Excuse the mess, we are boosting our immune system


There are a lot of things that make me feel like I’m failing at life and parenting on a daily basis. Liam had hand, foot, and mouth disease and I let him play at the playground for two days straight (and sent him to school!!) because he felt fine and I thought he had just bit the inside of his mouth. If I could send gift baskets to the families of every kid we probably passed it on to, I would. I felt so terrible once he got a few spots on his feet and I realized what was going on. To be fair, his case was so mild he only had a few spots, but I should definitely have known better and considered something beyond him biting his cheek.

Declan was crying at bedtime last year and doing his usual routine of trying every excuse in the book to get more cuddle time. Some of his favorites are his stomach hurting, or his leg hurting, or some other obscure thing that was fine 3 minutes before the lights went out. One time he cried about his arm. I proceeded to tell him he was fine, and to stay in bed and I’d see him in the morning. He came out a few more times, which wasn’t unusual, complaining about his arm. I’d kiss it and put him back to bed. When he didn’t relent after an unusual amount of time, I actually looked at his arm. Yep, nursemaid elbow. Mom of the year. Popped it back and he went to bed without a problem.

I work. Not full time anymore, I actually work weekends (which usually ends up equaling about 30 hours anyway) so I’m not gone all the time. Yet I feel like I still can’t put 100% to either my kids or my job. That I have to choose, and right now I can’t.

Obviously I don’t need assistance in feeling like I’m slacking. Today the cleanliness gods looked down on me and gave me the middle finger when I realized how trashed my house is after a weekend of guests and basically doing things other than cleaning up. I picked up all the clutter but I still feel the crunch of sand/dirt/crackers under my feet. So great, now my kids are growing up in a hovel in addition to being medically neglected vectors.

But guess what? I’m in luck, along with all of you who are also rocking smashed goldfish under the kitchen table from last week. Who have endless amounts of dirt tracked in the house. Who found a stick in the washer and a dried up worm in the dryer. Who have a cat whose rear end has probably graced every surface in the house. You know why? Because studies have shown that kids who are exposed to dirt, animals, and all the things the Earth has to offer are, in general, healthier and happier. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reported that an early exposure to a wide range of bacteria and allergens could help protect kids by shaping their immune response. Scientists at Johns Hopkins stated that children who grow up on farms have lower incidences of asthma and allergies, and children who grow up in the inner city being exposed to more mouse/roach droppings and environmental pollutants tend to have higher rates. However, the article I was reading also stated something interesting. It said that of these inner city children, those who were exposed to those things before their first birthdays had lower levels of asthma and allergies, suggesting the theory of early exposure helping protect children’s immune response in the long run no matter where they live.

Another study done at Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggests that early exposure to bacteria in children helps regulate immune cells and decreases incidences of autoimmune disorders. So what does that translate for the average person? It’s healthier for your baby or child to grow up in a house that’s lived in, and not sterile. Obviously there’s a difference between lived in and a biohazard, but bleaching your house on the regular is more harmful than anything.

Yes, we hug our chickens but as pro-dirt as I am, please always wash your hands after handling fowl. Chickens and cats rate right up there with my kids in the disease carrying department.

So drop that hand sanitizer, quit with the routine bleaching, quit scrubbing your floors on your hands and knees, and leave the baseboards alone. Let your kids eat their snacks at the park with sandy hands. Let them roll in the dirt and chase bugs with the dogs. It’s good for them. Now excuse me while I further neglect my floors and go outside to drink ice coffee and watch the kids play.

I do still wish my cat would wear pants though.


Ok so she’s actually my parents dog and doesn’t live with us for optimal immune enhancing hound dog exposure but she needed a cameo because she’s freaking awesome. Also she doesn’t put her nether regions on my pillow.


What Is A Tether?

Updated September 2017

There are so many confusing things about carseats for parents and tethers rank right up there with “do I use LATCH and the seatbelt together?” (the answer to that one is a wishy-washy no). We have a tether use rate of much less than 50% in the U.S., about the same as it was back in the mid-70s. Yes, you read that correctly! It’s gone up and down, but it’s still right around the same—pathetic. Even after teaching a child passenger safety technician class and going over tethers with them—when to use them, how important they are for safety—I still got the deer-in-headlights look from some of the new techs when I quizzed them about tether usage. So if my trained technicians are hesitant about when to use a top tether (how about all the time forward-facing!), I can only imagine the confusion parents are feeling. Without further ado, let’s get to it and learn about tethers.

