LifeWeTravel Trip Tips and Product Reviews from real people who travel the world. en-us Mon, 23 Nov 2020 19:52:35 -0800 Sett RSS Generator Quick review of the Onyx A/M 24 Deluxe inflatable life jacket I've been using the same Onyx A/M 24 Deluxe inflatable life jacket for over 3 years now. I've enjoyed it so much that I just purchased another Onyx A/M 24 for a family member. The Deluxe has side pockets whereas the non-Deluxe does not. Below is a quick review and some pictures. You can buy the Non-Deluxe version for just under $100 on Amazon. The Deluxe version isn't currently available via Prime but you can still buy it from these sellers.

What I love about this inflatable life jacket is that it has both "automatic" and "manual" inflation modes, and it's easy to switch between the two. I talk about that in the video. The jacket uses a compressed air cylinder and the entire unit is very compact.

This isn't an offshore-ready jacket, but it's great for coastal cruising.

Here are some pics of the Deluxe & non-Deluxe jackets:

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Sun, 26 Apr 2020 11:35:27 -0700
Shorten your commute by 6x with an electric scooter 2019 UPDATE: I've been on a journey to find the absolute best commuting scooter with the right combination of cost, power and size. I had very high hopes for Cycleboard, but had a horror story of an experience with them and absolutely cannot recommend them for a multitu]]>

2019 UPDATE:

I've been on a journey to find the absolute best commuting scooter with the right combination of cost, power and size. I had very high hopes for Cycleboard, but had a horror story of an experience with them and absolutely cannot recommend them for a multitude of reasons, including:

So in short... I recommend you stay from Cycleboard, sadly.

However, I did discover an absolutely incredible scooter backed up by great customer service: The RevRides Zero 10x.

The Zero 10x scooter is ridiculously powerful: It has not one, but dual 1,000 watt motors. It'll climb the steep of hills in San Francisco when all the other scooters below wouldn't make it up even the initial part of the grade. It's also fast, topping out at 35 MPH. And Nathan, the owner of RevRides, has been fully available over email and text to answer my questions. Nathan even created a discount code, "DROdio" that you can use at checkout for 10% off. Here's a video and some pictures of the Zero 10x:

I take my daughter to school on the 10x every morning (I added a basket + kids handlebars for her on the stem):

Zero 10x scooter vs. Cycleboard Elite Pro vs Zoom scooter + wipeout!!!

Sorry this 2nd one doesn't have any audio:

Scooter review: Zoom, Cycleboard and RevRides 10x

Original Post from 2017:

I've been riding this Razor A5 kick scooter for years, and have loved it. It's built like a tank, light, and folds quickly. I've found that a kick scooter is consistently 3x faster than walking, and often way less effort. So I can arrive in 7 minutes somewhere that would take 20 minutes to walk.

I've recently moved to a new home in a more urban area, and I'll be using a scooter even more, so I've been testing electric scooters. The delta between "great" and "horrible" is massive, and not immediately obvious. After doing hours of research, I've compiled this comprehensive guide.

Riding a scooter is still a little bit weird. Pedestrians don't enjoy having you blow by them on the sidewalk, and bikers don't feel like you deserve to share the bike lane with them. As with most areas of being an early adopter, you have to be willing to deal with these issues if you choose to scoot. But the payoff is worth it: Upgrading to a battery powered scooter means you can easily get somewhere at least twice as fast as a kick-powered scooter, and six times as fast as walking. Compressing a 30-minute walk into a 5-minute scooter ride is amazing if you really value your time.

First off, here are the things I've determined do matter when looking for a scooter you can use to commute (in descending order):

