Top 5 ways to make your minivan stand out

Since it has been about 1,000 degrees here in good old Northern California, the kids and I decided ice cream was the only thing we could do to survive.

We got our cones and hopped back in the van. Before I turned on the AC and jetted on our way, there were several tasty drips needing my full attention.

Suddenly the side door of the van was opened and there stood a very frazzled looking mom with two fussing toddlers. It took her about five awkward seconds, shoving one such toddler actually into the van, before she realized she had the wrong van.

We all laughed.

The mom lugged her precious little ones down two grey vans over and continued on her way.

It is bad enough we all have the same black yoga pants and some version of the same black bathing suit; do we have to have an official vehicle as well?

Apparently, grey minivan it is.

Side note: Whoever is deciding the mom trends, can we do something cool next time? Please. You are killing me here.

vanSo I decided to write to you, my fellow moms, in an act of pity. I see you winding through the Costco parking lot clicking your alarm button as you desperately try to find the right grey van before your gaggle of tired children and your year’s supply of turnips spoil.

Never fear, Super Mom is here! (At least that is what my kids call me when I tell them to.)

Here are my top 5 creative, simple and budget friendly ways to stand out from the mom pack.

1. Stickers and balloons

For some reason stores think your children are dying for stickers and balloons. Both are useless and forgotten in five seconds. That is unless the balloon floats away and then we will mourn the loss of “balloony” for about a year. Maybe longer, depending on the age and stubbornness (I mean sensitivity) of your child. If the balloon survives, hang its limp dead form from the coat hanger/handle things in the back. They can then smack against the window as you drive providing a beautiful rhythmic sound to soothe your children to sleep.

As for the stickers, don’t throw any away. Ever! These can be used to create a very unique look to your van. You could let your child decorate just the inside windows. Make sure the stickers are varying sizes and shapes. It creates a beautiful pattern of shadows on the tinted windows that will be admired by all. But don’t stop there! Let them plaster those suckers all over the outside as well. The rain will start, maybe not if you live in California, and as they peel away it will make your van an eye sore/eye catcher for sure.

2. Don’t forget the stick family

You may have noticed most grey vans include the stick family in the back left window and you may be tempted to not have one. You might think that alone will make you stand out. It won’t. You can’t. It’s required. So you have to do it. It’s a mom thing.

You do however have options. Exaggerating the number of pets/people is one way to go. Cats all along the back, maybe several rows of cats, could work. There is also Star Wars, zombies and Disney! I personally recommend these: “We’re a hoot” and the family is all owls. “Just chillin’” and the family is all penguins. “Bear with us” and the family is all bears. Adorable.

Of course, you can go the “I’m so cool that I totally make fun of stick family figures” route. There are many such options for you. Such as “How stick figure families are made” (with a nice little humping graphic), “My stick family was abducted,” “Nobody cares about your stick family,” “Run you stick bastards” (dinosaur and monster truck version) and “The Ass Family” (Jack, Smart, Lazy, Kiss and Dumb).

This is a great chance to let the personality of your family shine through and brighten up your dull, grey van of boredom. Also, it’s required. So get it done and don’t argue with me or I’ll pull this van over.

3. Dangling mirror things

If you think the front of the van doesn’t matter, your wrong. So very wrong. Why are you always doing things wrong? What is wrong with you? The front totally matters because sometimes you walk down the row at Costco where you just see the front of cars and you will be completely lost and you’ll say to yourself, “I should have listened to the blogger chick, the front does matter.”

It’s OK. I forgive you and I have a plan. You know how your kids are always making you things out of paper, tin foil and garbage? Find one of those and hang it from your review mirror. Bam! Good mom award for not throwing out the treasure and you will be sure to recognize your child’s perfect piece of modern art. You are such a good mom. Your hair is pretty too.

4. Dents

This one is a little tricky. I’m not advocating taking the biggest hammer you can find and smacking the van in various locations to give it a more textured look. No. I’m not. Don’t do that. If you do, make sure it’s after one of your kids just did something truly terrible and your really mad. I can imagine that might feel good and they would be super scared to try that shit again. But you probably, most definitely, should not purposely dent up your van.

