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Road Trip Readiness

Family-RoadTripTips

With the holidays rapidly approaching, more and more people will be loading up their cars and traveling off to grandma’s house. Many of these travelers have children, and everyone knows long road trips with kids can have the potential for disaster. I’ve got five tips, from experience, to help you make it down the road with your sanity intact. Here’s the first:

1. Travel well-stocked. This means having plenty of snacks and drinks available (there’s nothing worse than a “starving” child out in the middle of nowhere – whininess WILL ensue), but also have a stockpile of inexpensive wrapped toys that kids can pick from at random points if they have good behavior. We also like to bring plenty of blankets and pillows so the kids can get comfy and hopefully take a nap or two as we travel down the road.

For the rest of these tips, please visit my guest post over at the Lawton Chrysler Dodge dealership blog.

World of Coca-Cola

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Note: We received complimentary tickets to World of Coca-Cola to facilitate our review. We were not compensated monetarily and all opinions are honest and our own.

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Brian and I both love Coke products – I like Coca-Cola Classic and he’s a big Cherry Coke fan – so we thought it would be fun to visit the World of Coca-Cola while we were in Atlanta. And our kids very rarely get to drink soda, so the idea of getting to taste a lot of sodas in the “Taste It!” room was pretty thrilling to them!

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We enjoyed getting to see all sorts of behind-the-scenes things about the history of Coke and how it was made (and even got to see the vault where the top-secret recipe is stored), along with all sorts of Coca-Cola merchandise that’s been marketed over the years. We got to meet the Coca-Cola polar bear, too!

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We even went to the gallery where we saw all sorts of Coca-Cola inspired art:

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But of course the boys’ favorite part was getting to try Coca-Cola products from all around the world! We had planned to try every single flavor but ended up not quite making that goal. It was still a lot of fun, and we survived the ensuing sugar rush after the fact, too. :)

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We spent about two hours here and that was plenty of time to see everything and spend some time in the gift shop, too. We all had a lot of fun! This is a great place to tack on to your Atlanta itinerary, and you can find all sorts of fun gift items for the Coke-lovers in your life. Visit their website for more information and to plan your visit!

Georgia Aquarium is Fun for the Whole Family

Note: We received tickets to the aquarium to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and are those of myself and my family.

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We’ve been to aquariums before, but I had no idea what to expect before we walked into the Georgia Aquarium. This place, in a word, is awesome. 

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You walk into a central lobby of sorts, and everything branches off, making it easy to navigate. The lighting sets the mood and gives the whole place an aquatic, other-world feel.

We arrived just in time to attend the dolphin show, which we weren’t allowed to film at – but trust me, it was a blast! There is a theatrical element to it that I wasn’t expecting, but the kids really enjoyed it. We couldn’t get over how talented the dolphins and their trainers were.

After the dolphin show we went to one of the several areas allowing visitors to touch some of the sea life. We spent a lot of time here – the kids LOVED touching the manta rays and wanted to keep trying to touch one of the sharks in the tank, too (they weren’t ever quick enough, but Brian and I both managed)!

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The interactivity of the aquarium is really what sets it apart and makes it a stellar experience. If you’re not able to touch things, you’re able to get right up close and personal, or in some cases you’re even able to feel like you’re a part of the exhibit:

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The kids loved the 4D movie, complete with water spraying! And who doesn’t love the chance to wear some 3D glasses?

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There are so many larger-than-life tanks, and we couldn’t get over all the many fish we were able to see up close. The tunnel was one of the boys’ favorite parts, and I can see why – we were practically surrounded by fish!

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I’d highly recommend you plan a visit to the Georgia Aquarium next time you’re in Atlanta.  And now, I’ll leave you with my very favorite photo from our time there:

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Fall is Fabulous with Starbucks® Fall Blend

Note: The following post is sponsored by Starbucks, but all opinions are honest and are my own.

I adore the fall. Summer here in Texas is SO hot, so when fall arrives I am ready. Ready for jackets and flannel sheets and hot cocoa and coffee. Ready for cool days and warm treats. Ready for sitting out on our covered back porch and watching the kids run around playing in the cool air, and for sitting on the couch with the windows open.

