Friday, June 14, 2013

NKOTB fan? Nope, not me. But thanks for the memories.

I think it was the summer of 7th grade when we sat there at Giants stadium with our moms, wearing New Kids T-shirts and ponchos to fend off the driving rain. I was a lackluster fan then: one poster in my room, maybe a beach towel and one of those Jordan Knight buttons on my backpack. But it was one of those tweenage rites of passage. Me and my 12-year-old BFF waving our hands, Hanging Tough and swaying back and forth to Joey McIntyre’s high-pitched rendition of Please Don’t Go Girl.
Last night, as the 1980s boy band reunited for a Package Tour in the same East Rutherford location, I must sadly admit that I was there.

“So we’re really doing this?” I protested as the tickets were purchased in January. “I mean we’re 36 now. We’re mothers. Do we really have time to go see New Kids on the Block?”

What I meant was: This is stupid. A complete waste of $150. But I conceded. Between karate, swim practice and the hectic pace of my friends’ newborn schedules, it’s not often that we all “get out.” So I took the tickets at face value and chalked it up as a night free of cutting someone else’s food and wiping someone else’s butt.

Then the event approached. The radio started hyping it. My husband started making fun of me. As I got dressed I cringed at the thought of other concertgoers donning neon shirts and legwarmers. In the parking lot, reality set in. A lot of 40-ish women in ridiculous outfits carrying New Kids action figures (still in the box) and draping themselves in those faded 1989 beach towels. As the lights dimmed, grown women started crying. Someone screamed their devotion to Joey or Jon or whoever. It was the same, bat-crazy fan base, only difference was now they were drinking Bud Light.
This is surely going to suck.

But then Boyz II Men came out and killed it. Bended Knee, Water Runs Dry, Motown Philly. These guys are still ridiculously talented. This was worth all of the embarrassment. But it was only a five-song set until 98 Degrees crashed the stage with all of their Tribal tattoos and ruined it all. Seriously, there is never a need for that much hip thrusting.
Going into the short intermission, the crowd was at a lull. A crappy rendition of Una Noche will do that. (Wasn’t that once in a Doritos commercial?) More Bud Light, more crying for Joey.

Then the lights dimmed, a smoke machine haze filled the arena, hydraulic lifts hoisted the stage to the sky. And the five guys from Bean Town descended in their black skinny jeans and gold embroidered jackets. Yes, they were slower, grayer and singing some brand new songs from an album no one had ever heard of (well, at least I had never heard of, everyone else seemed to know the words).
Was it cool? A little. Hard not to smile when you have confetti in your hair and five 40-somethings are up on a massive stage doing the robot. But mostly it was fun. Suddenly I was 13 again, transported back to an 8th grade dance, buying singles at the music store in the mall. You know, that dreamy stage of life when your whole world revolves around friends, music and endless summers of doing nothing but being a kid.

I closed my eyes for a second and could almost see my ponchoed mother sitting next to me. Both of us young and silly, celebrating my very first concert, putting a memory in the book forever. I pictured Erin too and whatever glittery boy band we’ll waste hundreds to see in the future.  
Nevermind the screaming fans and the shirtless antics – seriously Donnie, you’re 43, shirt it up - it was a good show. And even though my musical tastes have since matured, that bubblegum pop was a big part of my youth. So, as much as I tried not to, it was hard not to sing along. And you know what? Twenty-five years later, a lot has changed. But I still can laugh until I cry with my crazy friends. And yes, I still remember the words.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hey Bravo, VH1: Define real.

Browsing through The Christmas Tree Shoppe this morning, loading up on Halloween lights and flashy pumpkin earrings that I definitely do not need, I very carelessly collided into Renee.

Yes. That Renee. And yes, the operative word is collide. Right there in the middle of the sprinkly, sparkly candle aisle - you know the one with all of the pretty pumpkin spice jars and seasonally smelly potpourri - me and Renee Graziano, Mob Wife extraordinaire, ever-so-gently crashed carts.

