Emma Rides Her Bike For The First Time!

When the highlight reel of my life is played, this Sunday will certainly be among the clips shown as it marks one of the happiest and proudest days of my life.

As a father, there is no greater joy then helping your child learn a new skill or accomplish a great feat. For me, one of those milestones was reached when Emma rode a 2-wheeled bike for the first time unassisted.

As you may remember, when Emma turned four she received a bike for her birthday.

Well, now she’s five (going on six) and she finally mastered the thing this Sunday. I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t an emotional moment as I watched her make the mental and physical connection required to maintain proper balance.

Seated two-wheeled balance is a difficult concept to convey. You have to get your center of gravity aligned just right and then dynamically shift your weight in response to road conditions and speed without over-correcting. All this has to be done quickly and efficiently in a way that is virtually impossible to describe. You just have to get a feel for it through trial and error.

Our Bike Riding Journey

Over the last couple years Elena and I would periodically take Emma to the park to practice riding her bike. One of the first things we did was adjust the training wheels so that one was an inch higher then the other. By doing this we hoped it would create enough instability that it would force her to find her sweet spot as she safely oscillated between the two training wheels.

What it did, however, was teach her some really bad riding habits as she would lean to one side so she could ride on two wheels (the main one and one training wheel).

Taking the training wheels off resulted in her going from total stability to no stability at all, making it extremely difficult for her to learn the subtle nuances of two-wheeled balance.

Realizing that wasn’t going to work I did some research online and found this thing called the Gyrowheel. Essentially it’s a gyroscope inside a wheel. If you’re a geek like me you know one of the neat properties of gyroscopes is that they resist perpendicular forces applied to their axis by applying an equal counter force on the opposing axis making them insanely stable. In laymen’s terms, they resist being tipped over.

By applying one of these wheels to the bike it would give Emma a little extra stability giving her time to learn the mechanics of keeping a bike upright. Keep in mind that this won’t keep a bike up on its own. In fact, the first time we tried it (back on August 18 of this year) Emma still couldn’t keep the bike up and I worried that it did not provide a powerful enough stabilizing force.

Secret To Our Success

On our second attempt, we both made some changes.

Instead of holding her under her arms I held her at the waist. This was a pivotal adjustment because it allowed me to physically show her where her waist needed to be at all times. Previously, when I held her under her arms, she would let her hips shift so much to the left or right it was like teaching Bernie Lowmax how to ride a bike.

I also explained to her how this was a skill she would have to learn by constantly adjusting her weight and manipulating the handlebars. She couldn’t just sit there and expect the bike to stay up. “In fact”, I told her, “the bike’s goal was to throw her over the side. It doesn’t want to be upright”.

By telling her this I had hoped to tap into her inner stubbornness which hates to be told what to do or controlled in any way. As a parent, you know what works for your kid, and in my case, that was just what the doctor ordered as she talked to the bike the whole way telling it, “no you don’t!”, “I’m in control here!”.

The Future

The ultimate goal is to have Emma ride her bike with absolutely no assistance. The Gyrowheel is great for helping kids get a feel for what independent bike riding should feel like but it too has to come off before you can say you’ve absolutely concurred the bike riding milestone.

From what I’ve read, this usually occurs within 3-5 sessions. The Gyrowheel has three different speed settings which control how much or little stability it provides. During our second session we were on the highest (most stable setting) so during the next session I will take it down to medium, followed by low, followed by no Gyrowheel at all.

Actually, I just checked the manual and we were on the lowest stability setting (oops! I didn’t have the manual with me on Sunday so I was going by memory). A pleasant surprise. So my new strategy is to let her ride like that again and then perhaps on a subsequent outing turn the thing off altogether and see what happens.

Emma Riding Her Bike (after 3 minutes)

We got to the parking lot and road the bike. She got it on her second attempt. This is video shot 3 minutes after we started riding for the day. Both Emma and I are a bit shaky. ūüôā

Emma 7 minutes later

Check out the marked increase in her confidence level.

Emma Loses Her Second Tooth

And just like that, Emma loses her second tooth. Again, she nagged me for weeks to pull it out and today was the big day. Even though it was looser than the first one when I pulled it, it had more fight and required several attempts.

Emma admitted that this extraction was a little more painful than the first (and she knew what to expect this time) which indicates that I need to work on my technique. Luckily for me I have 18 more chiclets with which to hone my craft. Muhahaha!

Emma Loses Her First Tooth

Emma has been waiting excitedly for one of her teeth to fall out. I got to be honest with you, I don’t remember it being such an exciting endeavor when I was a kid. In fact, I recall being quite nervous and a bit skeeved about the whole thing.

For Emma, the experience is more of a right-of-passage. Each gaping hole worn proudly like the ribbon bars on an enlisted man’s chest. The more missing teeth, the more highly decorated you are in the eyes of your peers.

The only thing I like less then losing a tooth, is pulling them out of someones head. But alas, Emma had been begging me for days and today I finally relented.