We had our first glimpse of fall this past weekend while family was in town for our daughter’s birthday. Temps were in the 60’s and it felt fabulous. After the party finished, we sat out on the back porch and relaxed while the kids played a little more. Brian and his mom decided to enjoy some limited-edition Starbucks Fall Blend, which was perfect! This blend has Sumatran beans to provide the warmth of fresh spice notes, coffees from Kenya to add citrusy brightness as well as beans from Peru that offer balance and a subtle nuttiness – it’s the perfect segue into the brisk days of fall. I can just imagine it with cinnamon coffee cake or a slice of pumpkin pie! 

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I love Christmas and that whole time of year, but I think fall is almost better – there are all sorts of traditions we love like hay rides and pumpkin patches and trick-or-treating with the kids, and we make so many great memories.

This year the boys are both in school, and we all know back-t0-school time can be busy for families. As we adjust to our new routine, our weekend time with the kids is precious; I can’t wait to have many more Saturdays snuggled up with the kids, and I’m glad we’ve got Starbucks Fall Blend to help us enjoy these moments!

Five Fun Things Dads Can do with Kids #AveenoDad

“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for AVEENO. I received product samples to facilitate my review a promotional item to thank me for participating.”

Hi everyone – I’m Brian, Christi’s husband. In honor of Father’s Day this coming weekend, Christi asked me to guest post, and I thought I’d share a list of five things dads can do to have fun with their kids.

First, though, a little background. If you’re new to the blog, we’ve got three kids – a six (& a half) year old, a five year old, and an almost two year old. Needless to say, we’re busy all the time and Christi and I have to make sure we work together as a team to tackle things like homework, house cleaning, cooking dinner, bath time, and more. Of course, we also make a conscious effort to each have good, fun quality time with the kids too. I’ve found several things the kids and I enjoy together, and they’re things any dad can do:

1) Building. In our house, we use LEGO bricks, but you can use things like blocks, magnet tiles, and cardboard boxes too. Building encourages creativity, problem solving, spatial thinking, and it’s just plain FUN.

2) Video games. Some would say this shouldn’t count as quality time, but I strongly disagree. If you pick the right games to play, video games are a great way to have a blast and interact with the kids. Sometimes we’ll play against each other, like in racing games, or sometimes I’ll play a game and the kids will help me solve puzzles.

3) Art. I’m a graphic designer and was an art major in college, so maybe I’m biased. But art is a great way for kids to express themselves, and it’s fun to get involved as a parent. Even if you think you can’t draw, the likelihood is you can draw better than your child, and they’ll love having you draw their favorite character. You could also work on a picture together, taking turns adding one element at a time. You may end up with a crazy finished product, but your kids will probably think it is hilarious.

4) Cooking. Maybe not the first thing you’d think of, but I think this is great for both dads and kids. A study in Psychological Science shows that dads who do things around the house raise daughters with higher career aspirations. I think it’s good for kids to see that cooking is something anyone can do. It’s another way to be creative, and our kids are proud of creating food our family can eat and enjoy.

5) Everyday Fun. I mentioned above that Christi and I divide and tackle tasks on our lists, and bath time is one of those tasks. That doesn’t mean it has to be a chore, though. We have a set of measuring cups, colanders and other kitchen utensils that we keep in the bathroom, and the boys love to “cook” (soup is a common dish I am served during bath time). The boys like for me to take our Aveeno shampoo and suds up their hair really good so we can come up with crazy hair styles. I think their favorite bath memory is the time we put a little shampoo in the water to create bubbles, and then turned on the jets. It turns out jets + soapy water= TONS of bubbles.

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We use Aveeno Baby products for bath time with the kids, and they’re our go-to products because they’re gentle on their skin while still cleaning really well, they create ample bubbles (a must-have from the kids’ perspective) and they smell great, too. While the kids and I are having fun making mohawks and bubble soup, they’re also getting clean from head-to-toe. A win-win situation, for sure.

Regardless of what you do with your child, the main point is making the effort to do something. They’ll remember the effort, and they’ll see how much you care through the time you spend with them.

