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. 

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

A Sonnet to Coffee

Let me not to the waking of true eyes
Admit impediments. Drink is not Coffee 
Which alters when it decaffination finds,
Or bends with the sugar or dairy to remove.
O, no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on sleeplessness and is never shaken;
It is a star to every wandering Mom,
Whose sleep’s unknown, although her speed be taken.
Coffee’s not Time’s fool, though stinky diapers and midnight 
Cries within his heavenly influence come;
Coffee alters not with these brief hours and weeks
But bears it out even to the edge of kindergarten.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never slept, nor no Mom ever woke.

Avoiding the Monster-in-Law

My mother-in-law came to stay for the weekend. 
Since Brother and Sister have extensive food and chemical sensitivities, having houseguests is always a touchy thing. All it takes is a dollop of scented lotion or a squirt of hairspray to ruin the whole visit. 
Parenting is a touchy thing. Everyone has a different idea of how to do things, and it’s personal because everyone does their best to raise their own kids. Anything I do differently than you do/did is because I think my way is better for my family, and if I’m not careful that can quickly turn into, or at least feel like, judging. With my own parents I can always be sure that, whether or not we agree, they love me and my children, regardless. But that’s not always true in the case of in-laws. There are a few things I’ve learned about relationships with parents and in-laws that helped in my marriage and family relations, so I want to share them with you.

1. You marry the whole family.
        Never go into a relationship with the idea that if you don’t like your Love’s family, they will just go away. 
Not. Going. To. Happen. 
Always assume you are going to have to deal with these people for the rest of your life. If you can’t deal with that idea, well, there are other fish in the sea. Remember, this is your Love’s family, chances are he/she feels the same way about them that you do about your own. 

2. Complaining doesn’t endear anyone.
        So you made the decision that you can deal with your spouse’s family and now you’re married. Don’t complain about them. Complaining and whining about family just creates strife and resentment, and causes your spouse to have to choose sides. 
Granted, sometimes there are real issues that need to be addressed, as a couple, with one set of parents or the other, but nearly everything can be addressed in a helpful, constructive manner. I hope this doesn’t embarrass anyone (yes, my in-laws read my blog!) but when Hubby and I were first married we moved into a house that his parents own, and into Hubby’s old bedroom. We were leaving the country, so it didn’t make sense to rent a place for a month when there was an empty house available. One morning when his parents were visiting, I was sitting on our bed with the door partly open, and his dad walked in, opened the closet, put something in it, and walked out. It’s HIS house, HIS son’s bedroom, it didn’t even occur to him that it might be an issue. But it was to me. By some insane luck, my 20-year-old self reacted correctly: I went to my husband and calmly explained what had happened and that it made me uncomfortable. Thanks to The Lord, his 20-year-old self reacted correctly, as well. He pointed out that it had been FIL’s house a lot longer than it had been mine, that he didn’t mean anything by it, and then he mentioned it to his dad and it never happened again. Wins all around.

3. Space is the best peacemaker.
        Sometimes it’s not practical, or even possible, but putting space between you and your families is one of the best ways to keep the peace. I’ve never, ever, ever met anyone who said to me, “We live with my parents/in-laws and it was the best decision we ever made.” If it can be avoided, two adult women should never have to share one cooking space. Even if you have to share a house, finding a balance and respecting each other’s space is non-negotiable. 

4. Communicate.
        Your in-laws are your spouse’s family, it’s important to treat them like family. One way I make sure to do that is at Christmastime and birthdays. Since our families live 10 hours apart, planning is imperative! Making sure each family gets the same amount of time and different ideas of what the kids want/need is just a beginning. Sometimes communication is best when it goes through your spouse, especially if there have been bridges burned in the past, but ladies, a word for you: don’t make your husband/son choose between you. Even if he makes the right decision (sorry, Mom, the right decision is his wife) he’s still going to be miserable, and so will you. Trust me, it won’t end well. Open, honest, direct, and mature communication is key to a good in-law relationship. 

