Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sometimes I Rant About Car Seats

Being involved in parenting forums has its ups and downs. On one hand, hilarity and support await for the gal who lives in the middle of nowhere and doesn't see a lot of other non-family adults on a daily basis. On the other hand, I sometimes feel like banging my head against a brick wall when people argue with me about car seat safety. The following message was my frustrated attempt to explain why I just.can't.let.it.go when people challenge me on car seat issues. The discussion was about expired car seats (yes, they expire), but it has applications to other safety issues, as well.
There are many good reasons for replacing a safety device before it's absolutely on it's last unsafe breath.

The thing that gets me is this. Vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for kids overall (there is a window for newborns when congenital problems are a bigger risk). I'm going to be harsh for a moment here, not because I intend to sound cruel, but because there aren't many other ways to say it. We know that a lot of kids are still dying in vehicle crashes. We also know that a great many parents are using their car seats incorrectly in some way, or many ways, including using them past the expiration date. I did that, too, before I knew better. But now that I know? I will do everything in my power to shield my child from this one thing that I have the ability to provide significant protection against. If people would argue less over what CPSTs and car seat safety organizations are saying, and instead put that energy into following the advice, it's highly likely that we would see a reduction in the numbers of children who are seriously hurt or killed in vehicle crashes.

People get hypervigilant about their child's online safety, or whether or not to vaccinate, or whether or not to send them to public school, or whether or not to let them watch TV, or any number of other issues. And it's not that those things aren't important. They are. But why do people get so excited over those issues and then argue over a car seat expiration date when statistically, their child is far more likely to be affected by its safety than any of those other things? To me, it's like ignoring the elephant in the room in favor of screaming at the mice.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Scenes From Early Thanksgiving With My Family

My parents are heading to Florida for Thanksgiving this year, so they wanted the fam to gather early to eat turkey and be merry. We arrived earlier this evening and had dinner just a little while ago. Verrrry tasty. The following are excerpts from the evening's conversations.

*Scene* My very pregnant sister, Deb, and her husband are arriving.
Dad: (leaning out the front door) Hey! I opened the garage door. It might be easier for you to get in that way!
Deb: (coming in through the garage) We're not even carrying any suitcases. Why did he want us to come in the garage? Are we too embarrassing to use the front door now?
Me: Uh, Deb? I think he was suggesting that your current girth might make it difficult to *use* the front door.
Deb: Oh.

*Scene* Getting ready to sit down at the table for dinner.
Dad: The chair on the right side in the middle has a structural problem that I haven't been able to fix yet. So, Deb, you probably won't want to sit there.
Deb: Dad! Jeez.
Dad: (laughing) What? You can sit next to me this way!
Me: If she sits next to you, it will be so she can stab you with her fork.

*Scene* Mom is outlining drink options.
Mom: OK, I have Diet Pepsi, Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi, Coke, Caffeine Free Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, root beer, Dr. Pepper, Diet Dr. Pepper, orange soda, milk, water, tea, coffee, Capri Suns, orange juice and Kool-Aid.
Everyone: .........
G: (laughing) Could you repeat that?
Mom: I'll repeat that you can go to the fridge and see for yourself.

*Scene* The food is being passed around.
Mom: There are two types of butter on the table. I know that one person (looking at my husband) requires real butter. There is tub butter for....
Grandma: The tubby people?
(everyone looks at Deb)
Deb: I'm going to leave. Right after you pass the turkey. I would leave now, but it's for the baby.

*Scene* Maya is eating pie and drops a big chunk on her pants.
G: Let me help you with that. (picks up the pie and puts it on his plate)
Maya: Hey! Dad! Don't take my pie! I was still gonna eat that! (reaches over and steals back the dropped pie)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Kid is Country, Y'all

Maya is reading and writing like crazy lately, as kids are known to do in first grade. She is encouraged to sound out words and write them down as she thinks they might be if it's not a word they've covered in class yet. She's pretty good at it most of the time! The other day I was looking at some of her school papers and reading some of the cute little stories she wrote, and I kept coming across a word that she spelled as "theon." I was confused. This is not a word I am familiar with, and my vocabulary is probably above average. Trying to understand it, I said the word aloud. And it hit me. "Theon" is how you might write down the word "then" if you're a little girl with bit of a drawl. Two syllables. Oh my.

Tonight as we settled down to read a few books together before bedtime, she decided that mama needed a special bedtime hair-do. "What a great idea," I said, and handed her the comb. She reached for the detangling spray, too, naturally. It's just not as much fun to comb your mother's hair without loading it up with so much detangler that it runs down her scalp and requires her to take a shower once you're solidly asleep. She sprayed and combed. And sprayed and combed more. She put a hair tie in my hair and commanded me to just try not to cry if it hurt too much. She gave me permission to touch my head if it hurt, to help with the pain. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth and said, "this is fun! You're doing such a good job." I could hear some of my hair snapping off. My stylist will wonder what on Earth happened to me.

After studying her work, she took the hair tie out and started combing again. Added a little more detangler. As she combed, she said, "you're going to have something like a ponytail, only messier." I thought that would be just fine for the bedtime stories. Then she said, "Mom, this is just like when you do my hair! Only I do it neater and better. And it hurts less."

Heaven help that child if what I do in the mornings hurts more than what was happening on my head tonight. My ponytail-but-messier is pretty fab, though, which is good, because the detangler overload has dried into a stiff, glue-like substance and I fear the hair tie may never come out.

Strangers! On the Internets!

It used to be that the internet seemed so big and scary to almost everyone. Today it almost seems cozy to me. Friends can be found almost anywhere, and the few jerks I've encountered haven't made it worth it to give up on all of the wonderful things this huge web-world has to offer.

