Archive for the ‘Sickness’ Category

A Changing Taste for Bikes

September 25, 2013

Recently I got a new bike, and it marked a turn in my life as a biker.  I thought I would run through how I have changed recently because I find it interesting.

When I was young I had bikes, but the only bike that I remember is an adult tricycle that I rode for a while (a year, perhaps?) until it broke.  Later in high school I got a Diamondback Hybrid that I enjoyed riding quite a bit.  I rode it all over my town several times listening to my earphones.  It wasn’t hard to retrace the same sections of town over and over when it’s only 2.4 square miles.

(something like this Diamondback)

Sometime after having been in college for a year or two I brought my bicycle up to Chicago.  Within short order it was stolen.  I don’t remember the circumstances, but I don’t think it was my fault.  I shortly thereafter bought another bike (used this time), which was promptly stolen out of my back yard, and this time it was clearly my fault because I left it hidden but unlocked.

With two bikes being stolen I stuck with my car for the next few years.  After moving to Minneapolis something led both me and Elizabeth to look for bikes.  I bought a Raleigh 3-speed, and she bought a Rollfast 3-speed.  I was specifically looking for a bike that would have an upright ride because I was very wary of riding a bike where I would have to hunch up my shoulders and lean over a lot.  If I wasn’t comfortable I wouldn’t ride, I thought.

Somehow I got it into my head that I wanted to be more local and to ride more often – with Basil, our only child at that time.  We bought a used Burley trailer, and Basil just hated it.  My mother bought us a Bobike Mini, and he and I both loved it by comparison.  However, my knees hit the seat, and I had to lean down over him to get to the handlebars.  The shoulder hunching I feared was happening.


I didn’t feel comfortable on the Raleigh and sought a better solution for family hauling.  This is when I started learning about Dutch bicycles.  It appeared that they were more comfortable, waterproof, and indestructible, and some were really meant for family transportation.  I wanted to find a bike that could do it all – a weekday commuter that could take the whole family to church and get all the groceries.

I convinced Elizabeth to let me buy a Workcycles Fr8, with the hope that we could both ride it with the kids.  Quickly after getting it we found out only I could ride it, which was a major disappointment.  However, it was an absolute joy to ride with Basil on the front – for him and for me, and it was extremely comfortable.

IMG_6451   IMG_6446

That is… when it was on level ground.  I found when I went to work and back on this bicycle that it was very difficult getting up hills.  This was undoubtedly due to it’s being nearly 75 lbs unloaded.  Just after getting it put together at a local bike shop I took it back to have the cables adjusted and asked if it was normal to have so much rolling resistance from the dynamo hub.  The bike just didn’t seem to *go* very easily, even in its easiest gear of 8 (Shimano Nexus internal hub).

Shortly thereafter, I found a used Gazelle on Craigslist that I decided was a great deal and was worth getting as a winter bike.  I did get it but didn’t think it was as comfortable as the Fr8.  The handlebars did not go as high, and the frame size was actually too big, making it hard for me to put my feet on the ground and balance myself at stops.

(something very much like this Gazelle)

Now with three bikes I never rode the Raleigh and ended up giving it to my brother when he moved to town.

The bike shop guys convinced me that if I rode the Gazelle during the winter I would destroy it and it was “too cool” of a bike to trash in that way.  The creator of the Fr8, in Amsterdam, seconded that opinion by email.  I decided to ride the more weatherproof Fr8 during the winter, and on January 7th I slipped on some ice and broke my ankle under 75 lbs of bike.  The bike, of course, didn’t have a scratch on it.  Quite a tank.


I had a lot of time to think about bike riding as I lay on my back during the recovery.  Slowly it occurred to me that it was perhaps the weight of the Fr8 that contributed to my injury.  It also occurred to me how intimidated I was to ride my bike any great distance from my home because of what a chore it was to get around – and I was completely intimidated to go anywhere that involved hills.  I have never yet gone to the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition, because I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep up on one of their rides.  Almost every time I rode it to work and back I would have pain in my knees for the rest of the day.  I would comment to Elizabeth on those few days I didn’t feel knee pain, as if I was building strength that would eventually make that pain go away.

