Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!


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Why Santa Is Real

Okay, I promised yesterday to tell you all why we keep the magic of the holiday alive.  I promised to tell you why I still believe in the magic of Christmas, why I still believe in Santa.  I guess I should keep that promise, shouldn’t I?

Back when I was a kid, I have no idea how old, I remember one Christmas particularly well.  It’s my favorite Christmas memory, though one would imagine I’d remember my age exactly!  I’m sure my sister could tell you.  She’s always been good at that.  It was the most magical Christmas ever.

Every year “Santa did well by us” as people would always tell us.  I have no idea how many toys we’d each get, but it seemed like it was a ton.  The whole bottom of the tree was filled with presents.  Everything we wanted was there most years.  I never wondered how my parents figured it out.  It wouldn’t be hard for my mom to stalk my sister and I to see what we’d play with most or what we were drooling over in catalogs.  She could always tell.  There was no need for a Christmas list.  I rarely wrote a letter to Santa, if ever.  When I found out Santa “wasn’t real” I wasn’t heartbroken.  I just wanted to keep the secret alive for my sister so I never breathed a word about it.  I didn’t feel the need to question my mom, though she did fill it all in when I was older.  She’d shop while we were at school and would hide everything away, starting from the moment all the Christmas bills were paid off.  That’s how she was able to afford so much on such a tiny budget.  She spread it out through the year, caught sales when they happened, and was always ready, even if she wouldn’t be able to buy more presents later in the year.

That year, though I “knew” Santa wasn’t real, I kind of expected the big hoard of presents under the tree.  It’s not like I felt like I deserved them or was entitled to a whole bunch of presents.  I would have just been surprised if there were only two or three things.  We always got some pretty awesome things from our family.  My aunts got me some of my favorite books.  My uncle got my sister and I computers and printers and things.  Santa’s domain was always toys and sometimes games.

Every year my sister and I got up really early to see the presents under the tree.  We would generally get up before the sun and look at the tree from the outside of the French door to the living room.  We’d look at the sparkling tree, all the beautiful presents, and the stockings.  It was tradition.  We’d sit there and talk about it all quietly, trying to imagine what everything was until we couldn’t take it anymore, then we’d go wake up our parents so we could dig into the presents.

Unlike previous years my sister and I got to the French doors, peeked in, and stopped dead in our tracks.  We turned around and ran to our parents room shouting “Mommy!  Mommy!  You have to come see!”  I can imagine it was an early morning for my parents that year but somehow I don’t think my mom could complain, not really.

You see, that year I remember making several trips to the teddy bear store a few towns over.  It was one of those little specialty shops. They sold collector’s teddy bears.  Each Christmas we’d stop in to see what was there.  My mom would buy the Christmas outfit for Muffy VanderBear.  I remember at least a couple years when she would also pick up the Muffy Vanderbear Holiday Bear (the link is to one of the holiday bears my mom actually had).  We had the tree topper angel and everything.  My mom would pace her spending as she did with everything else, so we’d go back several times to make these purchases.  Sometimes my mom also bought presents for her sisters from this shop as my aunts were also bear collectors.  Sometimes my mom would even go in just to visit.

In particular my mom would visit with one collectible that year.  It wasn’t a bear, but a brown mohair bunny with a white stomach and a beautiful face.  He was probably about 16″ tall and fully jointed.  My mom wanted him so bad but she said she’d have to come back for it.  There was no way we could afford it at Christmas time.  She had to think about other things.  I remember the look of almost concentration on her face as she looked him over, like she was trying to memorize every detail and debate whether or not she could justify bringing him home that visit.  It was a classic expression that she wore when looking at her bears.

To understand this, I guess there’s something you’ve got to understand about my mom.  I rarely heard her laugh or smile, not unless she was out with her sisters or a good friend.  She always seemed so serious and sometimes even sad.  She had a way of seeming like she was appraising everything.  I always hated when she wore that mask of disappointment, but I hated her fake smile while she poked and teased even more.  I honestly think she didn’t know how to tell my sister and I that she loved us, so she did the best she could to offer us every advantage she could afford and then bought us things to express how much she loved us.

Buying things didn’t replace everything.  I have memories of making cookies with her, of going to the reservoir to swim (though she always sat in the shade and worked on cross stitch projects so we much preferred when our dad took us).  We never lacked for holiday music this time of year.  She’d go out of our way to take us to see the Christmas lights.  We got to go out to eat more often than a lot of kids we knew, even if it was just McDonald’s.  As much as I have memories of her doing something while watching us play or reading, watching television, or playing video games while we did our own thing, I have no lack of memories of doing things with my mom.  Actually, I have a lot of memories of doing things with my mom, sometimes with Girl Scouts too, or with my aunts.  I think she didn’t see those kinds of things as showing us she loved us.  I think she saw all of that as just being a mom.  Showing us love came in the form of purchases.

Because my mom viewed buying us things as her expression of love we got used to not seeing her view things she loved with the classic signs of enjoyment.  Instead we got used to that appraising look, and that hint of something I could only explain as sadness.  You could always tell how deep that sense of desire went by how many times she picked the item up and put it back down determining that she shouldn’t be spending the money on herself.

One day we went to the store and the bunny was gone.  I told my mom that they might get another one after Christmas, seeing how heartbroken my mom was, another feeling she didn’t express openly.  She explained that they wouldn’t get another.  That’s how things go with limited edition bears.  They only send out so many to each store.  Once they were sold, that was it.  Chances are this store had only gotten one.

This store held many fond memories for our family.  It was nothing special, just some little textiles building that was converted into a shop.  I remember seeing all the bears stacked on shelves in the warehouse portion behind the display shelves.  I remember them pulling out specific bears for us.  I remembered going there every Christmas and looking at all the beautiful bears.  After that day I never looked at the store the same way again.  It was always tainted with that note of sadness after that point.

I’m sure you can tell where this story is going and why my sister and I ran screaming to get my mother.  Stuffed in my mom’s stocking the way you always see it in Christmas movies, pushed in to the armpits, arms hanging out, was that brown bunny with the perfect expression on his face.  We were so surprised that we just had to go tell her.  It couldn’t possibly wait.  I didn’t think my dad even knew about the rabbit, so I was starting to think that maybe there was some magic to Christmas after all.

My mom gave my dad that disapproving look that I hated so much.  “Oh Al,” she said, “We really couldn’t afford it.”  My dad protested that it was from Santa.  My mom protested.  She swore that it had to have been him again and again with that disapproving frown.  Each time he denied it and swore Santa must have brought it.  He never said he didn’t bring it, only that Santa had.  To this day he still denies it was him.

