Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Best (small) Family Vehicle with Most Cargo Space

More shopping...I told you I've been shopping! Only this time it's not for clothes, it's for cars. Our ten year old (yes, that's right ten years old) Camry is just now starting to show signs of aging...big-dollar aging. We drag our feet to buy a new one because we live in the city with no off-street parking. Which means we suffer all the blows parking on the street offers. We just let the sideswiping of our old car roll off our backs. We also don't want to have to worry about our new car being dinged, stolen, broken into, etc. Our old Camry doesn't really invite thieves. It doesn't hurt that the car is totally paid for either. We have no intention of taking on a car note either, so whatever we buy...we plan to buy outright...so we aren't looking at cars in the $50k and up price range. However, the next big-ticket repair that pops up for this old car we want to be ready and have researched out what car we want to buy because at that point, we'll be buying a new car. I don't think it will be very long before we have to buy a new car either. Too bad this old Camry can't go another five years for us!

In addition to not wanting to worry about a new car getting damaged, etc...we really do think that at some point in the next five years we'll be moving to the 'burbs (insert crying here) so the kids can go to a decent school without breaking our bank. We're still in debates over private vs. public and all that nonsense. But in all reality, raising kids in the city is tough. So, we would have liked to wait until we moved to buy a new car since, parking on the street requires a smaller vehicle. At least we see it that way.

What are we looking for? We are looking for the best family vehicle with the most cargo space with a small footprint. So, being the list-maker that I am...I compiled a list of cars and I'm not excited by ANY of them! Not one. Boy this parenting thing is far-reaching! I would so love, for example, to buy a Smart car or a Minicooper or a nice compact hybrid. However, since we travel at least twice a year to Montreal to see Mark's family and since flying with two kids gets pretty expensive we need a car with some cargo space for traveling. OK, we always did like to drive up but now we need a car that can accommodate all our ssshi... um I mean stuff.

Here is our shopping criteria: Number one on the list is reliability & safety (enter Edmunds.com for all that info), Number two is cargo space, third - gas mileage and maintenance cost...

I ended up with a comparison list of eight cars. Surprisingly one of the most expensive cars (the BMW 328i xdrive) is the worst for safety (according to stats from Edmunds.com) and the only car in the whole list that had 100% reliability across all categories was the least expensive (the Kia Rondo Lx), again according to Edmunds.com.

After compiling this list (below) I think I'm leaning towards the Toyota RAV 4; it gives us our storage, great gas mileage, great price and very good reliability and safety. We'll see how it drives and how comfortable it is...15 hour drives kind-of requires a bit of comfort!


Cargo: 35 cu ft max or 31.7 cu ft luggage only
Gas Mileage: 18 mpg / 26 mpg / 21 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Cost: $19,495
Edmunds reliability: 100% Green/Good all the way http://www.edmunds.com/new/2009/kia/rondo/101129996/reliability.html
Maintenance: $3421 (estimated total cost for five years)
Safety: Passenger: 5 stars | Driver: 5 stars | Side Impact Front: 5 stars | Side Impact Rear: 4 stars | Rollover Rating: 4 stars

Cargo: 59 cu ft max storage or 29 cu ft luggage only
Gas Mileage: 17 mpg / 23 mpg / 20 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Cost: $21,245
Maintenance: $2721 (estimated total cost for five years)
Safety: Passenger: 5 stars | Driver: 5 stars | Side Impact Front: 5 stars | Side Impact Rear: 5 stars | Rollover Rating: 4 stars

Cargo: 61 cu ft Max or 27.8 cu ft luggage only
Gas Mileage: 17 mpg / 22 mpg / 19 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Cost: $37,620
Maintenance: $3,637
Safety: Passentger: 5 stars | Driver: 5 stars | Side Impact Front: 5 stars | Side Impact Rear: 5 stars | Rollover Rating: 4 stars

Cargo: 70 cu ft Max or 30.7 cu ft luggage only
Gas Mileage: 18 mpg / 25 mpg / 21 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Cost: $29,250
Maintenance: $4,006
Safety: Passenger: 5 stars | Driver: 5 stars | Side Impact Front: 5 stars | Side Impact Rear: 5 stars | Rollover Rating: 4 stars

Cargo: 73 cu ft Max or 36.4 cu ft luggage only
Gas Mileage: 22 mpg / 28 mpg / 24 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Cost: $21,500
Maintenance: $3,880
Safety: Passenger: 4 stars | Driver: 5 stars | Side Impact Front: 5 stars | Side Impact Rear: 5 stars | Rollover Rating: 4 stars

