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I scream, you scream, we all scream for….sunscreen?

While the first day of summer is still just around the corner, most of us have been basking in the warm weather for weeks now. I don’t know about you guys, but our winter was pretty miserable and I’m soaking up the 90 degree sunshine like a lizard that was just removed from a freezer. What can I say, I’m an Arizona girl living it up in North Carolina.

If you’re like me, you had to do the ol’ closet switcheroo (or, like me, multiple times because our weather was bipolar and just when I thought it was warm, it would snow and I’d have to dig the freshly packed away winter clothes out again), buy the kids new swimsuits and sandals, and plan vacations and trips to the pool/beach/lake. And of course, buy some sunscreen. Good ol’ sunscreen. It’s like a little tube with a superhero cape, standing between our skin and the dastardly deeds of melanoma. So what is sunscreen exactly? How does it work? What should we look for in a sunscreen? Let me, in my warm weather lizard giddiness, try to answer those questions for you.

First, let’s take a look at what exactly sunscreen protects us from. UVA and UVB are two different types of ultraviolet radiation that reaches our atmosphere from the sun. You can’t see them with your eyes, but they can fry up your eyeballs like a couple of seasoned eggs. UVA and UVB both are different wavelengths and act differently by nature, but are both equally damaging. UVA rays penetrate deeper and are responsible for most skin aging and wrinkles and is usually responsible for the start of skin cancers by damaging the DNA in our skin. UVB rays are shorter in wavelength, and cause more damage to the surface of the skin (think the redness of sunburn).

The sun's gnarly side.

The sun’s gnarly side.

Sunscreen can be protective either chemically, physically, or both. Chemical ingredients in sunscreen absorb the evil rays and prevent them from penetrating your skin. Examples of these chemicals are avobenzone and oxybenzone. Physical ingredients actually cause the rays to bounce off the skin and usually are present as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Most sunscreens on the market contain a mixture of both, or “broad spectrum”. However, according to the Environmental Working Group, chemical ingredients such as oxybenzone are potential hormone disruptors, have a high risk of allergic reaction and have been found in the breastmilk of nursing mothers. Some people may prefer to use mineral sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide instead, which can be harder to apply and leaves you looking like a snowman. Whatever you choose, it’s probably best to stick with the lotion/cream/stick sunscreens as the spray sunscreens are more likely to not be thoroughly applied and can also be inhaled. And remember, never apply sunscreen to babies under 6 months old.

This article is about summertime, but it's also important to mention that it's important to wear sunscreen year round. Sun reflecting off snow can be particularly damaging.

This article is about summertime, but it’s also important to mention that it’s important to wear sunscreen year round. Sun reflecting off snow can be particularly damaging.

So what are you looking for in a sunscreen besides the type of ingredient you are most comfortable with? The sun protection factor, or SPF. SPF is a “rating” per say, that indicates how long it will take UVB (not UVA! Remember, those are responsible for the destruction under the superficial layer of skin) to redden your skin. So SPF 15 basically means it will take you an additional 15 minutes to burn. SPF 50 is recommended, and all sunscreens should be applied every few hours, more if you are sweating or swimming. Recently the FDA revised their rules regarding the wording and description on sunscreens, including banning the words “water proof”, although you may see “water resistant”. This means the sunscreen tends to stay on a bit longer in water than others, but you still need to reapply at least every 2 hours.

Sunglasses protect your eyes from the damaging effects of the sun. Remember, you only get one pair of eyes!

Sunglasses protect your eyes from the damaging effects of the sun. Remember, you only get one pair of eyes!

 

In addition to applying sunscreen, try to stay out of the sun between 10am and 4pm, wear protective hats and SPF clothing, don’t burn, don’t go to tanning beds, always keep babies out of direct sunlight, wear sunglasses that specifically say they contain UV filters, and eat lots of ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. CarSeatBlog orders. Happy summer!!

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Kids Are Dying

Since we shared this graphic one month ago, 9 additional children have died of heatstroke in vehicles. In ONE month. That’s a total of 13 to this point in 2014–13 too many. Please share this graphic on Facebook without judgement. We can all forget when we’re exhausted and overworked.