I love the connections that people feel to one another via the 'net. Members of the same forum. Bloggers and readers. Social networkers. Love matches. Isn't it amazing that in a few short years we've moved from "SCARY!" to "be careful, but have fun"?

I used the internet mostly for email and research prior to my pregnancy in 2001. Then I found a group of other moms-to-be who shared my love of self-mockery and silliness, who would pull together for an incredible support system when one of the group required it. Over the last seven years the group has changed a bit, people have come and gone, and we've moved to meeting beyond the internet as often as possible with this many kids and schedules. I used to call these women my fake internet friends. Recently, one of the women in the group decided that wasn't a good enough name. We were sister friends, she said. I like that. Without the internet, I would never have met any of them.

I was thinking about how powerfully we can feel connections even with people we've never met after reading at Dooce that she's pregnant. She has posted about her previous losses, something that I've experienced, too, so when I read that she recently saw her baby moving on the U/S screen, I cried. I'm about to cry now. I can only imagine the joy and relief, and I found myself silently cheering her on the same way I would a close friend. Amazing, isn't it?

The 'net provides me with quite a bit of entertainment. I live in the country, y'all. Nightlife and museums and book clubs? Those things aren't so much available here. But I think it's not the fun factor that keeps me coming back here. It's the other humans behind the screens. It's the unexpected things we find in common, and the ways we connect to one another.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A New Twitter Storm? Toys for Tots

Just when I thought no one else really cared about turning the Motrin Moms Twitter buzz engine into something positive, tweets are starting to appear asking people to rally around Toys for Tots to truly make a big difference this holiday season. If you're not familiar with the organization, Toys for Tots takes donations of new, unwrapped toys and distributes them so that kids don't have empty hands on Christmas morning.

Can you imagine wanting to get your child some small gift for the holidays, but having to choose between that and food or rent? As a mother, my heart breaks a little bit imagining that feeling. We all know that the food, shelter, safety and love are the most important things to give our kids. But being able to give them just a little bit more, and to see their smiles in return - that's important, too. Toys for Tots helps thousands of parents do just that on Christmas.

In the aftermath of the Motrin craziness, there were plenty of people who criticized the moms who were offended by the ad. Too much time on their hands, they said. Need to focus on bigger issues and really make a difference. If you felt it important enough to call others out on what they were doing to change the world, I hope you don't consider yourself immune from your responsibility to help fuel a more important Twitter fire. Less talk, more action, folks.

Sheryl at All About Health, Family & Fun suggests using #TFC to tag your tweets so that everyone can see them in search.

Tell your friends. Link them to the Toys for Tots site. Buy some extra toys when you're out and about and find a Toys for Tots drop-off location via the search form right on the front page of their web site. Can't donate toys? Donate money via credit card on the Toys for Tots website! Can't do that? Donate a little bit of your time by tweeting this, posting it to Facebook, blogging it, telling your friends about it, calling your mom, asking your employer about possible gift drives and company gift matching, or see if you can find a way to volunteer some time to the organization.

So, come on Internet! You're a great big, fabulous place. I love you, even when you're being grumpy and foaming at the mouth over pain relievers. Please don't let me, or Toys for Tots, down on this.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Buzz Works. Now What?

This weekend's Motrin Moms fiasco certainly showed that mom bloggers and others involved in social media can create a big stir when they want to. The website was pulled, an apology was issued, and the buzz is slowly simmering to a dull roar (save the last few sad people who are still slinging the same tired insults that have been around since internet communication began). Soon the critics will tire of screaming that real moms don't have time for the internet or that mothers don't have any real pull on purchases (that dude seriously needs to do some homework before tweeting again) or that everyone was wasting their time by even caring about something that was less than a global issue.

One point that came from the critics is valid, though, in my opinion. Why isn't this much 'net activity and passion wasn't happening for other issues? The Motrin ad was annoying and was fascinating to watch from a media/marketing perspective, but no one was truly hurt by it.

I know that many of the people who weighed in on MotrinGate do care deeply about bigger causes. Many are active in blogging about them or work to raise money for them or volunteer time in their communities to make a difference. The problem is that those things don't show up on the internet. One blogger's Saturday at a soup kitchen won't get her a top spot in Google results or more than a thousand tweets in a few hours.

The other thing that makes visibility of causes difficult is that we all have different pet causes that we're passionate about. I blog, write, preach, discuss, scream, whisper, tweet and teach car seat safety because vehicle crashes are the number one killer of children of kids under age 14 in the U.S. and therefore I feel it's worth some attention. Others don't feel the same passion for it, so it doesn't create a giant storm of internet craziness. The Motrin fiasco did so largely because it called on one thing that most of the commenters do share and feel passionately about: motherhood.

So, the question is: how do we keep the ball rolling? We know that it's possible to create big buzz and get people talking (mostly) thoughtfully about an issue. How do we get everyone talking about the same cause at the same time? There are hundreds of charities and issues and personal cases that involve children or motherhood. The passion is there. How can we use it effectively and collectively?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Motrin Moms Controversy

I'm not easily offended, first of all. Have you seen Motrin's new "We Feel Your Pain" ads that are geared toward moms? Their latest, which just so happens to have been released during Babywearing Week, talks about how painful it is to wear your baby, and how women do that just so they can look like an official mom. It's meant to be tongue in cheek, but it doesn't come across very well. It comes across as trivializing the attachment parenting concept.

