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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


note how awful the baseboards are in the entry


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.


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.


Cutting in – the biggest time stuck ever. 


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



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.


someday I’ll post better, daylight photos


Christmas mantle 2012


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.


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


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 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.


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.

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 10.40.58 AMimage from swellskin.net

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.

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 10.53.21 AMimage from Payless.com

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.

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 11.19.31 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 11.39.01 AM

Bacon, tomato, basil pasta -so so good!

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 11.38.29 AM

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.

photo 1-3

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.

photo 2-3

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.

photo 3-1

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.

photo 4-2

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

photo 5

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.

photo 3-2

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.

photo 2-4

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.

photo 4-3

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!

How to Cheer at a Marathon

I’m not a runner. I never will be. I tried it for a while but I hated it. But ever since Mark started the C25K program nearly 3 years ago, he’s been addicted. That means the kids and I have cheered at a LOT of races – 5k, 10k, half and full marathons – we’ve done them and I have a few tips for anyone who wants become a professional run spectator like me. I probably should have posted this last week, before the Cleveland Marathon, but now you’ll know what to do the next time a crazy friend or family member says they are running a “mary”.


Cheering with my cousin & his family at the Oktoberfest Half in Grand Haven, MI

Here’s what I take when I cheer, especially with the kids:

  1. Snacks – race cheering is all about waiting for hours to watch someone run by in 30 seconds. Snacks and drinks are a must.
  2. Noise makers – it doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s noisy take it. We usually take 2 cowbells with us. Side note: why are cowbells a marathon tradition? Just to be obnoxious? This time I also took a tambourine (from the toy box), in the past I’ve taken whistles, maracas and once, a harmonica.
  3. Something visual – pompoms are always in our bag. Small flags work, too.
  4. SIGNS – of course make them for all of your friends running. But make some generic ones for runners to enjoy why you’re waiting. They really do like them. My other tip is to laminate a few with clear contact paper – this will protect them from rain & water stations and makes them sturdy enough to keep for a few races. (You’ll see some sign repeats in the photos).Image
  5. Course Map – this is critical, especially when the races’ website crashes on race day (cough *CLE Marathon* cough)
  6. Distractions – race spectating is a hurry-up-and-wait game. It can also be totally boring. Take a book, a phone, and if you have kids with you, toys. They will save you.
  7. Camera – I don’t lug my big camera with me because I’d rather cheer when I see my runner then have a camera in my face. I do, however, try to snap a shot or two on my phone or a point and shoot.
  8. Pack all of this in a backpack and wear comfortable shoes. You’ll likely be hoofing it for several blocks at each cheering spot. Take a stroller for little kids.


Cheering at the Shaker Father’s Day 5k


Cheering with friends is best – at the Blossom Time Run with the ClassyChaos Crew

When it comes to long races (half-marathons and above), I like to move around and catch my runner(s) a few places on the course. Here’s what I do pre-race.

  1. Print course map and look at recommended cheering spots. Almost every long race will have some “official cheer stations” and these can give you a good idea of where you can easily part near the course. I don’t normally cheer at these official spots, but go a mile or so on either side.
  2. Find 3-4 areas I want to cheer that are 5-7 miles apart, which gives me about 35-60 minutes to get from place to place. (Unless your runner is crazy-fast, then you’ll have to scale back to 2-3 areas).
  3. SCOUT YOUR CHEERING SPOTS. This is critical – something that Mark learned this past weekend. Where can you park? What streets will be closed? What’s the best route from A to B; can I walk or should I ride? I can spend more than an hour pouring over Google Maps looking for parking, access to public restrooms, and how everything interconnects. Don’t forget to look for a list of road-closures in the area. Even better – drive the course the day before and find your spots – I do this for out of town races so I can learn the area a little better.
  4. Print driving maps for each section (i.e. map from cheering spot A to cheering spot B) AND have a phone/gps with you on race day in case you run into any obstacles.
  5. Sign up for up for text alerts so you know where your runners are on the course. You’ll start to get anxious without these updates… remember that even if you know their usual pace, they may be slow for the first few miles before the pack thins out.


Finish line cheering at the Perfect 10-Miler

Race Day!