Happy Father’s Day to all the other dads out there! Hope you get some good quality time with your kids this weekend. I’ll leave you with a video Christi made, asking me a few questions about being a dad.

Moms, You’re Doing OK!

Note: This post is sponsored by Johnson’s Baby Cares and the Motherhood. Johnson’s Baby Cares is the Johnson’s Baby brand charitable platform.

It’s easy to feel less than as a mom. There are always other moms out there who seem to have it more together than you do, and it’s easy to wonder what they know that you don’t.

I’ve had many instances of second-guessing myself. Is it OK that I’m working full-time? Is it OK that my babies slept in pack n’ plays in our room way longer than they probably should’ve?

Lately my issue has been housecleaning. We’ve got three kids ages 6 and under, and our house gets cluttered with toys, shoes (ok, some of those are mine), backpacks, and art projects. The clutter bothered me for a while, I’ll admit. And we are pros at the 10-minute flight-of-the-bumblebee cleanup before company comes over.

But you know what I figured out? Leaving the house cluttered also leaves more time for board games, movie night, bike rides around the neighborhood, and baking cookies together in the kitchen.

I figured out that I’m doing ok as a mom. And you know what? You are, too.

We’ve got to remember that everyone has something that’s difficult for them, and that’s okay. None of us are perfect, but our kids don’t need perfect parents. They need us. 

To my friend who’s newly navigating the waters of single parenthood, you’re doing OK. To my friend who’s been a single mom to two beautiful girls for several years now, you’re doing OK. To my friend who’s had to seek out treatment for her daughter’s extreme eczema, you’re doing OK. In fact, y’all are doing better than ok. You’re all amazing and inspirations to me, and I hope you know what a wonderful job you’re doing for your kids. I’m so proud of each of you, and of all my friends that are moms.

With Mother’s Day coming soon, it’s a great time to remind every mom around us that she’s doing OK.

JOHNSON’S® Baby CARES, the JOHNSON’S® Baby brand’s charitable platform, is committed to ensuring that every baby has a healthy and happy start through educational and social initiatives, product donations, and financial support. In fact, they’ve got an awesome initiative going on right now – for every view of their “You’re Doing OK, Mom” video between now and Mother’s Day, JOHNSON’S® Baby will donate $1 to Save the Children® up to $50,000. Save the Children is an organization that gives children around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm.

You can get started right now – view the video below and help us send a message of love to a deserving mom – and share this with your friends! It’s SUCH an easy way to make a difference.

I hope you’ll also join me May 8 at 12 p.m. Central for a Twitter party honoring moms everywhere with the simple reminder that “you’re doing OK.”

Join us for this special Twitter party as we share stories acknowledging the moms in our lives who are doing OK, along with our own experiences with motherhood after becoming moms ourselves.

JOHNSON’S® Baby CARES, the JOHNSON’S® Baby brand’s charitable platform, is committed to ensuring that every baby has a healthy and happy start. To extend this promise, for every view of the “You’re Doing OK, Mom” video between May 1 and Mother’s Day, JOHNSON’S® Baby will donate $1 to Save the Children®, up to $50,000. We can’t wait to share and discuss this video during the party!

When: Thursday, May 8, at 1p ET (12p CT / 10a PT)

Where: We’ll be on Twitter – follow the #YoureDoingOKMom hashtag to track the conversation. You can see more details and RSVP using the Twtvite: http://twtvite.com/youredoingokmom

Hashtag: #YoureDoingOKMom

Prizes: Five prizes will be awarded to randomly selected participants who correctly answer the trivia questions tweeted by @theMotherhood25. Each prize includes an assortment of JOHNSON’S® Baby products worth $50 in value. Prizes are limited to U.S. participants only, ages 18 and older.

Share the Joy of Beneful with Your Four-Legged Friends! {Giveaway}

Note: Beneful provided me with product samples, and with the opportunity to host this giveaway. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Our Lab/Golden Retriever mix, Sally, is huge – especially compared to our three kids, each of whom she greatly outweighs – but she is incredibly sweet and patient, loyal and loving.

When one of the kids goes to time out, Sally is always right there to keep them company and give them plenty of kisses. Lately she and baby E have been teaming up to provide time out company!

