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Throwback Thursday: Baby-Sitters Club

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IMG_4782Ah, The Baby-Sitters Club. Some of our readers may be too young to remember the series, and some may be too old, but I have a feeling a good chunk of you read these books when you were little. I bet some of you even started your own babysitting club with your friends. I bet some of you wished you could be as stylish as Claudia or as free-spirited as Dawn. Admit it.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog post about the books, and ever since then I’ve been obsessing over Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne, and Dawn, the fictitious girls I hung out with in middle school.

I read my first Baby-Sitters Club book toward the end of fifth grade and was immediately hooked. The series was still relatively new back then, so I read all of the books that existed until that point, then stalked the bookstore waiting for new releases, begging my mom to buy them as soon as they hit the shelves.

I moved after that school year, which meant a new school in sixth grade. Because I had a lot of free time (for some reason I had two study halls) and no new friends, I read voraciously. That year my genre of choice was realistic fiction about abused children and kids with terminal diseases, but in between those depressing books, The Baby-Sitters Club was always there. 

I also went to new schools in both seventh and eighth grades, and the girls from the Baby-Sitters Club kept me company, at least on the page, while I struggled with my new environments. By that point I was kind of jealous of those girls at Stoneybrook Middle School, mainly because they didn’t keep getting uprooted.

At some point I outgrew The Baby-Sitters Club. I can’t quite say when, but judging from the release dates on Wikipedia, it must have been sometime toward the end of eighth grade. (I had no idea that new books continued to be published for another 10 years after I stopped reading.)

Anyway, because The Baby-Sitters Club had been on my mind so much, I inevitably wound up on eBay, where I purchased books 1-25 plus the first Super Special for about $30, which is way less than I paid for them back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I had planned on reading the Super Special and maybe one of the other books, then putting them away until my daughter was ready for them. But once I realized I could knock out a book in about an hour, I decided I might as well re-read all of them. So far I’ve only read books 1-6 plus the Super Special where they all go on a cruise to the Caribbean and then to Disney World…back when Disney World only had two parks and one of them was called EPCOT Center.

It’s funny to see how much has changed since I was in middle school. The biggest, of course, is the idea that so many people would hire 12-year-olds to babysit their children. I mean, yeah, they were really responsible and resourceful, but that just seems so young now. (I’m not really sure why, especially since I babysat when I was 12 and did a pretty good job, thanks largely to the tips I received from The Baby-Sitters Club books.)

That was also back in the day before cell phones, when you’d have to call the restaurant or the theater to get in touch with parents if something went wrong. That’s why Claudia got to be the vice-president of the club: She had her very own phone in her room!

It was also a time when you could buy snacks at the movie theater for a dollar. (Stacey was shocked to find that a soda and popcorn cost $1.25 in New York City—so much more than she paid in little Stoneybrook, Connecticut.)

Finally in Book 6 (Kristy’s Big Day), I encountered some Child-Passenger-Safety moments. One was mostly good: Some of Kristy’s relatives arrive, and she goes to the car to unfasten “about a million straps and buckles” to remove a 1-year-old from her car seat (probably not rear-facing, but still.) Another was not so good: Kristy’s grandma drives Kristy, Stacey, and three kids (ages 8, 9, and 10) downtown. The 9-year-old rides up front in the center, certainly in a lap-only belt, if anything at all. There’s no mention of booster seats for the others. But such was life back in 1987.

So, let’s talk about it. Did you have a babysitting notebook to keep track of jobs? Did you start stashing junk food all over your room like Claudia? Which characters did you like and dislike the most, and which were most like you? Do you still have your books? (And if so, can I have any beyond #25?)

Walk This Way

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Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 10.50.13 AMAs the name would imply, CarseatBlog’s main focus is on keeping kids safe in cars. But children’s safety extends beyond the interior of the vehicle. With school in full swing and with International Walk to School Day (October 7) just around the corner, this is a good time to review pedestrian safety tips.

According to statistics from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, that hospital saw more children injured by cars than in cars. Between January 2010 and December 2014, the hospital admitted 163 children for serious injuries sustained as occupants in cars. During the same time period, it saw 343 children admitted for serious injuries sustained as pedestrians (and another 62 as bicyclists).Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 10.17.19 AM

SafeKids recently launched a very cool interactive infographic, aptly named “How to Not Get Hit by a Car.” It’s designed to help children and teens improve their safety as pedestrians.

The main tips:

  • Put down the cell phone. Distracted walking can be as deadly as distracted driving, and 1 in 5 high schoolers crosses the street distracted.
  • Use crosswalks. More than 80% of child pedestrian deaths are from crossing somewhere other than a crosswalk.
  • Wear light-colored or reflective clothes when walking at night. Of teen pedestrian deaths, 75% occur between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Watch for careless drivers. Look left, right, left, and keep looking as you’re crossing. Don’t assume that drivers see you.
  • Walk on sidewalks. If sidewalks aren’t available, walk facing traffic, and as far over as possible.
  • Watch for cars backing out of driveways and parking spaces. Again, don’t assume the drivers see you.
  • If you’re crossing more than one lane of traffic, check each lane. Pause before stepping into another lane of traffic and make eye contact with each driver.

Some other tips:

  • Make sure children wear helmets any time they’re on a bike.
  • Teach children hand signals for bicycles, and make sure they recognize them even when they’re not the ones on the bikes: They need to know what bicyclists on the road are doing.
  • According to SafeKids, children under 10 should cross the street with an adult. Younger kids don’t have the ability to properly judge the speed and distance of approaching traffic.

