Longtail (cargo) bikes- Should I make the switch?

I am not a bicycle specialist or a child development expert. I’m a mom and cyclist. Talk to your pediatrician about when biking with your baby is appropriate and take your time at finding the right (Longtail cargo) bicycle for you and your family.

A Longtail bike what? And should I make the switch?

When a friend of mine posted a picture of their new longtail bike on Facebook I was instantly fascinated by it. I had never heard of it and quickly giving it a google I found that this has already been a big thing in the States. Weird that in a country where people bike a lot I hadn’t seen one already, but after doing some research it’s obvious that it is becoming quite popular.

What did I find out?

FROM WHAT AGE CAN YOUR CHILDREN RIDE ALONG?

The age at which you can start carrying your child on a bike is a contested issue. Basically your child needs to have the neck strength to comfortably sit-up on their seat. Usually, this is a skill that they learn between six and twelve months. Please note this does not mean that a child can sit up for hours at a time. If you are planning a cycling holiday with longer trips, stop regularly. Parents who are eager to start cycling with children this young can find themselves in a quandary as to what is safe, legal, and practical!

PROS AND CONS

PROS:

  • Depending on the model, a load capacity of +100 kg to +200 kg.
  • Possibility of comfortably transporting several children.
  • Possibility of mounting two bicycle seats at the rear.
  • Large bicycle bags so you can take a lot with you.
  • Light, narrow and maneuverable like an ordinary bicycle.
  • Your child (ren) is (are) close. That is a nice idea and also cozy.
  • Possibility to carry other bikes. This way, your child can cycle until he/she is tired and then take a seat at the back.
  • Many different options for accessorizing the bike.


CONS:

  • Although limited, this bike requires just a little more storage space.
  • Your child (ren) are also subject to the weather elements.
  • The children sit behind you, which makes communicating a bit more difficult than in the case of a bicycle seat in the front or a cargo bike, for example. But I still find it hard to converse with my while he is in the front carrying cargo bike and the top is on.
  • Most models have a high step.
  • Equipping the bike as required requires extra investment.
  • Choosing the right Longtail.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT LONGTAIL

There are different types of longtail bikes. What should you pay attention to during your purchase?

Weight

What do you want to use the bike for? How much weight do you plan to carry? Depending on the model you can carry more (+200 kg) or less (+100 kg) weight. Attention extra weight also requires extra pedaling power. Try to be realistic about this. Carrying 200 kg without extra support is a challenge anyway.

Small wheels

A number of models use smaller wheels in the front and / or rear. This is to lower the center of gravity and thus create a more stable driving experience. A lower luggage rack also makes it more accessible for children to step on their own. A disadvantage is that your load space becomes proportionally smaller.

Electric drive

Are you a mileage eater or do you have another reason why you can use extra pedal assistance? In the case of a longtail cargo bike, the extra weight that you can carry provides an extra reason to consider electrical support. But just like with other bicycles, electric drive is accompanied by an extra financial investment.

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Extra accessories

Most longtail bikes are equipped as standard for transporting additional luggage. If you want to dress them up for the safe transport of children, then you are obliged to install additional accessories, which entails an additional cost. An advantage is that many different combinations are possible: Monkey Bars, two bicycle seats, one cushion, and one bicycle seat, an extra handlebar and footrests, and so on.

Gears

The different models available have a different range of gears. You need to be aware of the environment you will be biking in. If you cycle regularly through hilly terrain or over bridges, more gears can be useful. The more bicycle gears, the more cycling comfort.

Length

Measure well in advance how much space you have available to park your bike. The length of the different models can vary considerably.

Balanced

Be aware that the bicycle has a sound standard. The bicycle is intended to accumulate a reasonable amount of weight. For ease of use, it is therefore essential that the standard bears this weight when stationary.

Frame

Some models have a ‘one size fits all’ frame, others have different options. If it is intended that you and your partner both use the bicycle, this can help determine your choice.