  • Wattage of the scooter's motor: Higher wattage = ability to climb hills. 500 watts is a minimum target here.
  • Weight: Some scooters are under 20 lbs. Others are over 80 lbs. Huge range.
  • Range: Cut a scooter's claimed range in half if you ride like I do: In "turbo" mode all the time and trigger happy
  • Max speed: Anything over 15mph works for me. Shoot for a scooter that can hit 20mph on level ground. Some can hit 40. Personally, I feel irresponsible riding above 20mph on one of these things.
  • Charge time: Some can recharge in 2hrs. Others take 6 hrs. Again, a huge range here.
  • Wheel size: Bigger is better here. The bigger the wheel, the less likely you are to be thrown off when the scooter hits a jagged sidewalk.
  • Suspension: Some have full suspension, and some have none. Some scooters try to make up for a lack of suspension w/ air filled tires, which you absolutely do not want, because they massively cut down on your range and when flat are a pain to change. I recommend a full suspension and hard rubber (not plastic) tires.
  • Paddles vs. Levers: Older scooters will have bike-style brake & acceleration levers. Newer scooters will have paddles. I greatly prefer the paddles.
  • Collapsibility: Scooters vary greatly in how they fold down, and how small a package they fold into. Specifically, look for scooters that can easily fold the handlebars, especially if you need to take it on public transportation.
  • Trip computer: Some scooters have one, and some don't. Look for one that can show your speed and remaining battery life.
  • Drive wheel: Some are front wheel drive, and some are rear wheel drive. Some are hub motors, and some are belts. I greatly prefer hub motors to belts -- less maintenance, and less chance that water gets into the components (and you *will* be riding through puddles). Front vs. rear each have their own tradeoffs. A belt-driven scooter will have more torque.
  • Lights: I really, really appreciate a good, integrated headlight & tail light.
  • Deck height: FWD scooters sometimes have the battery in the vertical stem, allowing for lower standing deck heights. Lower decks mean the scooter is easier to kick once the battery runs out. Deck height and rideability w/o battery power vary greatly.
  • Cruise control: Some scooters have this, where you can release the accelerator and the scooter will maintain its speed. Great when you're commuting long distances.
  • Max rider weight: If you (and your stuff) weigh under 220lbs, you'll pretty much be fine on any scooter. If you're above 220, you should definitely check this -- especially as it relates to the scooter's ability to climb hills.
  • Build quality: I put this one last from a feature perspective, but it's really the most important for long-term durability. Varies greatly among brands. And the price isn't necessarily indicative of quality here.

There's also stuff I've realized doesn't matter:

  • Max Speed: A scooter's ability to maintain a speed above 20mph isn't a net positive -- at least for me. I'm a risk taker: I kiteboard, I ride a motorcycle... and yet I wouldn't enjoy cruising on one of these scooters above 20mph. Even that's pushing it. Just doesn't feel safe to be on such small wheels at such a high speed. Oh, and definitely wear a helmet. No, seriously.
  • Companion app: Some scooters have a Bluetooth connection and can send data to an app. I've found that's pretty useless, especially when it's in lieu of an integrated trip computer. Taking the time to connect your phone, open the app, troubleshoot it, etc., isn't realistic each time you want to hop on and just go somewhere.

I reviewed six scooters, from the brand new EcoReco XS ($299) and weighs just 15 lbs, to my buddy's crazy-fast Speedway Mini4 Pro ($925), which can hit 28 MPH.

The hands-down winner for me is the Zoom Stryder ($699).

It takes the 2nd best version, the E-TWOW (also branded as the UScooter) and improves on it with:

  • A more powerful hub motor (500W instead of 300W)
  • Rubber rear tire vs. plastic rear tire
  • Folding handles
  • Updated trip computer
  • And to top it off, it's $299 cheaper (although pro-tip: Search Amazon Warehouse for a $700ish price on the E-TWOW if you want to buy a scooter from Amazon)

If you can't find the Stryder (it's not yet available on Amazon; you have to buy it directly from Singapore), then the E-TWOW / UScooter is a close 2nd -- and it's available on Amazon Prime. Here's more info on how the two compare.

For me, no other scooter beyond those two was really worth considering. Although I didn't ride it myself, it's likely that the Xiaomi M365 would be a 3rd place contender.

I recommend staying away from the Swagtron (or its many other knockoff brands). You can recognize it from the red "brake" paddle. The build quality is poor and the hub motor is underpowered. The EcoReco XS shares many components with the Swagtron. It appears that EcoReco took the Swagtron as a base and upgraded some areas of it, like adding a better front tire and folding handles. But it suffers from the same build quality issues (mine refused to unfold after a few folds) as the Swagtron.

I also made a Google Sheet that has stats on all the different scooters, which you can find here:

(I've filled that sheet out with all the data I have, but if you have more 411 just leave a comment in the sheet)

Here's a comparison of the Scooters I tested:

My Top Choice:Zoom Stryder, $699

Winner by a long shot. Currently only available from the manufacturer and shipped from Singapore. I loved this scooter so much that got them to give me a promo code -- "DROdio30" for $30 off the scooter.


  • 8" solid rubber front & rear wheel
  • 500W hub motor
  • Cruise control
  • 18.6 MPH max speed
  • Front and rear lights -- and the rear red LED brake light illuminates more brightly when you brake.
  • Has a rear foot brake in addition to a paddle brake. Additionally, stepping on the rear foot brake engages the hub motor regen brake
  • Recharges in 2 hours

Here's my test ride on the Stryder:

Here's a great video review of the Stryder from someone else on YouTube:

Second Place: USCOOTERS/E-TWOW, $949 from Amazon.

