Saturday, April 15, 2017

Montreal Review

We just got back from 2 nights in Montreal. We decided to go there to kick off spring break. It was a place I personally had never visited. It's just over 3 hours away, and the kids have passports, and we figured it would be a fun get-away. Plus, it just happened to fall prior to my birthday. So- we figured we would make it a birthday/spring break trip.

Before the trip, I had carefully researched the perfect hotel. My definition of a "perfect hotel" includes the following: indoor pool for the kids, free breakfast, nice, clean room. It also wouldn't  hurt if I could find a suite - just so there is more room to spread out. But that is just an extra perk. Anyway - after searching and looking, I soon learned the following: A lot of Montreal hotels do not have indoor pools. And, if they do have a pool - then they don't have free breakfast. I was all set at staying at an Embassy Suites - that had a huge suite and a lovely free breakfast. However, there was no pool. I was back to the drawing board. After extensive research - I finally found the perfect hotel. It was called Le Square Phillips Hotel and Suites. It had a rooftop indoor pool, free breakfast, and a kitchen area in the room. Bam! We were in business.

Upon arrival, I was happy to find out we were on the 10th floor. (The pool was on the 11th floor - so it was perfect proximity). The room was huge. Also - upon check in - the front desk gave my kids 2 welcome bags which had snacks and popcorn in it. My kids were very excited about this and it made them feel special. The room was nice and big with a huge bathroom. The kitchen area had a full refrigerator, microwave, stove/oven, and sink and dishwasher. I could have cooked a gourmet meal there if I was so inclined. My only complaint about the room was that the beds were double-sized instead of queen. Other than that - I was very happy.

Anyway - when we arrived, we checked in, and then went to dinner. One thing I quickly learned was that Montreal people are very stylish. I actually felt like I was in Europe.  Another thing I learned was that everyone speaks French. If you don't know French - it's okay! Because everyone speaks English too.

After dinner, we went up to the rooftop indoor pool and the kids swam. The rooftop pool was very cool. It had an outdoor terrace deck, where you could see the city, and the lights from the buildings added a nice glow in the pool area. We even had the pool to ourselves that night. So the kids could get crazy and play and jump without bothering anyone. After that, it was bedtime.

We woke up on Friday morning, and enjoyed the free breakfast. Then we got ready and headed out to the Biodome. It was about a 15 minute drive from the hotel and it was near the Olympic stadium. The Biodome is basically an indoor ecosystem zoo. You walk through the various ecosystems and see the animals that live there. We saw otters, birds, penguins, monkeys, fish, and alligators. It was a very cool place. One thing that I did find kind of strange though was that the area where the Biodome was located - was kind of run down. I would think since this is a tourist area - it would be kept up really well. But - the area just seemed kind of tired. Besides the Biodome, there was the Olympic tower, Botanical garden, Insect Museum, and the soccer stadium.

After the Biodome, we drove back to the hotel, and then headed out on foot to Old Montreal.  I was very happy to see that Old Montreal was adorable! Our first stop was Notre Dame Cathedral. Normally there is a fee to enter the historic church. Which - I think is weird. After all - it is a church. Why would they charge to enter a church? I have been to many churches in my life in Europe and in the US - and I haven ever had to pay a fee. Anyway - this church charges a fee. But, we were in luck. Since it was Good Friday - there was no fee. And we could go in - but only "to pray." Well - good thing we wanted to say a prayer. So - we entered, and I was in awe. The church did not disappoint. It was so beautiful, I gasped upon entering. We sat down, said a prayer, and walked silently around.

After that, we explored Old Montreal. We ate lunch at a cool pizza place on the river. Then we wandered in some of the shops and walked down the pier. After that, we headed back to the hotel. The kids swam again, and then we went to dinner. We ended the night with a visit to a place called Chocolate Favoris. Basically it is a place where you get an ice cream cone and then they dip it in chocolate. You can choose between 13 chocolates for your dip. Holy cow. It was very good!

