Getting out of the house – the year of family travel

I’ve joked over the years that unless someone was getting married or had passed away, we’ve never been on a family vacation and I haven’t taken a break in over 10 years. Sad thing was, I wasn’t kidding. It was the truth.

Cheeseburger Derda Erie ZooVacations and time off were never part of my vocabulary and looking back it has been one of my biggest regrets. I was raised to believe that you work no matter what and there will be time to rest when you are dead. I was constantly connected and little did I know there was more than time in the sun I was missing. It would piss me off when I saw friends who always griped about not having money posting pics from trips they took every couple of months. If I was going to do this I would have to learn how to relax. You read that correctly. I didn’t know how to relax.

Every winter we would day dream about trips to take and then reality would sink in, I’d freak about money, logistics behind organizing an adventure and stress out to the point where I’d say “screw this!” and go back to work. After being off for a year to stay home with the boys I discovered I had to make more time for my family and more importantly, myself.

You may have noticed a serious lack of posts this year… or you haven’t (hi new people!). After returning from our first trip in April I made the decision to take a blogging break as well. Then we went on more unplanned vacations and let me tell you, it was freaking wonderful. Nothing breaking the bank either. We found great (read as hella cheap) ways to relax as a family and have fun. This post will be a kickoff for the 2015 Derda travel series which include:

  • Waco, TX – Week long adventure including flights with Spirit Airlines, dining at the restaurant where biker warfare took place and so much good BBQ it shot out my ears.
  • Sherman, NY – A week in the woods at “Cabin on Echo Pond” by Chautauqua turned out to be one of the most relaxing places in the world.
  • Erie, PA – Sometimes you need to go home to get yourself grounded.
  • Cherry Hill, NJ – You don’t know a long road trip until you’ve been on a Greyhound bus. Solo trip for my first ever guy’s weekend and memories that ummm well we ate and drank very well.
  • Harrisville, PA – Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest was the site for my 1st ever camping trip. You can guess how this city slicker handled the woods.

Stories above will become live as the stories are posted over the next week and they’ll all link to each other.

R.I.P. Kevin and Bob – The Derda Fish. A Father’s Journey Into Pets

Oh we barely knew ye but the amount of joy you brought to our boys could never be measured. You were an inspiration to all of us in the Derda family even though your time with us was short… in fact you guys didn’t even make it 24hours.

Wait, can I get some kind of refund here?

Kevin and Bob - The Derda Fish

Everyone knows that goldfish from a church festival never last more than a few days and I expected that out of Kevin but Bob, WTF dude?

Monday night when I get home from work the fishies were swimming, the kids were singing, rainbows and unicorns were everywhere. Ahhh the life of an awesome dad.

Wait, what’s that horrendous screeching?

My kids are wailing “OMFG WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR FISH?!?!” “WHY GOD? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?” from the living room. (OK maybe that was a little dramatic on my end but still.)

The kids got their first lesson on death, pets and expectations you should set when you win a fish at a game that is $1 for 7 ping pong balls. What I didn’t expect was that a trained professional at a pet store would lead us down the path of eternal sleep.

Shortly after we promised the boys their friends would have a proper burial in the “porcelain chute to Heaven” (thank God they don’t think EVERYTHING we flush goes up) we headed to Petsmart in Bethel Park to see what we could do. I’m not comfortable going into stores where I have to deal with salespeople on topics I don’t know about but the staff was absolutely amazing and patient while the 2 grieving wiener kids ran around trying to convince me to buy a shark.

Yes, a shark.  Didn’t happen.

Since we’ve never owned fish the young lady spent time explaining that you couldn’t “Just pour tap water and dump them in. They can handle it.” like the previous store did, she talked to me about testing the water, what types of treatment we need and which fish are compatible together. Apparently they have gangs like the Jets and the Sharks.

At the end of the night we walked out with 2 new Tetras, a better understanding of fish/water ratio and what to look for. If you’re keeping score at home, the $1.00 spent to win the original fish ended up costing us $57 to date.

Once the little guys grow you can stop over and say hello to our new family members, Speedy and Bob the Fast Fish.