I must say, she handled the whole thing with more courage then I ever had. She really wanted that sucker out and a little blood or pain was not going to stop her.

Since this was such a huge deal for her we decided to record the event.

Emma Turns Four!

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Emma 12 days before her 4th birthday

Emma turned four years old last month. She is an amazing girl. I am always so pleased and happy at her development. She is confident, happy, healthy, ambitious, independent, and beautiful.¬†I have always been a firm believer that you get what you put into your kids. I am happy to have married a woman who shares this belief and has¬†committed¬†herself to playing an active role in our child’s development. Elena, like most Mothers, shoulders the burden of child-rearing. She is the primary caregiver and the glue of our family. She makes sure the house is clean, food is purchased, dinner is served, and Emma is exposed to a diverse array of activities (without being over-stimulated). She is a kid after all and we want her to enjoy her youth.

Emma’s scheduled activities for the week consists of the following:

  • Swimming (1 day / week)
  • Pre-School (2 days / week)(4 hours each day)
  • Gymnastics (1 day / week)
  • Ballet & Jazz (1 day / week)

It’s a busy schedule on paper, but it is spread out throughout the week so that Monday though Friday she has something to look forward to. We intentionally make sure no two activities occur on the same day. Emma looks forward to each and every activity and will cry if we threaten to not do one when she misbehaves.

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Emma’s 4th Birthday Gift

Now don’t get me wrong. Despite our most valiant efforts, Emma is no angel. She has a¬†stubbornness¬†that can be hard to deal with, and only recently (in the last two months) has she started reciprocating my affection for her. You see, Mommy and me like to give Emma lots of hugs and kisses but Emma has never liked to be held or kissed. She’s a cold fish that way and it is difficult for us to deal with because Elena and I are affectionate people. I had hoped that over time, Emma would change, and she kinda has for me in the last couple months as I eluded to earlier. I make sure that I keep my face well shaven, because Daddy has a scratchy beard and she wasn’t buy’n the “Porcupines need love too” argument that I have been making over the years. She has trained me in a way to go easy on the kisses (like a single kiss or hug once or twice a day). I know, she’s strict!

Elena, on the other hand, hasn’t been that lucky. Although it’s true, she has been getting way more love from Emma than I have throughout the first 4 years of her life, Elena is not where she would like to be in terms of reciprocated¬†affection¬†either.

Psychologists to this day still¬†hotly¬†debate whether a child’s personality is a product of their natural surroundings (“nature”) or the type and quality of care they are given (“nurture”). Some believe it is a combination of the two. My observations of Emma seem to support that it is indeed a combination of the two. In what proportions I cannot say. It is clear that when a child is born, he/she comes into the world with his or her personality already intact. That’s the nature part. Environmental conditions (i.e. the things your child is exposed to) can enhance or diminish your child’s ability to flourish. Love, affection, attention, involvement, interest, stability are some ways in which parents can improve a child’s confidence and feeling of self worth. Likewise, abandonment, neglect, disinterest, etc. are ways to negatively impact a child’s development.

If I do my job right Emma will grow up with the confidence of knowing that she has two parents that love her more deeply than words can describe. She will know this not through our words or empty promises but through our deeds as parents. I intend to make sure the hopes and dreams I have for her are modeled in my behavior and realized through experiences we share during our limitted time on this planet together. Any structure worth building requires a strong foundation. Children are no different. It seems way too easy in today’s day and age to make excuses as to why we don’t commit the hard work and effort required to lay that all too important foundation. Raising children is arguably the hardest job on the planet which is why I suppose so many people outsource the work through the use of daycares,¬†nanny’s¬† and such. It is my opinion that if you can’t afford to raise your own kid you should not have them. I am writing this here not to condemn or pass judgement on others, but rather to articulate to my own daughter, Emma, my values so she knows where my head is at in the event I am not around to have this conversation with her later when she is older and ready to have children of her own. Understand that there may be mitigating or¬†unforeseen¬†circumstances that necessitate alternate care for your children. Just don’t make this the primary plan of action when you are deciding to start a family, as it is a poor one that will make your children feel abandoned and unimportant during the most impressionable and developmentally important time of their life. It’s the age old adage, pay now or pay later.

Emma’s Princess Bed

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Emma is growing up so fast and is quite a beautiful little flower. Several months ago we removed the crib from her room and replaced it with her “Princess Bed”. That’s how we sold it to her at least. In reality it is a queen size bed on box springs that sits directly on the floor of her room. There are no fancy bed frames, canopy, or opulent bed posts. It is just a bed on a floor with three bed rails that I attached to reduce the chances that she roll off it and thump unceremoniously on the floor during her sleep. She’s an active sleeper you know. The queen sized mattress might seem like overkill for a 3 year old, but since we had it lying around (in the guest room) and finances are short these days, we decided to move it into her room instead of buying a bed set for her. She has been so appreciative of it, and sleeps through the night now. Sometimes at night she says, “Daddy, thank you so much for my beautiful Princess Bed”, which breaks my heart because it is far from regal.

