August 15, 2012

Struts and Strollers- An Urban Melodrama in Two Parts

Looks peaceful, doesn't it?
Having a car in a big city like Chicago can be a problem.

For example, every six weeks or so, somebody side swipes our car- either on the street or in a parking lot.  Never once has the culprit left us a note.  Thanks to this phenomena, our minivan has damaged sideview mirrors (allowing all sorts of space for very unwelcome "guests") and scratches all along the passenger side doors.

Then there's the damage done by all of that stop and go traffic.

And the problem of a four to eight month long winter that comes with heavily salted streets and the corrosion that can cause.

And then there's just that whole POS car thing.

To be fair, our minivan is NOT a POS (despite the incredibly sexy scratches, rusted spots, and damaged sideview mirrors).  But it is crawling up on ten years old, and it is... well... a constant money pit.

They're a pain, but at least they're cute.
Last week, our brakes started to go.  Which is never a good thing.

Lucky for us, we found a very good mechanic.  In the neighborhood no less!  But...


When one does not possess the funds for a sitter every time one must leave the house, one must take all of their children with them if they DO leave the house.

And when one is leaving the house in order to abandon their car somewhere else, one must plan on getting home without their car.

And when using any form of motor vehicle requires the management of three car seats, one must face facts and accept that any distance you stray from home must be traversed on foot.

Which means that, once again, I found myself in the position of driving my car to the shop, and then walking home through campus with a horde of unruly children.

Yeah, just take a minute to check out the title of that post.

I thought long and hard about the best way to do this.  Once again, I made an appointment for the car FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.  After all, the children are all 100% awake at about 7:15am.  So, if I crammed breakfast down the kids gullets fast while nursing the baby, I could theoretically usher my whole brood out of the house and into the car in time for us to drive the 1.1 miles and make it on time, and when you do things first thing in the morning there are fewer things that can happen to stall you, right?  Then, rather than going straight home, we stop and the playground, I nurse the baby, and the big kids think they're actually getting a super special fun outing instead of running a tedious errand.

That's right, they're reading to their baby sister.
Sunday night, I even told them the plan.  I promised them a trip to the playground.  They were elated.  All my ducks were in their proverbial row.

But, alas, my plans never go over properly.  We pulled into the car shop nearly an entire hour late.


Because there is a natural phenomenon that is guaranteed to make my children (and myself) significantly less than functional first thing in the morning.  A natural phenomenon we were experiencing as the dawn broke.

It was pouring rain.

That's right, folks, I suddenly found myself faced with an epic conundrum... do I skip taking the car to the shop and avoid immediate drama, instead opening the door for the catastrophic possibility that we actually find ourselves unable to stop our speeding motor vehicle?

...or do I plan to force my children to march for over a mile in the pouring rain with an infant?

I learned to make a gif just for this.
Like a good mommy blogger, I grabbed my camera.

As we piled out of the car at our mechanic, the girls jumped up and down, "Playground!  Playground!" When one of the nice men under a car told my children they had pretty curly hair, they responded, "We going to the playground to slide down the slide!"

The owner of the shop gave me a look that could not be mistaken for anything but pity.

Why oh why did I put them in white pants?
The rain had let up a bit, so I was feeling naively optimistic.  I grabbed two kiddie umbrellas, left my own in the car and instead grabbed myself a towel (who can hold an umbrella while they push a stroller?), and we headed off to the playground.

We arrived just a few moments behind another mom and her toddler.  As my children ran, screaming with delight, towards the slide, I noticed the other mom throw her kid back in the stroller and take off running.

What, are my kids THAT unruly? I thought.  And then I stepped out from under the dense foliage of the lovely, picturesque trees that line the streets in my neighborhood.

The rain was picking up.  Hard.  Fast.

By the time the girls had made it down the slide- once- we needed to go. I promised them each one more trip down, and threw the towel over my head and shoulders.

We began the soggy walk home.

A note about my neighborhood- it's where rich people live.  For the most part.  We live sort of on the fringe, and only manage to afford that because we bought after the market tanked.  But most of the resident mommies and daddies can afford not to be seen walking for a mile down the street hiding under a ratty old towel with a trail of children covered in mud and hand-me-down clothes.  And the residents of the neighborhood that can't afford to be less than absurd?  They're college students.  They have no sympathy at all.  I wanted to get through this ordeal as quickly as possible.  I knew what a spectacle I was.

"I am a fwog and my name is Mawy Poppins!"
Go back to this post again... this is a walk that a violently ill adult pushing 100 lbs can accomplish in about twenty minutes.  In the snow.

So I ask you, how long do you think this exact route takes two nearly-three year olds with umbrellas in the pouring rain and a frazzled mommy attempting to camouflage a stroller and bright red and orange towel into the hedges of stately greystone mansions?

Nearly two hours, that's how long.

