Tuesday, July 7, 2015

All About Boosters!

In May, I completed one of my New Year's resolutions and crossed over from Child Passenger Safety Advocate to Child Passenger Safety Technician. I completed the course through Safe Kids Worldwide in hopes of being able to provide seat checks and education for other parents in my community. So far, I've only been able to participate in one seat check event but I am hopeful to do many more! Meanwhile, I thought I'd write about a topic that I see brought up frequently online- "How do I know if my child is ready to ride without a booster?"

Legally, there are many different answers to this question. State laws vary widely. Here in Ohio, our law says that children MUST use a seat until they are 8 years old or 57" tall. Unfortunately, laws do not always follow best practice of what will keep your child the safest in an accident. Seat belts are designed to fit fully grown adults, not children. The purpose of a booster seat is to make the adult seat belt fit the child's body and position the belt across the strongest bones. Here is my 6.75 year old in her Graco Affix in my 2006 VW Beetle. She is 47" tall and 46 lbs.

This booster seat gives her optimal belt fit. You can see that the belt is low and nearly flat on her thighs and the shoulder belt goes across the center of her shoulder. This booster seat is called a High Back Booster because it has a back with a shoulder belt guide. The Graco Affix can also be used in No Back Booster mode by removing the back.

She has the same great lap belt fit in this mode but the shoulder belt lies too far on the edge of her shoulder. With this belt fit, she is at a greater risk of "roll out" in a crash, where the top half of her body could rotate and roll over the belt, allowing her to bend too far forward. Another common problem with no back boosters is when children fall asleep in them and are unable to maintain an upright position. The high back can help keep kids upright and in position. 

There is a third option for booster seats. Combination seats start out with a harness and then, when they have been outgrown in harness mode, you take the harness out and use them as a booster. This is the Britax Frontier 85 in booster mode in our 2009 VW Jetta.

Combination seats can save you money in the long run because you can avoid buying a harnessed seat and then a dedicated booster later. They work just the same as a high back booster (some also become no back boosters as well). 

Now that you know what an ideal belt fit looks like, I'd like to show you what a bad belt fit looks like. 

This is Makayla, back in my Beetle with no booster seat. You can see how high the belt is on her abdomen. Children do not have the same bone density that adults do and their hips have not fully formed until puberty. When a belt is high on the abdomen like this, the belt will rip through the abdomen, crushing all of the organs against the spinal column. This can be fatal. You can also see that the belt is high up against her neck. This positioning makes it less likely that she will keep it in front of her body because it is irritating. Children tend to move irritating belts under their arm or behind their backs which can lead to a fatal injury known as seat belt syndrome when a body bisects in half in a crash because the upper body is not restrained. This is why lap only belts are not safe for anyone to ride in. 

To ride safely without a booster a child needs to pass the "5 Step Test":
  1. Lap belt fits low on the hips, not the abdomen
  2. Shoulder belt lays flat on the shoulder
  3. Butt all the way back and back flat against the seat back
  4. Knees bent at or beyond the edge of the seat, feet flat on the floor
  5. Child is mature enough to stay in position the entire trip, even when sleeping
Take a minute today and check your child's belt fit. If you have any questions please leave a comment or send me a message!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Winter Rants

It's winter and I have been reminded of all of my pet peeves about winter so I decided to write about it. You'll probably be offended by at least one of them but that's OK, no one is forcing you to read this.

Breaking NEWS! Winter is cold! Winter has snow! Further updates at 11! For reals, if you can't tolerate the cold where you live, move. If you can't move, wear more clothes. A coworker came to work this morning in ballet flats with no socks and was complaining that her feet were cold. It's -2F outside. Wear some goddamn appropriate footwear for fuck's sake. As a grown ass adult, you have the ability to dress yourself. If you fail to wear appropriate amounts of clothing shut your mouth. I don't want to hear it.

I do not want to hear about how "You're not worried about yourself, you're worried about everyone else". It's a stupid argument to begin with but then when you tell me how "you just ignore everyone else and drive 20 on the highway because SNOW! (dusting)" it becomes painfully apparent that it IS YOU. YOU are the bad driver. Learn to drive in snow. Go to an abandoned, unplowed parking lot and put yourself into a slide and learn how to get out of it. It is prudent to drive cautiously when there is inclement weather but if you don't feel safe going anywhere near the speed of the rest of traffic get off the fucking road.