The older model of the Zoom Stryder. Still a very solid choice (especially if you'd prefer to buy from Amazon vs. some manufacturer in Singapore)


  • 3 point folding system takes the scooter down to 38 x 6 x 12 inches and it’s under 24 lbs, carry it anywhere or pull it along in trolley position.
  • 21 mile range, 18 mph max speed, 290 lbs max load recommended, adjustable handlebars go from 31 to 39.5 inches from the platform.
  • Comfortable ride with front and rear suspension, double braking system, 8-inch airless rubber tires, horn, led display, headlight, kick start, and cruise control.
  • Double braking system, one on handlebar for electronic motor brake and a foot brake for motor brake and friction brake on the back wheel. KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) expands battery life.
  • CNET says it is the best folding electric scooter you can buy

Here's my comparison of the Stryder vs. the E-TWOW / USCOOTER:

3rd Place (tie): Xiaomi Mi/Mijia/m365, $899 from Amazon.

I'd tie this scooter in 3rd place with the Segway Ninebot ES2 scooter (or buy the ES1 if you can't find the ES2).


  • Material: aircraft-grade aluminum alloy - Wheel size: 8.5 inch inflatable tire - Motor size: 6.7 inch
  • Maximum torque: 16N.m - Maximum speed: 25km/h ( common mode ), 18km/h ( energy-saving mode ) - Cruising distance: 30km
  • Braking system: front E-ABS anti-lock system, rear mechanical disk brake - Rated motor power: 250W - Maximum motor power: 500W - Battery pack power: 280Wh
  • Climbing gradient: approx 14 degree - Waterproof grade: IP54 - Pedal ground clearance: 87.5mm - Max load: 100kg - Charger rated power: 71W
  • Charger input voltage: 100 - 240V, 50 / 60Hz - Battery limited voltage: 42V - Charging time: 5.5 hours - Standard power consumption: 1.1kWh per 100km - Unfolding size: 108 x 43 x 114cm - Folding size: 108 x 43 x 49cm - Net weight: 12.5kg
  • Disc brake
  • Air tires (you'll eventually want to swap to hard rubber)
  • No trip computer
  • From the manufacturer: Xiaomi released its M365 electric scooter recently. Boasting a unique folding design, Xiaomi M365 electric scooter has been made from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy and weighs 12.5kg. Further, it adopts advanced E - ABS braking system, kinetic energy recovery system, cruise control system and intelligent BMS system.
  • No folding handlebars & taller when collapsed as compared to Zoom Stryder:

3rd Place (tie): Ninebot ES1 / ES2$594 on Amazon


  • Foot pads can easily be cleaned in order to look as "new" as possible
  • Large 8" and 7.5" tires provide smoother rides
  • No chain Engine- range of up to 15.5 miles
  • Anti breaking system- cruise control- front shock absorption
  • Front LED light and digital display
  • Can go up to 15 mph (25km/h) and travel up to 15 miles (25 km). Its rear shock absorption ensures a comfortable ride and the customizable ambient and rear lights are not only fun, but allow riders to be seen in low light.
  • Top Speed 15.5 MILE Battery Range 187 WH Lithium Ion Battery
  • Features Certifications UL Certified - Bluetooth Connectivity Bluetooth remote control and firmware upgrades via Ninebot App Easy to Store Lightweight and foldable for easy storage
  • Specifications Weight ~28 lbs (12.5 kg) Size (Unfolded) 40" x 17" x 45" (102 cm × 43 cm × 113 cm) Size (Folded) 45" x 17" x 16" (113 cm x 43 cm x 40 cm) Max Speed 15.5 mph (25 km/h)

If you want a cheaper scooter (but... don't buy this): Swagtron $279 on Amazon.

You will be tempted to buy this scooter. It will look like the right features at the right price. Don't do it! The build quality is horrible. It has a small, crappy front tire. If you really want a light-weight, cheaper scooter, buy the EcoReco XS, which shares many components w/ the Swagtron, but is slightly less bad (still not good, though). Also, do not buy any of the other knockoff brands that have the red "brake" paddle.


  • The best thing about this scooter is its front light. It's all downhill from there.
  • An (underpowered) 250-watt motor propels the e-scooter to a max speed of 15 MPH for a range of 4 to 15 miles. Supports 250 pounds
  • The Swagger scooter folds down in a few simple clicks for easy transportation and storage when not in use.
  • The control panel allows you to view your motor scooters speed and battery life

If you want a beefier scooter: iMax S1

, $1,299 on Amazon. I didn't try this one, but if I were in the market for a beefier scooter, I'd take a good look at the iMax.


  • Powerful ride at speeds of up to 20 mph
  • Short charge time and long battery life
  • Electric and Silent Motor with rear mechanical disc brake
  • Multi-function LCD display with backlight for night use
  • Sturdy folding mechanism for easy storage

If you want an older, more bulletproof (but heavier) model: EcoReco S5 / M5

$739 and up on Amazon. EcoReco makes an entire line of scooters. I found their M & S series scooters to be bulletproof but also suffer from the limitations of older technology (levers vs. paddles, higher decks, heavier). The XS and R are newer models, but I wasn't impressed with the XS (it's just a lightly upgraded Swagtron), and the R isn't out yet (and it looks really gimmicky to me from the videos). I applaud what EcoReco is doing as a startup trying to solve the commute challenge.