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Sally was tiny when we got her. Totally soft and snuggly, and content to lay around in our laps.

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The boys wanted to name her Lightning McQueen, but we were (thankfully!) able to shift their preference over to Sally, and now we often call her Sal, or Sally O’Malley – or Woof Woof, if baby E is the one doing the talking.

She’s full of energy and is all over the place, but you’ll very rarely find her alone. She wants to be with us, and it makes sense, because she is part of our family.

With Sally being such an important part of our lives, it only makes sense that we want to give her the very best.

Beneful provides delicious and healthy food for dogs. In a recent survey by Beneful, they found that nearly half of the dog owners surveyed (46 percent) say their dogs get bored eating the same food every day and 89% agree that their dogs’ nutrition is as important to them as their own. It only makes sense, then, to choose food and treats for your dog that she can enjoy.

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Beneful has a wide variety of flavors and options, with high-quality ingredients your four-legged family member will love.

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Sally was really excited about the Beneful treats I gave her last night – she could hardly even wait for me to open the package:

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The Stars treats are packed full of bacon and cheese, so I can imagine why she was extra eager! Being the good girl that she is, she (semi-) patiently waited.

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Update: I’ve compiled an album on the Frugal Novice Facebook page of all the adorable dog photos that have been submitted! Click here to check them out, and don’t forget to send me a pic of your pup that would love to win Beneful food & treats! 

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I’m thrilled to be able to offer a pretty amazing giveaway thanks to Beneful – one lucky winner will receive ONE WHOLE YEAR’s supply of Beneful brand wet & dry dog food and treats! This giveaway is open to all US residents aged 18+. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight Central) Wednesday, May 14. By entering this giveaway you agree to the Official Rules. Just enter via the Rafflecopter below!

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The Stork Provides Reproductive Aid in the Comfort of Your Own Home

Note: This post was sponsored by The Stork and The Motherhood. All opinions are honest and are my own.

When you and your spouse first start trying to conceive, you eagerly anticipate the day you’ll see the two pink lines (or + sign, or “Yes”, depending on your brand of test!) and know that you are pregnant and expecting your own bundle of joy.

Now more than ever, couples are experiencing issues with infertility that make those two pink lines an elusive vision. Approximately 1 in 6 couples (that’s about 7.3 million couples) have difficulty conceiving – and that’s just in the United States alone! I was surprised to discover the percentages of success for women in various age ranges, too:

  • Females age 20-25, 25% chance per month of conceiving
  • Females age 30-35, 15% chance per month of conceiving
  • Females age 35-40, 10% chance per month of conceiving
  • Female age 40, 5% chance per month of conceiving

With many women waiting to have children later in life, these lower rates of success can play a big factor in couples seeking out fertility help. There are many options to pick from, with the most popular being Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). IUI’s typically cost $1,000-$5,000 per cycle, and IVF costs anywhere from $12,400-$20,000 per cycle – the cost is really staggering, and it can be financially crippling to couples who must undergo multiple rounds of treatment.

Now there’s a new reproductive aid that costs much less than other treatments – The Stork. The Stork is a physician-used technique now available for use in the privacy of your home. It’s FDA-authorized via prescription, requires no drugs, injections, or surgery, and is extremely easy to use. It just costs $79 for one, or $210 for a supply of three.

What’s great about The Stork (besides its affordable cost) is that it’s incredibly easy to use, so it doesn’t add another layer of confusion and frustration to an already frustrating time. The Stork is a really simple device and they even provide a video with clear-cut instructions explaining every step of the process.

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Right now The Stork requires a prescription, so just go to your provider and ask for them to supply you with one. Then you’re able to purchase The Stork from their website and have it shipped directly to your home. Soon, though, The Stork will be available over the counter on Amazon.com and at CVS in the family planning aisle. It’ll be even easier for you to access this great device and use it for help in trying to conceive.

Be sure and follow The Stork via their social media channels so you can stay up to date on all their news, including when they’re available over the counter! You can find them on Facebook,

Vimeo.