Can we please get some kind of realistic guidelines for when school should be open and when it shouldn't? I really hate the "Well X school closed so we should close" mentality. What is true for one school system may not be at all true for others. For example, when one district closes because they have a high percentage of kids who walk to school and they don't think that it's safe for walkers it's not relevant to a school where all of the kids are dropped off by their parents. If the roads are unsafe for driving, close the school. If the extreme cold causes pipes to burst or the heater is broken then sure, close the school. Closing just because someone else closed is stupid and annoying.

I hate driving down the road and getting blasted by hunks of ice and snow because the asshole in front of me was too fucking lazy to brush the snow off their car. Scratching a hole in the ice on your windshield is not safe. Don't half-ass your life.

I'm sure there are more things I hate but this is what's hot on my mind right now. Mostly, just don't be an idiot.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So long 2014... don't let the door hit you on the way out!

This has been a tough year for my family, no two ways about it. 

We started out with the birth of Liam, which was fantastic and he is the best, sweetest, most adorable baby in the world. Even though he is a great baby, becoming a family of four and having a baby in our lives after almost 6 years was a huge adjustment for all of us. 

Before Liam was born I made everyone in the extended family update their TDaP vaccination. When Jeff got his, he had to get a physical which led down a rabbit hole of testing resulting in a surgery, two biopsies and a diagnosis of hemachromatosis. After he started treatment for that, his doctor noticed that he had many enlarged lymph nodes. Thankfully, the biopsies were benign granulomas and the diagnosis was sarcoidosis and not lymphoma. Even with health insurance, our medical bills this year have been astronomical. 

I haven't been as on top of things as I want to be. I haven't been able to do any of my crafts or write nearly as much as I would like. I started freezer cooking this year and that has enabled us to start eating a lot better. Jeff and I have each lost about 15 lbs in the past couple of months. We hope to make it to our goals this year. 

Makayla is trying our patience and testing our discipline at every opportunity. She's smart and a master at pushing every button on every person she knows (some might call that manipulation). We love her but lately, living with her is exceedingly frustrating. This is why when parents of younger kids say things like "It'll be so much easier when they can do XXX." I just think to myself, yeah I thought that too- but it's not ever any easier, the challenges are just different for every stage. 

Well anyway, here's to a new year and the new challenges that it will inevitably bring. I hope that ours are less this year!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Gender Equality

    This weekend Jeff was on the phone with his mom and she asked how my work was going. Jeff said something along the lines of "Oh, it's fine. She likes it just about as well as any job" and then went on to say "I mean, I'm sure if I got an awesome paying job tomorrow she'd quit and stay home with the kids, but she likes what she does, she just doesn't necessarily like her boss." All of which is true. I left my job when Makayla was 8 months old because Jeff was making amazing money while deployed in the middle east and we didn't need my salary. It was great for the most part. I didn't have to miss any of those moments that pass so quickly in child-rearing. But Jeff did. He was halfway around the world in a trailer in a war zone.

    When Makayla was three, Jeff came home for good. I went back to work and Jeff started school and essentially became a stay at home dad. When Liam was born 6 months ago Jeff realized how much he missed with Makayla and it made him sad. His conversation with his mom got me thinking. If I got a really amazing job that paid all the bills and made any salary of his superfluous wouldn't he quit his job and stay home too? So I asked him that and he said, yeah he probably would but he wouldn't quit school because we both think it sets a good example for the kids to achieve your goals, etc. Jeff and I take a 50/50 team approach to parenting and household responsibilities in general. We compliment each others strengths and weaknesses very well and we are always striving to make things easier for the other in any way we can.

    Last night, I asked Jeff to mail a small package for me that needed to be postmarked today and I couldn't mail because I had a dentist appointment right after work. When he went to the post office today, some ignorant man saw him with Liam and said "UH-OH! Good luck little buddy! Looks like it's Dad's day to babysit!" Which pissed Jeff off so he replied "No man, I'm just trying to not be a shit-bag father like your generation was full of". Ignorant Fuck didn't know what to say to that so he just turned away mumbling something about it being a new world so Jeff followed up with "Yeah, times sure have changed.  Right now my wife is at work and I am trying to mail something for her because she doesn't have the time." If it had been me, I wouldn't have had the balls to say what Jeff did. I would have just sat there stewing about it. It's offensive as fuck! He's their Dad! He's not a babysitter! I don't pay him 10 bucks an hour to watch the kids so he can save up to buy some new video games to play in his man cave while he ignores the family. You wouldn't ask the female mechanic who changes your oil if she's just pretending to be a mechanic today or just automatically assume that the male nurse is actually a doctor so don't ask men if they're babysitting their own children!

