Tuesday, February 21, 2012

hauling ass

One thing that did not totally occur to me until Joe pointed it out was that crossing the threshold into the three-kid arena meant that we would need to get a bigger car. Serendipitously, the lease on Joe's current car (a Honda Fit--which is a fine, and more importantly inexpensive car, though likely one of the smallest four-door cars on the market) runs out in July, so we should be all set to trade up for some sort of three-rowed conveyance device, likely a minivan.

Having grown up in Manhattan well away from car culture, I have no particular prejudice against getting a minivan--I have heard the arguments before about how uncool minivans are, but in my mind, ALL cars are uncool, so really for us it purely comes down to a functionality issue. Also, let's remember that I'm already uncool, so it's not like the car I drive is going to change that. (Obnoxious penis-substitute car drivers, take note!) Anyway, the most likely finalists are the Toyota Sienna versus the Honda Odyssey--we're leaning towards the Toyota because it's somewhat cheaper--but if anyone has any particular recommendations on a seven-to-eight-seater car, please feel free to recommend or dissuade. Whatever the brand, we will likely get one of the lowest trim packages (meaning no DVD players, no navigation, no leather seats, no flux capacitor), so fancy features are not a concern. The only add-on that Joe thinks we should likely get is some sort of "backing up" camera, mostly because I am, uh, not a good driver,  and he wants to make sure I don't run over anything vital, like our mailbox, or a mailbox-shaped human.

(Of course I have been reading online car reviews and consumer report guides, but I have noticed one thing in the minivan guides in that after you read many of them in a row, you realize how many of them are jarringly anti-kid. One example from Motor Trend magazine: "...since children and their Cheetos-encrusted boogers are the target audience, perhaps a really nice interior doesn't mean a whole lot in this segment." In minivan reviews, apparently, there are lots of "jokes" like that, mostly related to how disgusting and annoying multiple children are. You could well make a drinking game out of it. Drink every time a review mentions crushed Cheerios messing up the backseat. Drink every time a review talks about the DVD players quieting your squalling hellions. Drink every time a review talks about how multiple kids are the death of cool, and how the utilitarian suburban drudge cart is now your cross to bear. I GET IT, CAR MAGAZINE, YOU HATE KIDS.)

* * *

19 weeks. Look, a different shirt!

I know that externally, it seems like kind of a gradual progression, but let me assure you that it sure doesn't feel that way. Look, just think of this week-by-week photo project (granted, more for personal archival purposes than anything else) as the most boring flip-book ever. Anyway, the fundus is just below the umbilicus that this point, and I can tell we're moving along because the umbilical port scar from my old med school lap appy is actually visible now. THINGS ARE EVERTING. Sorry, was that gross?  Well, take it from a doctor, that's how the human body is, kids.  Gross.  Gross but functional.  Like a minivan.

(And that's what we call "coming full-circle.")


  1. We had a Honda Odyssey (the first version of the car - that's how old I am!)when our boys were little & loved the functionality especially the last row seat that could fold down into the "floor" of the car to create a HUGE cargo space (for strollers & diaper bags & various toys & stuff that tend to come along when traveling with kids. Also this space was great for our HUGE dog if we went on dog-friendly family excursions. Loved it!
    No experience with the Sienna, sorry...!

  2. While growing up, we always had a Sienna - so I've gone through three versions of the Sienna. My cousin has a Honda Odyssey and LOVES it. What I've seen over the years, the two cars are extremely close to each other in regards to functionality and quirky-cool things. It all essentially comes down to which brand you like better...Honda or Toyota. Even driving both cars, they're fairly similar so it's hard to really differentiate the differences to us, non-car junkies :)

  3. Anonymous7:58 PM

    Just for you:


    Have fun.

  4. We are thinking Odyssey because of the middle row being able to widen to hold three car seats/boosters, which means we could have all three kids in the middle and be able to fold down the rear seat for transporting large items or packing for vacations. And my Civic has been good to me for ten years and 150k+ miles, so I (naively) trust Honda for a minivan.

  5. Michelle, You look great. I was looking at my own 20 week pictures (21 week?) and was amazed at how UN-pregnant I looked myself. And boy let me tell you I did NOT feel un-pregnant at all at the time. I guess feeling enormo is par for the pregnancy course no matter what week you are. Congrats on embracing your uncoolness and deciding to spring for a mini-van. I know nothing about them, but am awaiting your reviews with baited breath.