 THE LAST TIP …

Always try the longtail bike! A round at the bicycle repair shop in front of the door is really insufficient. A serious bicycle mechanic will always give you the opportunity to take a test drive. If you are going to test, take your children with you. So you know what it feels like when the bike is loaded. By testing different bikes, you notice the differences in weight, stability, ease of use, etc. Is the distance between the handlebars and saddle comfortable for you? Can your children get on it easily? Is the bike stable?

WHAT WILL I DO?

Well, I’m still busy with my driver’s license and that will take at least another 10 months. But even if I would have one, I would still ride a bike most of the time as I believe that it is better for the environment and I just enjoy this time together with my son.

Whether I would buy a Longtail, I have to say that I am inclined to. I have been riding a ‘normal’ bike with my son on the back (because of a flat tire on my cargo bike) for the past week and it does ride easier than a cargo bike, it’s just a bit too small at the back for my almost 6-year-old. Easier to handle. I have testdrived a Yuba already and would like to try out a few others and so who knows.

LOOKING TO TEST DRIVE A LONGTAIL IN FLANDERS?

Fietsenwinkel de Geus / Marnixplaats 4, 2000 Antwerpen | Grote Steenweg 95, 2600 Berchem

Bakfiets & cargo bikes-festival./ ANTWERP- This is only once a year (next one is on the 14th of March 2020) but it’s a great way to see what’s out there, hear testimonials and have some great truck food. 😀

Up-Cycling bikeshop / GHENT

Life by Mim

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This Single Mom

This single mom or mommy like my youngest likes to call me, is happy that October 2019 has passed, because since my “becoming single”, this was probably as hard as October 2018 when my life was shaken to it’s core. It was on another level of being hard. But like then I had the feeling that I would never experience joy again. That my life was over.

October 2019 was especially hard because:

  • It had been a year since finding out what my husband had done to us.
  • Becoming a single mom again.
  • We had to move out of our family home of 13 years. I had to sort through all of our belongings, mostly by myself and try to minimize the stuff of a family of six into a family of three now. Finding wedding pictures, love letters, drawings of hearts from my step-daughter. It was incredibly painful and many tears were cried.
  • Moving to a new town leaving the town I loved behind.
  • Divorce. Our divorce was finalized at the end of October. I did not want this. I wanted to be a wife and mother. I promised to love him through sickness and health. I had forgiven him many things already, one of them unfaithfulness. But raping my child was the “unforgivable” reason that made me go for the divorce. I wish I could say that I have enough self-respect to say that because he raped me that too was a reason for divorce, but had it been only me, well I’m not sure what I would have done. Somehow I feel like I was lucky to have been loved and that it will never happen again.
  • Depression.

Depression

Depression is a terrible liar. And the worst thing about it: It’s a terribly convincing one.

While the whole world said it would get better, I only believed what my depression told me: that everything was game over. Nothing will ever be ok again. That I will never ever have a goods night’s sleep again, but that I will eternally be tormented by the scenes going through my head of what was done to me and to my daughter. I would never be happy again. Every day from morning until evening, I would remain in a constant state of panic and fear. That I had changed forever, and would never get myself back.

To make matters worse, my neurologist had put me on these meds that can give some people severe depression and even suicidal thoughts…

Yes…

What a month October has been.

But luckily I am now off those meds now and have started new ones and it really feels like I am emerging out of a cave.

It feels like that all I could see before was grey, but now the beautiful vibrant colors have come back to my life.

At this moment, now that we have hit the one year mark and now that October has come and gone, I can carefully say that I’m starting to recognize myself again. Something that I didn’t think was possible.

What helped?

My great help during these trying times was for sure THERAPY!!! My goodness, if you are hesitating, don’t. If you had a bad connection or experience with a therapist, try another. That’s what I did and my wonderful therapist has given me tools to work with and to help me fight with through this mess.