  • Energy efficiency: 2,000 MPGe/ 500 miles on one dollar
  • Agile and comfortable: Top speed 20 MPH
  • Rangy and efficient: up to 20 miles per charge
  • Long battery cycle life: 2000 charge cycles
  • Fast charge time: 2 hrs to 80 percent and 4.5 hrs to full

There were other scooters I considered...

...But didn't review in depth. For one reason or another, they didn't meet my prioritized list of criteria above:


  • Scrooser: Awesome to ride once. Wouldn't want to own one. And hella pricey.
  • Hollyburn P5 for offorad; A 4500 watt beast. Not really for commuting. But would be fun to take on the trail.
  • Cycleboard: Love the idea of this three wheeled scooter, but it doesn't have shocks, which is a deal breaker for me. I hope a future version will have shocks.
  • Glion: Interesting idea, but too heavy
  • Xcape and Eon Scooter: Interesting IndieGogo projects. Status unclear.
  • ElectricMood: I like the inventor's goals, but it still seems to be in prototype stage.
  • UrbanCityGo - These looked promising but the company was acquired by Segway, and they refunded the Indiegogo deposits

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Sun, 21 Jan 2018 17:39:12 -0800
The genius of Osmo for encouraging a child to create with technology When our first daughter Devina was born, we decided we weren't going to have her interact with electronics until she could create with them . We want our children to be creators, not just consumers, of technology. She's now three years old, and we've been looking for the right way to introduce her to technology. After a lot of looking, we've found something amazing -- a system called Osmo. (About $95 on Amazon plus $30 or so for each add-on kit).

Osmo works with an iPad -- we're using an old iPad and it's been fully compatible -- with a system of software + physical pieces, as well as a red mirror that covers the iPad's camera, focusing the camera on the table just in front of the iPad.

The genius of Osmo is its range. There's Osmo software for putting colored shapes together, for drawing , for math, for coding , for cooking , and more. It's an expandable system that's designed for ages 4 through 12 (although our three year old has been totally into it), meaning it can grow with a child for quite a while, which isn't something that can be said for most learning systems. That's the magic of software.

One of the most recently amazing thing's that have happened with Devina's interaction with Osmo is how much her drawing abilities have improved through interacting with the system. Osmo prompts kids to draw various items and then "imports" them into the app and interacts with them. It's quite magical and works well. Here are some pictures of Devina drawing a person, and then the 'Osmo monster' interacting with it (along with a couch and other things she drew).

It's a highly recommended system. Secondarily, we've also been enjoying Tiggly , which is a set of physical shapes that Devina uses to interact with software on the iPad. It's not quite as engaging and genius as Osmo, but it's also good. A good change of pace if you're looking for a couple similar experiences for your child.

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Sun, 30 Jul 2017 09:35:51 -0700
2 Room Furnished Guest Cottage For Rent on Private Estate in Belmont California We are renting out our two bedroom guest cottage, which is situated on a private estate in Belmont, CA. You can find the listing for rent right here on AirBnB if you'd like to rent it. It's available by the day, week or month. Here's a video describing the house an]]>

We are renting out our two bedroom guest cottage, which is situated on a private estate in Belmont, CA.

You can find the listing for rent right here on AirBnB if you'd like to rent it. It's available by the day, week or month.

Here's a video describing the house and grounds:

The guest house is 775 sq ft, with two full bedrooms, one bathroom with shower, a full kitchen with dishwasher and full-sized refrigerator, a dining area, and a living area, all furnished. Additionally, the property features:

  • Blazing fast WiFi -- rated for 150mbps
  • We'll order you groceries to arrive the day you arrive, so your fridge can be fully stocked for your stay (see below for more details)
  • Sometimes we will have fresh organic vegetables, depending on the season
  • A fully gated pool (please keep kids out unless under adult supervision)
  • A parking space reserved for guest house use

About the Area:

The guest house is under 10 minutes to San Mateo and Redwood city, under 20 minutes from SFO, Stanford and Palo Alto, and under 30 minutes to downtown San Francisco and Mountain View.

Below is the "street view" of the shopping center just down the hill (less than half a mile; a 10 minute walk) from the property. Shops include Starbucks, The Greedy Ant Gourmet, Lorenzo's Sandwich Shop, Good Bites Cafe, and many others. Here's a link to the Yelp listings of local restaurants, shops and more.

