By Laura Moore

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I curbed my addiction.

Unfortunately, that curbing was literal and not figurative.

It would have been much more productive, and far less expensive, had I gotten myself to the point where I actually put away the $800 piece of technology when I wasn't using it. 

Instead, I set it on the top of our stroller while I was talking on my husband's phone. When he returned from a cart parked along one of the Downtown Disney paths and reached to pull the shade over our son, that carelessly placed phone went smashing into the curb, meeting its untimely demise. 

My sister-in-law was voicing her thoughts about when and where we should meet for our next day departure to the beach, and I hardly heard anything that came out of her mouth. My hubby reached down to get the phone as she shared very important information about when we could check in and what there was to do for kids under four, but it sounded like white noise in my ears. When he flipped over my beloved hunk-of-instant-connection, I saw shards of glass shimmering in the waning ribbons of dusk.

It was only five months old. 

And we were on vacation without our camera.

This was devastating.

And yet it wasn't. 

Sure, I might not have sent as many updates to family members or taken as many pictures, but I was present for a whole heck of a lot more moments. I wasn't passing time by checking for emails or text messages. I wasn't trolling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds looking at other people's vacations, graduations or parties, or linking to articles they found fascinating. I wasn't looking up the answers to questions scrolling through my over-stimulated, ADD brain.

I was watching my little Z laugh and reach out to touch every single person within his tiny arm's reach. I was watching him stir up the crowd with his giggles and grins, his open-mouth, tongue-resting-across-his-two-bottom-teeth smile. I was watching him soak in the sites: the life-sized Lego Loch Ness Monster cresting the water, the ice cream cups dripping from the sides, the kids tugging on their parent's shirts, the dinosaurs roaring inside restaurants, the performers galloping across the stage. I was peeking around the shade more often to look at him, to smile at him, to "beep" his nose and tickle his toes, and ask him what he thinks.

See, a strange thing happens when you have to decide whether or not a phone call, a text message or a social media search is worth a sharp slice across your cheek or a sliver in the pad of your finger. Non-urgent interactions suddenly seem less important, and the urge to snap-out-of-the-present-in-an-effort-to-preserve-a-moment suddenly feel far less enticing. 

Instead, you choose to live. To laugh. To feel experiences from beginning to end. You no longer feel the nagging need to interrupt them.

You assume emergencies will funnel over to your companion. 

You look up and engage with the world. 

Following the death of my phone screen, I lived free and clear of hand-held distraction for five days, turning it on occasionally to check messages and then turning it off again to avoid losing pieces of glass. I used my husband's phone for fewer than a handful of correspondences with my sister-in-law when little Z was napping and she was trying to figure out if we could meet. 

But other than that, I just lived. And though I have few pictures to show for it, I have a fuller heart.

Now that I'm back, hopefully, I'll be able to get it fixed, as communicating is rather important. But I hope even more that I'll remember to leave it on the table when I'm playing with my son. And leave it in my purse when I am driving. And leave it out of arm's reach when I'm eating dinner with my husband. I hope I'll start people watching again, that I'll return to my habit of striking up conversations with strangers and giggling at awkward bends of time. I hope I'll once again find myself noticing the obscurities and the joys and the humor that is always unfolding around me if I'd only look up.

In short, I hope that once I get all of the pieces smoothed out and all of the jagged lines smoothed away, I will be able to see as clearly as my screen can.

 
 

By Laura Moore

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*UPDATE: 
Shortly after posting this entry, one of my readers sent me the email addresses of eight high-level executives at Newell Rubbermaid (Graco's parent company). 

I contacted them about my concerns and within minutes of sending the email, I got a response from the Chief Marketing & Insights Officer who said he wanted to rectify the situation "to my satisfaction as quickly as possible." From there, I received several more emails and phone calls over the next day and a half, and since the straps were not available to purchase, they offered to send me a brand new car seat.

Even more important than their willingness to send me a new seat is the fact that they passed my concerns on to their marketing team who is going to revisit the way they communicate the risk of washing the straps in the manual. They've also asked me to send my car seat back to them, so they can put it through further testing.

