Why I Need a New Grocery Store

What the lady behind me in line at the grocery store said: “Wow, that is a lot of boys!” 

What I thoughtWow.  I never thought about it, but it does kind of look like all four of them are mine.  I mean, the other two boys I’m babysitting are 2 and 4 years old, just like mine, but they’re so much taller that it makes them seem like they’re older. 

Geez, what if I wasn’t just babysitting?  What if they were all mine?  Could I even handle four kids?  I doubt it.  Having two is exhausting enough.  How would I handle four?   I mean, we’ve got the bedroom space for them, but it’d be awful.  And poor Squid would become a middle child, and he seems like the kind of kid who would really rebel in his teen years if he was a middle child. 

Oh, crap, if they were all mine I’d probably have to get a minivan, wouldn’t I?  And I’d have to sell my new Scion, and I really like that car. 

Oh, crap.  She said something, didn’t she?  She looks like she’s waiting for a response.

What did she say?

Oh, yeah.  She said, “That’s a lot of boys!” 

I should say something back. 

What do I say in response?  If I say “Yeah!” then it makes it sound like they’re all mine, and what if I bump into her for some reason a couple months down the road, and she thinks I have four kids, and prides herself on remembering, and then I have to correct her in front of everyone, and it embarrasses her…

I wonder if she’s just commenting on the amount of boys… or does she really think they’re all mine?  Do I look like the kind of person who has four kids?  Great.  Now I feel old.  Who the heck even has four kids in a row like this?  I mean, aside from the Duggars.  How many do they have now?  It’s in the twenties or somethings, I think. Those people are crazy.

Geez.  Life with four kids.  That would be crazy.  It would have to be on purpose, wouldn’t it?  I mean, you can’t have four “mistakes” in a row, can you?  Sure, I didn’t get pregnant on purpose with my two, but that’s still kind of understandable.  Two mistakes is sort of reasonable, although it’s still a little embarrassing.  Four mistakes?  Heck, once you even hit three “oops” pregnancies, let alone four, that’s not mistakes, that’s just being irresponsible.  

Shoot.  She’s still looking at me, and I haven’t answered.  What do I say?  This is getting awkward.  Just say something, Becky!

What I replied:  Oh, they’re not all mine.  Four kids?  I’m not that irresponsible!

What my cashier said, in a very cold voice
:   I have four children.

And now you all know why I’ll be driving to the next town over to do my grocery shopping from now on.

A Mother’s Pride

 

“Gordon, would you please help me with my impo’tant job?  Thank you, Gordon.”

a little later…

“Yes, please… please help me back on tracks… Oh, no!”  I hear a soft clatter.  “Oh, no, Gordon!  You make all the trains fall off the track!  Please, would you please be more careful?”

The play continues, and after a bit I  hear the gentle sound of trains falling yet again….

“Please get back on the track and be more careful, Gordon.  You please be more careful with your job, and please don’t make all the other trains sad.  Please, Gordon?  Would you please help us, and be nice?  Thank you so much, Gordon.  Thank you.”

Awww… listen to him.

This.  This is why I fight so hard, all day long, trying to instill manners and sweetness into my kids.  This is worth all the fits at the grocery store, and all the times in the corner, and all the headaches and frustrations… this right here.  Tangible evidence that my hard work is actually paying off.

“Uh, oh, Gordon.  You made all the engines go off the track again.  Would you please be more careful with your trains and engines?”

I smile proudly.  I can picture it so clearly – the quiet, peaceful scene he is imagining, all the little Thomas the Train engines chugging along like reliable little engines should – lending each other compassionate assistance when they mess up.

“No?  You not want to be more careful?  Well.  Okay, then.”

“I’m sorry, Gordon, but you not being more careful.  Now I crash you… and squish you… and hit you… and make you dead.”  Each pause is punctuated by another harsh clatter as Gordon is punished for his crimes.

“Now I make you bleed, and I not take you to the hospital…..”  A pause, as he thinks about that one for a moment, then his voice returns, with a new enthusiasm.  “Yes, I take you to the hospital… I hit you and crash you and I make you bleed…and you go to the hospital and they give you biiiiig needles.  Very big needles.  All over you.  You are gonna bleed, and then you gonna have big needles all over you.” 

Another pause, and then a regretful, “I sorry, Gordon, you not want to help other engines. Now you all bloody and squished and you die.”

I think I’ll just blame it on the TV.  I must have missed that episode:  Thomas & Friends and their visit to the KGB.

How To Give Yourself Writer’s Block

“Mama, Squid’s bleeding.”