Cargo: 59 cu ft max storage or 29 cu ft luggage only
Gas Mileage: 17 mpg / 23 mpg / 19 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Cost: $32,885
Maintenance: Not yet available
Safety: Passenger: 5 stars | Driver: 5 stars | Side Impact Front: 5 stars | Side Impact Rear: 5 stars | Rollover Rating: 4 stars

Cargo: 71 cu ft Max or 31 Cu ft luggage only
Gas Mileage: 14 mpg / 20 mpg / 16 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Cost: $39,300
Maintenance: $3,594
Safety: Passenger: 5 stars | Driver: 5 stars | Side Impact Front: 5 stars | Side Impact Rear: 5 stars | Rollover Rating: 4 stars

Cargo: 61 cu ft max or luggage only not provided
Gas Mileage: 17 mpg / 25 mpg / 20 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Cost: $37,400
Maintenance: too new for estimate
Safety: Passenger: 4 stars | Driver: 4 stars | Side Impact Front: 5 stars | Side Impact Rear: 5 stars | Rollover Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I've Been Shopping!

I've been shopping. I've been shopping a lot! But I haven't bought anything yet. I've been getting my "fix" by clicking "Add to Kaboodle". Kaboodle is an on-line wish list that gathers things you like, want and or intend to buy from any website. So you have a handy list of items from all types of shops. My family and I have been using it for several years now for our Christmas gift wish lists; my list last year included a tricked-out Mini Cooper - nobody got it for me. But they did get me the food processor I wanted and the electric tea kettle!
So, the latest list I've been compiling is for my return to work. I have no work clothes. None. I'm not exaggerating. I've spent three years as a stay at home mom and I wore jogging pants and shorts every day of it! LOVED IT! Just last month I bought a pair of khaki pants (hadn't owned a pair in three years). So...going back to work in the government I'm assuming I need some suits. Something I haven't had to wear in previous jobs for over 10 years. I've been working in start up companies or in companies with a laid back atmosphere.

I'm using Kaboodle to compile things I like, to gauge my own tastes. From there I'll weed it down to things I think would be appropriate in the work place. Boy am I having fun! Check out some of my selections:

Want to see more of what I'm "shopping" for? Look here. Please, feel free to get me anything on my list! ;)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Does Education Matter at Age Four?

There is an enormous debate going on between my husband and I right now. That debate revolves around our decisions on where to enroll our toddler next year when he becomes eligible for some of the free public preschools in the area. The question, the debate: Does education matter at age four? Does the school you choose for preschool up to Kindergarten age have an impact on future learning and education?

I say yes.

I've been surprised to learn I'm an education snob! When I started considering where to send our son and viewing not only test scores but the over-all feel of the school I found the more affluent schools to be more attractive to me. What was it that drew me to these schools? Was it because, at best, I went to a mediocre Catholic School and felt a more expensive private school would be better? Was it because I felt the more expensive schools would be more challenging to my (clearly genius) children? The answer is probably a little of all of that. Good teachers are important but if the other children in a school have an attitude that you're a dork if you don't get good grades - then that's even better! Peer pressure for good grades is so valuable. I can't gaurantee that these expensive schools' kids will have this attitude any more than I can guarantee the public schools' kids don't but I can almost positively guarantee the parents will be more involved and have an affect more than in the public schools.

So, for the question of whether we go public or private in the long run is settled. It's the younger years that we're having the debate over. Does it matter at this age? What's your take?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm a writer!

I'm officially a writer! OK, maybe not... but I was flattered that A Lil' Welsh Rarebit asked that I guest blog for her today. Go check it out here!

Back to work!

No more luxurious life of a stay at home mom for me! Those words use to be an oxymoron to me: luxurious & stay-at-home-mom...but now that I'm heading back to work mid-October I'm starting to savor my little moments with my boys more and more.

I'm feeling that deep twinge of guilt for putting my 6 month old (well, he'll be 7 months old when he starts) in the care of a stranger. My 2 1/2 year old is more than ready for daycare. Still, I wish there was some way for me to get that forever sought after balance of of staying at home with the kids and oh so fulfilling experience of working.