5. Respect each other.
        My sister-in-law lives with us. She has been with us since Sister was born, and she’s a permanent authority figure for my kids. I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult for both of us to learn to live together. One of the big things for me was letting her be an authority, even when I was around. A few times one of the kids would come to me with tears in their eyes and wail, “Auntie told me NO!” 
I had to learn to say, “then go talk to Auntie about it.” If I had comforted, or even dismissed the issue, that would have been disrespectful to her and undermined her ability to be an authority to my kids. Hubby’s parents afford me the same respect, and if I make a decision about the kids there is no argument from them. Occasionally they will discuss a decision with me, but always later, never in front of my children, and they frequently have good ideas that I’ve never thought about before. (Huh, well, I guess they DID raise three kids…) Not only does this mutual respect create a peaceful and secure atmosphere for my children, it also fosters good in-law relationships. 

So when Hubby’s mom said she was coming for the weekend, my reaction was excitement, not dread. When she got ready in the morning, she skipped hairspray because I’ve explained to her that it bothers the kids. When the two of us went to town together, it was a fun and stress-free outing. 
What I’m saying is, good relationships with your in-laws are not only possible, but desirable. They just take a little effort.

Hungry for Salad

You can’t make this stuff up.

Since our kids have a lot of food sensitivities, we have really drilled into them what they can and can’t eat. They know they are allergic to apples, strawberries, peaches, and a lot of other things. They also don’t cheat because they know how yucky those foods make them feel, especially Brother, age 3, who is also diabetic. So even though we went to my grandma’s for the long weekend, I wasn’t too worried about them eating things they shouldn’t. 

Then one night, I woke up because the dog was crying, and I mean freaking out, downstairs. I got out of bed, only to realize that Brother was up and playing with cars in the hallway. “Mommy, I have a dirty diaper.” He was soaked from his chest to his knees. I double-checked my phone, 3:30am, and woke up Hubby.
“I have to clean up Brother, I need you to go make the dog be quiet.” So he stumbled down the stairs in the pre-morning light. Meanwhile, I cleaned, dried, and re-diapered, re-dressed Brother, and replaced him in his bed. Then Hubby came back up the stairs. I knew immediately something was wrong, because his eyes were as big as saucers. 
“What did he eat?”
“The dog? Did he have an accident? I asked Gram not to give him treats…”
“Honey, go look at the kitchen. Now.” 

I don’t even remember going down the stairs, I must have flown. When I opened the kitchen door, I nearly fainted. This is what I saw:

Two paper plates full of spinach, and two blenders from a handmixer, sitting on the table.
Chicken broth all over the floor.
Banana peels everywhere, including the dog’s kennel.
Avacado peel and pit by the sink.
A lemon, stuffed into my Nalgene.
The diabetes kit, with multiple syringes, uncapped and bent.
Bottles of insulin laying on the counter.
An empty milk carton on the floor.
Baking soda everywhere.
An open box of organic bunny crackers.
Two very small pans on the stove.
Paper towels, like someone started to clean up.
One very sad and confused puppy.

Hubby brought Brother downstairs and I asked him, “How many bananas did you eat?”
“Five or six,” he says. “I was hungry, so I made me a salad!” Now my mind is racing because if he ate that many, and he obviously tried to give himself a shot, what if he broke a needle in himself, or what if he succeeded and gave himself too much? What if he gave the dog a shot? I checked his blood sugar, he had obviously not given himself an injection. I checked him and the dog everywhere for lumps or needle marks and didn’t find any.
“I tried to have a shot, but it kept bending.” Thank you, Lord.
Hubby and Gram cleaned up the mess while I called the doctor and counted bananas and administered insulin. I can only imagine the note in the file for that phone call.

Irresponsible mother lets diabetic preschooler wander the house at night, eat whatever he wants to. She called, virtually in hysterics.

 I slept in the doorway to his room until I was sure he was asleep. The next night we propped a book against the door and put a cowbell on top of it. When he opened the door, I knew immediately. 

Here’s what I learned from this adventure: 

He knows exactly what he can and can’t eat. 
He is way too smart for his own good.
He knows that when he eats, he has to get a shot.
I need to invest in a good motion detector for his bedroom door. 
I also need to impress on him the importance of waking up Mom when he needs something. 
I may feel like a failure, but apparently I have taught him to eat well, since he got up and made a salad instead of eating the cookies on the counter.

