(Don’t) Ring My Bell

Last night we had to call the police to our house because of a possible intruder.

Let me explain *said in the voice of Indigo Montoya*
I had a hard time falling asleep and it wasn’t until about 12:15 that I finally put my Kindle down and closed my eyes. So I was in kind of that hazy not-asleep-not-awake stage when I thought I heard the doorbell ring. I looked at my clock and it was 1:01 AM. “Hmmm” a foggy thought came to me “I must have dreamed that someone rang the doorbell…Or did I hear the doorbell for real. Why would anyone be at the door at 1 AM?” So I lay there for a moment – I’m not sure for how long since I was still in a hazy state. It may have been 20 seconds or 2 minutes. I finally decided I should just go check it out to satisfy my curiosity. When I got half way down the stairs I heard a buzzing and I started to freak out.

See, we live in an old house and we have a wired doorbell. There is a button at both the front and back doors. But the back button almost always sticks when it gets pushed, and when that happens the doorbell buzzes after it chimes. I knew as soon as I heard the buzz that someone had pushed the button and I knew it was the back door.

I ran upstairs and woke Mark up (he is a deep sleeper and I hadn’t heard the bell or me get out of bed). He woke up and was in a dazed panic. He ran downstairs and started going from window to window to see if he could see anything, I followed. Of course the doorbell was still buzzing but we didn’t want to open the back door to unstick the button because what if someone was out there? The way our yard and windows are, there was an area someone could be lurking and we wouldn’t know.

So I ran back upstairs to get my phone and called the police – they sent 3 squad cars over immediately. (side note: I first went to grab our landline downstairs and realized I had NO IDEA what our city’s no-emergency phone number was but knew it was in my cell phone. So instead of calling 911 I went back upstairs to call and it took forever because I was shaking and kept hitting the wrong thin in my contact list. I need to put emergency numbers by the phone!) This is when living 3 blocks from the police station comes in handy. A police SUV came down our driveway to the back of the house and we had cops at our backdoor by 1:05. They also had a car at the house behind us and the 3rd was cruising on our street looking in side yards.

The officers were really nice. We explained our sticky doorbell and how we know someone had to push it to get it stuck. They circled our house, checked our garage, checked our neighbors yards and spent about 20 minutes circling the surrounding blocks looking for anything suspicious. The one thing that struck me as funny was they asked “Where you expecting anyone tonight?” They actually asked that twice. Yeah, we were expecting guests  at 1 AM on a Monday and when they arrived we called the cops!

Anyway, we were back in bed, with hearts still racing at 1:25. I don’t think I fell asleep again until about 3:00 AM; every creak of the house settling or ping of a radiator had me jumping. I hate the feeling of being scared in your own house.

Today the police called to check on us (so nice!). They never did see anyone or have any reports of other disturbances. However, they did say that this could have been a thief scoping our house to see 1) if anyone was home and/or 2) what we did. I’m so glad we called the police because they arrived swiftly and stayed in the area for awhile. I’m also glad we have a house alarm, and that both our storm doors and inside doors were locked. Oh, and that both kids slept through it all. It also reaffirmed the expense of hiring a house-sitter when we go on vacations.

Have you ever had anything that made you freak out in your house?

(Remind me sometime to tell you about how at our old house the fire department nearly broke down the door while we were on vacation.)

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

Castaway Bay Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: Castaway Bay provided one night of accommodations with water park passes, as well as four day passes to give away to one reader. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

Update: Congratulations to commenter #6 – Andrea! Please check your email!

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Confession time: While I’ve been to Cedar Point probably one hundred times in my life I’d never been to any of their water parks. In fact, I’ve never been to any indoor water park. So when I was invited to be part of an overnight at Castaway Bay as part of #CPMoms I jumped at the chance.

