That time I joined a gang.

My friend loaned me a Fitbit in an attempt to recruit me into her Fitbit gang. I use the term “gang,” because I’ve noticed that people with FitBits band together, talk about their FitBits and then peer pressure other people into getting FitBits. This ruthless gang just happened to be a bunch of suburban moms challenging each other to get 10,000 steps a day…or else. It’s all very West Side story. Although, instead of knifings and street fights, the loser buys coffee at the next play date.

They all sing the FitBit’s praises and honestly seem healthier for it, so I decided to give it a shot. What did I have to lose, except a few pounds? A week in, after my brutal gang initiation (kidding), I gotta tell you, I’ve got a beef with the Fitbit.

Aside from the fact that it sat on my wrist judging me all day, pressuring me to do more cardio, I found it to be unprepared for my Mom lifestyle. For starters, steps are only counted when you aren’t carrying or pushing anything, which for most Moms, is never. I’m always carrying something, whether it’s a misplaced toy, a human, clothes, dirty clothes, a dirty human, or old food I found under the couch.   Don’t act like you know me, FitBit. You think you’re better than me?!

When someone or something isn’t being carried, it means I’m pushing a shopping cart or stroller. I was outraged to find that the Fitbit did not record most of my steps at the grocery store. Much like all my weekly grocery trips, I clung to the cart for dear life, praying that no one would go all orangutan on me before I acquired the items on my grocery list. Ends up, the Fitbit requires that I’m gently swinging my arm in a rhythmic fashion to properly record the steps, which doesn’t sound like any outing I’ve ever had with my kids. Don’t judge me, FitBit, and then neglect to count those hard-earned steps! Didn’t you notice my heart rate was through the roof? Maybe my wrist was too sweaty from loading and unloading three squirmy toddlers, but go ahead and draw some conclusions; I’m sweaty with a borderline panic attack level heart rate, throw a couple extra steps my way.

The one silver lining to all those precious lost steps was that the pleasure of my kids’ company at the grocery store induced an elevated heart rate, which resulted in my time at the store being recorded as “active fat-burning minutes.” Thank you, Fitbit, for giving me hope that my stressful daily mom-tasks may somehow contribute to a slimming waistline.

In addition to ignoring most of my multi-tasking steps, the Fitbit also doesn’t distinguish between the varying degrees of difficulty that certain tasks require. For example, it may have only taken me 25 steps to haul the screaming toddler down the hall into timeout, but the Fitbit didn’t know that while I was doing that, another child was clinging to my leg. Yes, we went for a walk around the block to the tune of 1,500 steps, but the Fitbit didn’t know that I also had to drag all the bikes home after my kids decided, halfway through the walk, that they weren’t going to ride them anymore. I should get additional steps for that kind of monkey business. Don’t act like you know me, Fitbit!

In addition to tracking steps, the Fitbit claims to track sleep, calories burned, heart rate and distance. Unfortunately these are also ignorant to my actual level of mom-tivity. I was insulted when it claimed I got more sleep that I actually did. My Fitbit didn’t see me laying motionless in bed, NOT sleeping as I listened to the snores of my husband. Just because I wasn’t up walking around with a natural and leisurely arm sway doesn’t mean I didn’t startle and wake to any slight stirring. How about I tell you how little I slept, Fitbit, and then you rub my back and tell me I’m pretty. Now that’s something I could get on board with.

 I’m not sleeping, FitBit. Those snores are not my own.

So make yourself useful, Fitbit. Track my caffeine intake and warn me before I go from “caffeinated enough to make grilled cheese sandwiches for the third day in a row” to “my eyes are bouncing in my skull and I keep calling you all the wrong names.” Start tracking my alcohol intake so those play dates that involve day drinking don’t get out of control. When my blood alcohol gets too high in the evening hours, send me a “you know your kids are going to wake up at 5:45am tomorrow morning” alert and cut me off. 

Feel free to add these features to your next model upgrade, the “Fitbit Mom.” All I’m asking is that you track my curiously frantic and spastic movements and assume it’s because I’m tip-toeing away from a sleeping child or crawling under furniture to obtain lost toys. It’s definitely worth some sort of extra credit. 

Why I Love My Minivan

I’m not going to say that I was cool before I had kids, but I definitely showered and wore pants more often. I also didn’t struggle to complete sentences. With the birth of my children, certain standards for “cool” have taken a back seat role. A third row minivan back seat, to be precise.

