"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Monday, May 28, 2012

What True Love Is

True love is a man who…

  • Has loved me through infertility, and who loved me enough to never leave me or forsake me for any theoretical, not yet conceived child.
  • Has held me tenderly while I sobbed hysterically at the mirror, gazing for the first time at my post-partum body, swollen from 2 days of IV fluids and a wild, nasty red gash across my belly, and told me that even if I always looked the way that I did then, he would still love me just the same.
  • Has talked softly to me about my fears, been patient with me through my rages, and cradled our beautiful newborn baby daughter as he crooned “Fools Rush In” to her.
  • Has never once turned from me in disgust or anger no matter how unlovable I may have been at the time, and is always so ready to listen once I finally figure out what’s really bothering me!

If you had asked me 7 years ago today what true love looked like, I would have told you that it was love, commitment, and a choice, but I could have never told you the truth. That true love is laying down with the same man every night, and getting up with the same man every morning, and marveling that we are building this life together. That each day, a new little brick in our empire is being laid. That love does change, and in a way it gets harder because life gets harder, but that it also gets better as we grow and build and learn together and always stand by each other! I cannot wait to see what else I learn in our years to come.

I love you, Nick Wann and I am so thankful that 7 years ago today, God gave me YOU. I thank Him for you everyday.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

RIP My Toro, My Love

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For my first three posts on the Micralite Toro, please see -

  • HERE for my initial search,
  • HERE for when I decided to purchase the Toro and
  • HERE for preliminary review after I had just received the Toro.

I am getting ready to retire my Toro.  It was the stroller that my heart loved for so long, so I feel like I owe it one final review on its awesomeness, and then I will get into our new stroller and why I am switching it out. BIG DISCLAIMER – the reason is NOT that I need to purchase a double stroller, I am not pregnant nor are we currently expanding our family through adoption.

I feel like at this point we are qualified to give a complete review of our Toro! This stroller has been to the USA, Russia (Moscow, St Pete and Novo), London, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey.  We have tried it in so many situations, planes, subways, trains, cabs, jam packed rental cars, rough terrain, light terrain, and it has been worth every penny we spent on it (although I paid well below the MSRP). We have enjoyed running it through the ringer Smile, and at times have taken it to weird places just to see how far we could push it.

Also, I hope you enjoy our little Isla and her stroller “through the ages” pictures. I really loved going through them all and pulling them out for this.

Rough Terrain:

If I were still living in the USA, and only used my stroller at the mall or around the neighborhood, I wouldn’t worry about A/T tires.  But I have found that I need them… ever heard about the famous Russian roads? Well, yeah, the sidewalks are not much better!

In many ways, the Toro’s design makes it ideal for rough terrain.  Maybe not jogging on rough terrain, mind you, but by dropping the heavy front A/T tires to lighten the stroller and keeping just two in the back, you can do this amazing wheelbarrow move that will get you over almost any hump or hurdle!

My two favorite stroller models in Gougane Barra, Ireland.

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Although I have never tried a fully A/T stroller in these places, they are usually so heavy that I would think this combo of lighter stroller plus heavy duty back wheels wheels would be much easier to maneuver.

Here are some more rough terrain pics! I can’t believe the places we have taken this thing.

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Cons: The only thing it cannot handle well with the wheel barrow action is LARGE (like 1 ft + diameter) cobblestones, more like boulders actually, while it is reclined.  Its too hard to tilt the stroller with the weight distributed that way and the larger cobblestones are hard to get past with just two wheels, however I had no difficulty strolling over the larger cobblestones with the seat upright.

This is the Peter and Paul Fortress in St Pete where I encountered the large cobblestones.  I thought that I got a picture of them there, but I didn’t… so you’ll have to settle for this great one of Cookie buying affection giving Isla ice cream. (I do love this picture).

Peter and Paul Fortress

Old Europe Shopping (small shops & narrow aisles):

Ok, so the the Toro is completely unique in that it is the only stroller that I know that is wider in the front than it is in the back.  Most strollers have either a square foot print or are narrow in the front and get wider in the back.  The Toro's unique footprint makes it great for shops that have narrow spaces that you have to slip through or stores with a bunch of things on the floor because again, you can just flip the stroller’s front wheels up and easily lift them over whatever is on the floor and then the narrow back wheels follow behind and fit through just about anything.  Its much better to be wider in the front so that you can actually see your obstacle rather than wider in the back so that you think you’re ok until your big back wheel accidentally catches something and knocks it over!