     I like to think that most parents want to set a good example for their kids. By pretending that men are not capable caregivers to their children, we tell our sons that when they grow up, they needn't try to be an equal partner and we tell our daughters that they needn't expect it. Stand up and fix it. We are all equals.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cleveland Rocks!

I grow weary of people denigrating their hometown as if it is some festering cesspool. This is not a phenomenon exclusive to my own hometown- it seems to me to be the popular thing to put down wherever it is you grew up. Let's all stop being such Debbie Downers! We see enough negativity in the daily media. I think it's time to let everyone know the all the great things about your hometown!

10 Reasons I Love Cleveland

  • We have beaches! Lake Erie is a great place to hang out, picnic, swim, boat, and fish!
  • America's greatest amusement park- Cedar Point is a mere hours drive away
  • We have four seasons- and they are all great for some reason
  • The Cleveland Orchestra- one of the ten best orchestras in the world- right here at my doorstep
  • The Metroparks- thousands of acres of parks- all beautiful and free to roam
  • Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals- if you need healthcare, we've got world class health care
  • Playhouse Square- the second largest theater district outside New York
  • We have great festivals- thousands to choose from every year, from Duck Tape to Irish to Oktoberfest and everything in between- there's always some festival going on
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art- it's free and has an impressive collection
  • Our food choices are awesome and vast
It's easy to think of things that you dislike about where you live but by constantly putting your town down, you are creating a self fulfilling prophecy- who want's to visit somewhere that all of the locals say sucks?! So now I challenge you. If you read this- think of just three things that you love about your hometown and share it with the world!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Screw Super Mom, I'd settle for Competent Mom

Before Liam was born, I felt like we had our shit mostly together. I worked, Jeff was in school and took care of Makayla during the day. The house was mostly clean, we did most of Makayla's school and extra curricular functions. I had time to keep up with my garden, the landscaping and do home improvement projects on a fairly regular basis. I got to work on my crafts in the evenings while I watched my shows. I was never perfect, but we managed pretty well.

It's been over two months since I went back to work after my maternity leave. I keep thinking that it's just THIS week that's so busy, next week will be better. That we just need time to get used to life with two kids. I mean how can it be SO different with two kids than with one? Liam is just about the best baby I could ask for. He's happy and healthy, sleeps for most of the night and takes good naps as well. He loves to play on his activity mat or jumper and doesn't usually demand constant attention. Makayla is spirited, demanding and challenging- but she's always been that way. She adores Liam to the point that it's irritating because she is constantly all over him. He doesn't seem to mind, but I mind when she wakes him up from napping because she needs to hug him or kiss him.

I keep doing things to save myself time. I started a 20 minute a day cleaning program so that I don't have to do it all on the weekend. I started freezer cooking all of our dinners to save time and money. And they do save me time, but I still have none. The more time I make, the more shit that I need to get done. I don't understand how I can't get the front of my house weeded and how the vegetable garden is choked with weeds. This summer has been incredibly stressful for us with all of Jeff's health issues. I don't think a week has gone by since Liam's birth that he hasn't had an appointment with at least one doctor. On top of the hemochromatosis and cirrhosis, they told us that he had lymphoma as well. Thankfully, this week the biopsy came back as a benign granuloma and NOT cancer. It seems like every other week they are giving me more news that has me preparing to be a widow with two small kids. Of course with all of these medical issues come medical bills. We were making it all right before but now we can't possibly keep up with everything. So of course hiring any help for anything is out of the question. I feel guilty asking my parents to watch the kids for things that we HAVE to do let alone just because I want to get away.

Makayla's school hasn't even started yet. I look at the calendar of all the extra fun activities and it makes me want to cry because it's just more stuff that I have to try to squeeze in to a schedule that is too full already.

Last night, when I was getting the kids ready for bed, Liam was fussier than usual because he's going through a growth spurt right now and he is always hungry. So I changed him and was getting ready to feed him and he just wouldn't latch on. For whatever reason he just kept taking my nipple in his mouth, sucking once and spitting it out. And I couldn't make him stop. And my milk wouldn't let down because he wouldn't nurse. So he sitting there wailing in to my boobs and I yelled at him to stop. I yelled at a 5 month old baby to stop crying. And of course he was scared and cried more and it escalated from there until Jeff came and took him and he instantly stopped crying. Which of course made me feel even worse. So Jeff calmed him down and tried to give him back to me but he took one look at me and started wailing again.