Looking back on it I’ve come up with any number of ways it could have been done.  Maybe my dad asked my aunts what my mom would want.  The bear store knew us pretty well so maybe he’d gone in looking for a present for my mom and they told him exactly what to get.  Maybe he heard my mom talking about it, or maybe she even told him.  He squirreled away money so my mom wouldn’t notice it was gone, then he went and bought it for her. Waiting for her to fall asleep, he planned where it would be.  Once she was out he snuck out of bed to stick the rabbit in the stocking and crept back to bed with no one ever having been the wiser.  That’s my favorite rendition at least.

After that I truly believed Santa was real.  Sure, maybe he’s not some jolly old fat man in a red suit with reindeer that fly.  It’s possible Santa is everywhere, in every parent that buys their children gifts each Christmas in keeping the spirit alive, in every person that buys the perfect gift and refuses to take credit, in everyone who keeps the spirit alive.  I don’t think letting my kids believe in Santa is lying.  I haven’t told them that Santa sneaks down our chimney (not that we have one).  I can agree that he’s a big, jolly, ole’ fat man, but I never tell them that’s THE Santa that brings their Christmas presents.  When the kids ask how the presents get here and how Santa knows what to get them, I either say I tell Santa or I say it’s magic.  Really, it all depends on who is embodying the spirit of Santa that year, me or Oz!  The kids have never thought to ask questions that would force me to tell them that Santa wasn’t real, and just like my dad I intend to creatively answer the question every time.

I guess in a way my dad told the truth.  In that moment he was Santa.  Oz is Santa.  I am Santa.  For us it’s more important that the kids have a magical experience and find fantastic gifts sitting under the tree from them.  It’s more fun to let them believe in the magic than to take the credit.  There’s never a question of which parent buys them a better gift or who knows them better.  Instead they’re caught up with the mystery of what Santa will bring.  After all that excitement all the things they get seem to fall into perspective, well, aside from gifts from Corde and Beekee’s dad.  I’ll admit that I give him a gift every year too.  I’ve always told him what the gift of the year for his kids will be so they can always associate their best Christmas presents with their father, even though they never see him.  Oz and I try our hardest to surprise each other with gifts, but we always get too excited and have to break the news before Christmas because we just can’t wait to see that look of delight any more.  Besides, Oz has a big problem with buying me gifts.  He can’t wrap presents so he always ends up letting me wrap my own.  He would just stick them under the tree without telling anyone anything, leaving them unwrapped, but I always insist on wrapping things.  Besides, last year I picked out my own presents!  This year Oz already got his present, so there goes half the fun.  I’ve already picked out what I’m getting, so there goes that.  At least we’ll have presents to surprise the kids with!

So that’s why I believe in Santa, and why I don’t believe telling my kids about Santa is lying to them.  Santa isn’t just one person.  He’s just the icon, the representation.  Santa is the spirit of Christmas, the magic, and the mystery.  Santa is that selflessness that allows a person to give without slapping their name on a gift just because they want to see the smile on someone’s face, especially when they know it’s the perfect present that the recipient had no way of being able to get on their own.  That is Santa, and Santa is alive and well, at least in my family.  Santa will likely never die.

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The Long, Long, LONG Walk

Today we had a need.  We realized that little dude didn’t have any teethers!  When you’ve got a teething baby you’ve got to have teethers.  He’s asking Santa for a Baby Blanket Teether Bear for Christmas.  I guess he’s really not asking for it.  We’ve requested it for him, but we thought he’d like it.  Unfortunately, Christmas isn’t for another month (pretty much) and he’s got need for something to chomp now.  We had to do something, so we decided to go on an adventure to get him a teether or two.  It could have waited until a day Oz was already out having to work, but the weather was nice and we wanted to get some good food in the house, so we decided to go for a walk.

We got to the store and started our shopping.  I pulled Oz aside while we were there and made some suggestions on what we could get for some cheap Christmas presents for the kids.  We already know the kids are going to get some candy this year.  We know Santa’s probably going to bring some games, just like every year.  I suggested maybe we can round things out with some art supplies, coloring books, and inexpensive puzzles, if Santa doesn’t plan on it.  It was a great little shopping trip, until we realized Oz left his wallet at home…

Okay troops!  Roll out!  We’ve got miles to go before we sleep!  We headed home empty-handed, determined to double the benefit of our exercise.  We were going to head home, resupply, and head back out!  The kids could make the five mile trek with no problem.  Well, Sander can only make it half that.  We use a stroller for the other half.  Lucabear catches a ride.  The kids were pretty determined that they could do it, and I felt like I was up for a challenge.  Oz really didn’t want to, but he was kind of dragged into all of it, and bribed with good food in the house again.

Stopping off to resupply took longer than we realized it would.  I changed two diapers.  Lucabear was soaked and it’s not exactly easy to EC while we’re on a long walk with a baby that doesn’t really show cues I can understand.  Sander gets his “bubble butt” for long trips because he still has too many accidents.  I had to grab something quick to snack on because I hadn’t eaten all day, though I’m not quite sure how that happened.  I’m usually pretty good about eating.  It wasn’t a long stop, only about a half an hour or so, but we expected to grab the wallet and be back out the door.

Surprisingly the temperature dropped like a stone.  It wasn’t quite cold yet, but it was chilly enough that I didn’t want to go without a sweatshirt.  It wasn’t even the temperature so much as the wind.  We still decided it would be okay because we’d be warm once we were walking and we wouldn’t be that long anyway.

We went to the store and picked up our stuff, but as is always the problem with a food stamp budget, it’s towards the end of our budget, so we didn’t have enough for everything.  We ended up sacrificing the stuff to make our new fudge recipe.  I open up “the fudge factory” every year, but this year it’s going to have to wait.  It probably won’t be until after we get our next allotment of food stamps.  We still managed to fit in most of the ingredients for eggnog pancakes and I’ve got everything I need to make pumpkin nog for Oz and the kids.  It was hard on Oz because we went over budget and had to put some things back, but I’m starting to get used to that, and the cashier and bagger said “Don’t worry about it.  It happens all the time.”  They’re right.  It really does happen all the time.  It’s easy to overspend.

As we were in the checkout I bundled the little guy up in a pair of pajamas over his shorts and tee.  It was warm enough for that before, but it had gotten cold.  Socks went on his feet and his hoodie went over it all.  I wished I had known the temperature was going to drop so much because I would have packed his warm snuggly little suit.  He wasn’t a happy boy because he needed a change too.  He was poopy, poor thing, but there was no way I was going to put him down in their filthy bathroom to change his diaper.  It was too cold to do it anywhere else.  We just decided to wait until we got home.

