Purpose

I am trying to sort out the driving purpose of this blog. Most pressingly, I’d like to keep a record of watching Jimmy grow. I can already feel my memories of his first months fading. When did he first smile? First laugh? First grip my face and pull his little mouth to it, gumming my cheek wildly, in what I like to believe is his attempt at a kiss? And how did it feel to witness such everyday miracles?

But there must be a higher purpose to choosing this medium, a public blog. I am no expert. I don’t have any innovative advice to offer, nor do I hold a perspective or voice vastly different than all the other moms out there blogging their hearts out about their kids.

I am working through this in my mind and so my posts may show some experimentation in the coming weeks. Why would anyone care what I have to say? Who is reading, and what are they seeking when they stop for a moment to peruse my blog? Am I delivering? How does what I write here contribute to the common portrait of the 21st century American mother?

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Minivan Trouble

The minivan is in the shop today for three issues: (1) free first oil change; (2) grinding sound when opening/closing sliding door; and (3) bad noises and drag when careening down the highway over 75 mph. (Not that I do that.)

Sadly, only issue #1 was resolved. They had to order a new hinge for the door, and they couldn’t replicate the scary experience of #3 because it is raining cats and dogs. So I have to bring it back in when they get the part and the weather is more amiable to an 80 mph drive.

At least I can pick up the minivan tonight, which is great because I keep turning the windshield wipers on and off trying to shift gears in my husband’s Jeep Commander. And, I don’t owe the dealership a dime.

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Jimmy has entered a new phase of maternal attachment that is bringing up mixed feelings. On the one hand, go me. I’ve cemented myself as the guiding star of this little boy’s world. On the other hand, well — yeah, at this point I’m pretty much still reveling in my new star status.

I’m not at all annoyed by the fact that once I walk into a room and acknowledge him, he will cry if I don’t pick him up right away. I’m not annoyed that he now cries sometimes just because he wants, well, me. Honestly, it’s pretty awesome.

I’m not trying to raise a mama’s boy, to be sure. But I have to admit I am not motivated to break this budding attachment any time soon.

Sticker Shock

Continuing yesterday’s thoughts on the suburban ideal, today I have been almost obsessively pondering those stick figure family windshield decals.

Specifically: I want them. Yes, I want to fill up the back windshield of the minivan with cartoonish versions of my family.

Five years ago, this would have seemed completely inane to me. But now, I am happy. I am proud of my family and frankly it would make me smile — since we can’t be together all the time — to see a representation, however corny, of our entire clan each time I get in and out of the minivan.

For those of you who would say you don’t care to learn about my family or that those decals somehow offend your sensibilities, remember that when I’m driving behind you I am subjected to your anti-foreign car messages, overplayed puns like “Visualize Whirled Peas,” and the fact that you find Calvin peeing on just about anything hilarious. I don’t generally care about your messages either. The pleasure of the bumper sticker resides with the one driving the car.

And sometimes, things are trendy because they are good. In the case of the decals, they promote family pride, togetherness, the consistency of the family unit. Whether the decals ring true or false depends on your own family dynamic.

But the decals bring up the issue of the fine line between pride and privacy. On a purely practical level, they are probably tremendously unsafe. Your car becomes a billboard advertising your family make-up — including your kids’ hobbies if you pay an extra dollar or so per person — that basically leads the way to your home address. Who knows what kind of creepshow is lurking behind you on the freeway, or trolling through your neighborhood as your car sits in the driveway?

This will probably be the reason I don’t trick out the minivan with decals, and leads me to think about the information I share about our family online. The public forum of the Internet opens us up to an infinitely greater range of weirdos than the ones we might happen to cross paths with driving back and forth to guitar lessons. But somehow we feel safer veiled behind the computer screen than we do out in the real world. The family decals are like a live — albeit incredibly watered-down — version of the basic information we post on our blogs and on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, discussion boards and social networking sites.

Our guard is down these days. Our virtual privacy fences are disintigrating. This has allowed a broadened sense of community and sharing, and a platform to nurture friendships, even as it may open us up to the ill intentions of strangers. Those of us who choose to participate online and in the real world face an everyday juggling act between joining the conversation and protecting our privacy. It is a balance that will take a generation to refine.

Mommy Blogging

So it’s been a while. The short of it: I bought a minivan (Chrysler Town and Country) and I totally love it. I went back to work. I switched Jimmy to a better daycare. I miss him all day, every day. 

