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.

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.



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.




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.



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.





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.


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.

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.

Weekend Recap (Late Edition)

Yes, I know it’s Friday. Am I the only one who has to play catch-up all week after a 3-day weekend? I’m not complaining at all. But damn, this week has gone by quickly. This past weekend was one of this tales of parenthood that makes you wonder how we survive it all. I like to call this one Traveling with a Sick Toddler in a Single-Bed Hotel Room. Or How Not to Do It.

I have to preface this recap of the weekend with the tale of the sick toddler. Last Wednesday I got the dreaded “daycare call” and was told that Madman had a low fever and had crawled onto his cot 45 minutes early then promptly passed out. He hadn’t eaten and had acted dazed all morning. I picked him up after nap and he was just a cuddly, tired lump all afternoon. On Thursday Mark and I tag-teamed staying at home with him and by that evening he had still not eaten and broken out in a rash. A trip to Urgent Care later and we had a raging double ear infection (yikes! that wasn’t even on our radar) and either strep or Hand, Foot & Mouth. The CNP who checked him didn’t bother to get a throat culture since she was going to prescribe antibiotics for his ears anyway so if it was strep we were covered. If it was Hand, Foot & Mouth that’s just a waiting game. As Friday progressed we were pretty sure it was Hand, Foot & Mouth and the poor boy was miserable and looked diseased.

So! Saturday was my cousin’s wedding in Columbus – an event my entire dad’s side of the family would be at, including my brother and nephew from Florida. So we headed down to the hotel with Sir Coxsackie and his sister, leaving at nap time in the hopes that someone would get at least 2 hours of sleep in the car. He fell sleep right on cue (with snacks in hnad, watching Clifford). All was going according to plan. That is until he woke up 20 minutes later. And never fell back asleep. Oh boy…


Too bad he didn’t stay like this

We arrived at our hotel which was full to the brim of sports teams – apparently there were both soccer and baseball tournaments in the area over the weekend. Yippee. We got the early check-in we asked for but we had single king room, not the double queen we wanted. Turns out ALL the double queen rooms had been booked by the sports teams. Fantastic. We get to the room and throw the girl in her swimsuit and I took her to the pool – we had been promising it the whole day. Mark stayed in the room with Madman, hoping that maybe he’d doze off. After a swim and visiting with some of the family we headed up to get wedding-ready only to find out that Madman had refused to sleep. Yikes.

We arrive at the church literally 2 minutes before the 4:00 PM wedding started … oops! … and I ended up hanging out in the vestibule with Madman who just wanted to run around. He was getting more and more clingy and whiny by the moment but he did have a chance to play with my cousin’s kid for a bit (I was told he wasn’t contagious anymore and I hope that was right). After the pretty and short ceremony we did family photos and more chatting before we headed to the reception. We drove the long way, once again going that Madman would close his eyes for just a few minutes with no luck. At the reception Madman wanted nothing to do with anyone but me. He wanted to be held at all times and was super cranky. In the meantime Matilda was super-excited to see all of her cousins. She was bouncing around like a pinball from one to another and back. She couldn’t wait to dance and see the bride again. Madman held out as long as he could but by 7 Mark took a very tired and cranky boy back to the hotel.

Matilda & her cousin B, my brother with Matilda,
Matilda’s reaction when the bride and groom entered the reception

Matilda and I stayed and she was thrilled that we were seated right where the wedding party came in. She was so attentive to every detail and tradition and LOVED to clink the glasses to get the bride and groom to kiss. Finally, around 8:30 the dancing started. Matilda shook her groove thing for about 3 songs until she declared herself DONE and wanted to go back to the hotel. Apparently the crash after her 1st Shirley Temple was a hard one.

