Bumper Bullies

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People have been doing it since automobiles first appeared on roads.  We’ve all probably been guilty of tailgating the car in front of us from time to time.  I’ve certainly followed slow drivers too closely, though never unsafely close like many drivers I’ve seen (my wife may disagree…)  On at least one road near my house, it seems far more than isolated cases of being very late to an appointment.  It’s more like an epidemic of road-ragers and just plain inconsiderate and unsafe drivers.

The main route through our subdivision is a 4-lane city road.  Our stretch of this road is at least a few miles long of only residential areas, and so no large trucks are allowed.  The speed limit is 35 mph for miles in either direction and signs are posted frequently.  The problem is that this road goes from one end of town to the other, from the interstate highway to all the residences in the south end of town.  That apparently is the only excuse needed for drivers to be in a big hurry, all day, every day.

Where my street ends at this road is our school district’s new pre-K school that also serves children with disabilities.  That serves as no deterrent to speeders, lane weavers and bumper bullies.  I drive this road frequently, and if it is anywhere close to rush hour, there is someone so close to my rear bumper that I can’t see their headlights in my mirrors.   And it doesn’t seem to matter how fast I’m driving, someone is always on my bumper trying to bully me to drive faster.

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My response is to then drive EXACTLY 35 mph until my turn, but the bullies never take a hint about their unsafe driving.  For most, they simply look for an opportunity to be even less safe.  They swerve into the other lane to cut off another car, then speed past me until they get on the bumper of yet another vehicle and have to slow down again a few seconds later.  Or, they have to jam on the brakes at the next traffic signal behind another group of cars they will unsafely tailgate to repeat the cycle.

From expressway until the road ends, it’s about 7 miles long.  Considering all the stoplights and traffic, it’s unlikely the bullies can average 10 miles per hour faster than safe drivers, even if they do manage to go 50mph or faster for short stretches.  A savings of perhaps a few minutes in a best case scenario, but realistically only a minute or two.  Is it really worth it?  Not only being an idiot and contributing to their own stress and blood pressure levels, but endangering other drivers, their own passengers and pedestrians, too?

 

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Graco 4Ever Review: Is a 4-In-1 Carseat Your New BFF?

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Graco 4Ever All-in-1 Car Seat: A 2016 Editors’ Pick from Birth to Seatbelt

Like the Fountain of Youth or the Holy Grail, a true multi-function “forever” car seat has been eluding desperate searchers for years. Yes, there already are seats that rear-face, forward-face, and turn into a booster, but they are often lacking in at least one function, and when that happens, what’s the point?

So when Graco came out with the 4Ever All-in-1, which rear-faces, forward-faces, and turns into both a high-back and backless booster, it was easy to get excited but also easy to have reservations. Will it really do what it claims, and do it well?

Short answer: Yes!  The Graco 4Ever is now a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat and an Editors’ Pick.  (Updated May, 2016)

4Ever Specs and Features:

  • Rear-facing: 4-40 lbs.
  • Forward-facing (with harness): 20-65 lbs and 49″ or less
  • High-back booster: 30-100 lbs. and 38-57″
  • Backless booster: 40-120 lbs. and 40-57″
  • No-rethread harness with 10 position headrest
  • Adjustable base with 6 recline positions (3 for rear-facing, 3 for forward-facing)
  • Easy-to-read bubble level indicator
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • Energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • Premium push-on lower LATCH anchor connectors (LATCH limit: Child weight of 42 lbs.)
  • Dual integrated cup holders (simple assembly required)

Measurements:

  • Lowest harness height (with infant insert): 7″
  • naked 4everHighest harness height: 18″
  • Tallest booster height: 18.75″
  • Internal rear-facing height: 27.5″ (that’s one inch below the headrest adjustment lever of 28.5″)
  • Crotch buckle positions: 5″ and 7″
  • Seating depth: 12″
  • Internal seat width: 13″
  • Widest external seat width: 19.5″ (at cup holders)
  • Widest point on base: 15″
  • Narrowest point on base: 11.5″ (at very front and very back)

Installation/Fit to Vehicle:

In general, the 4EVER is an easy-to-install seat, which is always a good thing. It installed nicely in rear-facing and forward-facing modes in the vehicles I tried it in (2010 Honda Odyssey and 2014 Honda Civic) with the seatbelt and with LATCH. The belt paths are clearly labeled and color-coded both on the seat and in the manual (blue for rear-facing, orange for forward-facing, green for booster). The LATCH and tether straps are easy to loosen when you need to, but stay secure otherwise. My particular model has the premium push-on LATCH connectors, but the manual includes a drawing/description of the hook style, too, so it’s possible that other models will come with those.