Before I had fully recovered I had decided to sell the Fr8.  But what was I going to get instead?

I thought what I wanted was a folding bike – a Brompton.  Why?  Because it was the opposite of the Fr8 in almost every way.  It was small and light, and I could take it anywhere, whether by carrying it or riding it.  It might not be able to carry children, however.  I spent many hours reading about them and trying to figure out how to use one to carry children.  When I was finally up and well and able to test ride one for a couple of hours I decided that it wasn’t as comfortable as I was hoping.  With that major drawback I had to ask myself how often I would actually need to fold it, and the answer was a very clear never.

I started then to look at much less expensive options for replacing the Fr8.  I wanted something lighter but still with low maintenance.  If possible, I wanted hub gearing, hub brakes, and a  hub generator.  Low and behold something popped up on Craigslist.  It was another old Raleigh that had all of these features.  I went to take a look at it and it needed a little bit of work, which helped to lower the price a bunch.  I then invested money in the bike to replace the handlebars (increasing cockpit room for comfort and child hauling) and grips.  I also replaced the cog on the internal gear hub to make the Sturmey Archer better for riding up hills.


This bike has been a fantastic bike for almost everything.  It is a joy to ride with children and without.  The cockpit is not as large as the Fr8, so I do hit my knees on the front child seat occasionally, but I have never hurt my knees going to work and back.

I decided to take this bike on the St. Paul Classic bike ride with my friend, Dan.  Each of us took our oldest child, as well.  That meant I took Basil on a 30 mile bike ride around the city of St. Paul with my 3-speed.  Well, after a big hill at around the 15 mile mark, my knees gave out on me, and I was in a lot of pain.  I had to walk the bike a few times, and I really slowed Dan down (he was towing a trailer and had a lot of gear options).

That experience convinced me that as much as I love the simplicity of a 3-speed internally geared hub, it is not enough for me to ride around the city of St. Paul without injuring myself.  I finally wanted to move beyond an internally geared hub.  I wanted something I could ride all around the city without being intimidated by hills.  I started looking for a 10-speed road bike.

A Fuji?  A French bike like a Peugot?  An old Schwinn or Raleigh?  I had no real idea where to start or what to look for.  I didn’t even know what kind of handlebar positions or brake levers were important.  Where do you put your hands with drop bars?  I didn’t know what size I would need, and I thought it ridiculous to pay someone to measure me.

On Craigslist I happened to see one day a listing for a Surly CrossCheck at what seemed to be an amazing price.  It was more than I was planning to spend, but it appeared that it could be an investment, even if it did not fit and I learned to hate road bikes.  I drove to Minneapolis that very day to check it out after work, and it was light, smooth, and responsive.  I wasn’t sure it was the right size or that I would like riding it, but I reminded myself that at that price I could easily get my money back.

The next day I rode it to work and my shoulders hurt from leaning over so much.  On the other hand, I zoomed up hills without a lot of effort, and I was nowhere near having knee pain.  It was incredibly liberating to not fear hills or distances.  Within two days the shoulder pain had disappeared.

I used to give myself 30 minutes to ride to school and ended up using almost all of them.  I think it was about 27 minutes by Fr8.  With the CrossCheck I think I’ve managed to get my time down to about 18 minutes, which includes an inconvenient detour.  Google Maps says my standard route should take 23 minutes, but I have no idea how they calculate this.

I’ve changed the rear cassette in order to have a couple easier gears for eventual hill climbing in other parts of the city, and I replaced the disposable pedals the fella sold to me on the bike.  I still think I should buy a high rise stem to make the bike fit me a bit better, but based on my current comfort level I don’t really think I have to.

After this experience, I don’t think I’ll turn back.  Perhaps I will become disenchanted with derailleurs after some major, expensive complication.  Or I will develop back problems from leaning over too much.  But the difference in my confidence as a rider changes my situation completely.  I want to commute by bike and get around as much as possible without a car, and while my previous bike preferences were super comfortable on flat ground, they restricted my range of distance far too much.

