Lessons Learned from Buying a Used Elliptical

We’ve all done stupid things. Buying a used elliptical sounded so smart at the time. I was saving money, ensuring my wintertime happiness, and also giving my kiddos another outlet to burn off extra energy. Then reality bit me in the butt.

Let’s back up a minute. Last week I talked about the importance of taking walks to help clear my head and deal with anxiety. While walking is indeed the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to do this, the winter months are coming and the idea of walking outside during a blizzard or dreary freezing wind is not appealing in the least.

So, I had a brilliant idea – find a cheap elliptical that I could use on days when the weather is nasty and get in my exercise that way. As an added bonus, I could totally watch Netflix while working out – win.

Bad elliptical, go sit in time out and think about what you did. If you’re lucky, you won’t be a coat rack in the future.

For those of you who are experienced fitness machine users, yeah, feel free to laugh at me from this point forward. So many mistakes…

I found what looked like a great deal on a solid looking elliptical – $30 dollars and everything worked fine. We took it home at set it in the center of our family room to let the kiddos goof off on it. If anything was going to break, I’d rather it happen sooner than later and kids make excellent testing subjects. They hung on it, tried it two at a time, adjusted the built in fan, and made sure the heart rate monitor was accurate.

Even better, they didn’t break it.

What they did reveal is that it was a bit squeaky and thumpy. My goal, remember, was to be able to use it while watching TV. Being the uber-handy person I am, I decided it would be a great idea to lube the thing up and get rid of the excess noise. I looked up a Youtube tutorial, hubby bought some plastic-safe grease, and we went to town.

I’m one of those people who love taking things apart and putting them back together. It is very gratifying to fix stuff so it works better. Even better, hubby feels the same way. Usually. We lubed literally every joint and friction point just to be sure this new addition to our family could be as good as it be. If we’re going to do it, might as well do it as good as we can.

And it worked and ran as smooth as butter. For 30 glorious seconds.

Funny thing about moving parts, some don’t like to be slippery. In our haste to finish the job, we used a spray lubricant to reach a few places not thinking much about the drips. Those drips made their way under the tensioning belt and made the whole thing slip off.

Using and elliptical without a tensioning belt is WAY more exciting that I’m up for. There’s no friction at all and if you work hard enough you can cut a portal into another dimension. I think one of my kids summoned a minor demon as they cranked their way to infinity – and beyond! His name is Floyd and he now lives under my 7-year-old’s bed.

Did I mention that not only was this elliptical a great deal, but it is quite possibly the cheapest home elliptical known to man? We stripped screws, snapped plastic bits, and (possibly) swore more times than normally allowed in a home with younger kids. To fix the tensioning belt, we took that whole thing back apart and degreased all those essential frictiony bits to the best of our ability.

And put it all back together again…

And enjoyed another 30 glorious seconds of smooth silent operation…

Before the #(@&)#ing belt slipped off again.

Guess who gets to learn the finer points of how to properly retension an elliptical belt this weekend?

This gal, right here.


The moral of this story is to research before you buy, don’t be too cheap, and for heaven’s sake, be careful where you spray lube!

Arrrg, Matey! When in doubt, use the white stuff. Smells like an old amusement park.

The real life lesson is never give up. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Stuff takes longer than expected. A great deal turns out not so great. Getting mad doesn’t fix anything. Whatever you do, keep trying. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Does anyone want to adopt Floyd? He keeps the youngest up at night with his cute demon snores.

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Attack of the Baby Shirt

In our household we are grateful for every night of undisturbed sleep we can get. They don’t come often and when they do we’re not sure we’ve had one until the morning when we realize that none of the kids visited our bedroom, or called out from their beds. My two oldest no longer call out, unless they’ve thrown up. Instead, they walk to our bedside and stand there and stare at us until their breathing wakes us.  It’s unsettling to say the least, especially when your daughter kinda looks like this:


Instead, we had the harrowing experience of being attacked by the baby shirt.

The baby shirt phenomenon is when a baby or toddler magnetically attaches himself to a parent’s chest, wrapping his little arms and legs tightly around any part of their body, and no amount of coaxing can get him off.

