Listening Up in the Minivan

Anybody else putting on the miles in the minivan this summer?

Listen, I didn’t ASPIRE to own a minivan. I didn’t exactly aspire to own any particular vehicle, as cars are not at the top of my Most Interesting Things List. I very much appreciate a car that runs well, has a functioning radio, cools and heats at my will, and has power steering and power brakes. I have owned cars that do not fulfill these criteria, and I have had periods of my life and travels during which I owned no car at all. So cars are awesome and practical and fast.

But the minivan. Our best friends, Ryan and Betsy, have openly and frequently mocked us for “selling out” and buying a minivan. I’m not sure what this means, but I suspect it has to do with not looking as cool as they do in their Honda Pilot. This is true. Ry and Bets are also cleaner people, which means that when they open their doors after a ride in the Pilot, newspapers and water bottles and hairbrushes and stuffed zebras don’t fall out. They also maintain clean cup holders, vacuumed floor mats, and windshields that haven’t developed that curious grime that accumulates after five unclean people and a zebra breathe in an enclosed space over a period of time.

Here’s the catch: Ryan and Betsy are missing out. Minivans are awesome. They are huge and can tote around thousands of children and their friends. They have sliding side doors that are perfect for people embarking and disembarking all on their own. They have removable seats that make it possible to haul a twin mattress, three end tables, two suitcases, a rug, and three young children, all before even touching the front two seats (true life, last weekend). And minivans have a certain je ne se quoi…Glamour? Elegance? Panache? Or dare I say, swagger?

I love our minivan. I’ll probably still drive one when I’m a granny, since my kids will need someone to haul their dining room table and stuffed zebras around. I’m a helper that way.

If you are spending inordinate amounts of time in your vehicle, might I recommend some children’s audio books to break up the tedium? These are all delightful and will be sure to distract your children from poking each other’s eyeballs with Pixie Stix or from plummeting into Whinese Zone. Whinese is a horrible, easily acquired language that can drive parents to dangerous swerving and wild arm-groping into the back seat for a leg to squeeze. Whinese can produce vows screamed out the window at 75 miles per hour that invoke the fury of an Almighty God, thunderstorms, and promises never, ever to take a road trip again.

These are all hypothetical situations. But in case you have hours in the Swagger Wagon in front of you, might I suggest great stories, wonderfully told?

1. E.B. White.

I love this man. He wrote some of America’s most beloved children’s literature, and if you are super smart, you will find a way to listen to Mr. White reading his own work. We have listened to Charlotte’s Web, and I may or may not have laughed, cried, and shook my head at the beauty of his story, told in his voice. We are now listening to his reading of The Trumpet of the Swan, and I feel like I’m digging my toes into warm sand every time we turn it on. Pure delight. If your library does not own copies of E.B. White’s audio books, request them ASAP or, even better, donate them as a gift to all the story-hearers in your community.

2. Clementine.

The Clementine books are fantastic and the audio versions are pure fun to hear. Sara Pennypacker is the actress who reads these books, and I feel the very least we can do is listen to a person who goes by that name. Even though Clementine is a girl, my son enjoyed hearing her escapades as well. Also, while Clementine is spicy and busy getting into trouble, she is not mean or snarky. So your kids don’t end up sounding like bad sitcom impressions when you turn her off (ahem, Junie B. Jones).

3. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

The woman will fix all your parenting issues, teach your children manners, and she will entertain at the same time. If I could have Mrs. PigWig for dinner, I would. Since that’s looking unlikely, I happily press PLAY and listen to how she fixes Donny, Suzy, and Winifred all up and saves them from uncertain futures of chewing with their mouths open and general hard living. So satisfying.

4. Adventures in Odyssey.

Buckle up. If you are new to AIO, you will find it shocking that there are a gazillion of these from which to pick after its long and still-going-strong run as a weekly radio program. I can understand if the words “weekly radio program” make you think of sitting by the fire during the Great Depression and waiting to hear the voice of President Roosevelt, but I assure you, AIO peeps are masters at great, Christian-rooted storytelling for kids and families. Some of the episodes can tend toward saccharine, but in general, this is fantastic family fun. My kids are mildly obsessed and consistently put Odyssey on their birthday and Christmas wish lists.

5. Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo.

DiCamillo wrote Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, so she’s pretty much story-telling special stuff. Mercy Watson is a pig who loves hot, buttered toast. I can’t think of a better way to build a story, or a meal, for that matter.

Anyone else listening to stories in the Minivans of Love? I’d love to hear. Adult literature also welcomed, though I might need to wait for a few years (or good earphones) to pull that off…

What’s on your playlist?

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