Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Diono Radian RXT Carseat Review

Dioni kindly sent me a Radian RXT Car Seat to review here. From the Dioni web site:
The RadianRXT is a highly versatile car seat that could be the only seat you’ll ever need. It comfortably seats rear-facing children from 5-45 lbs, forward-facing children from 20-80 lbs in 5-point harness, then converts to a booster for children up to 120 lbs.

First impressions of this car seat are daunting to say the least. I pulled it out of the box (a big box) and found I had to dig for the instructions right away. It comes in the collapsed mode, which allows you to attach straps and carry it as a backpack, very handy for traveling, say, on an airplane. By the way, this seat is fully airline compliant, so you shouldn't have any trouble bringing it on a plane.

Anyway, as per the directions, the base of the seat folds out for use, and does so via a simple-to-operate latch. The back of the car seat holds all the various LATCH straps and belts needed for installation either rear- or forward-facing, as well as a seat belt clip for cars built before 2001 that do not have a LATCH system. Also in the box are the backpack straps previously mentioned, as well as the infant padding you can see in the picture above, which will nicely snug in your newborn. Our son is now about 20 lbs and too big to need the extra padding.

First Impressions
This Radian RXT is somewhat large, as you can see. Given that it can hold children all the way up to 120 lbs (which is heavier than some adults!), it should be. The headrest portion is adjustable so that the aluminum-framed head supports align correctly with your child's head.

Though tall, the seat is not especially wide, a feature Dioni says allows this seat to be installed 3-across in a vehicle. The construction is very strong and durable, composed of both heavy plastic as in most car seats and aluminum framing in certain places.

The straps are all adjustable of course, and this was the fastest part of setup for me, in contrast to many other car seats that make you remove covers and padding and whatnot; this was very straightforward to adjust to our toddler's height. A nice feature that complements the adjustable shoulder straps is the tensioner at the front of the seat which ratchets rather than just pulls, so you don't risk getting it too tight all at once when fitting it to your child.

It's a big plus to have a seat that you can take your baby home from the hospital in and not have to buy another seat until they're big enough to not need one any longer, so I was looking forward to installing it and trying it out.

Installing the Radian RXT turned out to be very challenging with our two vehicles that I tried it in. The big disclaimer here is that unfortunately we don't have a modern SUV or minivan, so installation was doubtless more difficult than it would have been had we had one. I first tried installing it in our 2000 Isuzu Rodeo, which unfortunately does not have a LATCH system, and after struggling with it for about 30 minutes and reading the directions over and over, ultimately had to give up. The design of the seat is such that the belt path under the seat is a closed tunnel, which first of all means you need small hands to be able to thread the belts through, which wanted to get hung up inside. But once I got the seat belt through, a larger obstacle cropped up. Because the belt tunnel is so low and closed off from the top (unlike a traditional car seat base), I was unable to tighten the belt enough because the car buckle of course cannot bend around the angle of the tunnel. This was with the rear-facing base attachment properly secured, but it was still as if the belt tunnel was too low to be able to tighten the belt enough. Compounding this in a car without a LATCH system is the fact that you have to secure the belt clip and then fasten the seat belt. However, with the Radian, there was absolutely no way once I secured the belt clip to snake the tightened belt back through the tunnel and clip it into the buckle since you usually have to have lots of leverage to do that, and I'm sorry, but my fingertips just aren't strong enough to manage that.

So, on to option two, the BMW 3-series sedan. It's a 2001, so it does have a LATCH system fortunately. However, given the size of the Radian RXT, I found it couldn't be installed behind the driver's seat, which is where the current car seat goes, because the high headrest of the Radian would have meant that the drivers seat would have had to go forward too far for anyone except a little person. I'm sure it would have worked okay forward-facing, but we can't do that until the baby is bigger.

So I finally got it installed on the passenger side of the car, but seemed to have a similar problem tightening the LATCH straps, due to the belt tunnel seeming too low. But in actuality, when tightened down as absolutely as I could, the manual says that when gripped at the tunnel, the seat should not move more than an inch in any direction, which it doesn't. However, it didn't seem right at first because shaking the seat from the headrest resulted in a lot of play. I guess this is to be expected since there's lots of leverage there, it's just that the manual didn't say anything about how much the headrest could be expected to move, and it seemed like a lot compared to the compact car seat we were currently using.

