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My life as a sitcom character

Eli has entered toddler-hood. This means, in essence, that he’s almost completely uncontrollable, has absolutely zero sense of self-preservation, is lethally curious and almost just as lethally clumsy, and has a temper that’s as quick and unpredictable as a rattlesnake. It also means that I frequently find myself in situation where I think I must look and sound like either a sitcom character or a cartoon. Some examples:

Eli comes running out of the bathroom carrying a plunger in each hand. I take them both away and put them back in the bathroom. In the time it takes me to do this, Eli is coming out of the other bathroom carrying the toilet brush.

Eli says, “bye bye!” and closes the bathroom door with us on the other side. When we open it one second later, all the toilet paper has been unrolled and is on the floor. This does not actually seem humanly possible.

Eli would like some crackers. I am standing at the sink, and he’s three feet away, at the counter. In the time it takes me to get to him, he stretches his little arm to an almost inhuman length and reaches the box on the counter, removes one cracker, then dumps the entire box onto the floor. I get the broom out to clean up the crackers. Eli LOVES the broom, which means that he grunts, whines, and shrieks to get me to give it to him. I give him a handheld broom in order to distract him. Then, as I attempt to sweep up the crackers, he follows me around and disperses each pile with a sweep of his handheld broom. This goes on for several minutes before I finally turn on Noggin and put Eli on the couch. I will not be judged. See for yourself. What would you have done?

My brother and his girlfriend come over to visit. Eli refuses to play with them, because he Only Wants Mommy right now. As they hang out on the couch watching TV, their heads follow Eli and I like we were a tennis match as I chase him back and forth, trying to retrieve: 1) daddy’s iPod; 2) mommy’s iPhone; 3) a CD case from the office; 4) my chapstick, which he likes to remove the lid from and “apply” (chew on), and then attempt to inhale the lid; 5) a partially open water bottle; 6) the plunger, again; 7) a heaping handful of cat food; 8 ) the plastic garbage bag that he yanked right out of the trash can in our bedroom. Things I do not even attempt to retrieve include my, Justin’s, or Eli’s shoes, hairbrushes, travel mugs, glasses cases, sunglasses, magazines (which will be virtually ground into pulp), or any of the plastic dishes and cups that Eli can access from “his” drawer in the kitchen. We’ll find these later.

Eli is a master at the Steal-and-Stash. Examples include Justin’s car key, which I have variously discovered inside Eli’s toilet-training potty and in the bedroom garbage can. Also Justin’s iPod, which was discovered under a bathroom cabinet after a two-day search. Discovery of toys, pieces of cheese/banana/Cheerios/raisins, small flashlights, baby shoes, children’s books, or other stashables inside my purse no longer amazes or amuses.

Eli is not interested in dinner/lunch/breakfast. This is common, and when it happens, Eli simply: 1) throws his food onto the floor or at one of us; 2) mashes it into his hair (leading to such sitcom-esque statements as, “are you going to eat that or just rub it in your hair?”); 3) scatters his food carefully across his tray and then uses both hands to make “food tidal waves” that rocket off the sides of the tray; 4) requests his water (“waydoo”), takes a token sip, then pours as much as he can onto the tray of food before we snatch it away. This results in increased awesomeness and blast radius of the food tidal waves.

Eli doesn’t care for having his diaper changed, as this takes away from playtime. The result has been some truly horrifying chapters, such as the “reach down and grab the poopy diaper while laying on the changing table, rip it out from under me with terrifying speed, and smear poop over nearly my entire body” trick, or the “insist on being changed while standing up, then, as soon as the poopy diaper is removed, spread legs wide and sit brown-eye-down on the nice clean changing table cover.” Or, and this is really the best, “scream uncontrollably while being changed, due to diaper rash or simple whimsy, then attempt to leap off the changing table so that mommy simply has to grab my poop-covered self, resulting in a bubble bath for me and at least an hour-long shower for mommy plus the burning of all the clothes she was wearing.”

Eli is playing in a puddle of dirty water. It’s close to naptime, so Justin picks him up to leave. Eli utters an inhuman shriek and commences Tantrum. Tantrum means that he thrashes and squirms so much, while screaming at permanent-ear-damage-decibels, that he cannot be set down because he’ll crack his head open on the sidewalk. Similarly, attempting to hold him safely in your arms is akin to trying to land a shark on a fishing line, as he thrashes, bites, and wails. This lasts 20 minutes or so, and he can only be pacified by fistfuls of raisins. Again: I will not be judged.

I am still too traumatized from this morning’s outing to discuss what it’s like to go to a restaurant.

