I mentioned a while back that I was looking at getting a new(er) car. Looking back, I’ve been wanting to get a bigger car since I was pregnant with Lucy and had to try to make room for two car seats. For a long time, I thought I wanted a mini-van. I know they’re uncool and boring, but whatever. All that space! But after test driving several and doing a ton of research, I decided that I really liked some of the 3-row crossover SUVs over the mini-vans. They felt easier to handle when I drove them.

The problem is, a lot of the 3-row SUVs have teeny-tiny third row seats, which are ok for small kids, but not for bigger ones. I figured that since I’ve had my Subaru for 15 years, this next one would be my car at least until Lucy goes off to college. So whatever car I bought, I wanted one that would be able to haul my someday adult-size teenage children around.

So, even though I liked the Toyota Highlander and the Kia Sorento, those got ruled out due to tiny third rows. I liked the Mazda CX-9 a lot, but Consumer Reports advises against them because they did horribly on their crash test scores. The one other car that I really liked was the Chevrolet Traverse. Which surprised me, because never in a million years did I think I’d buy an American car. My family only owns Hondas and Toyotas. But the Chevy Traverse got great reviews (so do its “sister” vehicles, the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave – they’re all more or less the same car with different trims/features), and I really liked driving it.

Side note: I surprised myself during this car buying process, when I learned that I’m really good at haggling. (“We have the best price for this vehicle.” “No you don’t, the exact same car is over at X dealership for $700 less than your price.” Or, they’d try to tell me how much a car was worth, and I’d be all, “Oh here, let me pull up Kelley Blue Book’s website on my phone and show you otherwise.”) I had brought Chris along with me, because I felt like I needed to have a man with me to negotiate, but then I ended up doing it all myself. At one point, some salesman had brought over his general manager to try to argue prices with me, and the GM kind of looked at Chris in desperation. Chris just shrugged and said, “Don’t look at me. It’s her money, she’s the one you have to deal with.” That was a weirdly empowering moment.

(That same GM asked me later if I was a lawyer. And he’s not the first person to ask me that, just in the past month or so. Apparently I missed my calling, because I’m pretty good at arguing with people. I made my dad proud.)

It took a while to find the car that I liked, but I settled on a 2015 Traverse that we tracked down at a dealership in Johnston County. It had been owned by Enterprise and used as a rental car, so even though it’s only a year old, it already has 24K miles on it. I was hesitant about the idea of buying a car that had been a rental, but I talked to our mechanic, and he said that typically buying a rental is a pretty safe choice. As he pointed out, you can guarantee it was serviced regularly, and if there’d been any damage or issues, they would have had it fixed on their insurance, so it would’ve shown on the vehicle’s CarFax. That made me feel better. Plus the higher-than-average mileage brought the price of the car WAY down.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s purple? They call the color “Sable Metallic,” and I guess it’s really more of a purple-y brown. But I love the color. PURPLE CAR.


Chris joked that he was going to get a picture of me in front of my SUV, wearing leggings and Ugg boots, holding my tiny purse dog in one hand and a Starbucks in the other, just so I could hit all of the Middle-Aged Suburban Mom cliches in one go. Instead, we got this one semi-awkward picture that the salesman at the dealership took. (I suppose we could recreate the Uggs/Starbucks/tiny dog picture at home, but it’s too hot for Uggs.)

That night, after we got the new car home, I was happy about it – I mean, of course. I got the car I wanted, and I waited until the last day of the month and negotiated a really good price for it. But I’ve been saving up for a car for the last few years (I didn’t want to finance it), so I also had this sort of shaky, panicky feeling, like, “OMG my entire savings account is GONE!” But that savings account existed for the purpose of buying a car, so yeah, of course I drained it. Still, it was a weird mixed feeling.

And honestly, I’m glad that Chris is keeping my Subaru and that I didn’t have to trade it in. I love that little car so much. It’s the first car I bought new, and I bought it by myself. I’m pretty sure that if you’d told me back then – when I was 25 years old and single – that I’d someday be driving that car with my 2 daughters in the backseat at age 40? I would’ve thought you were crazy. But it’s been a great car, so I’m happy that we’re keeping it around. Whenever we do have to trade it in or replace it, I’ll probably cry.

Both of the girls love the new car. The middle row is 2 captain’s chairs, so they have space between them. (No more fights about, “She’s in my space!”, “She’s touching my side!”, etc.) Lucy actually prefers to have her car seat in the third row so she can have it all to herself. She also likes to announce, “I’m riding in Mommy’s trunk!” Which is probably going to lead to an awkward conversation with daycare at some point.

