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When You Gotta Go: Tottigo Pack ‘n Potty Review

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 2.52.09 PMI can be a bit of a germaphobe, and there’s almost no place I get more skeeved out than in public restrooms…especially with kids. There aren’t always seat covers available, and little hands inevitably reach down to grab the toilet for balance while their legs kick against the outside of a bowl covered in who-knows-what. It makes me want to shower my children in Purell, or, better yet, just never leave the house.

But staying inside for eternity is impractical and boring, so public restrooms are a necessary evil. That’s why I was thrilled to find a product to make kids’ bathroom trips a little easier and a lot less disgusting: the Tottigo Pack ‘n Potty.

The Pack ‘n Potty is a self-contained portable potty seat that comes in a specially designed waterproof and anti-microbial bag that allows you to put it on and take it off without ever having to make contact with anything that has also touched the toilet! There are also built-in handles for kids to hold onto, and the storage bag turns into a barrier to keep those little legs from knocking against the commode.

As if that weren’t enough, the Pack ‘n Potty also has a pocket (accessible while the potty seat is in use and from the outside of the bag when it’s not) for storing tissues, wipes, lip balm, extra clothes, reading materials, or whatever else you like to take into the bathroom.

IMG_1795The drawstring bag allows you to carry the seat like a backpack, which is really nice when you need your hands free for helping your kid (or going to the bathroom yourself). It could easily fit into most stroller baskets, and while it’s too big to fit in an average purse, I was able to store it in my Ju-Ju-Be BFF diaper bag, although it didn’t leave much room to spare in the main compartment.

When you want to clean it, the seat quickly snaps apart from the bag, which is washer- and dryer-safe.

I first saw a prototype of the Pack ‘n Potty at the ABC Expo in Las Vegas two years ago. I was so intrigued by it that I sought out the company’s booth at the show last year to see if the Pack ‘n Potty was in production yet, and sure enough, it was! I couldn’t wait to give it a try, and the Tottigo folks were nice enough to send us a sample.

My 5-year-old has been using the potty expertly for quite a while, but she’s small and often needs some help balancing on big-person toilets, so I figured the Pack ‘n Potty would be great for her. My 3-year-old is also showing an interest in using the potty, so this couldn’t have come at a better time.

We recently took the Pack ‘n Potty with us on a three-week roadtrip across the country. Thankfully most of the restrooms we encountered looked pretty clean, but there were a few sketchy ones, too. At first I worried the Pack ‘n Potty would have a steep learning curve or that I’d fumble it somehow, but it was actually quite easy to use right from the start, and only took a couple seconds to set up. Here’s a video showing how simple it is to use:

Besides public restrooms, it was also nice having a compact potty seat we could use at the houses and hotels where we were staying during our trip. My daughter loved the handles and the cushiness of the seat. I loved that the seat felt secure, and that my daughter could use the bathroom without either of us touching anything gross.

We have another portable seat that we’ve used in the past, but it always felt like a hassle. It folds up, which is nice in terms of compactness, but my daughter was always afraid it would pinch her, and it never felt secure on the toilet. I’d also have to reach into a potentially germ-laden bag to pull it out. Ick.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 2.52.34 PMThe Pack ‘n Potty solved all those problems and more. I never thought I’d be truly excited about a bathroom-related item, but I am. I still don’t love public restrooms, but I dread them a lot less now. If only they made a grown-up version…

The Pack ‘n Potty is available through the company’s website and on Amazon for $39.99.

Thank you to Tottigo for providing a sample for this review.  No compensation was provided and all opinions are my own.

 

Star-Crossed Drivers

zodiacScorpios are independent introverts. Pisces are creative daydreamers. Libras are horrible drivers.

Wait, what?

A Canadian insurance company wanted to see if there was any correlation between astrological signs and driving records. Although the study started off as a joke, apparently some trends became clear. Libras, Scorpios, and Capricorns get into more crashes than the other signs. Pisces, Aries, and Aquarians get the most tickets.

On the flip side, the safest signs for drivers are Gemini, Cancer, and Leo (fewest crashes), and Virgo, Sagittarius, and those already-safe Gemini (fewest tickets).

So should Geminis get a break on their auto insurance premiums? Should Libras pay more? Probably not. Again, the study was undertaken for fun, and it looks like the actual difference in statistics was fairly low. (15.8% of crashes attributed to Libras vs. 9% for Leo.)