And he was – sitting there calmly on the side of his bed, bleeding and laughing, his teeth stained an eerie red, with the entire side of his room coated in a layer of blood. It looked like a scene from Dexter.


“Holy crap… are you okay? DragonMonkey, how the heck did this happen?!”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I stomp on Squid’s nose with my foot to make him laugh.”

“Again?! Again, DagonMonkey? Hahahahaha…Kick me again!”

****

“MAMA!  Squid is throwing the kittens’ poo-poo all over the toy room again!”

****

“MAMA!  Squid made Artemis all white with baby powder again, and now it’s everywhere!”

****

“Mama!  You need to get outta the shower – I tried to count the chicken eggs but they all fell off the counter and I’m sorry and they broke and now Artemis and Squid playing in the mess and it is everywhere. Please help.”

****

“MAMA!  Squid trying to get Artemis to chew the TV cord and it’s gonna burn her and she’s gonna die, and then I’m not gonna have a puppy, and please hurry up going poo poo or we gonna have a fire!”

****

“Mama, Squid opened the dishwasher again and he got a big knife and he won’t give it back to me.”

****

McDonald’s BBQ sauce is borderline impossible to get out of a carpet.  So is oil.  And a quarter pound of bacon grease.

****

If you dump apple juice on the ground and walk on it, you can make sticky footprints EVERYWHERE 😀 😀 😀 

****

“Mrs. Becky!  DragonMonkey and Squid are throwing books and breaking things and they won’t stop, no matter how much I tell them to.”

****

“Mama, Squid bit me!”

****

“Mrs. Becky, Squid bit me!”

****

“Mrs. Becky, Squid bit my brother, and then when DragonMonkey told him to stop, he bit DragonMonkey!”

****

“Mama, Squid’s eating the dog food again!”

*****

“Maaaa, D’agonMonkey hiiiiit meeeee…….”

*****

“Mama, I sorry I color the walls and your jacket and my book.”

*****

“Mama, I sorry we chew up the library book.  I sorry you have to pay lots of money to the library man to buy the book.”

*****
*****
*****

My book revolves around a woman trying to do whatever is necessary to keep custody of her three year old boy.

The thing is, the only time I have to write is at 9 o’clock, after I put my little monsters in bed…. and by the time 9 o’clock rolls around, the last thing in the world I want to do is pick up my laptop, open my writing software and immerse myself in a world where I have to take care of another kid, even if it’s a fictional three year old.

I swore to myself I’d have my rough draft done by the end of January, and be ready to submit it by mid April.

The thing is, every time I open up a chapter and start writing I begin actively daydreaming about having my main character just give the kid back to his dad and drive off into the sunset, never to return.

Since that’s the antithesis of the entire book, it’s not exactly something I can just fold into the storyline.

And that’s how I gave myself writer’s block. 

Mental note to future self:  make the next story about freedom and lack of responsibility and sleeping in and horses, so it’s a place to escape to, not escape from.

Who the Heck is Michael?

“Miiiiichael!  Michael!  Miiiii—iii-iiiiiichaaaaaaeeeeeelllllll…..”

“DragonMonkey, who are you calling?”

“I calling Michael, Mama.  I need him get me some more toilet paper.”

Um.  Michael?  Okay, now I’m curious. “Uhhh, would you like me to get you some toilet paper?”

“Yes, please, Mama.”

“Here you go….. and DragonMonkey?  Who is Michael?”

“Michael’s your brother.  MICHAAEEEEELLLLL…..”

“DragonMonkey – I don’t have a brother named Michael.  Who is Michael?”

“Michael’s your brother, Mama.  Michaaeel.  MIiiiichaaaeeel, where are you?”

“Miii’ael.  ‘ere are you?”

“Look, DragonMonkey, now you’ve got your brother calling for this imaginary person.  Is this an imaginary friend or something?  Because, honestly, you’re creeping me out.

“No, he’s real.  Miiiiichael.  Come here!”  The DragonMonkey runs around the corner at top speed, in search of Michael.

“Miii’ael!  ‘mere!” echoes the Squid, following in his footsteps.

We don’t have any Michaels in our family.  I checked his preschool roster – nope.  No Michaels there, either.

Dude.  Who the heck is Michael?

Buying a Car

All that time, trouble, effort, and researching choosing a new car that can fit the whole family:

It’s a Scion XB, and I love everything about it.
……And then we brought it home, and I realized how clean it is, and how shiny and nice-smelling it is, and I don’t want to even let my kids inside it, let alone a large, hairy dog. 
Ah, yes.  Irony.

