Car Seat Lowdown

This is a sponsored post.

With the recent addition of Bean came the addition of a fourth car seat in our van.

A lot of time and research went into choosing the perfect vehicle for our family, so it’s no surprise we have put just as much time into insuring our littles are as safe as they can be when riding in said vehicle.

Let’s face it; car seats can be daunting and tricky. We hear so much from all sides about what is best, and what’s best isn’t always what the law is. And then we wonder if we can even afford “best” (some car seats are pricey!) or if the car seat will fit properly in our vehicle etc., etc.

So let’s break it down to some pretty basic tips to be sure you’re choosing the right seat for your child at every age.

1.) All car seats pass the same tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That’s right. A bigger price tag or extra appealing accessories like cup holders don’t make the car seat any more or less safe than another. Some third party testers may have reviews on different tests and safety ratings, but any seat you can purchase at a store for your kiddo is safe and has been tested rigorously.

2.) Not all car seats are created equally. What? I just said they all pass the same tests from the NHTSA. Yes, they’re all equally safe, but based on your own personal preferences and needs, not all seats may work for your specific kiddo or vehicle. Car seats with higher rear facing weight limits may be needed for children who are at the top of the percentiles, while only a few specific seats may fit in a particular seat in your vehicle (i.e., the middle “jump seat” in the second row of my Honda Odyssey can only have a few seats properly installed on it). Some car seats have cupholder, others do not, etc. It is important to make sure that your vehicle, child, and car seat are all compatible with one another.

3.) Proper installation is pivotal. At the end of the day it does not matter what car seat you have if it is not installed correctly. Read the manual. talks about the latch system, which makes installing many car seats easily. Once the child and car seat have a combined weight of 40 pounds most cars disallow the use of the latch system (not to be confused with the tether, which should always be used with a forward facing harnessed seat). So it’s important to also get familiar with seat belt installations. Some seats, such as the Britax clicktights, make seat belt installations a breeze. Whether with the latch system or the vehicle’s seat belt, be sure the installation is correct.

4.) State laws regarding car seats and “best use” of car seats do not always line up. Although many states have all ready or are in the process of rewriting the law so that rear facing is to age 2 or 40 pounds, not all states are there yet. Most convertible car seats recommend keeping the child in rear facing position until they reach the height or weight limit of the seat: age 4 is considered the most optimal, even though many states allow for a 4 year old to ride in a booster seat. Many children need a harness to ride safely until at least age 6, and aren’t ready to be without their booster until they are 4’9″ (often around age 10).

So when it comes time to add a car seat to your vehicle, or make the switch to a new car seat, research is pivotal in being sure the seat you choose is the best one for your child and the vehicle it’s being installed into.

And remember, all car seats are equally safe if being used properly and installed correctly.

***The Learning Momma was compensated to write this post on

My Little Sister’s Wedding

My little sister got married at the beginning of this month.

I repeat. My little sister got married!

There are not words. I swear she’s not old enough to be married, despite the fact that I already had two babies at her age.

I took my two little girls, and jetted to the mainland for a long, sleepless weekend.

Bean was a stellar little traveler, and Miss H was, too, as always. 

H adjusted fairly well to the six hour time change, but I didn’t even try to adjust Bean. So that meant she didn’t fall asleep for the night until 2am, and made for a very, very tired momma. 

You can’t even tell I took a red eye and hadn’t slept in over 25 hours, eh? (Photo by Jack Speaker)

It was a lot of fun to just spend time with Miss H and focus on her. As one of four, she doesn’t get a lot of one-on-one time anymore. And my heart still remembers fondly all those little moments when her life was just her and me. And no one else in the world to come between that. I occasionally have those moments where I feel a pang of guilt and have to hope that my desire for a large family hasn’t come at the expense of my first few babies. But I digress.

Miss H loved getting her hair done at the salon for the wedding, and wearing her lacy flower girl dress. And she’s smart and kind and courageous and all that, but good golly. She is also ridiculously gorgeous. 

It was great for so much of our family to get to meet Bean for the first time. I admittedly was very caught up in the moments that I didn’t snap hardly any photos. 

And my sister? She was beautiful and glorious and perfect, of course. 

I still can’t believe she is a Mrs. She will always be a little mismatched toe head with snarls and an epic pout to me.

I wish we’d had more time on the mainland with friends and family, but we needed to skedaddle and get home. I wasn’t quite ready to leave Sweet M overnight so I needed it to be a simple and short trip.

And it was nice to get home and to see our boys, where they greeted us with leis.

