Tag Archives: minivans

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

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

I saw Eminem at the Pink Elephant.

Today I spoke to a friend, who lives in a hip city, with two kids. She told me she was taking her kids to a jazz bar that catered to families with small children. They were going for brunch.

Brunch.

I haven’t used that word since 2002.

Wanna know what I did today? In anticipation of Passover, M and I drove our cars to the Pink Elephant car wash so that we could get some professional help removing the 3,000 tons of stale Cheerios, 600 revolting lollipop sticks and 1000 gallons of crusted yogurt that has lodged itself into the very fabric of our cars.

Once again, the glamor of my life overwhelms me at times.

Now that I’ve been in Seattle for (gulp) over six years, I don’t actively miss LA as much. Sure, I think of the beach and the light in Santa Monica in March, and my heart hurts. But, most of the time I shove it to the back of my brain. With brunch.

But whenever I have to get my car washed, then I really miss LA; and it’s a feeling so deep I can’t shove it anywhere.

In LA the car washes are architectural splendors of the 50’s and 60’s, or they’re just built to look that way… so you always expect to see Wally Cleaver or Mike Brady pull up next to you. And gee whiz Alice, they do a swell job washing your car. I swear the hand of God is involved in the car washes of LA.

In Seattle — not so much.

Case in point: The Pink Elephant.

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Don’t be deceived by the rosy pachyderm (or the blue sky; it was a one-off). There is very little smiling going on at the Pink Elephant. You drop off your car, some kid who looks like Eminem or the guy who was once married to Britney Spears takes your keys, sneers at you for a few minutes, and then spends thirty seconds removing absolutely no dirt from your car. When he gives you the keys back and you explain to him that he still has work to do, he turns into a pink elephant and uses his trunk to spray tremendous attitude all over you and your car. At some point you just grab the vacuum and do it yourself while he sneers at you. That’s customer service, Seattle style.

While we were there, doing most of the work ourselves, I took the liberty of looking at other people’s cars. This is the car of a woman BEFORE she has had it cleaned.

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My brain doesn’t even know how to process this.

This is MY car, or more specifically, what it looks like in between the seats of my car:

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I believe there are several strains of penicillin growing right there, people. Again, my life = all glamor.

I could tell you about the one helpful person in Pink Elephant history, who actually spent hours of his life in a hazmat suit, getting my car in respectable condition (“toughest job I’ve had yet.”), but that wouldn’t be any fun at all.

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Instead, here’s a picture of two of the kids, sitting in our carseat farm, watching as mum and dad shvitzed like pigs trying to clean six months worth of snack food from the car. Who the hell knew those nasty little snack bags could do so much damage? If you must know, I think they were snacking while they watched us.

There’s nothing like live entertainment.

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Filed under children, parenting, Passover, Seattle, Uncategorized

Vancouver, or bust.

I adore Vancouver, so much so that I think it may be my favorite North American city. Each time we go I make plans for our inevitable move, and it’s not just because I have a love/hate relationship with Seattle (I had to put the “love” in or M would accuse me of being a downer.)

So I jumped at the chance to run a half marathon there this morning. I contemplated going alone, but brought the crew with me because it’s always nice to have a cheering squad and who DOESN’T want to travel with five kids in tow?

M was giddy with anticipation, completely unrelated to my race or the actual weekend. Thanks to that interview with the Canadian mounties that took place on the snowiest day of the year (see this story),we now have Nexus passes, which allow us to zip in and out of Canada without a border wait. He had been very patient and could not wait another moment to use those passes.

The drive to the border was uneventful, save a constant downpour. As we fly across the border, ignoring a thirty minute wait, M said, no less than six times, “Well, I guess those Nexus passes paid for themselves,” and I am rather certain he also smirked at the line of Nexus-less cars and hollered, “Suckas!”

But our jubilation was short lived because once we were over the border and on the road into Vancouver, we hit some traffic and I asked M, “Hey, what’s that burning smell?”