I won't lie, I miss work, I never stopped missing work. I miss having a conversation that doesn't revolve around kids, I miss wearing clothes; real clothes not jogging pants and shorts covered in spit up and food. Although I'm sure I'll occasionally be heading to work with food and spit up on my suits. I hope not.

Where, you ask, might I be going to work? Well, I took this really boring job that is sure to be easy on me and not demanding at all. That last sentence was drenched in sarcasm. I took a position at the State Department supporting the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. It promises to be exciting, no doubt about it. I was relieved to see there would be no travel required of me and at the same time I was a little disappointed. I'm nothing but a ball of conflicting emotions and thoughts that I'm sure will work themselves out as our family settles in to the new routine of mommy working.

The hugest impact will fall on my husband. Not because he's lazy. He always takes the kids off my hands the instant he comes home from work, he always does the daily grocery store run, he almost always cooks the dinner, and every single night he gives our two year old his bath and puts him to bed. But, since I wasn't working I saw the kids as my job. So I saw to it that all things kids related I took care of. I didn't work the next day so never did my husband have to deal with a night feeding or a nightmare. That is, until the second baby came along, then he kind of took over the two year old who would occasionally wake up and need some soothing. I always did the doc visits and shopping and of course I was with them all day.

Now that I'm going back to work and since my work day starts at 7:30 am, my husband gets the joy of wrestling BOTH kids out of bed, getting them dressed, fed and delivered to the daycare with their bags of necessities for the day. Luckily, the daycare cooks hot meals for breakfast, snacks and lunch so my husband doesn't have to worry about packed lunches. I figure if I prepare all the baby's bottles, pack the bag and lay out all the clothes the night before the morning should go more or less smoothly. It's also lucky that if he has trouble feeding the boys breakfast the day care serves a breakfast at 9:30.

Still, I worry. I feel guilty. I will miss seeing my 6 month old's bright beautiful smile all day and miss his first steps and first words. I will miss watching my two year old and his antics and he is just beginning pretend play - the funnest part of child hood. But...for my two year old, this is EXACTLY why he needs to be in school so he has other children to pretend with.

Oh I wish I could hold tight to them forever!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I Get Drunk on Coffee & You Can Too!

It's too true, I can get loopy as hell on coffee! Here's the story:

The day I found out I was pregnant with my first son I quit … well, pretty much everything. I was an Über-mom. I quit coffee. I quite coke (the drink not cocaine – ‘cause who’d give up cocaine?! I kid…I don’t use drugs). I gave up alcohol. Everything! I made sure I got all the sleep I needed. Heck, I even improved my diet by eating really well right up until my eighth month of pregnancy when an insane craving for Marsha Marsha Marshmallow ice cream kicked in! By the way, the stuff has been taken off the market…if you can convince Ben & Jerry’s to re-institute it, well, I’d love you forever and put you in my will!!

So… after the baby was born I was breastfeeding for over a year (16 months to be exact) and naturally being Über-mom I didn’t do any of those things then either. So that was 2 years I didn’t drink anything that wasn’t juice, water or milk (didn’t even consume my beloved chocolate). Then… just a few months later I go and get knocked up again. This time, however, I allowed myself 1 cup of coffee per day and now that that delightful cherub is six months old I’m allowing myself to drink. OK, OK, I’ll be honest, I was allowing a little nip here and there almost as soon as he was out of the womb!

So now that I drink again, it’s kind of cool. I can get toasted (I mean toasted!!!!) on 3 beers! Want to know something even cooler? I can get tipsy on two cups of coffee! I’m not kidding, I get slightly dizzy, very jittery and extremely goofy on COFFEE! It’s the best! Who knew! I may do this to myself in the future too. NO! Don’t be silly…I wouldn’t get knocked up just so I can get tipsy on coffee… I mean lay off the good stuff (coffee, alcohol and chocolate) for a while so I can get an early morning buzz from my coffee! Oh yeah, I think it’s called “cleansing”. Whatever…I won’t be doing it for holistic reasons!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Win Free Loot!!!

My friend over at A Lil Welsh Rarebit is giving away some free stuff...five things in fact...check out how to win here: http://www.alilwelshrarebit.com/2009/09/lil-welsh-rarebit-giveaway.html

Here's what you can get:

First, we have Christina Lee, the stylista behind the blog Real Style, Real People, who is a newspaper columnist and owns her own hand-stamped jewelry company, Tags-N-Stones. She is giving away a set of her adorable Teeny Weeny Wine Charms.