Choices

This evening I was sitting in the waiting room at a very full pharmacy, and across the room from me there was a little boy uttering frequent ear-piercing shrieks of unabashed delight. He was about a year old, and was playing happily with a teenage girl I originally assumed was his sister. A middle-aged woman, I assumed she was their mother, and another boy, also in his early teens, were with them. As I watched them, it became increasingly clear to me that the teenagers were, in fact, the baby’s parents. They were playing with him and caring for him, doing a great job of keeping him occupied; not an easy thing for an active kiddo in a room full of things and people he wasn’t allowed to play with.
Often our first instinct is to judge the mistakes of teen parents, but in this instance I found myself admiring the courage of a very young couple, obviously doing everything they could to give their child a good life. This week I heard the argument that children born to impoverished, unwed mothers would be better off aborted to save them from a life of pain and want. This young girl probably heard the same argument. She almost certainly had to put off school, faced name-calling and judgment from her peers (and likely their parents!), but she decided to raise her child. Not only that, but the young man with her had stepped up and done his part. I don’t know many teenage boys who want to be less than about ten feet from a baby.
Now, I just saw a tiny snippet of these kids’ lives. I don’t know their names, I don’t know if my assumptions are even correct, but what I saw, what I chose to see, was noble and self-sacrificing. I saw a young family with a chance to beat the odds. And in the end, it’s what we choose to see that really defines who we are.

Ode to Dad

 

I think Dads often get a bad rap, on television especially. Just watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” or “Jimmy Neutron” or “The Fairly Odd Parents” if you think I’m wrong. Even in pretty respectful shows like “Castle” and “Lie to Me”, Dad still has his “put in his place by the teenager” moments. I fully believe this attitude is a product of the feminist movement and an effort of media and advertising to empower women, a good goal, at the expense of men, not such a good method. What started as a good concept has blossomed into over-compensation, which, sadly, detracts from the original intent and cheapens it. Any debate student will tell you that once you resort to ad hominem attacks, your argument is lost. 
Thankfully, our society finally seems to be realizing the problem with this sort of gender assassination and showing respect and appreciation for dads and men in general appears to be coming back into style. Let’s hope Hollywood catches up soon, they seem to be getting the hang of it with shows like “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”. (And yes, I’m particularly using kids’ shows as a reference point because I think this attitude shift will especially benefit kids. Young boys, specifically.)
So I’d like to remind us all to verbally appreciate the men in our life this weekend, fathers or not, and encourage them to be confident in their masculinity in a culture that says it’s better to be female than male. Men have an innate need, maybe even more than women, to receive praise from their families. Guys, that means you, too. Encourage your dad, your son, your grandpa, and thank them for being the man that they are. And ladies, be specific on the points that you love about him, and you’ll see that trait more strongly the more you praise it. I’m totally serious, the more you praise the things you like about him, the better man he will be. 
I was talking to a very experienced marriage counsellor this past weekend (ok, my own dad, who has been doing marriage counseling for the last 15 years) and he told me a very enlightening fact. In virtually every failed or failing marriage he has ever seen or heard of, the single unifying characteristic was an overarching theme of negative communication. Couples who speak positively to each other have an overwhelmingly better chance of being successful in their relationship than those who speak negatively. 
So, although thanking him for what he does once a year in June is a good start, make it a habit, and even those habits that you don’t like so much will start to change. Not only that, the more you verbally acknowledge and appreciate his good points, the better your attitude will be toward him. 
So this weekend, in addition to that chic paisley tie that your 6-year-old picked out, treat Dad to a super-helping of compliments and see the great things it does for your marriage and family. 

 

 

 

 

*Note: The author has been incredibly blessed with fabulous and godly men in her life, including grandfathers, father, brother, and father-in-law. If the men or man in your life isn’t so great, if he is abusing or hurting you in any way, please seek help with a trained counsellor or, in more extreme cases, law enforcement. By enabling abuse you are not just hurting yourself, you’re hurting him. Get him help to be a better man.*

 

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My dad and I circa 1994. It takes a manly man to let his daughter put a banana sticker on his nose. 