So the installation was rough, and took almost an hour before it was finally installed. But once it was in, use is as simple as any other car seat, and the quality of the buckles across the chest and between the legs definitely seems a notch above. As mentioned earlier, all adjust easily and connect positively. I also liked how once our son was in there that it seemed more open and airy than a traditional car seat while holding him securely. In any case, I see no issues with further use, and I know it will prove to be an excellent car seat whenever we finally do get a modern minivan.

Final Thoughts
The Radian RXT from Diono is very well-built and versatile. You could buy 2 or 3 car seats for your young one until they don't need them, or you could get the one Radian RXT. It's adjustability and quality of materials is definitely above par. I just wish the belt tunnel had been designed to make installation without a LATCH system less painless. That said, my difficulties with installation could just be that a fault of general ineptitude with car seats, mechanical prowess in many other areas notwithstanding, and not so much a fault with the seat. The Radian has lots of great reviews on Amazon, including one I read from a lady who has two in her Honda Civic, so maybe it was just a bad combination of an older car and installing while tired. In any case, the Radian RXT is a great carseat and one that I know will be able to handle all the abuse a baby/toddler/child can throw at it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Birthday Bonus Review & Coupon Codes!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, we certainly enjoyed some pumpkin pie and quality time with loved ones! I have some exciting bonuses for Logan's 1st Birthday Bash which is less than a week away! We have all our party supplies and I am working on a home-made birthday banner, inspired by some fellow Etsy artists. I'm putting together a slide show and possibly a game of pin-the-bow-on-the-tushy using Logan's birth announcement photo which doubled as our Christmas card in 2010. Isn't he just the cutest present under the tree?

I want to give a quick shout out to PoppieRoxx EarDrops Etsy boutique. I met Shawndra, an awesome jewelry artist at a craft fair in early November. She was our neighboring booth and we did a good exchange at the end of our show. She had these awesome pink skull earrings that will perfectly match my outfit for Logan's "Lil Rebel" themed 1st Birthday Bash. In exchange she picked out some crocheted baby booties for a friend from my Etsy shop, Two Little Sea Stars. PoppieRoxx has offered my readers 20% off any earrings in her Etsy shop, just use coupon code TLSS20, Thanks PoppieRoxx!

 You can also grab anything in my Etsy shop, Two Little Sea Stars for 10% off through the 4th too! Use coupon code LOGANIS1 !

I love the Etsy shop Little Sapling Toys. They have some awesome products made from natural and organic materials such as wood. I love their stackers and teethers in a variety of fun shapes. They have offered my readers 10% off through Logan's birthday on Dec. 4th. Just use coupon code KIWIS10! They have a great selection of memory games and Christmas ornaments too!

Another Etsy shop, Darlin' Details, provided me with item to review. They sent me a 2T blue T-shirt with a polka dot dinosaur decal for Logan to grow into. The shirt is quality 100% cotton, and preshrunk which is great, because as I have unfortunately learned in this first year of motherhood, you can lose a size with the first wash in many brands if you are not careful.

The fabric dino decal appears to be backed and attached in an iron-on style and then given a stitched border as a design element.  This is a popular style right now for handmade onesies and toddler tees and I prefer the fabric appliques to some of the plastic iron-on styles I have seen that can crack and fade. I also like that the decal is backed with an adhesive so the edges won't fray around the stitched border. I also really like the modern print selected for this shirt and the blue polka dots color pallet matches perfectly with the base T-shirt color selected. The shape of the dino is childlike and sweet, a contrast to the typical sharp clawed, toothy T-Rex found on other retail options for dinosaur toddler tees. I can appreciate my baby's clothes staying sweet and childlike sometimes (as cool as he does look in that motorcycle emblazoned button-up with a guitar applique across the back), I'm not ready for him to grow up so fast!

Darlin Details does more than just kids clothes, they also do monogramming, bags and totes, jerseys, and sports/college collections in infant through adult sizes. A really cute idea is Darlin' Details' "house divided" tees with two sports teams. In our house that would be Dallas Cowboys for my husband and Denver Broncos for my side. My dad would love to see Logan sport that shirt for our next football party.You can get free shipping by using the code SEC2011 at Darlin' Details!