“So sorry,” I said as the insignificant bump was occurring. Me, fumbling with Jeremiah and his sticky candy hands, she casually glancing through shelves of decorative scarecrows and leaves. I was distracted, preoccupied by a toddler crisis, so I naturally gasped when I looked up realized who I had hit. I mean seriously, out of all the carts in the store, I have to cross paths with a mobster’s daughter? The ex-wife of a turncoat?

“It’s ok,” she smiled back at me, moving on to the apple spice sets and autumn finery. I ran and hid behind a stack of vinyl tablecloths.

“Did you see her?” I heard two shoppers discussing a few aisles later.

Oh no. Please stop talking. I’m so afraid of finding a horse’s head in my shopping cart.

“She’s so tiny!” another shopper remarked.

“And so friendly,” someone else chimed in. “So different than she is on TV.”

And she was. From what I saw of her as I was ducking for cover behind the displays of Christmas ornaments and aluminum pans. Here in real life, she was sans makeup, wearing flip-flops and leggings – petite, beautiful and completely non-threatening. Smiling at the gawkers and buying $.99 cent knick-knacks in the cheapest store on Staten Island.

The semi-celebrity sighting really made me think: How real is all this reality that Bravo and VH1 shoves down our throats? Ok, maybe it’s because I finally cleared the DVR last night and watched a marathon of parts one and two of The Real Housewives of New Jersey Reunion Show. But this was what running through my mind. What part of the glamour, calculated warfare and million dollar mansions on these shows is actually real?

According to her flashy wardrobe and regular declaration of designer tastes, doesn’t Renee have a closetful of Louboutins? Gucci bags and blingy diamonds out the wazoo? Then why are we both shopping the same clearance rack for candles? I guess everybody really does love a bargain.

And those housewives. The ones who flip tables, pull each other’s hair, claim to be besties and then talk smack about each other in regularly scheduled confessionals? With their nannies and boob jobs, hair extensions and bottomless bank accounts? In this economy and in this lifetime, why does Bravo refer to any of that as real?

Ask the wife of a New York city firefighter what’s real. On the first of the month, when the mortgage and 14 other bills come due, I close my eyes and cross my fingers that the checkbook doesn’t explode. Ok, maybe I’m a little bit cranky after being up every two hours caring for a two-year-old who’s sprouting molars. Something else those “real” housewives have never done.

But for whatever reason, be it the drama or the escapism of it all, we still tune in to find out what NeNe and Theresa and Countess LuAnn are up to.

And sometimes if we’re lucky, we bump into a Mob Wife and have a reality check in aisle three. I’m just thankful it wasn’t Drita. Or Big Ang. Now that would have been scary.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Go ahead American Girl, make a doll lover out of me