Celebrate Spring with Starbucks Spring Blend Coffee

Note: I received samples from Starbucks & Modern Mom to facilitate this post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

love spring. In Texas, things start to get brown at the end of summer from how hot and dry the weather is, so by the time winter is ending I am really ready to see some green. The weather isn’t hitting triple-digit temperatures, and we can enjoy being outside as a family.

I’ve got many great family memories of being outside together, but one of my favorites involves my grandparents up in Illinois. Every year we would make the 12-hour trek up to see my dad’s parents in their tiny little Illinois town. And every morning I would wake up (usually the latest of anyone!) and go out to their side porch to find everyone sitting around sipping coffee and chatting. Here’s a pic of grandma on her porch, waiting for everyone to come join her:

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After I got married, Brian started joining us on the trips – I informed my late-sleeper husband of the morning coffee on the porch, and he began to join in on the tradition, too. When our two boys were still just toddlers, they got to visit Illinois and experience the porch tradition, too (although they preferred to wander around and collect rocks!).

You never know what memories will end up sticking out most in your mind, but sitting around on grandma’s porch together with coffee and visiting will always be something I remember fondly.

For whatever your spring traditions are, Starbucks has a Spring Blend that is a perfect complement to your celebrations and gatherings. It combines exquisite beans from Latin America and East Africa and was created to perfectly pair with buttery shortbread and early harvest berries—a love poem to the season of renewal.

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Whether you’re sitting around on your porch visiting with family or are enjoying another special spring tradition, the Starbucks Spring Blend is sure to bring another pleasant note to the memories you’re creating.

You Can Win Big at Chuck E Cheese’s!

Note: We received guest passes to facilitate our trip to Chuck E Cheese’s. All opinions in this post are honest and are my own.

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Our kids adore going to Chuck E Cheese’s, so they were thrilled when we told them we were going to meet some friends there this past weekend. They think the pizza is really good, and of course their favorite part is playing games and winning tickets.

Right now Chuck E Cheese’s is running a “Let the Good Times Rip!” in-store game where parents can get excited about winning prizes, too! To play, just peel off the game piece on your 18-ounce adult-size cup to see what you won. You could win a $5,000 Disney® Cruise Line Vacation, XBox One™ Console, Razor Crazy Cart™, PlayStation® 4 Console, Chuck E. Cheese’s gift cards, board games, tickets and more. This in-store game is going on now until March 31st so don’t miss out!

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The kids had fun peeling off their game pieces to see what they won – we all got extra tickets, which is always a good thing!

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Be sure and pop in to play the game before March 31 – don’t forget, every cup has a prize! And of course, while you’re there you and your family can get in some great quality time and good food.

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Share What’s Good with Welch’s Photo Contest!

Note: I received compensation for participating in this campaign through MomCentral Consulting.

As a busy mom to three kids who also works full-time outside of the home, finding quality family moments is very important to me! We try to make sure and have real conversations with the kids at the dinner table, so we can hear what really went on during their day. Everyone (mom & dad too!) has to share their best and worst moments of the day, and that usually opens up the floor for more conversation from the kids.

Another way our family has quality time is with stories before bed. This is a favorite photo of mine from one of those story times:

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Welch’s believes in the magic of “kitchen table” moments, and has been helping families enjoy them for generations. In the time it takes to drink a glass of juice or share a sandwich, a special moment can happen. That’s why Welch’s just launched a new movement called “Share what’s good™” It’s all about sharing those special moments that occur each day with family, friends and loved ones – whether it’s at home or on the go. At Sharewhatsgood.com you’ll find a variety of great content from fun family ideas to delicious recipes. You can share photos of your every-day moments and see how others are doing the same.

As part of the Share what’s good campaign, Welch’s has launched the “Share Your Moments” photo contest! From 9/16 to 10/25 upload a photo of your favorite family moment for a chance to win $5,000! While there is only one grand prize, everyone who enters will get a $1.50 coupon for Welch’s 100% Grape Juice – or $2.00 if you share the news. VisitSharewhatsgood.com to enter. Post your photos to Twitter & Instagram, too, and use the hashtag #sharewhatsgood with your image.

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Be sure and keep up with Welch’s on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too!

Britax Booster – Parkway SGL 2013 • Continuing Car Safety for Kids!

