My Little Bike Rider

our-new-bike-riderThey grow up so quickly.

Around his birthday, B’s parents told JSL that they wanted to buy him a new bike.  His current bicycle, a hand-me-down from his older brother, was getting too small for him so it was time to upgrade.  One problem:  The new bike would be too big to include training wheels.  That meant JSL would need to learn without them.  Since we wouldn’t want the new bike to be scratched from learning-to-ride falls, we decided to hold off on the new bike and just remove his training wheels on the current bike for now.

At first, JSL couldn’t get the hang of riding.  As I held onto him, he would lean towards me and then away from me.  Over the course of the first day, he began to get better and better.  Finally, I began letting go.  He would go for a second or two on his own before running into trouble.  The more practice he got that day, the better he got.  I would silently count and tell him what he got afterwards.  He got up to eight seconds and was so proud of himself.

The next day, we resumed his practicing and he got up to twelve seconds.  As every record was shattered, he’d scream out the new number.  I bet everyone on our block was wondering why he was shouting seemingly random numbers.

By Saturday, it became clear that JSL had mastered balance.  Unfortunately, his confidence was lacking.  He would be perfectly balanced with my hand on him (but not really supporting him), and yet the minute I let go he would veer towards the grass in an attempt to fall softly.

Thinking that perhaps our short up-and-down the block excursions were too short to build his confidence, I took JSL on a long bike ride a few blocks away from our house and back.  Though I held on to him most of the time, he balanced really well.

Awhile after we got back to our block, JSL was pedaling up our block and I let go of him.  As usual, he kept going.  But he didn’t stop.  He just kept going and going.  We have the "he’s got it" moment.  B was sitting outside the house when she saw him pedal past – followed by me running to keep up.  (He wore me out by making me run after him up and down the block.)

Our little baby was officially a bike rider.

Starting up still required mom or dad to push him off so he worked on that next and, by yesterday, had that figured out.  He’s growing up so quickly.  While I’m sad that he won’t need me to hold on to him as he rides anymore, I’m so proud of him for figuring out how to ride a bike.  I’m looking forward to going on some bike rides with him in the future.

Until then, I’d better get used to this view.


How The Simpsons Tempted Me To The Dark Side

the_simpsons_dvdDisclaimer: In the following blog post, I’m going to mention doing things that aren’t legal.  I want to just clarify from the outset that I haven’t done these things, I’m not condoning these things, and I’m definitely not going to give step-by-step instructions on doing these things.  So if you came here looking for instructions of this nature, you’ll be disappointed.  Also, any comments that give/link to instructions or link to programs to do these things will be removed.

For the most part, I’m a law-abiding citizen.  I like staying within the legal lines.  My "criminal record" would be a boring read – if it weren’t nonexistent.  So when it comes to obtaining movies and TV shows to watch, it should be no surprise that I do things the legal way.  I stream from Netflix, Amazon VOD, record using my DVR, purchase DVDs, or rent DVDs from the library.  I never, ever download the videos in those less-than-legal manners that the copyright owners haven’t approved.  Recently, however, I was sorely tempted.

A couple of weeks ago, while walking through a local store, we saw the new line of Simpsons Lego minifigures.  Of course, my boys wanted them.  They didn’t care that they had never watched a single episode of The Simpsons or that they wouldn’t be able to tell which one was Bart and which one was Milhouse.  All they cared about was that these were new Lego minifigs.

I decided that perhaps the time had come to introduce my boys to The Simpsons.  I pulled out my DVD copy of The Simpsons: Season 1 (a present from B years ago and yet still shrink wrapped).  We watched the first episode and my boys were hooked.  They quickly got through the rest of the first season.

This was where we hit a wall.  How would we get the rest of the seasons for the boys to watch?  The Simpsons is no ordinary TV show.  It has been on the air for 25 years and has amassed five hundred and fifty episodes.  We could purchase each of the DVD sets for seasons 2 to 24, but that would cost over $460 – way too expensive for our bank account.  If Netflix had them available, we could stream them from there, but sadly there isn’t a single episode on there.  They aren’t available via Amazon Prime either.  Amazon’s VOD service has some of the episodes, but not all.

This leaves me with two legal options.  First, I could take them out from the library.  We actually wound up taking Season 2 out of the library, but only got to keep it for four days (two days plus a renewal time of two days).  That was only enough time to watch one of the four DVDs in the set.  We could have kept the set out longer and paid late fees ($0.25 per day), but at that rate we would have needed to pay $3 per season or $69 to watch the entire set.

Alternatively, I could subscribe to Netflix’s DVD streaming service for the duration of our Simpsons watching time.  Given that it would have taken us about 16 days to get through a set, we would have needed to subscribe to Netflix’s DVD streaming service for just over a year.  (This is assuming no downtime of needing to wait for the next disc to arrive.)  This would cost about $130 – even more than the library option.