Anyways, last Friday, as the boys were waking up from their naps, I took a glance at the clock…. and then started texting people to see if anyone would be willing to babysit the boys.  If I really hurried, I could probably make it out to two dealerships and test drive their vehicles before they closed… heck, I might even be able to make three dealerships, if I really hauled buns.

I struck gold when Jame volunteered (even though it was her birthday!), so I threw the kids into the Civic, stopped at McDonald’s for some chicken McNuggets and Sprite the local food co-op to pick up some organic spinach sprouts and free-range turkey nuggets (I can’t decide if that sounds really gross, or if it sounds like the world’s greatest insult:  “You bigoted jerk!  You disgusting, free-range turkey nugget!”) and sped off to Beaverton.

Once I was on my way I called The Bean to see if he could leave work a little early and meet me for a couple of test drives…… only to have him inform me that the dealerships closed at 8.

 Crap.

It was already after 6, and I still had about 30 minutes of driving to go before I could reach Jame’s, let alone the dealership. The dealerships down in SoCal are routinely open until 9, so I just assumed that all dealerships stayed open that late.

Oh well. I probably had time to do one test drive before they closed – and since I already had the kids loaded up, I felt kinda committed to the cause. 

Between the comments from my blog and some of the reviews I found online we decided over the phone that the Kia Soul probably wouldn’t be big enough.  We made a plan that the Bean would peek in and check out the cargo space on Mazda 3 (I’d driven one previously, and JOY OF JOYS there was no good lease on the Mazda 6 MINIVAN, so that was out of the equation) and then we would meet  at the Scion dealership. 

By the time I dropped off the boys (Hi-Jame-wow-you-look-fantastic-here-is-food-thank-you-hey-gotta-distract-the-boys-so-they-don’t-see-me-leave-and-avoid-any-crying….boys-look-at-the-kittens… ) and darted off to meet The Bean at the dealership, it was after 7.

Let’s skip the boring parts – the part where we realized Artemis wouldn’t really fit that great on long trips in the Mazda, and the part where I realized I totally loved the Scion, and the part where it was pretty amazing that they actually had the model I wanted (the cheap one!) with the color I wanted (not white!) with the manual transmission I wanted (woohoo!), right there on the lot. 

Let’s skip straight on to the part where I realized I absolutely hate car shopping.  It takes forever, and it’s INCREDIBLY BORING.

I know, I shouldn’t complain.  I mean, car buying can’t really get any easier for me.  I’m married to a guy who used to sell cars.  The Bean sold cars for years – many, many years.  He started selling cars back on 2001 (2002?), long before it became the norm for people to do all of their research on the Internet and come in having any idea what was going on.  He started out selling used cars back when the industry was still in “the good old days”, and he has seen and knows of every trick in the book used to inflate payments, or try to “close” a potential deal.  He knows of the legal tricks, and he knows of the not-so-legal tricks.

The other thing you have to know is that The Bean was very good at selling cars – very, VERY good at selling cars.

Heck, he’s pretty good at selling most things – I mean, when I met him I was a happy, carefree, penniless college student twittering her way through life….. and six months after I met him I was married,  knocked up, and balancing my check book for the first time in my life. 

The guy could sell ice cubes to Eskimos and have them thank him for the opportunity of doing business with him.

That knowledge, combined with the fact that The Bean is the financial brains in the family, made my job in the whole transaction really, really easy.   It was pretty relaxing, actually.

All I had to do was set feminism back about 60 years and defer all questions and conversations to my husband.

Occasionally I murmured something along the lines of, “Whatever you think, dear,” or “Well, it seems a bit high….. we could always go check out the Kia Soul….”, but mostly I just doodled on the papers in front of me and tried not to go stir crazy from boredom.

The entire process took 3 hours – about 2 hours and 30 minutes longer than it should have, in my opinion.  When I texted Jame at about 8 to let her know that we were starting the paperwork on the car and would be a few minutes late, I figured we would be done by 8:30, and home by 9 – an hour later than I’d anticipated, but the new car and lack of return trip would make it worth it.

Ha.  Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

We didn’t drive off in the car until after 10 (I know I’ve already said it, but I am so, SO sorry Jame!).  I was exhausted beyond belief….. and that was with the salesman smiling and saying, “This was one of the fastest, easiest transactions I’ve ever experienced!”

The entire car-buying experience is designed to wear you out – if you spend 4-5 hours with each salesman, eventually you’re just going to quit carrying about haggling, and settle.  I hit that point pretty early on. I probably would have paid $300 a month to rent a pogo-stick from them, if it meant that I didn’t have to sit still in that stupid chair any longer.