Whether or not I'm hugely offended, many people were. Angry letters were written. Mommy bloggers posted late into the night. Twitter exploded with #motrinmoms tags, which even trended to the number one spot with more than a thousand tagged posts in about two hours. Let this be a lesson to companies who want to market to moms. Be careful. Ask questions. Invest in focus groups and test panels. Ask women who don't depend on you for a paycheck what they think. When moms get mad? They talk. Loudly. It's so much easier to get it right the first time than to fire your PR firm and beg forgiveness later.

For the record, babywearing doesn't hurt to the point that you need Motrin, anyway. I've used many different kinds of carriers, and they never made me cry or reach for the painkillers. And it was the baby barf on my shirt, not the sling, that made me look like a real mom.

Read more about Motrin Moms.

Motrin Makes Mommy Mistake

Motrin the Anti-Mom
Don't Mess With the BabyWearers
Annoyed By Motrin's New Ad Campaign
Motrin Makes Moms Mad
Would You Like Some Insult With Your Pain Reliever?
New Motrin Ad Angers Twitter Moms Around the World
Motrin's New Ad: Wrong Message, Wrong Time

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day

October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Everyone knows someone who has lost a baby. Even if you don't know it. Miscarriage is incredibly common, but many women grieve quietly. If you knew some of the things people say when they find out, you might stay silent, too, but that's probably a whole different blog post. Heh. This day is about everyone who knows what it's like to feel the excitement and hope of knowing there is a life inside you and then having that hope disappear. It's entirely unfair. And part of the struggle is that, particularly for women who lose a baby early in pregnancy, others haven't had time to see it as a "real baby." They don't grieve as we do, so the sadness is compounded by a feeling of utter aloneness.

If you're so inclined, this group suggests lighting a candle at 7 p.m. today to remember everyone affected by this kind of loss. The idea is to create a continuous wave of light across the world as everyone lights a candle in their time zone. I don't know that I need the lofty goal of the whole wave of light. But I like the idea of lighting a candle on one day to remember.

Love Purses? Check This Out!

I almost never write about product stuff on this blog, because I do so much of it for my job. But stay with me, girls, because this is fun. Handbag Planet is launching a new site really soon and they're giving away really cute bags to celebrate the launch. So go to HandbagPlanet.com and sign up, choose the bag you'd like to win, and then wait to see if you're a lucky winner. And if you are, you can thank me profusely and let me gaze adoringly at your cute new purse!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dear AIG Execs


You make me sick. Do you realize that there are people who are struggling to even find a job? People who WANT to work? Imagine what more than $400,000 could have done had you stopped thinking of yourselves for one minute and put it towards people who would like to feed their families this week. What about the people who are still trying to clean up after a hurricane? What about the small business owners who are fighting tooth and nail not to go under because there's no credit to be had now? If you can sleep well at night, you're disgusting excuses for human beings.

Oh, and one of my dear friends who is being hugely screwed by the current state of the economy would like her fancy pedicure, too, thanks. It's the least you could do, really.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

That Explains Everything!

This afternoon, in the car, on the way to a hayrack ride, Maya was telling my sister-in-law about our new kittens. They are quite cute, but they came to us with ringworm, and one of them is losing her fur as a result.

Maya: Aunt Gaylette, we have KITTENS! And they have... (whispering) ringworm.
Aunt Gaylette: I remember when your daddy used to get ringworm from the wrestling mats in high school.
Me: Well, now he doesn't have to wrestle anyone. He can just get ringworm right in our house!
Maya: So THAT'S how he got bald!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

September Roundup

I can't believe the whole month has nearly passed me by. As many of you know, this is the craziest time of year for me with work, so I am slaving away in front of my laptop, just not here at my blog. When do I ever slave away at my blog, you might ask? Good point. I don't.

Early September sent me to Vegas for the ABC Kids Expo. Lots of walking. Lots of great contacts. Judged the JPMA Innovation Awards, which was pretty cool. Over 100 entries. Only 10 winners. That was hard! Also hard? Finding non-fried foods to eat anywhere in the vicinity of The Strip. You'll be pleased to know that I went somewhere other than my hotel and the convention center this year. I met this lovely person, Anya, who is an expert on travel with kids, and she drove me down the strip one evening, and we also went out for a beer during the week. The beer was bigger than my arm and I had to drink it fast to avoid the liederhosen-wearing, bell-ringing, table-dancing, German band at the restaurant, but that is probably a story for another time.

Mid-September is my baby girl's birthday. She's seven! Hard to believe. I still remember how impossibly small she was when they laid her on my chest. I also remember quickly demanding that my husband take her because, holy crap, I didn't know what to do with a baby, for heaven's sake! He actually didn't know, either. Poor M. She's lucky she's made it this far with two clueless parents. At seven, her favorite color is purple, she is still crazy for horses, she loves Webkinz, reads like crazy, thinks fishing with Daddy is fantastic and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

Around M's birthday, I always end up thinking about how I ended up hanging around the online pregnancy forums when I learned I was expecting the unexpected baby. That was January 2001, which means that in a few months, the women I met wayyyy back then will have been my friends for 8 years. I was just looking for some answers to my incredibly noob pregnancy questions (if the test says I'm pregnant, I'm, uhh, really pregnant, right?). Who would have guessed some of those women would become my closest friends?

Fall is finally in the air. My favorite season. Not too hot, not too cold. Halloween. My birthday. Clothes in my favorite colors. An excuse to break out giant wool sweaters. Football! Camping. The occasional bonfire at the lake. I love fall.

I'm making an effort to take more walks this fall. The whole "busy at work" thing is having a negative effect on me. My ass is taking on the shape of my favorite recliner. This is not good. Not good at all. Must walk. Must not become furniture-shaped. Might be hard to find cute fall clothes in recliner-shaped sizes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Kid is a Critic

I was driving Maya home from gymnastics tonight and she was chattering at me from the back seat, non-stop, as usual. She noted that the stars were coming out and announced that she would be making a wish on the first star she saw.

