Saturday, May 05, 2012

better than a maxi van, I suppose

So!  I guess we bought a minivan!

I would post a picture but I'm not really sure what it looks like yet--and yes, that's precisely how much interest I have in cars.  I do know what kind of car it is, though.  It's a Toyota Sienna.  Which is a kind of minivan car.  Joe and I very briefly went to both a Toyota and a Honda dealership during our date night while Joe's parents were watching the kids (because the only thing I can imagine more nightmarish than bringing your kids to a car dealership is maybe bringing your kids to Ikea when those kids refuse to be left  in Smölville or whatever the hell that Ikea kids' penitentiary is called). Honestly, they're very similar cars, but we kinda liked the Sienna slightly better.

Anyway, I found a good deal online for below the MSRP with good financing options blah blah blah financial talk and Joe had an early afternoon off while I was on call and I told him to just go get the damn car because it's not exactly like I wanted to spend a weekend myself in some car dealership back office arguing with Jerry Lundergaard about not getting that Truecoat and fine, he'll do a damn lot count, what the Christ! So Joe did. Get the car, I mean.  The reason we don't have it in the driveway yet is because we decided to listen to everyone on the planet and get the leather seats after all (I always thought of them as some sort of unnecessary luxury option, like a seat warmer, until the cleaning benefits were pointed out to me) and the leather seats take about a week and a half to put on.

I think the car is grey, with a beige inside.  That's...about as much as I know.  Whatever, Joe saw it.  I'm sure it's fine.

So!  Minivans!

*          *          *

I like to think that we're generally financially cautious.  For example we decided, after some consideration, that we probably shouldn't get a new car and have a baby and landscape the backyard at around the same time, so the backyard improvements are shelved until at least next year.  Which is fine.  I mean, it would be nice to have a swingset upon which evict the kids from the house, but what the hell, indoors is nice too.  All the better to develop osteomalacia, kids.  Now do like on "Mad Men" and go watch TV.

That said, on the way home from Hilton Head I made a declaration.  (I do that sometimes.)  I declared that we should live frugally in so much as it was possible, but that also, we should try to take trips together as a family as much as we were able.  They don't have to be big trips or expensive trips--I'm not talking about flying us all to Rome or anything.  But just little day trips.  Weekend trips.  Stuff like when we went camping last fall, or when we lived in New York and used to go to that pick-your-own-fruit farm.  Just time away, all together, making memories, on purpose.  Spring Break was great but since we've been back, I've really noticed how little time we're all able to spend together, and how much, during the course of a normal week when the kids are going to school and Joe and I are at work, that time together is purely process-driven.  It's all: rush home, get dinner into gullets, homework, bath, snack, bedtime.  The weeks blend together.  And they go too fast.

So on the spur of the moment, Joe and I decided that, instead of staying around town for Memorial Day weekend (which was the original plan--and I'm sure if we did the weekend would have been consumed purely by errands and minutiae) we were going to take a small trip, a family trip, and spend time together as a family of four (well, five--we're bringing the dog) before we expand our ranks.  Kind of a babymoon for all of us.

Therefore, we decided to rent a cottage in North Georgia--a little short notice, most of the cottages were already booked up because most people are smarter and think ahead--but we found one that's close enough and not too expensive and folksy looking as all hell.  I think it's across from a cornfield, actually.  Also I think there's some sort of fishing creek right nearby not to mention a fire pit outside the house, and what the hell, your kids are only young once.  I think they're going to love it.

It's funny, because I've been kind of stressed out about all manner of things for the past few weeks--just about all the usual, like time and money and kids and job stuff--but now that we have a little something planned, I feel a lot better.  It's nice to have something to look forward to, with people that you like.

And since we'll have a minivan by then, think of all the crap we'll be able to bring with us!

How about you guys?  What small do you like to do for quality time with your families, and what bigger things are worth the splurge?


  1. I remember my parents selecting meetings in places like Gatlinburg, TN or Hilton Head, SC so they could do the meeting-vacation thing and partly deduct some of it on taxes for some frugality. As kids, we saw a lot of the country that way. Now that I'm married with a child, I think we will do that as well once I have the need to maintain licensure. For now, we do day trips to parks, parents, and historical places. Sometimes we even consider Costco and HyVee mini-vacations because we can get out of the house!

    I would love to get a minivan too. I never thought I'd say that, but the Dodge Caravan has really grown on me. Plus, all my cool mommy friends are doing it. My little Dodge Caliber will have to suffice until residency, though.

  2. We've got a Sienna. I love it. It fits both kids, the dog, and a ton of assorted crap.

  3. travelling. there is nothing better than planning a trip. - whether it be a day trip to another town or an international trip - taking a trip is pretty fun too, but to me, nothing beats planning the damn trip. the internet rsearch, the getting immersed in movies and music of far off places. and even looking through the thousands of digital captured memories for the first week you are back (and boring the poor hapless souls that are you friends with them).
    i tend to set asaide almost 10% of my earnings for the year for travelling (yes, i have no kids, im sure that percentage amount will change as the familial status quo changes) but planning for travelling is what gets me through work.