I suppose people buy cars all the time and it isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But since I’m apparently the type of person who only buys a car every other decade or so, it feels like a pretty big life milestone to me.

the big 4-0

This past Saturday, I turned 40. I don’t typically make a big fuss about my birthday, but it’s one of those milestone ages that felt fairly significant. And for whatever reason, I just felt really sad about it. The rational part of my brain knew I was being silly: aging is part of life, right? This is how it goes. Either I turn 40 or I drop dead at 39, and the latter didn’t sound like a good option. But still, there was part of me that felt sad in a “damn, I feel old and this sucks” way.

A decade is a really long time, but still, I was thinking about how much my life changed during my 30s, and it sort of shocked me. When I turned 30, I had only been married a few months, I had no kids, and I was still living in Seattle. I’m pretty sure that if you told me that by the time I turned 40, I’d be divorced, have two daughters, be in a different-but-ultimately-much-happier relationship, live in North Carolina, with my parents less than 2 miles away (and that this wouldn’t make me insane, but that I’d actually be incredibly happy and grateful to have them so close), and that I’d own a dog, I’d have thought you were nuts. When Chris and I were talking about it and I was listing all of the things that are different now, I could only think of two things my life at 30 has in common with my life at 40: I still have Beaumont (but he wasn’t even my cat back then! He was Dave’s cat, and I just happened to retain custody of him after the divorce), and I still have the Subaru I bought when I was 25.

Speaking of my Subaru! I didn’t have the kids over the weekend, so for my birthday celebration, Chris and I went to test drive cars. Random, I know. But Chris’s Nissan is basically dead (it’s 16 years old and has over 300K miles; it needs repairs that cost double what the car is worth), and I’ve been wanting a bigger car with third row seating for a long time now. Since I’m in a better position to take on a car payment than he is, we decided that he’ll pay me the trade-in value for my Subaru (which is not a lot – Subarus are great and it still runs like a champ, but it’s a pretty old car), I’ll sign the title over to him, and then I’ll get a new car.

Test driving cars was a pretty fun way to spend the day, and it distracted me out of my little “black cloud” mood. Afterward, we went out for dinner at one of my favorite Italian places. Chris came up with the idea that instead of having cake, we could drive to downtown Raleigh to get fresh Krispy Kreme donuts for my birthday, which sounded awesome to me. We got extra for my parents, to thank them for dog-sitting Roxie all day while we were out. (My dad is pretty much in love with Roxie, so he doesn’t seem to mind when I ask him keep her.) On the drive back, Dave texted that the girls were upset about not seeing me on my birthday, so we did a quick FaceTime chat, which was really sweet.

On Monday, I got the girls back, so we went to my parents’ house, and did the actual cake and “happy birthday” song and all of that. And Chris gave me tulips, because he’s good at that kind of thing.

I didn't have the girls this weekend on my actual birthday, so we did cake tonight at my parents' house.

And now, a few days into this whole 40 thing, I feel ok about it. I mean, I’m not thrilled about the prospect of getting old, but I did a whole hell of a lot in my 30s. I’m kind of interested to see what the next decade has in store for me.

trying to work with cartoons as my background soundtrack

Catie is still sick. This is fourth day in a row of school that she’s missed. Her fever was only 100.1 this morning, so I’m hoping that means that she’s moving in the general direction of recovery.

I’m extremely fortunate that my job is so flexible about allowing me to work from home. I don’t know what other single moms do in this position. How do you miss four days of work? I mean, really, what do you do?

And honestly, Catie is a pretty easy kid to take care of, even when she’s sick. I keep pushing fluids on her, and giving her Tylenol or Motrin to keep her comfortable, but she’s mostly content, as long as she has either a movie on TV or her iPad to keep her busy. She whines a little when she’s really miserable, but mostly she’s been ok. (If it had been Lucy that got this virus? WHOLE OTHER STORY.)

As much as my parents help out, they can’t really do much when the kids are sick. My mom is so susceptible to illnesses ever since she had chemo (btw, I realized I didn’t mention it, but she recently passed the “5 years cancer-free” point, so YAY MOM!!). The last time my parents took care of one of the kids when they were sick, my mom ended up in the ER after she caught it because it hit her so much harder. So I’m just not willing to risk it. My parents are getting up there in years, and I’d like to keep them around as long as possible. Keeping my kids quarantined when they’re contagious seems like an easy trade-off.