After two hours of primping and priming, I have to admit, the whole idea started to seem a little nuts. But there I was, expertly styling a doll’s hair at 10pm on a Thursday night. Smooth piggy-tails with just the right amount of bounce and curl? Check. Completely coordinated stretch pant/denim skirt combo with a three-quarter sleeve rugby shirt and matching purse? Double check. Now if only I could find the purple ballet flats, we’d be set. “What’s wrong with you?” Pat asked when I finally climbed into bed around midnight. “Did you really just spend all that time fixing up a doll?” “No way, I was washing dishes.” The lie actually sounded believable as it spilled out of my mouth. But the truth was, that I, doll-hater extraordinaire, tomboy for life, had just wasted close to three hours of my day buffing an inanimate object’s fingernails and twirling her messy tendrils until they were just perfectly so. Pat was right. Surely I had lost my mind. It all started a few months ago when one of the moms from school invited Erin and a bunch of her classmates to the American Girl Place for lunch in Manhattan. “Let’s plan the trip for August, it’s a great day for the moms and kids,” she’d said in her email. Crap. Now I have to buy her one of those ridiculously expensive dolls, I thought. But after a million pleases and I love yous, I caved. It’ll be a kindergarten graduation present, I thought, eyeing a bed already full of other dolls and stuffed animals. A ridiculously outrageous kindergarten graduation present. So I googled and I surfed. I had bought outfits and accessories for my nieces before, how bad could this be? Kit Kittredge. Yes, even I’ve heard of her. Great. There’s a bio: “Even though the Great Depression was filled with hard times for families, Kit helps hers by being resourceful.” Yikes. Isn’t that a little depressing for a five-year-old? Ok, how about McKenna? She’s the girl of the year. “Balancing school and sports is a challenge for McKenna Brooks as she enters fourth grade. When she struggles with reading, she must find a way to keep up. Can McKenna use her strengths as a gymnast to succeed in the classroom, too?” I thought I was buying a doll, not a miniseries. So I clicked on the “My American Girl” section instead. Create your own doll based on your child’s own looks and personality. Perfect. A few hours of clicking and choosing, (and $150 later) mini Erin was on her way. Of course she was thrilled when the box arrived: She combed her hair for hours (with a special $7 wig brush of course), slept with her and brought her everywhere we went. For three days anyway. After that, the allure sort of wore off. Good girl, I secretly thought. Pick up a basketball. Put down that expensive imaginary friend. But a few weeks later, as our lunch date approached, I felt a need to build up the hype. “So you know we’re going to bring little Erin on the express bus and have a floofy fancy lunch in the city, right?” I asked her a few days before the big event. “Oh yeah?” she said, sort of disinterested. “That’s nice.” “Yeah, I heard they bring you a cute little dessert and even serve pink lemonade,” I added. I completely left out the fact that there was a specially appointed doll salon where crazy ladies bring their children’s toys for up-dos that cost $25 a pop. But Erin still seemed lackluster, a quality I was not challenging in the least. After all, I was not ready to start supporting this new and very expensive habit. I’ll just bring her to have a good time with her friends. That’s when I found myself dusting off the guest of honor, twirling her hair the night before her big day. When Friday came, Erin was excited – mostly about the bus ride and because another one of the moms brought gummy worms for the trip in. She loved her doll’s pretty pigtails (she’d better) and polished ballet flats (I finally found them at 11:45pm, one in the VCR, the other in Jeremiah’s toy motorcycle.). But then it hit. Something about that beaming red awning when we turned the corner on Fifth Avenue and 49th Street. “Oh Mommy,” was all she could manage. I had to literally pick her chin up off the sidewalk. In the window there were hundreds of them: Dolls in chic one-pieces headed to the beach in matching convertible Volkswagen Beetles; dolls jumping over glittery rain puddles wearing golashes and rain coats, holding teeny-tiny umbrellas; dolls doing splits and twirling pom-poms in their red, white and blue cheerleading uniforms. My disinterested little girl who is only lukewarm to the whole doll thing gaped in amazement. Her tomboy mom stared in awe too. Our reflections shone in this giant window of whimsy. It was like that Small World ride in DisneyWorld times two and on steroids. We scurried through the store, eyeing up scores of American Girl outfits, pets and accessories – teeny-tiny eyeglasses, hair clips and berets. There was a doll hospital with crutches, wheelchairs and boo-boo kits. Said hair salon had a winding line of clients, all emerging with expertly tied braids, ribbons and buns. Immediately I noticed a whole can-do (albeit expensive) attitude in that store: A wardrobe of lacrosse outfits, hiking ensembles and professorial looking school sets. Tiny collectors (or more fittingly, their moms) could purchase a bevy of musical instruments – flutes, violins, etc. – on which their tiny prodigies could practice. These dolls are not just playthings, they are role models who ice skate, practice gymnastics, ride horses and win pet shows. Sort of like Barbie’s hundred or so inspiring incantations – stewardess, doctor, teacher – just a whole lot less slutty. Lunch was served on floor three in a pink cafĂ© decorated with black-and-white benches and fuchsia chandeliers. Plates of tic-tac-toe pizza, quiche and tiny hot dogs and hamburgers were accompanied by freshly baked cinnamon buns, miniature cups of chicken salad and frothy glasses of pink lemonade. Dessert was served in a blooming flower pot – chocolate pudding topping with Oreo cookie crumbs was modeled after the dirt. Even little Erin was served a cup of tea in her very own high chair from her very own tiny tea cup. Shopping was reserved for after lunch and Erin opted for a matching American Girl pajama set (which is made in China) and a tiny mani/pedi kit so that we can do her nails right. For my lukewarm doll lover, the trip opened up a new world of inspiring play. (How could it not with all of those tiny accoutrements?) And for her tomboy mother, the trip allowed an understanding for the American Girl addiction. Next time maybe I’ll pick up the facial kit. It includes cucumber stickers for her eyes!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hey Fresh Beats, Thanks for the Insomnia

Last night, after I tucked my exhausted body in for an unprecedented 10:30pm bedtime, I should have easily shut my eyes and drifted into dreamland. But I didn’t. Instead my tired eyes stared at the ceiling and thought about Marina.