  6. Anonymous8:56 PM

    We have a two year old son and are pregnant with twins (also boys...) and we just bought the new Honda Odyssey. Amazing. No joke. (Also, I think they have 0.9% interest through the end of the month if you're financing.)

  7. Anonymous9:11 PM

    Back up cameras are very nice - the problem with them is that usually (I'm not sure about the Sienna or Odyssey specifically - so this may not even apply) you have to get the manufacturer's GPS unit in order to get the back up camera. In my experience, there are two problems with this: it gets expensive and perhaps, more importantly, IMHO most manufacturer's GPS units are worthless. They seem to be much less flexible and useful than an after-market Garmin, they're certainly more expensive to service, you can't service them yourself, and you usually can't input anything into the GPS unless you're vehicle is not moving - even if you have a passenger fussing with the GPS (for recent Toyota models I know this to be true). I know they make aftermarket back-up cameras - I don't know how much they cost or how tacky they are, bust I hope this helps!

  8. They are both great vans although I am partial to the Honda as it seems to come better equipped and only has a few trim levels. You may want to give second thought to the DVD player. It makes long trips so much better when the van is packed with rug rats.

  9. I have not driven the Odyssey; I have driven the 2011 Sienna, and I'm a Car Guy by nature.

    I have to say, the Sienna as inoffensive as a Sheraton in Des Moines, IA - it's totally calculated to not rankle anyone's sensibilities. It's completely adequate for every intended task and will be a reliable, safe ride for a long time. This isn't a slam; excitement is not what people are looking for in a family hauler, and they won't find it in anything in the class. I thought the Sienna seating was particularly comfortable for four dudes with an average height of 6' and an average BMI pushing 30, plus stuff for a weekend road trip. I think you could easily get three boosters and car seats in the second row with the "middle piece" that blocks the aisle. I especially like how the second row seats easily move fore-aft and the relatively easy flip-and-fold-and-hide for the third row. There is a backup camera option without GPS. The aft climate control was particularly welcome, and it parks in roughly the same space as a Camry thanks to the sliding doors.

    I'd reconsider leather, if you can get it without all the electronics and sunroofs, etc. It cleans up easier and will absolutely look better when it's time to get rid of the car. I wouldn't recommend leasing - the magazines are right - kids are to residual as opioids are to respiratory drive, so even with being a neurotic, you'll still get hosed for reconditioning fees at the end. The Sienna as a vehicle, though, holds resale value like you won't believe - they're highly desirable, even if they smell like Goldfish and feet, so I'd finance it for long enough to get down to one kid in a booster seat, and then replace it with something equally sensible but not so boxy. I also strongly recommend aftermarket floor mats and liners - specifically, Weathertech brand.


  10. Anonymous10:24 PM

    *Laughs* Oh the minivan. At least get a cool color.

    We're partial to Honda, and the few friends that have gotten minivans have gotten the Honda Odyssey and loved it.

  11. Anonymous12:13 AM

    After having our third child recently, we bought a Toyota Sienna. I was opposed to being a "minivan mom" but having driven the van for the past 4 months, I love it! You can get the back-up camera without the GPS. Without the camera, I would be afraid to drive the van. We could fit all 3 kids and their car seats in the middle seats. However, this is because our eldest sits in a backless booster. You wouldn't be able to fit 2 convertible car seats and a baby bucket car seat in the middle seats.

  12. Not sure what we'd get if we were picking a car these days, but we have a 12 year old Sienna that is still ticking even though it takes a lickin' pretty much daily. If you haven't watched
    this video, it's pretty funny.

    The only way you're going to look pregnant to me is if you do a pre-pregger/current photo side-by-side...because you, half-way-through looks just like most people after dinner. ♥

  13. Anonymous12:51 AM

    Honestly...I don't think you can go wrong with those two choices. we've had our Sienna for almost 12 years, and it's served us well. But Honda also has a good repuptation, and would have been a serious contender when we bought out Sienna, except we would have had to wait another month to get one (as opposed to driving our Sienna off the lot.).

    Best of luck! (don't overthink this decision - I think they're pretty darn equivalent, all things considered).