 

To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn

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Oliver RF/FFSometimes it’s hard for Child Passenger Safety Technicians to take their own advice—-or at least it is for me.

If a dad came to me and asked if it’s okay to put his mature, normal-sized 6-year-old in a booster, I’d say sure. If a mom came to me and asked if her tall 10-year-old, who passed the 5-step-test, was really all right without a booster, I’d say it’s fine. If another mom asked about forward-facing a 4-year-old, I’d congratulate her on doing an awesome job and I’d tell her that I would do the same thing if it were my own child.

And yet when I’ve reached these same milestones with my own children, the choice hasn’t always been easy. In fact, I’ve struggled with all these scenarios in the past year. This spring, I hesitated to let my 5-stepping, nearly-5-foot-tall oldest child ride without a booster (though I did give in). A month later when my extremely-compliant 6-year-old started begging to ride in a booster, it took me weeks before I finally allowed her to use one in our secondary car.

Yet my reluctance in making those decisions comes nowhere near the internal struggle I’m facing as I decide what to do with my youngest child, Oliver, who’s about to turn 4. He still rides rear-facing in both of our vehicles and has never asked to go forward-facing. I don’t think he even realizes it’s an option.

I didn’t hesitate when it was time to turn my two older children forward-facing, but it’s different with this one.

See, not only is Oliver my baby, he’s my last baby. As my kids have all gotten older, I’ve been able to cling to “still” having him as my tiny little one: My other two outgrew the ring sling, but I still had Oliver to carry. The other two outgrew the octopus costume, but Oliver could still wear it. The other two didn’t want to read Moo, Baa, La La La anymore, but Oliver still loved it. My other two got too big to rock to sleep, but Oliver still fit in my arms.

The other two could forward-face, but Oliver still…

Well, he still fits rear-facing and will for a while, and yes, rear-facing is safer. But my resistance to turn him around isn’t about safety, it’s about me. I have absolutely no qualms about a 4-year-old forward-facing; I just have qualms about this particular 4-year-old forward-facing, because I’m afraid of letting go. The reality is that turning him around will mark the end of an era for me. Once he rides forward-facing I’ll never again have a rear-facing child. I’ll have to admit my baby is growing up, and I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.

Bumble Baby Booster: A Great Solution or a Dangerous One?

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A few days ago we became aware of a new booster seat called the Bumble Baby by a company called SilverFlye. I’ll admit I was intrigued. It looks a lot like one of our Recommended Carseats, the BubbleBum, only wider. In fact, SilverFlye touts the Bumble Baby as an “ULTRA WIDE PORTABLE BOOSTER SEAT,” measuring “17 inches wide,” making it “the widest AND ONLY portable car booster seat on the market that your child won’t slip or slide off during sudden stops or sharp turns!”

I’ll also admit I was skeptical. We’d never heard of this company before, and some of the claims made us wonder if this was a cheap, illegal solution like some other seats that periodically pop up on Amazon.

Clearly our only choice was to order one and do a quick Bumble Baby booster review.

There are a few positive aspects to this seat:

  • It came in a nice, compact package.
  • It has a belt guide.
  • It really is quite wide.
  • The box claims that it “[m]eets all US Federal Motor Vehicle safety standards.”

Unfortunately there were a lot of negatives, too.

For one, this seat does not appear to be compliant with FMVSS 213, the regulations companies need to follow when certifying car seats. It’s possible the seat has passed safety testing—I have no idea—but FMVSS 213 covers more than just testing.

FMVSS 213 requires things like labeling. That might sound like a bureaucratic technicality, but it’s not. Among other things, labels on the seat need to include contact information for the manufacturer so parents can call if they have questions or problems. Belt-positioning boosters like this one are required to include instructions that they must be used with a lap and shoulder belt. Belt-positioning boosters are also required to have a label stating that they’re certified for use in motor vehicles but not on airplanes.

The Bumble Baby is missing all these and more.

Seats are also required to have registration cards attached to them so parents can send in their information (or register online) to be notified of potential recalls. The Bumble Baby did not include a recall card or any other information on how to register the seat. (The box did include a website, but when I went to it there was just a message that the store “will be opening soon.”)

These requirements are all clearly spelled out in the text of FMVSS 213. Anyone at the company who read over the regulation to make sure the seat “met all safety standards” certainly would have seen the dozens of pages of text about everything they needed to do. I can’t help but wonder what other details they might have missed.

There are other areas of concern.

Bumble Baby manualFor one, the instruction “manual” consists of an oversized postcard with 10 sentences of instruction, mostly about how to inflate the seat. There is no information about when the seat expires or if it needs to be replaced after a crash or…anything else, really.  Once you’ve thrown away the box, there is no information on the postcard or on the product with any contact information for the company, nor is any company information listed on their Amazon store page.

Of even greater concern is how flimsy the seat feels. When the BubbleBum first came out, people were understandably disturbed by the idea of an inflatable seat. Inflatable things deflate and pop, qualities that don’t inspire confidence in a car seat. But once people got their hands on a BubbleBum, they soon realized that it wasn’t a glorified beach ball: It’s a heavy-duty item that practically inflates itself and is very hard to deflate. I can’t say the same for the Bumble Baby.

Inflated, the Bumble Baby felt very squishy, not firm like the BubbleBum.

bumblebaby3

Bumble Baby squishBubbleBum squish

Bumble Baby squish 2 BubbleBum squish 2

(In those BubbleBum photos, you can see one of the large compliance labels the Bumble Baby lacks.)

Here’s a video showing how easily the Bumble Baby deflates:

I also looked at belt fit.