Last night Baby D (ok, I admit he’s really a toddler) had a full-blown nightmare.  He woke up and hurried to come find us, calling all the way.  I caught him and he instantly adhered himself to my chest. After a good love and hug I tried to put him back in bed which was like trying to lower a cat into a sink full of soapy water. He arched and strained away, springing off the mattress as soon as he touched it.  After several tries it was clear that it wasn’t going to work, so I gathered up his pillow and blanket and headed for his favorite sleeping spot, the family room couch.

I set up the couch with his stuff, but the sight of his pillow and blanket set him into a panic and he ran full tilt into our bedroom, which made me wonder if his nightmare had something to do with his bed eating him. Being snuggled in our bed wasn’t enough, he still felt insecure enough that he plastered himself to daddy’s chest.

Even the sanest of parents can only take so long of having a heavy, twitching, restless toddler parked on their chest before deciding to try putting the kid back to bed. Sure, for the first ten minutes it’s adorable, but then the parent realizes that he has a whole day ahead of him and only 30 minutes of sleep to fuel it with.

The second time we tried putting Baby D back in bed it was like trying to put a magnet backwards on the fridge, except he didn’t have the decency to flip over and stay put. We tried the couch again, without the evil pillow and blanket, and he wrestled to find the remote.  It’s amazing, the kid is still in diapers but has the TV figured out.  Then, he had to have a sippy of milk and was super angry that I don’t allow milk sippies at night.  After a few more rounds of “please lay down and go back to sleep” which escalated to “Mommy is getting really angry” he decided that it would be better for his health to settle down and sleep on the couch after all.


The hour-long ordeal left me wound up and restless and it took me nearly another hour to settle myself down and get back to sleep as well.  It didn’t last, the events of the night triggered my own nightmare about a sleepover at a distant relatives house which then evolved into a dystopian police state that separated me from my children without any explanation leaving me to fear the worst of what might happen to them.  The ending scene has us separated by a thick pane of glass and they were screaming and scared and I could do nothing.  I hate dreams that leave me helpless because when I wake from them I can’t rest until I figure out what I should have done.

Between Baby D’s and then my nightmare, I’m walking in a fog today.  I’m still upset about the dream, a part of my brain keeps insisting it was real can’t let it go.  In a way, part of it was.  Today the kids go back to school after being off track for several weeks and I have to let them go.  Most of me is super happy about it, but there is a small part that hates sending them away.


An Exercise in Video Game Patience

As with most my generation, I grew up with gaming systems.  They came into maturity around the same time I did.  Growing up, my brother and I would spend countless hours trying to work through different levels of various games.  Even in college I had one semester where I spent more time playing Chrono Cross than on my school work. Sometimes my hubby and I will play video games together to unwind.

With that in mind it’s no surprise that my kids have loved video games from an early age.  I think it’s great, in moderation of course.  They get to do something they love, I get to work on my projects undisturbed.

LegoIndyThere’s only one downside – when older brother isn’t around to help figure out things that duty falls on me. My darling daughter loves Lego Harry Potter and Lego Indiana Jones.  In these games a series of puzzles need to be solved in a 3D environment to move to the next stage. Sometimes the puzzles are tricky, sometimes moving around the board is hard. Watching the process is enough to make any adult scream, “Give me the remote!”

When she gets stuck she wants me to tell her what to do, which is fine when I know what to do.  Most of the time I don’t.  I try to give her some directions but it always ends up sounding like this: “Go that way. . . No – the other way. . . No, where you were before, by that shiny thingy.  Now, be the bazooka guy and shoot it . . . The shiny thing, yea, shoot that.  . . . Ok, now pull the lever. . . That lever. . . The only lever on the screen. . .  Now you’re headed the wrong way, you have to go through the door. . . That door . . The red door in the middle of the screen, see it? . . . Ok, want me to get you through to the next level yet? . . . Please?”

Kids think different things are funny as well.  I watched my daughter throw her character off a cliff over and over all the while laughing and rolling on the floor at the goofy scream he made.  Each time the little Lego man dies he looses some of the coins he’s collected.   When you collect enough coins you earn a badge for that level, get enough badges and you unlock all sorts of goodies.  I have to bite my tongue to keep from stopping her from wrecking her chances of earning that badge. She doesn’t care; but after a lifetime of trying to avoid killing my little video people, I sure do.

