Category Archives: Minivans

The many stages of packing. 

For my people, summer travel generally means car travel.  I like the Northeast in the summer. I love the beaches, and I particularly dislike summer air travel. Once in a while we get on a plane, but more often than not, come summer, you can find us in the minivan. Ah, the minivan. I have detailed fantasies about an asteroid taking it out, but last time I checked it’s still here, and 101,000 miles later, we are still tooling around in it. 

With any trip, after the planning (I am bad at that), comes the packing (I am even worse). Everyone knows, that if I am left to pack for all of us, at least ONE person will travel without underwear. Thankfully, on these trips, I can count on the kids to pack themselves. Hell, if they want to travel with underwear, they have no choice; even the little ones have a list. God knows what’s in their bag, but at least I don’t have to pack it. 

Packing is bad, so bad that it comes in stages, like grief. Here are the ones I can think of, so far: 

1. The denial phase: This generally involves me sitting on the floor in my bedroom overwhelmed. Many things in my life have me sitting on the floor of my bedroom overwhelmed, but none more than packing. In this phase, I tell myself that this time will be different. This time I won’t pack 14,000 little bags for myself (M hates this, he especially hates that of the 14,000 little bags I pack for myself, NOT ONE of them zips shut). But I like to put things in little bags because I believe it is easier to find things if they are in little bags. (I also love collecting little bags, and summer travel lets me use them.) I have a shoe bag, a toiletry bag, a book bag. You get the picture. In this phase though, I am completely convinced that this time I will remember my underwear and this time I’ll be more streamlined, because when you travel with 14,000 little bags, you are likely to lose one on the trip. 

2. The kitchen sink phase: This follows pretty quickly, and we are all guilty. I get asked questions like: I just made slime, can I bring it with me? (NO), and When you said three outfits, did you mean six? (NO), and IS THREE FOOTBALLS TOO MANY? (YES). In this phase, the kitchen floor looks something like this:  

 
I don’t even know that the hell is in those bags, but I’m pretty sure we need none of it. This phase also has me emptying out the Stone Age contents of the freezer into a bag to bring with us because if we have yet to eat it at home we are definitely going to eat it on the road.

3. The I hate my children phase: I know they have packed their own bags, but that’s pretty much it. I asked one of them to empty the dishwasher and was turned down, so I had to move down the line. I asked them to empty the garbage. Three times. The garbage, which is bursting forth with crap, has still not been touched. Every so often, I pass by and shove all the crap down so it looks a little less awful, but then someone washes his hands and used 200 paper towels and leaves them all on top… 

 

4. The I really fucking hate my children phase: This phase has me outside, drinking. Ok, it’s usually iced coffee or kombucha (DON’T), but I’m still sitting on the back step, shaking with anger and chugging a cold beverage. Inside, 5 children are all in front of a screen. One is crying because her iPod keeps shutting down and she isn’t sure how she’s going to make the trip. Another is playing some princess shit on MY ipad, which makes me crazy, because there is literally nothing in this house that they don’t touch. One of them asks me why we have to take car trips when other people get to go to Hawaii in the summer. Yeah, says another, how come we’re not going to Hawaii? I just spent 20 minutes wondering from room to room trying to remember what it was I came into the room for, and I am strung out. I try to explain that not only is Hawaii on the other side of the world, but that seven tickets to Hawaii… oh, whatever, they don’t even care. 

5. M’s intervention: At this point in our marriage, he knows better than to tell me I’m wrong or to calm down, so he just reminds me that this trip was my idea. Of course, that never makes things worse. He then tells me to channel friends of ours who never seem to lose their shit. He says, correctly, that these friends of ours would ditch the kids and go for coffee. We look at each other and we both know that if he and I leave the kids and go for coffee, we may never come back. We may even go to Hawaii. 

6. Retreat: At some point, I come back inside the house, and finish up the packing. At some point, the TV is turned off. At some point, our stuff gets in the car, and we follow suit. The children are even moderately helpful – at least some of them are. And at some point, we get on the road and the packing phase ends and the puking phase begins (another story, entirely). 

But nobody ever emptied that trash. 

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Filed under Minivans, Road trip, summer camp, travel, Uncategorized

On the road again…

Facebookers, I see your happy family vacation pics and I raise you two: cleaning puke off a car seat and watching as two guys try and fix the dent in the car (made when I hit a pole earlier in the week) that is slowly shredding the tire.In my defense, I only ignored the dent because it happened when I was on my way home from the auto repair shop; the right door refused to open because of yes, all the dents. (I am nothing if not consistent.) 

(Big thanks to a certain neighbor and two passers by for helping out with that sitch.)

I have zero to say about the puking. It happens whenever she’s in the car for more than ten minutes. I put her on a bus to camp last week. She puked every day and three times on Wednesday. Needless to say, she is not going back. And that thing you’re about to suggest I try? I’ve tried it.

I romanticize these car trips in the planning. I have visions of singalongs, covered bridges and quirky bookstores. But in reality, one thing happens after another and before you know it you’re buying Febreze in Syracuse.

UPDATE: One week later we are driving home and I got to hold this: #StillWinning

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Filed under Minivans, Road trip, Summer, Uncategorized

You spin me right round…

Winter in NYC. First snowfall and my shitty minivan got stuck at the bottom of a hill. Our house is on the top of the hill. Far better drivers than me (everyone I know) struggled to get the car up.

An inch of snow and a minor hill and I was totally grounded.

It’s going to be a long winter.

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This morning I drove the van to a tire place and got snow tires put on. This is my last ditch attempt to let the van show its worthiness.

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The tire guy told me I had to bring the car in to have the tires rotated at the end of the winter.