I now plan to keep three bikes:

1. The Gazelle will be a snow bike, equipped with studded tires
2. The Raleigh will be for child hauling with the mounted seats (these don’t work on the Surly)
3. The Surly will be for everything else

Do I really need to keep all three?

– I like the Gazelle better than the Raleigh for snow because it has a full chaincase, and I’m not sure I can get this for the Raleigh.  If I could I might be able to just switch out tires and ditch the Gazelle.
– I like the Raleigh best for child hauling because the Gazelle is unsafe with kids (large frame size), and I prefer bike mounted seats to the Burley (the Surly can take kids in the trailer)

When it’s snowy I will be restricted by riding the Gazelle, but I don’t plan to do a lot of snow riding outside of commuting.  When I’m taking kids I’ll rarely be going too far, but if I need to I can hook up the Burley to the Surly and go farther.

I don’t expect this to be my lifelong bike set-up, but I do plan to own a multi-speed road bike as my primary ride, and I have been avoiding anything even remotely like a road bike for the last five years.

Thank you, St. Paul Classic.  Thank you, broken ankle.



Vitiligo Update

August 8, 2011

It seems that many people come to our blog to see pictures of our son because they know us.  Then there are a lot of other people who end up here because they are repairing rocking chairs, pregnant, baking bread, or curious about vitiligo.  I wanted to see pictures of people with vitiligo when I first recognized it, so I am happy to provide more information for those who may come looking for it.

Here I will show photos of my hands from 8/23/09 and today, 8/8/11.

The difference in darkness of my normal skin is probably due to the difference in lighting in the two pictures.  I have to take these in August because it is near the end of the summer when my skin is at its darkest.  When winter begins to set in it is nearly impossible to tell I have vitiligo.  My skin becomes so pale it is almost as white as skin that has no pigment.

I know vitiligo severely affects some people’s lives.  Thank God it has had and probably will have very little effect on me because I am already so white to begin with.  Am I thanking God that I’m white?  Perhaps dangerous territory!


Pascha Weekend Post #1

April 15, 2010

There was too much to tell recently to try and get it all in one go.  We’re also awaiting photos from the baptism and chrismations, so there will be yet more to tell (or show).  However, I though it might be good to show some photographs that we do have while it’s still fresh in the mind.

Firstly, here’s Basil showing off the many uses of his wonderful high chair:

This chair is of Swedish design and handed down to us from Minnesota.  Can you guess which is Basil’s favorite position?

Stella enjoyed time with relatives and her mama:

But she really looked forward to spending some time with her older cousin, Basil.
Unfortunately, Basil has been watching a little too much professional wrestling

“Maybe I’ll try the ‘ole Mike Tyson…”

“Don’t run away from me!”

“One!  Two!  Three!  We have a new champ!”

“Take me back to San Francisco…”

No, really, I think they enjoyed their time together, but they’re not quite at the age of playing together.

Basil also got to have some quality time with the Nouna and Nouno:

We really enjoyed having them join us for this weekend.  Maybe they will become Chicagoans after all, but where will we be?  Lila and John did a great job with Basil during the baptism, but we’ll talk about that in a future post.

Basil has had the sniffles for quite some time, and he seemed to get worse after Pascha.  It might have had to do with changing his schedule or being around so many people.  In any case, he’s finally coming back around, losing some of the sniffles, and becoming interest in solid food again.

Last night, Elizabeth went to her monthly book club, and I put Basil to sleep alone for the second time in recent memory.  It went off without a hitch, and he slept pretty soundly until morning.  I started working on a sourdough loaf, and we seem to be back to a normal routine.


Vitiligo Spreads

April 12, 2010

You may remember my vitiligo discovery after our visit to Washington D.C. last summer.  Over the winter my skin turns as white as can be and the pale spots are invisible.  As the sun spends more time in the sky and my skin spends more time outside the house, those portions of skin that have darkening pigment allow the paler spots to stand out in starker contrast.