Retrospection: A New Direction…

So I was thinking about how little I know about my Mother’s life, and how there really isn’t anyone around who can clue me in. I have lots of unanswered questions as I approach 40 (later this year) and wish I new more about her since she clearly and profoundly shaped my life. I spoke to my Uncle (My Mother’s Brother), not too long ago to see if he could provide some insight, however the failed memory of time coupled with their unique living conditions created more questions than answers.

My father’s memory is also warn by age and circumstance. I have accepted the notion that I will never really know my Mother. That her life will remain, forever, a mystery to me. It’s a sad prospect to come to terms with, but a reality I must face. Unfortunately the knowledge I seek, lay like the treasure on¬† a sunken ship at the bottom of the Sea.

It is because of this, that I write this blog. One never knows when their time is up and I would hate for Emma to not know something about her Mom and Dad because we falsely assumed there would always be time to tell her later.

With that said I have decided to incorporate aspects of my own childhood into my posts so that she can better understand her Father’s background in order to gain a deeper understanding of her own origin. I am sure I will tell her these stories in person, but children are not always ready to listen. One day, when she is ready, my words will be waiting to tell their tale.

You Be Emma…

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That’s the name of Emma’s favorite game these days.¬† She loves to role play and will ask me, Elena, or her Ela (Abuela) to “be Emma” and she will “be the Mommy”. She will say, “Can you be Emma?”. It’s her way of saying, I want to be in control. She is quite the control freak. Once she assumes that role, she will act out real life events that have transpired in her life. She will tell you, “Emma, you are sick now because you put the dirty toys in your mouth.”. Or “Baby, you can’t go to ballet class today because you were being disrespectful.”. She loves to act things out and pretend, and clearly a lot of it is a verbal reinforcement of things we tell her. Right now it is pretty much the only game she asks to play daily.

It’s not all bad and reprimand, she also likes to take care of her Emma. She will take your temperature, change your diaper, and give you vitamins to nurse you back to health.

To keep things interesting, Elena and I sometimes mimic Emma’s uncontrollable fits and tantrums to see how she responds to the situation, which gives her a new perspective on her own behavior.

Fall is Beautiful

Elena, Emma and I went for a nature walk last week to enjoy the nice weather and beautiful fall leaves. After living in South Florida for so many years, I had come to forget how nice the fall can be. The changing leaves are a great indicator of time. In another month or so the trees will be bare indicating winter is coming, and we will soon be looking forward to the green growth of spring.

Like the seasons, Emma is changing quite rapidly as well. She is just over three years old and is no longer a baby. She is a little person, full of ideas, and opinions, and her own personal agenda. She communicates so well now and knows so much it is stunning. Today her mother said it is Wednesday, to which Emma responded, “It’s garbage day”. Things like that blow me away. She is 3 years 3 weeks old people! What is she supposed to know about garbage day?

When I look at Emma and see how big and healthy she is I am consumed with happiness. It also makes me extremely sad at times to see how much she has grown already, and despite blogging about her, when I see pictures of her a year ago, my memory already¬†betrays me. I don’t ever want to forget how she acted at each and every stage of her life. I want to remember and recall the snapshots of her development but life has a way of making you forget. This saddens me because I know the Emma I see today will be but a distant and faded memory a year from now. I realize that I have to cherish every moment, even more than I do already. I can see time fast forwarding on me: graduations, Marriage, Babies of her own, and I will become a much less important person in her life. I hope and pray that I will always be relevant to her and I will be a good Father that she will always know she can rely on and that she will save a place for in her heart.

I know it may seem quite dramatic to be thinking this far ahead, but I am a reflective thinker who understands what lies ahead. Acknowledging the future allows me to make adjustments now so that when that day comes, I am not full of regrets for what I should have, could have, done differently. I don’t want to be that parent who postponed life and time with my daughter because I thought there would always be¬†time for her later. You know, the whole “Cat’s in the Cradle” thing.


 

Cats In The Cradle Lyrics

Artist: Harry Chapin

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

Emma Doing The Laundry

Here’s our little Cinderella doing the laundry. She loves to help her Mommy.

We Have A Winner!

The polls have closed and the votes have been tallied. Thanks to all who participated and shared your password management strategies. From the responses it is evident that we are all pretty much disorganized in this regard.

Looking at the data:

  • 50% of you use a paper-based method (index cards/notebook/scraps of paper/post-it notes, etc.).
  • 35% of you rely on your memory with varying degrees of success

Thanks for sharing as it is truly an eye-opener. And now without further adieu:

Congratulations to the Winner: Melanie

Of course there are no losers here. For a limited time save 20% when you purchase an Internet Password Organizer™.

To get the discount:

  1. Your purchase must be made at InternetPasswordOrganizer.com.
  2. You must pay using Google Checkout
  3. Apply the following coupon code: EmmasWebPage
  4. Complete your purchase on or before November 8th, 2008.

Thanks for playing!