Note: We received the Britax Parkway SGL 2013 to facilitate our review. All opinions in this post are honest and are entirely our own. We are huge Britax fans and have purchased two Britax seats for our kids prior to this review.

Britax_Booster_SeatI have always been very aware of car seat safety for my kids, and J has still been in his five-point harness Britax Marathon seat up until very recently (can I just say that I love that the Britax seats have such a high weight limit? We’ve definitely gotten our money’s worth with the seats). He started kindergarten this week, which I’m still slightly in denial about, and he asked us multiple times about switching to a “big kid” seat. We knew we wanted to get him a booster, but to be honest the switch from a five-point harness made me a little nervous. So, after a lot of research we learned what we already knew – the Britax Parkway SGL 2013 has the features we want that make the booster incredibly safe and functional.

First off, if you’ve looked into booster seats at all you know there are two kinds – those with backs, and those without. We wanted one with a back, which the Parkway has… BUT you can also remove the back and use it as a backless booster. I love this, because that means this can be the seat he’s in until he’s big enough to not need a booster anymore. It’s just another way that Britax shows their value, in my opinion. I’ll talk about the features in a minute, which are what really impress us… but the sheer length of time you’re able to use Britax seats is enough on its own to make these worthwhile.

Now let’s talk about features. This is no ordinary booster – it’s SO well designed for safety and for easy use.

• ISOFLEX Flexible Lower LATCH Connection System secures the booster seat to the vehicle in seconds from either side of the booster seat with two clicks and a pull. ISOFLEX prevents the booster seat from becoming a projectile when not in use, and stabilizes it during a crash. This was SO easy to do. Brian placed the seat in the car, as you can see above, and then he used the two LATCH straps to connect to our anchors in the car:

Britax_LATCH  And then – without having to climb into the seat and awkwardly shove his knee into it – he just easily pulled the strap on each side, heard the clicks, and voila! the seat was securely anchored.
• Base with SafeCell Technology designed to keep your child safe and secure in a crash by compressing and significantly lowering the center of gravity, reducing the forward movement of the car seat.
• SecureGuard works with the vehicle safety belt to prevent the child from sliding under the lap-belt portion of the safety belt (submarining) during impact, thus minimizing the risk of abdominal injury. We love this feature, too – the shoulder guide keeps the top strap where it needs to be, but there’s also the SecureGuard “hook” – for lack of a better term – that slips over the lap-belt and keeps it in place over your child’s legs rather than on  their abdomen, (the soft abdomen is not safe placement in the instance of a crash, so this is really an awesome feature). Of course, since the SecureGuard is between your child’s legs, it also serves to help keep them from slipping down underneath the lap belt.

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Shoulder Strap Guide

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Some other great Parkway SGL 2013 features include:J_Britax_Booster

  • 120-pound Weight Capacity for safety and comfort as your child grows
  • Quick- Adjust Head Restraint easily adjusts the head restraint from the front of the seat for a more comfortable fit and enhanced safety (this is SO easy to move up and down as needed, just by squeezing a handle on the back of the head restraint)
  • High Density Comfort Foam (under removable cover) provides an extra layer of padding to cushion your child
  • Easy-Remove Cover allows easy cleaning (no more wrangling it off in the inevitable instance of a spill!)
  • Color-Coded Vehicle Belt Guides provide clear indication of the positioning of the vehicle lap and shoulder belt
  • True Side Impact Protection distributes crash forces, shields from vehicle intrusion, contains the head and body, and keeps the head, neck and spine “in true” or aligned, to limit injury
  • Armrests provide a natural and comfortable place to rest arms
  • Retractable Cup Holders are designed to hold children’s cups and snacks (J’s FAVORITE feature of the seat… he also likes to hide toys in the cup holders and then stick them back into the booster)
  • Removable Back allows the booster seat to easily convert to a backless booster while maintaining safety of SecureGuard
  • MSRP (USD) $159.99 – You can buy it on Amazon for $119.99, though!

We weren’t surprised at all to find that we loved this booster. It gives me the peace of mind, and J the sense of independence – a perfect balance. We will always be a Britax family when it comes to car seats for our kiddos.