To the doctor, again

Our current pediatrician practices out of an office that’s about seven miles away.  Due to timing, distance, and route options, we have never made the trip by bicycle.  Every time we take G to this doctor, we pass by a pediatric practice that is less than two miles from us, an easy and lovely bike ride.

I really like our pediatrician (and I’m hesitant to change horses midstream), but if someone had told me back in December that we would be making six visits in just over four months (including four visits in the last 5 weeks alone), I might have switched to  the closer practice!

Our mid-April visit (trip 3 of 6 in 2015) resulted in an allergy diagnosis.  Claritin seemed to clear up those symptoms, and we enjoyed a week or so of health, and then a cough popped up, followed by a fever and a pneumonia diagnosis (trip 4 of 6).  The antibiotic seemed to really do its job — the fever disappeared almost immediately (surprisingly quickly, according to the doctor) and the cough was knocked way back . . . for awhile.

Last Wednesday (10 days after the diagnosis), we went back for a standard follow-up (trip 5 of 6) to make sure that his lungs were clear.  They were, and there had been no recurrence of fever, but I had a nagging feeling even then that his cough was headed in the wrong direction.

He had a lot of nasal drainage and a clearly worsening cough over the weekend, and then on Sunday afternoon, he spiked a fever again.  So yesterday we headed to the doctor YET AGAIN (trip 6 of 6), concerned about antibiotic-resistant pneumonia.

The doctor took a really good listen to G’s lungs, and, despite the coughing, said his lungs still sounded clear.  The doctor’s best guess is that G now has a respiratory virus of some type.  This means no antibiotics, which is a good thing (in terms of antibiotic resistance and not having to deal with the side effects of another drug), but it also means no quick fix.

I’m hoping that this virus resolves quickly, with no secondary infections, so we can have a reprieve from the all-too-familiar drive to the doctor (and also a reprieve from sleepless nights — SO tired).

In the meantime, I’m torn, but I may investigate the closer pediatric practice.  We actually interviewed one doctor there before G was born.  We weren’t impressed with this individual (felt rushed and unimportant during the consultation), but there are other providers in the practice.  Trading a twenty-five minute car ride for a twelve-minute bike trip is tempting.

What would you do?



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Wet weather biking with kids (and preschool peer pressure)

When we first got Big Blue, my plan was to make G a rain cover, a la Lindsay’s instructions.  I already had the clip-off umbrella stroller sunshade and a big rain cover from our jogging stroller.  I purchased the PVC, zip ties, and heavy duty Velcro, thinking it would be an easy project (I also liked that fact that it would double as a sun shade).  I played around with it a bit, but I didn’t find it quite as easy to set up on the Yepp child seat as it seemed to be on Lindsay’s Peanut Shell child seat, plus, it was summer and there just wasn’t all that much rain (though the sun shade would have been nice).

Since then, it seems like most of the days when it’s raining and we need to transport Gabriel, it’s really raining (with heavy winds and/or lightning and thunder in the mix), and we’ve opted to take the car.

One drizzly day in March, I realized that the adult-sized poncho we bought at Crater Lake (when someone neglected to bring her raincoat on the hike (also, the hike where we almost got struck by lightning)) would make an ideal rain cover for G and his seat.


Photo op while waiting for a looooooong train

The poncho solution is as simple as securing the kid in the seat, then placing the poncho (with the child’s arms INSIDE, not sticking out), and topping with the helmet.  To keep it from blowing around, I rolled the edges and secured them with a couple of clothes pins (you can see one near the bottom of the photo, behind G’s foot).

We weren’t using the poncho’s hood on this day, because it was just a little drizzly, and cool enough that he was wearing other head covering anyway, but in heavier rain, the hood could be worn underneath his helmet, for head to almost-toe coverage (again, if it has really been coming down, he would have had his rain boots on here.  We’ve used this successfully on a couple of wet days now.

Yesterday morning was just such a day.  It was sprinkling a bit as we all prepared to leave (me to a dentist appointment; M and G to school/work).  As I was leaving for my early appointment, Gabriel was angling for taking the car, and starting to work into a bit of a lather (apparently he was sad that they weren’t leaving at the exact same time as me).

When I asked Matthew about it last night, part of the story was that G didn’t want to wear the poncho on the bike because he “didn’t want kids at school to laugh at him.”

I was floored.  Really?!?  My 3-year-old has to worry that other freaking 3-year-olds will MAKE FUN OF HIM???  At preschool???

My heart hurt for my sweet, sensitive little guy, and my mama bear instincts definitely kicked in — WHO, exactly, was going to laugh at him, because so help me, I was going to find that little punk . . . .

