Battle of the manger scene

December 1st, 2015 2 comments

Jesus Christ. He’s a cool dude. Would you celebrate the birth of someone who wasn’t? The Christmas holiday was always a big production in my house from the lights and Clark Griswold style decorations to the manger scene my gram made for us in ceramic class. Personally I’ve always been kinda meh about it but the kiddos have been warming up my Grinch like tendencies over the last year. I’ve started to rediscover family traditions and began a few of our own.

Every family has their own style when it comes to decorating for the holidays and yearly it causes a ruckus in my house. In fact the Christmas holiday season doesn’t kickoff for me until the first squabble over one question occurs.

Should baby Jesus be in the manger before Christmas?

When I was young the tradition was that baby Jesus stayed tucked away, usually in a drawer, until 12:01am on Christmas morning or the moment you get home from Midnight Mass and then you placed him in the manger. Simple right? Makes sense, eh? Keep reading.

.Manger Scene with Jesus Manger Scene Without Jesus

The discussion is usually like this.

Wife: Why isn’t baby Jesus out?
Me: Because he wasn’t born yet.
W: Yes he was, over 2000 years ago.
M: Yeah but his birthday isn’t until the 25th so right now we recognize the travel of everyone to the manger.
W: But he’s already born.
M: No he wasn’t.
W: Yes he was. Quit being stupid. We do this every year.
M: And every year I say the same thing.

This year we had an unofficial solution. I get a manger with no Jesus and she has one with Jesus. My family tradition, no matter how much it may seem odd, is one I’m keeping.

Categories: Family, Fatherhood

KISS Meets the Derda Family Halloween

November 2nd, 2015 No comments

When your 6yr old says “Daddy, I want to be KISS for Halloween!” one thing enters your mind. We’re going to need more makeup!

Yeah, I geeked out a bit when I heard those words and honestly I had nothing to do with it. OK, maybe something.

KISS Teaspoon Spoon

A few months ago I bought the boys “Scooby-Doo! & Kiss: Rock & Roll Mystery Trailer” on DVD and since then they LOVE KISS. The music is easy to sing, they’re mesmerized by the theatrics and the experience is, well, it’s magical.

Teaspoon’s original plan was to go as an Army guy so it seemed like a no-brianer to me that he would now be a member of the KISS Army while his brother was hellbent on being a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I’m not usually one to dress up but this holiday would be the first time I’ve had the makeup on since Halloween 1999 when I sported doctor scrubs and the Catman’s makeup for a stint as Dr. Love.

We spent the holiday at my brother’s since my mom was in town visiting and it didn’t take long before people started saying “You like Insane Clown Posse? COOL KID!”


Nothing against Juggalos but seriously, I even had a KISS hockey jersey on.

Halloween 2015 went down as a memorable holiday and one in which the bar has been set for Halloween costumes in my kids eyes. Next year I’ll have to aim higher. Anyone know how to make a working proton pack?

Categories: Family, Fatherhood

10 things I learned after 10 years of marriage

October 22nd, 2015 No comments

Marriage became an official part of my vocabulary 10 years ago today. Don’t worry, I’ll save you from a sappy post. I don’t write those.

It was cold, raining and I was pissed because I knew this meant zero wedding photos in front of the Mellon Arena, former home of the Penguins. I “lost” the CD that had our 1st dance song on it and ran around the North Hills for hours only to find it available as a CD/DVD combo kit. Ends up the CD was in my soon-to-be wife’s car after she insisted it wasn’t. Topping things off was my best man’s hotel room was given away by the fine folks at the Holiday Inn after they screwed up his reservation.

*deep breath*

The day turned out perfect, we had plenty of great photos of the marriage inside the church and the reception is still being talked about as one of the best parties most have attended. This was pre-SIDT days so while craft beer wasn’t on tap I was still friends with many in the alcohol business so we drank very well. I’ll never forgive U2 for scheduling a concert in Pittsburgh that night and further proof that Bono hates me. First reason? No idea but it’s probably good.

I want to think about what has happened since that day. People weren’t tethered to their smart phones. Wait, we didn’t have smart phones then. I still rocked a Sprint flip phone but it was the first to take photos! Social Media was online forums and MySpace. I was working at Marconi which would sell to Ericsson while I was on my honeymoon. Technology was about to take a huge leap and little did I know, I was going along for the ride.

After 10 years of marriage here are some things I learned.

  1. Family will get over the drama they caused during your wedding. Feel free to bring it back up when you need something but start early with “you were SO drunk at my wedding…” so they believe it, even if they weren’t.
  2. If there’s something you want to do (travel, music, festivals), do it now before you have kids. Once they get here your social calendar revolves around “Can we get a sitter?”
  3. Your first house will probably suck and that’s OK. It’s YOUR house and that’s what matters.
  4. Use your spouse/kids as a way to get out of doing something. Trust me, they’re already using you for the same reason.
  5. Stay weird. Don’t forget who you are.
  6. Get time away. I think it’s the helicopter parents in the generation before me who thought that you need to be together ALL OF THE TIME. Both of you deserve alone time. Take it.
  7. Compliment each other.
  8. The only people you need to worry about, live in your house. Stick to your beliefs and do what you think is right. At the end of the day your bat shit crazy friends ranting on the popular political or religious views will still talk to you. If not, screw’em. NEVER take marriage advice from public social networks. Ask a friend directly.
  9. Times will suck and that’s OK. Facebook is full of lies and it’s easy to see. You’re having a rough patch and you’re slammed by that friend who posts “In love with my hubby! LOVE LOVE LOVE!” “With my love!” to the point you want to puke – they’re actually miserable. No one is happy all the time.
  10. “Everything else is Jello” – Life will kick you in the groin multiple times and then pour on a little more when you think you’re at your worst. Don’t worry, it’s just Jello.