THEN… to top if off, say you are in a really, really narrow space that is slimmer than the Toro’s two 23” apart front wheels and you don’t want to get your baby out and lug a stroller… although it is not recommended by the manufacturer, you can semi-close the front wheels while keeping the baby in the stroller and wheel right on through whatever narrow aisle you in. Once you are done, just push the seat back down to lock the Toro’s front wheels back into their correct location. Seriously, the predator jaw action of the front wheels is such a cool design and so unique!

Seat and its Comfort:

My baby is happy in this stroller.  She has fallen asleep in this in so many places! And since I am dork, here is a little collage of Isla asleep in her Toro in varying places. I can’t help but take pictures of her when she sleeps.

Isla Sleeping

With three different reclines, the last of which is completely flat, she can get very comfortable.  I love the way the whole seat moves so that her feet aren’t dangling while her body is reclined.  She has actually spent several nights in her stroller when she was younger and we were travelling, either in the airport and once even in our hotel when we were trying to get her to be still and sleep to overcome jet lag.

Baby Hallie thought it was comfy too (in Scotland)!

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Cons: Isla was barely past 18 months when her feet started to dangle past the foot rest because the seat is so small.  She is already outgrowing it and if her feet dangle anyway, what’s the point of the full seat recline?  The seat is also extremely shallow, so she is getting very good at just sliding right off the darn thing, and its especially hard to get her buckled in without sliding out in the winter time when she is all bundled up. Now add the cold weather liner, and she can barely stay in even if she wants to! You can tell from this picture here that the only thing between Isla and the ground is the 5-point harness system – Isla in Germany in February. You can also see how far past the end of the seat her feet go! That’s already at least half a foot past.

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Here she is, fightin’ her way out while we were walking the promenade sometime last October!

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Size and Weight:

The Toro only weighs 19 lbs, which is very light for all of the features that you get on this thing!  It has made so many trips possible, and I am so thankful that Nick is able to lift it up with Isla in it and take it anywhere… like Venice, the city of 1000 bridges Smile.  This would not have been possible if the stroller were any heavier.

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Even Isla can push it uphill! Here she is in Novo, circa November.

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Fold:

I have already covered the one handed fold in my previous review, however I would like to add that as Isla got bigger, it was much harder to hold her and close it with one hand.  However by that time she could be put down to stand so that I could use both hands to fold it… I won’t hold it against the Toro that she didn’t say in one place in the airport after I put her down!

I love the standing fold!  Love it. Nuff said. I love the automatic lock too. I also love the little thigh rolls in the picture below Smile.

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I also love that you can hold the stroller upright when it is folded and wheel it like luggage.  I wish I had a picture of us wheeling it like luggage, but trust us, we do it a lot and it is a beautiful thing.

Durability:

When I bought this, I also bought the travel bag that went with it.  I will go into this below in my general Toro dislikes, but I rarely used the travel bag so most of the time when we travel, we just take the stroller as is.  It still looks great, even after all of our trips.  The canopy looks great too.

Con: The bar across the front comes off very easily and we almost lost it when traveling one time.  However, now we just pack it in our bag separately before we travel and then put it back on when we actually use the stroller. Its easy enough to do.

General Comments about Transport:

Because of the fact that it is so light weight and has the one handed, quick fold, it is awesome for places where there is a lot of public transport and you have to lug it up and down stairs.  This makes a great city stroller, especially in older cities that don’t have elevators.

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This particular picture was taken in Scotland at the station near our hotel, where we had to carry it over this bridge whenever we got off the train.  Sometimes there was a porter that would help, but sometimes there wasn’t.  It would have been almost impossible with a much heavier stroller.

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Some miscellaneous general cons:

***Disclaimer: I fully realize that for everything I don’t like on my stroller there is probably a trade off.  I am an engineer, I understand trade offs in design, so I know that often adding things will mean adding weight, which would make the stroller much heavier!  I wouldn’t want to sacrifice any of the things I love above to correct the following cons.***

Small basket – Because I spend so much time walking to and from the grocery store here and the little market near out home, I would really love to have a bigger basket. This basket is so small.  But not at the price of added weight, its just a point to make.

Reversible seat – I wish that I could reverse the seat so that I could see Isla sometimes when we walk.  Most of the other strollers in the Toro’s price point have this feature. However, this might compromise the standing fold or one handed fold, so again I would rather have the good fold than be able to reverse the seat.