The truth is, this stuff will happen.  Not to condone it, but short of home-schooling my kid and never leaving the house, we’ll have to deal with this.  Preschool seems a little early, but I guess it’s time to start practicing how we deal with these things.

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PA school: And now, the rest of the story

In mid-September, I wrote this post, in which I debated applying to Physician Assistant (PA) school.  And then, radio silence . . . .

I decided to go ahead and apply, despite knowing that applying late in the game would work against me.  Since I didn’t know what the outcome would be, I wanted to keep my options open.  Writing more about applying to PA school in a publicly-viewable space, while continuing to explore other career options, seemed like a bad plan, hence the silence here.

I submitted my application one week before the November 1 deadline.  I was not expecting to hear anything until January (maaaaybe December), so I did my best to submit it and forget it.  I was one of over 700 applicants for Saint Louis University’s 34-seat program.  While well-qualified in some ways, I felt even getting an interview was a long shot.

Then, on January 16th, I received an email inviting me for a February interview with SLU’s PA program (they interview 80 people for those 34 seats).  It was both exciting and nerve-wracking.  The invite came right as G was sick with [his first bout of] pneumonia.  My flexible, part-time work schedule made it fairly easy to care for him, but I couldn’t imagine what we would do in that scenario if I was going to school full-time (in a very intense program).

Anyhow, I swallowed my fears and accepted the invitation, then realized that if I might actually be accepted, I needed to get my butt in gear and knock out a medical terminology course, the one outstanding prerequisite on my list.  That took a bit of doing — the official registration deadline at the community college had already passed, but I managed to wrangle my way into a course (thankfully, an online course).  Then I started researching “questions in a PA school interview.”

Interview day was ushered in by a snowstorm (that big snow we got in mid-February).  Most of the local schools were already closed for President’s Day, but those that weren’t, cancelled.  Interviews were ON, though I debated whether getting to the interview was worth risking life, limb, and car (which raised red flags about my commitment level).

I arrived without incident, though I did have a minor “this is not my regular bag so I don’t have a tampon and ALL (yes, I checked the bathrooms on all four floors) of the feminine hygiene vending machines are empty/broken” crisis.  After that panic-inducing start, the interview day, which included a Q&A session with current students, as well as three one-on-one interviews with various faculty members, proceeded without incident.

I was part of the fourth round of interviews.  At that point, they had already interviewed 48 other candidates, and awarded some unknown number of the 34 seats.  Having made it to the interview stage, my guess was that my odds were a bit lower than 50-50 of being accepted.  I had quite a few questions/doubts about embarking on this path (i.e., a very intense, full-time, 27-month commitment while also being a mother), but I had pretty much talked myself into accepting, and damn the torpedoes, if they offered me a spot.

Two weeks later, I was notified that I was consigned to the wait list.  I was disappointed, but also a bit relieved.  While my interviews did not go badly, I would also not say they were great.  In retrospect, my heart was not in it, at least not all of my heart.  I can interview well, when it’s something I really want, but I’m not great at faking it.

I decided that I needed to take some time to evaluate what I really wanted for my life, and what made sense for me, not just something that sounded good, that I could do.  I set up an appointment with a career counselor at SLU (free service for alumni).  After our initial meeting, I checked out the latest edition of What Color is Your Parachute? and started working through some of the exercises (more on that in an upcoming post).

In early April, I was notified of my position on the wait list — number 25, i.e., “Better luck next time.”  I’m not exactly sure what my next step is, but I will not be reapplying to PA school this year (and likely not ever, but you never know).  At this point, I just don’t want it enough, or for the right reasons.  Now, to figure out what I do want . . . .

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Weekend rides and rains

The intermittent rain and thunderstorms made things tricky both in the garden and on the bike over the weekend.

Poor Matthew took Friday off work, hoping for two full back-to-back garden days to get caught up.  Instead, he got a few hours on Friday morning and a few hours on Saturday morning.  On his way home from the garden on Friday, he swung by The Hub to pick up our Burley Piccolo!

The Piccolo mounts onto Burley’s proprietary rear rack.  I was anxious to get the rack on my new bike so it would be ready for Saturday’s CyclingSavvy class.  Of course, I made the mistake of assuming that the rack would be “easy” to install.  It ended up taking at least an hour and required using our small, manual metal saw to cut the rack stays to the appropriate length.  We had to wait on installing the second rack on Matthew’s bike — it will need some kind of extender to reach the bottom mounting point on his hybrid.

Saturday morning dawned overcast, but my bike was ready, and it looked like we might be able to squeeze in “Train Your Bike” (the parking lot, bike handling skills session of CyclingSavvy) before the next wave of rain hit.


