Reviews Archive

Whatcha Got in There? A Review of the Bebe Au Lait Premium Muslin Car Seat Cover

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If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for muslin blankets. We have several that migrate around the house and Declan has a designated one he sleeps with every night. They’re just so perfect-lightweight, breathable, snuggly, and they get softer and fluffier with every wash. So obviously I was pretty stoked when I was asked to review the new breathable muslin car seat cover by Bebe Au Lait.

a perfect fit on a Graco Classic Connect!

a perfect fit on a Graco Classic Connect!

When you hear car seat cover you most often think of the actual fabric padding on a car seat. This is not a seat pad. It is a cover that drapes over the top of your car seat and attaches to the handle and protects your baby from unwanted hands and the elements. It does not interfere in any way with the proper use of the car seat.

It’s very easy to use. You simply pop the elastic around the outside of the car seat (like a shower cap) and attach the straps on the top to the car seat handle to create a cozy little baby tent. It has a zippered opening in the front for easy access to your baby and it also has this nifty little pocket on the back for any lightweight items you want to store there.

It has a snap closure too!

It has a snap closure too!

Have a puker? Rubbed it along your car that hasn’t been washed in who knows how long? No problem-o, this cover is machine washable. Just toss it in and put it back on your car seat good as new. I’ve seen/used several different kinds of car seat covers but this is my favoite hands down. Mostly I’m in love with the adorable little owl/mushroom pattern but I also love how breathable the material is. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that air circulation is pretty important for babies so the fact that muslin is such an airy fabric is big points in my book. Also it’s silent! No scratchy slippery material to rub up on something and wake the baby. It’s enough to block direct sunlight but not so much that your kid is banished to the baby cave.

Bottom line? It’s a perfectly simple product to use that incorporates comfort and innovation to give your little one a squishy, breathable barrier to the outside world.

The Bebe Au Lait Premium Muslin car seat cover retails for about $35 and comes in 8 different prints/patterns to suit just about any taste.  For more information head to Bebe Au Lait’s official webpage.

Thank you Bebe Au Lait for providing this cover for a review! No monetary compensation was provided for this review and the opinions written are entirely my own.

Driver’s Edge: The One Driver’s Ed Class Your Teen Should Take

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Drivers Edge signEvery time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that I am indeed old enough to have a kid who is driving age. I still feel young and spritely—as long as I get my nap every afternoon after lunch—and it gives me the energy I need to ride shotgun as my son gets behind the wheel every day after school for the long drive home.

Our state did away with driver’s ed in high school long ago—theoretically to save money (note how well our drivers are doing: we’ve set a new record last year for pedestrian deaths, vehicle crashes and resulting deaths are at a crazy high, red light runners rule the intersections, and if you stop at a red light or stop sign before turning right, you are very likely to get hit or honked at). Instead of learning on simulators in classrooms and learning common sense rules and the laws of the road, new drivers literally get tossed behind the wheel of a multi-ton steel box and you’d better hope, folks, that the person teaching them is a decent driver.DrivingSimulator

In-sanity. There are driving schools, of course, and a student driver must either attend a school or take an online class provided through the DMV, plus log 50 hours behind the wheel. Many choose to take the online class because it’s easy. That’s one reason why we have so many red light runners, non-existent turn signal users, and drivers who can’t think past the hood of their vehicle. Enter Driver’s Edge.

Driver’s Edge is a non-profit 4-hour program that gives drivers ages 21 and younger hands-on experience in panic driving situations. I first heard about this program at a Lifesavers Conference many years ago when I saw their booth. I knew when my kids started driving, I’d have them go through the program. Here we are.

Before we even went outside, Jeff Payne, the founder and CEO of Driver’s Edge, talked to us about statistics and the importance of driver’s training. We’re in the safety business around here and we know kids don’t graduate to safe status once they are out of boosters. On the contrary, that’s usually when they are at their most vulnerable: they start making their own decisions about safety and due to brain and emotional immaturity, those decisions sometimes aren’t the best. Jeff outlined some examples:

  • Inexperience: teen drivers simply don’t have the driving experience adults have
  • Drinking and driving: still a leading cause of crashes and kids are still riding with drivers who have had alcohol
  • Texting and driving: less of a problem than it’s been in the past, but it’s still there
  • Seat belts: not buckling up

Driving simulators and political correctness don’t exist at Driver’s Edge. These guys realize that lives are on the line and they cut past the BS; I appreciated the bluntness. Classes are conducted in real vehicles by real race car drivers and there’s an indoor session with local highway patrol and police. Car crashes are the number 1 killer of people under age 21 and DE wants to combat that by teaching life-saving skills. When in the vehicles, young drivers practice evasive lane change maneuvers, ABS and non-ABS braking exercises, panic braking, and skid control. Some parents are still teaching their kids old school techniques of pumping the brakes to stop, so these classes combat that bad advice and while the kids wait for their turn, they also learn what to do if they’re pulled over by the police, basic car care, how to optimally adjust their seats and mirrors, and other things older drivers take for granted.