“Um, excuse me sir,” I whisper. “But don’t the tires rotate on their own? I mean isn’t that what tires do?”

Blank stare. Awkward laugh.

Apparently rotate means switch places.

Another day, another lesson.

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Filed under driving, Minivans, New York City, weather, winter

Good News and Bad News

A new friend told me that any tour of her family’s new house includes a look at her new boiler, which represents a chunk of cash they couldn’t spend on something a lot more fun, like a new bathroom.

So naturally I was less than thrilled when the boiler guy stood in my basement yesterday and spoke words you never want to hear from any repairman, let alone a boiler repairman: “I’ll put in this new part and then we should just pray.”

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(Photo is blurry to protect the identity of said boiler. Ok, not really. I just take crappy pictures.)

On the very same day I dropped my car off at the shop because it squeaks whenever I turned a corner or went over one of Riverdale’s many, many speed bumps.

“Tell him it’s the suspension,”‘said M.

I can’t tell you what suspension is, but I do know my minivan was no match for last years’s winter. Between the snow drifts, the crater-like potholes and the unpaved roads, the van crawled into spring on it’s last breath. (I have already written about the place in town that charges $25 to basically reattach the bottom of Honda Odysseys that have been torn off by ice.)

Later the day, in the middle of boiler drama, I get a call from my mechanic, Bruce.

(Allow me just say that if all people in life were a) this good at their jobs and b) this respectful to women, complainers and feminists would be out of business. And I’m not just saying this because his name is Bruce. Bruuuuuce.)

“Your suspension (whatever that is) is fine,” he said. “Wanna know why it’s squeaky? It’s your bike rack, and your front bumper, which is about to fall off.”

I didn’t feel like an idiot, because Bruce doesn’t let me. This summer when I drove in and said, “it’s barely running and the battery light just went on,” he said, “that’s not your battery, that’s your engine light, and I’ll fix it.”

No judging. No shame. Bruuuuce.

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The car is fine. And it seems that the boiler guy has a direct line to God, because it’s fine too.

Bring on winter. (Ok, not really.)

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Filed under driving, House, Minivans

My third arm.

I’m sure there’s a funny list somewhere of jimmy-rigged body parts parents wished they had — an actual eye in the back of our heads, ears that sealed shut, feet that felt no pain when they trampled on underfoot legos and Polly Pocket heads. But what I really need is an extra arm.

Especially in the car.

There are some things that are universal: ALL CHILDREN WILL WAKE UP AT SIX AM ON A SUNDAY BUT HAVE TO BE DRAGGED OUT OF BED ON A MONDAY MORNING AT SEVEN AM. KICKING AND SCREAMING.

Here’s another that may be universal as well (I’m curious), and the reason I could use that arm: The moment one of the girls (not the boys) finish an item of food anywhere, but especially in the car, the wrapping of that food turns to molten lava, and they are unable to touch it, even for a few seconds. Instead, they lose their minds completely until they have given me the detritus. (“Mummy! Take this trash! Now!”) This happens a lot when we are walking down the street and I have gotten much better at making them hold the string cheese wrapper until we come to a trash can, even if it pains them, which it clearly does.

But in the car, I am weak. They will not hold their trash and I do not make them. I do not want to hear the pained howling while I drive. Instead, I stretch one of my puny arms as far back as it will go and I retrieve the cheese wrapper, the cracker bag, the soggy, empty yogurt stick as they hoot and holler in agony. (The boys are more than happy to silently shove their trash in between the seats or under the seat in front of them.)

Which is why I need a third arm.

Or just a better backbone.

PS: I have been asked why there are no (Jewish) New Year’s resolutions this year. It’s because I’m my most perfect self and there’s nothing I could improve if I tried. Or not. It’s because the list is too long and painful and I just don’t want to think about it. I’ll wait until December 31st. Stay tuned.

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Filed under children, driving, Minivans, New York City, parenting

Love Me, Love My Van.

Usually I get stopped twice a month by a man in a car offering to fix the dings in my minivan. It is usually in a parking lot. I am usually polite, but firm in my refusal.

This week, however, I was stopped four times, twice in one day, and it is only Thursday.

“Hey lady! I can fix that good for you!”

“Hey lady! Why do you wanna drive around all banged up?”

Today a man pulled alongside me in his pretty golden convertible, AS I WAS DRIVING. He looked so sad when I told him, as I do all these men that I’d love the van to be all fixed up and pretty, but given that I’m likely to bang it all up again the very next day, it does seem somewhat unnecessary at best, wasteful at worst.

The man in the convertible looked like as though tears were about to spring from his eyes.

“For real?” he asked, his car still moving alongside mine like a shiny dolphin keeping up with a big, ugly, banged-up ship.

Quoting Fiona, I shot back: “Yes. For real life.”

Had I not turned down a street and driven away, I am sure he’d have offered to do it for free.

I wonder now what was most upsetting to him: the scratches, the dents, the duct tape holding the bumpers together, or the scars of duct tape past?

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Filed under driving, Minivans, New York City

Passover Irony

I had to write a short article about Passover, for which I needed a picture of food in my minivan.

So I opened a box of crackers, took one out, put it on the floor of the car and snapped the photo.

Here’s the irony: you could feed the Bronx with the once edible detritus that lines the floor of my car. There are two thousand crumbling potato chips shoved under the seats in the way back, four pounds of half eaten granola bars wedged in between the arm rests, three hundred cheese crackers between the seats and five liters of yogurt caked on the leather, not to mention many pieces of gum fossilizing here and there….

But I went and staged the photo anyway.

Was I afraid to show the true underbelly of minivan life?

Maybe…

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Filed under children, driving, Minivans, New York City, parenting, Passover, Uncategorized