Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Stanley is our 4-year-old Great Dane. Before Stanley, we had 2 Boxers who were wonderful, sweet, energetic dogs. We are big-dog people, so we decided a little over 4-years ago to go VERY big on our next dog. We also wanted a little lazier of our boxer's had a puppy-personality for 7 straight years. That's a lot of energy.

A friend of ours has a Great Dane, and we offered to start pet sitting him when he went out of town to get a feel for having a dog that size in our home. There is a learning curve, for sure, but it didn't take long for us to realize that this was the breed for us. Thus commenced an almost year-long search for a puppy. We wanted a pure breed, but not a show dog (read: not $$$$). The breeder needed to be within driving distance so we could go see the parents and meet the breeder face to face. We wanted an ethical, caring, educated breeder.

Just when we started to lose hope, we found a breeder about 45 minutes away and soon Stanley was ours.

A dog as big as Stanley can present it's challenges, so I would encourage anyone who is interested in the breed to absolutely do your homework (lots of it) and find a wonderful breeder like we did. Take your time, it's worth it. I say all the time Stanley was meant to be in our family, and I truly believe it. He is the best.

When you own a dog this size, you get a LOT of questions. Usually when we are out on one of our walks. I thought it might be fun to answer some of them here:

IS THAT A HORSE? :: Nope! He's a Great Dane.

DO YOU HAVE A SADDLE? :: No. I wish he could carry me, but he's too lazy. Fun Fact: Someone asks me that question every.single.time. I am out walking him.

HOW MUCH DOES HE WEIGH? :: About 140 Pounds

HOW MUCH DOES HE EAT? :: Between 6-8 cups of food a day

DOES HE MAKE A BIG MESS? :: Well, yes and no. He does when he eats, and so he eats in the garage. He doesn't drool all the time, but IF he does, when he shakes his head it goes everywhere. I mean, I've scrubbed the walls above my head before.

DOES HE NEED A LOT OF EXERCISE? :: Surprisingly, No. He usually has a 12-15 minute walk but not every day. He will run around the back yard for 2 minutes or so once a day and he sleeps the rest of the day (as seen in the above pictures). However, his brother is actually quite active and hyper, so it's not always the case. We just got lucky.

WILL HE GET ANY BIGGER? :: Not unless we let him get fat. When he was a puppy, we kept a growth chart and he gained 5 pounds every week, and on average grew an inch or two every week.

IS HE FRIENDLY? :: He is! But as he ages he has grown a little more protective. We have to be actively mindful to continually socialize him with other dogs and people and we try to never assume we know how he will react in every situation. A dog of his size requires you to be a responsible owner and continually stay on top of his temperament.

That's Stanley! I can't imagine our lives without him. Any other questions? Ask me!

New York City....with Kids

Ahhhh...New York, New York. There's just something about it. My husband has a particularly strong fascination with it so we usually end up visiting once a year. We very much believe in giving the kids eye opening experiences, and so we've taken them with us to New York several times-- most recently for Christmas in 2016. 
Travel with kids can be challenging at times, but for us, it is always worth it. The shared experience we have when we go places as a family is valuable on so many levels.  The chance to break from day to day school and work schedules and go and 'do' just the four of us is one of my favorite things. We try to find the balance of planning kid-friendly activities, as well as introducing them to things that maybe they wouldn't choose if we asked them about it. 
A recent example of this was on our Christmas trip last year, when we took them on a Jazz Cocoa & Carols cruise on Christmas Eve. Kevin discovered Classic Harbor Line a few years ago when we took a sunset cruise with them. It quickly became one of my very favorite New York City experiences. A beautiful boat, ample window views, small groups and simple live jazz music make for a positively delightful and relaxing cruise down the river. A far cry from the cattle call-like city cruise I'd done with some girlfriends previously (where you could barely see the Statue of Liberty through the masses of picture-takers). 
The Staff at Classic Harbor Line are delightful, professional and cheery. Soft jazzy Christmas tunes played in the background while the kids easily enjoyed views of the city. The Statue of Liberty was a favorite moment and the kids had plenty of space to go on the deck and take about a million pictures.  As we rounded back towards the Harbor, song sheets were passed out and we participated in a sing-along followed by cookies and cocoa. The kids were absolutely fascinated with the views and the occasional facts about the city and we enjoyed watching them take it all in while sitting on a comfy seat, sipping and snacking all the while.  
The cost of the cruise was more than the other bigger-boat options in town, but for us the price was well worth it. It was relaxing and enjoyable for us, and entertaining for them. In a city with big crowds, it was great to be able to sit back and let them move around without us hovering too close. 
We plan our trips with our kids to New York (and most places) with these basic principals in mind:

