Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween

On Sunday, Pedro Tulo (age 3) went to a birthday party for one of his preschool classmates at a MyGym/Little Gym type place. Since the birthday girl's birthday is on Halloween, she (or her parents) also wanted to make it a costume party. Pedro Tulo went as a firefighter but ditched his costume as soon as we arrived. His costume (particularly his hat) really wasn't conducive for running, jumping, and climbing. Clearly the costume was not the same quality material used by actual firefighters.

After the party ended, Pedro Tulo put his costume back on because why not. Since the gym was in a shopping center, we walked over to a grocery store. There was a sale on orange juice and Rold Gold pretzels, people! While walking to the store, a car seemed to honk at us. We turned around and saw a fire truck with the firefighters waving to Pedro Tulo. He looked a little confused, but after a few seconds waived back. It was all very sweet.

Nice job, members of the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Should The Steelers Trade Martavis Bryant for Terrelle Pryor?

Let me preface this post by writing that trades between players (as opposed to a player for a draft pick) rarely happen in the NFL. Now that that's out of the way, on to the hypothetical scenario!

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant is a talented player who has made some poor decisions and/or has received some bad advice. He was suspended for the entire 2016 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and now, he will not play in Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions due to "social media."

From Behind the Steel Curtain:

This stems, of course, from Bryant's outburst on the social media platform Instagram Sunday night when chided by a fellow Instagram user. A week after repeatedly refuting that he has asked the Steelers for a trade, he has openly indicated that to be his desire if his playing time and targets don't increase.

It didn't help that Bryant was "sick" and missed practice on Monday following his social media outburst on Sunday and according to Dale Lolley now of DK Pittsburgh Sports, Bryant has called off sick "for the fourth time in the past month."

That's not good in any job.

Meanwhile, Terrelle Pryor signed a one-year contract with the Washington Redskins after having over 1,000 receiving yards with the Cleveland Browns last season, his first as a wide receiver after converting from being a quarterback. It has not gone well for Pryor. From The Washington Post's DC Sports Bog:

Here’s the best way to describe Terrelle Pryor Sr.’s current status in the Washington Redskins’ offense: When Kirk Cousins was asked specifically about his outside receivers following Washington’s limp loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, the quarterback mentioned six names, including two tight ends and a running back. Pryor’s name didn’t come up.

And here’s the best way Pryor summarized his own status, when asked whether his first-half benching against the Eagles might be repeated Sunday against Dallas.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I mean, that’s a good question. I don’t know.”

As you can probably guess (the blog post title gives this away), I'm wondering if there should be a Bryant for Pryor trade. There may be salary cap ramifications, but let's pretend that there are not. Both are free agents at the end of the season.

Washington is missing a speedy receiver who can spread the field after DeSean Jackson left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pittsburgh may want someone dependable who shows up to work and doesn't ask for a trade.

The biggest issue for Pittsburgh is Pryor's seeming inability to catch the ball over the middle or in traffic (meaning around other players and not on the Parkway East outside the Squirrel Hill Tunnel where even Antonio Brown would have difficulty catching the ball). However, maybe Antonio Brown's work ethic will rub off on Pryor to become a better receiver. He's never been around a #1 type receiver in Cleveland or Oakland. Plus, perhaps Pryor will be energized returning to his hometown team. It doesn't hurt that Pryor played with Cameron Heyward for three years at The Ohio State University, so that should alleviate any concerns about how Pryor would fit in with his new teammates.

We all saw Pryor do this against the Steelers a few years ago. Wouldn't it be fun to have a few plays designed where Pryor could do that FOR the Steelers?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Life As A New Father

Last week, I introduced my third son, Luigi, to the world (or at least to the people that read Sean's Ramblings). Today, I'm writing about my worries and challenges. I am 42 years old. I know that I seem quite hip and knowledgeable about pop culture, but it's true that I'm 42. I have friends my age with kids in junior high and high school and there are plenty of others my age with kids in college. When Luigi graduates from high school, I will be 60 or 61. We're probably looking at 65 or so when he graduates from college.* Basically, there's not going to be an early retirement and I'm going to be working for many years to come. Speaking of college, how does one expect to pay for college for three kids? Yes, I already started putting money into 529 plans, but tuition will probably be about $75K per year at the current pace. Athletic scholarships seem unlikely at best. Maybe academic scholarships? That's certainly not something I can count on. Even in the short term, I'm astonished at the costs of preschool, daycare, and before/after school programs. Let's just say that it's more than rent.

(I don't know why this stock photo makes me smile.)