There is also a gourmet Safeway right down the hill from the property, also less than a 10 minute walk:

The Belmont Caltrain station is a 6 minute drive or 30 minute walk, just 1.5 miles from the property. You can find the Caltrain schedules here, although we highly recommend the CaltrainMe iPhone app. Here's a map starting from the corner of Ralston & Avenida De Las Pulgas, which is just down the hill from the house:

Checking In, Checking Out and Other Details:

Check-in is anytime after 3pm, and check-out is by 12pm.

Want to have groceries delivered to the guest house on the day of our arrival? It's easy, with a service called Instacart (they have a great mobile app, too). Just register on their site using zip code 94002 (we'll give you the full property address once we confirm your stay with us) and place your order. They can deliver in as little as one hour. Here are some screenshots so you can see what the Instacart experience is like. We use Instacart ourselves, and love it!

Some of our favorite things to do in the San Francisco Bay area:

  • Take a Detour in San Francisco: Detours are location-aware audio tours. We can't say enough good things about how magical an experience they are. You'll need an iPhone or Android phone to do them. Works well with groups, too. There are several Detours available, including Fisherman's Wharf and Castro. Make sure you bring your headphones and comfy walking shoes! Downtown San Francisco is about 30 minutes from the house, depending on traffic.
  • Take a walk or a hike nearby: There are a number of hiking and walking trails nearby. Here are some great links with details: Yelp's list of hiking trails and walking trails near Belmont. EveryTrail's list. AllTrail's list.
  • Sail a boat (or take a lesson)! If you have sailing experience, the San Francisco Bay is world-class for sailing. We recommend the Modern Sailing Club in Sausalito, CA, about an hour north of the house.
  • Take a tour of San Francisco: The "Alcatraz at night" tour is especially good. Here's TripAdvisor's list of tours (and top 10 things to do), here's Yelp's list of tours, and if you're a foodie, here's a good list of foodie tours.

Here are some pictures of the guest house grounds:

We hope you enjoy your stay with us!

- Daniel, Sue and Devina

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Thu, 24 Dec 2015 15:50:31 -0800
Giving Experiences Instead of Gifts The Odio family celebrating the Holidays Sue and I have a family tradition we are pursuing: Giving experiences, instead of gifts, on birthdays and holidays. We've found that experiences are more powerful and longer lasting than things. Studies show that experiences make ]]>

The Odio family celebrating the Holidays

Sue and I have a family tradition we are pursuing: Giving experiences, instead of gifts, on birthdays and holidays.

We've found that experiences are more powerful and longer lasting than things. Studies show that experiences make people happier than things, too!

For Devina specifically, if we sent you a link to this post, it was because you told us you wanted to buy her a gift. We ask that instead of buying her a physical gift, please either:

  • Contribute to her 529 College Plan, by visiting this site and entering code 66UQ2V
  • Or, give her an experience to have with you!

And we'll endeavor to do the same in our gift giving.

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Thu, 08 Jan 2015 17:23:32 -0800
Nuestro Plan Para Comunicar con Devina Exclusivamente en Espanol Languages are a beautiful thing. Although I grew up mainly speaking English, I had an opportunity at a very young age to learn and speak Spanish, and my dad's family is all in Costa Rica so I have family members who I primarily speak to in Spanish. That gave me the tools]]>

Languages are a beautiful thing. Although I grew up mainly speaking English, I had an opportunity at a very young age to learn and speak Spanish, and my dad's family is all in Costa Rica so I have family members who I primarily speak to in Spanish. That gave me the tools I needed to work in Argentina and Brazil for part of the time I was with GE. GE would've never sent me to Latin America right out of college if I hadn't had those language skills. Sue and I want Devina to have that same kind of opportunity.

Sue is in a similar (but stronger) position with Korean, as she speaks it primarily with her parents, and always did growing up. So we have an opportunity to raise Devina speaking multiple languages, but we knew that figuring out a way to do so would take work, because Sue and I speak to each other in English.

So we agreed that, from the start, I would speak to Devina exclusively in Spanish, which I've been doing for the past six months. At first, I didn't know if it would be hard or easy because it's been a long time since I've gotten an opportunity to speak in Spanish on a regular basis. And while it's not hard, it's not exactly easy, either. It's kind of like going into a room in a house that you don't enter very often. You haven't forgotten where things are, exactly, but you need to do a bit of spring cleaning to really make the room usable again.

But a funny thing has happened since I've forced myself to speak to Devina exclusively in Spanish: When I look at her, my brain now automatically switches to Spanish. Whereas at first it was strange to break out my Spanish on this new person in my life, now it would be strange to speak to her in anything other than Spanish. I wasn't expecting it to be so natural, because in the past I've either spent the entirety (or at least) bulk of my interactions speaking entirely in Spanish (or Portuguese, which I can handle fairly well) -- for example, when in a Spanish speaking country-- or entirely in English while here in the US. It's always been natural to be speaking Spanish when others are, and English when others are, but this is the first time in my life where I'll be speaking with Sue in English, and then turn to Devina to say something in Spanish, and then turn back to Sue and say something in English, over and over again. I thought that part of it would be hard, but it isn't. My brain switches between the two as if on cue.