Chris’s birthday is next week, and then Christmas is the week after that. I have no idea what to get him for either occasion. I’m normally pretty good at gift-giving, but with him, I’m just stumped.

And although The Bloggess’ latest post about best and worst gifts has had me cackling, it still hasn’t helped me figure out what I’m going to get. Dang.


Also next week: Dave is flying in to visit with the kids for the holidays. The kids are really excited to see him. I, as usual, am looking forward to sleeping a lot while the kids are with him.


Aside from Chris, I think I have almost all of my Christmas shopping done, and I mailed out my cards today. This is surprisingly punctual for me.


Nothing else new, really. I’m just over having a miserably sick kiddo, and I’m ready for some downtime.

I’m like an extreme couponer but not as crazy or organized

So. The past few days. Where to start?

Ok, backing up a bit: Target had this deal that if you spent $75 on Black Friday, you’d get a coupon for 20% off at a future shopping trip (the coupon was good from 12/1 to 12/7). I generally avoid shopping on Black Friday because that much open hostility among my fellow shoppers makes me nervous.

What I imagine Black Friday shopping looks like. I would be Simba in this scenario.

Chris had hit up Target on Thanksgiving night to get some Christmas stuff for his kids, so he told me about the coupon deal. I went to Target on the night of Black Friday – long after the crazy storm of shoppers had looted the good deals and the crowd had died down – and dropped $75 in about 5 minutes. I mean, really, two big boxes of diapers is $50. Add in some eye drops and a bag of cat food, and I was basically done.

So, I had this 20% off coupon. And I also have a Target Red card so I get an extra 5% off when I shop at Target. And 25% off your entire purchase is a really good deal, right?

Last week, I cleaned out my garage and dumped two carloads of stuff at Goodwill. Then, Saturday night, I got my parents to watch the girls, I borrowed my mom’s minivan, and Chris met up with me at Target (because this was going to be a BIG trip and I needed help juggling multiple carts). We joked that our “date night” was going to be at Target, and that’s basically what it was. We met up at 8-ish on Saturday night, and we were there until the store closed at 11:00 p.m.

I filled up four carts. Four. Entire. Carts.


I basically have enough diapers and Pull-Ups to get Lucy the rest of the way through potty-training, and probably at least a year’s worth of paper towels, garbage bags, detergent, and toilet paper… all things that I can store in my garage and not worry about any of it going bad.

I have never shopped like that in my life.

And as much as I love shopping at Target – and I do, I often refer to Target as “my happy place” – after 3 hours there, I was done. Chris was double-checking the list and going, “wait, do you want to get a couple more boxes of cat litter?”

And I was all, “No. I’m tired, I’m hungry, and I’m thirsty. Six boxes of cat litter is enough. I wanna go home and lie down now.”


Safe to say that the extra bit of money I had put aside in my budget for Christmas expenses is pretty much gone now. And this little shopping trip was (obviously) after I got the girls their Christmas presents. I still have a little wiggle room in my budget for teachers’ gifts and whatnot, so it’s ok and we’re fine. But still, damn, that was a lot of money all at once, even with the 25% off.

But hey, if the zombie apocalypse happens to hit in 2014, I am going to be SO prepared for it.

Stop by my place if you need me to wash your clothes during The Rapture. I have plenty of detergent hanging out in my garage.


Completely unrelated topic jump:

On Sunday, Catie was whiny and clingy and generally not acting like herself. We were out running errands on Sunday afternoon, and she fell asleep in the car, which really should’ve been a red flag, since she never naps anymore. Chris carried her into the house (I carried Lucy, who had also fallen asleep in the car), and she slept on the couch for another hour.

When she woke up, she said she wasn’t feeling good. I checked her temperature and it was 99.6. I gave her some Motrin, and she seemed to perk up and feel ok after that.

After her bath, though, she was freezing cold (even with the space heater in the bathroom) and couldn’t stop shivering. She got under a fleece blanket on the couch and her teeth wouldn’t stop chattering.

I checked her temperature again. It was 102 degrees. Crap.

I kept her home from school on Monday, and she lay on the couch and moaned pitifully and watched TV while I tried to work. (If you’ve ever tried to write a software manual while listening to “Star Wars Episode III” in the background? Hats off to you, because that crap is impossible.) The only time she left the house was when she put on her shoes and coat with her PJs because we had to take Lucy to/pick Lucy up from daycare.

She still had a fever of 101.7 this morning, so I kept her home again. And she threw up in the driveway when we were leaving to take Lucy to daycare. It wasn’t much, I think she just drank some water too fast. And really, it’s raining today, so of all the places she could’ve barfed, the driveway was kind of an optimal location from a clean-up perspective. (God, my neighbors must love me.)