Patient family and friends. Depression makes you want to be alone when you don’t want to be alone. That sentence will only make sense if you have been through it yourself. I am lucky to have a few persistent friends forcing themselves into my life.

Prayer. I often did not feel like praying, but I knew others were. I’ve wrestled with God, I’ve been mad, disappointed and sad. I even went through the whole of Psalms lamenting together with David.

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.

Psalm 22:2-3 English Standard Version (ESV)

May I be mad at God?

If I believe that the attributes of God are good, holy, just, faithful, and loving, they are not attributes that justify anger. Maybe I should focus more on those attributes of God?

Regardless of whether it is right that I am angry with God, the Bible clearly shows me that:

  • I am not the only one who is angry with God and struggling with why-questions. We can already find various examples of this in the Bible.
  • That I may express my anger and my why questions to God, just as Job, David, and Jesus did.
  • God notices my anger, hears me and does not leave me alone.

What do I do with my anger?

I acknowledge my anger. I don’t understand God and that’s what makes me angry, right? If I understood everything of this world and people and just everything, then I would be like God.

That’s why it’s ok for me (and you) to tell God that I am angry with Him. He invented and made me and HE alone knows how I am. I know that I can go to God with my anger and ask him to help and forgive me and help me to forgive others. Every time again. Eventually, my anger will disappear and give way to trust. Trust in God. And then the trust will rise above my anger.

And what now?

Well…

Even though I can feel happiness and true joy again, at the same time I’m always reminded of the darkness I was in not so long ago.

I will always be scared of that feeling coming back.

But I know that God can take it. I will forever turn my hope, my eyes and my heart to Him, even when feeling angry and in despair. Because that is what I choose to do. He is my refuge. You may not agree with me. You might not understand, but I wish and pray that you could.

This single mom is loved. So are you. Remember that.

Life by Mim

Becoming a mom at 15 and at 35, these were the differences

The history

I first became a mom at 15 and at 35, these were the differences.

I have been blessed with three beautiful children with three completely different personalities and with one big age gap between them…I had my two eldest children in my teens (15 going on 16 years old, and then at 18 years old), my third and last child came almost twenty years after my first. That’s why I like to use the relatively new hashtags #gapmom or #agegapmom.

It was never my intention to have an age gap but it was just the cards we were dealt. I grew up an only child, not yet knowing that I had a biological sister and brother out there. We also have a +- 10 year age gap. So I grew up a bit lonely and I decided that I wanted more than one child.

So then life happens and sometimes (well most of the time for us) life doesn’t go as planned. I became a single mother almost from the start and when I did meet and marry my (ex) husband ten years later, we could not conceive easily and needed help in the form of in-vitro. The whole IVF thing was for me a knightmare, the hormones, the shots, the touching and probing by doctors, the egg harvesting, the disappointing phone calls and then the miscarriage.

I had almost given up. So much so thTat we adopted a beautiful sweet doxie, Toby, from the pound, thinking that he will help me deal with the heartache and emptiness.

But as life would have it, we got the surprise that we were pregnant in May 2013. My children were 19 and 17 and that time so I knew there would be the inevitable age gap, nonetheless, we were so excited.

The differences

Well besides the obvious, becoming pregnant at 15 was unplanned. I have no regrets at all. I would not want to live in a world without my two eldest children, but parenting was hard. It was sometimes feeling like I had hit rock bottom hard and it’s only by God’s grace that I made my way up again each time. Funny thing is, I only became a born again Christian when I was 26-27. Ten years after having my two first children. It’s only then when looking abck, I could see God’s work and help in our lives.

I was young and immature. People felt like they needed to give me advice all-of-the-time. I also had no network then around me, something I really have this time around.

As a teen mother, the only expectancy that most people have of you is that of failure. Poor education, poor finances, and poor choices.