Packing up all the groceries in the stroller was miserable.  The temperature had tanked.  It was easily twenty degrees cooler than it was when we’d left the first time this afternoon and none of us were dressed for it.  Corde sulked and sat on the curb while the boys ran back and forth to look at every Christmas tree at least twice.  Meanwhile I sat myself down next to the stroller and went to work.  First I stuffed all the canned goods I could fit into the basket under the stroller.  Oz handed me everything from the cart to make my life easier.  Poor little Luca was having none of it and decided to scream at me the whole time.  Then Oz and I packed up the top of the stroller as quickly as possible because we were getting cold and stiff.  It wasn’t exactly our idea of fun.  We had a couple of people express sympathy towards us, and I tried my hardest to slap on a pleasant smile, even though I just wanted to bite their heads off.  I wasn’t in the mood for expressed sympathy.  It would have been too easy to say “If you feel so bad for us, give us a ride or money for a cab!”  It would have been so easy to make some snappy remark about crying babies and a walk home over two miles long.  Instead I did my best to just smile and express that it really wasn’t so bad, because it wasn’t.  I’ve had to walk groceries home in a stroller, three year old in tow and pregnant, uphill in the snow during one of the worst winters I could remember.  (Doesn’t that sound like a “back in my day” sort of thing?)  In comparison being a little under-dressed for the weather with a stroller full of groceries, three kids in tow and one along for the ride, and Oz there to help wasn’t all that bad.  Actually, it was kind of nice, if you ignore the part where we’re all walking as fast as we can collectively could (and stay together mostly) and Sander needing to be carried about half the way.

So the walk home was one done in as much haste as we could manage.  Instead of going the long way like we’d planned, we decided to take a shortcut through the field.  Oz wrestled the stroller through the edge of someone’s yard going with the longer shortcut while the kids and I took the quickest one, the not-stroller-friendly route.  We hustled along and tried to beat Oz, and probably would have if Sander would have held my hand.  Instead he insisted on keeping his hands in his pockets and fell all over the place as a result.  Hands in his pockets is his way of signifying that he doesn’t want to hold hands.  Unfortunately, his balance isn’t great over uneven ground and that doesn’t help in the least.  Then we swapped off and Oz took Sander duty and I pushed the stroller.  I was surprised at my own strength.  Usually my elbow prevents me from pushing such heavy loads and in the cold it should have been worse, but it wasn’t.  Oz first lagged behind while Corde, Beekee, and I started talking about our perfect dream house.  In relative short order Oz passed us by with Sander tossed over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes (hey, he was happy tossed over Daddy’s shoulder and they were getting home quick!) and Beekee sped off to be with the boys.  Corde lagged back to keep me company while we talked the whole way.  She could have rushed off ahead, and I even expected her to with how cold she was, but she decided she’d rather keep me company because it would probably make the walk easier for me if we stayed together.  Oz seemed to have a handle on Beekee and Sander, so she didn’t feel like she’d be better use in helping him wrangle the boys.  She’s really become quite the helper.

We decided our perfect dream house would have a fireplace with plenty of firewood.  There would be hot chocolate with the big marshmallows in it waiting on the table for us when we got home.  We’d have two ovens with a turkey and stuffing cooking in one and a big old “roast beast” cooking in the other.  We’d have plenty of soup on hand, just for days like this.  We’d have an indoor hot tub where we could eat ice cream sundaes, since it’s the only way to have ice cream when it’s cold.  The floors would always be perfectly warm, and we’d have a beautiful spiral staircase leading to a den or game room with an even bigger fireplace.  The whole house would be surrounded with big, tall, evergreens to block the wind and shelter the house, except for an atrium, which would need full sunlight, of course.  We’d all come home, have our hot chocolate, then snuggle down in flannel pajamas to watch Christmas movies until it was time to go to our warm beds, piled with blankets.

Beekee realized that being cold wasn’t such a problem when he kept pace with Oz.  That kept him nice and warm.  He’d hop back and forth from here to there, practically running circles around Oz.  There was no way he’d get cold that way!  All that activity kept him nice and toasty.

Corde learned that the wind is much more brutal without something to block it.  She observed this while we were in the field and Beekee said it had gotten much colder all of the sudden.  She pointed out that there was nothing to protect us from the wind, where the street had trees and buildings to protect us from it a little more.  The field was big and open, straight out to the highway, which was also big and open, so we were vulnerable there.  She also learned that thinking about nice warm things helps take your mind off how cold you really are.  She didn’t even mention being cold again until we’d left the shelter of the street to walk into the big, open trailer park.

In the end we covered about ten miles today.  We got our shopping done, even if it did take two trips.  The last slog home seemed so much longer because of the cold.  We sat down and had soup for dinner, then watched Santa feed the reindeer.

Oh, yeah, and as for Santa, I know a lot of people don’t agree with lying to your kids, but we have a different take on that.  Right now I’m cold, tired, and ready for bed, but I promise I’ll explain why we have Santa in our house, and why we don’t believe it’s lying to our kids. It’s kind of an interesting story.  More on that later!  Until then, take care and stay warm!


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Something to Think About: Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Yup, it’s that time of year again.  Everyone’s out doing their holiday shopping.  Well, everyone but me.  This is our holiday tradition, and it’s becoming increasingly common for us to do our holiday shopping on Amazon.  I’d love to be able to do it at local stores but that’s so incredibly hard to do.  Shopping locally is a wonderful idea, in theory, but when local stores don’t offer the same goods I can get online, that’s when a line has to be drawn.  Is it more important to shop local and sacrifice on products that aren’t what you’re looking for?  Or is it better to order online and get what you’re actually looking for instead.

For us shopping locally isn’t even really an option.  Sure, we could go to local shops and pick up a few things, but the selection we’d have would be limited to cheap things that break after very little use.  I don’t see the point in that.  It turns out to be a disappointment for the kids when their toys simply don’t last and it’s a waste of money in my opinion.  We’d be better off spending that money on something we need instead.  After all, what’s the point in cycling through endless toys that just break and clog up landfills?

I’m getting sidetracked.  I really wanted to talk about Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.  I know a lot of people who go crazy for these sales.  They allow you to buy something for discounts sometimes as crazy as 75% off.  At those rates almost everyone can afford to buy something, which is really the whole point.  It’s a great way to make shopping affordable for the holiday season.

However, look at the stores with the biggest Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.  They’re almost always big box stores that can take a hit from selling items below cost.  Sure, they lose money, but they may gain a loyal customer.  They get people in the store who may turn around and spend money on something else later because they saw it in the store while Christmas shopping.  Smaller stores don’t have the advantage of being able to afford that.

Then let’s look at what’s going on with these holiday sales.  Typically these sales are on goods manufactured outside of the United States and are bought at way below cost, which isn’t helping our economy at all, especially if you don’t go back to these big box stores to buy other things when you’ve got money again.  Many of these stores are cutting their own costs to keep products cheap by paying their workers minimum wage and offering minimum benefits.  As a result, many workers in retail jobs have to rely on government assistance in the form of food stamps or SNAP benefits.  While little mom and pop shops can’t afford to do much better, at least that’s a result of the high cost of running a small business.  That’s got nothing to do with a company wanting to maximize profits at the cost of their employees.  In other words, holiday sales really don’t do anything to stimulate the economy, not really.

