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Just the Universe “Doing Its Thing”

On FridayPassenger Pick-Up Terminal 5 night I flew home from the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas and my flight arrived at JFK at around 9:30 PM. After I picked up my luggage and called for my shuttle service I went outside to wait for the shuttle van. They told me it would be there in 5-10 minutes but 15 or more minutes went by with no Red Dot Airport Shuttle in sight.

After a while a mother and her young child appeared and stood next to me waiting for their ride. No carseat in sight. I was disappointed but not surprised. Soon a car pulled up and as they waved, I spied with my little eye a FF Britax Blvd (original generation) in the backseat. I was silently impressed – not because it was a Britax but just because there was an appropriate CR for the child to ride in. The driver and passenger of the vehicle got out to greet mom and child. I suspected that they were the child’s grandparents, which was later confirmed. As grandpa loaded the luggage into the trunk, I watched mom open the back door to the car (driver’s side) and grab the carseat as if checking the installation. I groaned to myself as I watched the seat move all over the place when she did this. I wondered if she was going to leave it that way. She shut the door and came back to the curb. Then she opened the passenger’s side door and climbed into the backseat. She’s going to fix the carseat installation! I silently rejoiced. But then I recognized that look of complete bewilderment on her face. Oh, no! She doesn’t know what to do! At that point I knew I had to offer to help.

“Do you need some help?”, I asked, sticking my head into the car. “Installing carseats is what I do for a living”, I half-joke in my most friendly tone. The look of relief on her face was priceless and I knew in an instant that she wasn’t going to yell at me or tell me to mind my own damn business. I knew I could help her and I knew I could get that seat installed quickly but I also had one eye on the road looking out for my shuttle which was already past due. At this point I start praying that it doesn’t come right this second. I don’t need a lot of time but I also know the shuttle won’t wait for me to finish helping someone with a carseat installation.

At this point all typical installation education goes out the window because I gotta get this done FAST. The seat isn’t attached to the vehicle at all – except by the tether. I’m thinking Thank God it’s a Britax convertible as I get it installed rock-solid with the seatbelt in 20 seconds. I would have used LATCH but the lower anchor connectors were still stored inside the cubby holes under the cover and I didn’t have time to mess with taking them out. I’m also thinking “don’t obsess about perfection – just make this child safER than what she would have been for the ride home if I hadn’t been here”. The entire time I’m looking up every 10 seconds, watching the road, hoping for another minute. So far, so good, still no Red Dot shuttle. Okay, seat is installed tightly and tethered – let’s get this kid strapped in! But wait – ugh, the harness is waaaay too low. I gotta crank it up higher. But it’s an original model Blvd and I’m turning and turning and turning that stupid little knob and it feels like it’s taking forever and hardly moving. I start using both hands to turn both knobs simultaneously. Finally, I get the headwings extended slightly above the main shell and I’m hoping that that’s tall enough for my new friend, Grace. We plop her in – it’s perfect! Mom and I buckle her up nice and snug and I give her a high-five. I tell her that she was awesome, because well…. she was! It was late and they flew all the way from CA and most kids that age would have been cranky and miserable by that point but Grace was perfectly cooperative and full of interesting questions. She was totally adorable and I was so glad that I was able to help her and her family.

Mom and grandparents were so happy and appreciative. Grandma said I had “restored her faith in humanity”. I thought that was super sweet. Honestly, I was just as happy and appreciative that they had taken me up on my offer to help. I learned a long time ago that I can’t save the world, but I still want to.

I gave them my last business card and hopefully they’ll contact me because I know there are other things that need to be checked and explained. I wasn’t able to give the seat a thorough once-over and they didn’t get much education but hopefully I’ll see them again since the grandparents live relatively close to me.

After they drove off, I called my shuttle service back to say “hey, where the heck are you?”  The dispatcher says “the driver told me he got you”. Ummm…. no. Obviously I wasn’t pissed about it and they sent another van to get me within 10 minutes but it made me think that my shuttle was MIA for a reason. Things like this happen to me often enough and I’ve learned not to question them. I figure it’s just the universe “doing its thing”. For whatever reason, I was meant to cross paths with Grace and her lovely family at the passenger pickup area of JFK’s Terminal 5. I’m not sure why but I was happy to oblige.

Halfway Across America

“I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the east of my youth and the west of my future.” –Jack Kerouac, On the Road

illinoisA very long time ago, I was a 17-year-old in Ohio, about to graduate high school and set off on a long drive across the country to get to my college in California. Because I’m a little strange, the part of the trip I looked forward to the most was going to Iowa. Although I had never been there, I had developed a bit of an obsession with it. Something about corn and baseball.

When I mentioned that to one of my teachers, he quoted the above line to me. Sal, the main character, thinks that to himself when he wakes up in a hotel in Des Moines. The line held a lot of meaning for me. After all, I, too, was leaving behind the east of my youth and moving on to the west of my future.

At the time, I didn’t think my western future would last long. I imagined that I would enjoy four years of college in California and then head back to the Midwest.

I wound up staying in California, though. I graduated, got a job, then another job, then another. I met a guy, had a baby, then another baby, then another.

During that time, we made many plans to leave California. We considered Iowa, Arizona, Colorado, and even a multi-year RV excursion around the country. Ultimately, none of those panned out, and we stayed put on the West Coast. For a while I wondered if we would ever really leave California.

But eight months ago, we finally did leave and wound up in Illinois (not the part that’s close to Iowa, though). The West became my past, and the Midwest became my present, and future, yet again.

