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. 🙂

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!


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.


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 Goes To Preschool!!!

The day Emma has been waiting for for over 8 months has arrived. Today she officially began Preschool. She was so excited to finally start. She woke up with a big smile on her face and was eager to get up and go. Mark went with me as he had not met her teachers yet. She was happy as a pig in mud. Of course Mark and I stood outside peeking in to make sure she was ok. She really was, on the other hand, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We’ve never left her anywhere so leaving her in school for a few hours is a huge adjustment for us.

She is only going to be attending 2 mornings this year as we want to ease her in. I think it’s more of an “easing-in” for us than for her, but whatever works best for the “family” is what we have to do:)

As soon as she got to school, she washed her hands (school policy) and then settled in to do some art work. When we peeked in through the door, she was by her cubbie with one of her teachers. Her teachers this year are Ms. Emily and Ms. Anna. She was getting the painting she’s had made for them out of her cubbie.


Emma Painting

Emma wanted to bring in a special gift for her teachers on the first day of school so she drew a watercolor painting for each of them.

Here she is working on her art pieces:


Who Says TV is Bad For Kids?

You constantly hear how terrible TV is for kids, but you never hear that it can be good, in moderation of course. Tonight when I was reading books to Emma we came to a picture that was labeled “reeds”. Right away she told me, “They are also called bullrushes”. I am not familiar with the term bullrushes so I said, “birdwatches?, bullwatches?, birdrushes?, billrushes?, and as I kept guessing what she was saying, assuming she was mispronouncing the word, she kept saying, “No, bullrushes”.

When Mark came to the room, I told Emma to repeat the word to him. Same conversation as above occurred as Mark tried to guess what she was saying. Finally I said, “bullrushes?” and she said, “Yes, bullrushes”. That’s what she was saying all along but as neither one of us knew the word, we were guessing everything else but that. It’s not like any of my other guesses made any sense either, I was just trying to repeat what I was hearing:)

Now, Mark at age 40 and I at 39 have learned from our 3 year old what bullrushes are. If you knew….I’m proud of you too:)

Here is a picture for those who don’t.


A little “Maggie and The Ferocious Beast” never hurt anyone….and in our case, it’s helped to build our 3 year’s old vocabulary (and her parent’s vocabulary, too)!

Our Little Jumping Bean

Emma LOVES to jump around. Here is a picture of her jumping in her playroom:


Emma’s First Day of Preschool Art Camp

It’s tough to think that Emma is so big already that she is ready for Preschool. It seemed just a little while back, that this day was WAY in the future. Well, it’s here and Emma couldn’t be happier:)

Although “real” preschool doesn’t begin for another 2 weeks, the preschool that Emma will be attending, mandates that the kids complete one week of summer camp so that they become familiar with the school, teachers, classrooms, rules, etc. So today was that first day for Emma. She had been counting down the days. When Mark and I went into her bedroom this morning, she was still sleeping like a little angel. We looked at each other and realized that our “little baby”, wasn’t a baby anymore. She woke up with a big smile and excitedly got up and was ready to go. Obviously we had been prepping her for this day by reading books about preschool and what to expect, as well as talking to her about all she would be doing.


When she first walked into the classroom, she was a little bit clingy and shy, but that only lasted like 2 minutes. As soon as she saw the classroom centers with playdoh, paint, dyed-colored water, and mini-furniture, she knew she was in a FUN place. We helped her put her backpack into her cubby and she let us know she was ready to paint. She has 2 teachers- Ms. Sandy and Ms. April. We got our hugs and kisses and let her know we would be back in a little while and she let me Ms. Sandy put a smock on her as she prepared to paint a beautiful blue picture.


As Mark and I watched from the door, I could see her talking Ms. Sandy’s ear off and laughing as she had a conversation with her. I could see just how HAPPY she was and how ready she was to finally begin preschool.


At 1:00pm, we picked Emma up. She was at the reading center looking at “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. She saw us standing there, smiled, and quickly got up to come and hug us. She had sidewalk chalk all over her pants, so right away, I knew she had had a wonderful first day of preschool.


Ms. Sandy and Ms. April both told us that she had a great day. They said Emma was the only one that knew that the bowl in the story, Mouse Paint, said- Cat. They were very impressed by her and said she was very “advanced”. They definitely thought she was prepared for preschool.

Emma didn’t give us too many details about her first day but she seemed to really enjoy herself. When we asked her if she played in the playground she said, “No, we played in the sandbox instead because it was too humid outside”:)


Emma loves to draw and paint. Most of her drawings are scribbles at this point but she enjoys herself and is always so sweet to make one picture for Mommy and one for Daddy. Recently she drew me and actually did a pretty nice job….I mean it had a circle for a head, eyes a big smile and even some blue bangs. Alright, so my bangs aren’t blue, but she drew them in there, showing attention to detail:) I was impressed that it actually looked like a cartoon person vs. the usual scribbles.

On Wednesday, she wanted to use her easel so I set it up for her and to my surprise, she drew herself. She even drew some blue bangs on herself to match the ones she had drawn on me. This is the first time she attempts to draw herself so I obviously made a big deal about it and we hung it up in her playroom along with all her other drawings and arts & craft projects. For 3 1/2 years old, I think it’s wonderful!