When Teaspoon came home from school last night we knew the time was near.
“DADDY LOOK AT MAH TOOF! IT WIGGLES!” he says with fingers jammed in his mouth.
I look at him and think “OMFG YOU BETTER NOT HAVE THE FLU ON YOUR HANDS! GERMS GERMS GERMS!”
Kids are dirty. Boys are gross. It happens and if you’re a parent saying “not my child”, you’re either in a bubble or lying to yourself.
Shortly after dinner he went sprinting up to the bathroom and it happened. The tooth which wiggle and jiggled for over a week was finally gone and once the reality of the moment sank in, he screamed. He had a quick freak out because there was a decent amount of blood coming from his mouth and really had no idea what was going on. I cleaned his mouth out and promptly started calling/texting/tweeting/Facebooking images of that wonderful smile. Proud daddy moment when your oldest child hits a milestone.
What he said next almost made me pass out and turn white.
“Daddy, my friend at school said that for your first tooth you get $100 because that’s what he got!” Yeah, that was SO not happening here. Instead he woke up to a crisp $5 on his nightstand resting under the Dixie Cup holding his precious tooth.
I know there will be plenty knocked out from hockey, being a boy and fighting with his little brother but until then our insurance is wiping its brow at this part of life.
What a year. Usually I go back and recap all of my favorite posts from the past 12 months but I really didn’t blog as much as I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had great moments but what I THOUGHT was going to happen and what did are different. Life never goes as planned and that is what makes it an adventure. You find out that what you think you want isn’t what the universe has planned for you.
I was going to write a post talking about the struggles I had being a stay-at-home-dad, being unemployed and then overcoming to wind up where I am today. Quite frankly all it was doing was pissing me off as I relived the asshattery of people not worth my time so I stopped. I could still be bitter about all of the b.s. but it happened for a reason and each time I learned something.
Here are some things I picked up along the way in 2014.
I want to create Spending time with my kids forced me to be creative on things to do and see. I started to build and create projects thanks to a great planning guide. Parenting made me see the world in a new light and I thought about how I could make processes better and apps to help. This rekindled a love for making content and now I want to do more with it, and will, in 2015.
Be more flexible with your schedule It’s December 31st today and most people say “Oh I want to have x,y,z done by the end of the year!” That’s great if you have that personal goal but don’t stress if you can’t meet it. Things happen. I wanted to have “Should I Drink That?” and this site redesigned and published but guess what, not happening. Reality is I’ve been slammed at work when by the time I get home at night, eat and put the kids to bed, I’m ready to pass out.
Start saying NO I had a bad habit of not turning people down when I knew I was overwhelmed. I did a lot of side projects for people (sometimes for free or “exchange for goods”) and found out that they were just taking advantage of my time and generosity. There’s a time and place to help someone out, you just need to know when to draw the line.
Ignore stupid people Don’t let anyone take away or diminish the enjoyment you have. The moment “How could you possibly like…” comes out of someone’s mouth is when you tune them out and smile. Miserable people are hellbent on bringing you down to their level. Don’t let them. Unless they’re paying you money for a service, their opinion means nothing. I see this all the time with a growing segment in the craft beer crowd. Guess what, I drink craft beer but I’m also known to drink Beast Ice. *gasp* Oh it’s true. It may taste like desperation but some nights I need that.
Read more Coming into 2014 I hated reading. “Don’t you want to get lost in a good book?” Hell no. It’s wasting my time when I could be doing something else constructive. I still think reading for pleasure is silly and that if you’re not learning something from reading, it’s a waste of time. Binge watching Netflix though, I’m all about that. It requires little effort.
The people who are always in panic mode will burn out. OMFG THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER! Well until the next OMFG THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER! happens. I’ve dealt with too many people who are always in crisis mode and it’s exhausting. You just need to keep your mouth shut and do your job. I let myself slip once when I was pushed too far and all that did was feed the fire. Keep calm because while they’re flipping out you can be dreaming about something else. Like making beer.
Becoming DIY – repairs My dad could fix anything or would find someone who could help. My brother is the “I’ll pay someone to do it” guy. Me? I was a mix. I never learned the basics of home repairs or cars growing up beyond the “HOLD THE FLASHLIGHT HERE!” role. With a lack of income this year I turned to the internet and friends for help on how to fix basic things. Now I’m more likely to try and fix it myself first before calling a repair guy. Well I call my father-in-law first THEN make the decision on what to do.