If you haven't already, make sure you enter Logan's 1st Birthday Bash Multi-Prize Giveaway!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday! Are you ready to rumble....

Go Cowboys! We love us some fall football!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Logan's 1st Birthday Bash & Multi-Prize Giveaway

On December 4th, 2010, God blessed our family with little Logan. He wasn't an easy baby and didn't sleep very well, but each morning his little smile would make us forget how tired we were and we fell in love with him more and more each day. As he nears his first birthday, we are in awe of him still and delight in his personality. He is already walking everywhere, climbing on everything, taking a special interest in all remotes and cords, sharing his toys and his paci with family and friends, growling like a little lion, screeching like a hawk, and just generally cracking us up with his antics everyday. We love him so much! Happy Birthday baby boy!

To celebrate, I have some great finds for his first birthday gifts and I want to share them with my readers! Here are our sponsors for our first birthday prize pack:

Joan Phelps Creations Etsy shop sent me an adorable Minkee plush creation in a penguin design for  review. Logan loves his little penguin; the fabric is plush and soft and he loves to touch it and put in his mouth, just like everything else these days. He carries this cuddly little friend with him while he explores and loves to take him on car rides. Logan's Sunday school class uses similar toys so there is some familiarity with the design of the toy. These are the perfect first dolls for teethers since they can be washed and dried. The embroidery thread is polyester and will not fade. I would love to have several more to use in teaching Logan animal noises. Besides the penguin we received, Joan Phelps Creations had these designs:

Lady Penguin, Turtle, Elephant, Duck, Dog, Bunny, Bear, Bat, Pig, Frog, Cat, Octopus, Bunny Head, Angel, Fish, Flowers, Glowbug, Astronaut, Butterflys, Fun Shapes, Heart, Star, Sun, Moon, Bug, and a Circle. Basically, a whole plush zoo!

In addition to these lovable creatures, Joan Phelps Creations has something for everyone. She has baby bibs, burp cloths, and blankets for little ones as well as a selection of quilted and blended yarn or wool knit items for adults. For Christmas she has some lovely 3D lace angels and quilted table runners that would make great gifts. Her hats and table runners have been her biggest selling items.

Based out of her North Carolina home, Joan Phelps Creations opened on Etsy in September of 2011. Joan finds it most rewarding to make a happy customer by doing what she loves. She has been sewing and making things since her childhood and now enjoys using her embroidery machine  to make unique creations. She has made many embroidered quilts for her grand children whom she cares for, and friends, a true labor of love. Her quilts and sewing creations are usually made with 100% cotton and Joan often up-cycles materials for unique looks. Joan finds it an adventure scavenging yard sales, thrift shops, and her friends' closets looking for usable materials for her work. Looking for something in particular? Joan takes custom orders!

After retiring from a 32 year teaching career, Joan hopes her Etsy store will supplement her income as well as be a job she enjoys as much as teaching others. She continues her love of teaching by helping others learn to knit and sew. Visit her Etsy store and you will see how truly talented she is at what she does.

In celebration of my kiwi Logan's 1st birthday celebration, Joan Phelps Creations has given me a Minkee Plush creation in an adorable pink elephant design to give to one lucky reader as part of this prize pack. Enter to win on the Rafflecopter form by clicking "read more" at the end of this post.

Fiori Designs Etsy shop also sent Logan a birthday gift to review and share with friends. Fiori Designs' focus is mainly amazing hair accessories for girls but they also have some great things this fall for our little guys too! Shop owner and artist Liz started making headbands just before her daughter's first birthday. Liz told me that after having two boys, she was super excited to have a baby girl to dress up in all the pretty things she'd seen in boutiques, but not so excited about how pricey some of the things for little girls are, thus she began creating her own items and eventually selling them on Etsy. Liz loves trying out new things, learning new techniques, and making beautiful things.