2017 Toyota Highlander Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

2017-2018 Toyota Highlander Review Update: Standard Safety for your Family!

This is an update to our full review of the current generation Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid.  Starting with the 2017 Toyota Highlander, Safety Sense P is standard on all trim levels, thank you Toyota!  That makes it easy to find a model on a dealer’s lot that earns the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award and also makes active safety features much more affordable in LE and LE Plus trim levels.  The 2017 model also has a slightly refreshed appearance up front and in back.  In addition, a revised engine provides more power in V6 models plus improved fuel economy thanks to a stop-start system and a new 8-speed transmission.  As if in response to some of our critiques of the 2014 model, they have also added lower hybrid version trim levels with 8-passenger seating, increased the number of USB ports and removed some confusing guidance about car seats.  All welcome improvements!  The 2018 model is essentially unchanged from 2017.


The second row still offers a 3-row bench standard with 8-passenger seating, shown below with a Nuna PIPA Lite and a Britax Frontier.  Higher trims like the Limited in this review offer a 7-passenger version with a cupholder tray in the center that folds to make a center aisle.  The second row captain’s chairs are pretty standard and work well with most carseats.  Both include lower anchors as part of the LATCH system, and one extra top tether anchor is included in the middle of the 8-passenger model’s 2nd row bench seat.  This center seat of the 2nd row bench is smallish, but should fit some narrower carseats and offer limited 3-across carseat installation potential.  The 3rd row seat is mainly for kids, but could fit smaller adults on a short trip.  Three-across carseats would be difficult in the third row, even if all are narrow.  Unfortunately, there are no lower anchors and only a single top-tether anchor for the center of the third row.


Cargo space is easily configured with a fold-flat 60/40 third row seat.  Folded, it offers plenty of space for a futon and a full load of college move-in gear.  All head restraints adjust reasonably high for most adults and can be removed if necessary for carseat installation.



  1. IIHS Top Safety Pick+ & NHTSA 5-star rating
  2. Toyota Safety Sense STANDARD on ALL trims!
  3. Plenty of cargo space behind 2nd row
  4. Fuel economy good for its class
  5. Improved interior and styling
  6. Smooth, quiet ride and comfortable seating
  7. Improved fuel economy on non-hybrid models
  8. Good visibility, standard backup camera and hands-free bluetooth
  9. Removed confusing restrictions on car seats in the center seats
  10. Solid acceleration and braking for a midsize SUV
  11. Retains an authentic, old-fashioned gear shifter


  1. 2014Highlander8passcrossoverMinimum complement of 2 LATCH positions
  2. 2nd row bench passenger side buckle stalk placement
  3. Third row still not comfortable enough for adults
  4. Blind spot and cross-traffic alert only on XLE trim and up
  5. Safety Connect only available on Limited model
  6. Handling isn’t notable, even for a larger SUV


With standard Toyota Safety Sense and other updates, we highly recommend the 2017 and 2018 Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid.  Some other SUVs only qualify for top safety awards on the most expensive trim level, often only if you can even find the optional and pricey safety tech package on the lot.   It was a runner-up for our 2017 Safest Minivans and 3-row SUVs award, the strictest objective family vehicle safety award in the industry! With standard features, the entry level Highlander LE version with the 4-cylinder engine is a bargain for safety with a street price under $30,000.  We recommend at least the LE Plus model with the updated V6 and 8-speed transmission.  Surprisingly, it achieves a little better fuel economy than the 4-cylinder model, mainly because of the stop-start system.  The Hybrid LE is also an excellent choice with 8-passenger seating and excellent fuel economy.  The Limited AWD version in this review has an MSRP of around $43,000.  All trim levels have front crash prevention with auto-brake standard, so really any Highlander model is a great choice!

Thank you to Toyota and DriveShop for the Highlander loan used in this review.  All opinions are my own and as always, no other compensation was provided.

2018 Honda Odyssey Review: Kids, Carseats and Safety

2018 Honda Odyssey Minivan and Car Seat Safety Video Review

The updated 2018 Honda Odyssey is here. How well will it fit you and your most precious cargo? Does it stack up against its competitors? Check out our videos and summary to see if it’s the best family hauler for you!

2nd Row Seating:

3rd Row Seating:

He Said:

We took the ’18 Odyssey on a long family road trip with 6 passengers and a weekend load of luggage.