Last year (8/09) / This year (4/10):

Last year (8/09) / This year (4/10):

Last year (8/09) / This year (4/10):

A better comparison might be to see how my hands look in August after a whole summer’s worth of sun.

I’ve also got a nice spot on my hip now, though I’m sure it won’t get much sun.

Now I’ve just got to work on my singing and dancing…


White Guys

September 18, 2009

Things have been happening at the Saathoff household, and you haven’t been informed!

Let’s go back.  A few weeks ago, Basil made his first out-of-womb visit to US Steel Yard in Gary, IN, to see our cherished Gary Southshore Railcats.  We left while ahead in the 8th inning, but unfortunately the Fargo Redhawks came from behind in the 9th to win the game after we left.  The Railcats finished the season with the best record, but the Redhawks beat them again to win the playoff championship.

IMG_1957 IMG_1961

IMG_1965 IMG_1970


Lizzy found a more secluded spot for breastfeeding.  The game was NOT this sparsely attended.

Basil also visited the pediatrician, our dear Dr. Osta.  There, she informed us that our then-10 week old weighed 12lbs 10oz and had achieved something between the 50th and 75th percentile (for weight).  We will do everything to push him to 100th!  Lizzy says, instead, we will do everything we can to keep him average.  I guess a normal baby has an easier time than a super jumbo or a skinny minny.  Average ho!


He also loves getting visits from Claire, who is newly chrismated.


Yesterday I made my first visit to my new doctor at UIC, Dr. Potter.  I am already impressed and pleased to have made the switch from Dr. Grant in Oak Park.  He was very knowledgeable about things from the top of his head without typing things up on his iphone in front of me (as Dr. Grant had done).  As far as the Lupus Anticoagulant, he said he would find someone with more knowledge in the university to help us think about how long I should be on the blood thinner Warfarin.  It appears that my condition is a bit rarer and more confusing to doctors than I knew.  Lizzy’s previous doctor told her one never wants to be “medically interesting” to a doctor, but I think I fit that bill with Dr. Potter.

In another aspect of the visit, I discussed with him some white patches I discovered on my hands during our trip to Washington, D.C.

IMG_1901 IMG_1900

IMG_1895 (this last picture is my elbow)

I’ve been asking people lately if they’ve been wondering – “what else does Eric have in common with Michael Jackson?”

Well, I didn’t have to suggest anything with Dr. Potter.  He was the one who said it looked like vitiligo.  After my flu shot, he did a little biopsy on the white spot on my elbow so they can check the skin for melanin.  I’m turning white!  Oh wait…

It turns out that the affected skin looks about the same color as my shirtless top.  Oh well.  It’s really hard on guys like this.

Here’s another white guy striking some poses:

IMG_2034 IMG_2035

IMG_2036 IMG_2037



Medical Bills

June 6, 2009

On Thursday when I got home there was a bill in the mail from the UIC hospitals. I opened it and found out our expenses regarding the emergency room visits (Elizabeth only) totaled around $29,000. Apparently Blue Cross thought there was a hint of a chance Elizabeth had some other insurance and held out until we made them check and discover that she was not, in fact, trying to cheat them (or be cheated by them).

After one phone call, $28,000 has already been paid by the insurance company (minus $300 copay), and the rest should be handled, as well. Insurance is a benefit (or service) that can’t be overlooked.

I’m looking at it as if I got a $29,000 bonus for this year’s work!


I’ve Gone Crackers!

May 3, 2009

Many weeks ago, when eating was a nauseating challenge, my Mother recommended eating lots of snacks. Dining hall life stripped me of a desire to snack. I prefer eating really large meals. (And eating them with great big “Papou bites.”) My tendencies were not compatible with morning sickness.

My Mama suggested taking some fruit and yogurt in addition to my lunch. Blech. Anything sweet sounded gross. “How about cheese and crackers?” she offered so patiently. Bingo. That sounded GOOD. And nothing had sounded good, except turkey sandwiches with white bread.