My parents, married 45 years this fall, were one of the last 2 couples dancing during the anniversary dance,
Matilda and the drink of red dye and sugary doom,

Stephen (my cousin) and Sara – the happy couple

Now, remember we are all in a single-king room with a pack n’ play for Madman. Matilda and wade through the packs of 8-9 year old boys roaming the hotel halls with no parental supervision (OMG) and tip-toe into the room at about 10 PM to find the boys wide awake. Madman had not had a single moment of sleep since about 11 AM. Matilda crawled into bed and quickly fell asleep but Madman was running laps in his crib. At one point I saw him try and nearly succeed at climbing out. He FINALLY crashed around 11. Then for the rest of the night I had a 5 year old who thought she was a barnacle attached to my back. That is until she woke up at 2:30 crying about her ear hurting. I corralled her in the bathroom where she cried and screamed refused to take any medicine for a good 20 minutes. I finally got her to take some motrin and she quickly fell back asleep. Of course, even after all of this Madman was up at 7 AM so Matilda got another round of swimming in as Madman and I toured the halls of the hotel.

Sunday morning we spent at my aunt’s house in Columbus for breakfast and more family time before we hit the road back to Cleveland. This time Madman was asleep within minutes and actually slept most of the time, thank goodness. When we got home we did fun things like make a meal plan for the week and go grocery shopping. We did, however, check out Old Carolina BBQ for dinner and it was delicious.

Monday was spent installing our air conditioners to ward off the 95 degree heat, sprinklers and then Mark and Matilda went to a cook out with friends why Madman and I stayed home and watched way too much TV. Then, since Matilda got the sprinkler I pulled out all the sandbox buckets and a big plastic tub onto the drive way and let Madman go to town in the water. Of course, the night ended with 3 window AC units blasting in the bedrooms which meant we were in for a game of “electricity roulette”. If you don’t know the rules you’ve probably never lived in an old house. The game is where you ask yourself “If I turn this on, will it blow a fuse?” Turns out when the item in question is a tiny nightlight the answer is yes. Ahhh – I love old houses. Good thing we keep a stash of a few dozen fuses around. Once that was fixed we all fell into bed for the night.

Hope your holiday weekend was good to you and that your week has gone as fast as mine. TGIF – time to do it all again!


Race Weekend Recap

Week 3 of the weekend recap and my most consistent posting schedule ever. Huh.

How do I wrap up this busy, emotional weekend? I’m not sure, but I’ll try.

This was to be the big Cleveland Marathon Weekend. The one Mark set as his goal when he downloaded the couch to 5k app nearly 2 years ago. The one to commemorate his 40th birthday, which he celebrated a few weeks back. In the last 2 years he has inspired me. He has run consistently, logging mile after mile on the streets of the eastern suburbs. His training went so well he actually ran his 1st marathon last year. The kids and I have become professional race cheerers; getting our practice in at several 10ks and half marathons. But it was all just the preparation for this past weekend. A party was planned, emails were secretly sent asking for support, big plans were made.

Of course, after 2 years of running 4 times a week without fail, he got his first injury. One week after his 20 mile training run he called me during a 12-miler and asked me to pick him up mid-run. His ankle was feeling weird. By Wednesday he was limping and made an appointment to see a doctor. The verdict: nothing broken or torn, but major soft tissue damage in his ankle – a repetitive-use injury, caused by tightness in the calf. The doc said to stay away from running for 2-3 weeks. He may or may not be able to run on May 20th. Over these last 2 weeks, Mark has faithfully iced, rested, foam rolled, stretched and hoped for the best.


On Saturday we headed down to Browns Stadium where Matilda was to run the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Red Nose Children’s Run (seriously, that was the official name). She was so excited and even requested a “runner shirt” (tech shirt) like her daddy’s. She picked out neon yellow so she’d be easy to find in the crowd. Apparently she has learned a few things while cheering at all of Mark’s races. The event was somewhat poorly organized and a bit confusing. They started with a speech about war veterans losing limbs from IEDs… not really the kind of thing that’s easy to explain to a curious 5 year old while sitting in a football stadium. There were a few more speeches I didn’t catch because I was busy trying to calm Matilda down after a clown siting. The kids run was sponsored by Barnum & Bailey so of course there was a clown there. The problem is that Matilda is TERRIFIED of clowns. Like, almost to the point of hyperventilating when she sees one. We had warned her, but she wanted to run the race no matter what.