 

 

 

Simplified Chaos

As I wander through the maze of duplos and army men and dolls with no clothes and dreadlocks, I wonder to myself.
How in the world did we end up with all this stuff? And why am I the only one who doesn’t think the floor is the appropriate place for it?
Yesterday I made a decision about Christmas this year. I’ve been dissatisfied with the traditional American Christmas for several years, and we as a family have tried several different things to change how we celebrate to really reflect the meaning of the season, but somehow it always ends in a suburban stuffed to the hubcaps with noisy, annoying, and generally pointless toys. (Sorry, Mom, it’s the cold hard truth)
Last year we asked for donations instead of gifts, we even suggested a few charities that we enjoyed. And it worked great for the adults. But guess what? We still came home with a huge load of toys to somehow stuff into already-full toyboxes. I should clarify by saying that my husband and I are each the first in our generation of our respective families to have children. He has two siblings and two grandparents, and I have four siblings and three grandparents. Not to mention our parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all of whom want to give the most and best gifts to our kids. Our kids have so many people who love them, and that warms my heart in ways that no one who hasn’t had children could understand. But I love my kids, too, and I don’t want them to grow up feeling entitled to the biggest and best toys, I don’t want them to feel like they are the center of the world, and I want them to know that Christmas isn’t about getting gifts, it’s about God giving the ultimate gift. 
So yesterday, I called all the grandparents and great-grandparents and told them that we would like them to limit Christmas gifts to two gifts per child, and suggested that they focus on something to be experienced or to build memories with that family member. (ie. A book with Grandma’s voice recorded reading the story, a trip to a local zoo or museum, or even a visit from long-distance family members) I also begged them not to feel like they had to “fill” a box or bag with cheap toys and crayons and other little things. And to insure that no one had hurt feelings, I explained my reasoning: to make my children more selfless, well-rounded human beings. 
I expected complaints, kick-back, maybe some declarations of intent to ignore my pleas,  but instead I recieved support, agreement, questions and clarifications, and all around… could it be… relief? Can our society have seriously come to the point where we buy mountains of kitsch every year for people we love out of a sense of duty? Ick. 
I’m inspired by stories of people who live in 600 square feet with 4 kids, who have and give their kids only the necessities, and the excess goes to kids who don’t have as much. By people who own stuff, and aren’t owned by it. I spend so much time every day taking care of stuff, it feels like I don’t have time for the really important things, like reading to my kids or playing ball with our puppy. I wish I had an answer for it, too, but I don’t. All I can do is take it one step at a time. 
How have you simplified your life?

 

 

This is what blogging looks like at our house. 

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Politeness, Part 2: Needles and Saws

I’ve been thinking about tact and grace this morning and I remembered last week when I had to dig multiple berry thorns out of Brother’s arm. Poor baby! For larger splinters I sometimes use the tip of a clean, sharp pocket knife, but these were numerous and tiny so I used a needle, magnifying glass, and tweezers. Poor guy was crying because by the time I noticed them the immediate area had already started to swell a little, and it hurt. I tried to tell him that it would stop hurting when Mom could get the “prickles” out and wash it, but logic doesn’t hold much sway over a frightened 3-year-old. Nana finally held the arm while I removed the offenders, all the while feeling like a terrible person because my baby sat so still and sobbed. He sat still because he trusted me not to hurt him more than I absolutely had to, because he’s very used to needles, because at three, he already understands that sometimes the people we love have to hurt us a little bit to help us.

I chose the appropriate tools for thorn removal because I knew it had to happen, but I wanted to make it as easy as I could on both of us. I didn’t want to do more damage getting them out than they were doing all by themselves. But I wonder if we do that with our friends? I feel like sometimes we go after the “thorns” in other peoples’ lives with a bone saw instead of a needle and tweezers. Maybe even a battle axe, sometimes. Maybe we believe that the bigger deal we make about something, the bigger impression it will make on the other person, and the more apt they will be to listen and change. I don’t think that’s necessarily true, though.

Choosing the right tools for the job is crucial to getting it done right, and bigger is not necessarily better.

So what about you? Have you removed any splinters with a tile saw, lately?

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