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Timing was perfect – right in the middle of (another) polar vortex and we were all itching for something different, something warm, something fun. The 82 degree air of the indoor water park was calling our name. We didn’t tell the kids where we were going so they were super excited when we pulled into the parking lot and they saw the three tube slides that snake their way out of the building. We wasted no time checking in and getting ourselves ready to hit the slides. We were given a “Starfish” room with 2 queen beds, a closet, a mini fridge, a microwave, a small table with 2 chairs, a bathroom with a bathtub/shower, and a screened balcony with view of the frozen bay. The room was nice and was clean (and the fridge was great to have), but it’s nothing special. It’s a standard, if a little dated, hotel room. Castaway Bay also has suites with bunk beds and 2-room suites for bigger families.

But, you’re not at Castaway Bay for the hotel rooms, are you? You’re there for the WATER PARK! Which is why as soon as our bags were in the room and we grabbed some pizza we suited up and headed to the slides. And here is where I totally fail as blogger… because I didn’t take my camera with me into the water park and therefore I have no pictures. You guys, I’m so sorry. But the thought of chasing kids around the water with a camera just sounded like a disaster.

However, here is what I can report… the park is perfect for young families. Matilda, at age 7, was able to roam the park freely. Castaway Bay had plenty to keep her entertained without being enormous. She beelined for the wave pool and rode the waves for awhile before exploring the Lookout Lagoon Family Funhouse. She spent a ton of time running up and down the stairs, going down the smaller slides and cheering as the giant bucket dumped 1,000 gallons of water over the whole structure. She finally found her way up to the top of Rendezvous Run water roller coaster that shoots you uphill using water jets. After her first run she was hooked! And I have to agree. Mark and I both rode this ride several times and it was really fun.

While Matilda was feeling all “big kid” and having free rein, Madman found his bliss in the Toddler Tide Pool. With a few shorter slides, water pipes and lots of room to splash he was a happy dude. And with the set up, it meant he was able to do what he wanted (go down the tandem slides over and over and over) while either Mark or I hung out near the pool edge keeping an eye on him. I honestly was worried about the logistics of wrangling 2 kids at a water park, but the set up of Castaway Bay gave us parents peace of mind. Neither kid could really get out of our sight at anytime so we were able to breathe easy. And it also meant that Mark and I could take turns checking out the bigger slides like the Paradise Plunge and Tropical Tube Slides.

This seems like a good time for me to give a shout out to the Castaway Bay Lifeguards. They are trained as are part of Ellis & Associates National Pool & Waterpark Lifeguard Training Program. As a former guard myself, I know that Ellis guards are some of the best trained in the industry as they have very rigorous standards. Castaway Bay has received numerous awards of excellence from Ellis and the guards were attentive and friendly. I was completely at ease with Matilda and Madman going on all the slides and in each pool even if Mark or I weren’t right at their sides.

Fun at CB doesn’t stop when you leave the water park. We took a swim break to check out the arcade and later we did some crafts including decorate-your-own beach towels. We also got info on Club Castaway but didn’t partake (the kids wanted MORE SWIMMING!). But in Club Castaway kids can sing karaoke, attend a dance party with the Peanuts gang and even watch a Peanuts movie or have a bedtime story with Snoopy. There is a Club Castaway schedule at the front desk and most activities are free. Mark, the coffee addict, wants you to know that there’s a Starbucks on-site, as well.

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Now that we’re no longer water park newbies we’ll definitely be going back to Castaway Bay to break up the winter doldrums. It was a perfect quick getaway (only 90 minutes from the eastern Cleveland ‘burbs!) and it was a much, much needed family break from being trapped inside our house. Even if we don’t go for the full overnight again this winter, it’s nice to know that it’s totally worth the drive for a tropical day trip.

And now the giveaway… Castaway Bay gave me 4 day-passes for one reader ($100 value!). Just leave a comment before midnight (eastern) on 2/12 telling me why you want to win.

Playing Tourist

My dear friend Pauline has always said you should play tourist in your hometown. And she’s right. Six years of living in Cleveland and we’re still discovering new things. We love to spend weekends exploring new parks, markets, restaurants and places. But a few weeks ago, we were able to have a fun overnight tourist adventure in Uptown thanks to the InterContinental Suites and Cleveland Botanical Gardens. See, they had a little contest on FB and Twitter and I won! So the weekend after Christmas we secretly packed a bag, put the kids in the car and told them we were going on adventure.