A few seconds later, she said, "I made a wish and I'm not telling it to nobody!" I said, "that's cool. You should say, 'I'm not telling anyone' instead of 'nobody,' though." I could feel her roll her eyes at me from the back seat, and then she asked, "why shouldn't I say 'nobody'?"

"It's not grammatically correct," I answered. She paused for a moment and then said, "ooooo-k, that was a weird thing you just said, mom."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ooooooooooh! Ghosts!

Let me preface this post by saying that I'm not entirely sure that I believe in ghosts, at least not as they are commonly shown on the big screen. Every once in a while, something happens, though, that makes me wonder if maybe some of the paranormal realm might just be real.

My camera remote has been missing for nearly 6 months now. I remember when I used it last - I was in the basement messing around with portrait lighting. I keep a pretty close eye on my camera equipment, so the next time I went to use the remote, I was really surprised that it wasn't in it's proper place. I went back to the basement, knowing that if I had left it down there, it would be on one of the two tables by my backdrop stand. It wasn't there. I looked high and low. Under the couches. Behind the backdrop. Up on the bookcases. Through all of my camera bags and in all of my jeans pockets. No camera remote. Every time I've been in the basement in the meantime, I've looked for the remote with no luck. Last week, I started to consider ordering a new remote.

Fast forward to today. I ventured down to the basement to run on my treadmill. As I passed one of the tables by my backdrop stand, on my way to find some TV entertainment for my run, I saw something on the table out of the corner of my eye. In the middle of the otherwise empty table was my missing camera remote. I said, "yay!" and assumed that one of the kids had found the remote and happened to place it right where I probably left it 6 months ago. I put the TV remote and my water bottle down by the camera remote, did my run, then spent some time on the rowing machine, and started to stretch to finish up. No one else had been in the basement during that time.

When I leaned over to grab the table during a stretch, I was surprised to see that the camera remote was no longer there. My water and the TV remote, yes. Camera remote, nowhere in sight. I was a little creeped out by that, but finished what I was doing and then started looking around the basement again.

A little ways from the table, on one of the couches, was the camera remote. Sitting right in the middle of the cushion. Not like someone tossed it there or it got bumped (by the no one who was there!!!) and flew over there. It was face up, perfectly square with the cushion. The weird thing is that even if I had somehow managed to move the remote and then lose all memory of doing so within an hour timeframe, I would never have moved it from the table to the couch. I *hate* chasing things that fall between the couch cushions, so I never set things down on the couches. So weird!

Oddly, I was watching a movie about ghosts on TV when this happened. The other time that something weird happened to me, I was also watching something about ghosts on TV. That was when I was 17 and babysitting. The kids were asleep and I was alone in the family's basement. A ride-on toy wheeled itself across the room in front of me that night. As a 17-year-old I was far jumpier than I am now. I think I managed not to scream but I certainly hauled ass upstairs and didn't go back to the basement again. Ever.

What say you, internet? Camera-remote-hiding poltergeist? Does the spirit realm have a thing for me when I'm in a basement and watching ghost shows? Or am I losing my ever-loving mind? Yes, I'm aware that the last option is probably the most likely.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Laundry Oddness

I'm trying to scale Mount Saint Laundry and slowly take it down to the ground piece by piece, as it threatens to erupt and kill us all at any moment. As I've been searching my daughter's room for the bits of laundry that did not make it into her laundry basket (which is, umm, 90 percent or so, since the laundry basket makes a better doll bed than clothing receptacle), I've noticed a strange trend. There are socks in my home that do not belong to anyone who lives here.

Even stranger than finding random socks in my house is that these socks always appear in pairs. The socks that belong to my family members? Oh no. They do not mate for life. Or even for 45 minutes in the dryer.

So, I have to wonder how it is that all of these matched sets of socks that I did not purchase have ended up in my house. If someone is breaking in when I'm not home to leave their dirty socks here, could you at least leave pairs that fit one of us? Or leave something other than socks? If I'm doing someone else's laundry, I'd prefer it to be haute couture and in my size, please. A Valentino gown would work just fine.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

If You Know Nothing About Car Seats....

....don't talk about car seats! I am to the point where I have to avoid reading threads about car seats on forums and comments sections on blogs that mention car seats. The ignorance is astounding, and the people who know the least about car seats are always the first to comment. If we were talking about what type of coffee to drink in the morning or which shoe designer is best, it wouldn't bother me. But car seats? When you spread ignorance and myths about car seats, you could kill a child.

I would actually love it if more people talked about car seats. I would just prefer that they do some decent research first. Or, if they'd like to argue about things like expiration dates or why brands cost what they do or when a child has outgrown a seat or when it's appropriate to turn a child forward-facing, it would be awesome if they could at least take the CPST certification class first and put in a few years of work in the trenches so they know of which they speak.

So, I'm going to use my blog as the lovely, venty space it was intended to be for a few minutes. I won't comment on those forums or blogs any more, because it only makes my head feel more explodey. Here are a few of the most common gems on the internet, along with my usual responses.

- We never used car seats as kids and we lived! We got to ride on the back dash!
Yes, so did I. We were lucky, because there were a lot of other kids who didn't live. In fact, I know a guy whose sister was killed when someone rear-ended them while the two kids were laying in the ultra-desirable back of the station wagon. Still today, car crashes are the number 1 cause of death for young kids. We've come a long way, but there is a ways to go yet.