Why did she leave the Fresh Beat Band so suddenly anyway? I mean, she definitely has a better voice than this new chick and who would give up a gig singing about bananas and taking daily trips to the Groovy Smoothie?

And don’t you think production should have written in the new girl, not just replaced her with some random redhead? Gimme a break, these kids can tell the difference. Erin asks about it every time a new Marina episode comes on. I get creative with my answers now. Yesterday I even invented a G-rated love triangle between the old Marina, Twist and Shout.

10:45pm. Did I really just waste 15 minutes thinking about a kids’ television show? Great, now I have that song stuck in my head. “Sing it loud, just like a rock star, shout it out just like a rock star. C’mon everybody let me hear you sing. And be just like a rock star, hey, hey, hey.”

That’s when I must have inadvertently sang out loud.

“Are you singing lyrics from The Fresh Beat Band,” Pat rolled over and asked.

“What? No. Definitely not.”

Gotta get to sleep. Hip hop and pop.

But it was too late. The entire Fresh Beat songbook had already started playing over and over in my head.

“We had a great day, a really super way, to spend some time together.”

By 1am I was wishing I had a gun. Maybe it’s time to start weaning these kids off Nick Jr.

For the uninitiated, the Fresh Beat Band is actually a very entertaining, song and dance filled half hour of children’s television. It’s not exactly Sesame Street, but through the silly antics of four musically gifted friends, (played by 20-something-year-old actors – c’mon, we’re not supposed to notice that?) kids are supposed to pick up lessons about sharing, caring and how not to act like a complete moron while dancing. Sorry Twist, that’s the only reason you’re on the show. My kids and my sub-conscious are completely hooked.

“Kiki, Kiki,” Jeremiah said this morning as he handed me the clicker. It’s probably bad that my son has named the remote control after his favorite character on the show.

“No Kiki today,” I responded. “Those four idiots kept Mommy up all night.”

“Kiki, pwease,” he countered.

Now how do I say no to that?

“Don’t you want to watch something a little blander like Wendy Williams? Dr. Oz?”

“Kiki, pwease!!”

Guess I’m losing this round. Damn you Fresh Beats and all of your catchiness.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Yes Erin, There Is a Santa Claus. He’s Just Not Bringing You a LalaLoopsy.

Out of all of my 34 Christmases, I definitely remember 1983 best. I was five, my sister eight; and like every grammar-schooler in the known world, we wrote to the big guy and put in big bold letters at the top of the page: One Cabbage Patch Kid, please.

For whatever reason, (most probably the marketing genius that was Coleco) we were dying to be the adoptive mothers to those homely, vinyl-faced cloth dolls that had Xavier Roberts’ signature on their butts. So we waited and behaved – after all, he was watching – and ran down the stairs on Christmas morning, anxiously ripping through packages in pursuit of those odd shaped boxes that held the sweetly plastic and powdery scented dolls.

But while our tree was surrounded by Atari games, Weeble houses, Smurf puzzles and an abundance of other presents, there was nothing freshly plucked from the Cabbage Patch. Just a note.

Dearest Carolyn and Jessica:
While I waited and I tried, I was simply unable to get you those Cabbage Patch dolls that you asked for. I’m sorry, but all of the stores were sold out and my elves just couldn’t duplicate them. I hope you understand and promise you as soon as they become available, I will leave them on your doorstep.


Seriously? A raincheck? My five-year-old self was furious. All of that being good for nothing? Well, I did get Kaboom! and Frogger out of the deal, so I guess it wasn’t a total waste. But really? I never even knew this was an option. Wasn’t Santa so magical that he didn’t wait in line? Didn’t he have some sort of deal with Toys R Us that afforded him first dibs on the really hard to get toys?

