Sour milk in sippy cups under the seats of our car are a distant memory for me now. My youngest is going on 7, and soccer cleats, ballet shoes, and steel pan sticks now hide in the unseen areas of my vehicle that pacifiers and zipper bags full of cheerios used to call home.
I have made it through the hard times of having two under two, without a minivan. The toughest times of parenthood are over, right? Well at least when it comes to traveling with them… I think. I always thought of the minivan as the black eye of parenthood. Driving a minivan, to me, meant that you had been worn down and knocked out by parenthood, and you were left with a shiner, complete with sliding doors. Well, for the last 13 years, I bobbed, I weaved, and I missed getting hit in the face with a minivan.
So for 3 of the last 7 years, he’s been campaigning for us to get a red Dodge Grand Caravan. When the opportunity came up for the family to test out one for a week, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see my little man’s face look like this…
This is the look on his face when we pulled up and he saw the red 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan waiting… I knew it.
For a busy parent like me, there really are just three things that keep me reasonably sane while I’m on the road, occupied kids – and hubby (I’ll participate in the occasional sing along, but honestly, I’m just not THAT mom.), safety while I get where I need to do, and comfort for all of us.
Now THAT’S Entertainment.
To get us started on our minivan adventure, the folks at Dodge sent up a backpack of goodies. If the kids weren’t excited then (they already were), they were at the idea of a bag full of candy, snacks, coloring books, and blu ray discs. Wait. Why would they send blu-ray discs?
And then we saw it… the screens played blu-ray discs. Yes – I said screens. My friend said that all I had to do to change my mind about minivans was to drive one. She offered me her Dodge Caravan to take around the block. I respectfully declined. Over the next 7 days, my kids, husband, and friends watched me morph into a minivan fan.
I am not sure why they call it the Dodge Mom Challenge, but I know why I would call it that. It certainly would be a challenge to get moms like myself to think differently about minivans. I’ve always been an SUV mom. Expertly backing my ginormous SUV into parking spaces with jaw dropping accuracy was MY party trick. At the grocery store, I get ready to back into my parking space. Up on the screen (you read right… I told you there were screens… with an s on the end – 3 total) pops the view of the back of the van, the cars next to the space I had chosen, AND two lines on the screen that showed me when I was lined up just right. So in my head, I say, “That’s nice,” and continue to back in. Then there’s a “DING!” Mr. Social says, “that’s to let you know that you are getting close to another car.” Well okay then.
We spend much of our day in the car traveling to various practices, running errands, and going on quick field trips for homeschool. I had just become used to the constant bickering.
“Stop looking at me.”
“Well, you stop looking at me!”
“Mommy, she’s touching me.”
“Mommy, we watched her movie last time.”
“So, my movie is better than yours!”
After a while, I noticed that it was eerily quiet in the seats behind me. The boys were watching one movie, probably about dragon or aliens, and the little diva was in the seat furthest from the front watching some epic tale about ponies, or fairies, or something…. with headphones. There are TWO screens with TWO sets of headphones so that each kid can watch their own movie. We pick up the hubby from work, and head over to the electronics store – no fight to see who goes into the store with Daddy – each kid is entertained and quiet, so he can go in and go out. Even I was entertained. When the Grand Caravan is in “park”, I get to watch the movie too! Sweet.
If you haven’t experienced UConnect, the only way I can explain it to you is having an extra brain. It harnesses the power of your phone through a Bluetooth connection, so you can make handsfree calls, and take advantage of the music stored on your phone as well. It takes GPS to another level, while you are in park, allowing you to find just about anything from nearby gas stations (including the prices) to movie theaters and times. Once you switch into drive, the features are limited to those that require very little of your attention – to keep those of us who could be tempted to take our eyes off of the road, focused, but still moving in the right direction. My husband opened what he suspected was the glove compartment, in search of the manual, only to find a hard drive there… yep – more music for those LONG trips.
Entertainment challenge? 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan – win by knock out. Next up, safety.
“Stay Out of Harm’s Way” – Okay Dad.
My dad is always telling me to “stay out of harm’s way.” I try – but sometimes, I feel like harm is out looking for me! It hasn’t found me recently – but I stay concerned. We drive older vehicles, so safety for us doesn’t go too far beyond child safety locks, those windows that don’t roll ALL the way down, and… well… the rest is up to us. That can be hard on parents when everything is up to us. It is up to us to keep fingers from being slammed in doors, make sure seatbelts are buckled, and that nothing (and no one) gets run over. With so many things on our minds, including the hectic schedules of the kids, sometimes safe driving is whittled down to just making sure everyone is wearing a seatbelt, and that we check the blind spots. More on safety in the 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan…
Just a week with the 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan let me know that there is more to safety than meets the eye. I haven’t been in an accident in years, and I can’t even remember how long it has been since I’ve been in an accident that was my fault. Driving a car that wasn’t mine made me think about “accident avoidance” more than I ever had before. After checking out some of the over 45 standard and available safety features, I actually almost forgot that I was in a borrowed vehicle! My favorite feature was the blind spot monitoring. I have driven an SUV since college, and checking that blind spot has become part of my safe driving ritual. The more kids I have, the more distractions there are between me and that blind spot. With all the sensors and rear cameras on the Dodge Grand Caravan, I can focus on getting us where we need to go scratch, dent, and accident free.
Safety challenge? 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan – another knock out. Now what about comfort?
Baby Long Legs.