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Our first stop on this unseasonably warm Saturday was CBG for the Glow – their awesome annual holiday show. We took advantage of the daylight and explored the outdoor gardens. The kids ran off some energy on the paths before heading in to check out the array of gingerbread houses, indoor camping, dozens of Christmas trees and more. We’re frequent visitors of CBG and we love the Glow exhibit!

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After the sun started to set we got back in the car and said “I don’t feel like going home. Do you? It would be fun to not go home tonight!” The kids were a bit surprised. Well, Matilda was flabbergasted: “What!? We HAVE to go home! We can’t sleep in the car!”. After a discussion about how cold the car would be overnight we ended up at ABC Tavern for some dinner. Since it was only 5:00 we were basically the only ones in there. The kids loved all the open space, the juke box, and the bowling game.

IMG_0540Cheers to adventure in our own town!

After dinner we walked over to one of the newest Mitchell’s for our favorite dessert. Then strolled over to Constantino‘s for a few provisions.

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By this point Matilda was nearly beside herself. We had been out for almost 4 hours and Mark and I kept talking about stating uptown all night but she was adamant about going home. She wanted a bed to sleep in! She couldn’t sleep in the car! So when we pulled up outside of the InterContinental Suites Hotel and Mark said “why don’t we just stay here tonight?” she was aghast: “I don’t have any books to read! I need my pajamas!” I smiled and as I pulled the packed bag out of the trunk and her eyes grew wide. “Are we really staying here?” she asked over and over.

Their Director of Sales & Marketing, who set up our stay, put us in an suite with an adjoining room for the kids since they were not at full capacity that night. I knew InterContinental’s were nice (I’ve stayed in other properties) but this was almost too much! Mark and I were SHOCKED at our set-up. A full suite with living room, bed room and kitchenette PLUS an adjoining standard room (it was huge) with a king bed and other kitchenette. The best part is that we took up a full corner of the hall and had no neighbors we had to worry about disturbing.

The kids took no time to get settled in. They were on the bed, watching cartoons (we don’t have cable at home, so the TV as a luxury to them) and drawing on the notepads within minutes.

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Soon they had discovered the bathrobes. Once they were wrapped up Madman kept saying “I’m a king!” And Matilda just sighed, leaned back on the couch and said “this is the life” as she put her slippered feet up.

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They were thrilled to cozy up in bed and watch a movie. Something they only get to do on vacation!

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We all slept well, given that we were spread out across a huge area. The next morning after a delicious breakfast at C2 (also part of the prize package), we did some more serious lounging in the room before checkout. Matilda even took a bath, if only to wrap up in the robe and try out the phone in the bathroom.

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Nearly a month later and the kids are still talking about our surprise overnight adventure. I’m so grateful to InterContinental Suites and Cleveland Botanical Gardens for providing such a memorable weekend. I can’t wait to do it again!

Have you ever done an overnight adventure in your town? Or just a surprise trip? We may do another one sooner than the kids think… (like tomorrow night! Shhh! It’s a secret!)

The Nutcracker Tradition with Ohio Dance Theater (Giveaway!)

Disclosure: I was invited to a social media night, including a preview of the upcoming Ohio Dance Theater production of The Nutcracker but I was not compensated for this post. I was given tickets to a performance I am unable to attend, so I am giving away those tickets to one of you. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

I grew up going to The Nutcracker every year and it’s a tradition I’ve carried on with Matilda (when he’s a little older, Madman will join us). I just love the splendor of going to the theater during the holiday season. Not to mention that The Nutcracker is, in my opinion, a great introduction to ballet for kids – it’s got an easy to follow storyline, fantastic action scenes and a magical set. So when Ohio Dance Theater (ODT) and the Niche Parent Network invited me to attend a preview night, I jumped at the chance to get a behind the scenes peek of my favorite ballet.