It was an honor to stand with my baby sister on her wedding day, but it’s also so, so good to be home. 

One Day at a Time

I will probably be saying this for at least the next year, if not forever, but four kids is not for the faint of heart.

I don’t believe in playing the “who has a harder game,” but J and I definitely sit and reminisce about those 17 months we had with only one child.

I mean, it was complete chaos and mayhem then. We had no idea what we were doing. We still don’t. But in that moment, we only had one child waking up in the middle of the night, one child with dirty diapers, one child throwing up when a stomach bug came around, one child who wanted our undivided attention, you get the point. Although it’s funny, because in those moments, it definitely didn’t seem any easier with just that one baby than it does now with four.  Probably because it wasn’t easier. It was just different. I think that’s why you start out with one kid at a time. OK, most people start out with one baby at a time. Some are blessed with more than that on their first go, whether through giving birth to multiples, or adopting multiple children at once.

But this fourth baby has made me take learning to give myself grace to a whole new level.

It’s trickier in a lot of ways, I think mostly because we are in Hawaii, and not back where we had our feet firmly on the ground. We’re still figuring things out. And then we threw in this other child.

I wouldn’t trade her, or this experience, for the world, but it’s definitely a learning curve.

I finally had to tell H today that this was her last month of gymnastics. Not because we can’t afford it, or because it’s too much time, but because it’s too much time in the car for Bean. We spend just as much time in the car with this god awful Honolulu traffic as she does in her class. And Bean literally screams her heart out the whole time we’re in traffic.

Not that I enjoy hearing any of my kids cry or complain, but a toddler or preschooler thatbis unhappy in the car is a lot less heartbreaking than an itsy-bitsy baby who just doesn’t understand and can’t be reasoned with. OK, so toddlers and preschoolers can’t really be reasoned with either. I mean, I like to think they can… But we all know better.

As I was cursing myself for having apparently lost one of Sweet M’s shoes in Costco this evening and forgetting to get gas, while trying to dice up onions while H held her sister so that maybe dinner wouldn’t be on the table too much past bedtime, H started reading to me magnets on the refrigerator that were given to us long ago by her godparents.

“Momma,”she said, “children are a gift from the Lord.” 

We are just going to pretend in that moment the tears that spraig into my eyes were from the onion I was chopping. After an afternoon that’s been a little hectic, and moments when I’ve probably been more frustrated and exasperated with these sweet people than I should be, it was exactly the reminder I needed.

They are a gift. Regardless of whether you believe in a higher being or not. These children are a gift. And somehow, I got them. I get to be the momma to these four amazing people.

And even in the most chaotic of days, it is obviously not crazy enough. Because I definitely fall asleep dreaming about what life would be if we added another… Don’t tell my husband. 😬

Mr. B is starting to read. It’s kind of the most beautiful and frustrating thing to witness. Yes, I won’t sugarcoat it and say it’s not frustrating. For me. He’s doing amazing and isn’t frustrated in the least bit. But I can never quite figure out how he sounds out the word “nut” and then yells “big!” I’m left scratching my chin wondering if we’ve been looking at the same book. But he is unphased. And over all, he is sailing through his reading lessons beautifully. And most importantly, he is so proud of himself, which is kind of one of the most amazing things in parenting to witness. Your child reading. At least it is for me. 

I had really feared we were behind in their homeschooling until I sat down over the weekend and started to really look at where we were at in the curriculum. And we just finished week 21 out of 36. So I think we’re going to be OK. That was a huge weight off my shoulders.

I’m really loving homeschooling them. But I’m also kind of looking forward to the day that there is another awesome school I can send them to and feel good about it. Miss H thrives in big environments. Me, not so much. B is a lot like me in that aspect and currently expresses no interest in ever attending school unless it’s college, but I suspect he’d change his mind if his sister were gone each day. We will see. Right now, we’re just taking it day by day.

I got brave enough this past week to take them to the beach without J. I had friends there to help, which was nice, but I also feel pretty confident that I can now do it by myself. As long as we are at the right toddler-friendly beach.

Bean enjoyed her first full dip in the ocean. And then yesterday we took her to the pool for the first time and she just ate that up. She is truly a water baby through and through. 

I’ve been re-reading “Unconditional Parenting” by Alfie Kohn (if you have a kid, are around kids, or know a kid, I can’t recommend this book enough!). It revolutionized my parenting years ago, and in the thick of things I’ve found myself falling back on old habits because they’re easier sometimes. 

