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Bad Parents Guide to surviving a road trip!

kid tied to roof of carAdmit it, we’ve all been there.   Your patience has run out and you begin to entertain deranged thoughts about how to keep our kids under control in the car just so you can have some peace!  Tying your kid to the roof of the car, or duct taping their mouth closed doesn’t seem all that bad, does it?!

If you’ve had “Bad Parent” thoughts, then you are probably normal, providing of course that you don’t seriously act on these thoughts!  The best advice I can give if you feel guilty about it, is to just turn it into humor.  It’s really our brain’s way of dealing with the stress, and you can actually have fun with these ideas with your kids in the process.

Take a look at the video that my nephews and nieces helped me make along with my own children  recently.   Obviously I don’t seriously recommend these techniques, but  you can’t tell me you’ve never thought of some of them!

While you’re there, please subscribe to Momsminivan on YouTube!  I have instructional how-to videos for fun kids activities, as well as product reviews and hopefully a few more humorous parenting videos!   Now, get out that duct tape, and get busy!

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November 30, 2012   1 Comment

How Safe is Your Baby’s Car Seat?

baby car seat safetyIf you are expecting your first child, you have begun to experience the wonderful world of baby stuff. Even if this is your second, third, or eighteenth child, you’ve learned that you need to keep up on the latest trends, recalls, and safety wisdom. While every piece of gear you buy is important–with the possible exception of those videos that show toys while classical music drones in the background–the one that both parents and the government require the most from in terms of safety is the car seat.


You’ve got the latest edition of Baby Bargains on your iPad, you’ve narrowed down which houses for sale are in the best school district and don’t have any exposed wiring or trap doors that lead to crocodile pits, your auto insurance is all up-to-date, and you’ve sold the ’72 Chevy Nova for a newer model with LATCH. Congratulations–you are doing an excellent job of building the illusion that you are ready for life as a parent! Your next assignment is to spend a minimum of forty solid hours researching the best infant car seat. Whilst poring through the myriad books, magazines, websites, and parents’ brains, keep the following questions at the front of your mind:

  • Does it exceed government standards? Try not to settle for just meeting them. That’s not how modern parents roll.
  • Is it easy to use? If it’s hard to get junior in and/or out, your frayed nerve ends may force a brain shutdown, which you don’t need when there’s a diaper that needs changing and a mouth that needs feeding.
  • Is it versatile? You really shouldn’t care if the seat matches the upholstery, but at the prices seats go for these days, you might want to consider a seat that will keep your progeny safe for a few years down the road.
  • Holy #*%@–$300 for a *$&# car seat? “Costlier” is not a synonym for “safer.” While three large will get you a seat that is safe, feature-rich, and stylish, one of the best-reviewed car seats of 2012 will only set you back $170. If you are not sure what features you need, this is one time when you can trust in online user reviews and friends’ recommendations.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

A car seat could have an impact-activated forcefield, gyroscopic stabilizers, and inertial dampers, but if it is not used properly, that kid ain’t gonna be safe. Before you even think of installing that thang, read through the included manual–heck, read it in every language, just to be thorough. Check the manufacturer’s website; many feature videos that walk you through the steps. Many local police departments offer child seat inspections; call for a schedule.

Before you leave the house, though, do your best to install the seat to manufacturer’s specifications. This probably requires that you not put the child in the seat and then leave them on the car’s roof, trunk, or hood–it’s a safe bet that the police would not approve of such usage.

Al Natanagara is a writer, journalist, and blogger whose career includes stints with ZDNet, CNet, CBS, LexisNexis, and Law Enforcement. (Guest Blogger for

Get great games to play in the car, or shop for a carseat!

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October 18, 2012   Comments Off

Have a Jolly Roger Good Time in the Car

September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day!  This is the perfect opportunity to brush up on your Pirate Speak for your next road trip where you can carry out your adventures with your own pirate personas.  Nothing beats traveling like a band of merry men aboard your road ship.  In my article “Pirates of the Caravana” you’ll find some great ideas on how to pass the time on the road while becoming thick as thieves. There you’ll also find a whole list of basic pirate terms that you can teach your crew, and if you’re lucky, they will love to follow orders!