  1. Have your runner(s) text you a photo of what they are wearing that day. This gives you something to look for in the herd of runners. This was critical for me finding Jenna on Sunday.
  2. If you are cheering with a group, you can all wear matching shirts, hats, headbands – something for your runner to look for.
  3. Let your runner know where you will be. I’m not talking exact locations, but “somewhere between miles 9 and 11” will give them something to look forward to.
  4. Dress in layers – most races start early when it’s chilly but warm up fast. And don’t forget your sunscreen!
  5. If you want to see your runner cross the finish line make sure you arrive at least 35 minutes before you anticipate them crossing. This is the most crowded area, it’s hardest to find parking and people will be jockeying for space on the curb.
  6. CHEER! Cheer for everyone – shake those noisemakers and randomly yell encouragement. Many runners have their names written on their shirts so use it when you cheer.


Cheering at the Flying Pig Marathon with my parents


Cleveland Fall Classic Half Marathon cheering squad – this one is ALWAYS cold!

That’s about it. All my knowledge about being a good cheerleader for the runners in your life. Have something to add? Put it in comments!

 Coming soon… our Cleveland Marathon Cheer Experience.


Like many people, I’ve been walking around the last few days on the verge of tears. I burst into tears on the way to the grocery store when I heard a Christmas song with a line about children laughing. I’ve been at a loss for what to say, what to do. I think Jonna summed up exactly how I’m feeling right now. Especially the part about how being a parent puts a crystal-clear picture in my head. Those kids were Matilda’s age. I’ve had to stop my brain 100s of times in the last several days from going there.

The sadness is being replaced by anger. Anger with how weapons that fire multiple bullets per second are readily available. Anger with the media for glorifying evil. Anger about violence as entertainment (a chicken and egg question – I know). A BLIND RAGE with anyone who is voicing support for more guns. I can’t. I just can’t.

So I’m doing what I can. Yes, I’m hugging and squeezing my kids harder and longer with this fresh reminder that it’s all so fragile. I’ve thrown money at it hoping that one of those families can feel the outpouring of love and support.

And yes, I’ve gotten political. I’ve always been in favor of more sensible gun control. I grew up in a house with hunting rifles. I shot our BB gun as a kid. I’ve trained on handguns and semi-automatic weapons during ROTC training (for the record, guns terrify me). I think having felt that power in my hands – having the kickback rattle through my bones – is part of why I think guns need to be regulated and controlled. So I wrote to all of the politicians in offices representing me: my Senators and Representative, my State Senators and Representative and Governor. In case you’re wanting to do the same, here is what I wrote. Feel free to copy if you want… I started with the letter posted on Daily Kos and added my own opinion. Did it make me feel better? Not totally, but at least I felt like I did something.

Dear Senator [Smith],

It’s way past time to pass reasonable gun control legislation. In the wake of the horrific massacre of 20 innocent children and 7 adults in Newton, CT, I implore you to work others in the Senate to enact sensible gun control legislation.

Specifically I would like to see:
– Ban the sale and possession of automatic/assault weapons in this country.
– Limit the size of large capacity ammunition clips, and create a database for all purchases of ammunition (similar to database used for the sale of pseudoephedrine-containing products).
– Require a criminal background check, mental health check and mandatory waiting period for anyone to buy a gun, eliminating gun show loopholes.
– Mandate spousal notification before a gun can be legally obtained (similar to Canadian gun laws).
– Institute a gun-ownership permit or license that requires the passing of a test and annual renewal (similar to drivers licenses and license plate renewal).
– Require legal gun owners to safeguard their weapons against theft and misuse.

People claim the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, but this is not an unlimited right. I believe we’ve let the gun lobbies and fear mongers exploit the Constitution to an absurd level. There is nothing in the document providing a right to possess assault weapons that can shoot 100s of rounds in seconds. We regulate everything from driving to drinking to buying cold medicine; it’s beyond time to regulate gun ownership.

I appreciate your consideration and look forward to a response.


So, how are you doing? What have you done that makes you feel marginally better? If you need a place to vent any frustrations, grief or  feel free to do so in comments. However:  my blog, my rules – I will not debate my opinions on gun control. You will not change my mind and any comments supporting civilian possession of automatic or assault weapons will be deleted, as will calls for more guns. Fair warning.