- The expiration date is just a way for car seat manufacturers to make more money.
I'm not a scientist, so I can't explain exactly how and when the plastic parts of your child's car seat break down. But they do. Take a look at this crash test video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvCRz7BRAM0 . That's a 10 year old Britax car seat. Please note that the straps break through the back of the car seat shell on impact, allowing the test dummy to fly almost completely out of the seat. If I can keep that from happening to my child, I'd pay the car seat manufacturers a hell of a lot more than I do now.

- My pediatrician said I could turn my 6-month-old forward-facing because she has good neck control / can sit up / etc.
First things first... your pediatrician probably didn't study car seats in medical school. Peds are notorious among child passenger safety advocates for giving the worst car seat advice. The American Academy of Pediatrics does have statements about car seat issues. If your pediatrician isn't recommending that you follow at least the minimum standards that AAP suggests, I'd find a new doctor. Children are so much safer when rear-facing. It's not a happy milestone to turn forward-facing. Head control or ability to sit up has nothing to do with how your child's body can handle crash forces. Babies' heads are so big and heavy compared to the rest of their bodies, and when they sit forward-facing, their head can move forward so much more in a crash. More movement means more injury. Look up internal decapitation if you really want to know why I recommend rear-facing for as long as possible.

- My baby's legs were sticking over the edge of the car seat, so I turned him around. I didn't want his legs to break in a crash.
Ahhh, I know this one so well! I heard this, too, when my daughter was one! Here's what the EMT who helped me install her convertible car seat told me about it. "In a crash that is severe enough to break her legs, there is also a chance of other very serious injuries. Would you rather her break her legs or her neck, if you had to choose?" Touche, Mr. EMT. I got the point. And for the record, I don't know any CPSTs who have actually heard of a child's legs being broken because they were rear-facing.

- More expensive car seats are pointless. You're just paying for a name and a pretty cover!
I used to believe this one, too. :) As a CPST, my job is to tell people that all car seats on the U.S. market meet the same safety standards, and that the best car seat is the one that fits your baby and your vehicle, and that you will use correctly every time. And that is true. However, to understand why so many CPSTs find the high-dollar car seats to be worthwhile, you have to look a little further. Those safety standards (FMVSS213)? They say that all car seats have to be crash-tested at 30mph on a bench seat, frontal crash only. Some manufacturers *only* do that test. Other manufacturers test frontal, rear, side impact and rollover collisions. But crash tests are expensive, so those costs have to be recouped through the car seats. For me, knowing that my child's car seat has been tested beyond the minimum is a must, because not all crashes are 30 mph frontals. Convenience features also can add to cost. Things like cupholders or a more attractive cover aren't worth the cost to me, but built-in lockoffs, extra EPS foam and increased side-impact protection, easy to use LATCH hooks and non-twisty straps are worth every penny. Those things make the car seat perform better in a crash and make it easier to install and use correctly.

- This custom cover / seatbelt tightener / strap pad is crash tested! It says it meets FMVSS 213!
Accessory manufacturers love to tell parents that their products are crash tested or that they meet all applicable federal safety standards. The tricky thing is, FMVSS 213 does not say anything about aftermarket accessories. There are no crash test standards for a custom car seat cover. They could throw it against a wall and it would meet the current, nonexistent standards. A can of Spam could be labeled to meet and exceed FMVSS 213. The easiest, safest route is to avoid using any car seat accessory that didn't come with your car seat, or that isn't provided by the seat manufacturer. Using aftermarket stuff can void your car seat warranty and absolve the manufacturer of any liability if the seat fails in a crash. Some accessories, like custom covers, can interfere with the function of the car seat if they don't fit the harness strap slots perfectly or add padding underneath the child that could compress in a crash, leading to a loose harness. Custom covers are rarely flame-retardant, either, which could pose a big problem in some types of crashes.

- It's so stupid that states are making kids sit in boosters until they're 8.
Considering that real world crash data showed that kids in the 4-8 age group were still being injured quite often, I'd say it wasn't stupid, but smart. Vehicle seatbelts are made for adult men. They can't work if they don't fit. Boosters help the seatbelts fit kids.

- I don't wear my seatbelt because I want to be thrown clear in a crash / know someone who lived because they weren't wearing a seatbelt.
Anyone who claims to have lived because they weren't buckled should probably play the lottery a lot, because they are statistically very lucky. The biggest favor a seatbelt does you is keep you inside the vehicle in a crash. If you're ejected, you're 4 times more likely to be killed. Not wearing a seatbelt is also incredibly selfish if you have other passengers in the car. When your body flies around inside the vehicle during a crash, you're likely to seriously injure or kill the other people in the car, whether they are buckled or not.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Vignettes from Weekend Travel

This weekend we went to Orlando, Maya and I. Unlike most of the families on the plane, we were not headed to Disney World, but to my uncle's funeral. Maya never ceases to amaze me, the way she understands things at 6 that I'm not sure I do at 30. She seems to know instinctively how to comfort people. How to just be beside them. To be honest, I needed her.

One of the things not many people know about me is that when I say I want the window seat on the airplane it's not because I'm a brat. It's because I have to be able to see out of a moving vehicle of any type, or I will get sick. Generally, I can control it to the point that the little paper bags in the seat pocket aren't necessary, but let's just say that an aisle seat means that I will be turning green and practicing deep breathing exercises for the whole flight. It's not pretty. Maya knows all of this. And as long as I let her unbuckle for a few minutes and look out the window mid-flight, she's content to graciously let her mother have the window seat. After we got back to Kansas City and were on the bus to the parking lot, Maya noticed that the bus windows were covered with painted advertisements. I was OK because I could see out the front windows, but Maya was really concerned. She put her little hand on my arm and said, "Are you OK in here, Mom?"