One of my favorite pirate activities for the road is telling pirate jokes.  How much does it cost for a pirate to get his ears pierced? About a buck an ear! Arrrrrrrrr!!!

Another is to make pirate accessories out of aluminum foil while you’re on the road. It’s easy, cheap and fun and will keep your little buccaneers happy and busy while you’re out on the high seas!


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September 18, 2012   Comments Off

Pride in My Ride

It comes as no shock to my readers that I drive a minivan.  What you may not know is that my minivan has a name.   It is aptly referred to by my family as “The Mother Ship”.   She is the third Mother Ship minivan in my fleet.

At the touch of a button, the back hatch opens and closes automatically, while displaying an array of extra terrestrial beeps, noise, and blinking lights, not unlike a spaceship.  On a personal level, her other name is “Sylvia”, because she is silver-colored, and because the built in navigational system has a female voice.

To help me identify my Swagger Wagon in a universe full of look-a-like silver minivans, I have deliberately tagged mine with distinctive decorations which include a “United Federation of Planets” bumper sticker, a Star Fleet Academy logo on the back window, and a silhouette of the U.S.S. Enterprise on the side window.   The Mother Ship indeed.  It helps that I’m a fan of Star Trek and sci-fi in general. This also fulfills my responsibility as a mother to embarrass my teenage children in public.  Despite my outward tendency toward nerdiness, I take pride in my ride as I cuise the open road with my children across the galaxy on our travels, seeking out new life and new civilizations.

Sadly, I know that someday my minivan days may be behind me. Then I’ll opt for another sweet ride like one of these limited edition cars.  My teenage daughter is currently saving up to buy her first car and has been eyeballing some of the sporty wheels from Scion.  Her first car will no doubt be nicknamed alien escape pod.

Do you have a name for your vehicle?  And what would you call your teen getaway pod?

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August 1, 2012   1 Comment

Mistaken Identity – Oops that’s not my car

OK, seriously, who else has done this? I cannot be the only person who has actually gotten into the wrong vehicle by accident. With all the look-a-like minivans around here, surely someone has even gotten into mine!

The first time it happened to me, I was chatting away with my friend Devra on my cell phone as I left the grocery store with one small bag in my hand.   I was immersed in our usual hilarious banter and her delightful puns as I opened the door to my silver minivan,  sat in the driver’s seat, and started to set my bag down next to me.  As I looked in the rear view mirror, I was stunned to see the hatch was open and there a man loading groceries into my van!  What the ?!   Then it happened — my brain kicked in.    This is not my minivan.    It’s his.


I grabbed my bag, slipped out of the door, and started to walk back so I could apologize to the man.  Then I realized that he was so immersed in loading groceries into his man-van that he had NOT EVEN SEEN ME!  I began laughing hysterically to my friend on the phone.  From her perspective I had just taken a double dose of crazy as I cackled like a hyena, and I could barely even tell her what had just transpired.

I gets better.  If you were reading carefully, you may have noticed that I wrote, “the first time it happened…”   This bit of foreshadowing tells you that it has happened again.  My poor Sylvia (the name I give my current Mother Ship) must be suffering from an identity crisis, and I am getting a reputation for not recognizing my own car!  There have been several other times I have walked up to the wrong shiny  silver van with keys in hand, frantically clicking the unlock button until I realize my mistake.  I swear that I am not even on the phone when I’ve done it, however, I do get the urge to call Devra when it happens.  Sometimes I do.  And we laugh.

Seriously — Has this happened to anyone else?

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July 23, 2012   Comments Off

Back Seat Physics

Overheard conversation between my two Darling Daughters –

DD1:   Mom!   She’s breathing my air!

