ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I’ve been helping out with charities since I was a little kid. In my twenties I spent a lot of time with Cystic Fibrosis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association and when I became a parent it was always March of Dimes. I did all of those because I knew someone directly involved and wanted to help out. Honestly, with so many charities out there you can only spread your money so far especially when on a fixed income.

When I first heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge I thought it was just a bunch of celebs being recruited to feel good that they had money to share. “Hey look at me, I’m donating!” but this kind of thing is in the media so much that I barely pay attention to it.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Then the Pens did it. Uh oh it’s getting local.

Soon people I knew were doing it.

I started thinking to myself that if Kevin Bacon did it the whole world would be connected and this thing would blow up, and it has. (Has Kevin done it yet anyways? It seems like he would be the go-to person for anything viral.)

My good friend Phil from My Life as a Foodie nominated myself and 2 others from our beer circles to take the challenge. The deal is you either donate money to ALSA or you have to dump a bucket of ice water over your head. Well we did both.

It seems like this challenge is drawing a lot of anger out of people also. Frankly the complainers are generally the ones griping about most things. Will dumping a bucket of ice over my head cure anything? No but it was REALLY refreshing. Is it raising awareness? I think it is and most people I know have donated money along with doing the challenge. Personally I used this opportunity to teach my kids about charities, get them involved in something fun to do and use their creativity to plan out the video. Not everything has to be entertaining but when you’re 3 and 5 it sure and heck helps get them interested.

Here is the video we came up with.

(Watch on YouTube)

I have nominated my beloved older brother Bob Derda Jr., former altar boy partner and Tiger Beat cover boy Mario Scutella II and founder of the Pavel Bure bro-mance, Mr. Chris “Stoosh” Jiuliante.

Find out more about ALS, the challenge and to donate, go to

Discovering Pittsburgh through my kids – Parks

I had no idea the amount of green available in Pittsburgh until I became a parent. I knew there were some big parks but I don’t think I really comprehended how much was available. I grew up with Presque Isle State Park and Frontier Park minutes from my house and didn’t appreciate them as much as I should have. Going back for visits now I LOVE Presque Isle but when I lived there it was the last place I wanted to spend time. It was always “there”.

Teaspoon Beach Lookout

Since I became a stay-at-home I’ve found the value of parks, both inside and out. They’re free (bonus!), they’re great for kids to run their butts off and get tired, they get to meet and play with other kids and parents get a chance to socialize also with someone not crying to have their butts wiped.

Here are a few of the ones we love to visit.

Dormont Park – Castle Park
Wooden structure with tire swings, slides and plenty of room to have battles from one castle to the other. This is our home park and we love that kids of all ages can play here. Even if we didn’t live here, this would be my favorite because it also reminds me of the old (and now gone) Jefferson School Park in Erie. People are pretty respectful of the area when it comes to keeping it clean and there are a few picnic tables if you want to bring a snack. The park is not completely enclosed though so you have to pay attention to the little ones if the wander.

Black and Gold Park
Located in South Park, this is a real gem when it comes to safety. The ground is that playground safe cushion material, there are kid safe swings, and has plenty of plastic so your kids aren’t getting dinged up. Plus side, it’s completely fenced in! There are some areas if you want to have a picnic and you’re also close to other playgrounds.

Blue Slide Park
This is a Pittsburgh icon that we finally visited a few months ago. The actual playground is fantastic for kids but a nightmare for parents if you’re watching more than a few kiddos. It’s multilevel so you may find yourself running around a lot. The blue slide is simple but genius when you think about it. Concrete slide built into the side of a hill which you ride down on cardboard. I spent a good hour watching my boys ride down it.

Teaspoon Blue Slide Park

Spray Parks
Here is a list of all the spray parks in Pittsburgh. They’re mini water parks for kids set up with sprinklers and other water art. We’ve only been to a few and deserves a post of its own once we hit them all.

