Thursday, January 31, 2013

The danger of projectiles! Car Seat Safety Series -- Part 7

I'm happy to be offering the 7th installment in the Car Seat Safety Series, written by Megan Arce, CPST (Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician) and mother of two little princesses. This is part 1 or 2 addressing various vehicle dangers, starting with projectiles.


Installing and using a child’s car seat are only part of keeping our children (and our selves!) safe in a vehicle. There are several other factors to consider when looking at vehicle safety on the whole. A few tweaks here and there to your regular car routine could make everybody in your car safer. This week, we’re discussing the danger of projectiles and next week we’ll cover seat belt entanglement, air bags, children left unattended and children outside of the blind spot.


Anything in your vehicle that isn’t somehow attached to the vehicle is a potential projectile flying object in a crash. In other words, everything is going to go forcefully flying if you are in a crash, and the probability of bring struck with one of these items is very high. The 5 pound purse on your passenger seat might not appear to be a danger, but with crash forces taken into account, that same 5 pound purse would hit somebody at 175 pounds of force, and that is if you were only driving at 35 miles per hour (factor much higher pounds of force for crashes at higher speeds: weight of object times x speed = pounds of force). People have been killed by their laptop computers, groceries, tools, etc. A toddler was almost scalped by his sippy cup.

Solutions? Keep as little in your vehicle as possible, secure what is in your vehicle, utilize your trunk (sedans) or cargo cover (SUVs). If your SUV did not come with one, cargo nets, bungee cords and ratcheting straps can be used. I am overly prepared by nature, so I had a hard time going bare minimum in my car, so this is what the back of my vehicle looks like:

All items seen here are secured to the vehicle.  Groceries go in the grocery net (stolen from my husband’s SUV, but can be purchased at dealerships). I utilize the storage area under the grocery net and my stroller is secured with a bungee cord of its own as well.  


Behind my passenger seat (under my rear-facing daughter’s seat), a bungee cord runs  through a plastic tub to secure it to the metal rails under the seat. This tub has a locking to secure its contents (snacks mainly!).    

By no means is this a fail-safe method (bungee cords can snap under extreme forces), but it all makes me feel better and at the very least, could help slow the projectiles down. I have to remember to re-hook the stroller each time it goes back in the car (which quickly became habit and only takes a few extra seconds) and nothing else requires any maintenance, just the initial securing. 

Items like iPods and Gameboys, things intended to keep them entertained, could end up causing a child great harm as well -- soft toys and books are the best option (my kids like stickers a lot too!). I keep a soft basket in between my two children full of paper books and plush animals (both of which we rotate frequently to keep them interested). The basket is secured with the middle lap/shoulder belt running through it (holes cut on either side).

Other potential projectiles to consider: unbuckled passengers! Not only can the driver be ticketed if a passenger in the vehicle does not buckle up, but that person could become THE object that causes other passengers grave injury when the bodies make head-to-head contact at high speeds (again, weight of object times x speed = pounds of force). This goes for the family dog as well! Pets need to be secured both for their safety, and the safety of the passengers in the vehicle! Factory installed pet barriers are a safe option if a pet frequently rides in your car (pressure mounted barriers can themselves become a projectile and are not recommended), as are pet harnesses. Pet crates can easily be secured with a ratcheting strap as well. 

Oh, and one other thing. Make sure you always have booster seats strapped in, even when no one's in them!

Next week, I'll address other dangers, such as seat belt entanglement, air bags, unattended children, and children outside your vehicle in your blind spot.

Click the following links to learn more about keeping your kids safe in the car:

Car Seat Safety Series

Part 1 -- Airplane safety 

Part 2 -- Car seats and winter coats: how to keep the little ones warm (and SAFE) 

Part 3 -- Extended rear facing and extended harnessing

Part 4 -- LATCH vs. seat belt

Part 5 -- Correct harness use

Part 6 --  Car Seats Expire, Too!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Organic cotton and bamboo bedding and towels... ahh

Are you looking for safe towels and bedding for your family? Well, I have good news for you! The Ultimate Green Store is offering FREE SHIPPING to the Green Grandma community (with the code TOWELS) on all purchases over $49* (now through 3/31/13)!

The Ultimate Green Store features organic cotton and bamboo bedding and towels for everyone in your family.Organic cotton is grown without pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, and when you buy their organic cotton towels, you are paying for clean water, fresh air, healthy farmers and sweatshop-free production.

Here are a just a few of their amazing products:

Loop Organic Cotton Towels
$10 - $64
Made with certified Fair Trade practices, these soft & absorbent organic bath towels are made from certified organic cotton and treated with low-impact dyes. 700 GSM luxuriously soft and absorbent these towels are styled with dobby stripe borders for a modern look. Available in White Sandstone Sea Glass and Mountain Ridge.

Coyuchi Organic Cotton Towels
$6 - $60
Made from Fair Trade certified organic cotton, these eco-friendly 550 GSM bath towels are a great addition to your eco-friendly bathroom. These bath linens have a simple twill-weave design with no dobby border and get softer after each washing. Available in: White Ivory Taupe Graphite Juniper French Blue Terra Cotta and Mustard.

Pure Fiber Bamboo Towels Sets
Safe and Eco-Friendly Bamboo Blended Towel Sets. These towels are made from 100% viscose from bamboo. They are colored with low-impact dyes for a small environmental footprint.

Midori Hooded Baby Towels
This viscose from bamboo baby towel is luxuriously soft & naturally absorbent. Silky terry loops absorb water fast and discourage mildew odor and bacteria. Towels feature an embroidered dragonfly across the hood. Primrose Sky or Midori. 32"x 32."

Organic Cotton Hooded Baby Towels
This luxurious hooded towel is made from 100% certified organic cotton and printed with a blue floral design on sateen using non-toxic water based dyes. Features thirsty organic terry cloth fabric on the inside and fits newborns to toddlers. 29"x43" 

*Receive FREE SHIPPING on orders over $49! Coupon only valid for UPS Ground Shipping. Coupon does not include furniture, over-sized items and orders shipping outside of the contiguous 48 United States. Expires 3/31/2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

The surprising hiding places for triclosan

Have you been watching out for triclosan? I sure have. Or at least I thought I was. I mean, I pick up a liquid soap dispenser and scan the ingredients to see if it's there. Of course, simply avoiding any antibacterial soaps is a good option. 

What I forgot is that triclosan is hiding in unusual places -- like in plastic food containers and cutting boards. Did you know it could be in the clothing you wear, or the toys your little ones are playing with. How about your toothbrush? Did you know it might be hiding this nasty chemical in its bristles? Yikes! 

Other places you might discover triclosan include:
  • towels
  • sponges
  • hand sanitizer
  • dishwashing detergent
  • shower curtains
  • mattresses (look out when shopping for crib mattresses!)
  • phones
  • toothpaste
  • flooring and carpeting
  • shoes
  • garbage cans
  • vacuum cleaner bags 
  • and, unfortunately, many, many more 
If a product is labeled "antibacterial," stay away! You don't want it in your home. Other terms that seduce us, but should actually serve as warnings are "odor-fighting," "antimicrobial," or anything about keeping food fresher, longer.

In addition to triclosan, you also want to avoid a similar chemical called triclocarban.

But why?

Simply because you don't want to introduce the possibility of liver and inhalation toxicity into your family's lives. Even low levels of triclosan can affect thyroid function. And studies show a link between triclosan and asthma. Of course, cancer is always an issue as well. Lots of scary stuff.

Protect your family and don't buy into the promise of "anitbacterial" being best. It's a lie. And it's your job to shield your kids from the possibly devastating affects of these nasty chemicals.

More info on triclosan:

Pass me the hand sanitizer ... NOT! This includes a link to a comprehensive list of products that have triclosan in them
What got me fired up on the Sabbath

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Car Seats Expire, Too! Car Seat Safety Series -- Part 6

I'm happy to be offering the 6th installment in the Car Seat Safety Series, written by Megan Arce, CPST (Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician) and mother of two little princesses.


For weeks now, I have been pushing the importance of using a car seat, and using it properly. However, this week I am going to discuss when a car seat shouldn’t be used, and that is when any of the following occur:

  • It has reached the end of its useful life, or exceeded its expiration date
  • It has been involved in a crash, even minor
  • It has been checked as airline baggage
  • It has been recalled and cannot be fixed
  • Its history is unknown or questionable 
1.  Yes, car seats expire! It isn’t a ploy by the car seat manufacturer to squeeze more money out of you and make you buy more seats (yes, I have heard this numerous times). Simply put, just like every other plastic item, the plastic used to make the seat wears down over time. And car seats, for the most part, live in the car and are exposed to intense summer heat, and brutal winter cold, both of which exacerbate the breaking down process. Imagine if you will, a plastic toy left outside in the elements -- the plastic becomes thin, discolored and brittle and eventually it cracks. The plastic in your car seat is not any different! After time, it may not provide the best protection for child when in a crash -- the harness (with child in it!) could rip right out of the weak plastic. 
The life span of a car seat ranges by brand/make/model, but is anywhere from 6 to 10 years. The date of manufacture or, if you are lucky, the actual expiration date (or the “do not use after” date) will be imprinted right into the plastic shell of the seat (likely on the bottom) or the same information will be found on a sticker. If only the date of manufacture is on the seat, and you are not aware of how many years it is good, it is generally safe to assume it has a 6-year life span (most do). Some newer generations of seats are adding a year or two to this, and some “combination” seats will have a separate expiration for the internal harness and another longer one for use as a booster. As always, read your owner’s manual for specific information on a particular seat, but if you are planning to use 8-year-old Johnny’s old car seat for your new baby, most likely Johnny’s seat is expired and baby is going to need a new one!          
2.  Crashed car seats are not safe to use! Car seats are a “one time use only” item when it comes to crashes. They are designed to distribute crash force energies over a greater surface to make the crash less severe for the child in the seat. After it has done this once, it may not ever do it again. If the seat has been involved in a crash, even a minor one, it needs to be replaced. Car seat manufacturers will have varying qualifying standards -- some companies say only replace the seat if it was closest to point of impact, others say replace only if airbags deployed, etc., but ALL crashes warrant inspection, evaluation, phone calls to both the car seat manufacturer and the insurance company, and in most cases, all will recommend replacement of the seats. 
3.  Can checking your car seat as baggage on the airplane be similar to it being in a vehicular crash? You bet! Baggage handlers are not known for their gentle touch, and car seats do not get any special treatment in this department! They are flung around and thrown to the ground from high levels, and the damage they could incur could be similar to that of a car crash. My opinion is the risk is not worth it! When your car seat (and bags for that matter!) leave your side, there is no way of knowing what happens to them. Your safest option is to bring it on the plane and use it (safest option for child too!), check it in its original cardboard box, or have a car seat waiting for you on the other end of your journey. Avoid checking them, but if you do, please inspect every nook and cranny before using it. 
 4.  As a Child Passenger Safety Technician, I have a list of car seat recalls I keep in my kit, but a good Internet search can help you know if your car seat has been involved in a recall. If it has, and it is correctable, do not delay in getting it fixed. If it cannot be corrected, it needs to be replaced. Period.
5.  “Unknown history” of a car seat is just as dangerous as the unknown history of a babysitter! Given all the items mentioned above, any and all of those things could have happened to the secondhand seat that appears to be in perfect condition. The thing is, you just never know. Used car seats ads are plastered all over Craiglist and eBay. I see seats in children’s resale/consignment stores, yard sales and swap meets. What do they all have in common? UNKNOWN history. We have no way of knowing what that seat has seen, and we do NOT want our babies being the test pilot to see if the seat would hold up in a crash! Secondhand seats just are not a safe choice. The only exception would be if you were given a seat by a trusted family member or friend and trusted them to give you the full history of the seat (and believed them!). Even if you have to scrimp and save to buy a new car seat, it is the one and only item worthy of this scrimping and saving, since it is the only one that can potentially save your child’s life! Skip the Jumperoo and Diaper Genie and buy a nice, new SAFE car seat for Junior.    

Now… say you have a car seat that fits any of the above “bad” criteria -- what do you do with it??? Well, I assure you, promise you even, that if you put it in your trash or on your curb, it WILL be stolen and reused by somebody else (you know what they say- one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!). Clearly, this is a problem. So before you put it in the trash, cut all the harness straps out, take the cover off, write “CRASHED/EXPIRED/UNSAFE/DO NOT USE”  (or anything else that comes to mind) in permanent marker. Sadly, I have still had one stolen after all that, so to take it one step farther, either hide it deep in your trash can under the garbage, or tie it up in a trash bag so it isn’t obvious what it is. You can also, if you have high levels of stress anyway and need a useful place to exert energy, take a sledgehammer to the plastic shell to crack it. The best answer, of course, would be to RECYCLE “bad” car seats! Unfortunately, most recycle facilities will not take car seats. Or they will, but then they’ll just take them to the landfill. So it’s a challenge to recycle them, but if you can, please do, and share your recycling story in the comments below. We’d love to hear recycling success stories! I have been on a car seat recycle mission for several months, have taken a great deal of bad car seats out of circulation and to the one recycling plant that agreed to recycle them. It’s kind of my “thing.” With any luck (and with customer demand), more car seat manufacturers will start their own recycling programs. Until then, destroy them, hide them, do whatever you can to get your children out of them and keep others from going into them!
When you know better, you do better!

Car Seat Safety Series


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An energy audit... is it a good idea?

Photo by George Hodan

One of the things I don't like about winter is having to live in a closed up house without any fresh air. On those rare 60 + degrees days, you'll find a window or two open in my home. The crisp fresh air coming through the windows always reminds me of my mom. She believed in airing out bedrooms weekly, despite the cold temps. She also hung the bedspreads out the windows. The result was fresh-smelling beds that were a joy to climb into at night. With the below 20 degree temps of late, opening windows is not an option.

As my allergies respond to the closed up house, I've been thinking about having an energy audit done, so I've been looking into various options. Apparently, it is important to hire a certified energy audit professional and not just a home inspector or HVAC professional who offers an energy audit service, but just doesn't have the experience or equipment to accurately assess the home energy situation. 

If you're looking to hire someone to perform an energy audit, look for someone who is LEED-accredited (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and BPI-certified (Building Performance Institute). Ask them what kind of equipment they will be using to determine the energy performance of your home, such as a blower door or infrared imaging tool. 

The energy audit service should be able to determine the comfort and energy efficiency issues of your home, i.e. hot and cold spots, drafts, poor air quality, air leaks, insulation, duct work, air pressure and flow, moisture levels, ventilation, and the conditions of the windows and doors. Once the sources of energy loss are determined, cost-effective solutions can be implemented. Lower energy bills and reduced energy consumption are not the only benefits incurred. You will also experience a more comfortable home. After all, improved air quality leads to fewer allergies and asthma symptoms. Ultimately, you will be reducing the chance of anyone in your family developing a potentially serious health issue that poor indoor air quality can produce.

One other potential advantage of a home energy audit is that it can reveal any hidden problems, such as impaired ventilation that can lead to mold and/or mildew growth. 

From what I can see from the various sites I researched, most people see up to a 16% return per year following their audit. That's significant. Now, I just have to find the time to look into this further and schedule something. Of course, following my mom's death last week, everything got pushed aside and now I'm scrambling to try to catch up with things. But one of these days soon, I plan to have someone out to the house to perform an audit. I'm almost afraid to find out what they discover!