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I’m going to be honest: before I was contacted to attend this event I had never heard of ODT, mostly because I had limited my searches for shows to the downtown Cleveland area. Forgetting about the strong commitment to the arts in the college town of Oberlin was dumb move on my part because that’s where the critically-acclaimed ODT has been since 1992. And it’s less than an hour away from my house…duh! Having a chance to see what they were all about was an exciting prospect. They have been putting on The Nutcracker for years and this year’s lavish production includes a cast of 20 professional dancers, two trainees, two apprentices and New York City Ballet Principal Dancer, Daniel Ulbricht will be a guest artist. We had such a great time at the preview – seeing a few dances, examining the costumes up close and meeting the professional dancers.

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Matilda and Life in Cleveland’s daughter were inspired to start dancing as soon as the ballerinas were done

Anyway, now I know better and will broaden my search for performances of The Nutcracker in the future, and I’m looking forward to attending other productions put on by this local professional dance company. The good news for you is this…I was given two complementary tickets to attend any Nutcracker performance between December 20-22nd at the Stocker Arts Center and I want to pass them on to one of you!

To win the tickets all you have to do is tell me in comments what your is your favorite scene in the Nutcracker or, if you’ve never seen a performance, tell me your favorite holiday tradition. Bonus entry: tweet the following phrase and leave a comment letting me know you tweetedI want to see @OhioDance perform the #ClevelandNutcracker thanks to @kakaty.  

One comment and one tweet per person (two total possible entries) winner will be randomly selected from comments on this post at noon eastern, Monday, December 16. Good luck!

If you want to see the Nutcracker with Ohio Dance Theatre performances run from Dec 20-22.  You can purchase tickets here.

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The Nutcracker is one of our favorite Christmas traditions. Thanks, Ohio Dance Theater!

Indians Family Social Suite

Earlier in the summer I had applied to attend a Tribe game in the Family Social Suite. I asked to attend this last weekend because Mark is a life-long Mets fan and it was my birthday weekend. I was overjoyed when the Indians told me I was selected to attend and we were looking forward to taking Madman to his first Tribe game.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the Indians know what families want and need and they cater to it. From the Kids Clubhouse  to adding the Family Social Suite to the popular Social Suite this year, they are a fantastic organization. Having been in the regular Social Suite before, I was excited to take the kids this time.

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Being selected gets you access to the wifi enabled suite (hello private bathroom!) – everything else is on your own dime. We were in the suite with 2 other families. Friday night was dollar dog night and we were visited by all three of the racing Hot Dogs…I’ll tell you now that Ketchup is very sweet and Mustard is a prankster!

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Mark was “attacked” by Onion and Ketchup as he ate his second Dollar Dog. Not awkward at all to be eating
hot dogs when the Hot Dogs visit the suite.

Matilda, who is terrified of people in costume, hid in the bathroom the whole time.

The game was a good one (GRAND SLAM!), the weather was perfect and the suite had enough space and things to do to keep the kids entertained while we watched the game. (The family suite is stocked with games, puzzles and drawing materials!)

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Madman preferred to watch the game inside the suite on the TV from the comfy chairs, of course. 

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Even Slider made a visit to the suite! 

During the 7th inning we took the kids down to the Rookie Suite where they could blow off some steam while we still watched the game. Seriously, if you haven’t been to a game with little kids in the last 2 seasons, get there ASAP. The Kids Clubhouse is situated so the parents can still see the game while the kids climb, play, and craft.

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Seventh Inning Stretch

When we got back up to to the suite the real surprise of the night happened. We were going to watch the post-game fireworks from a dugout! As soon as the game ended we gathered up our stuff and hustled down to the field with strict instructions to stay off the grass.

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After some family photographs on the field we went into the (sunflower seed shell covered) dugout. It was then that the Mets ball boy (it think it was their ball boy), who was getting something from the dugout, handed Madman a game ball! Mark was just over the moon. The kids were excited because “cool! a ball!” – they have no idea how awesome it is that they got a game ball while in the dugout after a MLB game.

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Soon the fireworks started and we had the best seats in the house, hands down.

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The entire night was unforgettable. We had such a fantastic time with the Tribe. There are 11 home games left as they chase the postseason. Tickets start at just $10 and you can always apply to be in the Social Suites.

I applied for and was granted access to the Family Social Suite. I was not asked to post about the game nor was I given any compensation. I just wanted to write about a fantastic night with the Tribe. 