Photo courtesy of Karen Karabell

The first rain drops began to fall as we started the second-to-last drill.  We wrapped things up, mindful of the slippery pavement.  We stashed all of the bikes under an awning or in Karen’s van and dashed into Kaldi’s just before it started pouring.  After lunch, I accepted Karen’s gracious offer to give me a lift, though I felt like a bit of a wimp for not just biking in the rain.  (My decision was fueled by the fact that, for whatever reason due to sleep debt and an unexpectedly challenging yoga class on Friday afternoon, my energy level was pretty low — I had felt every bit of the 6.5 miles on the way to the class location.  That, and wanting to baby my new bike — yes, it will get wet (and scratched) eventually, but it’s nice to enjoy it shiny and new for just a bit longer.)

Instead of just stabling my bike and heading inside for a nap after returning home, I embarked on a garage-cleaning project, which expanded to include some basement cleaning.  Both spaces look much better now!

We kicked off Mother’s Day with the Piccolo’s maiden voyage.  G was excited upon seeing the new bike, and then, once sitting on it, immediately uncertain (called that one #mamaknows).  He spent the first two blocks saying he didn’t like it and thought he was going to fall off (he wasn’t).

Then it changed to “I’m doing it” . . .


And finally, “I like this new bike.”  Success!

For this first Piccolo outing, we stuck to the small streets right around our place.  Given G’s initial reaction, I thought we’d go two blocks and head right back home, but we added a few more after he got into it.

I spent the rest of the morning getting stuff done around the house while Matthew tackled bread baking — so nice to have five beautiful loaves in the freezer!

We closed the weekend with a much-anticipated date night to see the student showcase at Bumbershoot Aerial Arts.


I was hoping we could make it a date night by bike, but the weather had other plans.  The forecast was for a high chance of thunderstorms all evening, and the skies opened up just as we were ready to head to Lucky Buddha for dinner, so we took the car (of course, by the time we arrived, it had stopped raining).

We dined on noodle salad, steamed buns, and pho at Lucky Buddha, continued on to I Scream Cakes for dessert, and then hit the main event at the Bumbershoot gym.  I enjoyed watching fellow students perform and thinking about perhaps being at that level eventually.  When we left, it was dry as a bone outside, and it would have made for a lovely, if late, bike ride home.  Fickle weather!


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Meet Lightning

A month ago, I shared a picture of G [finally] riding his new bike, with a promise of a full story later.  Bike month seems an appropriate time to make good on that promise.

Our first outing on the new bike went fairly well, but after that we reached a stalemate.  It was all we could do to convince G to even get on the bike.  I turned to the interwebs for some advice, and ended up at a Sheldon Brown page, which had this advice on running with a child:

The parent should hold the child by the shoulders and run along behind. It is important that the parent not hold the handlebars-the child cannot learn the feel of balancing if the parent is taking control of the bike. If the parent holds onto the saddle or any other part of the bike, the child will not necessarily realize if they are leaning a bit to one side or the other, because the parent will be correcting for them.

Instead, hold the child by the shoulders, so that as they lean to the side, they will feel the side pressure, and can learn to reduce it by turning into the lean. This should be done in a wide flat space, such as an empty parking lot. The parent should not make any attempt to steer the child, just let the bike go where it will.

I thought I’d been doing good by holding on to the back of his seat rather than the handlebars, but the above advice made a lot of sense, and I was itching to try it, so after nap time that day, I told Gabriel that I had a new idea for helping him ride his bike.  Unfortunately, I had a less-than-willing subject.

Once outside, G was more interested in his sandbox than the bike.  When I finally coaxed him onto the bike, he lasted all of 1/4 of a block before declaring that he was finished.  Sigh!

Our next attempt ended in us conceding to training wheels (which I’d REALLY hoped to avoid).  I  followed the Sheldon Brown advice for proper training wheel use, and adjusted the training wheels to leave some wobble.  At first, we left too much wobble [for G’s comfort].  We adjusted the training wheels closer to the ground, leaving just a tiny bit of wobble, but by that point he was pretty much done for the day.

The Saturday of Easter weekend, we towed G’s bike to the local school playground, which features a big open paved space.  After some time playing on the equipment, we proposed the idea of a bike ride.  No joy.

Then Matthew suggested that G’s new bike was feeling lonely because he wasn’t riding it.  One of us (don’t remember who) had the idea to ask Gabriel if he wanted to name the bike.  He settled on “Lightning” (an imminently practical name, as it has lightning bolts on it), and we started talking about how Lightning wanted to go for a ride.  We finally succeeded in engaging Gabriel (and Lightning) in a game of follow-the-leader.