This morning, we woke up, ate breakfast and hit the road. We stopped in Lake George on the way home for lunch. All in all -it was a great 2 day get away. I was excited that the kids experienced life in a different country. They also had the "border" experience and had their passports stamped. On the way home - I told Brian that I could now check Montreal off my list. Been there, done that. Don't need to go back. I liked it - but there are many other places to visit. I am a big fan of the 2 day get away trips. Just enough family time. Just enough time for the kids to get some culture. Perfect in every way.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Puppy training part 2

Rooney is almost 4 months old! He has been with us now since February 3rd. In a way, I can't believe it has only been 2 months since he joined our family. It feels like we have always had him.

The month of March was a little rough because we had 2 feet of snow dumped on us. We were still in the middle of house training. But around that time, I feel like something clicked. He actually stopped having accidents in the house. I thought the mounds of snow would hinder his potty training progress, but instead, he seemed to finally be learning. He still has had 1 or 2 accidents - but I would say he is 95% house trained! Yay Rooney! And for the record - the accidents happen on Brian's watch. He never has an accident when I am around. Just sayin.

He also has gotten a lot bigger. He weighs almost 12 pounds now and he actually is taller than Gracie. (When he came home - he was 5 pounds and much smaller than Gracie). We are happy that he is getting bigger - as we wanted him to be double the size of Gracie. He still has time to grow - so we are keeping our fingers crossed that he continues to pack on the pounds.

He is very good natured. He likes to snuggle (when he is not not trying to chew my arm from teething). He goes right to bed at night and doesn't make a peep. If I am in the kitchen cooking, he wanders in, plops himself down and just keeps me company. He gives endless kisses, loves the kids, and is incredibly smart. He is my dream doggy.

He continues to ring the bell to go outside. We are also working on "stay" and "come." And I am researching ways to have him retrieve items and bring them to me. That seems like a lot of work though. So that might not happen.

Even Gracie has taking a liking to him. More often than not, I catch them nuzzling each other and playing. Gracie's tail actually wags when she plays with him. I think it is giving her some spunk which isn't a bad thing for a 14 year old dog.

All in all - we love the little guy. He is the perfect addition to our family.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Training a puppy

It has been one week since we brought Rooney home. It has been a busy week. I forgot how much work a puppy is. After all, it has been almost 14 years since Gracie was a puppy, and I think I blocked her training from my head. I really don't remember house training her. This time around, I did a lot of research before he arrived so I was very prepared.

My research involved reading puppy books, researching how to train a puppy on the internet, and watching you tube videos. The you tube videos actually were (and still are)  a wealth of information. I watched how to bell train, how to crate train, how to stop a puppy from crying in the crate, and how to do sit, stay, and paw.
For the first three days, I cleaned up a lot of poop.  I couldn't get a handle on when he had to go. And he was such a fast little bugger, that I couldn't catch him in time. He didn't have too many pee pee accidents. I was able to stay ahead of that, and as long as I took him out every hour - he didn't have any accidents.
By day four, I was able to finally manage the poop situation and I had somewhat figured out his routine.

In addition, I also am using a clicker. A clicker is just a tool that you use for training. Basically, every time the dog does the desired behavior - you click and then treat him. I like using it because it is consistent. And he got so used to hearing the click - that now when he is going potty, he looks at me and expects to hear the click and get his treat. I also use the clicker for basic training like sit, stay, etc. It is a very effective tool.

One of the most useful things I learned was how to teach the puppy to ring the bell. Basically we hang a bell on the door and every time I take him out, I have him nose the bell or paw at it. And then we go out to go potty. After 5 straight days of doing it consistently - he is ringing the bell to go outside. I have to admit - it is the cutest thing to watch him do it. 

The crate training is going well. He sleeps through the night. The first couple nights, he whined for a few minutes, but then he settled down. Sometimes, when he needs some downtime, we put him in the crate and he naps. My goal was for him to like the crate and not put up a fuss when he has to go in it. So far, so good.

All in all it has been a good week. Unless you want to count the snow we have received. House training is hard work -  but if you add in cold weather and a foot of snow - that makes it slightly more challenging. But, we are getting through it.

So far, Rooney seems like a very relaxed dog. He and Gracie are getting along. He does try to play with her - and if she gets annoyed, she give him a little bark and then he backs down. I actually caught them on the rug together yesterday taking in some sunshine that was streaming through the door.  So they must be taking a liking to each other.