  4. no kids yet but travel is our splurge. not that we have fancy vacations but we make a point of going to international destinations. time, not money, is really the limiting factor.

  5. Anonymous7:27 AM

    Our splurges are travel as well for our family. The past few years, we've gone to Disney - which has been lucky because before we had two children we bought into the vacation club so we can spend points at different resorts and we essentially get an apartment at a Disney property. For me personally, my splurge is buying books and renting/going to movies. I really need these things in order to get through work.

  6. Anonymous7:48 AM

    I hear you on the process-driven time at home and was just thinking the other day that we're missing too much time a kid my Dad would say "let's take a ride" and it was not always an exciting destination but it was time with my family that made it great.

    I think all our vacations were on Lake Champlain, Outer Banks, etc.,...but well worth it.

  7. Maggie12:05 PM

    Here's where I need help on the "spending time all together" part. In the times when my husband and I are not at work (me: MD student, he: MD/PhD student), we never have enough time to spend with our kid - all three of us hanging out: on weeknights one of us has to cook (him), so I take the kiddo to the park by myself. On the weekends we both have to study, so we take turns watching the kid. Sure, we spend time all together each day: we always eat dinner as a family, read stories together...but we never go OUT and do things as a family. We don't even have time to go grocery shopping as a family.

    But I try to step back and figure out where I can insert family get-away time and I can't figure it out!

    1. My scheme for time together is as follows: when possible on the weekend, prepare one meal for the crock pot later in the week (usually this is a chop and stash in container in the fridge until Monday or Tuesday deal at our house, marinade optional) and one night a week cook double so another night can be left-overs. If the kid is of age to help cook then you could all cook (briefly), but the left-overs one night and crock pot (maybe with left overs too, depending on how large yours is) mean we see each other more (me: pharmacy student, spouse: high school math teacher with long commute). It doesn't always work but it's better than nothing. I also actually put family time in my Outlook calendar and invite the spouse so everyone knows when "family laundry folding time" is or whatever.

  8. Cecily8:57 PM

    We live about 20 min away from a county fairground; there's always something going on every couple of weeks and we take our little one to see the farm animals and support our local farms and oh eat funnel cake and pit bbq. Plus there are always a ton of other families; it's nice that they have a big field to run around and get tired in, and just get dirty and sweaty -- they have so much fun, and we end up having fun, too!

  9. Anonymous11:49 PM

    You have such a perfect life; well, as perfect as real life can be. I hope you continue to have as much happiness in your life as you clearly have now.

  10. Anonymous10:24 AM

    My sister has the Siena and loves it. Hate to say it though but leather in the southeast eventually will get cracked after a few years of hot sun beating down on it (make sure you use one of those windshield protectors)

  11. Canadian Michelle11:14 AM

    I happily drove a Sienna for 4 years. I hate the leather seats (skin sticks if you wear shorts or skirts), but I love the van itself. It was awesome.

    Quality time for my family is games night on Mondays, plus going camping with family every chance we can. I take my daughter almost everywhere I go when I have time off. She's 9, and eventually, she's not going to want to come along... but for now, I'm soaking up all the love I can get :)

  12. We like to do a lot of hiking. So we find local trails or make it a day trip and hit state parks and gorges. We bought a terribly expensive tent three years ago and STILL haven't used it so this summer we vow to do at least 3 camping weekends.

    We splurge for Disney World. And hopefully, someday, a mediterranian cruise.

  13. My dad has always been really busy as a doctor, but my best childhood memories are from the vacations we took as a family. It was 24/7 family time and we had our dad ALL to ourselves. We loved it. We went different places every year but we always went back east to see our extended families. My dad would ship us out early, 2 weeks before he could make it, and we'd stay with our grandparents. Then he'd come out for 2 more weeks. My siblings and I still consider the eat coast as "the place we grew up" because it's the place we got to spend the most time with our dad and the rest of my family.

    Keep doing the trips. I highly recommend getting little notebooks and having your kids keep a journal for each trip. Save them and let them read them when they're older. They're priceless. :)

  14. Anonymous10:40 AM

    A van is the only rational way to go with 3 kids.

  15. It's so important to get that family time in. My husband and I are both doctors and we have a toddler, and my favorite family time is homemade Sunday breakfast (when not on call/post-call of course...) and hiking. I agree you don't need big huge fancy vacations, but time where it's just the family whether that be at home, outdoors, or snuggled in bed. I struggle with it constantly as I find it hard to turn the work-brain off, but they grow up so. damn. quick!!

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