For LATCH installations, it’s important to note that the lower anchors need to be discontinued once the child reaches 42 lbs., in accordance with the new LATCH regulations. For kids over 42 lbs., install the 4Ever with seatbelt and tether.

Unlike some of the other Graco convertibles (like the MySize/Size4Me/Headwise) that have separate LATCH straps for the rear-facing and forward-facing beltpaths, the 4EVER only has one, which means it needs to be manually switched between modes. The process isn’t as complicated as it is on some seats, but not as easy as on some others. It would have been nice to see the two separate LATCH straps on this model, too.

Here’s a video showing how to switch the LATCH straps from forward-facing to rear-facing modes, how to tighten the LATCH straps rear-facing, and how to put a rear-facing child into the seat:

Babies in Hot Cars: It Can Happen to You

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temperature - hotTemperatures are on the rise, and soon the reports of children left in hot cars will be on the rise, too. I have a lot to say about that, but first I want to share a couple stories.

Sometimes when we’re cleaning up after dinner, my husband will take out the trash. He’ll announce to me that he has removed the trash bag from the garbage can so that I’ll know not to throw anything in there until he has come back inside and replaced it with a new bag.

I’ll hear him and acknowledge him. And then, almost inevitably, I’ll go over to the empty garbage can and throw something in.

I’m not stupid and I’m not trying to be a jerk. It’s not that I didn’t hear him. It’s that when I have something to throw away, my instinct is to do what I always do: Throw it away.

Then there was this one time in college when my friend and I were planning a drive to Arizona for spring break. I had been looking forward to it for months, and it was an easy drive I’d made before: Get onto I-10 (just down the street from my school) and head east for about six hours.

So when the morning of our trip arrived, my friend and I packed up my car and we headed out. Ten minutes later, my friend said, “Um…aren’t we going the wrong way?” Indeed we were. Instead of heading east to Phoenix, we were headed west toward Los Angeles. Why? Because that’s the route I took to drive home every week or two. It’s what I was used to, so it’s what I did without thinking about it, even though I knew to head east to Arizona.

What do trash cans and roadtrip detours have to do with heatstroke? A heck of a lot.

There are caregivers who intentionally leave their children in a hot car, usually because they don’t realize the danger. Sometimes these parents are downright negligent, like when they leave a child to go gambling. That happens in less than 20% of cases, though. Usually when we hear about children dying in hot cars, it’s a tragic instance of the parent forgetting the child was there. Most often that happens when there’s a change in routine.

It’s very easy for people to claim they would never be those parents. They love their children too much to forget them. They are too smart to let something like that happen.

If you think it can’t happen to you, you’re wrong. It can happen to anyone, including very intelligent, diligent, loving, caring parents who are just as human as the rest of us. They don’t forget their children because they don’t love them or don’t care. They forget their children because humans are wired to follow routines. We’re creatures of habit, and habits are hard to break.

When I throw some food scraps into a liner-less trash can or head the wrong way on the freeway, it’s because that’s what I’m used to doing, despite “knowing” I’m supposed to do something different.

It’s the same with the parent whose morning routine usually involves driving straight to the office. That’s what they do and what they’ve done, maybe every weekday for months or years. Then one morning, something changes. Maybe the parent who usually takes the baby to daycare is sick, so the other parent needs to drop him off. The parent knows this, of course. He or she packs up the diaper bag and straps the baby into the car seat. Maybe he or she talks or sings to the baby as the drive starts. But then the baby falls asleep and the parent focuses on driving. And then the routine takes over. The parent goes on autopilot—like we all do, more often than we realize—and he or she instinctively makes the right toward the office instead of the left toward the daycare. And then tragedy strikes.