On the Rapid, heading to her race

Anyway, after all the long speeches were done they finally let the littlest kids down on the field. After so much time, all the kids in the stadium were antsy to run and get their medal. Finally, Matilda’s age group was called down. Since the clown was the starter we positioned her as far away as possible towards the sideline.

Just shut up and let my sister run so I can get home for my nap, please. 

He group was running 100 yards – end zone to end zone. She ran super-fast and never stopped. But she also got a late start because she was “hiding behind some kids so [she] didn’t have to see the clown.” She was so excited to get her medal at the end and was happy to pose for pictures.

A running medal, just like daddy

 Mark did a quick test run that afternoon and was still worried about his ankle. Saturday evening I had to work, but my parents arrived for the weekend and took the kids out. After work Mark and I headed down the street for a carb-loading pasta dinner with some neighbors who were running. I then stayed up way too late trying to get party-ready. We were expecting about 30 people on Sunday.

Marathon day started early with Mark getting up around 4 and taking the train downtown for the 7 AM start. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do: try to run the full, drop down to the half or 10k, not run all? I was planning to get up at 6 and wake Matilda up so we could go cheer. The car was loaded with signs, cowbells and pompoms along with snacks and course maps (I told you we’re professionals). Then I got the text at 5:40. His ankle was throbbing, he wasn’t going to run anything.

I know he was disappointed. He had been building up to this for TWO YEARS. People were in from out of town to cheer him on. People had been sending him cards and notes of encouragement. He was, understandably, pretty emotional.

However, something you need to know about my husband…about 3 months ago he quietly decided that his milestone race didn’t need to be about him. He decided to make it bigger and better by raising money in honor of our friend’s son, Aidan, who has Cystic Fibrosis. This birthday, this race, was bigger than “just a race”. We’ve been friends with Aidan’s parents for a dozen years and they have become fierce advocates for the funding and support of CF research. Mark wanted to help. Through the generosity of family and friends – some old, some new, some only known on Twitter – Mark was able to leverage his support network to raise $1300 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

In my book, without even stepping a foot on the marathon course, he won the day yesterday.

Thank you to everyone who donated. Best gift ever. Seriously.

The party was fantastic. Thanks in large part to my parents, the house and backyard were ready for our family and friends to come celebrate. It really was an amazing day. Since our house isn’t finished, with very visual renovations (think bare-plaster walls) in progress, we don’t entertain very often. So it was so incredibly nice to be surrounded by family and friends. There were friends we met back when we were still dating, and friends we have just met this year. The yard was filled with shouts and giggles from a dozen kids throughout the day.

In fact, it was so fabulous to sit and enjoy everyone’s company that I didn’t snap a single photo until the end of the day. But trust me: we shared stories and laughter throughout the day. We celebrated Mark’s running accomplishments past and yet to come. We caught up with old friends and chatted with new ones. And, most importantly we celebrated $1300 raised for CF research.

Dirty, sticky, tired, happy kids. Proof of a perfect day.

Mark, I’m so incredibly proud of you. For how far you’ve come with your running. For teaching our daughter to love running. For using your birthday to support CF and our friend’s cause. I love you. Happy (belated) 40th birthday.

Weekend Recap

I had so much fun doing last week’s weekend recap, I thought I’d do it again. This weekend was much more tame as we stayed closer to home.

Sunday morning we were up bright and early, as usual, and headed to the Farmer’s Market. Arriving at 8:15 didn’t mean we beat the crowds – the place was, happily, packed. We loaded up our bags with chicken and eggs from New Creation Farms (jumbo eggs, because by 8:30 EVERYONE was out of regular – wow), asparagus, tomatoes, bread from Zoss and a Gray House Pie. We stopped to get some breakfast – a breakfast slider from NCF (I highly recommend) and a strawberry crepe.

Then it was back to the house where Madman helped Mark mow and Matilda ran around like a madwoman. Then, while Madman napped, Matilda and I tackled the weedy front beds. Well, she made mud pies while I worked. I have no idea what the plant below is, but I’ve declared it my nemesis. They always been in the gardens and lawn since we moved in and they grow so fast. I declared war on them and spent a few hours digging up every last one, trying to make sure I got all the roots.