The part that is harder is that Sue can't always understand what I'm saying to Devina. Sue is actually scarily good at understanding Spanish, even though she claims not to speak any of it, so this hasn't been too much of an issue yet, whereas when Sue speaks to Devina in Korean, I'm totally lost (Mental to-do: Learn Korean). But as I start having more complex interactions with Devina in Spanish, and with Sue doing it with her in Korean, I'm not exactly sure how things will play out (especially if Sue and I don't compare notes on what we each told her, i.e., Devina potentially is the only one in our family who would know that mom said one thing to her in Korean, and dad said something entirely different to her in Spanish. That could get interesting). The answer there is probably that I have to learn at least some Korean, which I've been wanting to do, so this is as good a time as any to do it, and ditto for Sue and Spanish.

Another thing that I don't know is how things will go as Devina gets older. I fully expect she may rebel and not want to communicate with me in Spanish since everyone else around her is speaking to her in English. I'd love to hear from other parents that are raising their kids with multiple languages (and especially if only one parent speaks that language). How have you handled that type of issue?

What else should we expect? What other tips do multi-lingual families have?

Some people have said that it will take Devina longer to start speaking due to the different languages being thrown at her, and I expect that's true, but that doesn't bother me or Sue at all.


The picture above is an incredible shot Sue took of Devina using this $75 Raynox macro lens attached to our Lumix Micro 4/3 camera. If you want to use the same setup, with the pancake lens, you'll also need to purchase this inexpensive 46 to 43mm adapter ring so you don't have to use the unwieldy snap-on adapter that comes with the macro lens.

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 00:50:24 -0700
Teaching Devina to Code Sue and I want to keep electronic screens away from Devina at least until she's a couple of years old -- this means no TV in our house, no iPad or iPhone for her to play with, or any other electronic gadgets. This might be surprising to hear considering how techie we are]]>

Sue and I want to keep electronic screens away from Devina at least until she's a couple of years old -- this means no TV in our house, no iPad or iPhone for her to play with, or any other electronic gadgets. This might be surprising to hear considering how techie we are, but we see technology as a double-sided sword: It's incredible, but it also distracts from the things in life that really matter: Interacting with people, with nature, with our world around us. Showing love and learning to be loved by those who are important in our lives, and a list of other things, many of which we outlined in our Family Manifesto.

One of the first experiences we are hoping to teach Devina about technology is by way of computer programming. We want her to learn how to create with technology, vs. just being a consumer of it. So we plan on teaching Devina to code at a young age.

We don't yet know how (or exactly when) we're going to do that, but we've been starting to bookmark resources where others have done the same thing. I'm going to use this blog post as a place to put links to those resources, and to share this journey as we take it.

I'd also love to hear from other parents out there who are teaching their kids to code. I'd love to know things like:

  • At what age did you get them started?
  • How did you do it? What websites / programs / people did you leverage to help you?
  • What was most successful? Least successful?
  • For those of you who have already taught your kids to code: Are they showing an interest in doing it on their own?
  • What else should we know? What else should we be asking?

Thanks in advance for any advice that anyone can provide on this! Looking forward to the experience.

The picture above is the kind of thing we want Devina to be spending her time on, vs being in front of a screen. Picture taken when she was just over 5 months old.

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Sun, 06 Apr 2014 15:30:27 -0700
How to Get a Screaming Deal on a Baby Jogging Stroller Devina in her first race, an 8k, with dad and uncle Sam! As I've mentioned before on this blog, Sue and I are not planning on buying a stroller because we want to carry Devina close to us as much as possible, to maximize our 'skin-to-skin' contact time. So to that extent]]>

Devina in her first race, an 8k, with dad and uncle Sam!

As I've mentioned before on this blog, Sue and I are not planning on buying a stroller because we want to carry Devina close to us as much as possible, to maximize our 'skin-to-skin' contact time. So to that extent, I did a pretty in-depth review of baby carriers, and the Baby Bjorn ONE took the prize in a last-minute upset.

However, I've always wanted to take Devina on races with me, and so I went on the hunt for a great jogging stroller. After doing a bunch of research, I found the Chariot line of strollers, which Thule picked up awhile back, so now they're branded as 'Thule Chariot.' Their top of the line jogging stroller is the CX-1, which MSRPs at $1,049.95. Yikes.

But here's a pro-tip: If you are willing to pick up one of the CX-1 strollers just branded as "Chariot" and not as "Thule Chariot," you can get one of those for $697 on Amazon -- and that's with the jogging attachment, which usually runs an additional $75. But there are only four left on Amazon, so they won't last forever. The differences between the old model and the new Thule model are very minor; the biggest one being disc brakes vs. drum brakes.