I am beyond thrilled with the response from Newell Rubbermaid executives, and I am hopeful my words have and will continue to inspire change, both from a communication stand point and from a user-awareness stand point. Thank you for reading.


ORIGINAL POST:

We buy carseats to keep our kids safe. 

Over the days and months before we give birth, many of us devote hours to sifting through reviews, asking our friends for recommendations, pouring over specs, attempting to unearth those telling little details that will undoubtedly reveal which car seat we should buy for our little ones.

And then, once we choose--once we buy our perfect seat--we breathe a sigh of relief. We learn to ignore the cries as we gently bend our little one's arms to fit beneath the straps. We develop our own sweet-soothing phrases to calm our child as we adjust the harness, untwist the turns, and yank the strings as tight as we can before shutting the door and positioning ourselves behind the wheel. 

We do our best to make an unsafe world as safe as it can possibly be, and so when we learn that the seat we purchased is actually unsafe, panic, anger and frustration comes flooding right in.

At least it did for me.

See, despite reading through my manual for installation instructions and adjustment instructions, I failed to notice a cleaning bullet typed on the second to last page. I failed to notice it, because when my son was covered in spit up or vomit or other bodily fluids, I did not think to pull out my manual and find out how Graco suggested I might clean it. 

Bleary-eyed and absorbed in the medical implications of excessive spit up, I scrubbed the straps with a burp cloth and then a baby wipe. Once I got our son down for a nap, I unthreaded them and tossed them into the dishwasher. 

I have no idea how many times I did this before I learned it was wrong, and so I fear how unsafe those straps are by now. I cringe just thinking about the ways I put our son in harm's way each time I got behind the wheel. I am nauseated by my over-sight, wondering why--despite all of the advice I heard from countless people--the warning to avoid water was not included on any list.

But it wasn't. 

I learned of this danger by accident. In my search for convertible car seat reviews, I incidentally came across a comment about cleaning and saw the warning:

DO NOT IMMERSE YOUR STRAPS in water. 

The directive appeared over and over, site after site. In fact, I did not see a single online writer, group or organization that questioned its validity or dismissed it as just a legal line printed to prevent lawsuits. Everywhere I looked, I read the same warning: soaking the straps causes the fibers to break down, and once they break down, they do not have the strength to hold a child in place during an accident. Some sites even suggested that soap and other abrasives actually remove fire retardant materials as well.

Panicked, I promptly visited the Gracobaby website. I entered the model number and year into the appropriate boxes and I scrolled through the replacement part section. Unfortunately though, no matter how many times I scrolled, the straps were not listed as an option.

Convinced I was missing something, I called Graco to ask for help. The woman who answered advised me to purchase the chest harness because that would come with the straps. I questioned her because it didn't list the straps anywhere, but she assured me this was the way to go, and so I filled out the details and awaited the delivery.

When the package arrived, all I got was a clip, and I could feel heat filling my face. Frustrated, I dialed Graco again.

"I called last week and the woman I spoke to assured me that the straps would come, but all I got was a clip," I told the man who answered the phone. "I don't need a clip; I need the straps."

"But it looks like we don't sell straps for that model," he said matter-of-factly, as if he were informing me that a pizza place ran out of anchovies or a shoe store ran out of pink shoelaces. 

"But my car seat is unsafe," I reiterated. "Yes, I made an error. Yes, I soaked the straps in water, but I didn't see the tiny warning, printed on page 45 of your manual until someone tipped me off and inspired me to look. 

"Are you telling me there is nothing I can do to fix my mistake? Babies make messes, that's what they do. I know I am not the only person who has washed the straps. How can you not sell replacements? This car seat cost over $200 and it doesn't expire for years. There has to be another option," I told him with a shaky voice now on the verge of tears. "We can put our son in a convertible car seat right now, but I don't want to buy a new seat if we have another baby. This is absurd."

"I'm sorry," he said flatly, "but we don't sell them. There is nothing I can do."