Crappy Winter Accessories – Ugh.  Seriously.  The zebra liner that I show above does not fit well into the seat and it is constantly getting pushed down and out of the chair.  I also hate the foot muff, which I think came standard with the stroller.  It doesn’t snap on, it just folds over the bar, so by the time your child grows and their feet gets past the bottom of the seat, they easily and accidentally (or sometimes purposefully) knock the muff off of the stroller. Your child straightens their legs, the muff falls off, just like that.  If there were some way to snap it on and make it more secure so that your child wasn’t accidentally knocking it off all the time it would be better, but as is, its useless past a very young age (< 1.5 years). Both winter accessories just need a few well placed snaps to make them more secure.

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Crappy travel bag – So past of the reason why I don’t like the bag is not necessarily the bag’s fault.  It just ends up being more trouble than its worth to put the stroller in the bag when I am traveling alone and keep track of a moving toddler (I really need to find her a leash Smile).  With Nick, it is worth it to have the bag when we travel.  But the bag itself is pretty crappy.  It is not durable and made of very thin fabric and very quickly had little holes punched into it. Also, the shoulder strap on the bag is super long and YOU CANNOT REMOVE IT! I am pretty sure that that is not a very good design, especially when you are sending it through the mysterious luggage maze the airport has behind those counters, and it seems like it could catch onto anything and rip or cause problems. I do love how compactly you are able to fit your stroller into the bag, I just wish it was made out of tougher fabric and the should strap was removable.

Handlebars – You need a little allen wrench tool to adjust the handlebars, which I lost months ago, so either we rotate the little lock hooks and they look all goofy or the handle bars are unsteady.  Its not a big deal, and other than that I like the handle bars, but it seems like you should be able to lock them without the tool.

Weight limit – The weight limit is only 37.5 lbs, and Isla is only 30 lbs, but as I said, she is getting way too big for the seat and she is only just past 2 years old.

No peek-a-boo window – I wish that it had one, especially since you cannot reverse the seat.

However, even with all the cons, I love my Toro. 

Dearest Toro, other strollers have done well, but you have surpassed them all!

Ok, so if this stroller is so awesome, why are we getting rid of it?

The main reason that I am getting rid of it, is that an increasingly heavier Isla + a static weight stroller, is limiting the places we can take her plus the stroller. It is getting too heavy for Nick to lift her and the stroller as he did in the pictures above.

While we were in Istanbul, Turkey, we tried to use a little hiking backpack that we bought because we didn’t want to bother with a stroller in such an old, stroller unfriendly city.  The backpack was great, but we tried to use it all day everyday, which was too much. 

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In short, Isla was uncomfortable, and we realized that we needed to save the backpack for shorter trips.  She still needs a stroller for naps and tiredness, not to mention comfort.  I don’t think she was super comfortable in her little backpack Thinking smile, especially the few times she was able to fall asleep.

So, this is what we need -

  • A stroller lighter than the Toro
  • A/T tires
  • Preferably with a heavier weight requirement since Isla is already getting to the top of the weight allowance for the Toro

Which brings us to, the Toro’s little brother, the Fastfold Superlite and our newest stroller!!!

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  • It has all of the things that I love about my Toro, including the A/T tires, but it is a full 5 lbs lighter at only 14 lbs! Plus the weight limit goes up to 55 lbs, so Isla has a long time before she outgrows it. Also, the seat appears much deeper.

If you’ll recall from my previous stroller posts, I checked it out before, but I didn’t like that it didn’t recline as much, the seat was mesh, and there wasn’t really a foot rest.  These things do not bother me now.  We rarely need a stroller for just around town anymore, so this stroller will be strictly for travel.  We usually travel to warm weather places when we can and the mesh should work really well for hotter climates, and for the cold weather places with the liner, plus Isla’s snow clothes, I am sure she will be warm enough.  She does not need a full recline anymore as she is getting older and taking shorter naps, and very few strollers have good foot rests for older children anyway.  This will work the same as my Toro for trips to the grocery since the basket is about the same size.  When our family grows, I will reevaluate my stroller options then.

I know that some people might not think that we have good reasons to replace our Toro, but we clearly use our strollers, and I guess that I have just gotten so spoiled with having a stroller that perfectly meets our needs that I don’t want to have to settle or have a stroller that I leave behind at home because it doesn’t work for us anymore.

I hope you enjoyed my little stroller review as much as I enjoyed writing it! I especially loved looking at the pictures of my girl, my baby is getting so big.  My guilty favorite past time is watching/reading different stroller reviews online Smile because I love them, so I am happy to add this one to mix for others to peruse.