However, if your van does get some dents, use those to your advantage! Your dents will be an original expression of your driving and will be highly respected/feared on the road.

Caution: If you think denting up your van bad enough you have to replace it with a cooler car is a possibility, it is not. You will just have a very badly dented van. So, you know, keep that in mind when you start swinging.

5. Music

Once you find your dented, sticker-laden van of motherhood bliss, it is time to stand out more with what you choose to blare from the speakers. This is a personal choice, of course, but I have some wonderful suggestions to make you really stand out.

First, always, and I mean ALWAYS, have the bass turned up. Your kids will love it. Your neighbors will love it. The cute guy in the convertible next to you will love it. Even if you’re playing the soundtrack to the Wiggles (and for heaven’s sake, don’t do that), the bass will overpower the actual music and people will still think your cool.

Second, “Turn Down For What?” Play that. Loud. Even if your kids are napping, they will eventually learn to sleep through it. It’s awesome and you will look much younger and hipper.

Third, don’t forget that car dancing is a perfect excuse to get in some cardio between all those mom errands. The more arm movements, the higher the heart rate. Really go for it. Trust me, your kids will find you adorable and not at all embarrassing.

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That’s it! It really is so simple. If you follow these 5 easy steps not only will you never get into the wrong van again, but I promise you will live a long, happy life.

Disclaimer: These tips have not been proven to help anyone live a happier or longer lasting life, nor have they been tested on animals (unless you consider my children animals and if you do, shame on you, my kids are perfect.)

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Fighting against the clichés of life

For sure I was going to work with animals. My days would be surrounded with puppies, kittens and horses. I would heal them, train them and love them all. People would be astounded by my abilities and would travel from around the world to see me work my magic.

I’d live somewhere in the mountains surrounded by beautiful redwood trees, but just a short horse ride to the beach. I’d have a house filled with children to share my love and we’d be deliriously happy. My mom would have her own house on my ranch and I’d always have visitors coming and going. I’d be surrounded by people at all times and never feel alone. Ever.

This was the vision. My grand plans for my life.

When your 10-years-old, the world is open to you and nothing seems impossible.

When I look at where I am now, my life is nothing like that. In fact, I epitomize every Lifetime movie special about white middle-aged women.

I’m headed toward 40. I have two kids and live in suburbia with two guinea pigs. I drive a carpool in my minivan and embarrass my children. I volunteer at my kids’ school and am the pizza lady. I’m heavier than I used to be. I’m in therapy for my depression. I’m starting to wear an alarming number of necklaces and scarves. I’ve started collecting little glass turtles. I drink wine and go to a book club. I cry at sappy movies and talk a lot about when my kids were really little. I go on Facebook and try to come up with witty comments so my friends will “like” it. I take an absurd amount of selfies.

I am a cliché.

If my kids played soccer, then the picture would be entirely complete. But since they don’t, I’ll just further my image by saying ridiculous old-people things like “I can remember when gas cost $1.75” or “in my day you had to record your favorite song off the radio if you wanted to hear it over and over.”

Even better, I can start complaining about how fast time goes by and how sad it all is. The children of my two very best friends from high school are 18 and 16 now. Seriously? I can’t even understand that. It’s dumb.

When the depression had its hold on me, this line of thinking would have sent me right back to bed. I’d have pulled the covers over my head and wept at how my life has turned out. I’d try to focus on the blessings, but they would slip through my fingers and fall away. I’d be left lying in the debris of my dreams with an intense sense of hopelessness.

Not anymore. Now, even though I’m aware at how completely formulaic my life is, there is still this enormous part of me that doesn’t believe any of it. This quiet whisper that tells me, “yeah, but there is something special about you.” It cries out to me that my life hasn’t even begun yet.

I carve out moments to think and pray now. I dream about what my life could look like and how I can make it happen. I write a lot of poetry and daydream about love and adventure. I’m filled with a hope that I’d lost before.