Still, it can make for a fun discussion. I’m a Sagittarius, which ranked in the middle in terms of collisions and 11th (meaning second-best) in tickets. Is it just coincidence that I’ve only gotten one ticket in more than 20 years of driving? I’ll let you decide…

How do you rank?

Crashes (Worst to Best)

  1. Libra   (most crashes)
  2. Scorpio
  3. Capricorn
  4. Aries
  5. Aquarius
  6. Sagittarius
  7. Pisces
  8. Taurus
  9. Virgo
  10. Gemini
  11. Cancer
  12. Leo   (fewest crashes)

Tickets (Worst to Best)

  1. Pisces   (most tickets)
  2. Aries
  3. Aquarius
  4. Capricorn
  5. Libra
  6. Taurus
  7. Scorpio
  8. Leo
  9. Cancer
  10. Virgo
  11. Sagittarius
  12. Gemini   (fewest tickets)

Review: Big Fun! The 2015 Chevy Suburban: Kids, Carseats & Safety

suburban stockUsually I jump at the chance to do car reviews. I hesitated about the Suburban, though. For one thing, it’s so big. I’m already afraid of bumping into things with my minivan, and the Suburban is longer by almost two feet, not to mention generally more imposing. My real hesitation, though, was because of my husband. He wants a Suburban so badly, I worried that he’d fall in love with it and then sink into a depression once it was time to let it go.

But duty calls.

Our full review (including car seat compatibility!) follows, but if you want a quick video overview of some features, you can watch here:

Features

burb side viewThe 2015 Chevy Suburban is a behemoth—tons of room for passengers and cargo, tons of power for towing. But it has been redesigned to feel more like a luxury car, with a sleeker exterior and plush interior. It’s also available with an astounding array of safety features, plus lots of convenience features, too.

The model I had was a fully loaded LTZ 4-wheel drive version. Mine was a 7-passenger model, with captain’s chairs in the first and second rows, and a three-seat 60/40 bench in the third row. Depending on trim level, the Suburban is also available in an 8-passenger (two benches) and 9-passenger (bench in all three rows) version. We’ll discuss what that means for car seats later.

For comfort and convenience, the LTZ comes standard with leather seats, power-adjustable front seats with two programmable memory settings, heated and cooled front-row seats, heated second-row seats, power-adjust pedals and steering wheel, automatic folding second- and third-row seats, a heated steering wheel, push-button ignition, keyless entry, and remote start. That was enough to make me want to kiss my current vehicles good-bye.

Additional options include automatic retractable running boards, sunroof, navigation, two rear-entertainment screens, and adaptive cruise control.

But it’s the safety features that really win out. There are side-impact and head curtain airbags for all three rows, plus frontal airbags for the front seat AND an inboard seat-mounted airbag for the driver. That means that an airbag deploys in the center of the front seat to better protect in side-impacts. Other safety features standard on the LTZ model are:

  • Forward Collision Alert 
  • Lane Departure Warning 
  • Lane Change Alert
  • Backup camera with distance indicators and Parking Assist (Parking Assist is also available for the front of the car)
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert

Mine also included Adaptive Cruise Control (more on this shortly), which meant it also had the Active Emergency Braking System and Automatic Collision Preparation System, meaning that the vehicle could brake automatically if it senses an imminent collision, to either avoid a crash or reduce the impact.

The IIHS has not crash tested the suburban but the 2015 model received average results in NHTSA crash testing.  It earned a 4-star rating overall.  While it earned 5-stars in the Driver and rear seat Passenger Side Barrier Ratings, it earned 4 out of 5 stars in both frontal brarrier crash ratings and also the Side Pole crash test rating.  It received only a 3-star rollover rating.  These safety ratings fall shy of minivan competition from the Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona and Toyota Sienna.

Fuel economy isn’t going to be great on the Suburban. It averages 18 mpg (15 city, 22 highway), with the 2-wheel drive version getting one additional MPG.

Driving

So how was driving it?

How to Buy Non-Toxic Furniture

Old LabelBack in 2012, we wrote about the history of flame-retardant chemicals in furniture sold in the United States. It’s a long, sordid story, but the bottom line is that dousing cushions with pounds of chemicals is not only almost completely ineffective at preventing the spread of fire, the chemicals have been linked to adverse and serious health effects, including cancer, developmental deficits, and infertility.

