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Take me home, country roads…

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But not that kind of home. Like, my actual house. Not the eternal home.

Sometimes when it comes to the topic of child safety, I struggle to think of a topic to discuss. Obviously, there are topics that are super important and commonly brought up such as installation, coats in car seats, tether usage, fit to child, etc. However, as I was driving the peaceful winding road to get Liam from school, I paid more attention to the common scene in front of me. Two preteen boys were sitting in the back of a truck on hay bales, each with a wiggly, happy dog held steady by the boys’ knees. As I got closer to the school, I passed the local high school and saw the usual rowdy bunch of kids riding home in the beds of pickup trucks driven by their friends, laughing and smiling in the wind and sunshine. For most people around here, it’s a scene of youth. It’s how it’s always been, and how it will always be.

When we think of child passenger safety, we think of babies. Little kids. Kids in boosters. We don’t often think of those wild, free, tousled hair, uninhibited teenagers. Yet they are at the height of the incredible feeling of invincibility, taking risks left and right and scaring the crud out of their parents. Talking sense into them sometimes feels more difficult than other age groups, and enforcing rules sometimes seems even harder.

As I watch the boys laugh when the truck hits a bump, I wonder about the person driving. I’m assuming it’s the father of one of the boys. I wonder what sets him at ease with having two children in the bed of a truck. Surely it’s not lack of knowledge. Sure, not everyone knows how to install a car seat properly but most everyone knows it’s not safe to ride without a seatbelt or in the bed of a truck. So what is it? Tradition? Culture? Both?

Well obviously, because if you didn’t survive you couldn’t share the meme.

According to the USDOT in 2012, while only 19% of people live in rural areas, 54% of crash fatalities occur on rural roads. Road maintenance, lack of lighting, and roads with only one lane each way probably has a lot to do with it, situations like what I described above may also be contributory. Here in Union County, which straddles both NC and SC, we’ve had more than our share. Just in the last two weeks alone we’ve had 4 people killed after colliding with a tractor-trailer, a person airlifted out after an 18 wheeler (that doesn’t belong on these back roads) smacked into the car, two high school students killed, and just last week my neighbors lost their only daughter after she was rear-ended while sitting at a red light. All within a 10-mile radius. Our roads are beautifully lined with wildflowers and old barns with a history beyond what I can comprehend, but they are also trails of sadness with the multiple crosses, memorials, flowers, and candles.

Insert name here.

Tradition is heavy here. It’s hard to make changes to something that has been commonplace for so long, something that “we’ve all done and are just fine”. Roads change, vehicles change, populations change. Generations change. Every day I see it- farmers are changing from the traditional ways of our grandparents to the innovative and creativity of the younger generation. Our generation craves information, efficiency, new ways of doing things. Hopefully with that will come a recognition of the fact that while some horrible things are out of our control, it’s amazing what knowledge we are armed with to protect ourselves and our children.

I silently willed my thoughts into the rearview mirror of that man driving. Urging him to recognize that one sideswipe or bump in the road is all it takes to change this everyday memory into yet another cross on the side of the road. When driving, we are all one Facebook post away from our own roadside vigil. Tradition runs strong, but nothing says strength like taking knowledge and adapting for survival.

Safe and Warm! A review of the Buckle Me Baby Coat

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One of the last posts I wrote was lamenting the end of summer. I apparently spoke too soon because it was like 90 degrees here up until last week, then last night we had tornadoes, and now it’s 72. So…fall? Maybe. It’s that weird weather where it’s freezing in the morning but if you wear long sleeves you are sweating your you-know-what off by the afternoon. However, I know this means that steadily cool weather is not far away, and with it comes this previous desert-dwelling girl’s most hated thing: getting in a cold car.

So what do you do when the weather is cold? Wear a jacket, obviously. But if you’ve been around us for awhile you know the age-old lesson of bulky coats and car seats: NOPE. Jennie has elaborated on this way better than I could in her article on winter coat suggestions. So what the heck are you supposed to do? Well, one option that has recently become available is to purchase a coat specifically made to be worn in a car seat.

Enter an up-and-coming new company called Buckle Me Baby Coats. Based out of New Hampshire, Buckle Me Baby Coats (we’re going to refer to them as BMBC from here on out) was founded by a brilliant and creative mother of 3, Dahlia. She was searching for a way to put her idea in action for years, and after some time and hard work, the coat was born!