I'm writing much of this post at 4:00 AM, so the tone may be different than much of my other writing. Tired writing is probably not my best writing though I did get a compliment from a college professor who once told me that he doesn't recommend writing a paper in one night and then handed me back the paper with an A- or B+ grade. Luigi has been awake for most of the past 2.5 hours. The doctors say he is a "fussy" baby. It seems like he is hungry all the time, and he freaks out when he wants to eat. Of course, then he is fussy if he doesn't burp and ends up spitting up which is unpleasant for all involved. I worry that something is wrong, but I have no idea what it could be. He's going to need surgery for a hernia in a few months once he gets a little bigger and stronger, but the doctors say that doesn't seem to impact the fussiness. So I worry about that too. He's too little for surgery even though it's apparently fairly common.

I don't remember if the older boys were fussy or when they started to sleep more regularly at night. I may have been in the exact same position and mindset 6 and 3 years ago and blocked this out. The difference now is with the new baby, there's not enough time or attention to go around. After Pedro Tulo was born, one of us could be with him while the other could be with The Moose. Zone defense (2 adults on 3 kids) is not nearly as effective as man-to-man. I know I'm always tired and not as patient as I should be. The Moose hasn't done a great job of listening at times and Pedro Tulo has had several accidents the last few weeks even though he's been potty trained for months. (No accidents in a week, knock on wood. Take that The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones!)

Weekends are so much harder than weekdays. During the week, the older boys are at school for 10 hours. The weekends can be challenging in finding things to do and keeping everyone happy especially since Luigi still isn't venturing outside the house. Pedro Tulo is attending a classmate's birthday party this weekend. We have no idea who this kid is, but we figure it's 2-3 hours where he can run around and play with others his age.

I understand that we're not the first to go through this. Most of this is probably first-world problem stuff as people have had three or more kids for generations with much fewer means. My grandparents and great-grandparents were immigrants or children of immigrants and didn't have much. I know I need to keep things in perspective. I also try to have the mindset of an NCAA basketball tournament team. Survive each day and advance to the next. (Two basketball references in one post? This has to be a first since the Kevin Pittsnogle days.)

So this is where I am. Luigi just finished a bottle and is sleeping in arms as I'm typing this post. This is the Luigi I love, calm and cuddly. I absolutely worry about him and his brothers, but that's being a parent. You just can't let the worries consume your life. I'm excited that Pedro Tulo is taking a field trip to a pumpkin patch this week. He's going to love it. The Moose enjoys school, and his teacher adores him. The boys and I are also excited for Halloween which is only a week away. Our neighborhood throws a party and the kids all run around in their costumes and eat. Just thinking about going the last few years makes me smile seeing The Moose interact with kids at his school and Pedro Tulo walking by himself for the first time.

I'm going to try to go back to sleep now since the alarm goes off in an hour! I know it's going to get better and easier but that's not happening right now.

* After writing this post, I learned that Billy Joel is a new father at the age of 68! I feel a little better now.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Introducing Luigi

Long-running television sitcoms often introduce a new character, such as a baby, to create new storylines. Ross and Rachel had a child together near the end of Friends. Despite already having Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, and (looks up name) Jeremy Miller, Alan Thicke (RIP) and Joanna Kerns had another child on Growing Pains late in its run. Leonardo DiCaprio also appeared as a series regular for some reason too even though they could have given more time to Boner (RIP). Anyway, after almost 13 years of writing this blog, I needed some new topics. Ziggy is now a 9 year-old "senior" cat that doesn't do much. The Moose is in first grade, and still several years away from fully creating his own storylines. While Pedro Tulo provided excellent content back in June, there hasn't been much blog-worthy content to share lately. With the school year underway, life was becoming routine. There's good in stability, but it doesn't help Sean's Ramblings since I know that you, the readers, expect fascinating stories. Therefore, it was time to introduce a brand new character, and I'm proud to present Luigi, born last month at 6 pounds, 13 ounces.

Luigi's due date was October 9th though we expected him to arrive a week or two early like his older brothers. I actually joked that he would arrive either during a conference I was attending or during Yom Kippur services. Now the latter would have been interesting. Instead, Luigi shocked everyone by arriving five weeks early. The 6 pound, 13 ounce weight was a bit deceiving as he looked like a full-term baby, but he was still a preemie and went straight to the NICU. His breathing wasn't great upon his debut, but fortunately, he was always able to breathe on his own without assistance. Eating was the bigger issue, so he had an IV for the first 3-4 days of his life. Then, he was jaundice like his brothers since apparently we create jaundice babies. I've found that if you pretend that your baby is in some futuristic space machine that gives him or her superpowers (like, um, fighting high bilirubin levels), it makes the process go better.

After 7 days, Luigi was able to come home. I didn't write much about the hospital experience for The Moose or Pedro Tulo (though I did write some), so I wanted to share some early life moments surrounding Luigi.