Driver’s Edge offers events around the country, but mostly in the Las Vegas and Reno areas, the Bay Area, CA, Detroit, Atlanta, and Washington, DC, were on their 2014-2015 schedule. Registration was easy, but tends to fill up quickly since it’s a free event (donations are always accepted since it’s a nonprofit organization). Parents are invited and encouraged to attend to watch their child drive and listen to the experts give advice during the activities. Because Driver’s Edge is only a 4-hour program and doesn’t replace a good driving school, DE recommends these schools specifically if they’re available in your area. If not, do some research and find the best school for your new driver; it could save their life and the lives of those around them.

  • Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving (Chandler, AZ)
  • Mid-Ohio School (Lexington, OH)
  • Simraceway Performance Driving Center (Sonoma, CA)
  • Skip Barber Racing School (various locations)

Pre- and post-tests are given to assess both parents’ and kids’ knowledge and driving comfort levels and they say we’ll receive follow-up questionnaires after one and two years to see if the skills learned have needed to be used. God I hope not.

I know my son is better equipped as a driver now that he knows he can control the car in a panic situation. It doesn’t rain much here in Las Vegas, so I can hardly wait for the next time that it does so we can go out to an empty parking lot to practice our panic stops (unlike that first time in the parking lot where I practiced looking cool as I tried not to yell as he nearly ran over the curb). My son was hesitant to attend the class—probably due to teenage inertia more than anything—but he was so glad that he did afterwards. And I know he was glad to learn from bonafide experts rather than these “experts”: (language warning 😉 )

2016 BubbleBum Booster Review

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BB-BlackThe BubbleBum Inflatable Booster Seat has long been a favorite for travel, trips in friends’ cars, and fitting into tight spaces. One downside, though, was that the seatbelt guides could be hard to use. That changes now!

In late summer 2015, BubbleBums started hitting stores with new, easier-to-use belt guides. Not abubblebum new belt guide whole lot has changed from the original version (you can read our first review here), but let’s take a new look at this new version.

Features/Specifications

  • Child weight range: 40-100 lbs.
  • Child height range: 40-57 inches
  • Seating depth: 12 inches
  • Seating width: 12 inches
  • Requires lap/shoulder belt and head support up to child’s eyes
  • Inflatable, comes with carrying bag

When the BubbleBum first came out, people were understandably concerned about new bubblebuman inflatable booster seat. I (and likely many other people) envisioned something like a blow-up pool toy and wondered how that could be safe. There was no need to worry, though. The BubbleBum is constructed of heavy-duty plastic and foam, much like a life jacket. It won’t deflate easily on its own: You need to really squeeze and roll it, otherwise it keeps re-inflating itself to an extent. It has also passed crash-testing in its deflated state, just to ensure it will still work even if something happens to it.

Installation/Fit-to-Vehicle

The nice thing about the BubbleBum is that fits pretty much anywhere, including in places where larger boosters don’t fit. Have a short or narrow middle seat and a kid who needs a booster? The BubbleBum is likely to fit. It’s also a good choice for fitting 3-across because it’s so narrow.

Fit to Child

The BubbleBum is rated as an IIHS “Best Bet” booster for fit-to-child. Despite being small, the BubbleBum tends to do well with a wide variety of kids. It usually provides a good belt fit on smaller booster riders as well as older, bigger kids who still need a bit of a boost. Keep in mind, though, that belt fit depends a lot on the individual child and individual vehicle. Also remember that smaller, younger booster riders might do better with a high-back booster, which provides some more support.

Here is my small 6-year-old (just over 40-lbs, 46″, size 5/6 clothes)

Bubblebum anna bubblebum lap Bubblebum fit

And here is a friend, 61 lbs, 51″, wearing 7/8 clothing:

BubbleBum J

The BubbleBum comes with a shoulder-belt guide to help position the shoulder belt if necessary. The shoulder-belt guide easily loops onto the bottom of the seat and can be positioned on either side of the child.