After nap we headed over to one of our favorite spots for an afternoon – the Cleveland Botanical Gardens – where we romped around the Children’s Garden, checked out the new kitchen garden and ran over the paths and bridges. We have a family membership there and we get more than our money’s worth, year round.

Later in the evening we had an impromptu meet up with the Classy Chaos crew at out South Chagrin Reservation. What a wonderful evening. We hiked through the river and played in a clearing. They had been there all day, which is something we need to do soon. We are frequent river waders there in the summer, but a day in the park and a picnic dinner sounds like a perfect early summer activity. Cleveland is incredibly lucky to have our incredible Metroparks – they are just beautiful.

Today I slept in for Mother’s Day today and woke up to 2 snuggly kids along with french toast, bacon and local(!) strawberries. The rest of the day was somewhat lazy with t-ball in the yard, nap time snuggles, more weeding, meal planning for the week and solo grocery shopping. I know, it sounds lame, but I actually like grocery shopping and going by myself is something I enjoy. More time outside, more weeding and a delicious dinner using our farmer’s market buys: roast chicken, roasted asparagus and mashed potatoes with strawberry-rhurbarb pie for dessert. Overall, a great day.

How was your weekend?

Race Day

…continued from here
Dark and early Sunday morning Mark’s alarm went off at 4:30 so he could eat breakfast well ahead of the 6:30 race start. I crawled out from under the covers at 5:15, scooped up the Madman and dropped him off in my parent’s room, and we headed for the car.

Ready to run

A quick drop off near the starting line and I went back to the hotel where they were just setting up the breakfast. I grabbed a bagel, banana and coffee and went up to the room to watch the weather. While it wasn’t raining when I dropped Mark off the radar didn’t look good. By the time my mom brought the kids back down to my room at 6:15 there was a steady downpour outside. Yuck.

At 7:15 we gathered in the lobby with signs, noisemakers and umbrellas and all headed outside. The hotel was right on the marathon course at about mile 6 ½. There was a good size crowd already gathered and we found a spot right along the midline of the road. The leaders had already passed that point but soon we saw some of the 30,408(!) runners trudge up the hill and around the curve.

The best cheering section ever

My mom spotted him first and we all cheered and yelled as he ran by. The rain had tapered off to drizzle at this point and he seemed pretty chipper. (I had 8 different signs for cheering, the one my dad is holding above got the most smiles/laughs from runners).

Blurry but happy!

We went back to the hotel and I left the kid with my parents, threw the rest of the signs in the car and headed over to Hyde Park Square to meet up with the course at mile 11. Except I never made it there. From the hotel the only way (as far as I could tell) to get there was to cross the marathon course which, obviously, wasn’t happening. I circled around for a bit in the adjoining neighborhoods and finally parked and found the route. I got set with my camera and signs, asked a volunteer where we were – mile 10ish – and pulled out my phone to see where Mark was. According to his Facebook updates via Runmeter he was already at mile 12. Shit.

I hustled back to the car and mapped my way to the “Party Zone” at mile 21.5. I wasn’t too worried about missing Mark at 10 because my cousin and aunt were planning to cheer at miles 14 and 17 (which, for spectators, were only a few blocks apart). I got to my spot around 8:50 and checked Facebook again – he was already at mile 18 – he was flying!

A few minutes later I got a call from my cousin, Carrie. They got a little lost but, were now at mile 16 – had he gone past yet? My heart fell; according to Runmeter he was already well past that spot. And Mark hadn’t seen a familiar face for over 12 miles. I felt awful!

But if he was at 18 already I would see him shortly at 21.5. I cheered as I waited; lots of people were looking ragged. Just beat down and ready to stop. I fact one guy cramped up as he went by and I helped prop him up as another spectator massaged his calves. After 20 minutes I got worried that maybe he was injured and had to stop…he should have gone by me by now.