I spend a fair amount of time now laughing at myself. This morning, I awoke from a dream about a pink kitten named Cotton Candy. I could almost feel her fur and hear her purring next to me. I made up songs about her and sang them to my children at breakfast.

“Pink kitty, how you make my heart sing
You are the reason for everything
Those eyes are so beautiful and bright
And that sweet purr brings me such delight”

My kids laughed and made fun of their silly mother. I love being childish, vulnerable and open. Life is much more fun when I don’t take myself so seriously.

(NOTE: Just so you know, I’m aware that I’m writing in clichés now. It’s OK. All those Facebook memes are right. Life is too short. Dance like nobody is watching. And so on and so forth.)

The darkness is still there, but I don’t surrender to it as often. As my mother would say, “can I get a whoop-whoop!” There are parts of me that are awakening and stretching for the first time in years, and it feels good.

Damn good.

I am not just a series of stats on a piece of paper. I am not just what you see. Nobody is. Chuck Palahniuk was wrong when he wrote in “Fight Club”:

“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”

There was a time when I believed that whole-heartedly and it almost swallowed me alive. So I now reject that notion. I’m in the “we are all special and unique” camp now. I’m working hard to see the light in everyone and celebrating what I love about people in my life.

I recognize that from the outside, I represent a certain type of white woman in America. You can file me under middle-class, middle-aged, privileged, whining and self-absorbed. I’m not arguing any of that. However, I’m more than that. We are all more than our labels.

I’ve been writing a lot lately, but I haven’t been posting anything here. I think I’m fearful of the types of things I’m writing. Words are flowing, but what is pouring out isn’t focused or even clear. It’s a jumbled puzzle of conflicting emotions and ideas.

Mostly it’s short stories and poems about casting away depression and finding my place. I’m searching for a deeper relationship with God and seeking an understanding of my purpose.

So, with a bit of trepidation and fear, I’m going to share some of that writing with you. Hope you like it.

 

IMG_4624Sky message

I am a child.

I stand in the rain, eyes shut tight, as the drops fall ever faster. Like fingertips pressing down on my head and shoulders, they draw lines down my neck and arms. My clothes become heavy and my body shivers harshly.

I stretch out my arms and try to embrace that which I know I can’t. Tears join the raindrops and at once I can’t stand. My legs give way and I fall to the wet ground. The water pools around me, and the grownup voices yell at me to go inside. Get out of the rain. You look ridiculous.

But I don’t.

I am a child.

I want the rain to grow arms and pick me up. I want it to tell me that I’m beautiful, special and that there is nobody else in the world just like me. I want the words to slip into my ears and run into my brain. The intensity of this longing stabs sharply into my stomach and I wince as the pain spreads and threatens to overtake me.

You are not like everyone else.

These words slosh around me like a living being, vibrating against my head, and I am suddenly lifted. Heavy arms pluck me up like a baby and cradle me in a loving embrace. The rains dripping heartbeat pounds against my back as I bury my face into the bosom of my protector. Soft breath is against my neck and the whispers drip slowly into my ears.

You are safe.

Belief floods me and the shivers cease. The pain runs down my legs onto the ground into a puddle of misery and sadness. I open my eyes to see it reflected below me, the dark and ugly mass of insecurity and loneliness that has clung to me for so long. As I watch, it starts to flow away from me, streaming toward some unknown drain to the depths below.

You are safe.

The words fill me with hope and I cling hard to the arms holding me. Yet even as I try and trust the safety and warmth flooding me, fear creeps in. Am I too heavy? Am I slipping down? How long can this protection possibly last before I am dropped into an even bigger puddle?

I am a child.

The clouds slowly blow away and the sun bursts forward with a strength that takes my breath away. I find myself standing on my own feet, feeling my heartbeat returning to normal. The warm blood of my life courses through my body. I raise my arms to the sky and try to hug that which I know I can’t.

I am not like everyone else.

Nobody is.