For now, [empty] parking lots, or other big, flat, empty paved spaces, are going to be our best riding locations.  Sidewalks just have too many distractions, and present too many obstacles — bumps, frequent intersections and alleys, etc.  It does mean we’ll have to continue towing G’s bike to said locations — not hard, per se, but we do need to protect Big Blue.  I’m pretty sure the towing was what caused this damage to Big Blue’s frame.


Xtracycle is selling touch-up paint, but we were planning to pair the order with the Hooptie to save on shipping, and the Hooptie is now out of stock until July.  Anyway, eventually we’ll get this fixed, and then we plan to use some kind of padding to protect it.  (A bikey friend suggested part of an old rubber bead bicycle tire wrapped around this part of the frame.)

Between life, allergies, and illness, we haven’t actually gotten Lightning out again (so it’s been over a month — boo!).  I did replace the worn-out handlebar grips with a new, bright red pair (G’s color request).  I was still debating other “decorating” options — decals, stencils and paint, etc. — and now G is saying he’ll wait to ride in until said decorations are in place.  Argh!

I’m trying to remind myself that this is a learning process, just like anything else.  When in the throws of it, potty learning felt similarly frustrating and never-ending, but it was just a stage that’s now past and that I don’t even think about any more.  Eventually, G will be able to ride a bicycle without training wheels — pushing too much now is only frustrating all of us (and perhaps making G more resistant).

We’re also in the process of getting a tag-a-long bike (a Burley Piccolo), and I’m hoping riding that will make him more comfortable on his own bike (that is, if he deigns to even get on the Piccolo — at least it’s already a nice color . . . ).


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New bike at long last

As I mentioned in my previous post, on Friday, I finally bit the bullet and bought a bike (to replace the departed Baby Jake).  I ended up purchasing a 2013 Kona Dew Deluxe that I’d actually been curious about even before Baby Jake’s demise.

First, a bit of back story.  At the beginning of April, I test rode a beautiful baby blue Salsa Vaya 2 that was for sale on Craigslist.  I knew the 56cm frame size was a bit of a stretch for me (the Salsa sizing chart says I’m just barely tall enough for a 56cm; my ideal frame size with them would be a 54cm or 55cm), but if it worked, I would have had an awesome bike for a good price.  The 56cm frame was totally rideable, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t wishing it into being, so I arranged for the owner to take it into The Hub for both a frame check (it was in amazing condition, but it was enough of an investment that confirming that didn’t hurt) and a fit check.  As I suspected, the frame was in great shape, but when we looked at the fit, their advice is that the 56cm was really a stretch for me.  We maybe could have made it work, but it wasn’t what they would put me on.  So, even though it would have been a good deal, on a bike that is otherwise inaccessible to me, I let it go.*

On Friday, I went into The Hub to test ride the Dew Deluxe, and another bike,  the Scott Sub 10.  Both bikes had been hanging out in the shop for awhile (quite awhile for the Kona, given the model year).  The Kona caught my eye with it’s stock front rack, fenders, and cute integrated bell.  The Scott?  Well, the color was the first thing that caught my eye . . .


Image courtesy of REI

Thought you can’t tell in the photo, it’s metallic green.  The color (and matching fenders) caught my eye, as well as the belt drive (i.e., it has a belt in place of a chain — belts are very durable, provide really quiet operation, and don’t get greasy and gunky like a traditional chain).  It also has an internal hub (Shimano Alfine 8, so eight speeds), which I enjoy on Big Blue, and disc brakes, at a price that seems VERY reasonable for all of those features.

So, on Friday morning, I went into The Hub to ride both bikes (I’d taken the Kona for a spin a few months ago).  And while it seemed crazy, I kind-of had in my head that I would be leaving with one of those bikes.

The Kona Dew Deluxe is a 9-speed (so only one chain-ring in front), and, like the Scott bike, it has disc brakes.  Both bikes have aluminum frames.  Though it’s silly, there was definitely part of me that was drawn to having “Her Green Bike” to match my blog.

While the gear range on the 9-speed Kona seemed similar to that on the 8-speed Scott, it felt like the Kona’s lowest (i.e., easiest) gear was a bit lower than the Scott’s.  I found some decent hills to test them on, and, while I made it up on the [unloaded] Scott, I was a bit concerned about what would happen with some cargo.  (Big Blue’s internal hub is the Shimano Alfine 11, and it definitely has a wider gear range than the Alfine 8).