I asked to speak to a manager and he told me that he'd be happy to fill out a form so a supervisor could call within 24 hours; however, he was quick to tell me that the manager wouldn't be able to do anything. 

"We don't sell the straps," he repeated once more, as if saying it again would somehow make it okay.

But it wasn't okay. Nothing about it was okay.

Babies throw up....some of them, like mine, throw up a lot. They make messes. Straps get dirty. No one wants to leave their child soaking in vomit, so tired parents--who do not have time to consult a manual for every little seemingly intuitive thing--follow their instincts and wipe up messes. And then, when they finally get a few minutes of down time, they unthread the straps and make an effort to disinfect the space. They soak away germs. They wash away the smell. They prepare a nice, clean area for their child to sit. 

But in so doing, they unknowingly make the car seat unsafe. 

They unknowingly put their child at a greater risk. 

They unknowing misplace their trust in a product that isn't strong enough to fulfill its purpose.

They unknowingly do all of this, because the warning not to is buried in the back of a manual.

If improper cleaning will render a product unsafe--and ultimately unusable--this is something manufacturers should tell people on page one. Slipping it into the back is--in my opinion--irresponsible at best, and unethical at worst. And, to provide no options for parents to remedy a perfectly understandable--and probably fairly common--mistake is, in every way, inexcusable.

Graco prides itself on safety, on being the brand parents can trust. We have a Graco Pack'n'Play, bassinet, crib, stroller and countless other goods. But if they do not find a way to make this right, I will never buy anything from Graco again and I will do my best to ensure every person I meet knows what kind of company they really are. I am not asking for a tiny, insignificant piece to an outdated toy. I am not even asking for anything for free. I am asking Graco to sell a part that will keep my child safe in one of the most important products they offer.

But today, I was told this isn't possible. 

Today, I was told there was nothing they could do. 

And today, I don't accept the answer. 

Graco can fix this problem if they want to, and while I await their solution, I plan to inform the public of my experience. I plan to spread the message about car seat cleaning safety, and I plan to inform parents about the risk they take in purchasing Graco products. Hopefully my words will help you avoid a very costly mistake in every sense of the word.

To learn more about cleaning car seats, check out the two blogs that helped me. One from Car Seats for the Littles and one from Mama Bree.

 
 

By Laura Moore

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On Monday, I wheeled my cart up to the "healthy milk" section in our grocery store, stopped, and panicked. 

In a flash, I could feel a feisty frustration burgeoning inside of me. The fight-or-flight mode kicked in, and since I'm not one for running away, my emotional fists reared their ugly heads. 

The milk I normally buy for our son was gone. It was on sale, and a huge void--where all of those cartons once were--peered back at me. 

The negative space screamed loud and clear: How did you not know this was on sale? Why didn't you come earlier? Or yesterday? Or two thousand days before that? 

My brain battled back by suggesting that--regardless of which day I came--it was positively absurd that a grocery store would run out of MILK, that a grocery store would fail to stock enough in-demand products to fulfill the needs of mothers who were shopping at reasonable hours of the day. 

But the empty shelf didn't care. It just continued to mock me with a its blankness, its void popping out like a neon-colored sign.

Defeated, I scanned up and down the remaining options: Horizon's Organic Milk (they're on the foods to avoid list because of DHA additives: see here), Organic Valley (would have been great, but this store only sells reduced fat options, not whole milk), Simple Truth with Omega 3 (presumably from synthesized sources so this one won't work either) and all sorts of soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk (which I don't want to use for a whole host of reasons, most notably because they're NOT milk).

I gritted my teeth and scanned the bay once more. Then I turned around to the service desk which was conveniently positioned behind me.

"M'am, do you know if you have more milk in the back? The kind I get for my son is gone."

"It looks like we're all out. If we don't have any up there, then we don't have any left."

"But, how could you run out of milk? Could I make a request that you stock more of it? You clearly don't have enough for the demand."

"I'm sorry, but I can't do anything about it," she said, and then she pointed to the other cartons and suggested that I choose a different option.