He also likes slippers and shoes. Sometimes he just naps right next to my slippers. And sometimes he tries to eat them. He is a puppy, after all. He can't be all perfect.  Although, he is almost perfection in my eyes. I am completely in love with the little guy.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Welcome Rooney Graber!

We are expanding our family. Yes. That's right. Rooney Graber will be arriving in the beginning of February. We will be the proud owners of a sweet baby puppy.

Let's not forget that we have a dog already. Gracie was our first baby and we got her the year we got engaged. She is turning 14 in March.


Gracie is a cairn terrier. And she is an old lady. Basically she wants to sleep all day. She is, after all 98 in dog years. So- I get it. She is a senior dog and deserves to just hang out and do nothing all day.

We always said that we would get another dog when Gracie is no longer with us. After all, we are dog people. In fact, we love dogs so much that we dog sit periodically. In fact, we were first introduced to the doodle dog when we started dog sitting Molly and  Sam. Molly is a labradoodle and Sam is a schnoodle. We have watched them a couple times per year for the past 5 years. We always love it when they come. They are so fun and they just want to hang out with us. The kids love them too.

Molly and Sam

Anyway, fast forward to the present time. We often talked about what our next dog would be if we ever got another one. And we basically decided that we wanted some type of doodle. We also thought it might be nice to rescue one. Except there was one slight problem. There are not many doodles to rescue. Seriously. I scoured the internet. I looked everywhere. No one just randomly gives up a doodle. And there is a reason for that. Doodles are smart. They are loving. They don't shed. They are sweet. They are good with kids. Who wants to give up that?

So, then I started looking at doodle breeders. You know. Just to see what was out there. And there are many breeders out there. And many types of doodles. Golden doodles, labradoodles, aussie doodles. The list goes on. So many doodles. And they are all so cute. What kind would we pick? Oodles of doodles! So hard to pick just one.

Then one day, my work friend started talking to me about her doodle. She has an Aussie doodle. She started texting me pictures of her dog. And let's just say that it's a good thing she lives in North Carolina. Because otherwise, I might kidnap her dog. He is that cute. I started sending the pictures to Brian. And then all of a sudden we were looking at the breeder where she got her dog from. And what do you know. Her breeder had a litter of puppies born in December and they were ready to be delivered in February!

And then we were picking out a puppy. And then I paid the deposit.


Wait. How did this happen? We still have a dog. Do we really want a puppy? Then that means we will have TWO dogs. Are we a two-dog family?

Well, apparently we are going to be a two-dog family. Here we are. Awaiting our newest member of our family. We will finally have our very own doodle!


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Coat refusal

My kids have coats. Lots of coats. Warm, winter coats that are puffy, and perfect for a cold winter day.

Yet, for some reason, one of my children has has decided to veto those warm coats. Even if it's 20 degrees out. My one child, (Maddie) argues about wearing those lovely, warm coats.

Is this too much to ask for my kid to dress like this everyday?? Apparently, it is.

This is what I hear on a typical morning:

"It's hot on the bus."
"I am not outside except to get on and off the bus, so I really don't need a coat."
"My big coat doesn't fit in my locker."
And my personal favorite:
"I have a high body temperature, and I am never, ever cold. EVER."

So... what's a mom to do?

I basically stopped trying to get her to wear her puffy coat. Instead, she wears a light, fleece jacket. And, then there is silence. No arguments.

It's like bliss people. Pure bliss! A quiet morning with no arguments. Why, yes please. I will take that every single morning.

We did give her a warning that if the bus ever broke down and she had to stand outside for whatever crazy reason, that she just kind of might be cold in 20 degree weather. But, wait. I forgot. My daughter has a "high body temperature, and she is never, ever cold. EVER."

So, I guess she will be fine. Because, you know. She does have a high body temperature. Somehow, she must of inherited that trait from the hot blooded relatives that I didn't know we have.

The coat argument is an argument that I just don't care to fight anymore. If she wants to freeze her little tushy off in her light-weight jacket - then so be it. And she will never admit to me if she is freezing. So, I win. She can suffer in silence.