I tried to break free from that stereotype. But I have to be honest, that expectancy was true for the first few years of my motherhood. Thankfully I did manage to turn it all around on time. Or at least I tried.

So for me, the main diffence I feel is the people’s perceptions of me as a mother. When I was a teen, it was assumed that I was a bad mother. When I had my last baby at 35, I was treated as “normal”.

The con’s

I have not really experienced any besides that it’s a pity that I hadn’t kept any of my eldest children’s baby clothing. I would have been the hippest mom around as retro clothing and wool is very “in”.

I’m sure if I think hard enough I could find some, but while writing this none come to mind, maybe when I will re-read my post in the future I will have some to add. But for now, I see it as the greatest blessing in my life, my children, age gap and all.

The pro’s

  • Babysitting: My eldest daughter told me at the start that she would not have it! We decided to have another baby, then we should not expect any help from her…Well, that was her stance at the beginning, and now she is my youngest child’s biggest fan. I don’t really need a babysitter, other than for visiting the doctor or for a school meeting, but I can always count on her. Even if she pouts for a bit. *insert smiley face*
  • Having parented for almost twenty years when I had my youngest, I knew what kind of parent I wanted to be. I’m sorry to my eldest children, but they helped me to see the good and bad things I did in parenting them. And so while pregnant with my last, I devoured all books on parenting and I had a very good idea of the things I wanted to do differently. A do-over let’s call it.
  • The 16-year-old me would never admit to it, but I truly see the difference the maturity that age brings with itself. I see things now that I could not see then. I also did not feel confident enough to step up for my beliefs. People giving me advice on breastfeeding that felt wrong. People telling me how I should discipline my child. People telling me how children should act. I dare think for myself now and I trust my motherly instinct more.
  • Taking it more slowly. I know how fast it all will pass. Sleepless nights will pass. Diapers will pass. Tantrums (should) pass. Yelling “Mommy, mommy, mommy, look at me” will pass. I can even enjoy those moments now, knowing that one day, my job will be done and that I have (hopefully) created a well-balanced adult.
  • Even though I have been a mom for two decades, it feels like I’m a brand new mom again because of the gap. Thank God for the better breastfeeding advice and thank God for the Facebook mom groups that have helped me as well. I wish I had them then.

The big age gap between my children has been very interesting and the truth is, parenting will always be challenging, no matter what age or what age gap. But it is a blessed, wonderful and beautiful adventure. It’s just such a blessing to experience it again, even if it took almost twenty years.

Becoming a mom at 15 and at 35 is my greatest blessing.

Becoming a mom at 15 and at 35, these were the differences

How to pack healthy school lunch

Packing lunchboxes are not only a time-consuming part of the morning rush, but it is also a true headache for many parents. I’m trying this year my ultimate best at makingng the best lunch possible for my little grazer. How to pack a healthy school lunch? What needs to be put in that lunchbox nowadays? What is not done?

Nutella, jam, or sprinkles have been blacklisted in many schools here in Belgium. And recently the WHO (World Health Organization) also blacklisted ham, salami, and other cold cuts. 

So much has changed over the years. I used to just slap on some salami or baloney onto my eldest children’s sandwiches. Now that the salami is also banned, we are totally lost. You can’t send your children to school every day with a slice of cheese on their sandwich? Anyway, we can, but not without loud protest from those involved. 

So I did my research. I have followed nutritionists and health conscience mom’s on Pinterest and Instagram to see what they do and advise.

START AT THE BEGIN: THE RIGHT BREAD BOX

It all starts with finding the right lunchbox. It’s better to get the non-plastic ones (better for health and the environment), and one with different compartments (Bento). I have a stainless steel one for me, but my 5 year old has a hard time opening it so in the meantime he uses the Yumbox original. It’s completely leak free and has just the right amount of compartments for my little grazer. Follow this link if you would like some tips on how to find the right lunchbox. 