So, do you think if this all starts before he’s even 18 months old, we can hope that it’ll be over by 2? Yeah. No. That’s what I thought. On the plus side, he’s really, really, really cute. When he’s not slathered in dooky, that is.

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Circle the (station) wagons!

In this day of high gas prices, the death of the SUV (and with it, GM) and the triumphant return of the tiny car and the rise of the hybrid, here’s what I want to know: when are we going to see more wagons?

If I were Honda or Toyota or even GM, I’d be doubling down on station wagons right about now. Station wagons were the original SUV, and I think they can and should be the new SUV. Carmakers put a lot of time and money into crossovers like the Ford Edge and the BMW X3 because they’re good-sized cars for families that don’t stray all the way into SUV territory. But they stray far enough–my X3 gets absolutely shameful gas mileage, and every iteration of the formerly trim crossover cars (the Honda CR-V, the Rav4, the Subaru Forrester) seems to get bigger, heavier, and thirstier.

Station wagons of the past (and future?)
Is the “original SUV” poised to become the new SUV?

So, why not roll out good, affordable wagons with decent gas mileage? They’ve got yuppie cachet, thanks to Audi and Volvo. They’re more versatile than sedans because they’ve got room for hauling, thanks to those big hatchback boots. And they’re a heck of a lot more practical and easy to deal with for families than a teeny-tiny Toyota Yaris or a Honda Fit.

But let’s consider the wagon options available to those of us in the market now.

BMW: There are wagons in the 3-series family (328xi), which are cute, but $35,000-plus and tiny, and then there’s the 535 i or xi (drool), which is $55,000 and up. So, that effectively ends that conversation for most of us. Plus, mileage is 17/26 and 16/23 — my X3 is rated for 16/23 and I live a lot closer to the 16 side of things.

Volvo: the V70 and the XC70 are the big family-sized wagons, although the V50 is a smaller alternative. But all are big, heavy, expensive, and EPA estimates for the Cross Country and the V70 aren’t much better than my X3 — 16/24 for the V70 and 15/22 for the XC70. You’ll probably average 19 or 20, tops. Worse, the reliability ratings are about average, at best.

Audi: Hot as hell, if you can afford one. But an A4 with front-wheel drive (and mind you, that is a small wagon) starts at almost $41,000, and you haven’t even discussed options. Mileage isn’t bad (21/30), but once you upgrade to the family-sized and super-stable A6 Quattro, you’re pushing $50,000 with any options and the mileage drops to 17/25 (again, you can expect about 20, if you do a lot of in-town driving). Reliability? Average to below-average.

Volkswagen: Passat and Jetta wagons are available, but since the its redesign the Passat wagon has gotten abysmal reliability ratings and the pricing in 2008 was laughable–adding all-wheel drive to it meant committing to a $10,000 package, bringing the price to almost $40,000. Thanks, I’ll take an Audi. For 2009, it’s front-wheel drive only, near as I can tell. Cheaper, and that kicks the mileage to 19/28, but the reliability is a concern, and the mileage isn’t stellar. The Jetta is actually a decent option–inexpensive and cute in wagon form, but again, the reliability appears average (empty dot from you-know-who), and it’s actually quite a small car, especially where rear-seat legroom is concerned.

Subaru: Meh. I know the Outback is the gold standard for American wagons, but the newer models are small, in legroom and headroom. Mileage is 20/26, which is fine, but since Subaru is the only affordable, reliable option in this category, I just can’t get excited about it. The car’s not comfortable, and the stripped-down Subie thing just isn’t for everyone. Well, ok. It’s not for me. And the not-stripped-down models are well into $30,000-plus territory.

Really, the point here, is that there are only two genuinely affordable cars with good mileage on this list–the Jetta and the Subaru. Maybe the BMW 328 xi, but it’s a little pricey and it’s definitely on the small side for a family car. And if you care a lot about reliability, there’s only one: Subaru. So, where are our affordable car-makers in the wagon game? Honda has an Accord wagon that it’s been selling in Europe for years: I want it! Toyota’s Matrix is cute and roomy in the more-a-hatchback-than-a-wagon category, so why not come out with say, a Camry Hybrid wagon? I’d buy that in a heartbeat. Saturn could easily do a wagon.

I guess I know the answer–CR-V, RAV4, and Vue. But I wonder if even the crossovers will start to seem too thirsty and, as the environmental peer pressure rises, too big. If that starts to happen, I predict a wave of station wagons to rival the 1970s, and I’ll have my wallet at the ready! (Unless I get tired of waiting and decide I can’t live without an Audi …)

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