Peace. Love. Beer. Ashley Judd.

10 Wedding Anniv

Categories: Family

Doc, you mean we’re in the future? October 21, 2015

October 21st, 2015 No comments

Back to the Future Day is here! 

The day Marty McFly, Jennifer and Doc arrive in the year 2015. Actually every day is BTTF Day for me but hey we can all celebrate!  Yearly I celebrate in my own way the day Marty went back in time, October 26 (1985) and the day time travel was invented November 5 (1955). Oh, just so we can settle this once and for all, and hopefully stop all of those rage inducing Facebook/Twitter memes, time travel happened in 1885, 1955, 1985 and 2015.

BTTF 2 Store frontMy obsession for Back to the Future goes back to the first time I saw the movie on the big screen as a kid but I don’t think it really kicked into overdrive until the last 10 years when more collectibles and material to geek out over became more available. Now I get to share my love for the whole series with my two boys who can recite most of the lines from the movies which is a treat when parents say “Your son asked me what I was looking at, butthead.”

You’re going to see an ungodly amount of the entertainment sites and new outlets doing their fluff pieces on what was predicted correctly and what was wrong, question if the Cubs win the World Series (not likely at this point) and ask where the hover boards and flying cars are. Actually, College Humor has a great video showing what would happen if Marty arrived in 2015 as we know it today.

YouTube Preview Image
(Watch on YouTube) NSFW

Personally I don’t have much of a collection prior to when I was married. Everything I own is in storage and will remain there until we get a bigger house so I can finally have a room to myself. I know, keep dreaming, Derda. When I do want to make official and unique purchases I check out  Easily they’re the best resource for anything Back to the Future related. I know an obscene amount of random facts from the first Back to the Future and have taken part in very deep conversations about the various timelines from the movie thanks to fans of that site.

I’ve worked on my family’s genealogy for over a decade and there are nights when I think “What if I could go back and talk to a relative?” or I ask myself the question that Bob Gale had which inspired the original film “What would happen if I met my dad when he was in high school?”. It would be difficult knowing what even the smallest thing you say/do could have an impact on the future. I’d just appreciate getting help on the dead ends of my family tree.

So how will I celebrate tonight while the rest of America rediscovers the greatest trilogy of all time? Kicked back with my boys and a heaping bowl of popcorn.

Here is my question to you. If you were traveling from 1985 to 2015, what would you think of the world today?

Categories: Family, Movies

Collective Soul and King Washington rock Pittsburgh

October 13th, 2015 No comments

Collective Soul has been a staple in my music rotation for years. During the 90s their self titled CD was deemed the ultimate mix to listen to while cleaning the apartment. After their 2001 Greatest Hits release, Seven Year Itch, though I stopped paying attention. It wasn’t that I fell out of love for their music but the relationship was more “out of sight, out of mind”.

I wasn’t buying many CDs, Napster and downloading whatever tunes I could get my hands on had me falling down the black hole of awful music. This was before legit digital downloads, iTunes and streaming services were available. The thought of only music in a non-digital platform may blow some of your minds today.

Adult Sippy Cup

Fast forward to 2015 and Collective Soul’s “See What You Started” tour supporting their 9th studio album rolled into Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead with jamming opener King Washington.

Prior to last Thursday I had no idea the album or the tour were taking place but something told me I should open the City Paper weekly email. “WIN TICKETS TO SEE COLLECTIVE SOUL IN PITTSBURGH!”. Sure, why not. Later that afternoon I received the email saying I won the tickets so date night was now set – Sunday night at 8pm.

Before kids this would have been a no-brainer. After kids my thoughts are “How will we find a sitter on a Sunday night?”, “What is the parking situation like?”, “What time do I have to be up for work in the morning?” and the most important part “Who won’t be tethered to their phone all night?”. You’d be surprised how often that last one is the deal breaker.

Since it was short notice we flew solo on this trip and had a great time reliving our college days. King Washington is new to me so every song was a treat. I liked their stage presence and most of the songs but I enjoyed their sound more once I got home and checked out their music online. Now I’m kicking myself for passing up a chance to chat after the show.

Collective Soul exceeded expectations (geez that sounds like I’m doing an HR performance review) and kept the crowd going for close to 2 hours. Lead singer Ed Roland is one helluva entertainer and painted the stage like an artist. The show reminds you of going to see your buddy’s band and feels like he’s playing just for you. They played the classic singalongs and mixed in the new release which had me in a mad rush to download when I got home. Joining Ed from the original line up were his brother Dean and bassist with mad skills Will Turpin. Rounding out the band is drummer Johnny Rabb who had me mesmerized and lead guitarist Jesse Triplett who could freaking THRASH! Not kidding. Every song was like a contest between Johnny and Jesse to see who could outshine the other. They both turned it up to 11.

The night ended with an extended version of Run which made the experience come full circle. I stood there looking at these guys not much older than me (well, except for Ed) and realized that we all grew up but not old. I now understand and appreciate what my brother feels when he goes to see bands from his younger days. We have shorter hair and even a few grey ones, but music is still bringing us together and for 2 hours everything in the world was good.