Becoming DIY – food The family bought me a new grill this year and I have been grilling my ass off and I want to do more in 2015. I was also on the hook to make dinner every night while home with the kiddos. I found out I had a knack for cooking and I can thank home brewing for that. If you can boil water you can cook (and brew). I’m not going to plan an elaborate 4 course meal but if I get the call to whip something up, I’m no longer calling for take out.
Pittsburgh really is badass I created a series called ‘Discover Pittsburgh through my kids” that turned out to be a big hit. If I didn’t have the opportunity to be home with my kids I would have never found out how kickass the city is. Until you’re in a situation to appreciate certain features of this town you can’t truly appreciate the diversity of Pittsburgh. Thank you everyone for making 2014 an exciting and educational year.
Here are a few videos that will always make this past year special
Dating back to the early 1900s my family had a connection with the railroad. My grandfather helped build the rails through Erie while my granduncles, uncles and father worked on the lines as well. The railroad has quite the spot in Derda family history (as does grape farming but that’s another story) so seeing my boys take a fascination with the trains and rails make part of me glow inside.
My family was invited out to the Western PA Model Railroad Museum last weekend and it was a throwback to childhood geekdom. My dad would take me to many model train stores and visit friends on the rails (note: NOT hobos. Actual people working for the Conrail) when I was about my kids age and walking in here felt like I was going back to that time.
The main floor is all decked out for kids to lose their mind on so much awesome. The displays fit perfectly into the short attention span that most children have. They’re very busy, filled with bright colors and things you don’t see every day. Heck even the creepy Burger King was hanging with McDonalds. See, we all can get along! This is the area where parents can take a breather if their kids touch something because the valuables are behind glass.
This place isn’t just for the kiddos! Venture upstairs and be taken back to the summer of 1952 with a scaled down version of the ride from downtown Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md. What amazed me more than the enormous size of the display was the attention to detail in the scenes. Granted I wasn’t live in the 50s, but I wasn’t raised here either so all I have to go on are photos from that time. I was fortunate to have an older gentleman in line next to me telling stories of the railroad in his youth and added to the authenticity of the layout. He kept saying it was very similar to how he remembered the time and that’s when I paused. I started thinking about my dad’s stories of the railroad and that’s when I realized this is more than just a hobby, it’s a story. Most of the people I chatted with talked about their collections and memories with their families growing up.
After we left we talked with the boys about what their favorite part was, and of course they couldn’t pick just one, they asked if they could ride in a train some day. My wife handed me a few fliers she snagged on the way out for train rides in western PA so you can guess what we’re planning for next fall.
Check out the WPMRM website for details on hours and directions. They have well made videos showcasing their display but trust me, you’ll want to see this in person!
When it was first suggested we go check out the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay a few weeks ago I was against it. I didn’t want to spend my Saturday night loading up the family, driving to West Virginia to look at Christmas lights and then driving back a car of people snoring. As the nights came and went we would drive around the South Hills and my kids would gawk at the lights on houses. Yeah, you can see where this was leading. Either they really loved the lights or mommy bribed their butts.
Last week while picking up my youngest from preschool he asked me if we could go look at lights some night because they really make him happy. Looking at the calendar the only date we had open that would work was December 6, my dad’s 8th anniversary. I felt a blanket of peace come over me and knew this would be a fitting tribute since the man was crazy obsessed with Christmas lights and going all out to decorate. He was the Clark Griswold of Erie.
The drive felt faster than I expected and while the wait in the car might seem long (see the list below) what you’re going to experience is worth it. Oglebay does a great job of traffic control and making sure you don’t have many bottlenecks along the way once you’re in the park. The use of LED lights over the old bulbs when I was growing up made the designs brighter but also helped the displays with moving parts appearing more lively.
It’s hard for me to talk about what I loved without ruining the trip for you so I’ll leave you with this. The glow on my kids faces were the brightest I have ever seen. Every turn was “WHOA! LOOK!” and at the end Teaspoon said thanks for taking him because it was really cool.
Here are a few thoughts.
Know Before You Go
This isn’t just a quick “wham-bam-nice lights ma’am” kinda trip, it’s an adventure and you need to be ready for it especially if you’re taking kids.