Naturally, sis and I healed. Taped some Lionel Ritchie off the radio with our new tape recorder, put in our new banana combs and mended our minds with some Friday Night Videos.

A few weeks later, while we were watching the Olympics, my father told us someone was waiting for us in the kitchen. (Come to think of it, that was pretty cruel. He made it sound like there was an axe murderer in there.)

But we held hands and entered the pitch black room. (Once again, oddly scary Dad.)

Piled one on top of the other next to the refrigerator, there they were: Melinda Barbie and Sally Culotta. (Yes, I remember their names. Somewhere I still have their birth certificates.)

It was February, but it was the best Christmas ever. Just like he promised, Santa came through. It wasn’t until years later that we found out mom battled fist fights, waited in the cold and got caught up in more than one or two November riots.

Thirty years later, I find myself in her shoes.

“Write LalaLoopsy,” Erin said a few weeks ago, directing my key strokes as we wrote our annual email to Santa.

She was sprawled on the floor, 18 catalogs in front of her, circling madly, that dreamy Christmas look on her face. You know the one, when you feel like you can ask Santa to bring you anything, even the impossible stuff, because that’s what he does.

“Which LalaLoopsy?” I asked, grinning to myself, knowing full well there was already one in the basement closet, one I had picked up in August when I was feeling particularly organized.

“This one,” she said, pushing the Target catalog closer to my face, revealing some crazy haired doll I had never seen before.

“She’s got silly hair that I can style on my own,” she smiled.

Crap. Now I have to return this other doll? What a hassle.

I had no idea what I was actually in for.

“Reason for return?” the Toys R Us cashier asked.

“I bought the wrong one,” I replied. “She wants the one with the silly…”

“Hair?” the cashier cut me off.

“Yes,” I said. “How did you know?”

“Good luck,” she laughed. “They sell out before we take them off the truck.”

Uh-oh. That’s no good. So I rushed to the LalaLoopsy aisle only to find an empty shelf. Except for the pink-haired one I had just returned. There were 52 of those.

Ok, so no big deal. There’s other stores.

Three hours later, I had crossed two bridges and been laughed at by teenage employees at Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart.

“You should have started shopping a long time ago Mommy,” one especially condescending red shirt said.

That was on December 1.

So I took my crusade to the internet. Only problem was all the big retailers were sold out. I could buy one from Collector’s Heaven. But there, the $30 doll retails for $100. Seriously people? Is there no more decency left in this world?

No way, I said. Absolutely no way am I paying a triple markup. I will find that doll.

So I started stalking toy stores. Arriving at 7:30am, waiting each day in a different retailer’s parking lot until they opened their doors, I actually made some friends. There was this one lady from New Jersey, we had coffee on day three.

But nothing. One afternoon, I had a false alarm when Target mistakenly reported on its website that the Veteran’s Road location had 17 dolls in stock. Me and New Jersey and about five others came face to face breathlessly, only to be informed to try again tomorrow.

My mom, Cabbage Patch finder extraordinaire, is on the hunt. As is the entire staff of the school where she works.

Suddenly, I find myself in the midst of a tragic holiday toy craze. Tickle Me Elmo left a couple of people in critical condition. There was actually a Furby shootout in 1998. And some crazy lady held up Toys R Us with a spork and a BB gun for a Cabbage Patch Kid in 1982. Oddly enough, Mom is very mum about this.

It’s fine though. I’m not reaching for a spork just yet. Santa can leave a note. He’ll drop the right one off in February. Erin will understand.

But that doll. She haunts me. Those button eyes. That medusa-ish hair. I had a dream about her last night. She was laughing. Baking cookies in her cute little yellow dress. Twirling that pink hair, taunting me the whole time.

Come February, she’ll be in my kitchen, standing next to the refrigerator. I’ll probably forgive and like her by then. And for Erin, it will be the best Christmas/Valentine’s Day that she’s ever had.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm Happy, I Know It, But Do I Really Have to Clap My Hands?