 

 When I was newly pregnant, we agreed I would just keep my Ford Taurus. As a practical, safe, mid-sized car, this made sense and didn’t require purchasing a new vehicle. Fast forward a couple weeks to when the ultrasound tech dropped the “I see two” bomb. My mind immediately began to process the logistics involved with mothering, feeding and transporting two newborns, two infants, then two toddlers. Initially we were in denial; we could still use the Taurus! She was so reliable and large enough for two car seats! But then what do you do if someone parks too close and you can’t get the door open? Put one baby on the roof, back out of the tight parking spot, and then open the door, remove baby from roof and secure into car seat base? It stopped making so much sense. Then we rationalized an SUV – so much more room! Lots of cargo and hauling space, but yet, the unable-to-open-doors-baby-on-the-roof problem still existed. Finally, acceptance; sliding doors were a must. 

My husband tried to pitch the idea of modifying an SUV to add sliding doors, but shockingly none of the car dealers we spoke with were amused or enthused by the idea. We settled on a minivan. How was this possible? We were so cool! (Kind of.) We agreed that the abomination, I mean, minivan, must have leather seats. The idea of scrubbing spit up, vomit, milk, snacks or any other substance capable of rotting and growing mold out of fabric seats did not sit well with either of us.  So the search began. 

On Valentine’s Day 2012, my husband called to see if I could check out a minivan after work. After exhaustive research, we had been unable to find a suitable candidate in our area within our price range. This one might be the one. I dolled myself up for our hot Vday date and headed to the Honda dealership. She wasn’t pretty, or new, or cool, but she had automatic sliding doors, heated leather seats and cup holders galore. In the most cliche and poetic fashion, on that Valentines Day, I fell in love.

It was most unexpected, partly because I had been so cool, but also because I’d spent most of my adult life swearing I’d never drive a minivan. I was 7 months pregnant with twins, thus getting in and out of the Taurus had become both moderately embarrassing and genuinely harmful to the structural integrity of the vehicle. I was immediately pleased with the lack of bending, grunting, and hoisting required to enter and exit my minivan. Maybe it was the ranging pregnancy hormones, or the doors that opened with a push of a button, but I was head over preggo-belly in love.

My love for my minivan grew along with my children. Once #3 joined the family, we removed one of the captain’s chairs to better access the toddlers in the back seat. Oh, glorious convenience. Don’t get me started on the DVD player, which makes our 3 hour drives to Nana and Papa’s a breeze. Apart from the obvious reasons I initially fell for my Golden Gal, (OK, I won’t lie, gold wasn’t my first choice, or even on my list) she continues to surprise me with new traits well-suited to my new motherhood lifestyle. I don’t want to make all you non-minivan driving Moms feel uncool, so I’ve abbreviated my list to the top five reasons I love my minivan.

#1. The doors, obviously. With two infant car seats, all you need is one free finger to open the doors. I have since honed my skills, and I can haul #3, a purse, drag two toddlers and open the doors with just my teeth. Now that my babies have mutated into toddlers, the doors are amazing because it prevents any little mischief makers from opening their door smack into another car. I’ll chalk that off as a car insurance win. 

#2. No one expects you to look good. You see an SUV rolling down the road, you expect a clean cut and well put together soccer mom with cupcakes in tow. You see a gold minivan screech into the parking lot, it’s no surprise that when the door conveniently slides open, 37 broken toys and crumbled goldfish crackers cascade into the parking lot. It’s also no surprise that my hair may still be in the same messy bun I went to bed with last night and I’m attempting to pull off yesterday’s mascara. I’m not pretending to have it all together, and the minivan serves as your advanced warning.

#3. It’s basically a giant diaper bag. I was super organized when the twins were babies. I had a neatly packed diaper bag with any conceivable necessity. By the time I had three in tow, I was literally just chucking a couple diapers and a pack of wipes into the backseat. There is a first-aid kit under one of the seats and probably a couple changes of clothes in there somewhere. An emergency might require that I hike out to my minivan to obtain proper supplies, but there’s a solid 98% chance that what I need is in there. 

#4. No one questions why you are weaving in and out of lanes. If you see a vehicle failing to staying within a given lane, you might assume the driver is drunk or texting. As you pass them you may give them a salty look or curiously examine what they are so irresponsibly doing that would result in such careless driving. You see a minivan weaving in and out of the lanes, you say a prayer for the poor mother because you know she’s yelling “DO NOT MAKE ME TURN THIS VAN AROUND!”

#5. Need a snack? Check the floor. It’s a smorgasbord of tasty toddler treats. We can’t promise it won’t be stale or previously nibbled upon, but in a pinch you can satisfy a craving. Just make sure it’s food before you give it a taste.

It’s not where I imagined myself five years ago, but life has a funny way of changing all your expectations. I might not be “cool”, “well-rested”, “organized”, or “wearing real clothes” but I never once had to put a baby on the roof of my minivan.