 

Weekend in Erie – Part 2 – Polka, festival and new family

St James Festival - Pizza time

St James Festival - Pony RideIt started with the family going to a polka mass at my old parish, which my mom is still an active member in. I go there maybe once a year because mom likes when we’re all together but she also like to sit up front which is a huge pet peeve of mine. It’s cool though because I end up seeing parents of friends and people who still pinch my cheeks and tell me they knew me as a baby. My dad was the head of ushers, my mom was in the choir and my brother and I were both altar boys. Everyone was involved in the parish.

The parish festival was in its final day and part of that tradition is a turkey dinner. Turkey in August? Yeah you might think that’s crazy but the meal is good. REALLY good! We walk around so the kids can play games, dad can play Bingo and while the size of the festival has diminished over the years it really is a stellar place to go. That was until we got to The Fish Pond.

I worked the festival in various roles from grade school until I left for college. You can ask any alumni since the early days and they’ll tell you the same, the fish will die by the time you get them home. I never knew anything about fish. I don’t care about fish. Damn the fis… oh hey son, you want to win a fish? Sure go for it!

$1 for 7 balls so I figured I was safe. Apparently Teaspoon has the beer pong skills of his old man and nailed it. Unfortunately he couldn’t repeat the feat so I have 1 kid with a fish and 1 without. Know what that means? We’re going to the fish store.

After packing up and saying goodbye to my mom we went to a local pet store to now buy a fish for Cheeseburger and a fish tank. $40 later we leave and head back to Pittsburgh with our new family members.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin and Bob.

Kevin and Bob - The Derda Fish

Here are pics from the rest of the day.

Did you miss out on part 1 of our weekend adventure in Erie? Check out Swimming in greatness!

Weekend in Erie – Part 1 – Swimming in greatness

Teaspoon on the Beach

Growing up in Erie it was always easy to spot the tourists at Presque Isle, they were the only people swimming in the lake. I guess this could be said for any native in a tourist hot spot but going back now with a family I have a new appreciation for the beach.

Feet in the water at Presque IsleLast Saturday I took the family on a quick weekend trip to Erie. If you’re in Pittsburgh the journey up I-79 really is fast. You can be there in 2.5 hours and the drive flies by as you watch the Steel City skyline turn into beautiful country driving, errr just with an interstate running through it.

When I lived in Erie the place to be was Beach 6. This was the home of sand volleyball tournaments, best concession stand on the peninsula and where the good looking people hang out. If you’re a teenager or single person, this is your reality TV show. Married dude in his 30’s with 2 kids, ummm yeeeaaaahhh we scooted down to Beach 7/Water Works a.k.a. the “family beach”.

If you’re a family traveling up there, here is why you’ll love this spot.

  1. Affordable large cabins for rent if you’re having a gathering. We’re talking 50-100 people.
  2. Picnic tables if you want to pack your lunch and hang out plus grills are available.
  3. Excellent fishing spots for the kids.
  4. Playground if they’re done with the swimming/sand thing.
  5. Bike Rental station and hub of anything “touristy” you want to do.
  6. The beach area is rarely crowded, spacious area to set up a tent or umbrella and then lay out in the sun
  7. Plenty of lifeguards on hand for additional peace of mind.
  8. Incredible sunset with Canada off in the distance

This trip was unique for us as the water in the bay was higher than normal and the winds whipping around causing waves close to 4 feet high. The parent in me was “OMFG MY KIDS WILL BE CARRIED OUT TO SEA!” but once I got in the water with them I turned into “WOOOOOOOOO THIS IS FREAKING AWESOME! GET ME A BOOGIE BOARD!”. Both of my kids laughed harder than they ever have as they would either ride the waves or get sucked down shore as the waves crashed.  4 hours later we head to my mom’s for dinner and to hang out.

Sunday would turn out to be a slightly awkward day and you can read about that next…

 

 

And that’s when the kid said…

Teaspoon Penguin

Teaspoon PenguinTeaspoon was playing on his tablet this morning when he looked up and said:

Daddy, do you miss Pop Pops (my dad who passed in 06)? Was he awesome because I imagine that when he was born God sent him down in a basket and umbrella to his mommy because all they had were a horse and buggy.

Dude, you have no idea how awesome he really was and I can only hope that someday you and your brother can say the same about your old man. Well, except that God sent me down in a Delorian.