The coat comes in six fashions. Blue (Deepest of Oceans), orange (Orange-inal), pink (Power of Pink), purple (Indi-go-go-go), red (I Lava You), and an olive green (The Warrior Within). Declan’s favorite color is red, and since I knew he actually had to like the coat to cooperate with me, Dahlia was nice enough to send me the ‘I Lava You’ fashion.

Excuse the mess, we are boosting our immune system

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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.

Goin’ nowhere fast.

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So, I remember how what seemed like a few weeks ago I was jonesing for summer. It was still spring, and I *needed* to get over that season changeover hump and put myself solidly in flip-flop, beach, and waterpark weather. I am a mere shell of myself when it’s gray and dismal and 30 degrees but throw me in the sun with a blanket of 100% humidity around my shoulders and I’m solid.

Except yesterday I went back to school shopping. And a few minutes ago I was reading through the emails from school about teacher assignments and car rider line. What happened to my summer? It’s buried beneath the bags of pencils and expo markers and tissues and hand sanitizer. Can you feel my tears flowing through my fingers into this post? It’s not that I don’t enjoy structure and occupied kids. It’s just that I enjoy lack of structure and adventure more.

Anyway, back to my emails. Car rider line. I know most schools do this. It makes it a lot easier (supposedly) for drop off and pick up. Morning is always pretty smooth for us. We rush into the line while I simutaneously tell Liam to wipe the breakfast off his face-but not with your sleeve dangit!!!- while trying to avoid eye contact with the perfectly dressed at o-dark-thirty moms and wishing I had put a bra on. We roll right up, I shove, I mean lovingly wave, Liam out the car.

Afternoons are another story. I leave approximately 20 minutes after getting home from dropping him off in order to get a spot in the line that isn’t blocking traffic on the main road. I proceed to sit for 10 hours and overheat my car while my 3 year old cries from having to be woken up early from nap and then tells me he has to pee. Then once school is out we inch forward at about 1 mph for another hour until I reach my kid. Once my door is opened, after all that, I have approximately 0.00004 seconds to get him buckled and drive away.

So how does that work safely? Well, it depends.

Look, I know it stinks to sit. And sit. And sit some more. But I can’t even begin to tell you the sheer number of toddlers and babies I see on mom’s laps in the car line, even when the cars are moving. I see kids hanging out back windows and bopping around the backseat while the driver is browsing her/his phone. But guess what? Not only is that driver on her phone, so is the one behind her. And the one behind him. So what happens when that person is browsing Facebook and forgets they aren’t in park and lets up the brake a little bit when laughing at the meme about car rider lines? They roll into the person in front of them. Guess what happens to that lap baby or front seat monkey toddler? Hopefully just a tumble onto the floor, but you probably would want me to spare you the visual of a small body getting hit point blank with an air bag. Or the 4 year old falling head first onto the pavement from an SUV window when leaning out and mom lets off the brake a bit to inch forward. These aren’t freak accidents. These are situations that could easily happen. It might mean you need more wine later that night or you need to put the Moana soundtrack on repeat. Maybe you need to give into the no snacks in the car rule and bust out the Cheerios. Whatever it takes but PLEASE, keep your children buckled when in the car rider line. This includes your student until you have pulled up to the drop off point and they are ready to get out.

So what about the rush after you pick them up? I don’t know about your school but the pressure IS ON after Liam’s feet hit the floorboards. He’s in a booster this year and can get buckled quickly. Earlier this year I had to get out and run (all the more reason to wear a bra!) over to his side to buckle him. Fortunately his school supports “no one moves till everyone is buckled” but it doesn’t mean it’s not stressful, especially if you have more than one kid to buckle up. But I think we can all agree that we love each others’ kids and want whats best for all of them, even if that means waiting an extra minute for the mom in front of us to buckle her twins. Solidarity ya’ll. It’ll get us through.

So please buckle those kids. Even when it’s annoying and inconvenient. You’ll feel frazzled but I promise you will feel grateful if you’re on the receiving end of a Facebook meme fender bender. That booger and Cheerio covered little face will be peering back at you in your rear view mirror, right where it’s supposed to be.

Now here’s to a few more weeks of summer. May they go quick for you all who are longing for school, and may they be filled with last minute adventures for the summer lovers. Stay safe in all you do!