Boredom aside, it was actually kind of neat seeing the Bean in his element.  The only other time I’d seen The Bean haggle a sales transaction was when we were buying our wedding rings, and that embarrassed me so much that I actually drifted away from the counter and out of the store until the process was over.

For the record, he got several hundred dollars off of the price – thanks baby!

Anyways, other than that one time I’d never actually seen The Bean in action, but it was immediately clear that he knew more about selling Toyotas than the actual Toyota salesmen did— and yet they were still trying to use their “sell” tactics on us. 

Salesman:  “So, where do you want your payments to be?”

Bean:  “Well, that’s not really important.  The payments will be a factor of the residual loan…blah blah CAP costs… blah blah percentage down, blah blah payment, blah.” (Sorry – I kind of tuned out the boring words.) “We just need to agree on the trade-in value as well as the money factor.  The payments will just be factor of that, and then we’ll have a deal.”

Salesman:  “Uh… okay.  Uh… I don’t know anything about money factor, but where do you want your payments to be?”

The salesman was nice, but it wasn’t very long before we’d bypassed him and The Bean was speaking directly to the finance manager. 

That’s when it got interesting.

Even though The Bean was up front and honest about the fact that he used to be a General Sales Manager at an extremely high-volume Acura dealership, they still tried a bunch of tricks on us. 

The finance manager wasn’t exactly my favorite person I’ve ever interacted with.  A huge man, maybe 6’4″ and built like Mr. Incredible, he loomed over both of us as he approached the table.  As he greeted The Bean, I watched them trade hand shakes – both their grips firm and businesslike.

When he extended his hand to me I grasped it firmly in my hand to shake it—- and instead I just kind of jiggled his limp, flaccid, dead-fish hand. 

Dude.  I get it.  You’re a great big manly man.  I’m a tiny, feminine, delicate little 5’8, 180 pound featherweight of a woman.  Still – I promise it’s okay to actually shake my hand – the bones in my hand won’t automatically crumple into a million different pieces from the force of your brute, manly strength.

Lack of handshaking ability aside, Mr. Finance tried too hard – using obvious sales lines that lacked any natural charm behind them.

Mr. Finance:  “So…. you’re here to buy a car, huh?  Congratulations!  Let’s see this paperwork here—“

Bean:  “Let’s just cut to the chase, and save us both some time so we can get home to our families.  The residual on the Civic is $11,100.  You’re offering me $11,500 for the Civic.  I want to get $12,300, and use the difference as money down.”

Mr. Finance:  “Well, okay.  I’ll have to go see about that.  Just one moment – I’ll be right back.”

Mr. Finance:  “Well, see, the guy outside went out to recheck your car, and they think the $11,500 was a little high, and now they want to offer you $11,000.”
Bean:  “Are you kidding me?  You want to pissback on the deal?”  He shook his head and laughed.  “Seriously, that’s the way to lose a sale – you can’t do that.”
Mr. Finance:  “Well, that’s what I told him.  So I discussed it with him and he finally agreed to keep it at $11,500 for you, as a favor to me and as a good faith gesture to you.” 

<cough, cough, suuuuuuure.>

Bean:  “Well, okay for now, but we’ll come back to that in a second.  The other thing is… what’s this number right here?  Is that the money factor?”

Mr. Finance: “Huh?  Which number?” He stared blankly at the paper for a moment, eyes darting sideways to look at The Bean in surprise.  “Oh, yeah.  That’s the money factor there.”

For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t know until last Friday) when you lease a car, instead of just stating “interest rate” up front, the dealerships have it hidden on the paperwork as a “money factor” – and that “money factor” is actually negotiable.

The money factor chart differs per dealership, but at this dealership the first offer was something along the lines of .00029.

Bean:  “That’s a little ridiculous, don’t you think?  I mean, that money factor is, what…. 9%, when you do the math?  Why don’t you go back over the numbers and come back with something reasonable.”
Twenty very boring minutes later, Mr. Finance returned.
Mr. Finance: “If you’ll take a look at these numbers….”  
A quick glance at the paper showed me that the money factor had been dropped from .00029 to .00018 – nearly half the percentage it was earlier.

Bean:  “That’s much better.  Now, how about the Civic….”

A few minutes of haggling later, Mr. Finance left again.  I admit, my brain kind of checked out on the exact details of what he was supposed to do,  but I did manage to understand that the monthly payment he was going to return was supposed to have about $400 of our money (the amount they agreed to pay us for the Civic above what we owed on it) as a downpayment,  therefore lowering the monthly payment.