  • Have your childcare call you when your child doesn’t show up that day
  • Keep your wallet AND cell phone in the back seat
  • Always look in the back seat when getting out of the car
  • Keep a shoe in the back seat
  • If your child is missing, check your pool first, then your vehicle
  • Do what it takes!

don't forget

Tomorrow’s Drivers, Yesterday

IMG_0342Recently I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time watching instructional videos from the 1940s and 1950s. I’ve learned skills such as how to settle conflicts, how to be popular, and how to ask someone out on a date (which I can’t do, since I’m not male). Videos like these rank high on the nostalgia scale, but by today’s standards most of them are quaint and a bit silly, and sometimes even offensive.

This video, though, is truly awesome in terms of both content and throwback value.

Apparently in the 1950s, elementary schools in Phoenix decided to start driver’s education early. Really early. This video shows kindergarteners playing a musical-chairs-type game while holding cardboard steering wheels. As the years progress, they receive more instruction until they’re able to drive Power Wheels-esque (but way cooler) vehicles in a little “town,” and get traffic citations for breaking the rules.

Today there are bike rodeos and “safety towns” that teach similar concepts for cycling, but parents usually have to pursue these on their own, and they’re typically a one-time thing, not a curriculum that’s reinforced throughout several years of school.

The best part of this video is the “Attitude Court” that teens had to attend to earn back a suspended license. In addition to covering citizenship issues, the Attitude School held scientific demonstrations explaining aspects of safe driving. The attendees had to pass written tests and participate in a ride-along with a police officer before their licenses would be returned.

Yes, there is the standard cringe-inducing lack of seatbelts, but such was the era. We can’t expect them to have gotten everything right. But did I mention the film is narrated by Jimmy Stewart?

Take a few minutes and watch this, then go teach your kids hand signals if they don’t already know them.

2014-2015 Toyota Highlander & Hybrid Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

HighlanderHybrids1Starting in 2011, the Toyota Highlander became a pretty nice minivan alternative.  That 2011 refresh added split-folding third row seating, so the flexibility for my family was just enough to tempt me from a decade of driving a minivan.  I liked it enough that I bought one, and over 3 years later, I am not disappointed in the least.  With fuel economy of my hybrid above 35 mpg in warm months and averaging almost 31 mpg overall, I’m still impressed with the previous Highlander in almost every regard.  The only question was what Toyota could possibly do to improve the 2014-2015 Highlander.  Or, as some still feel about the current Sienna minivan, could it actually be worse in terms of seating children than the previous model?

What You Get:

On paper, it looks like a nice improvement.  In terms of safety, it’s one of only a few 3-row SUVs to qualify for BOTH an IIHS 2014 Top Safety Pick+ rating AND a 5-star overall NHTSA safety rating as well.  Plus, it now has a full complement of advanced safety features available, something a few competitors still lack.  Equally important for families, Toyota made it a few inches longer, almost an inch wider and increased the cabin room significantly.  That’s great news for fitting extra cargo behind the third row (below, left), for fitting rear-facing carseats or just for long legs up front.  For example, even a tall driver will have legroom with a Britax Advocate installed behind them, while a very tall rear-facing model like the Graco HeadWise 70 (below, right) leaves enough room upfront for an average adult.

2014HighlanderCargo1 2014HighlanderBritaxAdvocateGracoHeadwise70

A rear-view camera and hands-free bluetooth phone connectivity are now standard on all trims!  Equally important, advanced safety features are now available for the first time.  Blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert and Toyota Connect (collision notification and emergency assistance) are available standard on Limited models only.  The optional Driver Technology or Platinum package offers forward collision mitigation with autobrake, earning it an “Advanced” level of protection from the IIHS.  These packages also include lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beam adjustments.  The lack of those features were among my main concerns in the previous version and all those I tested worked as expected.  It’s a shame that Toyota didn’t include more of these features standard or at least optional on lower trim levels.

Styling is greatly improved, both inside and out, especially for the Hybrid trim.  Handling seems to be improved a bit, though compared to the numb steering of the previous model, it would be hard to do any worse!  Fuel economy is also improved slightly for non-hybrid models, thanks to a new 6-speed transmission and updated AWD system.  Controls and gauges are well thought and overall the cabin and electronics are improved across the board.

What’s not improved?  Fuel economy in the hybrid model, for one.  It’s actually very slightly lower (27 mpg city vs. 28 mpg city).  This is very regrettable, as there should have been some focus to increase hybrid fuel economy slightly.  Why not have an affordable hybrid trim with a smaller gas engine, elimination of 4WD and further reduce weight by eliminating things like power seats and the spare tire?  The full size spare is replaced by a compact unit, a plus or minus depending on your needs.  Perhaps a tradeoff for improved handling, the new version doesn’t seem quite as quiet or smooth riding as the previous model.  The handy second row stowable middle seat is gone, a notable omission if you opt for the 7-passenger model.  But for those who select the second row bench, there are now more options for 3-across and adjacent carseat installations.