DD2:   Mom!   Tell her to stop touching me! (laughter)

DD1:   Ummmm,  technically,  if I’m touching her, then she’s touching me!

….because, according to the laws of physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Ha!

Me:   Is anyone writing down this conversation so that I can post it to my blog later?

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March 4, 2010   Comments Off

Scariest Thing on the Road EVER

This is a photo of the scariest thing I have ever seen on the road. What’s scarier is that it’s inside my own minivan! This may look harmless to you, but you are not sitting in the middle of this heart clenching scene where I was when I took the photo and was completely white-knuckled. Don’t see what I’m talking about? Look harder…. It’s….

…… MY TEENAGER behind the WHEEL!

That’s right. His driver permit was obtained today.

Learning to drive is such a huge rite of passage, for the teen and the parent! Is any parent ever ready for this? I swear it was just last week when he was in kindergarten.

Seriously though, I am signing him up for a Driver’s Ed road training class, and he is taking a safety course as well. Not only that, but he told me himself that he plans to be a “good driver”. I guess we all were new drivers at some point, and I’m not going to last very long if I hold my breath every time I hand him the keys now, am I? It’s time to cowboy up and accept the fact that this day has finally arrived.

ATTENTION DRIVERS OF NORTH AMERICA: A new driver has taken the wheel. You have been warned.

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January 21, 2010   5 Comments

Roadside Oddities and pranks – Zombies attack!

Yesterday, right around the corner from where I live, was a rather remarkable roadside oddity. Apparently someone was playing a prank and hacked into the digital construction sign and changed it to read, “ZOMBIES AHEAD”.

The construction company was not amused — but I was. Zombie humor really tickles my funny bone. As a testament to my love for zombies, a month ago I participated in a huge community zombie event for Halloween. (A photo of my zombie persona is posted at my friend Devra’s blog).

After a quick search, I have learned that this road side prank is not unique. Apparently construction sign hackers in cities around the country have been pulling this stunt for a while. For example:

Zombie attack warning Fairfax, VA
Zombie sign Cadillac, MI
Zombies in Lattingtown, NY

The zombie road sign warning made our evening news.

As for me, having recently posted an article about roadside attractions and oddities, I am thrilled to have an “oddity” of zombie humor caliber right in my own backyard. Meanwhile, I will keep careful watch and listen for the cries of the undead in my backyard

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December 8, 2009   Comments Off

Soccer Mom Minivan talk show

“Soccer mom” Jeannie Tate hosts a talk show from her minivan. This video cracked me up. I totally love the dry cleaning that is hanging in her guest’s face. My favorite one liner is , “It’s not easy being a mother — if it were, fathers would do it!”

This poor woman spends way too much time in her minivan!

November 5, 2008   1 Comment

Back Seat Out-Takes

Some people may have the impression that my road trips are always perfect…. that we go singing down the road in perfect harmony, never fighting, never getting bored, arriving on time and never getting lost. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I’m as normal as the rest of you.

Even my backseat looks like the floor of a teenager’s bedroom at the end of a long trip. Here’s a photo as proof.

I have also posted a few random crazy moments that occured in the back seat of our minivan this summer….

I overheard this conversation between my darling daughters (aka “DD”s) during a game of Battleship on the road:

DD1: Permission to speak freely, Captain?

DD2: Permission granted…

DD1: You are a dork! (laughter galore)

Overheard game of Mad Libs …

body part: Uvula

place: Oscar’s belly button! (Oscar is our dog)

noun: vomit

adjective: vomit-like

adverb: vomitly!

Vomitly? You gotta give ‘em points for creativity anyway. Makes me wonder how they would do at Scrabble.

I don’t sweat any of it though. Payback will come someday when they’ll be driving, and I’ll be in the backseat with THEIR kids, inspired to write all kinds of stories titled, “Traveling with Kids, or Why Grandma Drinks Wild Turkey“.

Full circle.

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August 18, 2008   4 Comments