State Parks
Raccoon Creek State Park and Moraine State Park are deserving of their own posts. I went to Raccoon last summer and we’ve made a few trips this year to their man made beach area. You’re out in the woods with no cell service and feel like you’re back to the days of old time family vacations. If you’re looking to disconnect and get away, this is the idea place to hang out for the day.

Moraine was my Father’s Day treat from my family. Biking, swimming, trails, and only an hour away.

North Boundary Park
We loved Cranberry when we lived there and this park is a main reason why. The kids park was great for our then 1yr old but also offered plenty of options as kids get older. This was the first park we experienced as a parent and still hold a soft sport for it. There are also multiple picnic groves and probably the best swimming pool in the area is a few steps away.

Carnegie Park
This was a popular hangout for the stay-at-home parents when we had time in between picking up kids from school. Small but nice play area and soon there will be a skate park opening up on site also. Not far is a dog park and a dek hockey rink.

There are other parks we want to check out. I lived in Oakland when I moved to Pittsburgh but haven’t been back to Schenley in many years. Mt. Lebo I’ve heard has a cool park also. Over the winter I became a connoisseur of mall parks and will hit on those later.

What are some of your favorite parks to check out?

This is the 3rd in a 3 part series on how, after living here for 16 years, I’m discovering Pittsburgh with the help of my little boys.

Everybody Walk the Dinosaur

Boom! Boom! Acka Lacka Boom!

Boom! Boom! Acka Lacka Boom! Boom!

Walking with Dinosaurs

I don’t know if there has ever been a boy who didn’t love dinosaurs at some point in their life. They’re larger than life, ruled the world, and as my 5yr old pointed out, “Man could they poop!”. Well until that whole asteroid thing wiped them away.

Last night My father-in-law and I took Teaspoon to see Walking with Dinosaurs at the CONSOL Energy Center thanks to Lushie scoring tickets from Q92.9 FM. I’ve been trying for weeks to win tickets and of course it’s my wife’s golden touch at winning radio contests that did it.

I was sly. For 2 days I laid on the guilt with “you better be good or you won’t get your surprise” tactic to keep his butt in line. It wasn’t until we walked up to the area that he figured out what was going on.

“Daddy, nice move. I had no ideaaaaaaaOOOOOMG DINOSAAAAUUUUURRRRSSS!”

We walked in and it’s merchandise blowup. Teaspoon’s eyes bugged out and insisted he must own it all. With most items ranging $20 that wasn’t happening. We opted for unlimited popcorn and a root beer which I think was a fair trade. Bonus to the night was bumping into my buddy Val from Small Town Dad and his family. Since we share the same childhood obsessions I knew this was going to be good event.

The show is absolutely amazing. There is no other way to explain it, but I’ll try without giving any spoilers. The dinosaurs are every bit as awesome as you see in the commercials or online and they are as life-like as I can imagine. Gone are the cheesy robotics from when I was a kid and now you have a smooth moving realistic experience.

Will your kids get scared? Possibly. Teaspoon said at times it was too loud and a few younger kids did cry but for the most part I don’t see any nightmares coming from it. This isn’t Barney running around singing songs, this is as close to nature as we can imagine. The T-rex at times gave me chills especially when he came towards my section and roared.

The show runs for 2 hours and has a 20 minute intermission in between. Based on the show times there is a good chance you won’t miss any bedtimes.

The night was a huge success for us and this morning Teaspoon gave me a huge hug and said thanks for taking him.

Here are some pics I took my with camera phone. I’m also in the market for a digital camera that would be ideal in settings like this and won’t have a security guard yelling at me so feel free to send suggestions also.


Check out the gallery from the night here.

And because I can’t resist it any longer…

(Watch on YouTube)

Discovering Pittsburgh through my kids – Libraries

Libraries were a place of dread going up. I didn’t come from a family of readers, we watched TV. When I was young my future sister-in-law came into the picture and would say “Don’t you want to read a good book?” I’d laugh and reply “Why, when I have cable with a gajillion channels?”.