Clearly, there is no easy, inexpensive way to watch The Simpsons from the beginning to the present episodes.  Or is there?  While I haven’t actually done it myself, I do know in theory how to download items from less-than-legal locations.  If I really wanted to, it wouldn’t take me long to get rips of the DVDs on my computer for the boys and I to watch.  I might even be able to do it in such a fashion as to avoid detection by the companies that watch for people illegally sharing files.

Still, I might slip up and be found.  A fine of even $750 per episode (the minimum fine for a copyright violation) could still work out to over $350,000.  At that rate, we might as well buy all of the DVDs – a hundred times over.

On the other hand, there are sneakier ways of pirating material.  Take the library, for example.  Taking the DVD out from the library is completely legal.  Once it is time to return it, it goes back and we can’t watch it again unless we take it back out.  What if we ripped the DVD though?  We would then be able to watch the episodes at our leisure.  I could even assuage my conscience by telling myself that I’ll delete the episodes when we’re done with them and that it’s just an "extended library loan."  My chances of being caught doing this are virtually zero.

So what is stopping me?  My children.  I want to set an example for them.  If I believe that downloading copyrighted material without authorization is wrong, then what kind of lesson would I teach them if I bent my moral rules for the sake of convenience?  Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult.  Sometimes doing the right thing means going without something you really want.  It can be very easy to shrug off your morals and take "the quick and easy path."  The dark side did tempt me, yes, but I refused to give in.  We’ll watch The Simpsons the slower, but legal way of library rentals.  I just wish the content owners would license The Simpsons to Netflix so that my boys could view it in an easier, but still legal fashion.

NOTE: The "Simpsons DVD" image above was taken by me of our Season One DVD set.

Surgery Day


Today’s the day that we’ve been nervous about for some time: Surgery Day.  Today, JSL is going to go under general anesthesia to have his adenoids cut back, his turbinates cut out, and to have his tongue tie taken care of.  JSL is understandably nervous.  So is NHL for whom surgery is an anxiety trigger.

Truth be told, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t nervous either.  I keep saying it is a routine procedure.  I keep telling myself that it will only last an hour at most.  I keep saying that the doctors do this all the time.  I keep remembering that two of my nephews have had this done with no complications.  Still, I can’t help but be scared over what will happen.  It’s all I can do to hide my nervous feelings from JSL and NHL since I don’t want them getting even more nervous.

Have you ever had a child go in for surgery?  If so, how did you handle the nerves?

Note: The "gloved hand with scalpel" image is by johnny_automatic and is available from

In Defense of Paternity Leave Trumping Baseball

297px-Daniel_Murphy_on_June_16,_2009While browsing through my Twitter stream yesterday, I noticed a tweet from FiddleDeeAsh about sportscasters Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton lambasting New York Mets second baseman, Daniel Murphy for taking paternity leave when his son was born.  Daniel Murphy wound up taking three days off (as allowed by Major League Baseball paternity leave rules) and missed the first two games of the season.

Craig wondered why Daniel couldn’t just hand his wife off to a "good support system" so he could get back to his team and play baseball.  Boomer took it a step further and said he would have had his wife have a c-section so that he wouldn’t miss any games.  He actually said:  "This is what makes our money.  This is how we’re going to live our life.  This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life.  I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player."  Finally, on a different program, radio host Mike Francesa expressed the opinion that "you see the birth and you get back" and "your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple days, you know that."


I almost don’t know where to begin so let me start with Craig’s opening remarks.  Yes, a good support system is essential.  New parents with a good support system will tend to fare better than new parents without one.  However, part of a good support system is having both parents helping out.  When NHL was born, I took a whole week off from work.

Lest Boomer and Craig think that new dads sit around watching TV and grumbling to their wives that the baby is screaming again, we don’t.  When NHL was born, I would take my share of turns taking care of him.  I actually tried to do more than my "share" since B had done the hard work of giving birth to our new baby (something I obviously couldn’t do) and needed time to recuperate.

But if Craig had a grain of truth in his otherwise warped statement, Boomer was full-on looney.  First of all, a c-section is surgery.  It is a highly invasive process that puts the mother’s life in jeopardy (even if it is commonly done, it still carries risks) and can result in permanent scarring.  To suggest that Daniel Murphy’s wife should have had surgery just so Daniel could play baseball is beyond insulting.

Then there’s the "this is how I make my money" argument.  Sadly, this argument isn’t limited to professional sports.  Too many people in too many other occupations bring it up as well.  For all of our advances, many still think that a dad’s only role in bringing up a child is earning money with all of the "actual parenting" being the mom’s job.