Easy drive – From Greentree to the exit right off I-70 was approximately 1 hour. All you need to know is I-79 to I-70 and be able to read signs. It really is THAT easy to get to. Once you exit and turn right onto National Rd/rt40 stay in the left lane. You turn at Sheetz unless…
OH MAH GAWD! TRAFFIC! – Here’s how you get around the first wave of cars. Weekday nights won’t be as bad but Fri/Sat/Sunday is a mess. Stay in the right lane and pass Sheetz. You can turn around at the plaza a block away and then when you come back you’ll have the right turn on red.
OH MAH GAWD! TRAFFIC pt 2 – If traffic is backed up at Sheetz you will wait for at least 75 minutes in traffic. Traffic moves at a crawl and there are very few places to pull over on the way. Plan ahead for road trip food.
Bring your wallet – Suggested donation is $20 per car (great price!) and there is a DVD for $5 which is worth it. The kids have played it to death plus we got to learn more about the resort. There is also a cool gift shop and activities for families.
Christmas Jams – They have a radio station to tune in to for music while you’re touring the area along with info breaks to tell you more about the displays.
Bring a camera but don’t stress over pics – Unless you’re stopping for pics don’t sweat it if you can’t get that perfect blurry picture of lights. Enjoy the moment with the people you’re with.
Beer in Sheetz – It’s mostly macros but if you want to feel what it’s like to live in just about every other state in the U.S. and buy beer at a convenience store, this is your chance. There’s also a Kroger’s at the exit but their selection is really weak.
Drive back is really fast – We had no idea how close Wheeling really was. I mean we KNEW it was a short distance but if you haven’t been there, you need to experience it.
The trip was a great experience for the family and next year I think we may make a full weekend out of it. There was so much to do we didn’t know about and next year I think getting a group of us together would be a blast.
There’s a lot about my Polish heritage that I’m unfamiliar with. Until recently while working on my family tree, I knew I was Polish but I didn’t know where on the tree it came from. My mom’s family is hardcore German so I knew the answer was on my dad’s side, but where? When I heard the Pittsburgh Polish Festival was going on I knew I had to be there. Handmade pierogies, smoked meats and chocolates on every corner along with exposure to a culture I wanted to learn more about.
Last Sunday Teaspoon and I made the trip to the Cathedral of Learning to see what it was all about and the things we found were amazing.
This was my first trip to the Cathedral since I was a student at Pitt in the 90’s and right away I felt like I was at home. We were greeted by a very friendly polish couple who explained what was going on and asked what brought us in. Saying that you want to find out more about your heritage is the golden ticket as they gave me more handouts than I could handle, offered Teaspoon free homemade bread and told me who I should speak with if I have questions. Awesome people.
I have attended the Polish fest in Erie called Zabawa a few times but really went for the food and beer. When you’re 22 that’s all which matters. They were nice events but nothing to this scale. Although I’m sure going back now would be a different experience.
We watched the dancers for a few minutes and Teaspoon was in awe at how the little kids moved plus I think deep down he wants one of their outfits. We sampled foods, walked around the upper floors of the building since it was Teaspoon’s first trip, and met with a few elders who were able to help me out with family tree info I brought along.
One thing the Cathedral doesn’t have is a steady flow of air so after awhile it got REALLY warm and we were ready to go. Teaspoon asked if I could show him our family tree and what I do to work on it. A 5yr old wants to know about history? WIN! We walked across the street to the Carnegie Library and visited the 3rd floor which is where I spend a lot of time when I get a break from the kids. I showed him how to use the microfilm machine and how to do research on the computers which is similar to what I do at home. I could see the little guy was wearing down so we picked up and left. Well I thought we were done.
As we pulled out of the parking garage he realized he didn’t have sunglasses and the meltdown began. Library was closing in 6 minutes, he wanted his glasses and I really didn’t want to drive back to Oakland later this week. I floor it around Oakland and somehow manage to find a parking spot in front. We sprinted in and back up to the 3rd floor to see his specs sitting behind the microfilm machine. Of course, he blamed this one me.
The day was fun and it brought me joy discovering our family heritage together. My wish is that someday he carries on the mission to find out more about our family and history.
Oh, and just because it’s freaking beautiful, here’s a pic of the Cathedral of Learning we took before leaving.