I fell into a wonderful habit of bringing cheese and crackers along with me to work everyday. I would manage to get breakfast down and then I ate the snack at 10:30 which actually made it easier to swallow lunch. When the hospital visits commenced morning sickness was long gone, but I had kept up the cracker habit. Bed rest discombobulated everything, but third trimester hungriness has brought the crackers back.

The crackers were the same everyday: my all time favorites, Triscuits.


Once while vacationing in the Turtle Racing Capital of the World I consumed an entire box of Triscuits in one sitting. Along with several glasses of milk and a thick stack of old Archie comics. This is more impressive when you realize that I was probably 7 or 8 years old at the time. (Probably the same year I ate a record setting 14 Swedish meatballs.) I realize now that this probably bothered my family. It’s the only time I remember ever having truly “spoiled” my appetite for dinner. It was also probably annoying because other people might have wanted some Triscuits.

Honestly, my morning sickness mending crackers weren’t really Triscuits. I actually paired my sharp cheddar with “A-Tasket”s.

Note: This is NOT my photo. I’ve never tried cheese out of a can and I do not like Cream Soda.

A-Taskets taste just like Triscuits and cost about one-third as much. Before Little Cap joined us, Eric and I got into a good habit of planning a week’s worth of meals on Saturday and then grocery shopping on Sunday, which eliminated the need for middle-of-the week trips and kept us from excessive spending. We are a two store family, each week hitting Hyde Park Produce for produce and any deli needs, and then making our way to Save-A-Lot for most everything else.

Save-A-Lot is fun because almost everything there is Save-A-Lot brand. However, unlike some “store brand” stores the products don’t shout “Save-A-Lot.” Instead, they’re cleverly disguised. Some simply look like a brand you’ve never seen before, but others are made to look like their name brand counterparts. Like A-Taskets. “A-Tasket” makes you think “A Tisket” which sounds a lot like Triscuit. They’re clever, those Save-A-Lotters, and I think they’re funny.

Unfortunately, someone seems to have thought differently. I haven’t seen evidence at the store since bed rest has forced Eric to enter the grocery jungle all by his lonesome, but it appears that my A-Taskets are GONE. They’ve been replaced by “J. Higgs Woven Wheats”.


Woven Wheats? Where did they get such a lame moniker? Even canned tomatoes at Save-A-Lot are prefaced by their “brand name” of “Diane’s Garden”. And my beloved crackers can’t get more than “J. Higgs”?

I searched the internet to no avail. I can’t tell if Nabisco had some kind of issue with the name A Tasket. I can’t bring myself to think that the powers at Save-A-Lot changed such a sweet cracker name without cause. And I like to believe that whatever the reason was, they went down fighting.

Uh… not a lot is going on here at Bed Rest Central. I suppose that’s evident from my interest in cracker names.
We have had some wonderful visits. Claire came to visit me so Eric could escape with Anthony and introduce him to sushi. And Zhao and Ethan came bearing kabobs, lentils, baba ganoush, salad and dolmades. So tasty, and wonderful company too! The crochet hooks have gotten more action, and the librivox library of audio books has proven a wonderful tool to pass the hours.

Eric’s Spanish studies continue, and I learned this evening that the word for “hope” and the word for “wait” are the same thing in Spanish, “esperar”. Bed rest in one word!

Little Cap and I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow so there’s sure to be another update soon.


31 Weeks and the HMO

May 1, 2009


Happy 31 weeks (3 days ago)
I made the poster this week, and it has a punctuation theme: the background has commas, which represent the paused waiting we’re engaged in, and the foreground has a 31 constructed of exclamation points to represent our excitement and celebration at each successive week’s passing.

Elizabeth is looking quite large at this point, and Little Cap’s kicks have changed in quality. Recently they became harder, and even more recently we have felt him simply pushing against her tummy for several seconds at a time. She has fun trying to guess whether its a foot or hand and seeing how he reacts when she pushes back.

Today I had the day off to make a doctor’s visit. Our general practitioner, Dr. Grant, sent me to a pulmonary specialist, Dr. Margolis. He listened to me breath and asked if I snore… he specializes in sleep disorders. For some reason, this fellow also supposedly knows about lupus anticoagulant, for which I tested positive in my last blood test. Despite what I have read on the internet and what Dr. Grant initially said, Dr. Margolis insists that the coumadin I’ve been taking does not interfere with the lupus results.