Worse still I find that a lot of people I know over-spend on their holiday budget.  Instead of only buying what they can afford, they often spend a little extra just because they caught a great sale and didn’t want to miss out.  Sometimes the amount they saved means they buy several additional things that they wouldn’t have bought before.  Where as they would have bought each child one present before, they found two that they just couldn’t resist for one kid, and now they have to do the same for all of them.

Holiday sales aren’t in any way a sustainable process.  They don’t help the economy.  While I will admit I’ve taken advantage of them now and again (because I haven’t learned to be like my mother due to all the moving), I definitely don’t think buying something just because you see it as a part of a holiday sale is the best practice if you want to help kick-start the economy again.

Even with the holiday sales I keep hearing all these reports that people are spending less and less on the holidays each year.  It used to be the busy season, but I’m finding fewer of my friends are going out on Black Friday shopping.  People who work Black Friday are commenting that it’s less and less mobbed every year.  People just have less money to spend.  Even my own family, I’m not sure how we’re going to manage Christmas this year.  I’m determined that we’re not going to let it slack, but we’re definitely not going to be able to afford much.  As is, we’re already planning to put of Sander’s birthday until January after we’ve recovered from holiday shopping.

So, what do I suggest instead of buying a lot of deep discounted goods on holiday weekends?  Well, it’s after the holidays, so I can’t really change your spending habits this year, but you might want to think about what you do next year.  My mom used to pick things up all year and hide them away.  We haven’t been able to do that due to lack of storage space and too much of a chance of things being exposed during a move, but we’re considering it this year.  It breaks up holiday spending throughout the year.  Birthday presents could be as simple as dipping into that previously purchased Christmas stash.

While I’ve got to admit it could be challenging with younger kids, especially with unschoolers, it’s a good idea in theory, though you may want to hold off on buying anything until closer to fall.  We’re probably going to start our buying next year right after either we renew our lease or move.  I’ve already got some great ideas on what we’re going to be picking up for the kids for Christmas next year, or at least the older two.  I’ve got some decent ideas for Sander too.  It’s the little guy that’s going to be the most trouble.  Luca will be a year and a half by then and I don’t know what he’ll find interesting.  It’s easy enough to pick all the popular baby toys, but were I to do that now I’d be in trouble.  He’s very picky about things that don’t make too much noise.  I can’t know if that trend will continue.  I guess the younger the kid, the less planning ahead is possible.  An added problem with unschoolers is the frequency their interests may change.  Sure, Corde could be easy with art supplies.  Beekee would be happy with sports stuff or science and gardening stuff.  That doesn’t mean they won’t have some new interest that really consumes them by then.

Challenging as it is, it’s better to find a way to support local shops, American-made goods, and buy full-price if you can afford it.  Of course, sometimes what a kid really wants isn’t American made, so you do what you can.  Sometimes it’s really only possible to shop sales because you can’t afford full price.  Sometimes what you want can’t be found at a locally owned shop.  Just do what you can when you can manage.  Every little bit counts.

That being said, Christmas may be lean this year, but we’re going to do what we can to make up for it by shopping earlier in the future.  If we can support a local artisan, crafter, or shop, we will.  It’s better than buying at deep discounts that don’t help get the economy going.  It may not be much, but it’s our small way of doing our part.


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Our Black Friday Tradition

Every family’s got it’s own plan for Black Friday.  For many of my friends it means getting up early to brave insane crowds while looking for deep discounts.  It’s a time for holiday insanity, something I really have never agreed with.  How does buying things for lower than the cost to make them in order to get you to buy really help the economy?  Well, it doesn’t.  However, companies are hoping that offering sales will encourage you to buy more than you’d really planned on (including impulse buy items that aren’t on sale, or accessories) and that makes up for it.  Either that or you’ll talk about this great gift you got for your family when you were shopping and someone else will run out to buy the same thing at a higher price.

When I was little our Black Friday tradition meant cleaning up the house from top to bottom.  My sister and I scrubbed the floors, the walls, things that hadn’t had any attention all year.  All of this was in hopes of netting a few bonus points with Santa before the year was out.  We didn’t have much time left to make our impression on Santa.  Every year Santa filled the bottom of the tree with so many presents it boggled our minds.  It never really phased us that we didn’t get presents from our parents.  Our family would give us gifts, but our parents never gave us anything.  It was all Santa at home.  Because we were treated so well by Santa, we felt like we had to act especially good just to deserve it.

Moving out on my own meant much the same as far as rituals.  We did Black Friday shopping once with a friend of mine, but I swore never to do it again.  The deals weren’t that good for what we bought and I did better on Amazon.  We went back to our usual tradition from when I was a child.  Black Friday became all about getting ready for Christmas.  We’d bring out the tree, dress it up pretty, and pull out the Christmas toys and books.  It’s been that way ever since.

This year our holiday preparations were a bit lacking, though better than last year at this time.  At least we have a tree.  We got rid of our old tree after (in a moment of early-labor insanity) I decided to remove all the prestrung lights because half the tree wouldn’t light up, and whenever I found the magic bulb that was loose to get it to work, it would only stay on for a moment and I had to go find it all over again.  Being in labor with Sander at the time I decided as a part of my nesting routine I would take care of our little light problem.  I was about two-thirds of the way done with the tree when I ended up going in to the the birth center, then the hospital for Sander’s birth.  That should say something about how long it took to get the tree set up.  He was born December 19th.  I ended up in the hospital until December 22nd.  That meant I was finishing up the tree while watching Avatar.  The next night I wrapped presents, our usual Christmas Eve ritual.  We lived with room mates that had their own tree the next year, and last year we ended up having to order a new tree on Amazon that didn’t arrive until the beginning of December.

Now we’ve gotten most of our Christmas decorating out of the way already.  Our little white tree is set up by the window in our living room.  It looks so small now that it’s no longer living on my sewing machine table against an empty white wall with plain white blinds.  The lights were still on it from last year so all we needed to do was fluff the branches and put the base back on.  We don’t know what happened to our ornaments, so the only thing decorating it are candy canes I bought as an impulse buy on our pre-Thanksgiving grocery trip, knowing we wouldn’t be back to shop until mid-week at best.  We couldn’t find our tree skirt so I wrapped a white, sparkley shawl I made for Corde years ago to protect her when she was scared.  I told her it was a magic shawl.  Now it’s turned into Linus’s blanket under our sadly simplistic tree.  It looks plain and very stark, though I know it will look so much better when we finally get it lit up.  It’s kind of lost in our living room, too small for the space.  It would have looked much better up on Corde’s dresser, replaced by a real tree, either a live one in a stand, or a fake one that better takes over the space.  Green would be a nice contrast to the stark white backdrop of our living room.  I’m even considering getting a $20 potted indoor evergreen to liven up the space and use as our Christmas tree.  It would solve one of my complaints, not enough house plants, and it would work as a functional, if odd shaped Christmas tree.  Of course, that’s so small it wouldn’t do anything about the space requirements right now!  We’d also probably have to groom it into a nice Christmas shape, if we really want to worry about something like that.  Either way I’ll probably have to groom it.  My plants have a tendency to overgrow.