One of my favorite trends for baby girls right now is sewn flowers. Liz uses dupioni silk to create elegant hair pieces, perfect for upcoming Christmas photos, weddings, special occasions, or everyday use for us girly-girls. She also makes use of rhinestones, pearls, and re-purposed vintage jewelry as embellishments. Accessories with feathers are also a big trend right now.

For the little gentlemen in your life, Liz creates beanie hats using unique fabric patterns that you won't see on every baby such as skulls, boom-boxes, and graphic prints. I love traditional baby designs and modern ones alike, so if you are anything like me, you'll love her designs. My son Logan's style can definitely be described as preppy punk, so Liz sent us a gray and black striped skull print beanie to review. The sewing work was impeccable, I could not even tell inside from outside, which is always great when in a hurry anyway. I put it on the baby and he didn't immediately try to tear it off his head like other hats, another plus! The hat was double layered for added warmth and had room to grow, I just folded the edge to get the perfect fit on my little guy. The hat we received for review is Fiori Designs best seller for boys. He best seller for little ladies is her "fiona" headband.

Logan in his hat from Fiori Designs with his toy from Joan Phelps Creations

Liz loves to work on custom orders and is always excited to work with a new customer and make them happy with her work. When I interviewed her, Liz told me "It's humbling, because I started doing this for my own enjoyment. So when something I made makes someone else feel as happy as I do, well that's a cool feeling!" I'm always excited to find shops like Fiori Designs, where a stay-at-home mom like Liz finds a much needed creative outlet and creates true works of art. Keep an eye on more great things to come from this shop, such as neck ties for boys.

In celebration of my kiwi Logan's 1st birthday celebration, Fiori Designs has given me a beanie hat in the winner's choice of fabric to give to one lucky reader as part of this prize pack. Enter to win on the Rafflecopter form by clicking "read more" at the end of this post.

 I came across this sweet baby and kids boutique at my local farmer's market and was super excited to work with owner and creator Sandra on a custom bib for Logan's first birthday. She was great to work with, putting together just the right colors and look for a super cute bib, perfect not only for Logan's first birthday but for any day as well! Since the theme is "lil' rebel," we went with a pirate skull applique and she embroidered Logan's name underneath. She was even kind enough to make a delivery of the finished product to my home since she is local. The final creation is a cotton and chenille snap closure bib that is long enough to cover the baby's shoulders and chest and has the perfect neck size. I'm so glad she got the neck size right because I'm always annoyed at my other bibs that gap and let food sneak in-between bib and baby's shirt.

Sandra started My Kid's Laundry five years ago.  She had a friend whose son had reflux and was going crazy looking for a bib, that wasn't plastic, to use on her son.  After much research she discovered that Chenille was super absorbent. With the attitude "you never know unless you try", Sandra made one bib and found it worked great. She started to give them away as gifts, then people loved them and wanted more. Since the creation of her website she has expanded from bibs into a well rounded boutique with something for every baby, boy, and girl. Some of the goodies you will find include bloomers, tooth fairy pillows, hair bows, dresses, toddler belts, aprons, nursing shawls for mom and much more! Her best sellers are her hair bows and she loves seeing children wearing her creations!

My Kid's Laundry would be the perfect company to work with on a custom order such as a monogrammed shirt or bib or even a full nursery bed set. On her website you will find an example of a custom baseball themed nursery that Sandra completed. You can also visit her on Facebook. I wish I had known about her a year ago when some close friends chose a Transformers theme for their son's room and had to search for specific decor you couldn't find in stores. It's nice to know now about boutiques like My Kid's Laundry so I'm not limited to what I can find at Babies R Us for a nursery theme.

A stay-at-home mom of four, Sandra currently works on orders during nap time. She hopes success will continue to come her way and she can continue this business as her full time job.

In celebration of my kiwi Logan's 1st birthday celebration,  My Kid's Laundry has given me a Christmas-patterned bib to give to one lucky reader as part of this prize pack. Enter to win on the Rafflecopter form by clicking "read more" at the end of this post.

Thanks again to all my sponsors! Readers, keep an eye out for bonus coupon codes and a possible bonus giveaway to be announced as I prepare for Logan's big day on December 4th!

UPDATE: Get your Coupon codes!!  HERE: birthday-bonus-review-coupon-codes post!

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