Since there’s no hard plastic support, sitting on the BubbleBum is like, well, sitting on a cushion of air. Because the seat is small, though, it might not provide enough leg support for tall or leggy kids, and might not be wide enough for wider kids. Even so, it might do in a pinch.

Because the seat is so small and light, it can sometimes feel “tippy,” especially for smaller kids. Once kids get used to it, though, they’re generally able to shift their weight to help keep the seat stable.

Ease of Use

The only “complicated” thing about the previous version of the BubbleBum was the lap-belt guides, which were cumbersome and could be difficult for kids to use. The new guides have a much more open design and make it much easier to slide the belt in, while still holding the belt securely.

BubbleBum new guide

Here is a comparison, with the old-style guide on the left, and the new on the right.

bubble bum new vs old

Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Carseat Review – Cute, Compact & Budget-Friendly

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Scenera NEXT Lime Punch GreenWhat’s not to love about the Scenera NEXT? The cute little carseat with over a dozen covers from which to choose that’s lighter than some rear-facing only infant seats, has a mandatory rear-facing to age 2 limit, and is one of the most inexpensive carseats on the market as well at about $45. It’s almost too good to be true, but that’s what Cosco set out to make and they accomplished it and more.  It’s also our budget convertible carseat entry for our Recommended Carseats list.

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs. AND top of child’s head is even with, or below, top of seat shell
  • Forward-facing: 22-40 lbs. AND child must be at least 2 years old

Scenera NEXT Overview:

  • 5 harness slot positions
  • 3 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • One of the narrowest carseats on the market
  • FAA approved for use on aircraft
  • 8 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • Made in the USA

Scenera NEXT Measurements

Harness slot heights: 5.5”, 7.5”, 9.5”, 11.5”, 13.5”
External widest point: 17 ¼ ”
Shell height: 24”
Crotch strap depth: 2.5”, 4”, 5.5”
Seat depth: 11”
Seat weight: 7 lbs.

Installation

Installation is a dream. The NEXT is designed to install very easily because it’s a seat that will be commonly popped in and out of vehicles. Use either the lower LATCH connectors or the seat belt—it doesn’t matter since they’re both easy. Just don’t use them at the same time! You’ll notice on the bottom of the rails of the seat there are round rubber plugs. These little additions do miraculous grippy things to the installation and make it so the NEXT doesn’t slide when installed.

Scenera NEXT forward-facing Scenera NEXT grippy things

For a newborn or young baby, make sure the NEXT is reclined to the proper angle as designated on the line on the side of the carseat between the rear-facing and forward-facing belt paths. When your child is older, he can be more upright and the manual even says that.

Scenera NEXT rear-facing

Forward-facing LATCH weight limit: 40 lbs., which is the maximum weight limit of the harness

Center LATCH installations with Non-Standard Spacing:

Cosco allows LATCH installation in the center seating position if the vehicle manufacturer allows it and the LATCH anchor bars are spaced at least 11” apart.

Inflatable Seat Belts

Cosco has determined that the Scenera NEXT cannot be installed with inflatable seat belts found in some Ford, Lincoln, and Mercedes vehicles, and in some airplane seat belts.

Fit to Child

The Scenera NEXT is designed to fit children from 5-40 lbs. and the fit on the lower end is fantastic. When it was originally released, it shipped with a short crotch strap, which was perfect for newborns, but for older kids, it really was too short. If you have an older model, you can easily get a free, longer crotch strap from Cosco. Just give them a call or email them to request it. Since August, 2015, the Scenera NEXT automatically ships with the new longer crotch strap so you don’t have to do anything but enjoy your cute seat. My new longer crotch strap is in the mail to me right now and as soon as I get it, I’ll update the review with comparison pics.

One thing I’d like to clarify is the height limit. My Scenera NEXT came with an instruction manual that specified use until the child reaches 40 lbs. or until the top of the child’s head reaches the top of the carseat. This is Dorel’s policy for their rear-facing convertibles. The Dorel infant seats require at least 1″ of shell above the child’s head but their convertible seats are outgrown by height when the top of the head is even with the top of the shell.

Sam in Scenera NEXT

Sam is 7 months old and 14 lbs.