You can say it’ll never happen to you, but the truth is that it can happen to anyone. I guarantee that every person reading this has had one of “those” moments, where they fully intend to do one thing but then do another out of habit. Usually those moments are nothing more than a slight inconvenience; usually they don’t have dire consequences.

Heat stroke deaths chart - 5.2016

If you’re still feeling smug about being a superior parent, read this piece from the Washington Post, and try to do it without crying.

Over the past few years, as the media has paid more attention to the issue of children dying in hot cars, several inventions have emerged to try to prevent the tragedy from happening. There have been a couple car seats, including the Evenflo Advanced Embrace with SensorSafe, designed with technology built in to remind parents a child is with them. GMC has introduced an alarm that sounds when it senses a child might be in the back seat (due to a back door having been opened and shut before the drive started). Aftermarket chest clips and mats have been created, and people have marketed gadgets like a device that blocks a driver’s exit from the car to remind them that their child is in the back.

Some of these products are more reliable than others. Electronic technology can fail (though Evenflo’s system seems to be more reliable than many other methods). Some (like thick mats or non-approved chest clips) could potentially be dangerous.

The good news is that you don’t need technology or fancy gadgets to help prevent these tragedies, but you should do something. If you have your child in the car—especially if that’s out of the ordinary—put your purse or briefcase in the back seat (preferably on the floor so it’s less likely to fly around). If you don’t use a purse or briefcase, put some other item back there that you’ll need once you get to your destination: Your phone (that will also cut down on the temptation to use it while driving), your coat, one of your shoes.

Talk with your preschool or daycare about procedures for when a child doesn’t show up: Do they call to try to locate the child? If not, see if they will. If your spouse or another person usually handles drop-off, keep in touch with them, too, if possible. If Dad is changing his routine to drop off the kids, Mom can call him around drop-off time to make sure he made it. You and your childcare provider can take Ray Ray’s Pledge.

Don’t intentionally leave children in the car, even if you’re just running into the store for five minutes. In that time, the car could already be heating up to deadly levels. Always keep your parked vehicle locked – even if it’s in your garage. Kids die every year because they get into open cars or trunks and then can’t get out.

If you see a child left alone in a car, immediately call 911. Do not wait for the parent to return because chances are you have no idea how long the child has been in the car already. If the child appears to be in distress, check for unlocked doors or break a window (away from the child) if you need to.

And as you encounter stories of babies accidentally left in cars, take a moment to have some compassion instead of judgement. Everybody makes mistakes. Be thankful if yours aren’t fatal ones.

Lenovo Yoga 900S Review: Blogger’s Dream?

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LenovoYoga900sReviewIt’s been a while since I reviewed my last notebook, and now my Sony VAIO is slowly dying.  It takes forever to startup sometimes.  Basic internet surfing pauses frequently.  Black spots have started to appear on my display.  It’s time for a replacement, but like last time, it’s so hard to find the perfect one.

I really wanted to love the 2016 Apple Macbook.  It was a top contender.  But it’s relatively expensive.  And there’s no touchscreen.  And minimal connectivity.

I also liked the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.  The base model was in my price range and the display is beautiful, the best one I’ve seen in this class.  I just wasn’t completely sold on the kickstand and typecover arrangement.

The new HP Chromebook 13 is a relative bargain.  The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Tablet also looks very interesting.  Neither of these was available when I was buying.  So what’s the ideal portable for this blogger, to be used mostly for home office applications, internet publishing and surfing the web?

I had a few requirements:

  • Fanless.  For quiet rooms or when wife is asleep.
  • Laptop.  Actually comfortable on a lap when needed.
  • Backlit keyboard and/or touchscreen to work in low light.
  • Lightweight and portable.

Just these requirements weed out a huge number of systems.   Finding one with enough power to avoid slowdowns was tougher, as this eliminated most older and lower priced models like the Surface 3.  My VAIO lacks this power, lacks a backlit keyboard, lacks a touchscreen and has a quiet but audible fan.  It’s a 13.1″ notebook that weighs about 3 pounds, and that is about the limit I would accept for its replacement. Finding something that checks all the boxes isn’t easy.

yoga900s2Thanks to the miracle of other bloggers, I happened upon the Lenovo Yoga 900S-12ISK.  It not only met my requirements, but had a few bonuses, too: