Why Our Mini-Van Wasn’t Working

Let me start by saying that my family is a big collection of exceptions to the rules.

My husband is 6’5″ and does not easily fit into every vehicle. Besides that, even if he fits, he can’t drive with a car seat behind him or he no longer fits!

We chose to extend rear face our children and we have them close together. This means we have three, three and under all rear facing. (and will soon have four under four, ideally rear facing). Making loading and unloading an errand in and of itself!

With that, you can understand a little bit about how we decided to get rid of our van.

It all started the day we realized we had to replace the breaks and tires before our safety inspection expired. It was going to cost a day in labor and about $1000 if we did it ourselves. I asked my husband, “do we plan to move the van off island?” to which he replied, “Does it meet all of our needs as a family?”

We drove a 2009 Volkswagen Routan SEL. It had all the bells and whistles, that is for sure. However, when we purchased it, we had one child and our second on the way. I knew very little in the way of car seats, and had I known what I do now, I would not have purchased this van.

In terms of safety, this van has 3 seats with both anchors and tethers. I prefer seat belts to anchors when installing my car seats, however, the lack of front facing tethers was a problem. If we were to keep this car forever, knowing that I am now expecting a fourth car seat, I would have to move Salem into a potentially less safe seat for his age and size to accommodate our younger children in front facing seats.

Our van also had Front Wheel Drive. We know that living somewhere with snow is likely, and living on a farm is a dream. All Wheel Drive is better suited to us in terms of safety and amenities.

Other issues that the van presented regularly came in the form of automatic sliding doors. As my dad says, “the more things that have automation, electric, and buttons, the more that can break and the more it costs to fix.” These doors not only broke, they would NOT stop CLOSING for anything! This is not the case with every minivan, I know this to be true because many of my friends have wonderful vans! Mine almost caught my two year olds leg, though, so I may have been holding a grudge.

Another inconvenience was having to buckle (and during tantrums, load) our rear facing toddlers through the trunk of the vehicle.

Lastly, the minivan did not match my energy efficient goals in life. It averaged 9-12 mpg. I got 17 once. With a fresh oil change and a clear H1…we all know how likely that was to happen again. We paid about $150/monthly in gas. That’s like adding a third car payment to it.

So now what?

I looked at other minivans. I knew how to drive them, how to park them, and how easy it was to let little people climb up into them.

The Toyota Sienna has AWD. The Honda Odyssey has 8 seats all with tethers. Rumor has it 2017 Odysseys come with AWD, but we were looking to not invest money into a vehicle we were not keeping and certainly were not gonna get returned.

If I get an Odyssey that meets my seat requirements, will I kick myself every time we get stuck in snow?

Let me tell you a story. When Sebastian and I were expecting our first child, we bought our first, second vehicle. We wanted something safe and fuel efficient. We determined the Ford Focus met our needs, but the big questions was, “do you want the hatchback?”

Nah…who needs a hatchback?

Our stroller never fit easily into the Focus. We should have gotten the hatchback.

Was AWD going to be my hatchback? Did I want to chance it?

I was scared of SUVs. I convinced myself they got the worst gas mileage. But gas mileage was an amenity, and AWD and tethers were my safety concerns. I could sacrifice gas mileage.

Well, Sebastian’s dad works for Ford, so off we went to the Ford dealer to look at Explorers. 7 seats, but 6 had tethers, AWD was an option, and the mileage was great in the ecoboost engines!

We have to wait 4 months for our car to get in and our car seats don’t fit..

This means, sure, I’ll pay less in car payments, but I have to purchase new rear facing car seats that fit. I’m not ready to deal with that hassle. I really love our Cleks and I love how safe and comfortable they are for our kids. And, we’ll have to do the work on the van because we’ll need it until the Explorer arrives.

Sebastian looked up reviews on the best SUVs. Number 2 was the Honda Pilot. So, I did some digging…

Here is where the Car Seat Lady gives a nice layout of seats with anchors, tethers, anchors and tethers, and neither.

Here is where the Car Seat Lady talks about what features to consider when looking to buy a vehicle that safely holds car seats and their precious cargo.

Which brings me to why we chose the 2016 Honda Pilot.

We have an AWD version.  We can load our toddlers comfortably standing at one door or sitting beside our daughter on the other side. Our Cleks fit in the front row, behind the driver, and my very tall husband is still able to drive! (Cleks could not be in the captain’s chairs in the van if my husband was to be comfortable driving). The front seats slide forward instead of having back row passengers climbing onto seats. ALL 6 rear seats have tethers! There is not buckle/seat overlap. All head rests are removable, meaning they won’t interfere with front facing tethers. Our gas mileage is 20-27! (Remember, my van did not even get that on its best day..)

I am excited to welcome this vehicle into our family life. I’m thankful it is rated so high in safety and overall gets incredible reviews. I don’t think this car will suit every family, and I think mini vans are wonderful vehicles! Once again, our situation is uncommon, but I’m so glad that Honda made a vehicle that suits our safety standards and our desires for a family vehicle!

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Thankfulness is a Lifesyle not a Season

Every Thanksgiving I see my social media fill up with a month of thankfulness. It’s beautiful. To see the glory of God shine through numerous optimistic and joyful posts is moving. It’s my favorite time of year to be on Facebook and Instagram. 

That being said, I want to participate this year, but I want more. I want this month to create a habit that roots itself into my soul. I want to be thankful every day in everything. 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Last year, on this day, I was staring at what seemed like an endless amount of days before my husband would hug me again. He was deployed. Every day seemed like it was getting harder, not easier. I felt like I was suffocating. 

The biggest lie I was ever told was that deployment gets easier. You get used to it. 

I will never get used to it. You can’t get used to missing someone you love with your whole self. You can’t get used to watching your kids lash out and get upset because they don’t understand what’s happening. 

You can be thankful in everything. 

I have the benefit of having a woman in my life who knows the Lord and has served in the navy for twenty years. 

“Let him grow you. Don’t fight it. Feel the agony, let him take it from you. He will heal you and you will grow.”

I have this image. You’re rolling out dough and it’s fighting you. What a miserable experience. Even if you manage to make it into a sloppy loaf, it will look awful, have tears, cracks, and be dry. 

I imagine this to show how we should let God shape us. If we fight him, the end product will be the same, but with unnecessary damage. It was preventable. If only we let Him work. 

What if we moved where He moved us, stretched where He pulled, let Him roll out the imperfections, the air bubbles, the things that will make us less appealing. How magnificent a loaf of bread we would be. 

Deployment is something for which we should be thankful. It opens us to our deepest emotions and gives us the best opportunity to know them and to grow them. 

A year ago, I was not thankful. I was bitter, I was angry, I was lonely, and I was impatient. I wasted a lot of time and energy hating our circumstances. I wanted someone or something to blame.

I came out of deployment an imperfect loaf of bread. I still grew, but I slowed the growth because I was not open entirely to letting God work through me.

Every day, He still uncovers parts of deployment that I carry with me. Not as battle wounds. He uncovers the pockets of perfectly baked bread. The parts where I listened. 

I am thankful for a God who makes me stretch. A God who showed me the beauty in pain. A God who brought home a husband, safe and changed for the better. A husband He picked, shaped, and grew just for me. And a God who brought us full circle, a year later, looking at a holiday season spent together. For Him I am thankful. For all these things, I am thankful. 

Dealing with Insecurity as a Mom

People today like to blame social media for a lot, but as far as I’m concerned, Satan is going to find a way to make me doubt who I am and what choices I make whether or not any form of media is involved. 

I got a handful of positive feedback on my mommy wars post, and before the negative feedback eats away at my soul I thought I would write this post. 

I have been a mom for 3 years. There have been moms before me who have mothered longer and there will be moms after me who have mothered not quite so long. 

What I had to realize is, we’re all *still* a mom and we’re all still looking for answers. It’s where we find them that matters. 

There are three main avenues that insecurity finds me: 

Family judgement

Friend judgement 

Self judgment

Now, let’s be clear. Judgement is defined as:

the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.

It’s not always negative! People can use positive judgement as often as they do negative. What I am dealing with today, however, is how to overcome insecurity from negative judgement. 

I listed those three judgements in order of the ease I can overcome them. The first two can very easily be flipped for some. 

Family judgement is easy for me to overcome because I have few people in my family who have been where I am. My mind logically takes their disagreement with a grain of salt. That being said, there are family members who have been where I am! When they disagree, at first, my reaction was pure, fiery anger and shutting people out.

Wrong, Candace. The bible does not tell you to get angry and shut out people who love you. 

So, about the time my daughter arrived, my faith evolved. My husband was at sea for much of her first year of life and I had to figure out something different. So I found God. 

When family disagreed with me and it upset me, I prayed. I found myself asking these questions:

Is their judgement biblically sound? 

What I mean is, are they trying to correct me as a brother or sister in Christ? Did I make a decision that doesn’t reflect God? 

Most often, the answer was no. Their judgement was a matter of preference. 

Okay, next question:

Does their judgement resonate with an insecurity I have? 

Most often the answer was yes. I’ll elaborate on how I work through this later.

Friends, I found,  I could more easily discuss our differences. They took what I said with a grain of salt and vice versa.

On a rare occasion, a disagreement would ignite and explode. So, I asked those questions again.

The first is often no. Rarely have I had a friend utilize biblical judgement with me. However, my very best friend and accountability partner, she most certainly has her work cut out for her. 

In the day to day of parenting choices though, the judgement isn’t biblical. Because, well, the Bible is truly clear on one area of parenting, and that’s to raise your child up in the way of the Lord. 

That means love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Fruits of the spirit: Galatians 5: 22-23)

Not gossip. Not anger. Not fear. Not self-hate. The list goes on.

The rest comes down to preference and safety. 

This next part was important for me. 

Was my friend approaching me on a matter of preference? Or safety?

1/3 times I get safety. I had a biblical reaction once. I had a bad reaction once. 

The first time a friend approached me on a matter of safety, at first I was annoyed and hurt. But after prayer and research, I found she was right. Her choice to address me was done in love for me and my child, and to get angry at her was absolutely bonkers. (See: the day a friend corrected me)

The second time, I blew up, blocked her, and kept it that way for months. Not my greatest moment, but I’m human and weve since made amends. This topic was a matter of safety to her, but I had done my research and found the line to be right down the middle. I had prayed over it, as had she, and we had come to difference of opinion. Can that happen? Absolutely. Something that is right for me doesn’t have to be right for her. And it’s not a biblical truth were arguing over, so we agreed to set it aside and continue on our walk with Christ. 

What I really want to get at, though, is our hearts. My second question was: 

Does their judgement resonate with an insecurity I have? 

This part, this is where the work has to happen. 

The answer here is almost always yes. 

I’m not a good enough mom.

She cleans more.

Her food is always better.

She nurses longer.

Her age gaps are “normal”

She has time to shower and get dressed. 

She spanks more.

She never spanks.

What do those say about me and what I think of myself? 

Well, not good things. 

Then, I sat down, discouraged (and at this time alone, as hubby was deployed) and I journaled. Why did God give me three children close together. Why can’t I nurse them longer, because I want to but pregnancy makes it impossible. Why can’t I find the energy to shower, let alone get dressed. 

And then, there’s the quiet that comes after the tears and infuriated writing. 

I had to ask myself: how does God see me?

I am renewed in Him. 

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

I am created in His image, clothed in righteousness and holiness.

Col. 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

I am saved by grace alone.

Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

I have a heavenly calling.

Hebrews 3:1 therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

I radiate God’s light and joy.

Psalm 19:8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

I am chosen by the Creator of the world.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

He knows my needs before I ask them.

Matthew 6:8  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

He knew me before I was formed in the womb.

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

He knows the number of hairs on my head.

Luke 12:7 indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows

He knows what I will do before I do it. That means he knows me better than I know me.

Psalm 139:4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD

Dealing with insecurities is the hardest thing I have to do daily.

It’s made easier when I remember the truths the Bible tells me about me. 

When that judgement sits heavy on your heart, and you know it’s not a biblical judgement, you can discern pretty easily that it’s a heart problem.

You are loved even when you don’t love yourself, but you should love yourself because of all of those reasons up there. 

Serve the Lord with all you have, love Him more than that. He’ll remind you why you’re here, but it gets much easier if you take the time to sit and listen. 


Why I Don’t Believe in Mommy Wars and Who I Believe in Instead

It’s a hot topic. Moms are feeling judged everywhere in every decision they make from food to diapers and everything in between. I’m sitting, quietly reading and observing. I get the hot bubble in my chest, the one I got before my car seat blog. I want to say something, but I can’t. People are going to be offended. I’m too afraid to lose friends. And then I heard the voice.
That’s not who you are. Since when are you afraid to share your feelings? 

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Mommy wars aren’t real. There. I said it. 
The roosevelts were on par with this topic. 

Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy”

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “no on can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 

People are going to have an opinion on your bottle choice, just like they have an opinion on your short choice. Sure, in the normal world, when we didn’t have kids, nobody shared their judgement. They kept it to themselves, annoyed by your short-shorts quietly until they could go find someone else to talk about it with. 

The trouble with “mommy wars” is that people share their opinions. However, when we sit around here telling them to keep their pro-breastfeeding, baby wearing, cloth diapering choices to themselves, we are doing something else. We are returning the “judgement and shame” and, chances are, we’re still going to travel on our merry way to our best friend’s house to talk about that mom and her alternative parenting. 

First, lets pin point a few topics that the Bible doesn’t share. It doesn’t tell us to find parents who are likeminded. It doesn’t tell us we need support from other parents. It doesn’t tell us that there is a right way to feed, clothe, or travel with your child. 

It does tell you a few things that are right:

 Psalms 127:3-5 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 4:16 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

That tells me my job as a mother was given to me by God. That I should train my children in the ways of the Lord. That any advice on parenting I share should be done in love. All the other stuff doesn’t matter in the end, so long as they know Him. 

That being said, knowing who we are in the Lord helps us make those daily decisions. If your confidence is lacking in a parenting decision, did you pray about it? Or did you lean on your own understanding? 

When I look at choices I face in caring for my children, I kneel first at the feet of the Lord. Then, I stand confidently in my decision, which is rooted in Him. 

2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect

Knowing who I am in Christ is the only way for me to parent. Without Him, I’m lost, insecure, confused, and judgemental. 

And with that peace that passes understanding, I humbly request advice daily. I am not above asking for help. From my mother, from another mom at church, from a mom who has a child the same age at the playground. If we remove the right for other parents of all ages to share their understanding of parenthood, we lose a valuable asset. God uses anyone and everyone for His will, and if I shut out people, I could be shutting out Him. 

The power of prayer is a beautiful thing. Let us lean on Him in parenthood, because without Him, we are nothing. 

It’s time we stopped recognizing mommy wars. It’s time we took control of our feelings, because they are the greatest liars. No one can make you feel anything, so own your insecurity and heartache, and bring it to God’s feet. God gave me my children just as He gave you yours. Your needs and their needs are different from ours, and only God truly knows them. 

Matthew 6:8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

I Folded My Kids’ Clothes Wrong

I grew up in a tidy home. My mom had 9 children, as I have mentioned before, and tidy was the only way to do it. She had a system with clothes that I had long since forgotten. See, I remember seasons coming and going, and my mom was able to swap out sizes and outfits easily. And I could never ever recreate the beauty that was the first cycle through the new clothes. 

High school came and went and I handled my own clothes. Then marriage, then babies. And now mom lives with me. One day, exasperated, I went to her. My husband just doesn’t know how to carefully and neatly look through a drawer and put together an outfit. If I ask him to dress the kids, I have committed to an hour of drawer reorganization later. His argument? “Dads have no business dressing their kids, especially their daughters. I have no clue what goes together. It all looks weird and pink.” 

Mom laughed and said, “fold the sets together, inside each other. Whatever doesn’t have a set, make one or donate it.”

She helped me sort all the kids clothes. Current and tubs I have stored by size for future numbers. And the result was extra space and beautiful, amazing results from my husband. Less fights is always a win in my book. 

Here’s a picture tutorial using PJ sets. 

This is a three piece set. I keep them together and decide based on the season (we live in Hawaii, so based on the nights temperature) whether or not we use shorts or pants.

   
Step 1: fold the shorts in half.

 

Step 2: fold in half again!
   
Step 3: Fold the pants in half.

 Step 4: Fold the pants up 1/3   
 

Step 5: Fold the pants down 1/3
   
Step 6: Stack the short/pant set.

 

Step 7: lay the shirt flat
   
Step 8: Fold 1/3 of the shirt in

 

Step 9: Fold the other side in 1/3.

   
Step 10: Set the short/pant stack in the center of the shirt

 

Step 11: Fold the shirt up 1/3
   
Step 12: Fold the shirt down 1/3.

  Line them up in a row with the style face up so dad can pick his favorites at a glance! This is my daughter’s clothing drawer. My son and daughter  share a dresser. The top drawer holds both children’s PJs, allowing for a one stop shop for bed time routine!  
The baby onesie is a little different! 

   
Step 1: Lay flat.

  

Step 2: fold bottom up

 
Step 3: fold bottom up again!

  
Final step: lay them in a row! 
There are obviously exceptional pieces of clothing! Comment any questions and I’ll show you how I have them folded! 

Windows Wide Open

I have shared on how I keep my children’s toys organized (by spending 15 minutes a day picking up). 

There’s more to keeping my home clean than toys. I have three children. All three sleep in diapers at night. I have two dogs, a husky/malamute mix and a lab mix. I also have one {Foster} cat. 

The very worst part isn’t even all that when it comes to cleaning my home. That is all weekly cleaning. A quick vacuuming every few days. Mopping once a week (realistically every ten days). Laundry one-two days. All manageable. 

The worst part is that we live on the base of a mountain where almost 20,000 people pass us at least every morning and every night to live their daily lives. There are only homes, schools, and churches on this mountain. Every grocery trip, beach going, work headed car passes us. The worst part is our backyard backs up to the one road for those 20,000. 

The very best thing about our single wall home is that we have no air conditioning. You read that right. We have no temptation to lock up our windows and run the air. We get Hawaiian breezes day in and day out. I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. It took adjusting, but we live in a beautiful, breezy spot and the weather is always perfect. 
Except. For. Cleaning. It’s so hot cleaning here. With windows open all day every day, all that car exhaust flies it’s way into my home. First, the screens catch some. Then the blinds. And then all the nearby surfaces. Which means cleaning has to happen. And not all that light vacuuming and hanging laundry on the clothes line. Wall washing, window cleaning, surface scrubbing hot, hard work cleaning.

  

I dust when I get a spare minute, which, as you can guess is few and far between. And I just couldn’t keep up. I was scrubbing my blinds every few weeks. Wiping black film off of bookcases and tables. And the fans. Ohhhh do we have fans. Just. Covered.  It didn’t matter! It looked like I never wiped down anything.

Something has to change. I simply cannot keep this place live able and keep my kids entertained. I need a way to make the frequent clean ups faster. 

Then, I remembered. This very wonderful woman I met at our previous duty station. I caught her one day, mid chores, to drop off a book I had borrowed. She was cleaning her blinds with a tube sock up her arm.

I poked fun, but she taught me the cleaning hack that just changed my homemaking world. 

“Puppet show?” — I try to be funny.

“No! Getting ready to have my windows open for the summer!” 

Okay, not following. Which, she saw my face. 

“I clean my blinds with a sock..? I can grab both sides and wipe; the weave of the fabric is narrower than cloths. It picks up everything. Watch.”

And I did. Her little tube sock picked up allll the dirt. 

“But why the tube sock?”

“So the water doesn’t tickle down my arm!”

She had thought of everything. My nose tipped me off that she was using vinegar and water, so I asked and she informed me her solution was half vinegar and half water. 

“Why not dish soap?” 

“Because it leaves a film that needs to be wiped clean with just water. And if left, all the dirt still sticks to my blinds.”

Ok. I’m sold. Definitely the easiest way to clean your blinds, but let’s face it, who has time to do that all the time? I’d rather just close up the windows, right? 

“Do you do this often? You have quite the science going.”

“Nope, once at the beginning of summer, once at the end.”

“Don’t they get filthy a few weeks in..?”

Lo and behold. She held up STATIC GUARD! 

She just sprayed the screens (after vacuuming with a brush attachment) and sprayed the blinds (after the sock-vinegar-water and drying). And everything just comes right off. All summer long. She just wipes and goes on her merry way to the next, non-disruptive, quick and easy chore. 

At the time, we were far away from knowing Hawaii would be our next home, but I’m so thankful for her today. I’ve been working through my home, scrubbing for the last time, and happily using static guard to help the time between wiping grow! The best part? The static guard makes cleaning my fans a *breeze* 😏 just scrub (or vacuum) off the caked on dust, spray with static guard, and suddenly the dust upkeep dramatically decreased!

My parents also found some screens for us to try out that catch even finer particles and allergens! Once we try them, I’ll be sure to come back here and share!

What sort of cleaning tips have great homemakers shared with you? 

Coming up: 

Getting tough stains out of cloth diapers

I was organizing baby clothes all wrong

How my mom saved us money monthly

Parenting Doesn’t Come with a Manual, but Car Seats DO

I am in total awe of the overwhelming support and encouragement from my previous blog post. I’m hopeful that when parents see it, minds are opened, and better decisions are made. Like so many of you say, “When we know better, we do better.”

Like I said before, and many others have said, parents make mistakes every day. We have to hope for a little grace to make up for our short comings. Parenting doesn’t have a how-to. Lucky for us, car seats do come with a how-to!

  
I wasn’t alone in thinking my one-year old was AS safe front facing, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and cautiously assume I’m not the only 22 year old mom who thought warning stickers and manuals are there to protect companies from being sued.

Window screens tell you not to let kids lean on them because toddlers have fallen out. Cribs tell you to have a certain size mattress because babies have suffocated. Swings tell you to use child restraints because children have gotten hurt without them. Toys come with “small pieces” warnings because babies have choked.

Car seats come with manuals so that WHEN accidents happen, children don’t have to get hurt or lose their lives.

I’m going to stand up on a soap box here and tell you, if you’re reading this, you’re trying to do better. That’s wonderful, but I’m not your car seat manufacturer. I’m not a car seat technician (yet, but maybe soon). I’m a mom who used the internet to learn and I’m passing down what I’ve learned onto you.

However, go above and beyond.

Get up now, and go find your manual.

In your manual you’re going to find things that surprise you. I did!

We own two Clek Foonfs, and I love them. I’m not getting paid to say that. These car seats rock my world. They’re space ships. 45-pound-each crash cages. I trust them to save my children’s lives.

Right on the first page they included a checklist for me. The next page is a table of contents. I can find any and all information I need to know about properly using, cleaning, and traveling with my car seat. On the very back, they have a phone number listed. So in the instance that I have a question that their manual doesn’t answer, I can Call THEM. They know their seats better than anyone else. Utilize that.

  

This blog post is a quick list of things that are commonly unknown about car seats. In the instance that you don’t have your manual with you, because in today’s modern world you could be reading this anywhere. (Hopefully not while you’re driving. Or while your kids are playing). Maybe you’re in line at the bank and holding your three year old’s hand and you see something you’ve installed incorrectly or been doing wrong all along. This list is for you.

It’s not your car seat bible. That’s what your manuals for, okay? So read it.

  • Rear Facing is recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics until at least age TWO, or until they have MAXIMIZED their seat’s rear facing requirements. Here
    • In Sweden, which has very low child-passenger injury and death rates, children often ride rear-facing up to 4 years of age.Here
  • Children should be in a FIVE POINT HARNESS until at least age FIVE, but in reality, most kids aren’t ready for a booster until ages 6-7! Here
  • American Academy of Pediatrics also advises that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age. Here
  • All children aged 12 and under should ride properly buckled in the BACK SEAT. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an airbag. Here (EDIT: Emily in the comment below has brought to my attention that if the air bag is disabled, there are circumstances that the front seat is still an appropriate location.)

Above are my laws for my car. I’m the grumpy car seat lady. Know better, do better.

For rear-facing infant carriers remember to lower the carrying handle to its resting position, unless your seat specifically states it can remain up. Leaving the handle up can interfere with the function of rear facing seats and/or shatter into the child’s seat. Check your manual. Here — thanks Sandy And here

Strap-Did-You-Know?

  • Rear Facing shoulder straps should be at or below the child’s shoulder. Forward Facing shoulder straps should be at or above. (DOUBLE CHECK THIS INFORMATION WITH YOUR MANUAL).
  • Crotch buckles should be at or behind the child’s crotch. I use cloth diapers, which means added bulk. To satisfy my concern, I place my child in the seat diaperless and adjust the buckle accordingly.
  • Car seat straps should never be submerged in liquid. Never use abrasive or harsh chemicals when cleaning your straps. These weaken your seat’s integrity.  — No Really. READ YOUR MANUAL
    • “Surface wash straps with a damp cloth and mild detergent” — Clek Manual, page 95

If you didn’t know and you made this mistake, PLEASE contact your car seat manufacturer. Chances are, they’ll send you a replacement hassle free!

  • If your straps show wear from age, CONTACT YOUR MANUFACTURER. They usually replace them free-of-charge (with the exception of seats not registered with their company and EXPIRED seats)

You read that last one right.

  • YOUR CAR SEAT HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE. Most car seats expire in 6 years. The only way to know for sure is to FIND THE STICKER. If your seat doesn’t have a sticker, you don’t know the model number, and you’re not the first owner, TIME TO REPLACE IT!

Not the first owner? Do you KNOW your car seat’s history?

  • Only buy car seat’s from trusted a friend or family member. Car seats are designed for ONE IMPACT ONLY. If you are the original owner and you’ve been in an accident, Replace it! If you get in an accident, my prayer is that you most certainly never do, but if it happens, your insurance company *should* reimburse you up to the value. This depends on your insurance policy.
  • IF YOU HAVE CHECKED YOUR CAR SEAT TO AN AIRLINE WITHOUT THE PROPER PACKING FROM A MANUFACTURER, YOU DON’T KNOW ITS HISTORY. — Have you seen airlines load cargo? This one is the reason we replaced our infant seat… << I MADE THIS MISTAKE.

ON ANCHORS AND BELTS

  • “Unless you have a Nuna Pipa base or a Forward Facing Clek Foonf, (do not use anchors and belts together).” Here
  • Anchors have a WEIGHT LIMIT.  “If child weighs more than 40 lbs, this seat must be used with a lap belt,” Clek Manual, Page 1!

Emily has also brought to my attention that your vehicle has its own weight limits for latches. Read your car manual.

WINTER COATS

  • NEVER ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO REMAIN IN THEIR WINTER COAT IN THEIR CAR SEAT. Here
    • to test this, put your child in their seat wearing the coat, buckle them, pull tight, unbuckle, remove the coat, and try again! WAY too much excess!

We’re going to finish with the checklist:

  • Your car seat straps should NEVER be twisted. They can’t be tightened enough.
  • Pinch the strap at the shoulder, if there’s no excess, the seat is tight enough. Here
  • Check your manual’s requirements for the head rest!!
  • NEVER use after market products. They haven’t been tested with your seat in a crash.
  • If your seat wiggles less than an inch side to side, it’s good to go! Here

I basically just summarized my manual. MY manual. Not your’s. So in case you didn’t catch the hint, READ YOUR MANUAL. 

Keep your manual in your glove compartment (cleks have a spot in the car seat!) It’s as important as your title, registration, and insurance.

Contact Manufacturers. Call Highway Patrol in your state. Contact a local car seat technician.

I’m more than happy to make edits. PLEASE correct me KINDLY. Add additional information in the comments.

In closing, Please find a location to recycle your car seat (expired, prior accident, unknown history)!

Here< For Clek Users

The Day A Friend Corrected Me

 I’ve been thinking about this blog post for months, the problem is, every time I start to write it, another friend chooses to forward face their child and I don’t want them to think I wrote it because of them. Here’s the thing: if this post convicts you, maybe you’re feeling convicted because you reasoned the same way. To some extent, forward facing your toddler is a preference. Statistics, and in some states, laws, recommend AT LEAST 2 years, but most states, despite American academy of pediatrics research, recommend (not require) AT LEAST 1 year and 20 pounds (minimum. That’s minimum.) 

Look up your state’s laws here. If you’re unhappy with your state’s decision, contact your local state representative. It’s also beneficial to contact car seat manufacturers, they are very supportive in lobbying for these changes. — thank you Krystina.
I’m writing this post not to make other parents feel guilty. If you feel guilty, deal with it on a personal level. This post is how I decided to extend rear face, not why you should. If you’re reading this and my reasons are your reasons, then do what you want with the information.  –

  
 I am as human as the next person. Moms and dads make mistakes everyday, and I was making one that could have cost my son his life. 

Above is Salem. Salem has always been in the 90th percentile for height/weight and between 75-85th percentile for his head size. As a first time mom, I was so proud of how big he was and by his first birthday, I just couldn’t wait to turn his car seat around. 

So I did. I shared the photo. A friend of mine commented, “just because he’s big enough doesn’t mean he should be!” I shrugged it off. This was a MILESTONE. Don’t ruin it, lady. 

Then I posted sleeping Salem. And she wrote me a book. 

“Listen, Candace. Hear me, please. Salem’s car seat straps are incorrect. The manual states he needs to have his chest buckle at his arm pits. In an accident, that buckle would dig into his soft stomach and cause serious damage to his organs, his upper body would have no support, flinging his so sweet and adorably large head so hard, that he is guaranteed to have serious spinal, nerve, and brain damage.

That is 100% the only wrong thing in the photo. (EDIT: a reader has brought to my attention “His straps were too loose and they were coming from behind his shoulders when we know they need to be at or above for forward facing. Now I know! It’ll be awhile before we are FF though 😏)

However, I need to address extended rear facing with you. Most states recommend a MINIMUM of 1 year and 20 pounds. While Salem meets that, it’s really best if he rides out the maximum rear facing seat requirements. I own that seat, they are 5-40 pounds and 40 inches rear facing. Meaning, he should be rear facing til about 2, which is what AAP recommends. Please consider turning him around?”

Crap. I’m so humiliated. She’s right. 

But rear facing is awful. I can’t see him. He whines. It looks uncomfortable. Plus, it’s SO OBNOXIOUS AND INCONVENIENT! 

Wait, what self? If you got in a wreck and you lost him, would any of those reasons stand a chance. 

Never. 

Not. One.

So I researched. I read every article on car seat safety. I joined Car Seats for the Littles on facebook. I asked my pediatrician. 

She was 100% RIGHT. 

Toddlers vertebrae aren’t connected by ossified bone; they’re connected by cartilage. Meaning it’s easier for serious damage to occur, ESPECIALLY in a car accident. HERE

Rear facing is 5 TIMES SAFER, 500%, for your child. HERE

And in case you came up with plenty of other myths to try one last time to keep forward facing, JUST LIKE I DID, Here.

A letter to myself: 

My child’s life is priceless. (As is your child’s.) I get one shot. I can’t put a price tag on it. I can’t put convenience ahead of it. I’m happy to share the information with you all and I will not be made to feel guilty. (Because I was you.)

I don’t care if you know you’re a super incredible safe driver. The car next to you isn’t. Don’t trust them to put your car seat to the test. 

If your child has outgrown their rear facing limits and you can’t afford to purchase one with higher limits, you shouldn’t feel guilty. NEVER FEEL GUILTY. You are educated and you are doing the best you can. 

  • This post is for the me’s out there. 
  • Front facing isn’t a milestone.
  • Front facing isn’t as safe. (With the exception of cars that don’t allow for proper rear facing installation).
  • Pride. Isn’t. Worth. It. 

Please consider Extended Rear Facing. Please.
 

If my post changed your mind (like many emails I’ve received!) or you already ERF your littles, post a picture on Instagram and

 #rearfacingforwardthinking 

It takes a lot to swallow our pride as moms. It’s ok to change our minds. Let’s support each other.

I have compiled more research, information from comments, and common car seat mistakes Here

Cameron’s story can be read Here

On Mother’s Day

All over my social media pages I keep seeing the question, “What’s the most valuable lesson your mother taught you?” 

I keep tossing it around in my mind, and every time I think I surely know, I change my mind, because I remember another incredibly wise lesson she shared with me.

The first bit of wisdom I decided on was, “God’s timing is rarely convenient and always perfect.” 

She shared this with me when I shared the news of my third pregnancy on the eve of my husbands deployment. It was exactly what I needed to hear. 

I apply this bit of wisdom to current events almost daily. It helps me loosen up a little and understand I can’t have my grip on every detail. Something I imagine she learned early in her mothering years as well and had to apply even more frequently as her number of children not only outnumbered her hands, but almost her fingers! 

The next “most valuable lesson” is that my heart can and will grow to love how ever many children God gives me. Lots of moms share this wisdom with their daughters. I can really take this to heart, though, as I’m her seventh, and she’s never made me feel unloved my entire life. She’s made me angry, and on occasion sad, but she’s always loved me. 

My next piece I want to remember for the rest of my life and share with my children is that love sometimes means we have to be mean. You have to stand for something or else you stand for nothing, right? My mom has the strongest will of anyone I’ve ever met. When she gives you a choice, you don’t have other options. Whether it’s peas for dinner or go hungry, be home by 10 or you’ll sleep on the dining room floor for a night per every minute you’re late, or, in my case, you can’t go out because you need to rest, she’s right. Every consequence was perfect for every child she had, and she had to do it differently for each of us. I’m sure not all of us have sat down and thought about them til we agree, but if we did, we’d come to the same conclusion. Our mom knows what we need and she pushed us to be the best version we could be. 

The last lesson I’m going to share, though I’m sure it’s not the last valuable lesson she’s taught me or will teach me, happened when I was in labor with my third baby. I started to panic at the though of having to push. It would be an hour til I got to that point, but my mind had convinced itself that I didn’t remember how. This has happened before, but not to the point of sheer panic. I whimpered that I just wanted my mom.

My midwife encouraged Sebastian to call my mom. I’ve said it before, but there is no moment in our lives that makes us want our mother’s hug quite like being in labor. 

I told her I was too scared to push. I didn’t think I could do it, but I wanted so badly for the whole thing to be over. 

“Sweetheart, you can do it, and you have to do it. It’s the only way that it’ll be over. Nobody can do it for you.”

She was right about labor. The only way to be done is to push. And she’s right about a lot more in that sentence. Every day I have to do things that suck and that’s not going to change for a long time. 

But I can do it, because my mom said so.

