After teaching a few years in Ohio, I journeyed out to Washington State to live on a volcano and work as a National Park Chaplain at Mt. Rainier National Park. Not many can truly say they lived on a volcano, and it was a very shaping part of my life. In my time living on the mountain, I climbed as high as about 11,000 feet but never made it to the top at 14,410 feet as 5 people died trying to summit the very week I arrived. That was enough to keep my goals realistic as I lived and worked in the woods in the shadow of the volcanic peak. After my time on the mountain, I was happy to marry someone to hike alongside me, and we now take our boys on strolls maybe someday leading up to the bigger hikes. Anyway, I say all this to mention the theoretical mountain my toddler climbed this week that totally took me by surprise.
Mom can dress us alike but we still don't even look like brothers, do we?
Backing up a bit, my youngest (I can't say "littlest" cause let's face it, he's a beast) is now too large and in charge for his infant carseat and I am so sad to see it go. His chubby white cherub feet scraped cars as we got out of the Mazda and when I carried him into the library in his tiny bucket seat for "Mommy and Me" time my arm practically ripped out of the joints; but the ease of being able to click him in and tote him around had been priceless. With the bucket seat, you could strap him down and you know he's not going to run off without you. Not so much with the toddler- who is a wild card at his very core and now I very well can't set the baby on the ground to chase after the big kid running away with giggling screams of joy in the most inopportune moments. Everett only lasted 6 months before we realized we had to make the change to a convertible carseat that does not click into the car but you have to actually take him in and out of the seat. Though I dreaded this change I knew it was the safest for our baby so we will deal with it as best as we can. Tristan, the older and perhaps wiser brother of 2 years old, was in that same carseat until he was more than a year old. By that time, Tristan was able to walk, run, and do hurdles so we had no trouble transitioning him to this new seat as he could get himself to and from the car without a ton of help. Now this was totally different from Everett who still sits as the cutest little amorphous blob you'll ever meet. He may be adorable, but he is anything but helpful in his totally dependent state of cuteness as he smiles away and melts your heart with his raspberries, but is not actually able to scoot or much less walk to get to the car. All of this happening of course as I attempt to load up a strong-willed toddler who may listen at that very moment to me or instead that inner-voice beckoning him to jump in puddles and go hunt that bumblebee (that he calls Obamabee) buzzing past. However will I manage both boys on a simple trip anywhere short of Mt. Rainier?
Too big for any carseat! I outgrew mine in half the time my brother did!
I know we all occasionally have bad days or weeks, or even months where you are laying sprawled out in the valley rather than celebrating on a mountain-top... that was this past week for our family. The week where everything seemed to come crashing down and tempers of usually nice people soared while good kids did bad stuff repeatedly. It was everything and nothing all at the same time. Normal stuff like cranky teethers and 2 yr old temper tantrums really set us over the edge as parents. And yet God knew He would help out by giving us a tiny glimpse of hope. What kind of hope, you ask? God intervened as He does best, and He showed me that Toddler-Man could crawl up in his own carseat- a feat I thought impossible. One day last week, Tristan just climbed on up there like an Everest-rated climber scaling the .2 mile Bradbury Mountain. (Yes, Maine has much bigger mountains like Mt Katahdin that Adrian and I have summited pre-children, but for now we stick to the itty bitty hills for the boys.) He climbed right up there in the car, sat in his seat, and looked at me like "Look, Mama! I can climb up all by myself! Tada!"
Of course I can climb up in my carseat, you fools! I've been tricking you all this time.
Anyway, I was in awe that he could climb all the way up there- it was a glimpse of my big boy as a future mountaineer rather than a little guy I have to do everything for. It meant the world to me that he was starting to gain independence in new areas as I have more responsibility with the baby and need him to "step up" if you will. I know, the toddler only climbed up on a carseat this week and not a real mountain, but to me, that meant so much, and God knew all I needed was a glance. Now I just need to get out the double stroller for Katahdin training or do some speedy trail walking with my baby backpack in order to carry that 22 pound baby around wherever I go. And in case anyone was wondering, there's a reason Everett's name is just one letter away from "Everest."