THINK IN GROUPS

Just like us, children need carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats and that on a daily basis. Each one of these food groups is important for a proper development. However, especially proteins and fats are often missing in the lunch box. For the lunchbox I always recommend thinking in 4 groups.

  • Proteins, animal or vegetable: for example, a hard-boiled egg, bouncer, leftover chicken, mozzarella, feta, gouda, tuna or other canned fish, leftover meatballs, lentil salad, hummus, whole yogurt, or tofu.
  • Vegetables:raw vegetables (tomatoes on the vine, cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, celery, lettuce …), cooked beans, vegetable leftovers from the night before, or soup in a separate thermos.
  • Whole grain cereal products:whole meal bread, wholegrain rice cake, wholegrain pita or wrap, wholegrain pasta, or whole rice.
  • Healthy fats:olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

Whether you effectively divide these groups into sections or throw them all into one large salad or wrap, does not matter. As long as you take something from each group, and the ingredients are unprocessed, it will be fine.

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?

Ah! Let your child indicate how much he wants to eat. He will feel perfectly full if you fill the lunchbox with fiber-rich, protein-rich and fat-rich food. That is not the case with Nutella sandwiches. Those children seem insatiable. That is completely normal, because white bread with chocolate does not contain any fibers or nutritional values. That is why you can eat a lot of them, but you also get hungry again very quickly.

My 5 New School Year resolutions

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. The coming of the New Year does not give me the sense of a new beginning like September does. School life has been part of my life non-stop since I was 5 years old. If it was not my own school life it was that of my children. This September I decided that I wanted to switch things up for my 5 year old, hence my 5 new school year resolutions.

My 5 New School Year resolutions

  1. Getting to school 15 minutes earlier: I used to get to school just on time by the end of the last school year. I drive my son in our cargo bike when he could easily bike himself, but I always seem pressed for time and that’s a pity. I’m resolved to leaving earlier and to hopefully get him to bike himself more regularly and arrive earlier at school so he can fit in some playing time before school starts.
  2. Less screen time after school: My son has just spent a whole day at school and it’s easy to simply let him sit down in front of his iPad and unwind, but by doing this we don’t really connect and get to do fun stuff together. So I want to do more activities together after school. If it’s a short walk with the dogs, board games or crafts. Those things should not be only done during the weekends, but after school, I want to re-connect.
  3. Add more diversity to my son’s lunchbox: We do bento lunches (we use the Yumbox), but my son has somehow reduced the things that he likes to eat to sandwiches with cheese and jam (it’s a Belgian thing), cucumbers, grapes, Ikea chicken meatballs, and nuts. This year I’m going to sneak in something new each week. Hopefully, this will broaden his very limited taste.
  4. Getting my son to help with dinner: Again, it’s easy to just flip on the Ipad so I can get some cooking done, but I want more quality time with my son right? And I want him to start appreciating different kinds of food more, so instead of heading for the kitchen myself, I will encourage my son to help me out with dinner. He loves making pancakes with me on weekends so why not dinner from time to time. We will make this time together fun.
  5. I won’t let guilt grip me: All of us mom’s/parents feel the guilt from time to time. Certainly when you see on social media all the things other parents do (In fact, according to a recent study by UK charity Scope, of 1500 Facebook and Twitter users surveyed, 62% reported feeling inadequate and 60% reported feelings of jealousy from comparing themselves to other users.). I need to remember that my good intentions are there. But I have my limitations too. Last school year I was just trying to survive a brutal divorce, I am chronically ill and need to take care of myself if I want to take care of others. So I will try to keep that in mind this year and if I had a bad day, I will try to do better the next.

Motherhood is a hard, lonely journey. Maybe, just maybe, we can find it in our hearts to be kind to ourselves and remember that fact. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to do better the next day and that, by God’s grace is what I will try to do.

So here were my 5 New School Year resolutions. Have you made any? Am I being too ambitious? I would love to hear from you.

My 5 New School Year resolutions