Me and My Badass Mini Van

When I was in highschool my mom purchased a minivan, a Mazda MPV. That was the car my sister and I drove to school, basketball practice and swim practice. We called it the “Moving Party Vehicle” just to make it seem a little cooler. So while other kids were driving envy provoking pick-ups (it was Alaska) my sister and I were cruising around in a minivan. The upside was that we could haul a lot of friends around in that thing. During the summers when I was in college we used to drive around our small town with the windows rolled down blasting the Beastie Boys and smoking cigarettes, a nasty habit I picked up in a foreign country. Yeah, we were awesome.

Sadly the minivan has come full circle.

I bought my first brand new, never been used car when I was 32. I bought it mainly because my mom finally tired of me driving around $800 jalopies that would eventually die and be donated to charity and she offered to make the down payment. It was a sporty little black hatchback and I loved it. Loved it! It was so low to the ground that when I was pregnant with the twins I would almost pass out from the pressure on my diaphragm while driving to work. Nonetheless, it was new and mine all mine.

A month before I was due I excitedly asked my husband to install the two car seats in my car, just in case. He happily carted them out to the driveway. After awhile he called me on my cell phone. “You need to come out here.” I waddled out the door and down the walk. I peered in through the passenger side window. In order to fit the car seat my husband had his knees wrapped around the steering wheel and his head touching the sun visor. He couldn’t reach the gas pedal because he couldn’t straighten his knees under the dashboard. We couldn’t just move it to the other side because we had TWO!!!

It was time to “upgrade”. I REALLY didn’t want to trade in my little black car. We had had only a short time together. It wasn’t enough. Regardless of the fact that every time I drove her I was in danger of losing oxygen to my brain and to my unborn children, I felt like we had so much more to give each other.

So we went to the dealership with the intention of finding a larger but small SUV that would fit the four of us. We came home with a minivan. A practical, functional blue minivan. I thought I would cry.

I have to admit that over time my minivan and I have come to a mutual respect. It allows me to haul my three children and a myriad of crap i.e. snacks, bikes, clothes, sippy cups, dogs, sunglasses, luggage and groceries. In return, albeit difficult sometimes, I defend it from the nay sayers.

It doesn’t matter who you are, you are not cool or hip in a minivan. In fact, it is not unlike a clown car when all five of us, our dog and all our crap pile out of it. There is not one badass thing about it.

Monsters, Dinosaurs and Coyotes… Oh My!

My twins are entering a fearful stage. Little feet shuffle across the bedroom floor in the middle of the night and little bodies burrow under the covers and press into my side. There are monsters and snakes in their room. There are dinosaurs in the pool. There are unidentified noises. There are coyotes, lots of coyotes.

I know that this burgeoning fear is a normal developmental stage, but I find myself a little sad. When they are little, kids are blissfully unaware when it comes to fear and danger and as a parent there is a small measure of comfort in that. Life is simple and less complicated. They have no inhibitions. Fear is external and doesn’t penetrate their safe little bubble.

I am sad because I am watching that pure, innocent fearlessness slowly slipping away. They are starting to become aware of their surroundings. It is necessary for them to grow and fear enables them to learn to protect themselves in a sometimes rough world. They have to learn to be cautious and street smart in order for me to let go of their little hands and let them step out into that world. In essence, fear is part of human nature.

That doesn’t change the fact that I still find it a little sad. I want them to hold onto that innocence and fearlessness. For just a little longer I want them to believe that nothing can harm them or hurt them.

I don’t remember exactly when I developed fear as a child but I can still remember how it felt. One of the first fears I remember was the fear of death. When I was about five years old my grandfather had passed away. There was an open casket funeral. It was the first time that I realized that life ends. It was the first time I saw my father cry, my big giant bear of a father. I knew it had to be something bad.

That fear plagued me for years, still does sometimes. I remember sitting on my bed, my knees curled up under my chin, my feet sticking out of my nightgown and my heart racing. When I couldn’t stand it any longer I would run out of my room, down the hall, up the stairs, across the floor into the living room and fling myself into my father’s big arms and bury my face in his chest. It was the only place I felt safe. The only place that I could escape death. He would hold me and ask me why I was scared. It felt too silly to say out loud.