WINNING, people! I am winning the coat argument!

The other day I realized that my daughter is not the only one that refuses to wear a coat.
I was volunteering on Friday night for 6th grade activity night and I happened to be working the door.

Let me tell you that 98 percent of those kids that entered the building on that cold chilly 25 degree night did not have a coat on!

What to the what???
It's true.
No coats.

And then it all made sense.
How did I not know that ALL the 6th graders are hot blooded. And never, ever cold. EVER.

Duh. It took me this long to figure that one out. But, now I know.

A day in the life of a mock juror

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be a mock juror.
I never even knew opportunities like this existed until 2 weeks ago.

My phone rang one evening, and it was a company that I am registered with to do random market testing. I have done projects with them in the past, but they have been minor projects and I hadn't hear from them in a long time. (Usually the projects consist of some type of survey or taste test.)

This time, they were asking me if I wanted to participate in a mock jury project. It was an all day project on a Saturday, at a local hotel, and I would be paid $225 for my time. They would also feed me breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack.

$225? And food?

Well, sure. Why not? I didn't have anything going on this particular Saturday, and it sounded like it might be an interesting experience.

So they asked me a series of questions to see if I would qualify. (I did).

I received instructions on where to go and what to do, and then all I had to do was show up.

I arrived at the hotel at 7:30. (I actually didn't have to be there until 8. But if I arrived before 7:30, my name was entered in a drawing to receive an additional $75. Unfortunately, I didn't win). Anyway, we had to fill out some questionnaires. After all the paperwork was completed we were moved into another room where we received further instructions.

After the instructions, we were presented the case by the attorneys. I have to admit that I was fascinated. I had expected the day to be boring and long. But, it was really amazing and very interesting. I personally have never served on a jury in real life. So this opportunity actually made me realize how cool it would be to be part of a real jury.

After hearing the case, we then had an opportunity to break into groups, and we actually had to deliberate and come to a unanimous agreement just like a real jury would.

Due to confidentiality reasons, I cannot disclose the name of the marketing company or what the actual case was about. But, I will tell you that I was riveted, and intrigued most of the day. I wasn't bored. In fact, I was fascinated by the details of the case.

When the day ended, I felt like I had completed my civic duty in an odd, sort of pretend way. I would definitely do this again, if I ever have the opportunity. I felt like it was a true learning experience. I felt privileged that I was able to know and understand the details of a real case that will go to trial someday. I also felt like my input will ultimately help the attorneys in preparing their case for the trial. It was...awesome.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Exercise and such

It was a year ago when I started to do more cross training. You can read about that here.

I am happy to say that I am still doing cross training. I am still taking classes, and when my schedule allows, I try to do some type of Boot Camp or core class.

That explains why my running mileage for 2016 was lower than normal. I spent a lot more time cross training and was running less miles. But remember, the cross training ultimately helped me in my runs. So, even though I only ran 851 miles for 2016, I was okay with that because my runs were more efficient.

I also spent time in 2016 running with a group of women who are fast. They are much faster with me, and because of that, it was making me run faster. So, the combination of cross training, and faster runs has been a good challenge for me.

Today, I tried a new boot camp class. This one was 30 minutes. I have to admit, I really like the 30 minute class. It feels like an express class. I am getting my workout in, but it isn't taking a whole hour. Because let's face it...sometimes an hour is hard to fit in. And sometimes I don't want to work out for an hour. Anyway, this 30 minute class was tough. It is hard to believe that something can be so hard for 30 minutes. But the reason is because you are constantly moving and there is little rest time. Today's boot camp consisted of kettle balls, medicine ball figure eights, TRX straps, squatting in one position, and other fun hellish activities.

After 30 minutes of boot camp, I decided I wanted more, and jumped in on a group exercise class that involved a LOT of cardio and jumping.

I think a nap will be in order for later today.

One of my goals for 2016 is to continue with my cross training, and really try to suck it up and do the harder  classes so I can become stronger. Another goal is to run a half marathon. I didn't run a half in 2016. So, I would like to run two this year and get back to my routine of running a spring half and a fall half.

What exercise are you doing? Whatever it is, make it work for you! It's all about being healthy and feeling good.