The first few blocks were peaceful enough.  But then the girls decided that their umbrellas impued them with the powers of Mary Poppins, and singing about being Mary Poppins diverts energy from the legs and feet, so that slowed them significantly.  Mary Poppins might be practically perfect in every way, but my children are more like earthworms than super-nannies when you confront them with mud puddles.

Back into the tempest
As we passed the church with the perpetual "Vigil for Peace," my children began to attack each other with their umbrellas.  I hid under my towel so that the pacifists in attendance (and the Quakes across the street) wouldn't have a face to attach to the paragon of poor parenting that confronted them.

By the time we got to the halfway point, I needed a break.  I took the girls into the Rockafeller Chapel, and handed out juice boxes.  It reenergized the big girls a little, but RH was seriously pissed that we were no longer be in motion.  I'm pretty sure you're not actually allowed to feed small children and infants in gorgeous private cathedrals, but nobody bothered to kick me out.  They just gave me very, very odd looks as my children tracked mud between the pews and I blathered a bit about meeting Neil Gaiman there.

After our juice break, the girls ran wild in the midway during a  sort of a break in the rain.  This was, without a doubt, the best part of my personal trail of tears.

And then, the home stretch.

No lie- me and Neil are BFFs.
Baby screaming, children exhausted, everyone sopping wet, and too late to set down the big ones for a nap, we crawled along the final block that led to our house.

Despite all my desire to do so, I didn't make myself a stiff drink.

And that was just in time to get the call from the shop.

They would fix our breaks- no problem- and we could pick the car up first thing in the morning.

That's right, the next morning we would do it again.

The midway in the rain
In preparation, after the girls went to sleep I ate a whole army's worth of nachos.

When the time came, I was prepared.  I had checked the forecast, filled the diaper bag with fresh juice boxes, and after retrieving the keys from the mechanic we would go to a "new" playground, and spend the bulk of the day there.

And so, at 8:30am, we began the trek to the shop.

I knew things were about to go wrong the moment we left the building.  I had left my water bottle on the floor just inside the front door of our unit- three floors up.  And I'd forgotten to eat my own breakfast.  With a heavy sigh, I ushered my children onto the sidewalk and we hit the heel-toe express.

Boy do they love this slide.
A walk that had taken nearly two hours in the rain seemed to lengthen exponentially.  The lack of fascinating rainfall and Mary Poppins-esque umbrellas seemed to utterly sap my children of energy.

Despite the timing of our departure, when we arrived at the shop it was after noon.  And we had been crawling through 80 degrees and blazing sun.  And of course, post-rain humidity.

The baby was sweaty and angry.

The girls were obstinately snail-like and whiny.  For the last quarter mile, they had been taking turns crying or holding my hand, outraged that I was incapable of holding both of their hands at the same time that I was pushing the stroller.  This made crossing arterial roads particularly nerve wracking.

Who was just too tired to walk?  Surely not those kids...
Of course, the moment they saw the new playground they were revived.  I watched them run and jump and slide and crawl, mystified and miffed.

And I sat on the ground and nursed the baby as I contemplated the news from the mechanic...

Actually, our brakes were okay.

The real problem is the struts- which he's been warning me were going for nearly a year now- and are going to cost us upwards of $700..

And that means...

We go back to the mechanic again next week.


This face- that's the one I probably made.
In other news, we are now officially out of vodka at my house.

Oh- and in case you ever wondered what the most mood-altering phrase you can hear from your toddler while attempting to enjoy your mid-afternoon martini is, it's, "Mommy, I peed on the couch."

In my mid-afternoon my-martini-is-getting-warm emotional breakdown, I decided to add a new little feature to this blog.  If you look up at the top right of this page, you'll note a little "donate" button.

The fund?  "Keep This Blog Boring."

That's right, you can donate to making my life easier- to hiring a sitter for the morning so I can take care of business, or if enough of my lovely readers contribute, actually fix the damn car.

Or just replenishing the supply of vodka.

Thank you.


  1. I wish I lived in the Chicago area so I could offer you a ride. Or at the very least to bring you more vodka.

  2. I want more vodka reading this! Oh vey! Sometimes I am so thankful I married a mechanic.... although its my car that always gets fixed LAST!

  3. I am so sorry,,,but fraking hilarious. Truly I feel your pain. I thought I was the only one fun things like this happen to. Great job mommy with the playground. I might have bailed on the idea!

  4. I would be out of vodka if I had to do all that, too!

  5. I'm in a suburb outside of Chicago and I feel your pain. I'd be out of vodka over here if that was my day, too. It almost seems that the more together we think we are, the more things happen to show we aren't.

  6. Oh my goodness! I can't even imagine and yes, like everyone else, I'd be out of vodka too. I admire you for surviving this!

  7. you are a supermom! just make sure you have baby strollers when going out. it will be a pain without them. =D



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