I see fear creeping into my kids’ young lives and I feel sad that they will learn that there are scary and bad things out there. For now my kids’ fears are about imaginary things; monsters and dinosaurs. But one day those fears will grow bigger and they won’t be about creatures that don’t exist. They will have real fears about life and death, choices, mistakes, risks and challenges. How do I provide them with an escape from their fears but also encourage them to face their fears?

Fear is a necessary component of life and with the bad also comes the good and wonderful parts of life. With fear comes the strength to confront it. But I still wish I could hold it off, push it back, for just a little bit longer.

By Erika: Sleepovers

My older son just turned 7. Last night, he had a sleepover at the next-door neighbor’s house, which is occupied by another 7 year old boy. I can’t believe that he actually did it, and he had fun. Why?

I did not successfully have a sleepover at someone else’s house until I was at least 10. There were many failed attempts resulting in me having an emotional breakdown, trying to decide at 10pm whether it was worse to stay there all night or suffer the humiliation of waking up my friend’s parents to call my mom to have her come get me. I always chose the latter. And for whatever reason my mother never said anything discouraging or scolding — we just tried again another time. For me, the worst part was the fear that I might actually be there all night and not be able to sleep in that strange place. In my young mind, I just felt that if I were to have a sleepless night that something horrible would happen. I was terrified.

The irony is pretty deep in that by the time I was 10, slumber parties became precisely about staying up all night, which is what cured my sleepover problem. Once I didn’t HAVE to sleep, the anxiety went away and then I was actually able to sleep if I chose to risk my bra being placed in the freezer by a nonsleeper. Moreover, who knew I would grow up and have babies and spend night after sleepless night with no free time to sleep during the day to compensate?! Ironic, indeed.

I have wished my kids older since the day they were born. I know you aren’t supposed to do that because it goes by so fast, but I can’t help it. Now that they are 7 and almost 5, however, I think I am ready to press pause and have them stay this age for a long time. On weekend evenings I can put out cereal and cups of juice, and in the morning the kids just grab them and go watch TV on their own while Mommy and Daddy sleep until 9am. They are the perfect balance right now. Self-sufficient, but they still need me. Smart, but they still have a lot to learn. Big, but not too big to fit on my lap for bedtime stories.

This morning I realized that someday soon (maybe this summer!) I will find myself at home while my kids are sleeping at the neighbors’ house, and my husband is at the fire station, and I will be totally alone. I think it will bother me. I presently enjoy my “alone time” every third night when my husband is gone, but that is with my boys sleeping soundly in their rooms. Somehow that makes all the difference. Maybe I wanted my son to fail at a sleepover, just to keep him closer a tiny bit longer…

Fast forward a dozen years when my boys are in college, and being totally alone every third night will be my new “normal.” I guess when that happens I will have to start a new trend of ladies in their 50’s having slumber parties. We will drink wine, eat chocolate, and talk about how great our kids are. Any takers?

Master of Disaster

On any given day my house looks like it has been ransacked. If anyone stopped by unexpectedly that is probably what I would tell them.

When I look around my house all I see are finger prints. On the windows, doors, cabinets, everywhere. I wonder when the time will come when I won’t see the smudges everywhere I look.

The laundry stretches down the hall and into the family room. One of my work shoes is wedged into the couch and the other is M.I.A. I routinely have to go through piles of paper on the counter to sift out what can be thrown away and what needs to be put back into the stack for me to sift through in another couple of weeks. Sometimes I find underwear on the kitchen floor. If there is a puddle of liquid I pray it is not pee. If it is brown and not moving that is even worse. Kids books, kids toys, clothes, socks and shoes. Everywhere. As far as the eye can see.

But then I suspect that one day I will look around at my organized counters, my empty laundry baskets and my pristine windows and I will miss all those little finger prints that I used to see.