How many times must we smash this stereotype before it stays smashed?

Earning money is important, but I doubt many kids grow up and think fondly on all of the money their dad made over the years.  What truly makes a father isn’t the size of your paycheck, but how you interact with your children.  Great fathers spend time with their children and bond with them like Daniel Murphy chose to do.

It wasn’t like Daniel Murphy was quitting baseball and somehow dooming his family to poverty with his actions.  He was taking a couple of days off as per league rules and then he went back to work.  The Mets aren’t going to fire him for this.  Honestly, if I worked for a company and they wanted to fire me for daring to take time off to be with my wife after she gave birth, I’d rethink how much I’d want to work for that organization.  (Thankfully, I never needed to do this as my boss at the time let me take off as much time as I felt I needed.)

Finally, we get to Francesa’s comments.  Somehow, I think that "I’ve seen the birth, I’m done here" is missing something.  Like maybe that baby that was just born!

As for "your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple of days, you know that"… Actually, I didn’t know that.  So you mean right after my wife pushed a watermelon out of her, when simply going to the bathroom was a challenge, when she was mentally and physically exhausted because she had essentially run a marathon (child birth isn’t a "I’m going to give birth now – oh, there’s the baby" affair), she didn’t need any help at all?  I beg to differ.  If anything, my wife needed me more than ever at that point.  I couldn’t shoulder the physical burden of childbirth for her, but I could shoulder as much of the baby-handling responsibilities as I could right after child birth so that she could rest and recuperate.  If Mike Francesa’s wife was able to do everything to take care of the baby immediately after childbirth, then more power to her, but most women don’t recover instantly.

In the end, Daniel Murphy missed two small games of baseball – the first two of the season.  While those games might be big on pomp, they really don’t make a big difference on how well the team does throughout the rest of the season.  Plenty of teams have started their season with a few horrible games and then did great.  Many others started with a fantastic winning streak before it all fell apart.  Daniel Murphy’s absence wasn’t going to somehow doom his entire team.  Even if he was going to miss game seven of the World Series, however, being there for the birth of his child was the more important event of the two.  He made the right choice and these commentators are horribly, horribly wrong.  I applaud Mr. Murphy for his choice to be a great husband and father and wish more people would recognize that dads are more than just "backup parents" and "wage earners."

NOTE: The photo of Daniel Murphy above is by Keith Allison.  It comes from the Wikimedia Commons and was posted under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license.

Unprepared Parenting Moments

nicubunu_Emoticons_Question_faceWhen I was young, I thought that parents knew what they were doing.  I thought that parents pulled from a vast store of knowledge about every situation.  I firmly believed that they were never surprised by anything and certainly never had to resort to adlibbing.

Oh, how naïve I was.

A couple of weeks ago, we heard that an indoor trampoline park that is coming to the area was going to be featured on Undercover Boss.  Hoping to catch some sneak peeks of what fun we might be in for – and show them to the kids – we turned it on.  During the program, one of the employees mentioned about how he was born a woman, has been living as a man, but needed some surgeries that he couldn’t afford to complete the process.

Yes, the kids heard this and yes questions ensued.

Let me first state that I have nothing against gender reassignment surgery.  In fact, I think it’s great that we live in an age when someone who feels more comfortable as a different gender than they were born as, can make that change.  I also don’t think the show was “at fault” in any way. The “transgender subject” shouldn’t be swept under the rug and ignored for fear that some small child somewhere might hear it.

The fact of the matter is that I just wasn’t ready to explain this complicated subject to my six and ten year olds.  We haven’t even had “the talk” with the ten year old yet.  How was I going to explain this?!!

I’ll admit that I resorted to the old standby of punting the question to the other spouse (“Ask your mother!”) and distraction hoping that they would tire of the question.  I even put them to bed that night hoping that the question would be forgotten by morning.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t.  JSL was still asking if they chopped off her boobs.

Side note: He’ll take any opportunity he finds to say the word “boobs.”  He really seems to like that word but in a potty-talk, not a sexual sort of way.  He also likes saying “poop” and is experimenting to see how much cursing he can get away with.  (The answer is none, but he’s still testing to see if there’s a loophole.)

The questions finally receded into the background after a day or two.  Am I proud of the fact that we danced around the question instead of giving a detailed answer?  No.  Then again, I don’t think our six year old and our ten year old – the latter of whom is actually about 6 socially due to Asperger’s Syndrome – are ready for that sort of thing.  I certainly wasn’t ready to give them a proper answer.

Hopefully, a few years down the line, I’ll be better prepared to talk to my boys about not just sex in general but the many complexities.  Until then, perhaps I need to hone my adlibbing skills.

NOTE: The “Emoticons: Question face” image above is by nicubunu and is available via

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