In the airport, I saw a trio of women wearing plastic tiaras. I also saw a man wearing two cowboy hats, one on top of the other. I saw a grown woman whining like a child that her Burger King sandwich was not perfect. I saw a young AirTran employee who was far too happy to be awake and at work at 5:30 a.m., and silently envied his energy. Airport people watching is always the best.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


So, it's summer, which means that it's time for my annual season of feeling like I need to be in 27.3 places at any given moment. And yes, that means I have less time for blogging. I know. I always have an excuse for why I'm not blogging. My apologies!

My plans for teaching the youngster how to garden have been largely derailed thanks to wayyy too much rain. I got her to weed some flower beds by the house, but I made her quit because I kept losing her among the giant ragweeds. It has been too wet to plant my veggie garden, so I am in mourning for the zucchinis and tomatoes that will never be. Oh, how I love eating fresh veggies right from my garden. *sob*

In general, my schedule for the summer goes like this: take child to gymnastics, buy groceries, go to the ball field, put fuel in truck, pull a few weeds, mow half the yard, get a sunburn, go to the ball field, buy more groceries, mow the other half of the yard, buy more fuel for truck, GET YER DANG SHOES ON SO WE CAN GO TO THE BALL FIELD!!!!, prevent child from giving cat another haircut, try to clean mud from floors in house, gymnastics again, more groceries, more fuel, go to the ball field, forget the groceries and let family subsist on foods purchased only at said ball field.

In between those things, my husband and I have been taking classes to get our open water diving certifications. If all goes well, we will be official divers after this coming weekend. It's loads of fun.

If I make it to the fall, perhaps I will consider writing another blog post at that time. Happy summer, everyone.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Things I Want to Teach My Daughter

Since my daughter is only 6, it's hard to guess what she might choose to do with her life once she moves away from home. Currently, she'd like to be a football player. I hope she intends to be a kicker, because she's tiny and probably always will be. She also would like to be a horse rider, which sounds like the more realistic of her career ideas, oddly enough.

I hope that my daughter grows up feeling like she can do anything. All paths are open to her. At the same time, I want her to find joy in simple things. Baking bread. Making a quilt. Arranging a vase of flowers from the garden. Growing veggies. I want her to embrace everything the modern world, and modern feminism, has to offer, but not forget the little things her grandmother and great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother took pride in.

She already helps me in the kitchen sometimes. But this year, I'm stepping up the effort. This summer, she's going to learn how to make cookies and bread. I'm going to teach her how to sew, too, and hopefully by fall she will be working on her first small quilt. She already helps choose garden plants, but this summer she will pull weeds and water, too. Though it will probably be painful for both of us, I also intend to start teaching her how to make a housekeeping schedule. And stick with it. Which means I will have to stick with mine. Yikes.

My mother did all of those things, and did them well. I think, though, that sometimes we expect that our children will just learn how to do all of that stuff just by watching us. Do most parents have some sort of formal teaching schedule for how to keep the house somewhat clean and get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour and tend the garden and bake delicious cakes and balance all of the other commitments we end up with? My mother did teach me how to sew. And how to bake some of the things she always made. The rest... I've sort of picked up on my own. Or have called my mom in a panic for instruction when I needed it.

So, my goal is to actually take the time to truly teach those things to my daughter. The traditional stuff. The basics. Woman's work (ha ha ha). If I ever have a son, he'll probably be forced to learn it too. This mom will certainly not be doing laundry and grocery shopping for an adult son. Heh. Hopefully, by the time my daughter is old enough to fly the coop, she'll be ready to take on her chosen career, but also to manage her home and enjoy some of the "old-fashioned" hobbies that have almost become lost arts. Maybe she'll even be able to prevent dishes from piling up in the sink, unlike her mother.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Should Have Named Her Cooter

I have a really hard time finding anything with my daughter's name on it. Her name, Maya, just isn't one that people tend to put on pre-made objects. And that's OK, really. She doesn't need a lot of stuff to remember her name with. I got her a rockin' pack of princess name labels from Mabel's Labels and she can put her name on just about anything.

Last weekend we went to a craft fair in town. One of the vendors was making wood cutouts of things, including names. I did a double take as I walked by the stand with the pre-made names. You expect to see the usual suspects on the name rack. The Jennifers and Matthews. The Jessicas and Jaimes. The Heathers!

I have to say that I never expected to see Cooter as a pre-made name choice. Or Renner, for that matter. Have you ever even met someone named Renner? I haven't. I have met someone named Cooter, though. I live in Kansas, y'all. What do you expect? I'm also confused by Karren. With two r's it is solidly out of the realm of common names. Julius and June seem odd only when you consider that they did not have Maya, which is far more common nowadays than either of those names. But Jalen? That's not even a name!

Friday, May 09, 2008


The time I've spent on the internet has been good for my husband, although he probably wouldn't admit that. I have long been of the opinion that he is a decent person, one whom I enjoy being around, and the tales I've heard on the internet about other husbands and fathers has only served to reinforce my appreciation of him.

For example, my husband has never once expressed irritation at being at home alone with his child. Nor has he ever referred to taking care of his child as "babysitting." Apparently, there is a whole subsection of parents in the world who believe that, when a father magnanimously agrees to care for his kids occasionally, it is called babysitting. Funny, I call it parenting. And it's not something you agree or disagree to. You agreed when you helped create the kid.