  14. Anonymous3:12 AM

    Not to discourage you from a minivan or anything, but have you considered a medium-sized SUV? Quite a few come with third row seating, and I think the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot(if you're sticking with a specific brand) also have the camera option...and the DVD option. They're like minivans that don't look like minivans(if that makes any sense). =)

  15. Anonymous6:31 AM

    Receptionist: That guy who came in, do you know him?

    Sue: he says his name id Dr XX covering for Dr YY

    Receptionist: Are you sure that he is a Dr.

    Sue: He says he is. Why?

    Receptionist: Because he drives a piece of shit car.

  16. Anonymous6:52 AM

    I second the leather the option- as the mother of a child who projectile-puked until he was over a year, I consider the ability to simply do a quick wipe-down a blessing when constantly finding week-old puke in weird places in the car...

  17. Anonymous7:29 AM

    Would like to third the recommendation on the leather for the cleanup option. We have an Odessey, we have ours with back up camera without GPS, but you MIGHT want to consider the DVD player. With 3 kids, on long drives, it has been a godsend.

    Also, not sure about Sienna, but you CAN fit 2 carseats + baby bucket across second row in the Odessey (we have 2 Britax and a Graco Snugride). Then you can fold all the back seats down into the floor and carry a BUNCH of stuff.

    We also have these: http://www.amazon.com/2011-2011-Odyssey-Custom-fit-Waterproof-Cruiser/dp/B004RTR5KI

    which have been wonderful. Very easy cleanup from mud and sand and stuff.

  18. Anonymous8:45 AM

    Nice post. keep going.


  19. Anonymous12:32 PM

    Agree with two posters above. Get leather seats. Vomit, spilled juice and milk are much easier to wipe off of leather.

  20. Love how you brought the post back around.

    We have a Honda Odyssey and love it. You won't know how much you love automatic doors till you have them.

  21. Anonymous1:51 PM

    Toyotas still have better trade-in values than Hondas, and personally, I think they drive better, smoother, quieter. Someone already mentioned it, but I'd second taking a look at a Toyota Highlander with a third row.

  22. Just wanted to second that back-up camera - love mine! But I also have to say that even more than my back-up camera, I love my back-up sensors. They help me park in the garage and crowded lots and warn me that someone is just starting to walk behind the van before they even come into view of the camera.

    For the record, I have the Honda Odyssey, but my car before that was a Toyota and I am sure both minivans are great.

    I wouldn't get an SUV because trying to buckle car seats in a crowded parking lot with an open door is difficult - sliding doors are much easier to manage! Of course Mack might be headed for a booster soon (but my daughter - same age as Mack - is going to be under 40 lbs for a long time to come and I'll be buckling her in for awhile yet).

    I also concur that leather is much easier to wipe up - give it a second thought.

  23. Anonymous3:34 PM

    I have a Dodge Grand Caravan and a Honda Pilot, and six kids. For easy access (by both little ones and adults), management of carseats, leg room and cargo space the van wins hands down. Access to the 3rd row of the Pilot is not easily achieved, so only useful if the child can buckle himself into the carseat/booster and there is no cargo space if the 3rd row is up. It is nice to have some room between the kids (not all crammed into the middle seat) to alleviate the "he's touching me" syndrome!

  24. I'd go with the leather as well, I think it's worth the extra money for the clean -up.

    We had a Dodge Grand Caravan that had built in car-seats, not sure if they still offer that as an option, but they were awesome. When we were traveling long distances, my daughter could buckle in and also recline to sleep...

  25. Anonymous8:17 PM

    all you people are like vending machines popping out kid after useless kid.. enough already

  26. Michelle, you are awesome. I'm loving the updates. :)
    Happy minivan. I love mine (and am seconding a pp's suggestion of aftermarker super duper awesome floor mats).

  27. Anonymous @ 5:17pm: Wait...are you the author of all those minivan reviews? It's all coming together!

    Also, thank you for all the good and very practical car advice. We're forgoing the DVD players because we already have equivalent devices that subsume that purpose (iPad etc.), but I will definitely look harder at the leather seat option for cleanup purposes. Or, another option, I will wrap all the car seats in squeaky clear plastic covers like a Chinese grandmother. Either way!