Bye for now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kickin’ It Poolside

Ok, so while in Thailand, we spent a lot of time by the hotels three pools.  A lot of time. And it was so great! I loved playing with Nick and Isla in the water.  My mom bought Isla this awesome little swim vest and brought it to me when we met up in the Netherlands and it worked so well!  Isla is not in any kind of swimming lessons nor do we have regular access to a pool here, but she really quickly got the hang of swimming with this thing and could even paddle her way out to the deep end all by herself with it on.

In fact, she got so confident that one time she forgot that we had taken it off for lunch and deliberately and calmly walked right up to the pool and hopped in at the deep end.  Thankfully I was able to catch her pretty quickly before too much water was swallowed!

Best Vest

The first pool, which was like three in one, was the best pool for little kids that I have ever seen! The baby section was not just a shallow pool like most baby pools.  It had little ridges that the babies could sit on, jets that shot up and animals that the babies and toddlers could crawl on. 

Coolest Kid Pool

Smiles!

It then connected to the “slide” pool which also connected to the “deep” pool.  All three of which we spent a significant amount of time at, although I didn’t get any pictures of the deep pool. We spent so much time going up and down this slide.  Isla even got brave enough to swim over to the kiddie pool, get out, go up the steps and come down the slide all by herself.  We were so proud, she is really becoming quite brave.

Isla and Daddy slide

My Happy Girl

Pool SLider

In fact, we never wanted to leave this pool when the day was declared over.  Even when they turned the water to the slide off.  Isla never wanted to go!  Here she is on our first day.  It was time to go and Nick sat her on the end of the slide for a minute.  With the water off, she figured that she could just walk right up the slide and then slide back down!

And she did!

Then there was the “Swim Up bar” pool.  I don’t know about you, but I think swim up bars were the best pool invention ever. I so want one in my mansion in heaven, heck, I’d even take one here on earth.  Isla quickly learned how to swim right up and request a milk shake (smoothie). 

Swim Up Bar

A girl could get used to a life like this!

Movie Star

The third pool was adults only, but we did sneak over there after hours (with Isla – not the sneaky way you are thinking two adults sneak into an adults only pool after hours) for a quick swim when it was quiet.

That’s it for our pool pictures!  I wish that I had gotten more, but I was too busy having fun and we don’t own a waterproof camera so we rarely bothered to take ours.  Although our fun times in the water almost have me convinced to go Daigneaultimate and invest in a waterproof camera… if we ever live somewhere with easy access to a pool!

Monday, May 21, 2012

We Promised Elephants…

…and we delivered! Smile

We actually realized our promise really early on in our trip.  On our first full day, we found out that our hotel had several elephants that just walked around the grounds, you know whatever, because 2 ton animals walking around is no big thang.  (It was seriously such a cool hotel!) You could feed it or sit on it and take picture for a fee.

You can tell that this is our first day because Isla is still wearing a bikini and not a rash guard.  My little girlie is so fair, after 2 hours her first day with SPF 50 sunscreen she was lobster red!

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And then, not only that, but the hotel had a little baby elephant that would go out to the beach every day at 11 and swim in the ocean and the kids were allowed to swim with it!

Observe Isla and her dad “swimming” with the baby elephant and Isla getting the sweetest kiss for their troubles!

And in case you didn’t want to watch the video, I have a little screen shot of the elephant’s lovin’.

KISSY!

Awwww! Also by now you can tell that Nick and Isla were burned to teeny tiny toasty crisps as Nick had resorted to buying a rash guard for himself also. (Thanks to my swarthy mother and grandmother’s line, I don’t usually have too much trouble with sun burns).

We could have left it at that.  We promised Isla that she would get to see elephants and she did! However, we felt like no trip to Thailand would be complete without an elephant trek through the jungle! So we arranged a little afternoon trip through the concierge to go somewhere else on the island to ride and see an elephant show.

The afternoon started with an introductory show about elephants and also a quick tutorial in the Thai language.  You can tell that we are becoming super jaded travelers in that we have stopped bothering to learn even the basic “hello” “good bye” and “thank you” in the language of the countries we visit.  Either that or we are just Americans. We don’t need to learn no stinkin’ foreign language Winking smile.

Good One

After the show, we paid extra for a basket so that we could feed the animals.  Isla liked being close to the action, although she did not actually want to feed them herself.