Overall, Toyota did respond to nearly all my complaints with the previous Hybrid model, with one big exception.  For all the improvements, you have to pay over $50,000 to get one.  That’s because for 2014, the Hybrid only comes in Limited trim and you must get the driver’s tech or platinum package to get all the advanced safety features.  Combined with the fact that Limited trims do not offer the 2nd row bench for 8-passenger capability, that means most families won’t even consider the hybrid.  BIG shame on Toyota.

2014HighlanderConsoleOther changes?  The huge front console storage is nice, though it ate up two of my valued cupholders.  I really appreciated the cell phone tray in the dash (photo, right). The folding 2nd row cupholder/tray is great if you opt for the 2nd row captain’s chairs on higher trim levels.  The Navigation and Infotainment system are more intuitive and easier to use than most others I’ve seen in the last year.  Bluetooth phones pair and import contacts easily and stream music with no hassles.  Toyota did a great job on the interior and electronics overall.  The sound quality of the JBL system is just average, though.

Review: Cybex Solution Q-Fix. Is this the Fix you’ve been looking for?

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 10.19.57 AM

Whenever we go to conferences or trade shows, there’s always a lot to drool over at the Cybex booth. Their offerings always look sleek, incorporate innovative features, and show great attention to detail. When we saw the Cybex Solution Q-Fix booster at the ABC Expo last fall, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on one.

Specifications/Features:

  • For use with children 3 years or older
  • 33-110 lbs, 38-60 inches tall
  • Highback only (cannot be used as a backless booster)
  • Three-position reclining headrest
  • Height and width adjustable (shoulder width expands as seat height is raised)
  • Linear Side-Impact protection features (see below)
  • Thick energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • Rigid lower LATCH anchor attachments
  • 7 year lifespan

Specs for high-back boosters typically don’t vary a whole lot, but one thing that makes the Q-Fix stand out is the 60″ height limit. Many boosters cap their height limit at 57″ (4’9″) but some kids still need a bit of a boost beyond that point, so it’s nice to have an option that doesn’t require a parent to ignore manufacturer instructions. Those last few inches can make a big difference!

The Q-Fix is currently available in 5 fashions: Charcoal, Autumn Gold, Ocean, Storm Cloud & Lollipop.

 

Solution Q-Fix Measurements:

  • Lowest belt guide height: 14″
  • Highest belt guide height: 21″
  • Overall seat height: 31″
  • External width, back of base: 13″
  • External width at armrests: 18″
  • External width at widest point: 20-22″
  • Internal width at shoulders: 14-15″
  • Seating depth: 13″
  • Weight: 17 lbs.

The other features that really set the Q-Fix apart from competitors are the side impact protection and reclining headrest.

The Q-Fix looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, in part because of the massive wings and things toward the top. Besides the impressive head and shoulder wings, the Q-Fix also has Linear Side Protection bolsters that attach to the outside of the seat. In a side impact, these bolsters can help absorb crash forces. The bolsters come separate in the box, but they’re easy to snap into place.

IMG_0188     IMG_0187    IMG_0596

The head and shoulder wings are lined with thick EPS foam to help absorb energy, too.

IMG_0603

The reclining headrest is a great feature, especially for kids who tend to fall asleep in the car. To move the headrest into any of the three positions (upright, reclined, and in-between), simply pull up and move the headrest forward or backward. Besides adding comfort for the child, the headrest actually serves a safety benefit, too. A child whose head bobs forward is at greater risk of injury and won’t benefit from the side-impact protection. Being able to rest their heads backward to sleep encourages them to stay in position.

The recline amount isn’t huge, but it should make a difference for kids who are, say, reading versus napping. Below you can see the most upright and most relined positions from above and from the side.

IMG_0606

Another neat thing about the Solution Q-Fix is that the seat adjusts outward as you adjust it higher, allowing for more shoulder room for bigger, taller kids.

The ability to use lower LATCH anchors has become a big selling point for parents in the market for booster seats. LATCHing boosters keeps them from becoming projectiles when unoccupied, and it might also provide some safety benefits. The Q-Fix features rigid LATCH (meaning no straps to pull) but its use is optional.

It should be noted that although the Q-Fix comes apart, it is only meant to be used as a high-back booster, never as a backless booster.