My oldest was so happy when he was old enough, and heavy enough, to sit in the front seat. The back seat of the car and the SUV were getting cramped, and with his new long legs and size 11 shoes that came with teenage, he was increasingly cranky being squeezed in the back with the little ones. Sitting in the third row of the SUV is near impossible for him since it isn’t a full size seat. Watching him climb into the back, put on the headphones, flip down his screen, and watch a movie of his choosing, made me smile. It was nice to finally see my big boy comfortable. He’s still this kid, just in a bigger, kind of awkward body, so seeing him actually enjoying travel, like the little ones do, is a huge bonus. His little brother didn’t have to convince him that he needed to be in a minivan beyond that first day. He was sold. That and the fact that he and his dad could both hang out in the back seat, four long legs, their Playstation 3, two controllers, one screen…
Comfort challenge? 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan – by decision. What is a week with SocaMom like? Check it…
A Week with SocaMom and Company
So now you know what was going on inside the Grand Caravan. Pretty amazing, right? But could it keep up with us day to day? Wouldn’t it have been awesome to have the 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan for a vacation? Probably. But the real challenge is day to day at our house. Could the Caravan keep up? Let’s see…
Day one: Homeschool is over early, and for a minute it isn’t raining. What do they want? Bikes. The two small ones, no problem – but could big man’s bike fit? Aaaaaaaand…. Yes! Stow the back seats (not fold and remove – they literally disappeared into the floor) and all fit easily. No drama. Eventually, I couldn’t take the cold weather anymore, but the kids weren’t done. We stopped for ice cream (I declined, nose still running), and hopped back in the Caravan to head home. Rain started up again, but no worries. I’d done my research. The Grand Caravan has Electronic Stability Control just for situations like this.
Day two: Hubby didn’t really get to check out the van on day one, other than finding the hard drive, so we decided to take him to work. He spent some time figuring out how to program his favorite teams into the UConnect, but eventually got a call and had to pull out the laptop and get to work while I navigated traffic. He had plenty of room to work, and the kids didn’t interrupt – they were busy watching movies…. with headphones – no background noise on Daddy’s call. Sweet! I enjoyed the quiet… and the heated seats. Ahhhhhhh… Baby Long Legs had face to face class, so we took him and dropped him off, then ran back home to complete our lessons for the day. Two hours later, time to pick him up and get Baby Girl ready for ballet. I didn’t realize how much we got in and out of the car in a day!
Day three: Homeschool is easy in Washington, DC because there are so many attractions and museums. American History class is covered! In the winter months, you can get to the Bureau of Engraving and the Washington monument – no tickets, no waiting. So we picked up daddy early and checked out the sights. Mr. Social, the minivan fan, reminded us to push the “econ” button, since we’d be driving all over the city. We did, and I’m telling you with all the driving we did that day, the needle didn’t move. Yes and yes. Then off to Bible Study. I am pretty confident that Mr. Social was praying for us to get a red Dodge Grand Caravan to keep. I didn’t ask him, but really, I didn’t need to.
Day four: Today, we took advantage of the remote start. Nothing as cold as DC in the wee hours of the morning! by the time we bundled up the kids and piled Grand Caravan at 3:30 in the morning – it was almost as warm as their own beds. They went right back to sleep. We drove across town to drop them off at my cousin’s house, and headed out to the airport. The hubby and I spent the day in Chicago taping some segments for Oprah’s Lifeclass. When we returned to pick them up, they were ready to jump in and head home – with a movie of course.
Day five: After a lesson free day, there was catching up to do, so we worked right up until violin class. Not at home though – we are great at packing up books and laptops and working wherever. We spent some time at the office, some at the library, and then out to violin. That rearlift got a workout! Taking out laptop bags and backpacks, putting in boxes from the post office, busy! After violin, we picked up daddy, and decided to head out into Virginia in search of adventure. The adventure began at BJ’s where we did our usual grocery shopping. Baby girl reminded us that we didn’t have the truck, so we’d better not get what we usually do. Mr. Social had full confidence that the Dodge Grand Caravan could handle everything in the cart. After going back home to drop off the groceries, we went back out looking for more to do on a school/work night. All we found was the Cheesecake Factory… but hey, getting there was fun! The kids watched movies, and we listened to old school music on Sirius/XM radio.
Day six: We got word that the hubby’s grandmother passed away while we were in Chicago, so once again we used the remote start to warm up the car, and packed up the little ones to take over to our cousin’s house. From there we headed to Delaware for the funeral. The hubby and I sat quietly for most of the ride, chit chatting about this and that, but mostly reflecting on the life of his grandmother. In situations like that it is easy to be consumed with sadness and reflection – and get absent minded. Gentle reminders, a flashing light or a tone, to help you to remember to buckle up and watch for cars and objects that may be out of your line of vision are so valuable when your mind is on other things.
Day seven: Friends came from out of town for the Inauguration of President Barack Obama (didn’t I say there was ALWAYS something going on in DC?), so even though I had no intention of going, upon the insistence of my friends, we headed out in the Grand Caravan to a nearby metro station, and took the train to the mall. I was glad she convinced us to attend. We didn’t see the parade or anything, but just being out there felt historic. I tried to convince her to ride back with me and experience the power of the minivan, and like I did so many years ago when my friend offered the experience to me – she declined. She knew that if I had been converted to a fan of the minivan, that she too was in danger. I understood.
This is just a little peek into our week. For more about our week with the 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan, in our own words, subscribe to this blog, or the YouTube channel. What did the Dodge Grand Caravan’s ultimate fan, Mr. Social, think? Check it out!
Do you drive a minivan? What happened to make you feel the need to drive one? Kids? Work?
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. My family was given the opportunity to test drive the 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan for one week in order to share our experiences. For more information on sponsored posts, including compensation, click here. As always my opinions are my own.