As part of my job (at least I rationalize it that way), I spend a lot of time on the Internet. The “mommy blogger” phenomenon is not losing any steam. I’m seeing a trend, however, in said mommy bloggers talking about what bad mothers they are. And, while much of it falls on the valorous side of publicly admitting our flaws for the purpose of building a communal portrait of a real and true mother — a portrait we desperately need — some of it has an unsettling undercurrent. In a growing proportion, there is a too-cool-for-school edge to it, as if it is almost a point of pride to be a bad (or the baddest) mother. 

I, for one, am not a bad mother. I aim for a certain stereotypical suburban standard and I am not ashamed to admit it. I am not cool. I bought teething jewelry. I feel guilty for washing Jimmy’s bottles in the dishwasher on busy days, instead of scrubbing them by hand with organic dish soap. I change diapers every hour. I don’t microwave baby food. I have a chemical desire to spend every free minute giving Jimmy what he needs to grow up smart and strong. I want to do everything right. And I try to. Hard.

I hope that mommy blogging does not devolve into a coolness competition. I for one, am planting my flag on the other side — the unapologetically uncool, minivan driving, baby photo showing, proud mama side. Because that is honest and truly who I have become. I will admit my faults, but I will not celebrate them.

Well This Changes Things

Because Saturday was the last day of the month, I decided to take a ride to the Chrysler dealer to see if I could wrangle a deal on a Town & Country, just for comparison’s sake with the Routan. Before I sought out a salesman, I took a few minutes to play around in the floor model. The Town & Country is nowhere near as luxurious inside as the Routan, but it is loaded with uber-practical features like a power lift gate and satellite radio — all standard on the Touring model.

I was absolutely astounded when the Chrysler salesman — in the first thirty seconds we talked — gave me a quote almost two hundred dollars a month cheaper than the Routan. He didn’t make me sit in his too-hot cubicle while he talked with his manager; he didn’t present me with a ridiculously high number he would do me a favor by lowering later on. And not only that; he also told me Chrysler was announcing new incentives on Tuesday and to call him then, because he could likely give me an even lower price.

When I asked about adding on remote start, he told me it was part of an inexpensive package that also includes a sliding center console (one of the things I loved about the Routan) and built in window shades — great for keeping the sun out of James’s eyes. He said it would be no problem to locate a black Town & Country with the remote start package. No problem. How refreshing!

So, I’m going to call this guy on Tuesday and see what he has to say. I am looking forward to a much more positive experience than I had at the VW dealership.

Jimmy Conquers the Matrix

Last night for the first time, due to a complicated array of circumstances that rendered our Jeep Commander unavailable, I had to fit three passengers — my 6’1″ husband, my 14-year-old son who already wears size 12 shoes, and James in his Cadillac of a car seat — into my adorable and trusty Toyota Matrix. This arrangement rendered the Matrix into something of a clown car.

With Jimmy’s car seat installed behind the front passenger seat, any front-seat Matrix passenger must contort into a position ridiculously close to the dashboard. My husband folded himself into something of a fortune cookie, knees to his chest, as Junior filled up the portion of the back seat that wasn’t occupied by James and the giant car seat. I could feel the lanky teenage legs pressed up against the back of my seat as I drove. Quite literally, I had to put my purse in the trunk because there was no room for it in the front of the car. 

We only had to drive a few miles this way, but the experience further reinforced the fact that a minivan is in our near future, although we have written off the Scottish Routan salesman. After several e-mail exchanges, it is clear that he is either blatantly ignoring my requests or that he simply can’t read.

So even if we could get a decent deal out of him on the version of the Routan I want (which has been an experience akin to teaching my dog to talk), my husband and I agree that we don’t want our money to support his anti-American, misogynistic, possibly illiterate self anyhow. We may still end up with a Routan, but we won’t be buying it from that guy.

March Is Looming

It must be the end of the month again, because the Scottish VW salesman is calling me nonstop. It seems to confound him that I am operating on infant time, which means that for every one thing I get accomplished in the real world, there are thirty-seven diaper changes, fifteen games of paddy cake, and ninety-odd hours of feeding/singing/calming/wiping spit-up off various persons and surfaces.

Anyway, it is looking like we may be able to work things out with the Routan salesman, if only he will drop his pretentious European attitude and concede to the satellite radio (or a lower price) already. We should know either way today, and if he fails us we will just head out to another dealership tomorrow, pending the snowstorm they are predicting doesn’t bury us.

Although I am shocked and a little bit devastated that a whole month of my maternity leave has flown by without me even realizing it, I am not going to miss the frigid darkness of February. March means the added sunshine of Daylight Savings Time, however contrived it may be, and hopefully a daffodil or two.

March also means it’s getting to be time for me to mentally prepare to send James off to expand his horizons in day care as I return to work. Right now I am just trying to snuggle him as much as possible before he realizes that there is much more to life than his mama.