If I’m not happy with the Kona Dew’s gearing, I could add an additional front chain ring fairly affordably (not super cheap, since I would also need the front shifter), but there weren’t a lot of options for the gearing of the Scott (short of maybe upgrading to the Alfine 11, but that would be pretty pricey, and I wasn’t sure it would even fit on the bike), and in the end, that tipped the scales in favor of the Kona.


Despite the fact that I’ve been looking for EIGHT months, this felt like something of an impulse buy.  Matthew said he wanted to see the look on the faces of everyone at The Hub when I finally. bought. something.  When I relayed this comment to the folks at The Hub, Ron said they’d just sold a bike to a guy who’d been coming in and looking for three YEARS.  So clearly I should have waited longer, right?

When it came down to it, I was just ready to have something (other than BUB) again.  A hybrid bike suits almost all of the riding I do at present.  I still see something like the Salsa Vaya or the Surly Long Haul Trucker (or maybe the Cross Check or the Troll) in my future.  While my bike hunt is technically over, I’ll still be glancing at Craigslist for a Salsa Vaya (that is both my size AND not stolen) from time to time, and I’ll keep on eye on the available color options for the Surly bikes.  I may find something in 2 months, or it may not be for ten years.

In the meantime, I’m working on getting my new bike up to speed.  I was able to salvage most of the accessories from Baby Jake, so the Dew now was water bottle cages, light mounts, and a kickstand (like the Scott, the Dew Deluxe came with matching fenders — it was nice not having to mess with that install).  While undamaged, the rear rack from Baby Jake, doesn’t quite fit the Dew.  I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t reuse the rack, but it became somewhat of a moot point because we just ordered a Burley Piccolo (tag-a-long) for Gabriel(!), and that requires using Burley’s proprietary “Moose Rack,” so I’ll be putting that rack on the Dew.  With any luck, I’ll have it all set up in time for the CyclingSavvy class I’m teaching on Saturday!


*I’ve built up a pretty strong customer loyalty to The Hub.  Unfortunately, Salsa has an exclusive contract with another local bike shop, and The Hub can’t play.  Until or unless I find a used Vaya, that bike is inaccessible to me.
Posted in Biking | 8 Comments

Allergies and busy bees

I feel like it was just Easter . . . and then I blinked and four weeks flew by!

Awful allergies
Seasonal allergies hit all three of us hard at the beginning of the month.  We took G to the doctor, thinking it was something infectious, but he said he’d been seeing kids like that all morning and it was allergies.  Our pediatrician prescribed a low dose of Claritin, which seemed to help.  (After feeling pretty funky ourselves, despite our regular Neti pot habit, Matthew and I jumped on the Claritin bandwagon, too.)

Busy bees
April was pretty crazy around these parts. The day after Easter, my MIL had a hip replacement.  Fortunately, it went well, though getting back to “normal” has taken a bit longer than she expected/hoped.  She is both Gabriel’s main caregiver (when he’s not at preschool), as well as Matthew’s main gardening partner-in-crime, so we really noticed her absence.

Matthew was really busy work-wise the first half of the month.  No sooner did things settle down for him than MY work kicked into high gear.  As a result, my meditation practice started to fall by the wayside (just when I needed it the most, of course).  But there’s light at the end of the tunnel!

And into May . . .
The first few days of May are giving April a run for their money.  On Friday, my eight-month-long bike hunt [kind-of] ended when I purchased a Kona Dew Deluxe.


And, for better or worse, I got my first-ever smart phone.  (Good news — it’s looking like I may be smart enough to use said phone!)

Saturday was a catch-up day.  A bit of phone learning and bike tinkering, though not quite what I’d hoped, because the rear rack from my previous bike didn’t quite fit on the newbie.

We ventured out early Sunday morning for a bike-by of a property that had an open house later in the day.  We confirmed that we did, indeed, want to make it to the open house that afternoon.  The trip was extra productive because the route we took on our bikes led to the discovery of 4-5 more letter-worthy properties (that we wouldn’t have found by car).

In the afternoon, we went back for the open house, and decided we wanted to make an offer.  And then things got crazy.  We seem to attract seller’s agents who like using the “give us your highest and best offer by X date and time” technique.

Sunday night and Monday morning were spent scrambling to figure out and put together a reasonable offer, all with our realtor somewhat out of commission due to injury and illness, and us dealing with Gabriel being ill, as well.  (Plus some work deadlines I had — crazy days, I tell you!)

Matthew took the day off work to be with Gabriel (another diagnosis of pneumonia, I’m afraid), while I dealt with the house stuff.  Our offer is submitted (one of at least three offers they received),  so now it’s just a waiting game.  I’m enjoying finally having a bit of space to breathe, especially because it might be temporary.

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