That's a great way to save 40%. But here's an even better tip: Ever heard of Amazon Warehouse? It's where Amazon sells its open box stuff. And it's awesome. If you're willing to buy a Chariot that someone else returned, you can get an even steeper discount. The inventory comes and goes, but right now Amazon Warehouse has two available for $458:

Awesome! And when I bought mine, I got it for $395 -- that's over 60% off! And it was in completely like-new condition.

Another benefit to the Chariot is that it has other attachments, like a strolling attachment ($85 on Amazon), a bike attachment ($68 on Amazon), and even a cross-country ski attachment ($285 on Amazon), which makes it super versatile.

Hope that pro-tip helps, and happy jogging!

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Mon, 10 Mar 2014 10:53:40 -0700
Baby Carrier Face Off: Our Quest to Avoid Hip Dysplasia Sue and I have known from way back that we want to have as much skin-to-skin time with our daughter as possible. In fact, we haven't even purchased a stroller because we want to carry Devina to achieve this goal. Originally, we were using a Britax carrier which was g]]>

Sue and I have known from way back that we want to have as much skin-to-skin time with our daughter as possible. In fact, we haven't even purchased a stroller because we want to carry Devina to achieve this goal.

Originally, we were using a Britax carrier which was given to us by some friends, and I loved. But we started reading blogs which warned of issues that could arise with carriers that leave a baby's legs dangling, which the Britax (as well as a Baby Bjorn carrier we had) did. Specifically, articles like this:

"The most unhealthy position for the hips during infancy is when the legs are held in extension with the hips and knees straight and the legs brought together, which is the opposite of the fetal position. The risk to the hips is greater when this unhealthy position is maintained for a long time. Healthy hip positioning avoids positions that may cause or contribute to development of hip dysplasia or dislocation. The healthiest position for the hips is for the hips to fall or spread (naturally) apart to the side, with the thighs supported and the hips and knees bent. This position has been called the jockey position, straddle position, frog position, spread-squat position or human position. Free movement of the hips without forcing them together promotes natural hip development."

Here it is illustrated:

Now, not everyone agrees with this. You go to the Baby Bjorn website, and they have a number of medical 'experts' testifying that the dangling legs method is fine. They write:

"No, that is not correct. Your child cannot develop hip dysplasia or hip luxation by being carried in a baby carrier. Hip dysplasia, or hip luxation, is a congenital condition diagnosed through a medical examination. The notion that baby carriers can cause hip dysplasia is a misunderstanding and has no scientific foundation. This is confirmed by leading child orthopedists."

So I'm not necessarily sure what to believe, except to say that I haven't read anyone saying that the 'jockey position' (pictured at right, above) is problematic, while plenty of others are saying that the 'dangling legs position' is. So we decided it's better to play it safe and upgrade our carriers, even though there were things we loved about the Britax and Baby Bjorn, namely the ability to carry Devina in a front-facing position (can't do that with the Jockey carriers except for one, which I describe below) and the fact that the Baby Bjorn is so elegantly engineered. I talk a bit more about our motivations in this video:

Baby carrier face off: the hip dysphasia problem

So, we bought eight carriers and I wore most of them on long walks of at least an hour each. Sue and I then tallied up what we loved (and didn't love) about each of them. Here are our results:

*** UPDATE!!! There is a new Baby Bjorn on the market that's BETTER than the Ergo! Here is my update comment with details.

The Winner: ERGObaby Performance Collection Baby Carrier

Available for $139 on Amazon, or if you want a canvas version, the very similar ERGObaby Original Baby Carrier is $120 on Amazon

This carrier wins it hands-down for me. Early on in our testing I realized that having a hood is a must. Baby Devina will often fall asleep on our long walks, and having a hood that I can pull out of a pocket helps keep her head from bobbing, and helps keep her asleep. It's also great for keeping her warm when it's cold outside, or keeping the sun out of her eyes. The Ergo's hood works great -- here's a picture of me snapping the hood on one side while keeping the other side unsnapped -- great for keeping the sun away:

The Ergo also has a large pocket, which I was able to put an emergency diaper and wipes in -- you know, for those unexpected moments when you absolutely have to change her diaper right now. Those of you who are already parents know what I mean; for the rest of you, trust me, time can be of the essence. The Ergo is the only carrier that had a pocket large enough to easily store these emergency supplies.

