a reason to, but if there was reason his bark told you to back off! He never chewed anything that wasn’t given to him or got onto furniture without permission. Yes, he did get nasty ear infections but we learned to deal with them. When we started taking him to our own vet we learned that he was closer to 4 years old which did partly explained his mellow nature.

We also came to learn (over time) that he was allergic to wheat and corn, which is what caused the ear infections. I remember a short time where we fed him a raw diet of …I don’t remember exactly but it involved chicken and carrots and maple syrup and we were spending more on his food then on our own!

Mac quickly became part of our extended family. Despite his size and his deep, rumbling bark he was gentle as can be around nieces, nephews and the children of friends. At home he sometimes pretended he was a lap dog and crawled onto the couch for a belly rub. He was so chill that we used to joke that when we left for work during the day, Mac put on his smoking jacket and read Proust until we returned. He seemed too dignified for tricks, almost sighing at you when you asked him to “shake”, but he would do it to please you.

He did have a few quirks – one was that he hated cages/kennels so boarding him was never an option. Luckily we have good friends who had a golden retriever around the same age and we became each other’s dogsitters. Mac and Kilmer would put on a royal joust each evening they were together, both vying for Mark’s affections. Mac was Mark’s shadow; they had a bond like no other. Mac was Mark’s dog first and foremost.

When Matilda came along in 2006 Mac rolled with the punches without even a blip. He quickly took to hanging out around the baby when she was on the floor, not so much protecting her as just being near her. Things really looked up for Mac when she started eating table food. She could hang on him, squeeze his fur and he would patiently wait for a moment where he could make his get-a-way, but he never so much as growled at her. Madman’s entrance to the family was just as easy with Mac. Mac is a fixture in every family photo

Another of his quirks was his internal clock. No matter where we were or what we were doing at 10 PM on the dot he’d find you to let him out. And if you were late he’d start pacing from you to the back door until you got the hint.

Mac was so mellow from the start that it was always fun to see his playful side come out. He loved the snow, and even in his old age would romp around like a puppy after the first snowfall.

He’s been a fixture in our house, at family events and in our lives. A constant reminder that all you really need to be happy in life is a nap, a hot dog and a belly rub.

About 18 months ago Mac had a seizure. It was awful to witness and so hard to deal with. Our vet, who loves Mac as much as we do, told us to start preparing for the end. Of course Mac was fine for months after that.

About 6 months ago he had another. And another. He was often unable to get up from a laying position without help supporting his hind legs. His appetite came and went and he got thin. Discussion with our vet found nothing unexpected…he’s an old dog nearing the end of his life. He had a large growth (lump) on his neck and one near his liver. We decided to just let make him as comfortable as possible in his old age and not intervene.

Last week he had another seizure and instead of walking around after and “shaking it off” he just lay on the ground, with no energy left in him to gain his bearings. Anther discussion with the vet and we decided it was time to let him go. Today is that day and Mark and I are barley holding it together. As much as we know this is absolutely the right thing for Mac it doesn’t make it any easier.

Goodbye, buddy. Thank you for all the joy, smiles and cuddles you brought to our lives for the last 12 years. Thank you for being the best dog anyone could ever hope to have.

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Things I’ve Bought Lately

non-disclosure: I bought everything in this post with my own cash, and have no incentive to write about any product except my desire to share my finds with you. Links are not affiliate links. 

Taking a cue from Sarah Lena, I’ve decided to share with you some of the things I’ve bought lately. Just because.

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Swell soap and sea buckthorn oil. I saw this item being discussed on Twitter by a few people who were swearing by it. Apparently it’s the new buzz product being recommended by estheticians around town and it’s now being sold at local-grocer Heinen’s. At first I scoffed at the idea of a $24 bar of soap. Not to mention that I haven’t used a bar soap on my face since I used Clinique in high school. But I kept seeing people talk about it so I checked it out. I was totally rolling my eyes at the hippie-talk on the website but I noticed it’s a local company. Then I ran out of my previous (purchased on clearance at Target) face soap and I Heinen’s had both the soap and oil on sale. So I’ve been using it about 2 weeks now and I’ve noticed an improvement in my skin, especially my pores (not so visible anymore) and the overall tone. So, color me impressed. I would by this again.

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Payless Women’s Claire Scrunch Flat by Dexter. I have finally admitted to myself that I am a flats girl. I’m slowly getting rid of all my heels, including my long-coveted Cole Haan pumps. I don’t wear them. Ever. If I need height I wear wedges. So when Miranda (and someone else, I can’t remember who!) mentioned some Payless flats a while ago on twitter, I ordered some in black. Fast forward 5 months and I’ve worn them every working day and the sole is starting to wear out. So I took advantage of the current BOGO sale and got a new pair of black and this tweed gray. I LOVE these shoes. They are like wearing slippers. I may need to stock-pile some at the next sale in case they ever stop making them.

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image from Amazon.com

I didn’t buy this but Mark gave it to me for my birthday. I was nicely surprised but I’m not a huge cookbook person…I prefer to get my recipes from the web where I can read reviews and reactions. However, I’ve quickly fallen in love with this book. It’s nothing ground breaking, nothing fancy. I’ve described it as “stupid-easy recipes you wonder why you didn’t come up with yourself”. Nothing is odd (no doctored condensed soup, no pre-made ingredients), but every recipe we’ve had so far has been really good and very fast. I’m looking forward to cooking my way through the book.

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Bacon, tomato, basil pasta -so so good!

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Grilled flank steak with corn & bacon salad – yum!

So, have you bought anything fun lately?