- Actually, before we continue, in case you're wondering, Luigi is not my son's actual name. We had a first name all picked out but were struggling coming up with a middle name, knowing that we wanted it to start with L. While brainstorming, Luigi was thrown out as a suggestion. We both loved it, though again not for his actual middle name. Hence, Luigi is now his stage (well, blog) name.

- I should also probably mention that The Moose (age 6) and Pedro Tulo (3) had no idea that we went to the hospital. My wife's water broke at night after they went to sleep (and while I fell asleep watching TV on the couch), we called a neighbor to come over to "watch" the kids, Luigi arrived at 2:48 AM, and I came back home around 6:00 AM to get them up and ready for school.

- Luigi was brought into this world with the help of probably my favorite doctor who also delivered Pedro Tulo. I find that she is straightforward and has a positive bedside manner with a great sense of humor. It also helps that she grew up close to where I grew up and is a fellow Steelers fan. All of these characteristics are equally important for an OB-GYN!

- I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on the internet. However, I have the hand-washing routine for any medical professional involved in surgery completely down pat. This was posted in the NICU, and I followed it religiously.

- For a few days, my son was in the NICU while my wife was in the "Family Centered Care" portion of the hospital. Despite the fact they were on the same floor, I constantly said that I had to go down to the other area.

- All of the nurses at the hospital were fantastic. They were caring and professional and probably don't receive the appreciation they deserve. Therefore, I want to say hello to all of the nurses out there.

- The hospital has a wellness garden with a labyrinth that was quite calming. I guess it helps that this labyrinth was not the one featured in the movie, um, Labyrinth.

- Between the time the baby was born and arrived home, I made a trip to Target to get some supplies. I cannot confirm or deny that I bought 5 bottles of hand sanitizer. Okay, since you continued bothering me with these questions, it's true. It's all true! I did buy all of those bottles. And I would do it again too!

I also bought Lanolin at Target, and in one of the highlights of my life, I heard two women trying to find this and pointed out where it was located. They were in awe of me (or at least they were in my mind).

- These signs seemed to be above every toilet. Are there other things besides wipes people are flushing down the toilet at hospitals?

- Luigi was fairly quiet upon his arrival, and it took him a few days to make some noise. Now, a month later, the boy has some serious lungs. He lets you know when he's hungry and is quite persistent. I'm pretty sure neighbors about 4 (or 40!) units down can hear his screams.

- Since Luigi was a preemie, we tried to limit how close his older brothers got to him. The last thing we wanted was to get Luigi sick from germs brought home from elementary school and preschool. Finally, after I made sure he washed his hands and put on hand sanitizer, I let The Moose hold Luigi as long as he didn't tell his mom. Naturally, as soon as The Moose saw his mom, he immediately told her that he held Luigi and was so proud of this. Thanks for keeping this between us, kid.

- I may have taken a few graham crackers from the hospital.

- The Moose is enthralled by Luigi and wants to be around him and help. It's really sweet. Meanwhile, Pedro Tulo has little interest in his new brother. I'm sure that will change once they both get older.

Thanks to Luigi and his interaction with his brothers, Ziggy, and his parents, there are many more stories to share. Sean's Ramblings should be renewed for at least a few more seasons because of this!

(Please "Like" Sean's Ramblings on Facebook. There's good stuff there too!)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Postcard to Canada

We recently bought a new stroller and being the responsible parents that we are, completed the registration information to return to the company in case there are any product recalls in the future. When I went to mail the postcard, however, I noticed that the mailing address was in Nova Scotia, Canada, and it said free postage in Canada. While I was certainly fine with sending a postcard to Sidney Crosby's home province, since I don't live in Canada and have no plans on driving or flying across the border, I had to buy a stamp. Do you know how much it costs to send a postcard to Canada? $1.15!! No wonder I don't write letters to Canada!

This got me thinking though. The company that made the stroller is Britax, a pretty big player in the car seat and stroller market. No offense to my Canadian neighbors, but I was surprised that Britax didn't have an American address to send this. Maybe they are unhappy with all of the discussions about renegotiating NAFTA and want to take more money from its American customers from us buying stamps from, um, the US Postal Service?

Anyway, it turns out that there was also a product registration postcard that we can send to Allentown, where they may or may not be closing all the factories down. Britax was so prepared that they had registration postcards available for BOTH American and Canadian customers. We just only noticed the first one. I guess we'll fill out the second postcard and mail it for free.

Well, I know who to blame for all of this! (This video is NSFW!)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sean Sends Angry Email

I like to think of myself as a fairly calm person. It takes a lot to get me angry, yet that's where I am right now courtesy of my mortgage company. I'll get to my complaint below, but here's some mortgage information. Please feel free to skip this part. When we got our mortgage, since we did not put 20% down, we had to get private mortgage insurance (PMI). Basically, PMI protects the lender if you stop making payments on your home loan. This was extremely common at the time we got the mortgage and may still be today if you don't have a specific amount as a down payment. Anyway, once the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio gets to 80% (or 78%), the PMI goes away.