/end soapbox rant

Friday, May 02, 2008


I'm not sure it's possible to sum up my feelings on motherhood with one photo, but I think this one comes the closest. My daughter and I are in a wheat field, near our house on the farm. I was trying to take pictures of her, but she wasn't content just to pose. She wanted to take pictures, too. And she wanted me to be in the pictures with her. Without her prompting, this picture, which is one of my favorites, would never have been taken. She took the picture via the camera remote in her hand. My daughter is so much like her father - my personality and hobbies rarely make an appearance in her - so her interest in photography is pretty special to me. My influence actually shows in this picture!

For some reason, this photo also reminds me of how much motherhood changed my life. I know everyone says that. Motherhood does change all of us, in many ways. But, I can say, without a doubt, that my life would be entirely different today if my daughter hadn't made a surprise appearance 6.5 years ago. I had just started a new job, in another state. We had been married less than a year, and kids were not even a consideration yet. But the universe had other plans. I didn't have a support system of friends in our new city at the time, so I looked online for information about pregnancy and found loads of forums with women that became my "mom friends."

When my little girl was born early and spent time in the NICU, I realized that 6 weeks at home with her was not even remotely enough, and started down the road that would eventually lead me to become an at-home mom. For someone whose career was of the utmost importance to her before baby, this was a huge change. Babies have a way of doing that. Not long after I quit my job to stay home with the little one, my husband's place of employment closed with only two weeks notice. Had I not quit my job, this wouldn't have been a problem. But I had. So we packed up our apartment and moved back to my husband's family farm. We always planned to be back here someday, but not quite this soon.

Being a city kid, the transition from "career person in reasonably large town" to "at-home mom in rural Midwest" was fairly difficult. Those online friends I made during my pregnancy? They kept me going when I thought I would perish from the lack of adult contact. Later, one of my forum friends would link me to an announcement for a job that was done entirely online. I applied and got the job, which allows me to work as a journalist while still living in the middle of nowhere.

So, my home and career would be entirely different had my daughter not arrived when she did. We wouldn't even have the same pets! (There is no way Danny Phantom the Angry Attack Cat would be living here without a little girl pleading and begging daddy for that cute kitty.) This picture sums all of that up for me. The city girl, in a wheat field, with the surprise daughter who is the absolute best thing that ever happened to her.

This post is part of the Mother's Day photo contest at 5MinutesforMom.com.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Things Girls Can Do

I am currently annoyed by a commercial that seems to be playing zillions of times a day on E! It's ruining my constant influx of True Hollywood Story and Chelsea Lately episodes. The commercial in question is for Nutrisystem and it features the notoriously annoying Jillian Barberie.

In this Nutrisystem commercial, Jillian proclaims her love of the pre-packaged diet foods and happily notes that she lost 40 pounds. She probably could have lost another 15 by taking out the huge faux boobies, but I digress. This is somehow supposed to be a sports-themed commercial, although I don't think Jillian Barberie and sports go together very well aside from the fact that she may have been in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue once. She waxes poetic about how she, unlike most girls, is into sports. Right, Jillian. You're the only woman on the planet who loves football. Insert giant, dramatic eye-roll here.

At one point in the commercial, a football comes flying in, slowly, from off-screen. Jillian catches the football, looks impressed with herself, and then puts the final nail in the coffin for this commercial. "What girl can do that?" she asks. What girl can catch a football that is tossed gently to her by a production assistant that is standing a few feet away? Oh, not many, Jillian, I'm sure. My 6 year-old can do it, but she's an anomaly.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Recap

I've been trying to decide what I want to say about the New Jersey trip for a few days now. After thinking on it, Camp Baby comes down to three main "take-aways," as we like to call them in the biz.
1. Johnson & Johnson paid for me to go to New Jersey so that I could meet some really interesting people, drink wine with Ted Allen and become addicted to Twitter.
2. Meeting my co-worker Stephanie face to face after merely emailing one another for 3 years was AWESOME. I live for Stephanie's nuggets of wisdom. Also she makes me laugh kind of a lot.
3. I will be happy if I never hear about bladder prolapses again. Though the incredibly juvenile vag jokes that came from that camp session were, admittedly, really amusing.

The hotel was pretty great, which was nice because that was pretty much all I saw while there, aside from a restaurant that served the most amazing chocolate cake that has ever passed my lips. At the hotel, there was a near-constant supply of soda and snacks, so clearly they were prepared for my needs.

Before the wine tasting, they set out a buffet so we could attempt to lessen the effects of the wine to come. There were more than 50 women there, so table space was limited around the buffet. Stephanie and I thought we were being really crafty by taking over one of the trays that was intended for dirty plates (before there were any dirty plates on it, thank you), so that we could eat properly. But then the other trays filled up with dirty plates. And someone put a dirty plate on our tray. And then suddenly a waiter swooped in and snatched the tray right out from under us. I remember the look on Stephanie's face quite clearly. She had just taken a bite from her plate. Her fork was still in her hand. And she had that sort of "is he doing what I think he's doing?" look going on. And then we both started laughing. She dropped her fork on the tray just as he lifted it away entirely. I was only able to save my water glass from the food-napping. I'm not sure if he thought we were eating from other people's dirty plates or just didn't feel that using a tray as a table was appropriate in such a fine establishment. Either way, the guy had guts. I should have bitten his arm when he swooped in for the kill.

Even my water glass was not meant to be truly mine. As we wandered into the room where the wine-tasting was to happen, a man in a black suit, a gatekeeper of sorts, grabbed it out of my hand before I could even protest. "There will be water at your table, ma'am," he said. OK then. No moving water goblets across inter-hotel lines. Got it. The above incidents happened back to back, and frankly, I could not stop laughing about them once we got into the wine tasting room. Thankfully, others seemed to have the giggles, too, so I was not the ONLY person in a room full of grown women being shushed by event coordinators. And then they gave us wine. They provided buckets into which we were presumably supposed to spit the wine after tasting it, but come on! The buckets quickly became hats and the laughter in the room got just a wee bit louder.