Then my phone rang – Carrie and my Aunt Gretchen were driving along the route to get to the finish and they saw Mark! They were able to pull over and cheer for him – what a relief! He had just passed mile 19 when they saw him….apparently the Runmeter App had gone wonky and the mileage was off.

Then around the corner he came. He looked pretty beat down, but he was still running. I yelled and rattled the cow bell and tried to take a few photos. I wanted to do everything at once; I was so excited to see him. I fact I started crying a little bit and he told me later that he did, too.

Five miles to go

I jumped back in my car and hightailed it downtown for the finish. The crowd was huge and I had to drive around several blocks before I find a parking garage with open spots. I ran down to the finish area and shimmied my way up to the barricade. I was on the wrong side- the half-marathon lane was directly in front of me – but I didn’t want to risk missing him cross the finish as I tried to get a better spot.

My cousin called and said they were on the other side, right next to the finish line. Now all we had to do was watch for him to come down the final quarter-mile. After not very long I spotted him. I screamed and yelled and waved around my sign and as he passed by he spotted me.

I cried.

Mark crossed the finish at 4:21. I am just so damn proud of him.

By the time we got back to the hotel we had 15 minutes to clear out*. So we threw everything together and headed north to my cousin’s apartment. She graciously offered her place for Mark to shower and relax.
I had set up a lunch for everyone at nearby InCahoots*. Mark was able to sit and rest for a bit and M was excited to give him the gifts we had purchased to commemorate his accomplishment.
Official Flying Pig Finisher hat and jacket
After a little more time visiting and resting at Carrie’s apartment we all hit the road for home.
My Aunt in the center (my cousin took the photo)
Notice the awesome shirts my sister got for the kids
Despite the rain and long drives it was a terrific weekend. One that I hope I never forget. Mark just started running last June. He turned 39 2 weeks ago. He trained through a Cleveland winter – rain, sleet, snow, wind, slush, and ice (even a few rogue skunk encounters) – nothing stopped him. More than once he returned from a 10+ mile run with his coat and hair covered in frost. He even bought running cleats for traction in the snow and ice. He did almost all of his runs after the kids went to bed, hitting the pavement after 8 PM, so he wouldn’t miss any time with them.

Mark is truly an inspiration to me. I love you, Mark!

*You’d think that when an entire hotel is full of runners that maybe they’d have a pretty flexible check-out time, considering the timing of the race. But no, the Spring Hill Midtown was pretty rude and we had to be out by noon, even though they told me (a Marriott Rewards member) a week prior that a late check-out “should be no problem”.

**They were fantastic about accommodating us. And the food was really good, too. I would totally recommend them if you are in the area. (I got nothing for saying this, they were just great to us).

Race Travel Report

This past weekend we picked up the kids from school early, loaded up the station wagon and drove the 4+ hours down to Cincinnati for Mark’s 1st marathon. To say it was a great weekend would be an understatement. You might think that only runners can write race reports, but spouses who spend hours planning and organizing the logistics of an out-of-town race also have a story to tell…

Such a great traveler (thank god for travel DVD players)

My parents also drove down for the weekend which was not only a nice thing to do (coming to cheer for their son-in-law) but also turned out to be an invaluable asset. The extra hands to help wrangle the kids was a godsend for me as I stressed about getting around on race day. I can’t thank them enough for giving up their weekend and helping out.

On Saturday they took MAD while Mark, M and I headed to the expo. It’s a bit overwhelming being a first timer, but M had a great time checking out the booths and getting freebies. As a runner Mark got a nice backpack and a tech shirt. After we left the expo we decided to check out a bit of the course. It ran right past our hotel at about mile 6.5 which was smack dab in the middle of a major uphill climb. In fact I was worried at the steepness and length of the hills. Mark did a good deal of hill training but the terrain in Cleveland can’t compare to that of Cincinnati. In fact, miles 3 to 9 were all uphill. He wasn’t worried, though. On our drive I tried to scope out where I would cheer and we saw some really beautiful neighborhoods.