When it comes to public performance, Miss Mary is everything I am not. Entertaining, energetic and extremely musical, I’ve envied and admired her general enthusiasm for dramatic displays of song and dance ever since I enrolled my toddler in her weekly music class earlier this year. She sings beautifully, can find a perfectly formed macro rhythm in the simplest of songs and bounces around the studio with a vigor that I can only find after at least 18 cups of joe.

The kids in class love her weekly theatrics and completely surrender to her invitation to be goofy, wiggly songbirds. If only I could do the same.

“Jeremiah’s mommy is not dancing!!” Mary bellowed last week as I did what I usually do during those painful 45-minute sessions – hid in a corner and tried desperately to just simply blend in. A scarf and tambourine were sarcastically thrust in my direction as I was shoved onto the caboose of an invisible choo-choo train.

Apparently, mommies and daddies who refuse to participate or chatter during what is proudly promoted as a “together” class, are forced to do a solo belly dance in the middle of a communal circle after their third warning. So far, I have two strikes.

“Wake up your mouth!”

Really? Without hardly any coaxing, more than a dozen moms (and sometimes a dad) willingly blow raspberries with their two-year-olds. In public.

“Turn on your ears!”

Everybody emphatically complies by dramatically yanking on their earlobes and screwing on an imaginary thinking cap. I pretend like I’m fixing an earring.

“Now warm up those voices: Ba, ba ba, ding-a-ding-ding!”

This is where I draw the line. When I was in grammar school and not at all aware that I was completely tone deaf, I used to sing – buy my parents always asked me to stop. When Erin and then Jeremiah were born and lullabies were in order, my husband lovingly told me that we should probably protect our children from unnecessarily off-key verses of Rock-a-Bye-Baby. (And the Eagles – nothing put those kids to sleep like a couple of verses of Hotel California.)

But now, after enrolling in 10 weeks of hello songs and itsy-bitsy dramatics, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to avoid active participation. I’m happy, I know it, but do I really have to clap my hands in front of all these other unnaturally giddy people?

If you’re not familiar with Music Together, it’s a program of weekly music and movement classes designed to educate infants, toddlers and preschoolers about basic premises of rhythm, harmony and social sharing. I did it with Erin and thought it would be a good way to bond with Jeremiah and prepare him for pre-school. I just forgot how much singing and jumping was actually involved.

“Jump, mommies, jump!”

She can’t be serious.

“Now everybody skip!!!”

I wonder if it’s really possible to die of embarrassment.

For Jeremiah, who completely adores all of this mandatory vocalizing, Wednesdays are now the best days of the week. For me, who has trouble letting loose and getting down in front of 15 other sing-songy adults, this class has been like high school –
I’m doing everything in my power to just look cool.

I suppose it sounds petty – putting my own crazy anxiety before Jeremiah’s enjoyment – but I’ve actually chosen my biggest fear – performing in front of other people – as a way of bonding with my son.

But today, halfway through this awkward semester, amidst all of my inane insecurities, something strange happened. For a brief second, as I watched Jerry giggling and vividly clapping his hands, I actually forgot about my stinky voice, forgot about how that one lady always has whiter socks than me and forgot about how other people were probably judging my stupid wiggly dance moves. And I actually started to dance and sing before Mary threatened me with solo belly dances.

Jeremiah grabbed my hands and we jumped on the invisible choo-choo together. I even continued the performance at home. For me and all of my lackluster tendencies, it was the most awesome of breakthroughs. Even Mary had to stop and applaud.

No solo bellydance necessary.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dear Volkswagen, Please Give Me Back My Swagger

Cruising through the parking lot at St. Clare’s preschool is a very intricate and complex daily maneuver. Upon entrance, you must dodge the old ladies exiting eight o’clock mass and floor it past the handicapped parking spaces before their husbands blindly back their Buicks from staggered spots like some symphony of grenades. If you make it past the chapel unscathed, you must then combat with an endless parade of ginormous SUV’s driven by coffee-sipping, cell-phone toting moms who were given special parking passes in September allowing them to abandon their vehicles in the middle of the road wherever and whenever they see fit.

