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. 

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.

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.

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.

Back in the Game with Kindred Bravely

I think I’m finally back in the game! 

Bean is 5 weeks old and life is finally starting to fall into place. J is back to work (and frequent travel, boo hiss!), the kids are doing lessons again, and we are eating real food and the house only looks a normal amount of chaos. And I’m slowly preparing to run this marathon in less than two months (say what!?).

Okay, and I’m lost in a sea of laundry, but I’m only a human. 

Bean and I have over come our breastfeeding hurdles; which I knew to expect when she was still in the womb because I’ve dealt with them with each kiddo, getting more and more knowledgeable with each; those darn dairy-sensitive, tongue and lip-tied little darlings of mine. 

One of my absolute favorite products has been my Kindred Bravely attire. I can wear the cute French Terry Nursing Top around the house, and out about. I’ve gotten numerous comments on it by other nursing mommas when I’ve worn it out, and seriously, in this Hawaiian heat, it’s on my list to stock up on more because having lightweight, easy-to-nurse-in tops is a must. 

And, because there is always an “and” right? I can run around in it without a bra (it has a shelved bra built-in), and despite being quite a chesty lady, I don’t feel self conscious at all because it keeps everything contained and supported beautifully!

When I do need to wear a bra under my clothing though, I’m really loving my Marvella Maternity and Nursing Underwire Free T-Shirt Bra. The underwire free is obviously a huge deal – no clogged ducts! Plus, it’s nice to have a sized bra outside of “small, medium, large.” Don’t get me wrong, those stretchy bras that fit a plethora of sizes definitely have their place inthe breastfeeding world (I own several!), but there is just something that makes you feel a little more human on those rough days, knowing you’re wearing the closest thing to a “real” bra as you’re going to while breastfeeding. Only, it’s better than a non-nursing bra because it’s crazy comfortable to boot! 

I didn’t have the pleasure of trying them, but a little birdie (a.k.a my pregnant older sister) also told me that the Kindred Bravely maternity underwear are worth every cent and then some. So those are definitely going on my list of must-haves for the next one. Er, if there is a next one. 

But I have to say the most luxurious product I’ve worn thus far from Kindred Bravely are their pajama! Yall, I currently live in Hawaii. With no air conditoner. I basically lived in my bikini those last few weeks of pregnancy, but there were times I needed to wear more, ha. The Amelia Nursing & Materniry Pajamas are so divine.  They’re light weight and out-of-this-world soft. I didn’t feel hot and gross in them, despite the muggy heat. They covered my huge pregnant body well, and also fit my post partum body comfortably. No need for a size change to get me through the next year (or more…) of night nursing Bean. 

And one little tidbit that makes these pajamas extra special; I was wearing them in one of the very last breastfeeding photos that was taken of Sweet M before he quite unexpectedly decided to wean cold turkey when Bean was born (I have so many feels about that).

As life starts to find its flow now with our newest little addition, I’m so glad that I’ve got great apparel to keep me comfy and feel a little more human as I brave the world as a busy momma of four, who rarely gets to just sit and be unless it’s breastfeeding this sweet babe.

***I received products from Kindred Bravely in exchange for this blog post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and I only advertise for companies that I genuinely love. 

Driving home, mind racing a million miles a second as a Momma’s mind does. 

So much of the world is hurting right now. 

And we aren’t talking scraped knees, we are talking full on heart attacks and kidney failure; possibilities that it may not be able to be repaired, and if it can be, it will take a long time. No easy fix. 

I’ve got four small humans who depend on me. For everything. Not just to feed and clothe them, but to guide them in good morals and teach them empathy. 

To love them so fully and unconditionally that they learn to love themselves equally so. 

I also really suck at cooking and I’m sick of trying to figure this food business out Every. Single. Day. 

And maybe I want to go back to school. Not to work, but maybe to school. 

And there I am when suddenly the voice on the radio sings to me, “She’s a good girl, loves her mama…” and that’s when it starts. 

Free fallin’. 

Those tears are unstoppable and I don’t know why it’s this moment that they finally fall. The cathartic letdown in the midst of so much pain. 

So much uncertainty. 

So much beauty.

3 Weeks and Then Some

Bean is 3 weeks old! Okay, okay. She’s closer to 4 weeks at this point. It’s s good thing I don’t do this for a living, haha.

Four kiddos…crazy. Chaotic. A wee bit stressful. 

Beautiful. Amazing. Lovely. 

I really can’t imagine it any other way. Bean is the baby I didn’t even know was missing, and yet with her here I realize how we were missing her this whole time.

She’s a dream baby. 