Bib secured, pigs ready to fly

We grabbed lunch at nearby Mt. Adams Bar and Grill, which was a very cute and accommodating place with good food. (Once we found parking. Mt Adams is a darling area, but parking is really hard to find). Afterwords Mark and MAD took a nap while my mom, M and I checked out the beautiful Eden Park which was across the street from our hotel. We soaked up the sunshine and warmth while we could – the Sunday forecast had a 90% chance of rain. As it was my first time in Cincinnati-proper I was really impressed with the parks, houses and architecture. Cinci has much more to offer then I had thought.

My mom doesn’t usually have a spout of water coming out of her head

For dinner we headed over to Kentucky for dinner at Pompilio’s. I had researched pasta places extensively and had called the restaurant earlier in the week. While they wouldn’t take reservations they insisted it would only be a 30-45 min wait at 6 PM, even with the Reds game and the marathon. We got there and saw crowds waiting outside. I made my way through the (smokey – I forgot not every state has the same wonderful smoking ban that OH does) bar and the hostess told me it would be a 3 hour wait! Thank goodness for smartphones because we were looking for a new place immediately. We ended up at Martino’s On Vine near the UC campus. It was a great place; not crowded, fantastic service and good prices. My cousin, Carrie, who lives in Blue Ash and my Aunt (from Columbus) came down to join us and it was great to catch up with them. Mark got his big plate of spaghetti and meatballs and was a happy camper.

My parents, wonderful people that they are, offered to take M to the hotel pool then have her sleep in their room on the pull-out couch so Mark would get good sleep. We eagerly accepted since the night before no one really got any sleep with all 4 of us in a single hotel room. I was able to keep MAD pretty quiet all night so Mark was able to get a pretty solid 6 1/2 hours of sleep before is alarm went off at 4:30 on Sunday morning.

Race day is a whole other story…

Choosy Idiots Choose Jif

My husband got this in an email from a local chapter of a professional association for designers:

 “I make lunches, I car pool, I workout, I run errands, I volunteer, I’m in meetings, I pay bills, I manage, I organize, I design, I help with homework, I cook, I read bedtime stories. I’m a mom.”

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. This is really the message you want to me sending to all of your members? That you have to have a vagina to be capable of doing all of those things?

A few weeks ago as I was elbow deep in baking – one of my favorite things to do – I sent a quick post on facebook thanking Mark for taking M and running 2 blocks to the store to get me more yeast while I continued to make bread. The responses were ridiculous. It was as if he had cured a major malady, such was the outpouring of “what a wonderful man”, “you are so lucky” and “I hope to have a husband like that some day”.

Again, what the hell? Yes it was nice, but he ran a 10 minute errand for me 1) because he knows I enjoy baking and 2) because he’s going to be eating the damn delicious homemade bread.

Nothing gets him or I more riled up than this crazy assumption, one played upon by the media, that fathers are bumbling, no-help idiots. Guess what? In our house Mark is the one who makes M’s lunch – every single morning. He also does the laundry and, since MAD was born, is solely responsible for M’s bath and bedtime stories.

We are a partnership – equal partners and parents to the fullest extent. We both car pool, cook and run errands. We both work (and make very similar salaries), do housework, yard work, grocery shop and workout. We carve out time for each other but also make sure the other has time to pursue a social life and hobbies. I go workout with a trainer while he takes both kids to M’s ballet class. He spends 2-3 hours each Sunday on his marathon training long runs while I run errands with the kids. I enjoy a monthly(ish) girls night out and he goes for beers with friends or freezes his ass off watching the Browns lose.

We help each other out. He wants new running socks and I’ll take a lunch hour to go buy him some. I’m missing an ingredient and he’ll run to the store for me. To me this is normal; it’s how it “should be”. The work/marriage/life balance is crazy hard. Sometimes we both feel like we are getting the short end of the stick, but we put major effort into helping each other out. I might cringe at M’s hair when Mark does it and I know he cringse when I’m the one trying to get her to go to bed (he has much more paitence for that task). But we are married; we are partners in this life we have chosen together. He doesn’t need a mother to make his lunch and do his laundry; I don’t need a man to start the lawn mower or take out the trash.

And we sure as hell don’t need marketers or professional organizations trying to perpetuate those stereotypes.