What about you? Have you ever had a home energy audit? 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. However, the thoughts presented are my own.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Saying goodbye

For those of you who haven't heard, my mother died last week. Bill and I traveled across the state on January 5th to spend her 86th birthday with her on the 7th. Our plan was to return home on the 8th, but we extended our visit through the 10th. Two days later, my mom suffered 3 massive strokes and went into a coma. She never regained consciousness. At 8:53 a.m. Tuesday, January 15th, her heart slowed down until it just stopped beating. She died peacefully.

While she was in a coma, I talked to her, rubbed her feet and arms, kissed her face and sang to her. She loved the song, "If He Walked into My Life Today" from Mame. I think it reminded her of my dad. While I couldn't possibly match Eydie Gorme's voice, I sang it anyway. Then I sang a song that always made her cry. Growing up as part of the congregation of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Manheim, PA (the Red Rose Church), my sisters and I sang in the Children's Choir. Every year, we sang "Let There Be Peace on Earth." It wasn't just the song that Mom loved; it was also the memory of her sweet little girls singing their hearts out in the choir loft behind the majestic pipe organ. I fought back my own tears as I leaned over her bed singing the words to her... funny how I'd never picked up on one of the last lines of the song before -- "To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally..." The word pierced my heart. I wasn't ready to let her go. I wasn't ready for her to transition into eternity. I just wasn't ready.

On Saturday, my husband closed out her memorial service by singing "Let There Be Peace On Earth." It wasn't quite the same as if my sisters and I had sang it, but it was probably just as difficult for him to do. Bill loved my mom. And she loved him.

Of the past 17 days, I spent 15 of them in my hometown. In addition to saying goodbye to my mom, I also have to say goodbye to my childhood home. It's not easy. Our house in Manheim was a gathering place for all of us. My niece, who lives in NYC, and my nephew, from Vegas, consider it home. My own children have years worth of memories there. Even my mom's great-grandchildren love going there. 

As we sorted through Mom's things, we each took special items... items that will remind us, not only of her, but of our history in that house. It was the house where I wrote my first poem. The house where I discovered my love of writing. And of birds. It was where I learned about family and forgiveness and resilience. I nursed my own broken heart there time and time again. And it was the place where I launched dreams in that same heart. Let me tell you... it's not easy to let go.

As much as I'm not unfamiliar with grief, I am not familiar with what is ahead. I suspect the pain will knock me down at unexpected moments. That is why I'm asking for your grace. Postings may be sporadic for awhile. But I'll be back to my daily postings eventually. I just need a bit of time to reflect, to mourn and to get my bearings. My mother and my home were constants in my life. I think I'm about to lose my footing.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Vinegar Fridays winner


Congratulations to Sarah Hull, winner of the 2 copies of Vinegar Fridays

What a great way for her to celebrate Vinegar Friday, don't you think? 

If you would like a copy of the book, it is available for purchase through Amazon and Lulu.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Car Seat Safety Series -- Part 5 Correct Harness Use

I 'm happy to be offering the 5th installment in the Car Seat Safety Series, written by Megan Arce, CPST (Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician) and mother of two little princesses.

Correct Harness Use

My last blog post focused on car seat installation errors, and this week I’m keeping it short and sweet with a quick reminder about harness use, since part of the 90% misuse rate among car seats also falls into this category. 

My last blog focused on car seat installation errors, and this week I’m keeping it short and sweet with a quick reminder about harness use, since part of the 90% misuse rate among car seats also falls into this category.