In other Christmas decorating, we’ve set up the Fisher-Price Little People Play n Go Christmas Wonderland on our coffee table for the time being. It’s a great place for it to be displayed and the kids can take it down to play with at any time. Beekee got it for Christmas last year, and while it never got put away with the Christmas decorations last year, it’s still a Christmas themed thing. Sander got the Fisher-Price Little People Musical Christmas Train for Christmas last year, so that’s being set up under the tree.  Right next to that we’re putting the Fisher-Price Little People On-the-Go Christmas Shop next to it on the same black trunk. Both of those are in great reach for the kids to get down and play with them. We’re going to have to move them to make room for presents, but for the time being they can stay there. We don’t exactly have any presents to put under the tree right now.  There are three cute snow globes sitting under our television, and we have a few other holiday toys to set up and display.  We should be done by the end of the day, which is really strange for me as we used to spend at least two or three days on decorating alone when I was a child.  Our finishing touch is usually to bring out the Christmas dishes, but we’ve been using those all year so far.  Most of our Christmas toys have been mixed right in with the regular toys, so it’s made them all a lot less special.  Now we’re finally starting to fall into a rhythm where decorations are put away after each holiday, which makes them more special in my book.  I can’t wait until we have separate boxes for each holiday.  It will make the whole process so much easier.  However, I think if we had enough storage space for it we’d probably have several boxes for each holiday.  We love to decorate around here!

Of course, you can’t have Christmas decorating without Christmas music!  Oz isn’t a fan of Christmas music, especially as he’s had so many jobs where they play it all the time since before Halloween, but he even got in on the spirit of things.  We watched some of the videos of synchronized light and music shows done by that one crazy family.  You can find them at Never Enough Lights.  If you’ve never seen them before, check it out!  They do some truly fantastic stuff.  On top of that, they take donations each year for a local food pantry.  One of these years we want to drive out and support them.

Our holiday work is far from done.  With the neighbor’s clothes taking over my bathroom and Corde’s new, massive bed, I’ve got a lot of work to do.  We have to sort, organize, and shuffle things around.  It’s going to take a while before our home is anywhere close to ready to celebrate a holiday, but we’re getting there.

In the mean time, if you’re doing any holiday shopping on Amazon, please, please, please, use Amazon Associate links!  Oz and I have discussed it and we’ve decided that any purchases made through our Amazon Associates link from this blog will go towards a sustainable/wildlife garden project for the kids.  This will not only help us reduce our dependence on GMO food products and stretch our food stamp dollars, but will also benefit the natural world around us.  We’ll be providing natural resources for bees, butterflies, and other insects, which will draw other birds and animals.  It’s one small way we can help ourselves and the environment at the same time!

If you don’t go through us, there are tons of other bloggers, podcasters, and other families that make a little extra on Amazon Associates.  It costs nothing extra and each purchase from a referral link nets a little extra cash for the associate.  It may not be much, but every little bit helps, and that money would just end up in Amazon’s pocket anyway.  Why not see it go to someone you know?  Each time you visit through an Amazon link it accredits any purchase made for the next 24 hours to that associate.  Make sure your shopping goes to help someone you know, or a podcast, blog, or project you love!


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Trailer Park Thanksgiving 2012

It’s Thanksgiving here at the trailer park, as it is for all of the country.  People everywhere are celebrating with turkey, family, and football.  It’s one of those days where people kick back, blow their diet, and get stuffed.  They even get to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which always used to be a tradition in my house.  I haven’t watched it the past few years because we don’t have a television and I can’t find a place to watch it online.  I’m determined that will change next year.

Things at our house have been a little different.  Our neighbor dropped by to play a few video games.  We cleaned the house for no one in particular.  I attempted to finish getting all the laundry our former neighbors left out of my living room.  It feels like we’re getting a home back again, slow as it may be.

We had nowhere special to go this year.  My family is all out of state.  Oz’s mom isn’t allowed to be a part of our lives.  Maybe some day we’ll talk about that, but not today.  His dad was spending the holiday with his girlfriend’s family and Oz’s sister went with him.  That left us alone for the holiday, something that was especially hard for me as we’ve always had big Thanksgivings my whole life.  It felt lacking and lonely, but it could have been worse.  Oz was supposed to work but ended up home instead.  At least we had each other.

Corde spent the day wondering what we were going to do for dinner.  That’s the kind of kid she is.  She pointed out several times that we didn’t get a turkey and we can’t roast one.  This was a very big concern to her, I guess.  She loves roast turkey.  We had discussed it the day before when we went to the grocery store to buy everything, but I guess she forgot.  One would think you’d remember a five mile round trip with a stroller packed to the brim with groceries on the way back!

Having only a microwave and hotplate made planning Thanksgiving dinner really interesting.  We were really limited.  We all were looking forward to turkey with all the fixings, but that just wasn’t meant to be.  As it was, we forgot half of it.  We didn’t have corn.  I forgot to make the green beans.  There was no squash (one of my favorites).  I didn’t remember to open the cranberry sauce.  I know, I know, where’s the feast?  We seemed to have forgotten everything!

Instead of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner we decided we were just going to make it up as we go along.  We picked up some sandwich turkey.  I tossed that into a frying pan just long enough to warm it up.  That got thrown into a dinner roll like a mini-sandwich.  We got some mashed potatoes and some au-gratin potatoes that just needed to be tossed in the microwave.  Whatever anyone wanted slathered with gravy was slathered with gravy, especially those sandwiches.  Turkey and gravy sandwiches on a dinner roll are delicious!  Everything was topped off with mini pickles that Beekee just HAD to have, and crescent rolls he picked out as an appetizer.  The boys sat at their own table while Corde, Oz, and I shared the big table.  It wasn’t what we’re used to, but it was delicious and everyone was completely stuffed.

As we sat to eat dinner, we all talked about what we’re thankful for.  Corde went first, as she does almost every year because she’s so excited to do it.  I think she wanted us to say grace too, but I’m not so comfortable with that after a background in the Catholic church. It felt a little awkward as the moment really called for grace, but Oz would have been the one to say it, but I didn’t want to put him on the spot, so we just dove right into what we’re thankful for.

Corde said:

I’m thankful for food!  We’ve definitely got a lot here.  I don’t think anyone will be hungry after this!

Oz was next:

I’m thankful for my family.

Then it was my turn:

I’m thankful for my home, and that we’re going to keep living here.

Beekee, silly, of course, said:

I’m thankful for turkey!  Oh, and pickles!

We asked Sander what he was thankful for.  He got a silly big grin and said:

Cereal!

Next was Lucabear’s turn, but he’s too little of course, so I said I know what he’s thankful for.  When Corde asked, this is what Oz said:

Boob juice, of course!  Mama milk is his favorite thing in the whole world!

Then there was Sabrina, who obviously can’t talk for herself, so this is what Corde thought she’d say when I asked her later:

She got some turkey on Thanksgiving, and she got her cat tree back so she has something to scratch on.  She seems really happy about that.

At the end of it all it was a pretty good Thanksgiving.  Corde felt the need to point out that though it wasn’t a traditional Thanksgiving, she kind of liked that we had a Thanksgiving just like in one of their Thanksgiving stories, Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’.  That’s a really cute story where it seems like everything just goes wrong and they end up with no Thanksgiving feast.  Instead they end up making sandwiches, but it’s okay because they’re doing it as a family.

Now the part I love and hate the most begins.  It all starts with the tear-down of Thanksgiving decorations.  Then we’ve got to clean the house so the Christmas decorations can be put up.  We’ve only got a tiny little three-and-a-half foot tree that Corde picked out last year.  It’s white, so it certainly stands out.  We’ve got a pretty good idea of where that’s going to go.  We don’t have very many other Christmas decorations, and we only seem to have a few books, though I thought we had more.  I hope in future years that changes as we expand our range of decorations.  Until then, we’ll make the best of what we’ve got.


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Some Turkey Day Myths

Okay, so I’ve been out of the loop for a while.  We had a full day Sunday.  We had church in the morning (to which we were late because I was sick).  Then we walked the five mile round trip to the store and back so we could get something to bring to the feast at the church.  Then we did Thanksgiving at the church.  I ended up having to go home because all that activity sent me from under the weather to incredibly ill.  I took one day off from everything, holed up in my room with Luca.  Yesterday was spent recovering from having mama out of the loop for a while.  That meant lots of cleaning and laundry!  So here I am, back just in time for Turkey Day!

The kids and I have been talking and we’ve decided we’d like to share a few things about Turkey Day that seem to be commonly accepted myths, and what the truth behind them are.  We don’t have many, but maybe we’ll build on them every year.  It sounded like fun, so I’m letting the kids run with it.

Myth #1 The Pilgrims called their feast “the first Thanksgiving”.

Truth:  Well, let’s begin in the beginning.  Everything about that statement is wrong, starting from “the Pilgrims”.  The Pilgrims didn’t think of themselves as pilgrims at all.  They were called “the First Comers” by their descendants, and it’s thought that they thought of themselves in a similar manner, especially since not all of them came for religious reasons.  On top of that, as a religious practice the Puritan people always gave thanks every Thursday.  This would make every Thursday “thanksgiving day”.  And, finally, why would they cal it the first if they didn’t know it would become a national tradition.

Myth #2  The Pilgrims invited their native friends to their feast as thanks for teaching them how to survive and get food in this new world.

Truth:  Well, part of that’s correct, sort of.  As records show it seems that they collectively agreed to share the harvest feast.  Thursday thanksgiving was a tradition in the Pilgrim culture.  The harvest feast is a tradition in many Native American cultures.  They simply combined the two, and the Wampanoag people didn’t come empty handed either!  It seems they left the farmed goods to the villagers while they brought what they could hunt and fish.

Myth #3 The Pilgrims ate turkey, fresh squash, pumpkins, corn, pies, cranberry sauce, and breads.

Truth:  While they probably did eat all the vegetables they harvested, the one point of the feast that was conspicuously missing was the turkey!  Instead they were brought six whole deer by the Wampanoag people as their contribution to the feast.  So venison would be a much more appropriate Thanksgiving dinner!  With the absence of something to stuff, there wouldn’t be stuffing either!  It’s also thought that the Pilgrims didn’t yet know about harvesting cranberries (originally called “crane berries”, good memory Corde!) so they might not have had cranberry sauce, and if they did it certainly wouldn’t have been called cranberry sauce!  And what about all those mouth-watering pies?  We’ve been looking, but we haven’t found a single source yet that suggests pies were a part of the feast.  That one’s still up in the air.  However, it is known that the Pilgrims did make lots of bread, most of which seems to have been made with a corn base.  They certainly had a much different feast than we would today!

Myth #4 The Pilgrims and Wampanoag people enjoyed a day of feasting in honor of the first successful harvest.

Truth:  I like the truth in this so much better.  Nope, not one day!  Three whole days of feasting, games, and enjoyment between the two cultures!  Of course, the whole thing had to have been called off by Sunday so the Pilgrims could see to their worship.  If only we preserved it as a three-day feast!  Of course, that would get in the way of all that Black Friday shopping…

Myth #5 The Pilgrims wore black outfits with shiny silver buckles.

Truth:  Actually, the Pilgrims wore a lot more color than that.  It seems they rarely wore black, and they didn’t have any buckles at all.  Everything tied secure in place.  Buckles were hard to craft and expensive.  The Pilgrims spent everything they had on the journey and likely couldn’t afford such finery in the first place.  Their whole style of dress was much different than what’s pictured as traditional, and we have no idea why black and buckled became the expected image of the Pilgrims.

Myth #6 …and we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving on the 4th weekend of November ever since.

Truth:  Have you ever been in Massachusetts in November?  If you have, you know that story is a little hard to believe.  It’s freezing cold and the ground has already frozen over.  There’s no way a harvest could have taken place then.  Chances are the actual harvest took place in October.  They also never celebrated again after that first year.  It wasn’t until 200 years later when a woman named Sarah Hale (thanks, Beekee, for your good memory for names!) petitioned President Lincoln to make it a national holiday that the date was selected.  I’m inclined to believe my history teacher on how the date was set.  October already had one national holiday, Columbus Day.  Putting Thanksgiving in the end of October, when it likely fell, would mean two national holidays in October and none in November.  Instead the pushed it back to late November, giving it the same time period (the end of the month).  I’ve also heard that the reason for the placement was to keep it suitably away from not only Columbus day, but Halloween.  It was also timed just before the beginning of Advent (the countdown to Christmas in the Catholic church) which would put everyone in the right mind for the holiday to follow.  There’s nothing better to kick off the season of giving than taking a moment to be truly thankful for everything you have in your life.

So, that’s all we’ve got for today.  While I don’t expect to see any of you tomorrow as everyone will probably be celebrating with their families (well, those of you who are American), I’ll be stopping in tomorrow to share what we’re all thankful for.  We’re even going to try and guess what Sabrina and Luca are thankful for!