My mom brought me these gel pack things that are supposed to help bring fevers down, so I put it on her after we got home from dropping off Lucy.


I had never heard of these things before, but I swear, they really work. Within 20 minutes, her fever had come down, she was eating, and she was obviously feeling better because she was talking my ear off. So I’ll be stockpiling those gel packs for future reference. They’re amazing.

Fingers crossed that she’s well enough to go back to school tomorrow, and that nobody else in this house catches her germs. We were all sick last Christmas, I don’t need a replay of that.

Whining Smackdown

Last night, Catie and I went to the grocery store, figuring that it would be a ghost town during the SuperBowl. (I don’t care about football or sports at all. Sorry, I’ve tried, I just can’t make myself muster up an interest.) Apparently a lot of other people had the same idea, so it wasn’t quite as deserted as I’d hoped, but whatever. Time to shop!

Catie asked if we could get the cart that has that stupid plastic car attached to the front, and I said ok, even though it’s like steering a freaking bus down the aisles. She was really good in the store, she would hop out of the car to get things off the shelf for me (“Hey, don’tcha need spinach, Mommy? Can I get some? What else is on the list? I’ll get it, I’m a good helper!”), and she wasn’t bugging me to buy her toys or junk food. When you’re shopping with a four year-old, that’s about as much as you can ask for.

And really, it was about a 10,000% improvement compared to how she acted when we’d gone to the mall the day before. Which I will always remember as the tantrum that was so epic that an on-duty police officer came over to us to ask if we were ok. Seriously. That actually happened.

Love that face.
Who, me? Act naughty in a public place? Surely you jest! Why, don’t I look angelic?

We passed a mom that was shopping with her two girls – I’m guessing they were 5 or 6 years old, and they were obviously twins. They took one look at our cart and started in on their mother, “Mooo-ooom! That little girl got a car cart! How come WE didn’t get a car cart?? That’s not fair!!” I smiled sympathetically at the mom, and kept walking.

Later, when we were in the bakery section, Catie mentioned she was hungry, and asked if she could have a cookie. We were at Kroger, and they usually have a box of cookies out in the bakery for the little kids to have one. I tend not to get too uptight about the occasional treat, and since Catie was being so well-behaved, I said sure, and grabbed a cookie for her.

As luck would have it, we passed the mom with her twin girls again. They started up again, “Mooo-ooom! That little girl has a cookie! How come WE didn’t get a cookie?? We want a cookie! No fair! COOKIE COOKIE COOKIE!!!” They were like twin Veruca Salts with the whining. I kind of felt sorry for the mom, but I noticed that she didn’t respond to the kids at all when they whined, so I wondered if she hears it so much that she just tunes it out. I don’t think I could tune it out. There’s a certain pitch that little girls can hit with their voices that makes me feel like my head is going to explode. Catie has only tried it on me a few times, and it’s gotten her nowhere (the only reaction she gets from me is, “Try saying that again politely, and maybe I’ll answer you.”), so she seems to have given up on it.

Of course we passed each other two or three more times (why, God, why?), and they repeated their complaint about Cookie Injustice every time. By the last time we passed them, we were on our way to the checkout, and Catie had long since finished the damn cookie. That didn’t stop them. “That’s the little girl that had the cookie! We want a cookie too!” And so on.

Now, I generally have a rule about interfering with other people’s children. And the rule is: I don’t. I wouldn’t appreciate it if someone did it to me, so I don’t do it to anyone else. But I felt so bad for this mom, she seemed so worn out by these kids and their non-stop whining, and… well, I couldn’t resist.

So I turned to the girls and interrupted their little complaint-fest. I said, “You know why she got a cookie? Because she was really good the whole time we were in the store, and she never whined once.”

Both girls snapped their mouths shut. The mom said to them, “You see? THAT’S what it takes if you want a cookie!”

I hope the mom wasn’t offended (and I’m guessing by her reaction and the smile she gave me that she wasn’t). But I figure I bought her at least 30 seconds of shocked silence from her kids, so I’ll call that a win.

It does make me a little nervous about having two girls, though. If they both crank up the whining on me at the same time, I don’t know how I’ll react. Maybe my head really will explode. Who knows.

somebody else MUST remember this too?

When I was really little – and I’m thinking that this was when my granddad was still alive, so I’m talking like 5 years old and younger – I remember that there was a very special treat that we only got at my grandparents’ house: Donald Duck Juice.