Cheering at the Cleveland Marathon

This past Sunday was the Cleveland Marathon, and while Mark was not running it, we knew several people who were – including my friend Vin and twitter friends Jenna and Michelle. This was going to be the first time Mark would be on the spectator side of things since he started running, which was interesting. As I said before, this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve cheered at several marathons in many cities.

The entire week before I kept saying “We need to make our plans for Sunday” and he’d kind of shrug and say, “we will”. Ha. He’s never done this before so I didn’t push. On Saturday I dug out a couple of my laminated signs and got poster board to make a few more.

FINALLY, on Saturday night after the kids were in bed we started to plan our cheer attack. We pulled up the course map, Google maps, a list of road closings, and cheering stations. Of course each one of these bits of information were on different webpages – the Cleveland Marathon site wasn’t much help. We did find that Cleveland.com had a good resource page with links for everything we needed.

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Race-spectator planning, more complicated than you’d think it would be.

By the time we had it done (nearly 2 hours later) Mark was tired and a bit shocked at how much effort it took. But, before we went to bed we had our bags packed, signs made and route plotted.

Bright and early on Sunday morning we loaded up the kids and headed to Tremont. We easily parked behind Sokolowski’s and set up at the corner of W 13th and Abbey just before the 10-mile marker. This was a GREAT spot to see both full and half runners. Easy to get to, there were other people cheering nearby and shade was plentiful if you wanted it. It was also pretty easy to see they runners as the came around the corner from W 11th.

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One of my favorite cheer signs ever – always gets laughs

We saw Vin who was in great spirits and gave us high fives and a very sweaty hug. Having not ever met Jenna in real life, every woman with a green tank top on got a good look over. When we saw her she was on the other side of the road so we burst into shouts of “Go Jenna” and I waved her sign around above my head.

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Once we saw Jenna and Vin and Mark got to see some of his running mates, we packed up our things and headed to our next spot at E 40th and Chester at mile 16. Again, having planned our route the night before, it was easy to get to this spot. We found street parking on 40th and walked 2 blocks to a shaded cheering spot. This was a pretty good place to cheer with easy access to parking just a couple of blocks away. The kids were hungry so we set them up with snacks, mounted a sign on the stroller and started cheering.

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The stroller hasn’t been used in a year, but came in handy on Sunday

I must say that it was here that I started to feel sad about how my city appeared during this marathon. There was a pile of rubble in the road right in front of us and a half a block down there was tire debris strewn near the curb. We were near a cross street that had weak traffic control so people were zooming across in front of runners even though the intersection was closed. Those that did stop to turn around weren’t given good instructions about how to get around and often ended up back at the stop sign confused and angry about being stuck. The lack of thought about things like sweeping the streets and providing clear directional signage just makes Cleveland look amateurish compared to other marathons.

photo 1-4Vin, looking good just over halfway through his first marathon

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Random rubble pile, in the running lane of the street – not cool, Cleveland! 

After Vin and the others went by we carted our stuff back to the car to head to our final destination: E 33rd and St. Clair at 24.5 miles. After getting stuck in a parking lot-like traffic on E 55th (I couldn’t see but I don’t think they had any alternative route for traffic where St. Clair was closed – nothing was moving at all except for cars turning around to head back north. It was a mess), we finally got to Hamilton which runs parallel to St. Clair and parked in a lot facing the course at the corner of 33rd. This was an AWESOME spot. You can literally tailgate from your car here. This should be an “official cheering station” next year.

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I made this sign after Mark lost his first toenail. Runners are gross.

It was brutally hot and there wasn’t anyone else cheering nearby and I felt awful for the runners. They were coming up a long, hot stretch of nothingness – mostly empty storefronts and warehouses with no shade anywhere. I also couldn’t believe that there were large box trucks parked on the street here that the runners had to run around. Again – couldn’t the Marathon Organization do something to clear the side of the street the runners were on? This intersection did have a more forceful guy directing traffic (“Get off your phone and get the hell off my street!”) but there were still some close calls as idiots played chicken with the runners. It wasn’t until a cop showed up that the cars stopped going across the course.

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Outtake of photo above, but it shows people being stupid

About 70% of the runners were walking through here. We were cheering and reminding them they were less than 2 miles to the finish, trying to keep them going. Lots of them had cramps… lots of them were complaining about the heat, the many potholes and the boring route. “I hate this course!” was heard often. I felt so bad for them – we kept reminding them a water station was just ahead.

I finally saw Vin walking and I walked out to meet him. He was cramping pretty badly and was drenched in sweat. I walked with him for a block then Mark ran/walked with him for the next mile. On his way back to us Mark saw his friend Michelle, also walking, so he joined her for a bit.

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Michelle aka “RunnerMommy” – drove up from Cincinnati and ran a marathon with bronchitis. BAD. ASS. 

By the time he got back the kids were D.O.N.E. and were waiting in the car. It was close to noon so we took off for home, getting the finish results via text on our phones.

It was a fun day and I’m thrilled to have been able to cheer on our friends, and make a few other runners smile with our signs. But, overall, I was kind of disappointed in my city. I was dismayed to hear of injuries due to un-marked potholes or broken concrete. I was sad to see the debris on the road and trash on the sidewalks where we cheered. And disheartened to see so few cheering on the sidelines (compared to what I’ve seen in Columbus, Cincinnati and other towns). No, Cleveland will never be Chicago, Baltimore or the Twin Cities – all known for their scenery or great crowds – but we can at least send the street sweepers through the course and do more to encourage a crowd.

We’re better than this, Cleveland! There are 360 days until the 2014 Cleveland Marathon…. Put May 18, 2014 on your calendar now and join me on the sidelines to cheer!