After a half-year in Illinois, I have reached a few conclusions:

1)    Suburbia is suburbia. Yeah, there are differences, but as long as there are a couple Targets and Starbucks around, it’s not that hard to adapt to a place.

2)    People are really nice here. Maybe it’s a bit of a stereotype, but Southern California is cold and impersonal. Not to say there aren’t great people out there and absolute jerks here, but we are shocked almost every day by how darn nice people are.

3)    People don’t wear motorcycle helmets. California has a motorcycle helmet law. Illinois doesn’t. Even so, I ASSumed that people would wear them because brains are important things to protect. Yet at least 80% of the motorcycles I see have drivers and passengers with no helmets. The other day, my cousin even saw a helmet-less kid on one. Not cool.

siren4)    There are lots of tall things sticking up out of the ground. In a somewhat related thread I started at car-seat.org while we were in the process of moving here, I learned that I have something called megalophobia, which is a fear of large objects. Mostly my fear is of unexpected, lurking-type large objects, so things like water towers (of which there are a LOT out here) aren’t too bad unless I’m right next to them. But sometimes I’ll be driving along, minding my own business, and suddenly a tornado siren will come at me out of nowhere and I lose it a little bit inside. (You may have me committed now.)

5)    Parking spaces are large enough to actually park in. This is especially important if you’re not very good at parking. (See my review of the Nissan Pathfinder for more info.)

6)    I can find pierogies–a large variety, even–in every grocery store, though Persian food is hard to come by.

7)    Left turns. OMG. In Southern California, left turns are almost always controlled by a dedicated traffic light, meaning you never have to think about them. You sit happily in your lane until you get a green arrow, then you go. Here, you’re on your own. You know, edging out into the intersection, trying to time things right, sometimes going across four lanes of traffic. Ack! I’m getting used to it, although I have been known to go out of my way to avoid the really scary ones.

8)    People return shopping carts to the cart corrals. I can’t tell you how many times I’d turn into a parking space in Orange County, only to find at least one cart blocking the space. I haven’t had that problem here once.

So, on one hand you have tornado sirens and non-controlled left turns. On the other, you have pierogies and nice people who return shopping carts. I’d say the good outweighs the bad.

Clunk Click Nessie: Review Coming Soon?

clunkclicknessieWhen one thinks of finding souvenirs to buy in Scotland, things like clan tartans, wool sweaters, cashmere scarves, single malt scotch and such come to mind offhand.  Of course, I’m not the usual tourist.  So, Nessie the seatbelt pet immediately caught my eye.  No, not for a child.  For me!  Would that be considered misuse?

Below, driving on the left side of the road, heading into a roundabout with my fashionable highland hairy coo seatbelt pet for extra crash safety.  And some luck.


Consumer Reports vs. CarseatBlog: How Do We Compare

CarseatBlog recently released an update to our Recommended Carseats List. As we were working on it, we thought we should take a image removedlook at Consumer Reports and see how our results compared to their results, and we were curious. After all, many parents know and trust Consumer Reports for their ratings system and reports on vehicles and appliances, so why shouldn’t they trust them for rating carseats too?

Consumer Reports has an arguably disagreeable history in carseat reporting for many years, going back as far as 1999 when they recommended a T-shield carseat and an overhead shield carseat as top-rated models. Back in the day, the internet was just starting out and we didn’t have resources such as Car-Seat.org or CarseatBlog.com to help us along with our purchases. We had print magazines that were often out-of-date by the time they went to press or nothing at all to guide us through all the baby gear purchases we have to make when we have babies. Consumer Reports was at the forefront because of their ratings system and because, frankly, there was nothing else.

But a good consumer always looks for multiple resources when making major purchases, especially when they involve safety for children. In looking through the Consumer Reports online ratings and recommendations, which have also been published in certain monthly issues, I’m left wondering what the circle ratings mean. CR explains each category of their rating system, yet never fully explains what criteria go into the circles or what scale they use for that criteria. For example, what’s the difference between an open image removedcircle and a half red circle? Is it 3 points? One point? What does that one point stand for—a label? The wording on a label? How a rear-facing carseat fits without a noodle? What if the reviewer is having a bad day that day? That could very well affect the score. Is the reviewer a child passenger safety technician? How much experience does that tech have? Does that tech have any real-life experience as a parent or in working at checkup events? These are important questions when it comes to evaluating carseats and will change the outcome of the review.

For example, we do know they have at least one child passenger safety technician with expertise on staff: we’ve all met her and she’s very nice. :) We tend to run in the same circles, after all. We were also told their methodology changed after their ill-fated side impact testing and retraction of the corresponding test results in early 2007. In particular, since we have absolutely no idea how they determine their “Crash Protection” score or how these scores might correlate with real world risk of injury, we advise parents not to limit their choices to products with only the highest rating.

As we know at CarseatBlog.com, it takes more than one person to pull together a list of Extended headwings with thick EPP foamrecommended carseats. What is our process as we update our Recommended Carseats list? We start with our current list—it’s less work that way! Hey, it’s a smart way to work ;). We also look at our reviews and decide which carseats we’ve reviewed that we like and think should be added or removed from the list. We look for safety features, such as EPS/EPP foam, Safe Cell Technology, REACT, anti-rebound bar/rear-facing tether, deep headwings, and so on, then look for ease-of-use features, such as smooth harness adjusters and easy installation. We also discuss price and value, knowing that value doesn’t always True Fit I-Alert with anti-rebound barequal price. We’re parents, so between the 3 of us, we’ve owned and used *a lot* of carseats and we know what we’d use with our kids and what would drive us crazy to have to use on a daily basis.