Monday, February 27, 2012

Car Trouble: Part 1

One week away from giving birth to Kacio (baby #4) we signed the papers that allowed us to drive away in a brand new one of these..
This is our car exactly, right down to the tinted windows and no roof rack. We roll the base model because we are nothing if not un-fancy.  2011 Toyota Sienna.

After a couple jokes from the car dealership guy about me not going into labor in the front seat of my brand new car (because, you know, there are lots of really gross explosions when women go into labor in public and chunks must fly. I don't know what those chunks are but they have to be everywhere and really hard to clean up) I turned the key and drove that sucker right out of the car lot. As I drove my spanking new boat car towards home I had much time to reflect on how we had gotten to this point. The ever dreaded, "I drive a mini-van moment."

Just 3 short years earlier Martin and I had invested in a brand new family car. Little Hejjo was 15 months old and Felix was 3 months shy of being birthed. Our old Volvo, passed down from family, wouldn't go into gear and we needed a new car. This car...

2007 Mazda 5 in all its blue glory.

It comfortably fits 6 adults and easily accommodates 3 car seats with enough room for a double stroller and groceries. If you had asked me then I would have told you that this car was the best car ever designed. There was nothing this seemingly tiny car could not do. IKEA trips with all its various boxes to assemble, loads of luggage for Poland, car seats in and out. Parking in any space available. An amazing little car which was really not so little. And, it was this car that introduced me to this phenomenon...

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That's right. The sliding doors. The terrifyingly loathsome sliding doors that in one fell swoop change your status as young, cute, 20 something mother to the suburban, sweat pant wearing, hair never done, mascara caked on (but only one eye because you forgot the other) "soccer mom."

*SHUDDER* ( the shudder heard round the world as indicated by my use of the appropriate punctuation)

Yes, I thought it too. Silently, of course. I would NEVER be one of those people  who would have to eat their words "I'll never drive a mini-van." I was once of those people who said, "I'll never live anywhere but Texas." And we all see where that got me. No, I was going to smile and nod and take whatever came my way, because I'm an adult, and that's what mature, un-spoiled, always-grateful-to-just-have-a-car-in-the-first-place, adults do. ;)

But the Mazda 5 (pictured above) was the answer to the mini-van problem. Yes, it came with sliding doors but that was a small price to pay for the sporty sedan suspension with the handling ability of a compact car. The seating capacity in such a small space and the knowledge that I had put off the dreaded "mini-van" for a few more years was worth it.

Sigh of relief.

Hejjo and Felix were comfortably strapped in. A nice little family of four ready for any adventure. And then, 16 months after Felix was born this happened, or should I say "she" happened ...

Now, I've already stated that the car fit 3 car seats, and it did. But I was starting to get a little panicky. In less than 3 years of buying the thing we already had it filled to capacity if we wanted to be able to take just one car to the grocery store. Stick another person in the car and nothing else would fit. For 13 months the car was a dream. Filled to the brim with babies and earning every bit of its "multi-use vehicle" title. But then, well, Kacio was on his way and everything changed.

We tried with every Geomtric bone in our body to make that darn baby seat fit. We moved all the seats up and back, pushed them as far as they would go without crushing little legs in the back. Euclid would have been proud. But we just couldn't do it. We had to admit it to ourselves. Finally, our little family car had failed at something. It could not hold 4 car seats for 4 children ages 4 and under, and allow a driver to actually sit behind the steering wheel. Few cars could.

We searched for alternatives to mini-vans. So many cars claim to seat up to 8 people. And they do. But it just didn't make sense. Climbing over seats to buckle kids. Compromising space for style. And the price! Way more, or at least the same, for something that wasn't quite working. And then we thought... buy a car in Poland!

Yes, Poland, Europe, the land of cars. Every car you can think of from the very Smart to the Passenger Van. So many styles and seating capacities not even sold in America. We searched and searched. And there were alternatives. Like this one, a serious contender...

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Hyundai H-1 passenger van

Or this one, a possibility, especially if our reproduction rate continues on its current trajectory...

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Opel Mini-bus...seats 9. Very futuristic looking. I approve. 

Their one downfall... the expense! So expensive! These cars range anywhere from 35-60k starting price for a new car. Egads! After doing the math, researching the cost of transporting the vehicle by boat, changing the taillights and any other components to make it street legal in Poland, and seeing the cost of a brand new mini-van, The Toyota Sienna won out. It was the biggest car, best quality, for the least amount of money, we could find. And that, in the end, was the deciding factor.

There it is in the garage.. and it can hold all you see before you.  

And for those of you who are thinking to yourselves, "It's Europe, you don't need a car. Take advantage of the public transportation and walking all the time and taking in the sights and sounds," have obviously never tried to get 3-4 children onto a tram before the doors close dressed in your Sunday best, while one of them sits outside on the concrete sidewalk throwing a tantrum which then causes one parent to have to jump off the tram and separate himself from the rest of the family causing him to have to catch  the next tram alone with aforementioned tantrum-y child. Take in that sight and sound a couple times and you will be begging for something with 4 wheels and a roof that you can pull over and then threaten tantrum-y child with walking the rest of the way home so *they* can take in the sights and sounds while you ride around in air-conditioned comfort.

So yes, we will be taking this monstrous ship to Poland, where Martin says we will fit in better than if we had bought a huge black Suburban, but we will still stick out like a sore thumb. Or will we?

Now we just have to get the dang thing *to* Poland. Easier said than done.

P.S. Once you go sliding doors, you can never go back.


  1. That’s the thing. Other people often make the mistake of stereotyping. I am single, but I own a minivan. I don’t have children, but I like how spacious a minivan is. I do have a team though. Every Saturday night, a couple of my bowling mates join me in my car. It’s wonderful how that white Chevy sweetheart can fit all our bowling equipment. Imagine carrying with you 3 large roller bags with 3 bowling bowl, 3 spares, and other accessories. ^-~

    Tyra Shortino

  2. You wouldn’t have to worry about your baggage with a minivan. Everything fit perfectly on the space provided on the back of my car. When I purchased a vehicle, I really look for the one where I can fit my bike in the trunk and I was so happy that I’ve found one!