Then, there’s the racing games.  I’ll admit, I’m pretty proud of my little speed demons, they are getting to the point where they can maneuver their cars better than I can.  In these games there is a clear winner and loser, and my kids hate to lose. When they get too frustrated they ask me to help them win.  I don’t mind, I like playing.  However, I’m no miracle worker.  I can’t pull out a win when there is only half of the last lap left and all the other video people have crossed the finish line. It’s impossible even for the Game Master. Losing their game makes me the bad guy, and I hate being the bad guy.

In the end, I love that my kids love video gaming as much as I did growing up. I hope they’re memories are as good as mine and when they have kids of their own they can enjoy gaming together as well.


They say this is good for you…

It’s hot.  It’s at least 95 degrees with 100 percent humidity and no breeze.  The air covers me like a wet blanket, clingy and persistent.  I know my hair has reached new extremes in the frizz department making me look the equivalent of a fluffy red troll doll.  No, you cannot rub my tummy for a wish.  People pay good money to sit in the heat and let the sweat roll from their skin.  It’s healthy, they say.  It’s good for the skin, they say.  It purges the body of toxins, they say.

The second I can leave I’m getting a Coke.

“They” probably aren’t at an indoor pool for an hour and a half wrestling a one year old while the other two children are learning not to drown.  While they call these swimming lessons, we are still at the “how to keep alive” stage.  I suppose in time they might learn how to propel themselves through the water but for now, first things first.


There’s no amount of explaining that helps a youngster realize that these lessons are for their own good.  In their eyes the teacher is doing her best to kill them.  She pushes them into deep water where they can’t touch bottom, forces them to flail to stay afloat, and calls the exercise “treading water.”  Then she holds them by their heads and insists they can float on their backs.  All they can think about is that their breathing bits are mere inches from going under and the only thing keeping them afloat is the same gal that pushed them into the deep water.

I have seen improvement in my kids not drowning skills, so it’s all worth it.  As for me nothing sounds better than heading home.

Happy Summer!


Soccer and Herding Cats


My favorite shorty

The battle lines are drawn, the players are ready.  Well . . . almost. One of the players is swinging from the goal post, and another won’t leave his mothers lap.  Half the defending team has their backs turned to the ball because the ice cream truck has driven by, three are already making a bee line to their parents screaming to get a treat.  Several players on offence have tackled each other to the ground in fits of giggles and screams.  And we pay to be a part of it.  Every year.

Coaches for preschool soccer have a tough job.  First, they must keep all the children on the field.  This is harder than it sounds. Children move like a group of cats, running in every which direction the wind takes them.  The children that the coaches manage to get on the field then must be herded towards the ball and convinced to kick it in a specific direction, namely, the goal.  There are always one or two that understand how the game works and will dutifully run and usually kick the ball out-of-bounds.  Other duties of the coaches include tying shoe laces, scooping downed children back on their feet, removing children from the goal posts, and being endlessly positive and perky.  They make nowhere near enough for all that.

The only thing that might be more amusing than watching the game is to listen to the parents in the side lines.  At the beginning of the season expectations are high and parents shout and cheer for their little one to kick goals or steal the ball from the other team.  As the season progresses these cheers change to more practical goals like not throwing fits when they don’t get a turn, or when someone breathes on them.  If you closed your eyes you might almost imagine you were at a dog park.  “Where’s the Ball Baby? Get the ball, get the ball!  Good girl! Way to go!” 

At times as a parent it is necessary to make a few ridiculous rules to preserve some family dignity.  My #1 rule to my daughter – There is no crying in soccer.  She believed me for about the first five practices before she realized she’d been duped.  Another ridiculous rule – keep your shirt down.  For some reason soccer jerseys only come in one size for the little kids, super large.  The temptation of pulling the circus tent like shirt up and over the head for some is too hard to resist.

In the end, the pictures are taken, the trophies are given, and we all cheer that the season is over.