In that instant, I almost snapped. I almost launched into a lecture about the three million articles and blog posts I've read detailing the dangers of ingesting synthesized vitamins, pesticides and antibiotics. 

No I can't CHOOSE another option, I wanted to tell her. 

And I don't have time to drive across the street to Fresh Market, or 0.8 miles to different Kroger, 4.3 miles to a third Kroger, or 5.2 miles to a fourth. And even though I'm tempted to go to Giant Eagle--who is more expensive but never sells out of a product like milk--I also don't have time to drive 1.4 miles or 2.9 miles or 5 miles to get there. Nor do I have time to drive 1.4 miles to Aldi, 3.3 miles to Huffman's Market, 3.8 miles to Trader Joe's, or 3.9 miles to one Whole Foods, and 4.1 miles to another. 

And even if it was tempting to kill birds with one stone, I can't really squeeze in a trip to any one of the four Targets that are less than 7 miles away, or the Meijer's that is 3.3 miles away, or the Walmart Super Center which is 1.4 miles away.

I only have time to stop at this ONE grocery store, a store that stands among 16 different options, all of which sell various types of organic milk. 

I could feel my case building, my anger rising. 

If you can't stock the staples, I'll just start shopping somewhere else, I wanted to write in a complaint email to Kroger management. 

Or I wanted to tweet: "@kroger if you keep running out of milk, I will have to start shopping @GiantEagle again. #disappointed." 

And then of course, when they'd respond and apologize, I'd add my frustration that they were also out of fresh basil, and no one in the store could direct me to low-sodium black beans. 

But as I meandered through the rest of the market, as I picked up fresh cuts of meat, tossed organic to-go toddler fruit and vegetable pouches into my cart, located several types of quinoa, snagged frozen bags of spinach and peas and returned back to the healthy dairy section where I scooped up local, organic, cage-free eggs from an Ohio Amish farmer, I realized my earlier panic, frustration and infuriation was snobby, privileged and absurd.

I live in the opposite of a food desert; I live in an area inundated with grocery stores stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, organic dairy and moderately processed grain. And I have a car to drive around to each of those 16 stores, and access to computers where I can easily figure out who is having sales. I have a smart phone equip to handle electronic coupons, and to search for healthy recipes. I have the luxury of choice, the luxury of complaining, the luxury of high shopping expectations.

I have way more than I need.

By the time I filled my cart and stood in line to check out, my frustration had turned to curiosity. I opened a browser and searched for information about hunger in Columbus. And while several links and articles popped up, I found myself drawn to a story that appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on September 4, 2014. 

The article says that Ohio--who identifies 16% percent of the population as having "limited or uncertain ability to provide nutritious meals"--is tied with Mississippi as the third worst state in the country for food insecurity.  And when they break down the numbers and look only at children, the article states that 650,000 Ohio kids (enough to fill Ohio State's football stadium more than SIX times) experience hunger

As I read those words--as I thought about the reality of those statistics--I wanted to slap myself across the face. 

Minutes before, I was worried about ONE grocery store selling out of ONE kind of organic milk. I was worried about my child having too much synthesized Omega 3 when the mothers of 650,000 kids around me are worried whether or not their child will have enough of anything to eat and drink.

"Did you find everything you needed today?" the cashier asked when I finally inched my way to the front of the cue. And as I watched him scan those fresh, organic vegetables, those juicy, organic fruits, those grass-fed, organic cuts of meat, and that carton of almost-perfect milk, I looked up at him and smiled.

"Yes, thank you," I said with a rush of humility. 

Then I came home and started reading, started thinking, started penning a post. I came home and started figuring out what I could do to help. 

Please see below for links. If you know of any other organizations, send them my way, and I will add them to the list. 

How to help in Central Ohio: 
Mid-Ohio Food Bank
Children's Hunger Alliance

How to help nationally:
Feeding America
Hunger Volunteer.Org

How to help globally:
Heifer International
World Food Programe
Stop Hunger Now
World Food Prize