Fortunately, I am not one of those people who cares much about what I drive. My first car was a green, four door, Plymouth Sundance. The rear seat could fold down making it easy to transport boxes, small furniture, etc. I am all about function and sensibility. The day I arrived at the dealership to purchase my first car, I initially selected a Plymouth Laser. It was on order from another dealership, so I could come and pick it up later in the week. It was sporty, but not much for space. I awoke the next day in a sweat. One quick, nervous call later and I cancelled the order and arranged to pick up the versatile Sundance the next day.
After a few kids we bought a maroon Cirrus from my father-in-law. This transitioned us into a minivan, because I had been driving around for a few years forcing the door closed. The Cirrus wasn't made to accommodate three car seats across the backseat, so the seats would shift a little every time we secured the door. I drove the minivan for years. I still remember how far away the kids seemed when I first started carting them around in it. We still own the minivan, but it is now referred to as our small car.
We spent a little over a year transporting all eight of us in a minivan that offered seating for seven. Double buckling might sound cozy, but to a sibling it is the same as sharing a bed with two brothers in an overcrowded hotel room. Our kids will probably grow up needing therapy after suffering from personal space deprivation. Of course distances farther than Church and nearby cousins' houses dictated driving two cars. At least this was back in the day when gas didn't cost as much as a week's groceries. When Curly was about 15 months old, we buckled down (no pun intended!) and bought a used Chevy express van with seats for twelve. I begged the dealer, who is also a good friend, to locate a van that was anything but white. Despite his best efforts, the van he found for us is indeed white. Thanks to a large number of basketballs banging into the sides, orange streaks give it a little flare. When Curly was three, she pointed out all of the painter's trucks in neighboring lanes with chubby little fingers. "That looks like our car!" Our version of the painter van differs in that it has windows. My sister doubled over laughing the first time she saw my 'new' car, because there is a sticker in the driver's window that says: 'Thank you for not smoking.' Yes, it's true . . . our white van formerly functioned as an airport shuttle for a busy hotel.
So maybe I don't drive a Mercedes or a BMW, but I really do enjoy my car. Space is no longer an issue. Large grocery purchases don't spill over into the kids laps any more. Locating my noticeable car after a busy day at the mall is no big deal. Bring on the large furniture hauls. My car pool options are endless. The size of my car permits me to utilize the road the way I see fit - don't mess with the great white. If I want to merge, you better move your cute, foreign, itty-bitty car out of the way.
There are downsides to operating such a large automobile. Parking my van should be a segment on Fear Factor. My least favorite way to park is when the car adjacent to a vacant spot is occupied by a human being, specifically an awake, anxious looking human being. I try to avoid eye contact, because if they look scared then my confidence starts to waiver . . . maybe my ride isn't going to fit into this spot? I end up jockeying it back and forth ten times just to make sure that I don't get too close to their shiny paint job.
Easy recognition is another drawback to owning such a unique car. There isn't much that I can get away with in my town when driving our visible van. Everyone knows the Shenanigan's car. I occasionally become concerned that I just cut off someone that I know or that I'm following too close . . . and if they didn't know me before, they know me now. On the other hand, on the rare occasion when I drive the nondescript, navy minivan, I wonder why I am not more recognized by my friends. Then I realize they are ignoring the car, not me. Friends in neighboring cars just stare at the stoplight, or fiddle with the radio while I sit waving from my 'other car' - a run of the mill mini(van).
I laugh at how far away the kids felt on my initial outings in the minivan. Now in the big van, they are downright distant. The kids' friends marvel at the van, and they debate which row of bench seats might appeal most to them. Having so much space has led to a new issue. I may be able to smell that there has been some improperly disposed of food item somewhere in the van's vicinity, but I can rarely see what is back there. For awhile last year we discovered that we were hosting an unwelcome family of moths. The kids would cheer each time they killed one. Forget texting and driving, swinging at months is a slightly distracting past time for a driver. Were they nesting in the rip in the seat? A few kids reached into the exposed foam cushion but found no evidence. Just when we thought they had disappeared for good, I would crank up the heat and a moth or two would stumble out of the vents. So unpleasant.
Last summer the van came in handy once again. We missed our Thursday garbage pick up. Translation: Coach didn't write 'garbage stickers' on my shopping list, and I didn't get out of bed early enough to race up to buy the stickers at the store before the freakishly early garbage men. These sanitation employees have disposed of our trash without the necessary stickers a few times in the past, but perhaps our grace period ran out. At any rate, who wants a couple of rank garbage cans fermenting in the garage in the middle of July? The next morning, I had Coach load the cans into the back of the van. I raced up to the grocery store and dropped off prescriptions (love killing two birds with one stone), purchased stickers, and drove with windows down to my folks house. They live in the next neighborhood. Their garbage day is the day after ours. I yanked the cans out of the van, slapped the stickers on them, and sped off to my exercise class - all between 8 and 8:30. I was even on time for the class. (I find I am so much more punctual when I am on a mission.) This adventure introduced a new problem: fruit flies. Fortunately, this issue was short lived, because I begged the kids not to leave a banana peel back there for at least a week.