But I keep talking to my kids. I keep telling them the kind of momma I want to be and apologizing when I’ve acted poorly myself because I want them to learn that even adults make mistakes and it’s okay to admit that and tell people you’re sorry. I also find myself muttering “I could be a nicer mom if my kids were crazy lunatics” sometimes, but…really, they’re pretty darn good kids. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the unattainable bar I set for myself isn’t fair to set for my kiddos, too. 

We also just got Bean a crib and side-carred it to my bed. And we bought her a new car seat. There are not words enough out there to praise my husband for putting up with his wife’s crazy. I’m not even gonna tell you how many car seats we have purchased since becoming parents.

Anyway, we have friends and family coming in over the next few weeks and I am so looking forward to my little niece or nephew to be born any day now! Time is flying out here.

Oh, and Sweet M stuck a giant pearl bead up his nose tonight. He was quite proud.  This is my life, yo. 

Yes, My Kids Eat Candy. No, They Are Not Unhealthy.

First, let me start off by apologizing about how pretentious I know I was when I had only one child. That first, sweet baby who would never eat candy, fast food, watch television, play with plastic toys, you get the gist.

The thing is, she’s done all those, and more. Lots of people would be horrified I’m sure. I admit, I have days where I am.

Sweet M it’s only 20 months old, and let me tell you, he definitely got in the spirit of Halloween last night. That kid will do just about anything for a lollipop or a piece of chocolate. And the fact that people would hand them out to him just for smiling and being cute: this is his holiday!

Miss H was like four before I ever took her trick-or-treating. Because, again, the horrors! 

I grew up in a world of fad diets, fat shaming, food restrictions, and lots of binge eating. I have always had a very tumultuous relationship with food because there never was balance. 

I want my kids to be healthy. I want them to be strong. And I don’t want them to struggle with food the way I have.

We buy healthy food (or what my generation knows to be healthy food anyway). Nearly all the food that we purchase at the grocery store is organic, non-GMO, grass fed, free range, etc. Unprocessed foods.

Snacks for kids are typically fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Applesauce, dried fruit, and organic beef jerky when we’re on the go.

I make it a priority to feed them well.

But you know what? Sometimes we eat at McDonald’s.

Sometimes we grab a donut or pastry.

I even let them try soda pop for the first time this year.

And I even let them eat the candy they received while trick-or-treating.


All that processed, artificial, corn syrup-laden junk.

They love it.

We always remove all the candy that has food dye. Miss H used to have a fairly severe allergy to food dye, and although she seems to have mostly outgrown it, we still go ahead and avoid it because it’s easy to do so and it’s gross anyway. (They did each keep three pieces of food-dye candy though.)

And they will spend the next day or two eating pieces of candy throughout the day. And then they will be over it, they will forget about it. I will probably binge eat most of it in the middle of the night and then insist J take it to work to get it out of the house because I have zero will-power and know that, and the world will keep turning.

And my kids?

They will still be healthy little beings who know which foods make them healthy, which foods make your body strong. They will still choose a fruit over a candy 99% of the time.

They were still play hard in nature and do yoga videos.

And they will grow up to have a healthy relationship with food because they will know that the occasional sweet treat or drive-thru French fries won’t be the end of the world when they’re still making healthy choices the other 95% of the time. They won’t binge-eat forbidden foods or feel deep guilt when they ruin whatever diet they think they should be on. 

They will be strong, healthy humans. 

Who eat trick-or-treat candy.

Super Easy Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cereal Bars

I’ve kind of dropped the ball on a fun Halloween events and goodies this year. So I didn’t want to let my kiddos down for Halloween morning.

If you’re like me, I love everything pumpkin spice, then you probably bought the pumpkin spice Cheerios. They were sittingunopened in my cabinet, as I was urging the kids to eat other cereal that was opened first. I wanted to make something fun for them on Halloween morning, but was kind of at a loss.

I had a hankering for chocolate, as I do pretty much all moments in which I am breathing, so decided to combine my love for pumpkin and chocolate together.

Actually, I combined my love for nutella and chocolate.

The concoction was easy and fast to make, and my kids were delightfully excited to try this out with some fruit and yogurt for breakfast. It took less than five minutes for me to put it all together and set it in the freezer for 20 minutes to get hard. And voila! The easiest breakfast I’ve made in a long time.


4 cups of pumpkin spice Cheerios

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup Nutella

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup honey


1.) In a large saucepan combine all the ingredients except for Cheerios and mix well on low heat until thoroughly blended.