Doug Kids Homebrewing
Quality time reading with the kids

Reading seemed like a chore to me because I did a ton of it in catholic school so why would I want to do it in my spare time? The problem was I didn’t have anyone saying “Hey there’s something cool to discover.”

Erie then built, at the time, the state-of-the-art Blasco Library. I was getting into computers and picked up loads of programming books. I would spend time in the computer center working on code and sending emails because I didn’t have a machine of my own.

When I moved to Pittsburgh I had my own computer and only used the Hillman for hoarding blazing net speeds. Years would pass before I stepped back into a library and, thanks to my kids, I’ve rediscovered how great we have it in Pittsburgh!

Carnegie Library (Oakland)
My wife has always been a big reader and when she was the one staying home, would take the kids to the library constantly. When it was my turn, the kids would tell me how much fun it really was. At the urging of my wife we went as a family and it changed me forever. I fell in love with the library.

The kids section of this library is exceptional. Bright colors, computer stations, play area, and of course books galore. I figured it would be chaos with kids running around but  the children are mindful of their surroundings and there are designated reading areas for the kids to chill with a book. The librarians are polite and understanding to the children and as a parent, felt very comfortable. They have programs for reading time and other creative development which is a perk to your free membership.

Return Of Marriage
Doc found at Carnegie Library for my great-grandparents

My favorite section is the genealogy department on the 3rd floor. I was intimidated at first because as someone getting into research, I walked into a huge room feeling overwhelmed with no idea where to start. The staff is unbelievable with helping and explaining how everything works and where to look for information. Without them I wouldn’t have made so many advances on my family tree. I am absolutely addicted to spending time there and discovering more about this city I now call home.

They also have access to world records. While you can’t save to your account, you can write down the info you need. Accessing local records via microfilm is a snap and you can make copies for $.10 each. Bring some dimes.

What surprised me most was the amount of programs the library offers so check out the website for a listing of current events. I know there are others like me who were “eh, its just a place of books. boring. whatever.” but you can see that, unlike other industries, they’re evolving and embracing technology instead of fighting it.

Easter Bunny at Greentree Library
Easter Bunny at Greentree Library

Greentree Library
Being home with the boys all day I’m always looking for something to do with them and Ms. Shannon at Greentree is without a doubt the best librarian in Pittsburgh. Her reading time with the kids is very hands on and my boys rave about it all the time. During the holidays she brings in Mrs. Claus to read to the kids, there are Easter egg hunts and other holiday themed events. As a parent the kids thirst for learning makes me proud.

Following the reading adventures, kids are invited to play in the community gym (when available) which is located in the same building.

Hanging out in the kids section
Hanging out in the kids section

Mt. Lebanon Library
I’m a South Hills guy now so this is my go-to library. I use the Dormont library quite a bit also but this is the one I call home. The kids section is HUGE and complete with computer center, creative play area, hearty supply of DVDs/video games to rent and access to the outdoor reading garden.  They’ve also embraced digital audio books, have a very easy book check in/out system and have events such as a chili tasting and beer sampling. Mt.Lebo does a great job making it a community gathering spot.

Pittsburgh has an incredible library system that I would have never discovered without the quality programs offered to bring my kids in.

Pittsburgh libraries aren’t the dull, out-of-date, old lady behind the desk yelling at you for breathing too loud experience many of us grew up with. They’re relaxing, fun, educational and make you want to visit.

Genealogy research and historical societies seem to have a reputation as being for the older generations. If there is anyone interested in making it appeal to all generations, maybe we can do something about it.

Obviously this is a short list of the places I go. What is your favorite library and why?

This is the 2nd in a 3 part series on how, after living here for 16 years, I’m discovering Pittsburgh with the help of my little boys.