M looked at the dashboard, looked back at me and said, without flinching, “Oh, that’s us.”

As smoke wafts up from out engine, we pull over to the side of the road in pouring rain. The traffic has now completely stopped, and it pretty much stays that way for two  hours, which is how long it takes for a taxi to come and pick up me and the kids and take us to the hotel. (It took over four hours for the tow truck to get to M and tow him and the minivan into Vancouver.)  In the meantime, the baby, after being cooped up for about four hours with nary a second of sleep, loses it and demands to be let out of the car. So I put on her raincoat and mine and we walk around in the rain. The shoulder of the road is thin and there’s only a huge patch of grass, but it’s goopy and muddy, and have I mentioned that I’m wearing flip-flops? At some point most of us get out and walk around and kind Canadian drivers asks if we need help and offer us candy. At some point M, the baby, and Bennett go looking for our taxi who can’t find us, but insists that we should be able to see him because he is flashing his lights. A photo:

You can’t see the rain, but it’s coming down.. even if it thinned now and then. Eventually the cab comes and I’m afraid he won’t let all the kids in without car-seats (I didn’t have an ounce of strength left) until he looks at me and asks, “You put baby in front?”  I assumed we be just fine without the car-seats.

“Baby” was a holy terror on the ride and we sing her every song we can to calm her down until she looks at me, grabs both my ears and yells “DOGGY IN WINDOOOOOW!” So all six of us sing multiple rounds of that song. Thank goodness we knew all the verses.

Eventually we get to the hotel, and when we walk into the lobby we are dazed and mud-splattered. The kids, thrilled to be liberated from a car, lay waste to the lobby, walking on couches and dismantling floral arrangements. I got in line at the front desk and the woman in front of me turns around and asks, “Didn’t I see you all on the side of the road?” Before I can ask her how in God’s name she recognized us (was it all the mud on my jacket?) she points to Bennett’s fluorescent orange basketball shorts and says, “I’d recognize those anywhere.”

You don’t say.

The next day we walk around Granville Island in search of buskers. The boys are walking and wrestling at the same time. It seems the inane “punch-buggy” game (you may know it as “slug bug“) is now selling franchise opportunities. It was not enough for them to punch each other each time they saw a Volkswagen beetle (bug), there was now the “mini (cooper) flick,” the “taxi slap,” and the “Toyota twist”… and before I knew it they are beating the crap out of each other with each passing vehicle. At some point, Bennett does something to mightily offend Efram and he loses it, throwing an entire bag of Pirate’s Booty at him, then lunging on top of him to deliver a tremendous beating. Booty flies, and I even see some of that incredibly expensive dried mango get thrown around. As we are pulling Efram off of his brother and listening to him scream and yell at all of us, he pauses for a second to ask, “Hey, where are the buskers?”

I look around and realize that we are seated on a bench in a central square and many, many eyes are on us. People have stopped eating, chatting, taking photographs and are staring at our spectacle.

“Hey Efram,” I say. “Thanks to you, I think we ARE the buskers.”

I contemplate removing his baseball hat and collecting some money to cover the cost of that mango, but we decide it’s probably best to leave. Quickly. With that, we clean up what we can, I grab Efram by the ear, and we beat the hastiest retreat possible.

I know that when we travel we often take our Crazy Show on the road, but I hadn’t expected, in one short weekend, to be both roadside entertainment AND a performance of the Family Von Trapp meets Jersey Shore for a crowd of onlookers.

They managed to pull it together and cheer me on heartily as I finished the race. And as I ran I wasn’t thinking about the hellish drive or how abhorrent they had been the day before. I was just thinking about how much I love to run, how happy I was to be running my first long race since before I got pregnant with Bennett, over eleven years ago, and how marvelous it was to have a few hours “alone”… just me and a few thousand beautifully behaved runners.

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Filed under parenting, running, travel, Uncategorized