I’ve thought about this for years. I remember that Donald Duck Juice came in tiny glass bottles, but I couldn’t even remember what it was – orange juice? Grape soda? Did we have it with breakfast or lunch? Why was it only at my grandparents’ house? (Most likely answer: because my mom would’ve deemed it too expensive and a silly sales gimmick, meanwhile my grandmother loved nothing more than indulging her only three grandkids.)

But was there even such a thing as Donald Duck Juice? Did I imagine this? How come I’ve never seen it or heard of it since then? Was it just a silly name that my grandmother made up for our benefit?

Then yesterday, I was at the grocery store, looking for citrus juice because it’s another crazy pregnancy craving I’m having (pineapple, grapefruit, orange juice… I want them ALL). Lo and behold, I did a double take, and I almost burst into tears right there in the juice aisle.

Donald Duck Juice

Donald Duck Juice. It actually exists. Sure it’s in cans instead of bottles now, but that is the stuff.

I didn’t care that it was $3 for a 6-pack of tiny cans, I bought them anyway because dude, that is a piece of my childhood right there.

(Oh, and the missing 4 cans in that photo? Are currently IN MAH BELLEH. They were delicious.)

When I went to check out, the cashier was an older guy in his 40s, and he said, “Wow, they still make this stuff? I haven’t seen it since I was a kid!” I was all, “I KNOW!! Can you believe it???” I think I might have freaked him out with my Juice Enthusiasm.

I called everyone in my family afterward – my parents both remembered it, but my sister didn’t remember it at all and my brother only barely did. So weird, the way our memories work and the things that stick with us throughout the years.

Does anybody else remember Donald Duck Juice? Was it just a Southern thing? Or do y’all all think I’m completely insane now? (Entirely possible, I suppose.)

Kitchen Tidy-Up Project

Disclaimer: I almost never do sponsored posts, but I was given a gift card from BlogHer and HomeGoods, and hey, if you’re going to give me money to go shopping, then heck yeah I’ll blog about it. And bonus: if you read this, you get to see pictures of my kitchen. Oooh, special, right?

Since the cleaning lady came to tidy up our house last week, Dave and I have been having ongoing arguments about what I call Chronic Kitchen Counter Crap. This is the stuff that seems to live on the kitchen counter all the time, no matter what. I tend to believe that all food-related items should be put away in a pantry or a cabinet. Dave disagrees and thinks that it’s fine for frequently-used items to stay out, as this keeps them easily accessible. And it drives. me. NUTS.

Also? I am WAY more cranky about things like Chronic Kitchen Counter Crap when I am (a) pregnant and therefore grumpier in general, and (b) expecting many houseguests and visitors over the next few weeks. But it doesn’t matter how many times I put these things away, within a few hours, Dave has left them on the counter again.

So, I decided to take advantage of this HomeGoods/BlogHer gift card offer to do a little de-cluttering in my kitchen, before the holidays are in full swing.

Here are the before pictures, so you can see what I was unhappy about.

Exhibit A:
Before: bread pile
The bread pile. The knife rack and the toaster are fine, I don’t mind that they live on the counter. But we obviously eat a lot of different types of bread products (there’s wheat, white, mini-bagels, and hamburger buns in that pile), and I hate seeing that stuff all piled messily in the corner.

Here’s what it looks like after my shopping excursion.
After: basket for the bread makes it feel tidier
Ideally, I would’ve liked an old-timey breadbox that I could close and shut everything away, but those are pretty hard to find these days. I like the basket as an alternative, because it makes it feel like it’s tidy and organized since it’s all in one place. And it’ll be much easier to clean around it, since I can just pick up the basket (rather than 6 different bread bags!) when I wipe down the counters.

Exhibit B:
Before: sugar, tea & coffee always on the counter
Sugar, coffee, and tea are always out on the counter. Again, I don’t mind the electric kettle or the blender being out, since they’re both appliances that get used daily, but the food items themselves drive me crazy. I don’t even drink coffee or tea! My Diet Cokes are all neatly concealed inside the fridge. But Dave, being an Englishman, drinks a steady amount of coffee and tea pretty much all day long.

Here’s the “after” picture for that one (this is by far my favorite part of this whole kitchen tidy-up project):
After: containers for sugar, coffee & tea
I got airtight containers for the sugar, coffee, and tea. And I love them. It makes the whole counter look cleaner.

I’m very pleased with the results. And I’m no longer anxious about people judging the chronic messiness of my kitchen when they visit my house for the holidays, so I’d definitely call that a win.