After telling me that it is rare for him to see this independent of some other disorder, such as lupus, he decided the best therapy would be to remain on coumadin (warfarin) indefinitely. I asked if repeated tests might be done to confirm my diagnosis. He replied that it might be worthwhile getting tested again after a few years – not what I had in mind at all.

While on coumadin one is supposed to be monitoring vitamin K intake because that changes the clotting level of the blood. This is hard to do because vitamin K is in a lot, such as spinach, mayonnaise, broccoli, eggs; it seems doctors recommend eating a steady diet, though recommendations have been contradictory between doctors. The other annoyance is that it isn’t supposed to be mixed with alcohol, though this specialist said one glass of wine wouldn’t hurt.

I now know that one huge downside of having and HMO is that there is no such thing as a patient pursued “second opinion.” If I want to ask another doctor to check me out properly for lupus anticoagulant, I need to either select another primary care doctor or pay out of pocket. Fortunately, we fully intend to switch primary care doctors as soon as the baby is born, and then I will request the new (old) doctor to reevaluate my condition. We really like Dr. Bowers in Hinsdale, and she makes the HMO life seem quite good.

<- (link)

Even Denzel would approve!

<- (link)


Lupus??? Oh, not that kind

April 23, 2009

The doctor got results from a blood test he had ordered.  At first he thought that the results might be false because I was supposed to have stopped taking warfarin about two weeks before this particular test (I don’t think he told me this).  After consulting the specialist he’s sending me to, he told me that the warfarin would not affect that result and that I should actually not stop taking it.

He mentioned on the phone that I tested positive for “lupus anticoagulant.”  Then he said, “Have fun with that!”  No, he didn’t say that.  He’s sending me to a specialist in pulmonology.  Elizabeth and I can only guess they specialize in these blood issues because people get pulmonary embolisms from blood clots.  My appointment with Dr. Margolis is scheduled for next Friday morning, though I’m hoping to get a late appointment time after someone else cancels so I don’t have to miss any school.

It was easy to sort of forget about all of this and take the pill while Elizabeth and Little Cap have been in more prominent need of care and attention lately.  Guess we’re turning it up to 11. :)


23 Weeks

March 4, 2009

Little Cap is officially 23 weeks today! The week-by-week baby guides also say it’s the beginning of month six. (All of that dating is really confusing to me.) More exciting is that LC weighs over a pound now and should double in weight by the month’s end. Wow!

Yesterday’s ultrasound went really well. The cerclage and the bed rest are working just as hoped and we didn’t need to start any new interventions. For now I need to stay stitched, horizontal, hydrated and out of the hospital! We have another appointment next Monday.

There was one other bit of news at the ultrasound appointment that we weren’t exactly planning on…


When we got our first ultrasound (at 21 weeks), we told the ultrasound technician that we didn’t want to know the gender. She heard that and was ready to comply. There were moments while I was watching the little capper flip around that I thought I might have seen something, but I tried my best to not be imaginative and to look away if I thought I would find something out. We left that appointment knowing nothing.

However, when we left that appointment, we were directed to go to the ER, not home. When the residents at the ER looked over our ultrasound images, one came in and asked, “So, you’re having a boy?” Not knowing anything previous to this, we told her we didn’t want to know, and she promptly shut up. Apparently, Elizabeth didn’t take any hints from this, but I sure did. After that I began using the pronoun “he” more frequently, and so did Elizabeth. After all of the messes at the hospital, we decided it would just be easier to have the gender confirmed. At our last ultrasound visit (Monday), the technician didn’t need to do anything more than a wand ultrasound to look at the cervix, but she happily showed us (and photographed) our baby’s privatest part. I had to cover the screen, however, to protect the Little Cap’s honor and dignity.

So, we have a little boy swimming around, and we hope to have a young man one day, as well. I know you’re dying to see his little peepee-doodle, but for legal reasons I must decline.