Discovering Pittsburgh through my kids – Museums

I’m a history junkie. Most of my friends know this and if you didn’t, now you do also. I love historical events and stories more than saaaay art.


Growing up I dragged my family to Gettysburg roughly 18 times while dad was on his business trips for the state. Something about the Civil War sucked me in (ask me about General Lee being a midget some day) but I had zero interest in the history of my hometown of Erie.

Looking back we never learned about the War of 1812 even though we’re the home of the Flagship Niagara and the only reason why I liked going to the Erie Historical Museum was to touch the kettle Mad Anthony Wayne had his bones boiled in. What adolescent boy wouldn’t love that!

I loved the Carnegie Museum of Natural History when we would visit Pittsburgh because they had a T-Rex and dinosaur bones galore. I had the shirts, posters, heck I WAS Dino Dan… err Doug.  Beyond that though most museums were kinda boring to a kid. Technology wasn’t like it is today and honestly you can only look at so many pieces of paper, clay figurines and touch a piece of wood that was on something famous before you get bored.

Today is different and Pittsburgh makes learning fun.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Locals already know how cool this place is but if you’re new to the area, grew up with experiences such as mine, or are parents, let me explain.

This museum is tricked out. There are interactive screens and movies that can suck you in. The displays are filed with color and excitement and my kids LOVE that they can be hands on with many of the items. Gone are the days of walking in line and getting yelled at if you touch something. OK within reason touching something. Don’t take selfies with the bears.

Derda Boys Carnegie Museum

My kids love the excavation site where they can get down and dirty “unearthing” remains with their picks, goggles and brushes. Every weekend we’ve attended there has been something hands on so they can feel the science. Not everything has gone to the kids so don’t get the impression that it’s getting cartoonish. The museum has made the experience interactive so you feel like you’re a part of it. They made history fun!

It is also attached to the Carnegie Library, which has made an impact on me, and I’ll touch on it tomorrow.

Membership information can be found here. Join and you also get admission into Carnegie Museum of Art, The Andy Warhol Museum, and Carnegie Science Center (including Highmark SportsWorks®) This is seriously a great deal even if you only visit a couple of places. Parking is relatively cheap also at around $5.

Carnegie Science Center
The science center isn’t a museum but is part of the membership you can purchase here so I wanted to make sure it gets a mention. I love it for the submarine, planetarium and omnimax theater. Kids love the Highmark SportsWorks because they can get tossed and thrown around by science.


Its a win-win for all families and deserves a post of it’s own on here down the road. With 20 breweries in the SWPA area I hope to one day see a small segment dedicated to the brewing process. Give me a call people, we’ll make it work.

Children’s Museum
This isn’t your traditional museum and is more of a creative playhouse for all ages. I’ve learned a lot about my boys from spending the past 7.5 months home with them but the Children’s Museum taught me so much more. My 3yr old is very much into electronics and building. I’m not talking about video games but he loves building with different materials and also completing circuits to make things move.

TeaspoonChildrensMuseumHighlight is the 3rd floor, or as my kids call it, Water World.

Waterplay is a place where children can experience nearly 20 different new exhibit components that let them pump, move, channel and dam the flow of water, and experience rain, spray and ice.  Have fun with hands-on activities highlighting water texture, flow, reflection and tension, and learn about the principles of buoyancy, hydraulics and conservation.

My kids have learned about teamwork in managing water flow, how water can create power and how to make any adult soaked with little effort. Don’t worry, they have dryers.

You can easily spend 3-4 hours in there without realizing it and no two trips are ever the same. To find out more and join, visit them at

Those are the 3 that we hit up quite frequently. On our list to visit in the area also are the Roberto Clemente Museum, Andy Warhol MuseumWestern Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum and Senator John Heinz History Center.

Do you have suggestions on places to check out?

This is the 1st in a 3 part series on how, after living here for 16 years, I’m discovering Pittsburgh with the help of my little boys.