For decades, consumer advocates had tried to get these dangerous chemicals removed from household products, with little success. Over the years, some of the “worst” chemicals were phased out, only to be replaced by other chemicals that were at best questionable, and at worst just as bad as their predecessors. The real problem was a California law (TB117) that required upholstered furniture to meet an open-flame test. Although this wasn’t a national standard, furniture companies implemented it across the board. Strong lobbying by the tobacco and chemical industries repeatedly blocked any real change from happening.

Then the Chicago Tribune ran a series of investigative pieces on the issue, and lawmakers started listening.

2016 Chicago Auto Show: What’s New

Darren and I just got back from a fun-filled day at the Chicago Auto Show. Top on our list of things to see was the redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot, which you can read about here.

There were a lot of other vehicles to examine, though.

sedonaRedesigned Kia Sedona: This is the vehicle I was most impressed with. Darren will have a review of the 7-passenger Sedona shortly, but neither of us had seen the 8-passenger model, and there was a lot to drool over.

The styling is sleek, and the interior (at least on the higher trim models we saw) was gorgeous, with two-toned leather. It looked and felt luxurious.

The middle seat in the second row appeared to be a decent width, although the contoured bolsters of the two outboard seats mean that it doesn’t provide for a typical flat “bench,” which could potentially cause issues when installing a child restraint that doesn’t fit within the footprint of that center position.

The 8-passenger Sedona has three LATCH positions (both captains chairs, plus the third-row passenger) plus a fourth tether anchor in the center of the third row.

The absolute coolest thing about the 8-passenger Sedona, though, was the effortless system for accessing the third row. Simply turn a lever, and the seat practically moves itself out of the way. Another turn and the seat moves back into position. It is by far the easiest method I’ve ever encountered. Watch how easy!

Chevy Volt

This popular plug-in Hybrid gets a big redesign for 2016. For starters, they removed a couple hundred pounds of weight to make the car lighter, and they increased both the electrical range and the fuel milage. All good stuff.

They also added a fifth seating position to make the car more appealing to families!

Now, Chevy admits the rear center seating position has “no legroom,” and that’s not an exaggeration. The battery runs right through the center of the car, so there’s no way around that. A small boostered or forward-facing child might be okay sitting there, but a rear-facing seat is probably going to be the best option for that position.

Chevy Double-Cab Trucks

Chevrolet’s trucks come in Single Cab, Double Cab, or Crew Cab body styles. The Double Cabs are the ones with the very small, fold-down back seats. As many people know, those can be notoriously difficult to install car seats on due to the shallowness of that fold-down seat. Chevy has come up with a solution, though: a removable headrest that can be inserted into the seat bottom, parallel to the ground, to extend the depth and make it more car-seat friendly. They didn’t have any available for us to see, but we’re intrigued by the possibility.

Mazda5

People asked us to take a look at the Mazda5, mainly to see if it still existed, as there were rumors it was being discontinued. It was there, so fans don’t need to fret. The 5 took some hits recently when it performed abysmally in the small overlap frontal crash test. The model at the show didn’t have crash test data listed, leading us to believe that something has changed. That could be good news for people who had been considering the 5 but were scared off by the previous crash-test results.Mazda5 sticker

Honda HR-V

HRVA few people asked us to take a look at this new crossover from Honda. We weren’t able to get too close to it since it was on a turntable, but it looked nice from what we could see—sort of a CR-V/Accord mashup.

 

 

VW Sportwagen

sportwagenThis is another one people asked us to look at. This 5-seater hatchback had a generous amount of cargo room, although the back seat (at least in the leather version we saw) had funky seatsportwagencargo bights with LATCH anchors located well above the bottom seat cushion.

 

Hyundai Santa Cruz

This is Hyundai’s foray into the truck-crossover market, a market that typically has not had much success. We couldn’t get a good look at the interior as the truck(ish) was up high on a turntable, but it does appear to have half-doors that presumably lead to some sort of back seat. All in all, it wasn’t the most attractive vehicle we saw all day. It reminded Darren of a Subaru Brat.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Subaru Brat

 

Random Fun Stuff

Toyota had a Sienna all decked out for the SpongeBob movie. The bright yellow van included a ship-like steering wheel, seats colored like SpongeBob characters, a bubble wand on the roof, and a flatscreen TV in the cargo area. Sorry, you can’t purchase it.

SpongeBobSienna

And in case you didn’t see it on our Facebook page, Darren and I got to dance with some Kia hamsters: