Babylon Wants Its Bike Back: Mile-a-Minute-Murphy

Here is a fellow blogger’s account of the famous ride by Charles “Mile a Minute” Murphy, world record holder and third-great grandfather to yours truly.

YOU ARE THE ENGINE

The town of Babylon, Long Island, is willing to pay top dollar for the return of Mile-a-Minute Murphy’s famous bike.  Though it’s not from Hipster Ikea, it is a fixed gear. The bike belonged to Charles Minthorn Murphy, who became a national celebrity as the first cyclist to ride a mile in less than a minute.  He also claimed to have invented the concept of drafting, which seems not unlike Al Gore claiming to have invented the internet (when everyone knows it was Mark Zuckerburg).

Here’s the bike, for which Babylon is offering $20,000.  The Springfield Museums Association (Massachusetts) owns the bike, but it has been kept in storage for the past 3 years.  Babylon wants it back, and who can blame them?  In 1899, Murphy (who was a seasoned cyclist and had covered a mile in 37 seconds on rollers) boasted that there was not a train in…

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A Full House

There’s a tiara on my kitchen table. 
Obviously a princess lives in my house. A forgetful princess who leaves her tiara and scepter lying around. 
There’s a pirate cutlass on top of my china cabinet, too. 
It’s there because the pirate was being too pirate-y with the dog and got it taken away. That happens a lot, which is kind of unfair because he’s just doing what pirates do. 
The other day I got a box of groceries in the mail, and wouldn’t you know it, the nice folks at the warehouse mailed them in a rocket ship. 
There are about 40 pairs of shoes, less than eight inches long, haphazardly stacked on the shoe rack next to my back door. I think a giant centipede lives here with the Princess and the Pirate and the astronauts. 
There are about 5 billion fingerprints on my television, which is nothing compared to the ones on my front picture window. I think an octopus lives here. The octopus loves it’s Daddy, though, because all the fingerprints on the front window are from waiting with uncontainable excitement for him to come home. It also loves Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. 
There is a bookworm in my house. There are literally books in every room of the house, and the tiny, blonde bookworm can be found at any given time curled up in a beee-yuuuu-tiful flouncy skirt with “The Adventures of Ladybird Girl” or “Aladdin”. All you have to do is follow the trail of Amelia Bedelia. 
There are miniature buildings all over my house. Some of them sit alongside miniature train tracks, and some of them sit in the middle of the hallway in the darkest part where they are invisible until the burning pain that can only belong to a lego shoots up your leg.  I think there is an engineer in my house. 
Sometimes there are a couple of WWE fighters. Sometimes I have wild animals. Sometimes Smaug and Bilbo go head to head, and sometimes Rapunzel and Pascal escape from the tower. Sometimes Olaf and Anna climb a mountain looking for a sister. Sometimes Captain America gets a little carried away and shield-bashes Black Widow. Sometimes Wonder Woman gives the Man of Steel a bloody nose. “Accidentally.” 
My house is always full, just like my days and my heart. 
And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Help! My Friend has a Child with Special Needs!

There are so many rants and articles and blogs floating around today with a title like, ’20 things never to say to a new mother/single dad/parent of a large family/pitbull owner/diabetic/vaxxer/anti-vaxxer/breastfeeding mother… etc etc etc.’ And let me tell you, some of those are utterly warrented. Sometimes, especially on the internet, we engage our mouth (or keyboard) before we engage our brain. Or, to quote my dear, sweet grandmother, “That man just opens his mouth and stupid falls out!” 

Sometimes I open my mouth, and stupid falls out. Once I was introduced to a little girl and a dog at the same time. Their names were Savannah and Winter. I later addressed the little girl as Savannah… and much to my chagrin, discovered that was actually the dog’s name. (I’m all for unusual names, but c’mon, make it easy on the rest of us and give your dog a dog name. I would never have assumed the little girl’s name was “Fluffy”)

So we all have these verbal glitches, but one of the hardest things is when someone is in a situation that you yourself have never experienced. And I’m struck by the need for some friendly guidance because of the vast amount of misinformation there is on the internet and elsewhere about my child’s medical condition, so although some of these my be diabetes-specific, they really apply to any parent with a child needing above-average care. 

Don’t say: “What did you do to cause it?” or even worse, “You obviously caused it by doing ______.” 

Instead, if you must comment on cause, ask: “Do the doctors know why?”

Reason: We live, breathe, and sleep our child’s needs. It’s a 24/7 deal. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to tell somebody what’s going on. It’s NEVER nice to be blamed or guilted. Trust me, we’ve already been through anything we could have done differently in our head. 

Don’t say: “I couldn’t deal with that.”

Instead, say: “That must be so hard. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Reason: Well, duh, it’s hard. But if I don’t deal with it, (in my case, giving daily injections and/or glucose checks) my child dies. Don’t tell me you couldn’t, because if it was your kid, you would soldier through, just like me. 

Don’t say: “Your normal kids…”

There’s no “instead”. Just don’t. Seriously, my four-year-old has better manners than that. 

Don’t ask: “Can he/she do ______?”

Instead, ask: “Is there anything today that he/she shouldn’t participate in?”

Reason: We’re a little touchy about our kids. If we think someone is putting limits on them, we can get very defensive, very fast. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. We’ll try to let you know if there’s something they need to sit out, but more than anything, we and they just want to be normal. 

If you are comfortable with it, uask if the parent would like a break sometime. Offer to learn enough about the care to babysit for an hour or so. 

Offer to get together, and come to them. Especially with toddlers, disrupting the routine is even more explosive when there are higher needs involved. (Bonus points: Bring coffee)

Listen. Sometimes we are going to sound like a broken record. Sometimes that’s what our life feels like. 

Remember: They’re just kids. They need the same amount of love, respect, nurturing, and dicipline that other kids do, they just need a little more, besides. I’m not a better parent, or a worse parent, because my child needs little more attention. It just means I need a little more coffee. 

Adventures in Bathtime

I don’t know about you, maybe yours is the kind of house where bathtime is a calming experience, the end of the day when little whirlwinds finally sit still for 10 minutes and you can sit still, too. Maybe yours is the kind of house where you put a few drops of lavender oil in the bath and the little angels settle right down in preparation for bedtime.

Mine isn’t.

First off, I can’t bathe my kids at the same time anymore, because as soon as I turn my attention to one, the other is either dumping water onto the floor or taking a bite out of the soap. 

Seriously. She ate the soap. Twice.

So what I have to do is strip and wash one before the other one realizes what’s going on, then power-dry and hope to goodness that the first one actually gets dressed like they’ve been told while I speed-wash the second one. 

Even back when I would bathe them at the same time, though, it went something like this:  
Bath is over and the water has all been sucked down the drain, much to the chagrin of my littles, and I take the Princess out of the tub, dry her off, and put a diaper on her. Then I send her into her room to find her pjs. 
Big brother is a little more adamant about staying in and shivering in the now-empty tub, so it takes a little longer to wrangle him out. Finally I’m victorious, and I proceed to dry him with what you would think was sandpaper from the howls. Pause here, and chase a squealing, buck-naked baby down the hallway. 
Finally, I get her wrestled back into her diaper, and come back to Brother, who by this time is busily caking $10-per-ounce, organic diaper cream all over his little boy parts.
I kneel down to wipe his hands, and other things, when he announces, “I went potty.” 
“Where?” 
“Right there.” and he points… right where I’m kneeling. Now the warm wetness is soaking through my favorite jeans. So much for going all day without having to change my clothes. 
I sigh, wipe him off, and put a pull-up on him. Just then, the nudist appears again, and off I run to diaper her for the third time in 10 minutes. For good measure, I find her pajamas (stuffed in between the couch cushions) and proceed to dress the little darling. Have you ever tried to dress an octopus that is still a little bit soapy? Let me tell you, Two-year-old dressing should be an Olympic sport. 

About this time, Daddy comes home. 

Remember, one child is still basically naked, one is wailing that I put the wrong pajamas on her (“I WANT THE CINDERELLY ONES!”) and there is water all over the bathroom and teeth marks in the soap. 

The man takes one look that encompasses the chaos, disheveled wife with cold urine seeping down the front of her pants, offspring in various states of undress, since Princess has decided to change her pj’s without consulting me, and house that looks like it saw a civil war, and without missing a beat he says, 

“Do you have any wine left?”

“Yes, why?”

“Oh, good. I was prepared to go back to town and get some, but I guess I don’t have to. Let’s get these kids in bed.”  

Where the Sanity Ends (If Shel Silverstein was a stay-at-home-parent)

There is a place where the sanity ends
And before the silence begins,
And there the pillow is soft and white
And there remains of dinner burn crimson bright
And finally toddlers rest from their fight
To cry in their blankie-strewn beds.

Let us leave this kitchen where the smoke blows black
And the dark hallway winds and bends
Past the pits where the withering houseplants grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow
And watch where the muddy-brown handprints go
To the place where the sanity ends. 

Yes, we’ll walk with a walk that is heavy and slow
And we’ll go where the crayon-scribbled stick figures go
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sanity ends.

When Moms Work Out

When I was 18 and single, working out looked like this:

Text a friend for company
Walk to the gym
Turn on ipod to blast SuperChicK
Run on the treadmill for 20 minutes
Stretch
Shower

Now I’m twenty-(mumbles) and working out looks like this:

Turn on exercise video
Pause it
2 cheerio pours
Play
3 minute warm-up
Pause
2 squat-and-lifts, pull the kids out from under the table
Play
Pause
Play
5 pushups with 2 children and a puppy sitting on my back
Pause
Jog down hallway
Break up fight, put clothes back on child, or rescue someone from under a landslide of toys
Jog back
Repeat 4-6x
Give up on video
Wait til Hubby comes home to shower
Tell doctor I get 12 hours of cardio per day

The Possibility of Polite Preschoolers

Recently my husband and I took our kids, ages 2 and 3, to lunch at a friend’s house. My children sat politely at the table, asked for what they wanted, thanked the host and hostess, and asked to be excused when they were finished. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not always like that. Sometimes they are holy terrors and I wonder what kind of precocious imps I’m raising, but on this occasion, as on many such, they behaved almost exactly the way I expected them to. 
People are frequently surprised at how polite my preschoolers are, and frankly, I’m surprised at their surprise. It really isn’t difficult to raise polite kids, it just takes a lot of determination. So here are my top tips for raising polite preschoolers:

#1: Let them know what’s expected

Kids need to know what you expect of them. Knowing their boundaries makes kids feel secure and loved. Pushing those boundaries is their way of asking how much you love them, and giving them the structure that they crave is one of the best things a parent can do. Make sure the rules are clear and simple, and the consequences of breaking them are the same each time. 

Johnny, you know that we don’t throw food on the floor. You also know that the consequence for throwing food is leaving the table, so you may be excused, now. 

(Remember, if they leave hungry once, they will probably remember it and decide it’s not worth it, next time.)

#2: Be consistent

Just as they need to know what is expected, they need to know that it is always expected. My kids, even at their young ages, know that it is always expected that they ask to be excused before leaving the table. They also know that if they don’t, I will always make them come all the way back and sit correctly in their chair and ask politely before excusing them, whether we are at home or not. 

#3: Insist they be polite and respectful

This used to be a no-brainer. Children spoke politely and respectfully to adults, and ideally, to each other. When my children are spoken to by an adult, any adult, if I’m with them they are required to answer. (Yes, we have had the ‘stranger danger’ talk, and they know that is a different situation.) We do not permit our children to hide or ignore adults when they are asked a question. I once watched a child ignore a (very resonable) request by an adult caregiver and hide her face in Mom’s leg, and to my shock, Mom excused the behavior instead of correcting it. Unfortunately, in this situation, Mom just set herself and this caregiver up to fail, because now the child thinks she can get away with rudeness and disobedience to adults and Mom doesn’t care. 
When we walk into church or the grocery store and our children are asked, “How are you, today?” they know they are supposed to answer, “Fine, thank you” if they can’t think of anything else. If they utterly refuse to be polite, they are removed from the situation, receive a reprimand or a time-out, and then are returned to the adult to try again. Don’t ever, ever let it slide.