And I have to do it, because my mom said so. 

So, Happy Mother’s Day to my mama. Thanks for all of the valuable lessons you taught me and will teach me, and thanks for every minute in between. 

   

 Wedding photo curtesy of: Tessa Marie Weddings

Here I Raise My Ebenezer – Three Weeks With Three Under Three

I have a confession. Despite the encouragement from many loved ones during my pregnancy with Marvin, I convinced myself I couldn’t handle three under three.

I received so much wonderful advice and encouraging stories about the third being the easiest transition. I told myself they knew nothing of my circumstances. No one could know what horrors I was about to endure.

All that negative Nancy attitude got me was the difficult transition I imagined. The first three weeks with three under three have been spent in fear and anger. Fear to go out on a limb. To take a risk, experience life and the chaos that we have. To enjoy the tears, as they’re inevitable. Anger with toddlers who don’t understand why they’re upset. Anger when people who are only here to help me make one small mistake that effects nothing but my own OCD tendencies.

The worst advice I received was from strangers during my pregnancy, “Wow! Three under three! Well, God will never give you more than you can handle.”

This advice set me in a downward spiral. I was obviously given more than I could handle. I was failing. I very clearly did something wrong, being punished, but that can’t be right because the Bible specifically calls children blessings. God doesn’t give people babies as a punishment. So we’re back to me failing, I’m obviously not doing enough, or making the wrong choice in life somewhere.

Finally, I sat down with my devotions two days ago, and Beth Moore relayed exactly what God needed me to hear. (These quotes will be coming from Beth Moore’s Believing God Chapter 15)

She used Joshua 10, when the five kings of the Amorites bound together to defeat Joshua and the Israelites. They marched all night, surprising the army, and with God promise of a victory on their side, the armies were defeated.

Joshua faced a lot of opposition, the odds were not in his favor. They were outnumbered, they committed to the battle before God promised them victory, they were up all night, and they marched uphill. 4000 foot ascent of rough-terrain marching!

This story is familiar to me. It’s used frequently as a miracle story, usually with the illustration that these men defeat the odds with God on their side. As a mother, wife, and homemaker, I see something a little different. It wasn’t so quick. As a child, I saw the 5 minute battle scene Hollywood gave me. Now I see an all night struggle, an uphill March, sweat, tears, fear, and committing to something before you know everything’s gonna be alright.

Sounds like my life. No, I don’t mean I’m all armored up and sliding a weapon into people’s bodies.

My battle is different. I am outnumbered, I am often up all night, my March feels long, rough, uphill, and I usually have my arms full. I also committed to loving these tiny people no matter the outcome.

These soldiers didn’t get handed a battle field of already slain men upon arrival, they had to work for what they wanted. Sure, they had a promise of victory, but they had to earn it themselves.

“Fighting the good fight of faith takes energy. So do self-pity, anger, un forgiveness, and self-loathing. Decide where to put your energy.”

That was humbling. I have most certainly spent the last three weeks putting my energy into the latter half of those.

The part of the story I never noticed was the verses where God threw large hail stones from the sky, killing more men than the swords of the Israelites.

Then, Joshua realizes the sun will set before the battle is won. He prayed that the sun and the moon would stand still. “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down a full day.”

“A perfect set up for catastrophic defeat is also the perfect set up for miraculous victory.”

Jeremiah 32:17 “Ah sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

Let’s go back to that bad advice. God can, too, give you more than you can handle. I believe God gives us situations that require our all, and sometimes, that’s still not enough. These men were required to give all of themselves. They still only won because they called upon God.

I believe that sometimes, God gives you more than you can handle so that you stop taking credit for the beauty of your life, the hard work you put into it, and look around and say, “I have this because of God.” He gave me these children, these exact little people that He created before I knew what their names would be, and He knew that I could not be their mother without His help. Thank goodness for His grace to redeem my stupidity.

“When God requires much, he’ll do even more.”

“To whom much is given, much is required.” Luke 12:48

Now, looking back at those miracles I never noticed. Hailstones large enough to smash people, and He literally stopped the Earth on its axis.

He required a lot from those men, and He also gave two science-defying miracles.

That is not to say that God answers every prayer with miracles, or with the answer that we predetermined as right. But He does sometimes. He did for Joshua. If only I can remember to pray big prayers and give God the opportunity to give me back big answers.

“You don’t have to do it His way. You can choose bitterness, resentment, carnality, or mediocrity. Or you can go for it with everything you’ve got. You can experience the unmatched exhilaration of partnering in divine triumph. The stakes are high. The cost is steep. But I’ll promise you this: there is no high like the Most High.”

I need His help. Every day. I can only think about the next hour, because much else is too much. And the next hour can only be accomplished with His help. I want to partner in divine triumph.

1 Samuel 7:12 “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the LORD helped us.”

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood

I never understood why “ebenezer” was in that hymn, but now I do, and I’m going to go find a rock, set in on my counter top, and when I see it every day, I will remember how I made it to that moment.

“Thus far has the LORD helped us.”

I encourage you to sit down and read her book. You can purchase it HERE