On approach to the Father Hicks center, you must then quickly scan the area for anything resembling a parking space – legal or illegal – in which to shove your car for the two minutes it will take to toss your child into the receiving line. In my tiny little Chevy or Pat’s petite little Passat, the task is not so hard. Making the trip in a big-ass Volkswagen Routan, well that’s a whole other story.

“Ooh, maybe they’ll give us one of those cute little convertibles or even a bug!”

That was me last week, wishfully philosophizing to Pat on our way to the Volkswagen dealership, where a loaner vehicle awaited us in the service department. Let’s get it straight. Despite my enthusiasm about car styles and colors, I was not happy about this at all. After bringing Pat’s car in for service two weeks prior because some light that actually said “STOP DRIVING” lit up on the dash, VW decided to lend us a car while they attempted to identify and correct the problem. Two weeks of sharing one vehicle was not fun and neither was the damage or price tag of engine replacement I was imagining in my head. But after 14 days of scheduling driving time and swapping car seats, the prospect of driving away in someone else’s non-broken sedan was pleasant.

So I waited in the car with the kids while Pat retrieved the keys. He crossed the street, beeping the fob in an attempt to find our new whip in a sea of shiny Jettas and Touaregs. And there it was. Behind the beautiful silver Eos. Right next to that gorgeous red convertible beetle. A gigantic spaceship of a car with the ugly kind of running boards and huge, elongated boxy third row. A Routan – I can hardly type it without gagging – in of all colors, bright neon white.

“Wooooowwwww!!” Erin screamed from the backseat. “Mommy, look at how big that car is!”

Her excitement made it worse. Pat smiled and hopped in the driver’s seat. That made it worse too. Something about seeing your husband behind the wheel of a minivan is a little disturbing.

“Well, we’ve been saying that we need more room,” he smirked.

Yes, but not that much room. Not even the Partridge Family needed that much room. Following Pat home I reassured myself that this was only temporary and I wouldn’t have to drive that behemoth at all. Pat will take it to work and I will kiss every inch of my previously too small Malibu when I get home. But something about EZPass confusion and insurance liability put me behind the wheel of this repulsive car the next day. Excuses, I protested. Pat just didn’t want to drive that wretched vehicle himself.

“Did you get a new car?” the mothers at school asked that morning as I stepped out of the immense box of ugly, fixing my oversized hat, sunglasses and fake mustache. Holy crap, did I just sprain my ankle?

“No, this is not mine,” I shouted sort of loudly. “I would never drive a minivan.”

Dead silence as at least four of five moms in the crowd glanced over at their Town & Countrys.

“Hey mom, check it out, I can dance in here!” Erin broke the awkward silence, having unbuckled herself, running up and down the center of the car, enjoying enough room to kick her legs over her head an even turn a cartwheel. Funny, she never does cartwheels at home.

“Look at our new car!!” she was shouting to her friends.

“It’s not our car!” I shouted back. “And what happened to your brother? I can’t find him in here.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly prissy when it comes to driving the sleekest car in town. I passed my road test on my father’s minivan. Stuffing all of my friends into that thing during senior year is one of my fondest high school memories. And I’m not afraid of big either, I used to be one of those SUV driving moms until the price of gas skyrocketed and we downsized to something more affordable.
There was just something about seeing my family in this bigger-than-life bus that scared me into the realization that I was slowly becoming one of those car-pool driving, Ugg and sweatsuit wearing soccer moms. Nevermind the fact that my coolness factor took a proverbial shot in the foot.

But after one week, I’m already starting to identify some advantages.

All of that extra space made food shopping a breeze. I even carted groceries home for eight of my neighbors.

I found a way to earn some extra cash. Picking up a few passengers on Hylan Boulevard put at least three dollars in my pocket. And next week I’m taking some of those St. Clare’s churchgoers down to AC. A couple of JFK and Newark runs and this baby could turn a serious profit.

Now if I could only sell a little advertising space, the exterior of the Routan might no longer be so hideous.

But the call came yesterday. Our Passat is ready and it’s time for the Routan to go. Something inside of me will miss it. Especially the next time I pull up next to a moving van.