I mean, she doesn’t sleep through the night and breastfeeding was not without its challenges. She seems sensitive to cloth diapers which makes the frugal person in me die a little. And as long as someone holds her she’s pleased.

She’s wonderful. 

Her birth has really made me appreciate how loved we all are.

A dear friend from college came out at the end of August and only just left this past Tuesday. 

She was here for Bean’s birth. She was corralling kids all month and teaching classes online while my toddler squeaked “Yay Yay” outside her window (because “JJ” is challenging to say).

She taught my big kids to crochet and played board games and read books. 

There are not words to express how much I appreciate her having been here; taking kids to activities, cleaning my house, feeding me and my family.

A few days after Bean was born, I received a large package in the mail from friends back home. A beautiful muslin quilted blanket (with Narwhals!) for Bean, a sunbonnet she’s gotten so much use out of already, and an adorable Les Mis board book that Sweet M has been taking around everywhere with him. And a beautiful card, with the names of so many people we left behind, but are still thinking of us. Just the fact that they were still thinking of us meant the world to me.

A friend on the island was so helpful by taking the big kids to co-op and dance classes and home to play for a while. It helped the transition so much for everyone. I’m so thankful that I have found friends here that I can rely on. 

And another friend came bearing coffee, and croissants and homemade jelly. That lady knows the way to my heart, ha ha.

We opted against having Bean’s lip and tongue tie revised for the time being. I hope it was the right decision. But I guess it’s one we can always change our mind on later on down the road if we see a need. She has taken a bottle semi-decently the few times it’s been offered, which is good, because it will make J’s life easier when I run that marathon in December (what was I thinking?).

This week, JJ return to the mainland, and J returned to work (after being on the mainland the week before anyway for meetings). So I got to fully immerse myself in caring for 4 children 12+ hours a day by myself. 

Tuesday, my first day being solo, things went fairly well. We made it to co-op on time, and all even looked mostly human with brushed hair and teeth. Clean clothes.

And then that evening…Mr. B stabbed himself in the forehead with a pair scissors. Blood everywhere. Fortunately, it was a small cut and it didn’t need stitches; butterfly bandages sufficed. But oh my goodness, the blood. Thank God he wears glasses, or he might’ve taken an eye out. This boy, I tell you.

Wednesday was uneventful and then yesterday we ventured out for a solar system event where the kids had fun learning about planets and making their own planet mobiles. 

After we grabbed lunch with a friend and let the kids splash in the fountain. Sweet M was acting more somber than normal and having some strange breathing noises. I didn’t think too, too much about it. 

By the evening though, we’d been to the pediatrician with him diagnosed with croup and watched him have some scary breathing episodes.

Obviously, J nor I slept a wink last night, keeping a vigilant eye on that sweet boy. 

Sweet M has been in good spirits today. Still sick. His breathing was good this morningthough  seems to be getting worse as the day progresses. Oy.

The big kids got to watch the first seven episodes of the new Magic School Bus (forgive me, I don’t know the official name, but the big kids were stoked and I can totally count that as a science lesson, right?) this morning while trying to keep Sweet M contained and entertained in my bedroom, since it’s the only part of the house with A/C and I was told to keep him out of heat. 

Nothing in parenthood is harder than watching your babe be sick. I’d do anything to trade places with him.

But overall, despite some hiccups, I think we’ve done pretty good these past 3 weeks. We still have some kinks to work out, and we are still finding our groove as a family of 6, but my goodness, with the arrival of each new sweet babe I’m always a little overwhelmed by how much love I have to give them all (though I think the more I love, the less patience I have…).

He is preparing for the zombie apocalypse
Captain Morgan

We named him Mayhem. But oy! I wasn’t prepared to buy a new camera lens while living on the island.
Sugar cane!

Gah! Sweet perfection! They make the crazy so very worth it!

Toddler Bed Hack: Keeping Your Toddler From Falling Out Of Bed

Sweet M has been sleeping in his toddler bed at night pretty much since we received our household goods here in Oahu. 

We weren’t totally sure how it would go since he’s always been a co-sleeper, but it was a pretty smooth transition. 

He typically falls asleep in our bed, then we put him in his bed, and most nights he’d sleep there until somewhere between 3am-5am and then crawl into bed with us. It works.


He falls out of bed a million times sometimes. We have a ruggie right next to his bed, and put pillows all around the floor. Falling out of bed doesn’t even wake him up 9 times out of 10 – just J and I. He’s typically pretty graceful about it, actually.

Well, J leaves today for work travel today (yes, you read that correctly. We have a 12 day old and he’s leaving for work for a week. You can just call me Wonder Woman. Or, if we’re being honest, Sleep-Deprived-Disheveled-Caffeine-and-Sugar-Addict Woman. Basically the same thing, right?).