Sky Zone Westlake Review and Giveaway

UPDATE: Congratulations to lucky number 1: Ashley, who won the 4 1-hour passes. Please check your email!

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Disclosure: I was invited to bring my family to Sky Zone Westlake to try it out for free but I was not compensated for this post. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

Awhile back, one of my favorite bloggers mentioned taking her boys to an indoor trampoline park and I thought “OMG that sounds so cool! Cleveland needs one of those”. Fast forward to this summer and now we do! And let me tell you, it’s a blast!

Sky Zone Westlake opened in July and it has not taken long for the word to get out. In fact, the first time we made the trip, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, the parking lot was overflowing with parked cars lining the street surrounding the brand new facility. We didn’t even try to go in that day. We came back another weekend, bright and early on a Saturday morning. We arrived when they opened at 9:00 AM and basically had the place to ourselves.

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Sky Zone Jump Shoes – they are required to jump and included in the price. 
Don’t forget your socks!

I opted not to jump due to an old knee injury (torn ACL) that makes me scared to jump. But Mark and the kids took no time to check it all out. From the open jump area (a floor of trampolines, with trampoline walls) to the foam pit, they ran back and forth like crazy hopping frogs.

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Sorry for the blur – the kids never stood still!

I was worried that at age 3.5, Madman would have a hard time. I didn’t need to worry. He buzzed around enjoying all the features. Our only problem  with him was keeping him from sitting down on the trampolines (against the rules) and running along the padded edges (blue strips between the trampolines – also against the rules). I think for a regular day, age 3-3.5 may be as young as you want to go. But they just started a toddler time which sounds be perfect for the littles as parents are allowed on the pads to supervise. Madman found his true love in the foam pit. That dude spent most of the hour flinging himself into the pit then climbing back out.

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The pit is so fun, even Mark did a few dives.
Madman loved it even though he did sometimes struggle to get out of the pit, but there was
always a Sky Zone employee there to give him a hand.

One last thing – while a 30 minute ($10) or even 60 minute ($14) session doesn’t sound that long, my kids could only jump for about 10 minutes at a time before having to take a break. They were wiped out after an hour. Even Mr. Marathon Runner Mark was tired and sore the next day. This place is going to be awesome this winter – a perfect place to get the energy out!

The facility  was clean, they had friendly, helpful staff and they offer all kinds of programs – from dodgeball, SkySlam Basketball and SkyRobics (fitness classes on the trampoline floor) to teen nights and birthday parties. There are quarter-operated lockers for your stuff, a snack bar, and lots of areas to sit and watch (or rest!)

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View from upper viewing area and the private party room

Tips for when you visit Sky Zone Westlake:
1) bring your socks!
2) go close to opening time for less crowds
3) fill out your waiver before you go to save time
4) bring quarters to stash your stuff in the lockers.

Ready to give it a try? One reader will win passes for one (1) hour jump time for a family of four (4). All you need to do is visit Sky Zone’s website and tell me in comments what you want to try out or why you want to go OR tweet the following phrase and leave a comment letting me know you tweeted: I want to jump at @SkyZoneWestlake thanks to @kakaty : http://wp.me/p3i9i6-Fw 

 One comment/entry per person, winner will be selected on Friday, September 6.

Weekend Recap: A Date with our Girl Edition

Oh what a weekend…

It started out as usual with our summer Saturday ritual of heading to Shaker Square for breakfast at the Farmer’s Market. We get most of our meat, eggs and cheese at the market in the summers, along with produce. The first local strawberries were the excitement of the day and consumed quickly. The kids were also thrilled that Donut Lab was there and chowed down on freshly made donuts loaded with powdered sugar.

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Then Matilda and I headed to a graduation party on the far west side of town. The honoree is someone I’ve known for at least 16 years…I babysat for her when she was just 2 years old and now she’s heading to my alma mater. To make me feel even older, one of the guests was a girl I coached in soccer while I was a college student. She was 9 when I coached her, she now has her masters degree and is working at a nearby university! Oh, how old I feel!