2 car seats, 2 strollers, 2 little guys... 2 small cars. Something had to give and since the boys are here to stay, we darn well needed a larger vehicle. Fed up with the endless puzzle of creatively fitting groceries in my Elantra as well as trying to travel while toting guests to dilapidated lighthouses for fabulous Maine ocean views, I knew something bigger existed on the vehicular horizon. And a more substantial vehicle would be a considerable help in supporting my yard sale addiction... how nice if upon finding that awesome $20 Cars toddler bed at a yard sale I could actually cart it home without having to watch my trunk eat the bed while cruising at 5mph through the 'hood. (Got it home in one piece, by the way, AND talked 'em down from $25 with the comforter thrown in, but that's for another blog post entirely.)
We polled friends and family on the question of "To Minivan or not to minivan" and received great advice. We did some research on-line and tried to figure out the right car for us. Our options included a new minivan without all the bells and whistles, a mildly loved minivan with features galore, or possibly an SUV wide enough to cram that extra person in between the babies and whatnot. I thought it was mildly plausible to find what we wanted within our budget as long as our trade-in sold for top dollar. We decided to trade in my husband's car, his one and only racecar, as it had a better resale value, was a manual that I could not drive, and my car had the kayak rack already set. Only problem was no racecar equaled no autocross racing. Cue hubby tears.
Our first day out froze us stiff with whipping wind and we both caught colds afterwards taking two weeks to recover before going car shopping again. Our 2nd time out revealed Slimeball Salesmen of the Universe, minivans so scratched up it was as if a wolverine had been let loose in the back seat, and car colors so ugly you could only find them in a baby's diaper. For real. We discovered the simple equation of the more a salesman talked about how he was here for us and us alone, the more we wanted to run screaming. Oh my word did we meet some wheelers and dealers! Tall Creepy Man with serrated teeth (think Jafar from Aladdin) was our least favorite. He may have tried to pick-pocket us while we test drove an SUV at his place. Even my super husband, who is able and willing to find good even in the worst of all people, prickled as we discussed money with Creepy Man. I don't care if he was giving cars away for a buck... get me outta there. 10:1 ratio of horrid sales guys to decent ones. The Somalian sales guy remained our favorite as he had a new baby himself, sold us on the features of the car, and shared that his dealership donated money to the schools. That's how you sell cars- by listening and responding and knowing your audience- none of the other guys did that. Unfortunately the seller we liked only had brand new vans which were $10K over budget due to Bob-the-Builder DVD movie screens, back-up cameras, and all came standard with a personal chauffeur named Marsellis. Too hoity toity for our Kraft macaroni tastes.
Next time out we had no morning babysitter so we had to be stealthy with our time. The car sales dudes always make you linger and talk your ear off when all you really want to do is check out some cars. We couldn't waste the precious time driving junkers or jibber-jabbering over idle conversation. But how could we calculate a trade-in value plus evaluate another car quickly and efficiently? We came up with a brilliant plan... take a toddler!! Tristan went along with Daddy to the dealership and did his part to run away every 20 seconds during the haggling. The salesman wanted our sale so much that he offered his 13 yr old daughter to babysit while Adrian and Mr. Mazda worked out numbers. Long story short (too late, I know!) when Adrian needed the car keys back from the appraisal because Toddler-Man needed lunch, let's just say he got those keys back in record time! It was just like the time we took both boys to Sears to buy a dishwasher and the baby wailed while the 2 year old played with hack-saws and boy did we get a good deal fast- $100 off just like that!
But back to car shopping, we now had the precious trade-in value numbers to use in negotiations for another dealership which had a car which we really liked. In the end, our family purchased a Mazda5 with 3rd row seating, great fuel economy, and a nice price we talked down a bit so everyone was relatively happy. And since I had experienced little-to-no feelings akin to love for a big van and felt somewhat swimming in minivans on each test drive, this micro-minivan seemed to be the perfect compromise for us. Only no more racing for the hubby as he took one for the family. Perhaps micro-minivan racing will be the next sport he takes up.