I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving.  I know we’re not going to have much of a Thanksgiving, but we’ll definitely have an interesting time of it.  The kids say, “Happy Turkey Day everyone!”  And we’ll likely be seeing all of you again when we write about our alternative to Black Friday shopping insanity!  Enjoy!


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Goodbye, Sweet Mazda mX6

We were all trying to avoid this.  We’ve been fighting it with everything we’ve got.  There had to be another way.  We were going to find another way.  The reality was no other way was going to work.  We had to do what had to be done.  There was no other way out.

You know that pesky little late fee we got?  I think I might have mentioned it.  If I haven’t, well, I have now.  We had a late fee because we were so caught up in helping our neighbors out that we completely forgot to get our rent paid on time.  It was turned in one day late, so we got nailed with a late fee.  Management wasn’t willing to negotiate with us, so we were stuck paying it.  I can kind of understand.  With all the families leaving they’ve got to make money wherever they can.  We kind of had a feeling it was going to happen and it really was our fault.  We were given until November 24th to get the money in, otherwise they’d be filing the paperwork the following Monday to evict us. In order to stop it we’d have to pay the late fees, water bill, and court fees.

Our total bill came to $203.  We had thought we could make it, but Oz’s hours got cut yet again.  He’s barely making more than enough to pay for his child support.  We’d considered what we could sell to make ends meet.  He tried selling the last of his discs for disc golf, but they had no cash available.  He tried selling off his Magic cards, but he wasn’t able to do that.  We took it as a sign that they just weren’t meant to go.  He’s tried selling off his cards before, so we’re really thinking he’s meant to have them.  Unfortunately, we were starting to fear what we were going to have to do.  Our last resort was to ask the church for help knowing we’d be able to return the money in time, even if it was just in the form of donations when we could afford it.

For the past few days Oz has really been working as hard as he can to find some alternate way to get the money.  He’s been looking for work and doing anything he can.  Then he came home with a solution.  He could sell the Mazda, but she’d be crushed for scrap metal.  Now, everyone knows we don’t have a car, but that’s because our only vehicle blew her engine back in May while we were still living out at Oz’s dad’s house.  She was towed back and left in his driveway.  This poor vehicle had been through the ringer.  She’d been sitting for five years in someone’s yard.  She had problems with the battery, shot spark plugs, distributor cap, a flat tire, a broken windshield, needed new windshield wipers, electrical issues, air conditioning that didn’t work, a little bit of body damage, the seats needed to be repaired, a tail light that didn’t work no matter what we did to fix it, had the interior door panels removed, the radio was sitting loose in the car, the trunk wouldn’t stay open unless you propped it up with a piece of wood, and the seal on the trunk leaked.  The poor thing was on her last legs when we got her, but she was running.  Then her engine just went.  She blew a head.

At the time I knew she was done.  Fixing her would have meant replacing her from the chassis, because that’s about all that would be left.  There was no point to keeping her.  She’d done her job and done it well.  We didn’t pay much for her, and while I guess you could say we didn’t get our value out of her in miles traveled versus money put into her between purchase, small repairs, and transporting her up to this area, we feel she’d done everything we needed out of her.

When we got the Mazda we’d gone a while without a car.  Oz picked her up and she was in rough shape, but she ran.  Though she wasn’t legal we were able to get grocery shopping done, which was a small miracle in the situation we were in.  When we moved out to his dad’s place he was able to get back and forth to work for a while.  He brought in just enough money because of that car that we were able to put ourselves on the right path.  It’s led us down the tricky path we’ve been down now, but it could have been a lot worse.

The day after the Mazda came home we knew we had to do something right away.  She was filthy from sitting out in the yard for so long.  Oz takes great care of any vehicle he uses, so the first mission was to get her cleaned up.  Working on cars clears his head and helps him focus on the things we need to do in order to get our lives back in order.  What he didn’t expect was having all the kids jump in to help.  It became a family project to get her looking as sharp as she could again.

This inspired an idea.  One of the problems most women have in being self-sufficient is knowledge about cars.  Sure, when I was in auto body in tech school I learned how to change a tire, a good life skill, but all the boys were taught how to change oil.  I didn’t want my daughter to grow up with that kind of lack of understanding about cars, or worse.  Her step-dad’s a mechanic!  At least that’s what he did in the military.  Why shouldn’t she have a better start in the world of cars?

So we sat Corde down.  We told her if she helped fix up the car, when she got out of college or otherwise proved she was ready for the responsibility if she doesn’t go to college, we’ll give her the car as a gift.  She was all about helping Oz out after that point.  She wanted to know everything possible about what he was doing and each part he removed from the car to clean and replace.  She invested herself completely in that car every moment she had until the engine blew.

I think she knew then that the car wasn’t going to make it, just like I did.  I’m pretty sure Oz even realized it.  We all were in denial.  We were all keeping hope that we could give that little car the second chance she deserved.  Corde saw this as one way she could get closer to Oz, her second dad.  She wanted more than anything to feel like they had something special that was just for them.  Sure, they had Pokemon, but she could play her card game with other people.  That’s not something special for just the two of them.

Moving in here brought other things.  She started playing video games, though she hasn’t played any in a while.  They’ve watched movies together again.  They have other moments every now and then.  The car had fallen to the wayside because we all knew we couldn’t do anything about it right now.  She would just have to sit.  We had other priorities, finding a car that would work from the start was one of them.  We couldn’t be sinking the same amount we could spend on a down payment or even the full cost of a new car to get her up and running again, only to have one of the other things that were holding on by a thread fall apart beneath us.  We needed a car that could transport the whole family for doctor’s appointments, play dates, emergencies, whatever reason we might have.  Then things got tight as Oz’s hours got cut back again and again.  The Mazda was replaced in her mind by other things because she knew it would be a long while off.

When Oz came home and made the suggestion that selling the car would save us, I was sad, but had to agree.  We kind of knew it was the end when she needed engine work.  In theory I could have rebuilt the engine, but the truth is it just wasn’t worth it.  By the time we got to it she would have been sitting for so long that we wouldn’t just be looking at replacing parts, but we’d seriously be looking at the frame for rust damage.  I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do, as much as it would hurt him, and as sad as I knew Corde would be.  We had to suck it up and sell her to be crushed.  It was the only way we’d get the money in time without having to pay any additional fees, and we’d even come out a little bit on top.

Then Oz did something I never would have expected him to do.  He’d always been very final about making the decisions, but I think it’s a sign that he’s really starting to invest himself in this unschooling idea.  He said, “I’ll talk to Corde.  It’s her car.  We can’t do anything unless she’s okay with it.”

He called Corde in the room and the conversation went like this:

Oz:  Corde, come here.  Your mom and I need to talk to you.

