Sunday, August 24, 2008

Finally Home

Well, we are finally home from our last major road trip of the summer. I am happily exhausted. In the midst of each of our trips I wondered more than once why in the world we had decided to take two kids under the age of three on such long road trips and so many of them in one summer. But, in the end I am happy we went on each of them and have been blessed by the experiences.

Where did we go? Our summer began with a week-long trip to stay with James' parents in Wadsworth, OH. James had to be on-site at one of his clients all day every day that week so we stayed with grandma and grandpa to get out of the house and get some help! We traded in our SUV and got the van the last day of that trip, enjoying the additional space on the way home.

A few weeks later we drove to St. Louis for a convention I was attending (and volunteering for). Daddy and two kids cooped up in a hotel wasn't the most fun, but he was brave and took them both out to see the city. We also used a babysitting service a couple of times so that James could get out of the hotel and enjoy a few hours free of kids on the golf course. After six days in St. Louis we continued on to Kansas City where James had several meetings and a training course for work. Now it was mom's turn to be cooped up in a hotel room with the kids. The first hotel we checked into was spacious, but not nice at all (dirty - I never let my feet touch the carpet, I wore flip flops the entire time). So, we checked out after a couple of nights once we could get a room elsewhere. The second hotel was even more spacious and very nice. After five days in Kansas City we drove home (all 10 hours in one day).

A little over a week later we were in the car again to drive to Memphis for a convention James was attending (and also volunteering for). While I was solo parenting for much of the week, it was much easier since we were staying at a friend's house and I was essentially house/dog sitting while he worked the convention as well. We have friends in Memphis from when we lived there so it was nice to hang out with them again while we were there. We were also able to drop in and see some friends in Nashville on our way to Memphis and on our return home a week later.

We were home for two days, then packed the car again to head to a lake in northern Michigan to hang out with James' family. I was kind of nervous about camping with a three-month-old, but we ended up staying in James' brother's camper and had a great time! We were also able to attend a friend's baby shower while we were up that way and saw some extended family as well! After five days we headed home, dropping James off on the way home at a golf tournament.

A few days later, my mom arrived! This was her first time seeing Jack and the first time we had seen her since Christmas. James went back up to Michigan that weekend (last weekend) for a reunion with the guys he lived with his senior year of college. Mom was a great help while he was gone!

Three days after James' return, we all packed into the van and headed to Atlanta to see my brother. Lucas looks amazing! He is still confined to a wheelchair for a while longer since he can't put weight on his heels yet. He is out of the plaster casts and wearing removable walking casts. His spirits are high and he is working again, part time.

We also had the chance to hang out with some great friends who we never get to see anymore due to the distance! What a great trip. We toured the Coke museum and went to the amazing Atlanta Aquarium. We had a truly wonderful trip and brought home many wonderful memories that we will cherish forever. What we won't cherish is the big souvenir we brought home, a crumpled front fender. We got in a minor accident leaving the aquarium on Friday. Everyone is fine if not a little embarrassed. It drives fine other than a little scraping that occurs when we make right turns. So, we drove home making as few right turns as possible! We got in late last night and unfortunately had to say goodbye to my mom today. She flew back to Tucson today after a wonderful visit. We will miss her a lot and look forward to hopefully all getting together in December!

Whew! What a long summer. At last we are home and can hopefully settle in and get back to normal over the next week just in time for James to go back to work. We were blessed to have him on sabbatical from work for the month of August.

Now we just have to get the car fixed!

Friday, August 15, 2008

They should be prosecuted...

There are so many times that you put your life and the lives of your children in the hands of others out of necessity. Using mass transit, flying in a plane, booking a hotel based on their brand, website and reviews, and renting a car. You trust that the people in control are diligent in their maintenance, safety reviews, and operation. You trust that they will live up to their promises (both those they state explicitely and those they assume based upon their status and industry). When they do not earn that trust, it often puts you (and your family) in an inconvenient and possibly dangerous situation.

That is what has been happening with this story. You don't have to be neurotic about the safety and wellbeing of your children to appreciate the situation that many rental car agencies put parents in. I happen to personally be a little neurotic about carseat safety so this story struck a particular chord with me. But, any parent who has relied upon the integrity of a car rental agency to supply them with not only a safe vehicle in good working order, but a safe and well-maintained carseat has literally put their lives in the hands of that agency. Debbie, the mom behind the DeliciousBaby blog has been in that situation.

She first blogged about Advantage Rent-A-Car's unsafe carseats last year after what can only be described as a horrible experience. Thankfully for the rest of us she and her husband had the presence of mind to document the experience and as any good mommy would, share it with others to serve as a cautionary tale. The pictures actually make me sick to my stomach. The condition of the available carseats (which you have to pay an extra fee for, by the way) is deplorable. Some of the carseats had been subject to recall, others were well beyond their expiration date, all of them were so dirty I wouldn't want them in my car, let alone put my child in them. It further validates our decisions in the past to travel with our own carseat - a decision that brings with it a whole host of other issues, but that is another post.

The local press got wind of her plight and picked up the story. The result at that point was promises from Advantage to clean up their act and completely overhaul their available carseats. As Debbie is realizing, mommy bloggers are becoming a source of information and a source we put our trust in. Her most recent update to the saga regards a mommy who chose Advantage based upon their stated promises to provide their renters with safe, clean carseats. What she found was far from that. Here is a quote from the story:

Exhausted after a long flight, she struggled for two hours to find a seat
that could be installed safely in her rental car and finally drove away with
what she thought was the best of the bunch... a dilapidated car seat so old
that the manufacturer and California State Law both recommend that it be destroyed.

Deplorable. Absolutely unacceptable. I can't even imagine what must have been going through this mom's mind. The last time I was there, they didn't sell new carseats at the airport. So, even if she could have dropped over $100 to purchase a new seat of her own, she would have had to place her precious six month old child into the horrible excuse for a carseat that the agency supplied her with in order to drive to a store, thus putting her child in danger out of necessity.

I get so angry thinking about it, I can't think straight. So, spread the word to anyone you know with kids. Consumer demand is going to be the only way the car rental agencies are held accountable for living up to their promises and THE LAW. Clearly, existing law is not enough incentive for agencies to provide safe carseats. I know this is not a universal complaint. There are agencies and locations that do provide adequate seats. However, until there is a national standard that is universally followed, it isn't enough!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

One Crazy Summer

That is the title of a movie my little brother and I watched when we were kids. Thinking back, it was really a silly movie, but the title seems to aptly describe our summer this year! We can't seem to stay home for more than a week at a time.

We were gone for almost two weeks beginning mid-July, were home for a week, have been gone for the last week, will be home for two days, gone for another four days, home for almost a week, then finally gone for a few more days! Whew, what a whirlwind summer.

I am glad that any travel we are doing from this point forward will not involve one or the other of us working/volunteering. Being a solo parent for days on end in an unfamiliar place, possibly confined to a hotel room, is no fun at all! We both had our turn to experience that kind of fun.

I will post more photos over at the Kanary Nest, but here are a couple of photos from the road...
We ended up switching Jack to the Britax Marathon carseat between our trip to St. Louis/Kansas City and our trip to Memphis. We didn't really take the infant carseat out of the car much and we hope that the convertible one puts him in a slightly more comfortable position, minimizing the pressure on his tummy, thus reducing the impact on his reflux. He did seem less fussy when in the car for long periods of time the second trip.