Twenty-five excruciatingly boring minutes later, Mr. Finance returned.

Mr. Finance:  “Well, as you can see, the $400 helped, but the payments only changed a little bit….”  Mr. Finance used his pen to tap the paper busily over the payments box, drawing our attention to the bottom left corner of the page….. and away from the tiny right-hand column of figures.

The Bean plucked the paper from Mr. Finance’s hand so he could read it without distraction, setting it side-by-side with the previous quote.  It only took a few seconds for him to notice it – something I freely admit I never would have noticed on my own. 

“What the hell is that?”  The Bean pointed at a line on the right, showing a new amount typed in on a line that was previously blank:

$400 General Accessories

We hadn’t asked for $400 worth of general accessories on the car.  They’d packed the payment with fake options to offset our $400 downpayment.

Mr. Finance’s face went studiously blank again.  “I’m sorry?”  He picked up the paper, and glanced at it a moment, as if seeing it for the first time.   “$400 in General Accessories – that’s interesting… Oh, that’s uh….”  He flashed a sideways glance at The Bean.  “I’ll be right back – I’ll go see what that’s all about.”
As he departed The Bean turned in his chair and dropped a little bit of his good ol’ boy charm, eyeing the salesman.  “See, now I’m starting to get a little insulted.”  He leaned back in his chair, letting that statement sink in, interrupting the salesman as he opened his mouth to speak. “I was up front with you guys about my background – I would really think that you wouldn’t try this kind of crap with me.”
The salesman nodded, murmured a few things as he tried to smooth things over…… but eventually he drifted away from the table and off into another part of the dealership, ostensibly to check paperwork.

Twenty or thirty minutes later everyone returned, and the paperwork began to make a lot more sense.  There was a little bit of back and forth, and by the time we had finished, Mr. Finance was no longer smiling or even pretending to be jovial.  The payments were still a bit higher than we had originally dreamed of, but judging from the I’ve-just-sucked-on-a-giant-lemon expression on Mr. Finance’s face, they were as low as we could hope for.

“If you throw in a cargo tray, then we might just have a deal…?”  The Bean held his hand out to Mr. Finance,

“Absolutely not.”  Mr. Finance shook his head and folded his arms over his chest, refusing to shake.

And with that, the deal was done, and I got to enjoy the experience of shaking Mr. Finance’s flaccid hand all over again.

In between agreeing to a deal and actually driving away with it is a fun little thing I like to call “Sign 400,000 forms”.  That’s where being married to The Bean came in handy again.  Although the paperwork was handed directly to me, I waited for The Bean to give a discreet nod before I actually signed where they told me to sign.

Everything went nice and smooth until we came to an especially long piece of paper – a paper that The Bean grabbed out of my hand before I’d even checked for his nod. 

…And there it was:  $400 of GAP insurance, hidden amongst a bunch of boring paragraphs.

The thing is, GAP insurance comes packaged standard with a lease (if you total your car it covers the difference between what your insurance pays and what you owe the dealership), so it was a redundant charge.

We declined the insurance, and voila – our payments dropped to exactly where we wanted them.

“You know, I’m pretty sure they’ve actually sent some people to jail for stunts like that,” murmured The Bean, while the guy went back to reprint out our paperwork with our new, lower payment. 

Eventually it came time to switch everything from the Civic over to the new Scion, and head off in my brand new vehicle to pick up the boys from Jame’s place.

The boys reacted pretty much how I figured they would:  upon finding out that we had a new car, they promptly burst into hysterical tears that we’d gotten rid of the Civic. 

They way they carried on, you would have thought I’d announced that I’d dragged Artemis out into the front yard and put a bullet in her head.

That pout isn’t nearly impressive enough, DragonMonkey.  Tell us how you really feel.

It burns us with its new car smell!  It burns!  You can’t make us stay in it, gollum, gollum! 

Anyways, it’s been a couple of days, and I love this Scion a little more every day.   There’s TONS of room for Artemis in the back, and the other day I actually had two adults, two kids, about $300 worth of groceries (maybe 20 bags?), a large stroller and a kids’ bike all stuffed into it and there was room to spare. 

Plus, it comes with Bluetooth so any time I want to talk to someone while I’m driving, I just push a button and speak straight to the car.  Whatever – I know that’s old technology to some of you.  I still get a kick out of it, though – I feel like I’ve traveled to the 1950’s version of the  future, as I sit there and talk to my car (or rather, the person’s voice coming through the speakers on my car.)

Also…. WOOHOO!  IT’S NOT A MINIVAN!