1. The harness should be tight.  How tight? As us technicians say, “snug as a hug.”  To be more specific, the harness should pass the “Pinch Test.”  When your child is in the seat with the harness pulled tight, using your pointer finger and thumb try to grab a hold of (or pinch) the straps directly above the chest clip.  If you are unable to pinch any excess strap, then you pass the test.  If you are able to grab a hold of and hang onto any extra strap, then you need to pull them a bit tighter.   Children who are not used to being properly secured may object to the new tightness of their harness, but they will get used to it.  In my vehicles, the opposite is true- my 4 year old will object if the harness isn’t tight enough as all she has ever known is a snug harness and she clearly prefers it this way.   If a harness is loose, in the event of a crash, the child will move around significantly and very forcefully in their seat,  and likely even be ejected from it. 

2.  No twisting of the straps is allowed. Every single time a car seat is used, the straps need to be checked to ensure they are making a straight line from the top harness slots, all the way down to the lower slots.  If ever a twist occurs (this is guaranteed to happen at least once in every car seat’s life span), the twist needs to be corrected immediately.   It may seem like a minor glitch, but each twist in the strap compromises the child’s safety greatly.  The webbing is designed to distribute forces in a particular way and the twisting restricts it from being able to do that properly, which, in turn, is dangerous for the child.


3.  Harness straps need to be adjusted to the proper height.  For a rear facing infant/toddler/child, the straps should come out of the car seat right AT or right BELOW their shoulders.   A rear facing child will “ramp up” or ride up the back of the seat and the tightly hugging harness will help keep the child anchored in the seat.  For a forward facing car seat,  the straps should be right AT or right ABOVE the child’s shoulders.   If the straps are too low, crash forces can cause the straps to compress down onto the child’s shoulder, injuring their spinal column.  If you are unsure of how to adjust the height of your child’s seat, consult your owner’s manual for instructions. 



4.  Chest clip needs to be on the child’s chest.  It is called a chest clip for this reason.  It is not called a belly clip and it does not belong on your child’s abdomen.  In fact, in a crash your child would likely suffer great internal injuries from this clip if it is on their belly.  One major purpose for the chest clip is to hold the harness in the correct position over the child’s shoulders.  If it is not in the properly location, a shoulder strap can easily slip off the shoulder and the child is at risk for ejection.  The proper placement is armpit or nipple level, whichever is easiest for you to remember.  Personally, I like to think of it as a “bikini top” and that works for me!  A visual guide is offered on many brands of car seats to indicate proper placement as well. 




5.  Crotch buckles often need adjusting too!  Most car seats on the market allow for multiple crotch adjustments, both for the child’s comfort and for their safety, of course. In general, we like to see the buckle closest to the body as possible, without the child sitting on it.  Depending on the car seat, some crotch buckles have their whole own set of rules, which can be found where? Yep, in your owner’s manual!  

6.  Car seats do eventually get outgrown.  Yep, your child WILL continue to grow, even if you will them not to.  Be mindful of the height and weight limits of your child’s seat, as each seat has it’s own limit.  A rear facing seat is outgrown when there is less than 1” of room from the top of the child’s head to the top of the shell of the car seat, or when the child has surpassed a specific height or weight limit in rear facing position.  A forward facing seat is outgrown when the child’s shoulders are above the highest harness slot opening, when the child’s ears are above the top of the shell, or when they exceeded the weight limit of the harness.

7.  Only use product that came with your car seat or are “okay’d” by your car seat manufacturer as per the owner’s manual. All the other infant head supports, snuzzlers, strap covers, car seat covers, etc., are considered “After Market Products.” These products have not been safety and/or tested for use in your seat, they could interfere with the basic operation of the car seat (therefore inhibiting the seat/harness itself to fully protect your child), and could void the warranty of your seat if used.  Bottom line, if it did not come with your seat, don’t use it! The only exception to this rule is that all car seats allow for the use of rolled receiving blankets as infant support- but please read the section in your owner’s manual explaining how to use this system properly before doing it!

INCORRECT: After Market Products

Starting good car seat habits from day one is ideal, obviously, but it’s never too late to adopt these safety habits and start using our car seats properly, because when you know better, you do better!

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