We don't worry about getting our money's worth. Ok, does this mean we just throw money around like confetti? No. In the planning stages of our trips, we really think through each activity and choose it for a specific reason, weighing pros and cons and keeping in mind real-life with kids. For example, we went to MoMA because my daughter studied van Gogh at school and replicated Starry Night and was desperate to see it.  There were crowds of people in the museum and especially in front of the painting but the sight of her seeing it for the first time and watching her stand there and take it all in was absolutely magical. I seriously teared up.  We probably spent 45 minutes at MoMA, pit-stopping at Monet, Pollock and Warhol. My son wasn't into it, but we wanted him to get a sense of these pieces of art in real life. Did we "get our money's worth?" No. But it was valuable and memorable and we didn't suffer through two more hours of crowds and artists my kids would never recognize just to get every last dime out of the price of admission. 

We plan for unplanned, outside kid-time. My kids are not toddlers, but they are still kids (10 and 12). They need to roam free. Not only do you have one of the greatest parks ever in Central Park, there are an endless number of fun things to do within that park. There are about a million cool playgrounds in the park, plus gardens, bridges, castles, wide open lawns...the list goes on and on and it's all free. Outings like this help us balance out the cost of the aforementioned 'getting your money's worth' activities. It's a win-win. We get to stroll through the park and take in the expansive city in the background, they get to run around and climb big rocks. For real. One of their favorite things they've ever done there.

We plan our meals in advance. There is little room for fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants restaurant choosing for our family. Hangry is a very real thing. I'm not even talking about the kids. Our marriage has survived several Hangry bouts but it was a close call. We did research online based on our basic itinerary and made reservations at restaurants weeks before our trip. Overkill? We didn't think so. For starters, we were going to be eating out Christmas Eve and Christmas day. We planned for Christmas Brunch at The Robert where Kevin and I could get a fancy dish and the kids could still choose chicken or macaroni ( we don't have fancy-food-eating kids. They're pretty basic.). Outside of that, we had researched some quick and easy restaurants near our hotel and in areas of our activities. Places like the Shake Shack are made for pleasing everyone. 
Traveling with kids of any age will have it's bumps in the road, but for us it's worth the effort. We are lucky to live within drivable distance to some really great east coast cities, and fly to many like New York City in about an hour.  Taking the kids to places like this where culture and history and great activities collide make for some wonderful family memories.

Seeking Sunshine

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman
When I was a little girl, my parents would call me Sunshine Sarah. They say it's because I was so happy all the time.  I also think it had something to do with being a girl after 2 boys, 18 months apart. The nickname wasn't meant to be a literal reflection, but I find that it fits me quite well.

I have always loved being out in the sun. It can change my mood, my mojo, my focus in a matter of seconds.  I soak it up. Whether it's drying in the sun after a cool dip in clear blue water, floating down the New River on a sunny day in the Blue Ridge Mountains or a long walk on a fall day taking in the beauty of the changing leaves I love to be out in the sun. In the winter months, when the sun can hide for days, I find myself struggling with being sluggish, unfocused and general blah-ness. (full disclosure: Blah-ness is not an actual word).

So how do I combat the blahs? If I could, I would hop on a jet to my personal happi place: Grand Cayman Island. But since that is rarely an option, here are a few of my go-to's to change my mood:

1 // Music - Music has such a powerful impact on my mood and it's often immediate. I have a few favorite Pandora Playlists -- I'm looking at you, John Mayer.  I also have a few Playlists in my iTunes that are Mood specific. A few examples: Get Stuff Done, Rainy Days, Summer, Root Canal (I've had 3. One of them took three attempts. That deserves it's own playlist, people).

2 // Exercise - I've always been active. I played outside all the time as a kid -- fun fact: in Seattle, WA; a very non-sunny place! -- and in college a wonderful room mate introduced me to the beauty of a gym routine. When the sun is elusive, I find that a burst of energy really does help. Sometimes it's a 30 minute walk. Sometimes it's a 12-minute toning routine. Sometimes it's Wii Dance. Get moving! Many a times it's been the very last thing I've wanted to do, and when I power through it always, ALWAYS boosts my mood. Combined with one of the aforementioned playlists, this is a killer combo!

3 // Natural light - Even when the sun is hiding, I keep the windows shades open and get as much natural light as I can into the house. We use sun tubes in a few places in our home and they are hands down one of my favorite things ever.  Even on dark days my kitchen is flooded with a substantial amount of natural light.

4 // Dark Chocolate - When all else fails, a little indulgence is just the ticket. And come on, we've all read (or skimmed. Or just read the title) of all those articles that tell you how good dark chocolate is for you. I like to call it a Vitamin.

Those are my go-to's, what works for you?

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