Second, one of my favorite online stores, Dali Decals, has offered up a $50 gift certificate to one lucky reader. They have just tons of options...

And finally, she's giving away three framed (8 x10 inch) Janet Hill prints! If you aren't already familiar with Janet's work, add her to your reader. She's an amazing artist! Check out her etsy shop!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Messy Boy Eating Alert!

I know I've been absent lately - I promise some more posts (and an explanation of what's been keeping me busy) is coming. Meanwhile, feast your eyes on this mess, my cute little six month old attempting to feed himself...he does quite well:

Yeah...I don't bother with bibs anymore.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Kids Don't Drive me to Drink...

... they drive me to EAT!

I'm not a big drinker, though I love a glass of Clicquot anytime you set one in front of me or some oh-so-smooth Chimay Red. Stressful days or situations don't make me run for the nearest liquor store - they make me run to the nearest chocolatiere!

I just spent from 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm trying to get my two cherubs down for their afternoon naps. Here's the series of events and go ahead and imagine the classic circus song (called Entry of the Gladiator, if you're wondering) playing in the background - I know I often do. It's what makes me grin to myself during these hectic moments. Here, you have to get the perfect image in your head…here’s the song:

I put Paul down for his nap at 1:00pm (30 mins late because we had taken a walk to the store).

Peter finishes eating his lunch and I put him down around 1:30 pm – emerge from Peter’s room to here Paul crying his heart out.

I go in and find his mattress is soaked with tears and snot (I thought he had burst a diaper) – but it seems he never went to sleep (as far as I could tell). I found him with both of his socks off and at opposite ends of the crib, he was crooked in the crib with one foot out over the bumper and somehow the crib was pushed out from the wall!

I work to get Paul back down but he just won’t go to sleep and starts playing, cooing and laughing. I bring him down stairs where he plays for a bit and starts crying again and then just breaks down in tears as if he had hurt himself!

Back up stairs to try again to get him to sleep. He falls asleep in my arms almost immediately. I put him in the crib and he wakes up screaming his head off. I wait a bit but he never stops crying.

I pick him up again and again he’s falling asleep fast so I put him down before he’s totally asleep. He starts crying again, but I know he's sleepy so I let him cry it out. After 20 gut-wrenching/heartbreaking minutes of straight crying, he falls asleep.

But what do I hear? Coming from PETER’S room… Peter, course saying ”Mama,Mama.?” very quietly. I don’t answer and come back downstairs. Because if I open his door…all is lost. That child is taking his nap!

I come downstairs and open the freezer to finish off the last of a pint of ice cream I have been so proud of not touching since before we went on vacation over a week ago.

Gone! Is the ice cream.

Gone! Too is the remainder of the bag of Salt & Vinegar chips.

Gone! Yes, yes... is the chocolate bar that I hid from myself in the upper shelving in my kitchen (that never works).

My kids drive me to EAT!

Vacation - it's just the best

Nothing says you're going on vacation more than packing the bags. Above is an image of what my kids' packed bag looked like before we left. I didn't used to be this anal with my packing - in fact I've been known to forget underwear for a two week vacation. I used to just throw things in the bag and leave. Gone are those days, at least where my children's packing is concerned.

Vacation days are nothing short of crazy, we're starting to fall into a rhythm but there are things I used to feel strongly about that just fall to the wayside. Our vacation took place on Lake Masawippi in Canada. So you have pretty warm days and darn cold nights. I'm usually dealing with the infant so my husband is left to dress, feed and bath our 2 year old. I have often seen my son come downstairs wearing blue striped socks, Hawaiian shirt paired with plaid shorts! I don't expect my two year old to be dressed like a Ralph Lauren magazine spread, but that combination of clothing hurt my head and was a bit embarrassing. So... the solution...bundles of clothes.

In that picture you see full outfits including a diaper bundled with a rubber band and for vacation I labeled them so my husband wouldn't tear them apart looking for shorts, a pair of thick warm pants, or whatever it was he needed at that moment. The plan worked perfectly. I do this for Grandma's house too (she gets shoes bundled with outfits too). So, at no point during our vacation did I witness my son wearing shorts in the cold or super thick pants in the heat. It was great. Not once did I hear during the bedtime routine "honey, where are his warm PJ's?" fantastic!

I use to try to keep Peter's clothes in bundles at home - but it was tedious work.

All our vacation photos are here:

Click here to view these pictures larger