The party was at Huntington Beach and while the weather wasn’t the best, the beach was sunny and warm enough for some fun. Huntington is one of the best beaches in the area (side note: I’m so thrilled that the Metroparks is taking over the management of six lakefront parks. Such fantastic news for everyone!) so Matilda played with the other kids while I quickly found a handful of pretty beach glass.

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Sunday was the big day of the weekend and something that Matilda had been looking forward to for 2 weeks: her date with Mark and me. While we often take the kids out for one-on-one time it’s rare that one kid gets to spend time with the two of us. Matilda had earned an outing and this was her choice. So we got a sitter for Madman and headed out on our adventure. She, of course, picked Noodlecat for her lunch so we started off with some ramen and steam bun and ended with a delicious push-up.

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From there we explored the town – checking out the film set, driving through the Flats to see all the bridges, ending up in Ohio City. I wanted to walk around to try to find the iconic spot where so many people get photos taken with the skyline as a background. We had no luck (although, thanks to Ashley, next time I know where to go) but had fun walking around and being goofy.

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After posing in front of the mural above we checked out the Ohio City Farm and walked around for a bit. It’s so neat to see the farm there, right in the heart of the city and neighborhood, doing so much good for so many people. Hopefully next time we’re back the farm stand will be open.

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Before we got to the car to head home we popped in the Glass Bubble Project to look around. Greeted by a friendly chicken and the nicest artists you’d ever meet, we watched as they started work on a new piece. Matilda can’t wait to go back, but only when “it’s winter so I don’t get sweaty”. It would be so fun for her and Mark to take a class there together!

We had a really great time, hanging out with our almost-first-grader, even though there were several times I felt anxious, like I was forgetting something. Not having Madman around was odd and it seems as if a piece of us was missing. But, Matilda talked about her date all night – how her dad always opened her door for her and took care of her.

Sunday evening, as Mark started cooking up some burgers, a girl on our street asked if Matilda could come play in their sprinkler. Even thought it was dinner time we let her go – I’ve never seen her get into a bathing suit so fast! She played while Mark cooked and Madman, Mark and I had dinner. Of course, we couldn’t keep him away from the fun so he got fully soaked in his clothes. Exactly how a summer evening should be!

How was your weekend?

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.

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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!

My Kids are NoodleKids – Are Yours? (Giveaway)

It’s no secret that this entire family is a fan of Noodlecat. It’s Matilda’s favorite place and, judging by Mark’s twitter feed, his favorite lunch spot. We eat there often because we love the food, we love the sustainable philosophy and we love Chef Sawyer.


Here’s a fun fact… when we moved to Cleveland 5 years ago, Chef Sawyer was at Bar Cento which is where we took our first date night in the city. It was there we met the chef and learned about his “Cook Chefin’,”  nights where kids got to make their own pizzas (with chef assistance) in the restaurant’s kitchen. The entire Sawyer family’s devotion to making good, healthy food accessible and fun for kids is something they’ve made a priority for years. Kids are warmly welcomed in their restaurants. It’s one of the many things we love about them. So I’m thrilled to tell you about their upcoming NoodleKid event at Noodlecat:

We will be there for sure. We can’t wait.

The Cat wants you there so I have tickets to give away to my readers. The winner will get up to 4 tickets for either a 11 a.m. or 12 p.m. seating. You have 2 chances to enter:

1) Leave me a comment telling me either your kid’s favorite food or your favorite meal to cook with them.

2) Tweet: “I want my #Noodlekids to get their slurp on @Noodle_Cat 2/23 http://www.kakakakaty.com/2013/02/13/noodlekids”  then leave me a comment telling me you tweeted. Please only do this one time so you don’t annoy your followers.

You have until 6:00 PM on Monday, 2/18 to enter. I’ll email the winner that night.

Seats are filling up fast, so if you want a guaranteed spot call the number above ASAP to make your reservation.

Good luck!

Disclosure: Our family has spent many meals at Noodlecat and I’m happy to help them promote their kids events. I received tickets Noodlekids but I was not compensated for this post. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. And believe me, Noodlecat is always worth the visit.