I know that all these things are exhausting. I know that there are going to be times when we Just. Don’t. Feel. Like. It. But we’re raising little humans and it is so worth it to make them polite, productive members of society, and it absolutely must start when they are tiny, malleable humans instead of stubborn, teenage humans. 

Happy Chrismahanukwanzaaka! Why “happy holidays” isn’t a big deal

Ok, I’ve sat on this post for several years, now, but since it’s the beginning of November and the battle is already raging, I have to ask a question:

What the heck is wrong with saying “Happy Holidays”? 

The memes, the boycotting of stores who say the H word, the sermons, yes, I have heard them, all the “holiday” bashing makes me shake my head in complete and utter confusion. Ya’ll, nobody has “dibs” on December! By the way, Jesus wasn’t even born in December, but that’s neither here nor there. 

It’s called the “Holiday Season” because there are multiple holidays between October and January, and why in the world can’t I hope you enjoy all of them? There are four holidays that we as a family observe, and at least four more that we don’t. So what if they are attached to a specific religion or culture? That still doesn’t give you exclusive rights to any particular month/season. And if you’re still not convinced, let me tell you a little about the word “Holiday.” When you break it down, it’s easy to see the roots. The word literally means “holy day”. It means a break from the everyday, to celebrate something special or sacred. It was originally used for feast days throughout the year in addition to the three months we use (or condemn) it for now. 

Besides, no matter what you call it, isn’t the season all about love and, let’s face it, self-sacrifice? God sent His only Son to die for a world who ignores Him. Do you think, maybe, for a couple months, you could forget that you don’t agree with people who light menorahs? (Do you know why they light menorahs? They are remembering a miracle.) That you could show kindness instead of indignation to those who celebrate Kwanzaa? That you could, gasp, smile at Santa instead of raving at him about the consumerism of Christmas? Maybe you should try celebrating Three Kings’ Day, if you’re so upset about commercializing Jesus’ birthday. 

Now, I’m not saying “don’t say Merry Christmas.” What I’m saying is that, when the cashier who is working 65 hours a week until January 10th smiles at you and says “Happy Holidays!”, don’t scowl and stomp out the door, vowing never to return. Don’t correct them. Don’t complain, in person or on social media. 

Just smile. Reply whatever you feel like replying, but remember, it’s not a competition. Nobody gets a prize for naming their favorite holiday the most times or the most forcefully. 

Because, Charlie Brown, that’s not what Christmas is about. 

The Million-Dollar Question

I just had one of the hardest conversations of my life. I would say it ranked somewhere between “Honey, I lost my job” and “Your grandfather is dying of cancer.” 

We have some of our best conversations in the car, and even as young as my kids are, sometimes they get a little deep. Today we were driving home from the doctor’s office and my 3-year-old was examining the green medical alert bracelet on his wrist. His little brow was scrunched up, and I could tell he was thinking hard. 

“Mommy, why do I have Diabetes?” 

Once, in elementary school, I fell backward off a barrel, landing flat on my back and knocking the wind out of me well and proper. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, all I could do was gasp for air that was just out of reach. The pain of having all the air forced out of my lungs terrified me, and as soon as I could breathe, I started to sob. Not so much from the pain, but from the fear. I’m not talking about delicate little whimpers, either. I’m talking about full-on sobs, to the point that I couldn’t look the freckle-faced neighbor boy (who had won the “king of the hill” battle) in the face for weeks afterward. 

That breathless feeling, those terrified sobs, that “sucker punched” feeling, they all welled up inside me when I heard that sweet little voice ask that impossible question. 

Because there is no real answer.

There’s no “why” to Type 1 Diabetes, at least not that anyone has found. It’s all “we think” and “perhaps” and “we often see” and “there are studies that indicate,” but there are no real facts, other than that his body suddenly decided to attack his pancreas, destroying its ability to make insulin.  (No, I did not feed my child too many pancakes and candy bars. That’s the other kind of Diabetes, which is not an auto-immune disoder)

So how do you explain to a three-year-old that the God who made him, who supposedly loves him and “ordained his days before he was born”, allowed him to get a disease that has no reason, has no cure, and has no end? That requires him to get poked and tested, puts him at risk for all manner of complications, and, at the very least, requires him to wear an insulin pump for the rest of his life? 