2.) Add Cheerios and coat thoroughly with mixture.

3.) In a wax or parchment lined 9 x 13 baking dish, press Cheerio mixture in firmly.

4.) Set in freezer for 20 to 30 minutes.

5.) Enjoy!

It’s just that easy! If you have leftovers, I’d store them in the freezer so they don’t get soft (we didn’t have any leftovers).

Happy Halloween!!

Trick or Treat at the Zoo

I have no idea how trick or treating works in Honolulu. I’ve googled my heart out, but I don’t know trick or treating hours. So to save myself the wrath of furious tiny humans, we ventured to the zoo this morning for trick or treating. 

Besides, who doesn’t love seeing animals while getting to fill their bags with goodies (and not be overwhelmed with too many treats)?

The kids were super excited to explore the zoo with J. I realized half way through that he’s never actually been to the Honolulu Zoo.

Funny how all our memberships for zoos and museums include his name, but he rarely gets to utilize them because we spend the week days at these places when it’s significantly less crowded, and thus, he’s at work. 

We pulled out the double stroller. It was so humid I was hoping my little love bug would let us stroll with her in the stroller instead of curled up on my chest. 

She did for all of four seconds. But she’s still a bit too small this particular stroller. Bean is cozy in our single stroller but then…Sweet M has no where to sit. I will try again in a few weeks. 

When I put her in and she started to cry, I immediately retrieved her. A woman walking by immediately squawked, “Oh, you’re spoiling her!” To which I balked, “Better to be spoiled than emotionally detached.” I wish I’d have been wittier, but alas. The exhaustion of mothering four kiddos might be getting the best of my wit.

The big kids were super excited to wear their costumes all day. Miss H is a witch (again), and Mr. B is a power ranger (surprise, surprise). Sweet M is technically a bird – he has wings. But he wasn’t really into the costume thing. And Bean is a white mouse. Because she squeaks, obviously.

Although the kids enjoyed the trick or treating part, they definitely enjoyed the animal part. They’d live at the zoo (okay, preferably in the wild…) if they could. They’re such animal lovers. 

Per usual, the peacocks stole the show at the Honolulu Zoo. They’re always my kids’ favorite. 

We had an amazingly fun day, and the kids got their trick or treating in just in case I drop the ball on them come Tuesday. 

I don’t think they will mind. 

Makapu’u Lighthouse 

We recently headed up the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail. It is by far one of the easiest trails on the island, I believe. The whole thing is paved. So it’s easy for stroller pushing, you don’t have to worry about muddy paths, no roots to trip and fall over. It’s pretty straightforward.

Now, there are definitely some drop-offs if you were to go over the side of the path,m. And Sweet M definitely wanted to give those a whirl,  so you still need to be vigilant of your littles on this path, but overall, it’s an easy hike for anyone.

This trail is roughly 2 miles, and the first half is all going up, followed by the return down, so at about the point you think you’re exhausted, it’s all downhill from there. Miss H and Mr. B had absolutely no issues walking the whole thing, and Sweet M climbed his way up the majority of it.

Some quick history for you: The Makapu’u Lighthouse was constructed in 1909, and has the largest land of any lighthouse and all of the United States. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places as of 1977, it is located at the most at Southeastern point of Oahu.

The whole trail offers beautiful panoramic views, and on sunny days you can see Molokai’i (which I informed J I expect a trip there for my 30 birthday. I’ve been pretty intrigued by it for the past 10 years after doing a lot of studying in Father Damien so the historian in me really needs to visit.).

Also, during whale watching season, you’re supposed to be able to see whales from here too. So, you know where I will be when the time comes.

I will definitely be back to this trail again. Because it’s an easy one to do on my own with the kids, and I’m always looking for things that I can accomplish with all four of them. It’s nice to feel like I can sretsin what sanity is left and do fun things with them, even though I’m quite outnumbered at this point, ha.

The Meltdown

Oh boy. Yesterday this sweet babe had his first mega meltdown. 

I mean, hysterics there was no hushing or helping. It was equal parts heartbreaking and frustrating. 

Why the meltdown? 

His papa had to go to work. 

I love how attached this little guy is to his papa; I mean, we’ve worked hard to create those healthy attachments with our kids. And after a week of papa on travel, he just couldn’t handle watching him walk out that door again. I get it. Sometimes I want to scream and rage when I watch him leave too. 

J came back inside four times to hug and kiss him and try to make things easier, but eventually he just had to go. And Sweet M wasn’t having it. And it broke my heart to see him so upset. And frustrated me to no ends because there was nothing I could do to “fix” it. 

