Just a few weeks back, the New York Times ran a story that posed, what seemed to me, a pretty innocuous question: Could the modern minivan ever be recast as cool ? Yet, in the course of two days, the article received over 200 strongly worded comments on-line. Sure, I totally understand why public breast-feeding, "Tiger mothering" and attachment parenting might be controversial in some circles. But driving a minivan? Is this really a major philosophical divide among parents?
My brief personal journey to van ownership commenced in the spring of 2002. Up until that time my family had grown quite attached to the used Subaru wagon we had purchased the very week we moved to Wisconsin, some four years earlier. The car was sporty, outdoorsy and serious of purpose - some of the qualities I admired most in my new Madison neighbors. And, to be honest, so many of them drove the exact same dark green model I was pretty sure Legacy ownership must have been written into the Regent Neighborhood Association by-laws.
But in my 38th week of pregnancy with child number three, it dawned on my husband and I that perhaps we should check if a third car seat could be strapped safely across the back. Always up for a challenge, he got to work and with the grace and ferocity of an Australian crocodile hunter managed to wrestle the trio into the back seat. Sure, it took a full 30 minutes, but he had won"until we tried to close the doors. It wasn't going to happen. Yet another watershed moment in parenting had been reached; we were going minivan. And we were going to have to go quickly"I was starting to have Braxton Hicks contractions.
The next morning we headed over to the car dealership where, for the first time in my life, I squeezed behind the driver's seat of a minivan. It felt great for many practical, rational reasons: lots of room, automatic sliding doors, and a five star crash test rating. But it also felt good emotionally. I was ready to embrace everything van ownership might say about my "personal brand." I was about to be a mom of three.
I was safe and responsible and not ashamed to admit I wanted room in the back for diapers, wipes and a double stroller. I wasn't worried about losing my last shred of "cool"; just a bit worried about losing the car in the parking lot of Target. My gosh, there are a lot of silver Odysseys out there. Three weeks later, driving comfortably home from the hospital with all three strapped in, two in plush captain's chairs, I knew it was the start of a beautiful relationship.
But alas, the van went down like the Titanic in the winter of 2008. She fell victim to the iceberg that had amassed in the apron of our driveway. Lazy shoveling is not without consequence. We didn't replace her with another van but instead a Honda Pilot. After all, we were done with strollers and down to just one car seat. The kids were getting older and could easily get in and out of the car by themselves. It was time to embark on a new kind of Odyssey. And perhaps time to give sporty another chance.
Do you think your ride says something important about you as a parent? Care to join in the authoring of the minivan manifesto?comments powered by Disqus
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.