The full day of camp in the middle was filled with educational sessions, including the aforementioned bladder prolapse discussion. Other tidbits I learned: we should feed our children fruits and veggies, fecal matter is EVERYWHERE, and there is a nifty program out there called InfantSee that allows parents to get a free eye checkup for their baby in order to get earlier treatment for some eye conditions that could result in vision loss later in life.

I also learned all about Wii sports at Camp Baby. While I was learning about Wii, I also learned that there was an open bar at the Frog and Peach restaurant, and they like to mix their drinks strong.

The following day, before we left for the airport, we visited the Johnson & Johnson headquarters, heard from some of their execs (and they heard from the bloggers, oh yes they did!), and then browsed a store of product samples. Did you know that Johnson & Johnson makes KY products? Yeah, baby. There will be some happy spouses and partners when those samples arrive.

Monday, April 07, 2008


I touched a tick this morning. A huge one. Subsequently, I lost my will to live. I have washed my hand 27 times, applied vast quantities of Purell and used that Mary Kay Satin Hands kit that has been sitting in my bathroom for 6 months to scrub away any skin cells that may still harbor tick molecules. But still, I *know* that my right hand has been tainted by tick touching. Ew!

My dog was also traumatized by the tick. Poor thing didn't even know it was there until I petted her and screamed like my hair was on fire. At least we are both secure in the knowledge that a fresh application of Frontline means that tick's days are numbered.

I had other things to say in my blog today, but I'm sure you understand that I need to spend some time in the fetal position under my desk trying to forget what a fat tick feels like. Gah.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

J&J Camp Baby Blog

I've joined a group of bloggers who are also attending Johnson & Johnson Camp Baby. You can read about our experiences at the Camp Baby Blog. I just finished blogging about how cleaning before a trip could harm your chances at wearing your cute shoes on said trip. It's a painful tale. Be careful out there, folks!

Is This Kid Mine?

Genetically, I don't seem to have much affect on my child. She looks just like her father, with the minor exception of the dimple on her chin, which is all me. She also acts just like her father. I mean, scarily so. We should have named her Junior, I think. If it weren't for that dimple, and her propensity for using big words when a small one would do, I'd really be concerned that she only had a half-set of DNA.

The latest evidence that she is absolutely nothing like her mother came as she happily brought home a dead, dried out frog from a little hike she went on with her dad last week. She couldn't wait to show me. "Daddy saw it on a rock," she said. "And he said I could bring it home and keep it!" I looked at her father. He looked back. I looked horrified. He laughed.

Maya skipped off to her room with her new friend. Through the evening I could hear her singing happily. A tune she made up, with words to match. "My Dried Up Frog and Me." Seriously.

The next morning after she went off to school, I was clearing the usual breakfast detritus and school papers from the kitchen counter when my hand brushed something unfamiliar. Yes, I had come into contact with the dried out frog. Unlike my child, this did not make me want to sing. AND IT WAS ON MY KITCHEN COUNTER! I fought the urge to call the design center and order new counters right then and there. I carefully used one of her school papers to shove the frog onto another paper and move it to her room, where at least I didn't have to look at it. Then I washed my hands approximately 348 times.

In her kindergarten class, they have this thing called "The Sharing Tub." It's actually a baby wipes box. Once a week, M has to find something to put inside the tub to show the class. She writes clues on a piece of paper so the others can guess what's inside. I let her choose her own items to put in there, because she does a good job of it, generally, and she can write her own clues. As long as she's not trying to shove the dog in there, I leave it alone. Though, she does claim to be looking for a very small real dog that could fit inside that box. Hmmm.

On sharing tub day, though, Maya got off the bus with a somewhat dejected look on her face. She still had the sharing tub with her. Usually, the tub stays at school or goes with another student when she's done with it. Not this day. She wandered over and said, "Mrs. P says I have to clean out the sharing tub." What? What had my child done to the sharing tub? A quick peek inside told me nothing. The box was empty and appeared clean. I pulled the clue sheet from her backpack. The clues were as follows:
1. It is green.
2. It is dried out.
3. It starts with an F.
Ohhh, Maya. The dried out frog? For sharing tub? Really? Mrs. P had placed the frog inside a ziplock bag in M's backpack, so I found myself in all-too-close proximity of it again. *fullbodyshudder*

When my husband arrived home, I handed him a container of Clorox wipes and suggested that he be the one to help her clean the not-actually-dirty sharing tub. He asked why. And then he had the audacity to look proud. And he laughed. Heaven help me. There are two of him.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Camp Baby, Here I Come!

Yes, I have been avoiding this blog for some time now. Maybe I was trying out my new virtual mime lifestyle. Maybe I'm still sitting on my hands to avoid replying to one of those pesky, culturally insensitive mass emails that always show up when I'm in a mood to fire right back. Maybe I just don't have a damn thing to say!

OK, I always have something to say. Today I am merely saying that I am attending Johnson&Johnson's Camp Baby event with dozens of other women who are bloggers and mothers all at the same time. Multi-tasking! We moms do it so well. And no, this blog is not nearly important enough in the grand scheme of things to have earned me an invitation. It's my day job that secured my place on the invite list. I know, you're all shocked that my random blog, to which I post an average of once every three or four months, does not pay my household bills. Please try not to faint!

Based on the limited contacts I've had with a few of the other Camp Baby attendees, I think this may be a pretty cool little trip. Last time I went away for two or three days sans husband and child, I came back with a tattoo. Just sayin'.