I definitely prefer utilizing the great white to shuttle kids around, to stock up on groceries, and to hog the road compared with the glamorous task of hauling garbage across town, but what a lucky woman I am to have the option.
April 19, 2015
I don't recall Easter candy being that hot of a commodity when I was a kid. My brothers and sisters and I always enjoyed our stash, but I don't recollect any disputes over our candy. Each year the Easter bunny generously delivered marshmallow eggs, jelly beans, and peeps buried in a knot of fake grass. Of course I do have a vivid memory of devouring all of my loot before the holiday was complete. This memory is seared into my mind only because one of my four siblings ratted me out to my parents. (Yes, I know who it was - I haven't forgotten). My folks were not impressed with my ability to ingest so much sugar in such a short amount of time.
This year we celebrated Easter in our two bedroom hotel room in Williamsburg, VA. Before we left for our vacation, Curly drafted a letter to the infamous bunny detailing our whereabouts on the big day. I had hoped to avoid traveling with baskets and treats, but Curly's disappointment that we wouldn't be home when the big drop off happened played on my heart strings. Receiving the upgrade to a bigger hotel room aided the basket sorting and hiding the night before. The Easter bunny scored big points for 'finding' us. Who doesn't want their kids snacking on piles of candy during a long day and a half car ride? I listened to the favorite jelly bean flavor comparisons and reflected on an Easter issue that arose four years ago . . .
In the Shenanigan home, tattling on Easter candy eating is kid stuff. Easter candy stealing, however, has elevated into some nasty warfare: "give me back my Reese's or I'll eat all of your candy while you sleep." To protect their stash, there is an ongoing ceremony of hiding and re-hiding the Easter baskets. If you discover a basket that you weren't supposed to see, sharing this top secret information can be considered a huge breech. My clever older kids have even perfected the art of bluffing a sibling into revealing a hiding place. Laddie teased a younger brother that he had uncovered his hoard of goodies sending him into a low blood sugar rage as he raced to his 'hidden' basket. His candy was safe, but his basket's cover was blown. This prank cost Laddie. He was ordered to forfeit one Reese's peanut butter cup. Ouch! Eventually I confiscated the baskets and guarded them on top of the fridge. Mini proudly produced her basket, explaining that she had only eaten one jelly bean. Her strategy of saving the candy as long as possible backfired when someone retrieved her basket from the fridge and left it in the open. I take some blame in this, because I had abandoned my post. Upon discovering the basket on the floor, Mini conducted a quick inventory. Uh oh. Her peeps were missing. Tears. Inquiries followed. Eventually her three year old sister, Curly, admitted to indulging on the sugary chicks: "I didn't know I was doing that." Not her most convincing defense.
I struggled to enjoy the Easter aftermath myself. The arguing about "I know I still had two red jelly beans" is only the tip of the iceberg. My home became a field of little foil wrappers discarded willy-nilly all over the house. Not only did it infuriate me to pick them up all day long, but it also served as a slap in the face that my children clearly inhaled candy before the sun was up, and did so in rooms where melted chocolate was strictly forbidden. I appreciated the Bunny's sense in not lining the baskets with annoying plastic grass, because that pesky stuff seemed to multiply and turn up months after the baskets had been tucked into storage. The plastic eggs on the other hand were strewn across every surface of the house. One of the younger kids even filled a bowl with water, submerged three water filled plastic eggs in it, and hid it behind my toilet. The objective on this maneuver still remains as mysterious as the belief that a big bunny hops from house to house on Easter eve.
Getting the kids to school the day after Easter break proved interesting. It wasn't so much the weird way that seven year old Mini was walking, as it was the look on her sweet, innocent face that drew my attention. She was flitting around in her gym uniform, with her sweat pants pulled up higher than normal and her shirt tucked into her pants. There was also a little swishing noise when she scooted past me . . . her eyes locked on my face nervously waiting to see if I would catch it. In the hustle and bustle of the morning, I hesitated just long enough to ask her what was happening. "Nothing." Unconvinced, I resorted to administering a pat down. There, tucked into her pants, where her hands kept awkwardly resting, was a Ziploc bag of jelly beans. Being the child that normally steers clear of trouble, tears were quick to form. "I didn't want the boys to eat them," she admitted. I whispered two words to her while I shook my head disapprovingly. "Underwear drawer." It took a minute before she realized that this was not the name of a new punishment, but consent to hide her snack in a place her brothers would never look.
My parenting style has evolved from that of my folks, because I now encourage all of our kids to take a page out of their mother's play book and devour all of their candy before the day's end.