It took another 10 minutes to calm him down enough to convince him to eat, which he finally did and then fell asleep.

I don't even know why I'm writing all of this. I don't have any answers and I can't think of a logical way to end this so I'll just leave this here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WaterWipes USA- A Terrible Idea

UPDATE 8/14/14:

More than two years have passed since I originally wrote this. Apparently the company has become more prominent and still sells this awful product (and is now even MORE expensive). I went to their Facebook page this morning and saw multiple reports of moldy wipes.

Their Amazon reviews also show several reports of moldy wipes. Some people blame themselves for putting them in other containers and some people realize the truth- these wipes are NOT SAFE for babies! There is nothing to prevent this type of mold and bacterial growth. Steer clear!

Last night, I was harvesting my crops on FarmVille like always and I look to the right and there is this ad from WaterWipes USA. Basically their ad says 100% Chemical Free! As a chemist I was instantly annoyed.

The product is a baby wipe moistened with 99.9% water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract. This is the link to their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/WaterWipesUSA and their company website: http://www.dermah2o.com/ I was in a bit of a snarky mood so I went to their Facebook page and left a comment. "Dihydrogen Monoxide is still a chemical." These kind of claims always make me mad. EVERYTHING on this earth is made from chemicals. NOTHING is "chemical-free". Companies that make these claims are pandering to the ignorant and scientifically illiterate people who suffer from chemo-phobia.

Obviously I am a cosmetic/ personal care chemist, but I am also a mom. I had a natural, unmedicated birth but I would never even think of not having my child vaccinated. I breastfed but when I went back to work, Sarah gave her pumped milk in bottles made with BPA. I grow my own vegetables and can them myself too- but I use fertilizer and pesticides in my garden and on my fruit trees. Basically what I'm saying is this- look at the data, evaluate the source of the data and then determine whether you need to avoid chemical X or Y.

The biggest hype about this product is the worst of all- the fact that it is preservative free. The 0.1% GSE is SUPPOSED to be there as a preservative but as I have learned through research for work- GRAPEFRUIT SEED EXTRACT IS NOT A PRESERVATIVE!!! If you don't believe me look for yourself:

I'll summarize it here. There are no regulations for how GSE is manufactured. Most GSE has has been preserved by another preservative (i.e. parabens, benzethonium chloride, etc). When tested, the GSE samples in which no preservative can be detected show no anti microbial activity. In other words, if you leave a pack of these wipes open, and some mold spores float into the package, you will have created the perfect petri dish to grow that mold because there is NOTHING in here to prevent it. Since this product is for cleaning babies butts- a place where bacteria is plentiful- imagine if you were wiping up a big mess and some got on your fingers and you reached for another wipe. Now you have inoculated your package of wipes with fecal coloform bacteria- or E.Coli- where it will grow and multiply unchecked. Preservatives keep products from going rancid, and growing mold and bacteria. There is no data linking parabens to breast cancer or any other type of cancer. Check out the American Cancer Societies position on parabens: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/AtHome/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk basically, they say that there is really no connection between the two and that the study "linking" them was a poorly designed study.

If all of this isn't enough to convince you that this product is a terrible idea, the price for a pack of wipes is $4.99. $4.99 for a package of washcloths moistened with water. If you have a sensitive skinned baby, wet a washcloth in the sink and wipe your baby's butt with it. At least you can wash it out when you are done. There a lot of reasonable options for disposable baby wipes for babies with sensitive skin.
Pampers Sensitive Skin wipes do not have any alcohol, fragrance or dyes (the main contributors to skin sensitivity) but they are still well preserved.
Huggies Natural Care- fragrance free (all the same reasons as above)
BabyGanics Thick n Klean wipes a more expensive option but it does have an effective preservative, plus they claim a biodegradable status and have no parabens if you are still worried about that
Walgreens Comfort-Smooth Baby wipes with Aloe (unscented) almost the same product as BabyGanics except they make no claim about the biodegradability and they are half the price.

There are literally hundreds of valid options for gentle, disposable wipes that are also well preserved. I don't know about you but I would rather wipe my babys' butt with a well preserved wipe than mold. Hell, I would rather wipe her butt with just about anything besides these terrible wipes!