  28. Anonymous8:31 AM

    We have a Sienna. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I also recommend leather seats for easy cleaning, but you MUST get automatic sliding doors and hatch. I don't think I can live without one now. Well, at least till the kids are older (mine are 6 and 4). Another good thing about the automatic doors is you can open the door for both kids and they can get in their seat, and you don't have to worry about the them hitting the car next to you. Hope that makes sense.

  29. Anonymous8:54 AM

    I have minivan envy. We bought a Hyundai Santa Fe (SUV) just before #2 was born because we wanted something smaller than a minivan. The Santa Fe also (theoretically, at least) allows you to put 3 carseats across the back, just in case we decided to go for the hat trick. And I have serious buyer's remorse. It's a great vehicle, handles well, tons of cargo space, comfortable, and the price was decent. But it's huge and we have no room for an extra passenger unless they want to wedge between carseats in the back. And I have to look for huge parking spots because the doors swing open and they need to be fully open in order to get snowsuit-laden kids in and out - sliding doors on a van would make for easier parking for sure. And since it's like driving a tank anyways, I wish I had a minivan tank that was more functional. Minivan all the way!! (Check out used ones - there are tons of them around and SO MUCH CHEAPER even 2 years old.)

  30. LOVE our odyssey. LOVE. we have leather and we got car seat protectors as well (amazon or BRU sells them). we have the 2007 and i totally have 2011 envy. a bunch of our friends just got them and they are super tricked out- and the 8th seat is definitely wider- useful if you are doing carpools, etc. unless you do a ton of road trips i dont think the DVD is neccessary at all, but we wanted built in GPS so we have the DVD player.

    anonymous- wait, there are vending machines i could buy kids from? hook me up b/c this (4th) pregnancy is going to do me in, and i have 12 weeks left. wish i had known....

  31. I have a Honda Odyssey which I love. Dependable, reliable, etc. I really like the power doors because the kids can open and close them themselves, without crush injuries and severed fingers. Also, I get you about not needing the bells and whistles, but I urge you to reconsider the leather. IMO leather is not a fancy option; rather, it is a necessity for cars that will convey children. They are so much more durable and resilient. Consider for a moment which you would rather clean barf off - leather or upholstery. And then consider which you would rather sit on a couple of (hot sunny) days later.

  32. Anonymous7:08 AM

    get a lexus 570 lx. you'll drive in style and it has room for 7.

  33. From all I hear, Sienna vs Odyssey is mostly a Toyota vs Honda choice. I, personally, love Toyotas. However, word on the street is that to fit 3 across the 2nd row you either need a 2011 or newer Odyssey, or a 2010 or older Sienna. They flip-flopped weird 2nd row middle-seat size. Being able to fit 3 across the 2nd row leaves the back open for cargo, which can be very nice.

  34. I haven't driven a Sienna recently, but drove my friend's new Odyssey a few weeks ago and was amazed by how well it handled. It felt very similar to my small SUV (Honda CRV). The older minivans felt like driving a boat, but this was really easy and smooth to drive. And definitely get the leather seats- cleanup is a breeze!

  35. Tricia12:06 AM

    We just had our 3rd baby and had to make the same Sienna vs Odyssey decision. We went with the 2012 Odyssey because like Maura said, the newer Odysseys are more car seat friendly than the new Siennas. The Sienna redesign for 2011+ actually took away latch and tether points and the middle row jump seat is no longer designed to be used for car seats. We love having the option to put three across the middle row! I don't understand why they would take car seat options away from a minivan. Anyway, we got the EXL, which came with leather and a back-up camera but no dvd player or nav. I am not a car person but it's pretty great.

  36. I have a Chrysler Town and Country, which hasn't been mentioned yet. Don't know anything about resale value or what not, but we love it. Then again part of our decision making process was "Ugh, but everyone has a Sienna"

  37. I really liked my Kia Sedona before it got t-boned. And I really liked it after it got t-boned, because my son and I weren't killed (I bumped my head on the seat-belt attachment up by the ceiling, my son had no injuries).

  38. Anonymous4:18 AM

    As a paramedic who gets to see a whole lot of wrecked vehicles, might I suggest a Ford SUV? The expedition has 8 seats, the back 3 fold down. It holds together nicely.

    1. Anonymous4:24 AM

      One of my coworkers with 5(!) kids has one, they fit in it well. All but 2 are in some form of child safety device.

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