Somehow, I stammered out a shamefaced answer. Something full of lame platitudes and encouraging smiles and half-hearted assurances of Jesus’ love and protection. Not that I don’t believe those things, because I do. Not that I don’t think he should, because they’re true. But somehow, in the face of the child that I have to stick and poke and squeeze blood drops out of and attach tubes to, they just seemed to fall short and I was left feeling like I had failed to give an acceptable answer.

What do you do when there IS no answer?  

I know this isn’t a normal, feel-good, fluff post. But it IS reality. I don’t write all this so that you pity him, or me, pity never helped anyone. But I know that my son asked a question today that I didn’t have an answer for. I know there are bigger and more difficult questions, I know the world has bigger problems than one little boy without a working pancreas. I know that my readers have been asked impossible questions. I don’t have answers, but I do know this: 

Parenting is flippin’ hard, and we’re doing our best. Sometimes that’s just all that matters. 

Growing in Love

This morning I was getting dressed while my husband sat at the computer in our bedroom, and I knew we had to have the conversation I had been working up to for days.
“Honey, I need to tell you something.” I could see him tense up, because those words rarely mean anything pleasant. “I love you,” at this point he turned away from the computer and looked at me warily.
“I love you deeply and devotedly, and I love that you bring me things like doughnuts and oreos and wine when you come home from work. It makes me feel very loved.” At this point he was trying to hold in his laughter as he watched me hop and dance around the room, trying to fit my behind into the jeans I bought the month after our honeymoon.
“But you have to stop,” I continued, “because my clothes don’t fit me anymore!” 
By now, there was no trying. He giggled, he snickered, he howled. I wiggled, I jumped, I danced, I squeezed. I shot him a death glare as I peeled them off and pulled stretch pants out of my drawer. 
Carbs are my weakness, and he knows it. Chocolate and wine are like kryptonite, I lose all strength and will-power when they’re around. If we’re going out as a family on Saturday morning, the first two stops are the local doughnut shop and the drive-through coffee shop. I love food. Good food. And drinks. 

*Over-Sharing Alert*

In college I spent almost a year living on as little food as I could manage. I saw hunger as a sign of self-discipline and spent hours obsessing about how little food I could eat, and congratulating myself every time my stomach growled. 
Of course, within a few months I was having trouble focusing in my classes, my skin was drying out, my hair was falling out, and my social life was suffering. 

Long story short, I got help and decided that was never going to happen to me again. So now I enjoy my food, and sometimes when my brain says “I shouldn’t eat that, think of the fat content!” my heart says “But I’ll enjoy it, and I’ll do some cardio later to make up for it.” And occasionally I actually do. (occasionally do the cardio. I always enjoy the food)

I have three beautiful sisters, none of whom have had kids yet. They all have smaller feet, smaller waists, and bigger… yeah, those things all girls want to be bigger. Even the fourteen year old. Family functions are a fiasco of self-image issues for me. 
But I’ve learned something recently about body image, and here it is: 

Little girls are born without self-image hangups. 

But if my daughter, who is in that “retaining everything, human sponge” phase, hears me say “I shouldn’t eat that, I’m too fat already” or “I just wish I could lose those last 5 (10) pounds” or “Uhg, this shirt shows off my arm flab/baby pooch/cellulite!” she is going to internalize that attitude toward her body. But if she sees her mommy living her life, loving her body, and enjoying both food AND excercise, she will internalize THAT instead, and that’s the attitude I want my little one to have. Not only that, but it’s also the attitude that I want my son to have toward women’s bodies. So the way I treat and talk about my body, excercise, and food is the way my kids will view their own and (hopefully) their spouses’ bodies, someday. 


Widened hips for perching babies,
Soft tummy for littles to lean on,
Strong legs for chasing Munchkins,
Squishy arms for comfy hugs. 

No more bikinis, but that’s ok,
My body’s for more important things
These days.

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