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.

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.

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.

“Typical American Woman”

Last Saturday, we went to test drive the Volkswagen Routan. Our salesperson was a disgruntled, heavily accented Scotsman who tried some interesting tactics to sell us the last Routan they had on the lot, a nearly turquoise monstrosity with a hideous interior the color of margarine. (As a bit of background, the one major qualification I have as I succumb to the stigma of driving a minivan is that said minivan must be bad-ass black.) 

Now, the unfortunately-colored Routan was solid and pleasant to drive, but I would have been moved to revulsion by the colors every time I stepped onto my driveway. That, and it didn’t come equipped with a remote starter or XM radio, two of the very minor luxuries that are worth it to me.

The remote starter is a no-brainer for Michigan winters with (or without) an infant, and the XM radio is just plain awesome, especially because my commute is so beautifully short it is easily destroyed by FM radio’s yammering morning DJs and lengthy commercials. With XM radio, I am assured that before I get to the office I will be able to hear a great song or two in whatever genre the day demands.

Our Scottish friend, however, was determined. He dismissed both the remote starter and the XM radio as “stupid.” His argument went something like this: “As far as I’m concerned ya don’t need em. Ya know, just walk outside and start yer car for Chrissake. And the satellite rahdio, come on. Nothin wrong with the regular rahdio. Ya just wanna pay fer yer rahdio, thinkin it’s better. It’s exactly the same as FM; yer just payin fer it. Bloody Americans want to pay fer everything.”

For a car salesman, he certainly wasn’t trying to rack up the add-ons. So we began to talk color. I told him if I was going to buy a Routan I was only going to buy a black one. He asked me for my second choice color; I told him I didn’t have one. He muttered something to the effect of “typical woman,” by which I think he meant “spoiled rotten.”

It made me laugh out loud for the sheer ludicrousness of the statement — as if I were being ungrateful to him for the privilege of taking this monstrosity off his hands on the last day of the month. When we’re talking about me paying upwards of $400 a month for something — anything — I think I should get to pick the color without being degraded. I told him I wouldn’t take the turquoise Routan for $50 a month. He seemed appalled.

Only because I truly did like the Routan did I allow him to search the inventories of other Michigan VW dealers for a black one. And there was exactly that — one black Routan in the entire state. And it was loaded with drop-down DVD players, which I most certainly don’t want for the sheer annoyance of having to mediate the viewing demands of a carload of kids every time we go to the supermarket.

So, it comes down to the fact that if I want a black Routan, I’m going to have to either order one or have one imported from a neighboring state. Our cranky Scot told me I’d have to wait a week to get this process started, as he was going in for surgery and would be unavailable. My suspicious mind thought this may be yet another tactic to push us into buying the white elephant on the lot, but I am too concerned about gathering bad karma to suggest that this was actually the case.

In any event, we have yet to test drive the Toyota Sienna or the Chrysler Town and Country, so we told him we were in no hurry, wished him good luck with his operation, and carried on with our Saturday.

Embracing Suburbia

Ready to Ride

James is ready to ride.

Ever since my son James was born a month ago, I have felt this desperate need to buy a minivan.

When I was pregnant, when James only existed in theory, I felt like I had chosen a great daycare, that our house was clean enough, and that my little Toyota would carry us reliably around town for another hundred thousand miles.

Now that James’s little nine-pound body is in my arms nearly twenty hours a day, nothing seems safe enough. I am second-guessing the competence of the daycare to snuggle and stimulate him enough; to eradicate dust and dander I have washed blankets and upholstery that has gone months (okay, years) without soap; and I have unwaveringly convinced myself that the only vehicle safe enough for James to travel in is a minivan.

So, it’s a toss up between a VW Routan and a Toyota Sienna, and possibly the Chrysler Town & Country (although I am not a fan of its new styling, they have some great deals going on these days). We have plans to do some test drives on Saturday.