Corde:  Um…okay…

Oz:  You know how we’ve been talking about money lately?  We’ve got to come up with that $203 or they’re going to take us to court to kick us out?  I have some good news and some bad news.

Corde, starting to look nervous:  Okay…

Oz:  The good news is I have a way to pay the money so we can stay here without having to worry about coming up with the money anymore, but it would mean we’d have to sell the Mazda to be crushed.

Corde gets that deer in the headlights look she always gets when she’s not sure how she feels about something big.

Oz: We don’t have to do it. I can keep trying to find something else, but the Mazda is in really bad shape.  It would just be sitting out in Grumpy’s yard for a really long time because we can’t afford to work on it right now.

Corde in the smallest voice I’ve heard her use in a long time: Yeah, it would be a long time before we can fix it because we’ve got to get another car and all that other stuff.

Oz:  But I promise we can get another car, a car that’s in better condition that you and I can work on together, one that doesn’t need so much work and won’t cost so much to fix up.

Corde gave her mock shocked look that’s always so comical:  An even better car?

Oz held out his hand, offering a pinkie: I don’t know if it’ll be a better car, but I’ll let you help me find one, okay?

Corde got so excited she almost forgot to lock pinkies, then remembered and hooked hers with his with a big cheesy grin: Okay!  Okay!  Okay!  I don’t want the Mazda to go, but it’s okay.  As long as we can work on another one together!

Oz, now smiling though I know giving up the car hurt him too:  I pinkie swear we’ll work on another one together.

Over the next couple of days Oz and I talked about it.  He had four leads for potential jobs, a yard work gig, and should be going to work for a moving company on a one day job on Monday paying $15 per hour.  Running the numbers in my head real quick, we probably could have done everything without having to sell the Mazda, but we knew it was time to let go.  It’s not fair to anyone for that car to be sitting on his dad’s land for years because we can’t afford to fix it.  With the way costs kept adding up we were starting to think that there was no way it would be something we’d want to give Corde by the time she graduated college!  It was really the right thing to do, even though we probably didn’t need to.

Today was the day the car was picked up.  The guy taking her to be crushed picked Oz up and gave him a ride home.  He was a really nice guy.  Oz came in to the house after unpacking the stuff we were keeping from the Mazda and told us all if we wanted to say goodbye to the Mazda, now would be the time to do it.  I sent Corde out to the car with Oz while I kept Beekee behind.  I asked him to help me find my jacket so Corde and Oz could have a moment together.  Then I came out as they were just starting to walk away so Beekee could say goodbye too.  He made some noise and said, “Mom!  The car is talking!  It says goodbye!”  I nearly lost it then.  I will admit, I treat many of my items as though they had feelings, and that’s often come back to bite me in the butt.  Beekee didn’t seem to understand she was going to be crushed, or maybe he thought of it like Bumblebee in the newest Transformers movies, where he leaves an old, beat-up Camero and returns a brand new one.  For me it was tinged with sadness.  I wanted to tell him we’d changed our mind, but management won’t allow cars that aren’t street legal on the property and we’re on shaky enough ground.  The man who took her said she was being recycled so she could become a new car some day, which seemed to help.  I didn’t get my chance to say goodbye to the car, but with all the stress and emotion going around, and seeing Corde with the tears welled up in her eyes, I just couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t be a grown woman bawling over a car.  I didn’t cry that much any other time I have to watch my cars go out of my life and I certainly didn’t want to start now.  I wanted to be strong for Corde.

When we came in the house Oz asked Corde if she wanted to keep the key and the license plates.  We put the license plates up on her wall like Oz had with the plates on his first car.  His car still had the temporary tags on it when it was totaled by a drunk driver (I still remind him it’s better she totaled the car than him because then we never would have met).  He got the plates for his car two days after the accident.  Now Corde has the plates from her Mazda to remember it by up on her wall.  It may not be much, but it’s a little something to remember it by.

She was so upset that she asked what she could do to take her mind off of it so she wouldn’t cry.  She wanted to paint, but it was late and all the kids were too tired.  I saw that as a mess waiting to happen.  She wanted to watch a movie, but I knew Oz would want to play games for a bit after working and having to watch the car go too.  I felt horrible because it was late and there weren’t many options.  She didn’t want to read Junie B. or Pokemon.  I had no idea what to tell her.

Then it hit me while I was holding Luca in my arms.  I told her a story about a car her dad and I loved very much, and what I did to get over it when we lost her.

Your Daddy and I had a car once, a ’79 Oldsmobile Cutlass.  It was older than I was, but, man, I loved that car!  It was the car your dad had when I met him.  That car took us everywhere and never failed us.  It was even the first car I drove all by myself with no one else there with me.

One day when you were about Luca’s age we got into a car accident.  It was a really bad accident and the car could have ended up in the water with the way we were hit, but she kept us safe.  That car was wrecked.  Most of the important parts keeping the front of the car together, like keeping the wheels aligned all came apart.  The back of the car was hit so hard the frame was bent.  That car was completely wrecked, but she got us home safely, and that I’ll always remember.

I loved that car, so it was sad that she died.  I couldn’t get past the fact that I’d miss her.  Finally I decided to do something that would really take my mind off of her.  I started to imagine what kind of car I wanted when we replaced her.  I didn’t get what I wanted because your dad was going to get his car first, then I would get my own some day.  He needed the car more for work, but it was fun to dream.  It made it hurt that much less to know that my dream car would be waiting for me.  I might not have been able to get it right then.  I can’t even get it right now, but I’ll have it some day.

She seemed to think this was a good idea.  We told her that we’d try and get her the kind of car she wanted, even another Mazda mX6 if that’s what she wanted.  She told us she wanted a convertible.  I told her I think we could manage that.  It certainly wouldn’t be new, but you don’t want a new car for a project car.  That takes half of the fun out of it!  Beekee chimed in to say he wanted “a car with no doors!”  Oz laughed and said, “Beekee, what you want is a jeep!”  Then the kids started talking about the cars they wanted while Oz got the plates up on the wall.  I really think she’s going to be alright.

So, it’s sad to watch the Mazda go, but we all know it’s for the best.  She did well by us.  She got us where we needed to go.  The only time she failed us was on a day Oz went to work against my better judgement, which was for the best because the rain started coming down so bad that he wouldn’t have made it to work safely.  It was for the best, and I think she died looking out for him.  She was a good car.  She will always be remembered as the car that saved us in our time of need.  Now she may not be saving the roof over our heads because Oz did find other work, but we now have a little extra wiggle room.  She might not have to save our home, but she’s definitely going to be saving Christmas.  I don’t know what better gift anyone could give this year.

Goodbye, sweet Mazda.  May you find your peace in whatever strange afterlife a car might have.