Anyway, I knew we had to do something about this sleep arrangement because no way I’d survive nursing a baby all night and  constantly putting M into his bed throughout the night if he continuously swan dives out.

And yes, yes, I could just sleep with him in my bed, too, but he kind of needs someone to hold him in place so he doesn’t fall out. He’s that wriggly in his sleep (except when he shoves himself in his too-small Dock-a-Tot, haha). Which is hard to do when also trying to have a safe sleep space for Bean, and Sweet M not all up in her business (have I mentioned that he really loves her?).

So off I went to buy a mesh rail for his bed. Yes, his cute little toddler bed has a built-in side rail, but let’s be honest, it does nada because it’s not remotely high enough. 

Well, all the reviews for the mesh bed rail I purchased declared it was not possible to install this on a toddler bed. In all fairness, the box even clearly states it’s intended for a twin or queen sized bed. 

But you know what? Wonder Woman is too smart for that. Or SDDCSA Woman. I’ll leave that up to you. 

I took a few screws out of Sweet M’s bed, removed the built-in rail, and voila!  The rail that many reviewers claimed wouldn’t fit on a toddler bed suddenly fit perfectly. 

And my sweet toddler slept peacefully and safely in his bed throughout the night, and still had the means the get out on his own and come cuddle J at 5am.

That folks, is how we are going to survive the upcoming week.

One Week Old

Our darling Bean girl is one week old. 

It seems like she’s always been a part of this chaos. It equally seems like she was born just seconds ago. 

It’s crazy how quickly a week can fly by.

She sleeps soundly at night (as in, she doesn’t wake inconsolable or cry, she just roots around, I put a boob in her mouth, and we both fall back to sleep), I’m not really certain why I’m so exhausted. You know, other than having just given birth and having three other kiddos who, let’s be honest, demand a lot of attention. As they should. 

Miss H seems to love having a baby sister. The transition has definitely been challenging for her; I know she’s feeling incredibly displaced and unsure of how exactly she will fit into this family. It’s emotionally depleting on a lot of levels; I just hope if I love her enough she’ll pull through okay. 

Mr. B seems wholeheartedly unaffected by our newest family member. He’s so easy going, he just seems to truck along at his normal happy-go-lucky pace, regardless of what we throw at him. He asks to hold Bean a few times throughout the day, and will pause to kiss her head running from one place to the other. But otherwise, you’d never know he’d just had a huge life changing event occur in the shape of his new baby sister.

And dear Sweet M. Oh boy! He loves “Beebee!” as he calls her. He loves her a bit too much most of the time. He’s also deep in the throes of testing limits; cutely asking if he can hit or kick her. He clearly knows that he cannot, but he cannot resist asking anyway. I mean, at least he asks, right? And typically accepts “no” as an answer. But we definitely aren’t leaving him unattended with her anytime in the near future, haha. 

She is the first person he wants to see when he wakes up in the morning, and the person he wants to fall asleep next to at night. He always wants to hold her and kiss her and have her right where he can see her at all times. I think they’re going to get along beautifully as they grow. 

J snuck off to work on Friday and we all survived somehow. He’s home this week though, as he departs Saturday for a week on the mainland. I’m kind of past the lounge around stage, but I’m trying to still just rest and heal because I know my body needs it. But I’m a doer, so it’s always kind of challenging. 

Bean is tongue and lip tied with a very high palate. The first few days of breastfeeding were rather challenging and I was pretty set on having her ties revised, but it’s getting better so I’m leaning toward canceling that appointment at this point. She still clicks and gets a lot of air, but with her high palate that’s unlikely to go away with revision anyway. I figure I managed to breatfeed her big sister who had all the same issues (unknowingly at the time) until age 4; so I can do it with her. 

Unexpectedly, it seems Sweet M has weaned cold turkey with Bean’s birth. I was so looking forward to having a toddler nursing to help mitigate oversupply and plugged ducts, but alas. 

At her pediatrician appointment at 4 days old she was only an ounce shy of her birth weight, so I think she’s doing just fine.

I’m tired, but not the level of exhausted I anticipated. Probably because I have good help. I smell like sweat and stale milk; thank you Hawaii heat and humidity for ensuring I never smell decent again. 

We’ve made it one whole week as a family of 6. I couldn’t be more thrilled or more in love with these crazy people, no matter how challenging some moments may be. Nothing good comes without some sort of challenge, and challenge is not equivalent to bad. 

Happy one week, Bean! You are loved beyond measure! And it is a very good thing you can sleep through loud. Because your siblings are the walking definition of “loud.”