Feed Elephants

After that we got to get onto our elephants for our jungle trek.  Oh. my. gosh.  I do not like being on any unstable moving object, I will just tell you that right now.  I always thought that it would be cool to be one of those harem girls that got to ride on top of an elephant in a tent, but those things ROCK and I don’t mean in the Guns N Roses awesome kind of way. I didn’t feel stable on top of our elephant at all.  And Isla could have so easily slipped through the bar of our little “seat”.  I spent the whole time clutching Isla, our bag or harping at Nick to make sure he had a good hold on Isla.  I actually did end up dropping our bag at one point, it was very easy to slip off!

But the views… WOW.  Well worth it.

Patong Beach View

Here we are with our elephant driver or “Oleg” (the name of our driver in Russia) as Isla called him.  The elephant drivers were all Karen people from Myanmar (Burma).  I learned about the Karen people in 2007, when Nick and I took the Perspectives class, and I have such a soft spot for their people group. Most of the them are Christian, and they have an amazing conversion story if you ever want to look it up.  Unfortunately they have been heavily persecuted in their home country and many have left or been driven out.  It was so amazing to meet one of them face to face.  He was very sweet.

All of us

We also got to see the head of the Big Buddha on our trip.  Normally Nick and I try to see everything when we are somewhere no matter how uninteresting it is because we reason… when will be ever be back?  We debated going to see the Big Buddha because truthfully, we didn’t care to see it and decided we would rather hang out at the pool or the beach.  In spite of this, I definitely felt my conscience prickle a little bit when we decided not to go so I am glad that we got to see it in person, albeit from a distance, on our elephant trek without paying extra and making the hour long drive out to see it.

Big Budda

After our journey we got the chance (for a fee) to feed “our” elephant.  Isla got a little bit more in on the action this time, but she still never wanted to actually be the one to hand the food to the elephant.

Feeding 2Feeding Our Elephant

So there you have it!  Our elephant memories from Thailand, and most probably the source of the Thailand picture that will go on our Christmas card.  We have so much fun and we bought a picture from the tour group that put the elephant trek on.  Isla is so proud of those pictures and wants to show them to everyone who comes through our door or that she Facetimes with or that she talks to on the phone (she has yet to figure out that the people on the other end can’t see it). Fun times with my precious family Smile.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Too Much Fun

So, I don’t know exactly how to break down our Thailand trip, but I feel like I should at least do one post about our hotel in general.  The truth is, we did not get out that much!  We made two trips away from the hotel and that was it.  So most of the activities that you will see are ones that took place at our hotel.

We intentionally chose our hotel, the JW Marriott Phuket because it was a) a Marriott and we love our points and b) voted on several lists as the most family friendly hotel on the island.  And it was!  Y’all out there without children, I am finding out something.  One of the things that I always thought that I would have to “give up” after Isla was born was major excursions or certain trips, of course I was happy to make the trade off when she was born, but I thought that that was just the season we were in, and while better in other ways, was worse in the vacation/adventuring way.  In fact, we chose not to do one day trip of canoeing around James Bond Island near Phuket because we didn’t think that it would be Isla friendly.  Definitely now that she is older and not as portable as she once was, we are planning trips a little bit differently. 

What I am learning is that we are giving nothing up! It is just as much fun to watch her blossom and play and have fun and play with her in places that are more catered to her as it is to do more outdoorsy things!  We had so much fun on the trip, mostly because the hotel had so much that we could do as a family.  It was just as much fun, and I don’t regret not being able to go canoeing for a second.

What’s not to love about this?

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To give you a general idea of what our week looked like, we arrived to this…

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And this…

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Isla checking out her very own little futon bed Smile.

Islas Bed

We were happy to be there! Eight full days of no daddy working was before us Smile.

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Our hotel had fire dancers.

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And playgrounds of the indoor and outdoor variety.

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And all you can eat make-your-own pasta buffets (plus other amazing cuisine).

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And all you can eat breakfast buffets (Yes, we so got off of our Eat To Live lifestyle change while we were on this trip and we so could have stayed on it…).

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And eye-keem, as Isla would say. Smile

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It was a magical week, it almost makes me a little sad to go back through our photographs and realize its finished… BUT coming up later!

  • ELELPHANTS!
  • Easter Sunday
  • The Pool
  • The Beach
  • Patong Beach
  • And anything else that I can pull together…

As Isla would say “Come in peoples!” Haha.  She is such a mess.

Pure and Undefiled Religion

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