Add to that that the Ergo has the best padding, which made it the most comfortable on long walks, and that Devina can see out of it without the straps mauling her in the face, and it was far and above the winner. A nice touch is the fact that the Ergo has clips for stirrups, for when a child gets older, which I point out in this video

Baby carrier face off: Ergo performance, the winner

There's one thing I really don't like about the Ergo, and honestly it drives me crazy. The shoulder straps are adjusted in the back. Why the back? Well, so you absolutely cannot reach them when you need to, of course. If I had to adjust these on a regular basis, it would've been enough to knock the Ergo out of first place for me. Luckily it's more of a "set it once and forget it" type thing. But why the back? Why not have them adjusted on the sides, like the Beco Gemini below? The rest of the carrier is so elegantly engineered, I just don't understand it. Here's a picture of what I mean:

Second Place: Beco Baby Carrier Gemini

This carrier, which costs $128 on, had a lot going for it. For one thing, it's the only carrier that can handle a front-facing position and still has the better Jockey position. That's thanks to two snaps which allow the leg position to be changed.

And in contrast to the Ergos, the shoulder strap length can be modified where you can actually reach it -- on the side (right below Devina's arm in the pictures) instead of the back:

It even has infant head padding, which the Ergo doesn't -- on the Ergo you have to buy a separate infant carrier insert.

But as I wore it on a long walk, I realized that two things would bump it to second place: First, it isn't nearly as comfortable as the Ergo. But secondly, it doesn't have a hood, and a hood is an absolute must. However, if those things aren't as important to you, it's a solid contender. Here's a video where I describe the carrier in more detail:

Baby carrier face off: Beco Gemini, 2nd Place

Third Place: BOBA Air Baby Carrier

This carrier wins the value award, coming in at just $65 on Amazon. And there's a lot to like, especially if you want a compact secondary carrier -- it easily packs down to 30% of the size of the other carriers and is the only one you could realistically carry in a purse or a backpack when not in use. Also, it seems to do well in the water due to its synthetic construction; although I didn't try it myself there is talk on the forums about people using it in pools and it holding up well. However, Sue didn't like the fact that the synthetic material doesn't have any 'give,' that the zipper has the potential to scratch the baby's face (although it didn't, but seemed possible) and that the straps hit the baby's face while being carried. And for me it just wasn't padded enough (well, at all, really) for long walks. But as a backup that you keep handy, it might be just the ticket. Here's a video with more detail:

Baby carrier face off: Boba Air, most lightweight

There are also some carriers I generally would not recommend, including:

Not Recommended: Infantino Union Ergonomic Carrier, Gray

This carrier is $23.99 on Amazon, and you really get what you pay for, which is not much. I describe a bit more in this video:

Baby carrier face off: Carriers to avoid

Not Recommended: BOBA Classic Baby Carrier 3G

This carrier, which runs $108 on Amazon, just doesn't have the build quality, the comfort, or the ease of use as the Ergos and the Beco.

It uses cheaper quality fasteners and an inferior system for the neck strap. Also, the hood is almost impossible to access when the baby is in the carrier with out really jostling the baby's neck. More detail in this video:

Baby carrier face off: Boba carrier, not recommended

We also ordered a Mei Tai carrier, the Infantino Sash Mei Tai Carrier, $24.99 on Amazon, which was similar to some wrap carriers we used when Devina was an infant, including the Moby Wrap Original 100% Cotton Solid Baby Carrier, $45 on Amazon, and the Infantino Sync Comfort Wrap Carrier Black/Red, $29 on Amazon. But these all suffer from the same issues, at least for me as a dad -- they're hard to put on and take off, and they're hot because of the amount of fabric you end up wrapping around yourself. Some people seem to love them, but they just didn't work for me.

We also reviewed two accessories, one which I highly recommend and the other I do not:

Recommended: Infantino Hoodie Universal All Season Carrier Cover Gray

So there is one Infantino product we recommend. This hoodie, $18 on Amaon, will keep your baby warm and easily attaches to any carrier. Here's a previous blog post I wrote about it.

Not Recommended: Boba Pack Baby Bag

This bag, $35 on Amazon, just doesn't work on the front of a carrier; it's too bulky. Here's a video where I describe the issue in more detail:

Baby carrier face off: Boba front bag

Hope you find this review helpful!

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Sun, 23 Feb 2014 13:40:36 -0800
Considering a Vitamix Blender -- Anyone Have an Opinion? Three years ago, I reviewed several juicers in detail before settling on the Omega masticating juicer, and it's been great.

But ever since, my buddy Frank has been trying to convince me to get a Vitamix. He says he uses the Vitamix several times per day, vs. less than once a week for his juicer. I was over at his house the other day, and he gave me the full court press sales pitch. So of course I video taped it! Let me know what you think: Is a Vitamix more useful than a Juicer?

Also, the Vitamix isn't cheap! The 750 professional series is $650 on Amazon. There are cheaper ones though, as low as $481. If you don't mind refurbished, you can get an older open box version from Amazon Warehouse for the mid $300s.

Evaluating the Vitamix: Frank

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Sat, 21 Dec 2013 10:59:58 -0800