I am, by nature, a fixer. It has been the most challenging part of motherhood for me: the inability to fix my children’s unhappiness. The second most challenging part has been accepting that it’s not my job to fix it either. 

Motherhood is a doozy. Complicated and messy and so unexplainably beautiful. And each day as I love and help to guide and teach these tiny humans, I also help to heal the broken parts of me. And I wouldn’t change a single part of the challenge and mess and joy for anything.  

Other than maybe the meltdowns. I could do without those if we are being honest, ha.

Bellows Beach

We are trying to see all the beaches here. It’s not a huge island, you would think this is easy. But you can literally go less than half a mile and have a brand new, totally different beach. So its slightly more challenging than expected. 

On the upside, when I say we are trying to see all the beaches here, I really mean we are trying to see all the kid friendly beaches here, which makes our goal a little easier. Because it doesn’t make sense for us to go to a beach where it is immediately deep, or  the waves are so big that we’re going to lose a kid or two. We’re a little attached to them.

We recently made it out to Bellows Beach, which is probably going on my list as one of my favorite beaches now.

Of course, the beach scene is much more difficult now, that there are four kids. As in, I haven’t yet tried to do it by myself. And I’m still very apprehensive about that. So we currently only doing the beach on the weekends when J is around. 

But our holiday weekend at Bellows was pretty ideal. Bean and I hung out in the tent, her mostly nursing and dozing off and on, I got to read a book (like a real, tangible book!).

The ocean was calm and shallow enough that we didn’t have to worry too much about our big kids. But there were enough waves for them to get their boogie boarding on. Which delighted them, because that’s all they ever want to do.

And J hung out with Sweet M. They built sandcastles and played in the waves. Literally for hours. 

The sand at this beach is so fabulously sweet that even I enjoyed it; and I don’t particularly love sand (because guess who has to clean up all that sand?).

We packed a feast so that we could be there all day, and even Sweet M napped on the beach.

I’d be a liar if I said this motherhood gig wasn’t challenging sometimes. There are days I literally think I’m going to lose my mind. But then I look at all these sweet people who I adore more than words could ever possibly articulate, and I am so, so thankful for this beautiful life of mine.

Things don’t always go as planned. Days dissolve in a matter of seconds. Kids fight, toddlers have meltdowns, babies have colic. But for every single exasperating moment, we make up for it tenfold in the calm, happy moments.

It’s not a glamorous life I lead. But it’s a good life. A happy life. And always, an entertaining life.

Cooking With Keiki

Okay, keiki is definitely my favorite Hawaiian word thus far. It’s pronounced “cake-ee” and means “kid/kids.” 

So anytime I say it I think of it as if I’m saying “cakey,” which, um, delish! And my little keiki are cakey and most of the time I really just want to eat them up. I mean, have you seen them? 


We’ve always kept our kids involved in the kitchen. It horrifies some people but I open the oven with Sweet M at my legs, and he stands on the stool and helps cook on the stove, etc. Our big kids did the same. But because they’ve always been involved, they learn kitchen safety early on.

This, of course, doesn’t mean they’re immune to accidents; they can occur to anyone. But in general, I don’t worry too much about letting them go about the kitchen on their own.

And since we’ve been in Oahu I’ve been trying to give them even more reign in the kitchen. 

Miss H often makes breakfast for everyone – pancakes are her specialty, and her brothers definitely appreciate the end results. Though Mr. B can make a mean pancake himself. 

They can both scramble eggs on their own. They cut up veggies like old pros and slice their brother’s grapes in half (yep, I’m one of those moms).

They cut up all the topping and shred chicken and compose their own pizzas for dinner. 

Basically, they’re well on their way to being fully self-reliant. Someday they’ll know how to cook for themselves and not rely on microwave meals and fast food (although, we don’t even have a microwave, so maybe they will. It’s always a novelty they marvel over when on travel).

I really don’t want them to grow up to be the young adults who live off of cereal and ramen because that’s all they know how to cook.

I get it. It’s daunting to hand your 3-year-old a pairing knife, but if you teach them early about kitchen safety, then it’s really not quite so scary. And they will be so prod of themselves and much more fulfilled; I swear it.

Plus, it’s really handy and helpful to be able to ask kiddos to help out in the kitchen when you’re busy changing diapers or feeding a baby or scrubbing a toilet; and they don’t feel like it’s work because it’s something they enjoy!

Cooking with your keiki from day one is a win-win for everyone!