On to my angry e-mail!

Dear Mortgage Company,

I am writing today to share my displeasure and frustration with your company. We have had a mortgage through you since January 2010 and refinanced in 2012. As part of the mortgage, we've had to pay PMI each month. Earlier this year, I requested an appraisal and learned that the loan to value ratio was around 71%, meaning that I've probably paid PMI unnecessarily for at least 1-2 years. While PMI is now removed from the monthly payment, I feel like we should either receive a refund for the extra PMI payments or a credit towards the principle mortgage balance. After numerous conversations with you about this starting in mid-August, I finally learned today that there will be no refund. Besides the probably year or two of PMI payments that I didn't need to pay, I had to constantly call you for updates. I was given multiple dates when the review would occur and be completed and left messages with a supervisor without ever receiving a response. Even learning that there was no refund was because I called you, not from you contacting me.

During my conversation today, I was told that you would make it up to me if I ever had a late fee or document request. This is unacceptable particularly since I've never had a late payment in the over seven years as a customer and do not need any documents.

I am currently looking at options to stop being a customer. I don't have funds available to pay off the mortgage, so I may try to refinance with another company. There was never any consideration by you to let me know that perhaps the PMI payment could be removed, yet, I've received three escrow shortage letters within the past year. It is clear to me that your company puts profits above helping its customers. Plus, I've spent countless hours trying to get an answer regarding my question over a 2-month period. You seem to have a culture of providing poor customer service as I talked with at least 5 people over this period without ever receiving a call or letter with an answer.

Based on my experience, I'm sure that this email will be discarded or ignored. If someone does happen to read this, perhaps you can help current and future customers by retuning a phone call or replying to a customer when you say that you will.


I doubt that I'll get a reply.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Friday Video: Feels

Today's video is Feels by Calvin Harris featuring Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, and Big Sean. A few things here. Pharrell may be one of the coolest people on the planet. It just seems like you're going to have an amazing time hanging out with him. I mean, he even looked cool wearing the Arby's hat a few years ago. Not many people could pull this off.

I'm also a big Katy Perry fan, though she is underutilized in this song. If I was a rapper, I would go by either Big Sean or DJ Seany Sean. I guess Big Sean made the choice for me. Finally, I like the guitar by Calvin Harris on this song. You really can't go wrong with Feels for a Friday video.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Mad, Mad World

These are depressing times. In the past month, hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastated Texas and Florida respectively. Then, Hurricane Maria absolutely destroyed much of Puerto Rico. I've been unsuccessful in trying to reach a friend who lives in San Juan (since she doesn't have power, she's obviously not checking Facebook), but a mutual friend let me know that she is okay since she evacuated and has access to water. Think about how insane this statement is. There's still little or no electricity and roads are impassable, but she's okay because she has access to water where that is not the standard or a given right now. So much of Caribbean is in ruins, and it's going to take months if not years to recover.

Meanwhile, Sunday featured the worst shooting in American history at a concert in Las Vegas with least 59 people dead and over 500 people injured. What an awful and sad tragedy. Much of the news now seems to be the motives of the shooter and whether or not this was a terrorist act. You know what? I don't care about the motives. I don't want to know anything about he shooter. I don't care about his background, and I certainly don't want to see profiles about him. He's a monster that took and impacted hundreds of lives. Don't give him publicity, news organizations. Talk about the victims and the good that they did.

I'm trying not to get too political in this post, but it is inevitable. I wrote about how the NRA can be a force for good several years ago, and I hope that it could, even though it seems unlikely. Any type of change to gun culture and guns in this country must happen within the organization. Outside pressure, even from Congress, won't have an impact since the NRA has so many allies in Congress and the White House. They aren't going to change unless they change themselves.

Back to Congress and our current political state. This is another tragic shooting and nothing is going to change. You can blame the NRA, but the political leaders only seem interested in staying in power. There is no bipartisanship and no desire to work together to get things done. Only victory seems to matter. It's my way or I'm taking the football and going home. Healthcare (Obamacare) is the perfect example. Both sides agree that it can be better, but no one is interested in actually sitting down and crafting legislation to do so. Working with the other side will get you kicked out of office by those more left or more right.

This is a depressing post during a depressing time, so I'll try to end on a positive. Even if we can't change things politically, we can still do things for good. Donate blood. Find organizations that are helping the hurricane victims and see what they need whether it is money, clothing, etc. Hug your family members. Say hi to your neighbors. Volunteer. Do what you can to help what's around you.