Thursday, June 21, 2007


Our car finally died the other day.

I’d been on my way to a birthday party with my three kids (and no Steve), when the van struggled to have power on hills and after stop signs. I asked the kids to pray because I feared we wouldn’t even make it to the party. Sure enough, after our second stop sign, we turned left into the fast lane of a four-lane road and had zero power! I limped into a gas station, knowing we’d never make it through all the downtown stop lights to our friends’ house.

I was able to call my in-laws, who were going to the same party, and they came to our rescue. Dad drove our van to a local, trusty mechanic, and Mom drove the kids and me to the party. For the rest of the weekend and two more days, we didn’t have our car, as the mechanic gave it a tune-up and fixed the ignition problem.

We were grateful this all happened before a trip we’d planned to Richmond (2 ½ hours away) to visit my aunt and cousin, and pick up our good friend Rachel who’s visiting from West Chicago. It was a stiflingly hot day on Thursday, June 8, when we packed our van and buckled the kids in (at 2:30 PM) We’d only gotten 40 minutes north of home when our van lost power in a freeway interchange. Steve pulled to the shoulder and our car just refused to start again.

We called AAA immediately and for 45 very hot minutes, tried to get a tow truck to come help us. But the state police were concerned about the dangerous position we were in and called another tow truck on their own. All five of us piled into the extended cab: Ethan was screaming, I was sitting with no seatbelt, Naomi was sitting by an airbag up front, and Josiah fell fast asleep during the 10 minute ride. Steve and I nervously watched as the driver talked on his phone, wrote information on a clipboard, and drove us and our car all at the same time.

We were told by a mechanic that our timing belt had broken and our van was worthless. The kids sat in their carseats, lined up in the 2 foot deep shade by the mechanic’s door: Josiah was still asleep, Ethan interested in all the goings-on, and Naomi munching a banana. It was still hot, but much more bearable in the breezy shade than in our closed-up car. Steve and I spent another hour trying to decide what to do with our car and about our trip. Should we ask a friend to come get us and take us back home? Should we ask Aunt Beth to come take us to Richmond? Should we rent a car and go home? Rent a car and go to Richmond?

Just before 6:00, we decided to rent a car and continue on to Richmond. I was trying to get there in time to browse a homeschooling curriculum exhibit hall that evening (which I thought was the only time it was free during the homeschooling convention). We gratefully drove our air-conditioned SUV straight to downtown Richmond, where Steve dropped Ethan and me off at the convention center (at 7:30), and took the other kids to a fast food place for bathrooms and a light dinner, planning to return to get me at 9 PM.

Unfortunately, my exhibit hall was not free that evening and I decided it wouldn’t be worth it to pay the money for the amount of time left. I borrowed someone’s phone to call our cell phone and ask Steve to come back for me as soon as possible, but he didn’t get the message until over an hour later. I sat outside on a concrete wall with Ethan, waiting for Steve, until 9:10 PM. It was still hot and I wished I’d known exactly when he’d come so I could have gone into an air-conditioned coffee shop to wait.

We finally arrived at Aunt Beth’s house at 9: 40 PM, ate her spaghetti dinner and got everyone to bed just around 11. Steve spent Friday researching used cars (we’d left our van for the junkyard),and on Saturday we bought a used Mercury station wagon. We didn’t have enough money available to withdraw the amount of cash needed to pay the seller. Thankfully, my cousin Andy loaned us cash for the weekend, until we could deposit what we needed in our checking account.

I did still get to go to my homeschooling convention (and even for the last few hours that were free), and we made it to Fredericksburg in time to pick up Rachel. We had a great visit with Aunt Beth and Andy (except for Steve who was on the internet the whole time) and were thankful for their help. The kids were thrilled because Aunt Beth slept in a tent with them on Friday night (their first time camping), our new car has a rear-facing back seat which they love, and they’re so excited to have Rachel with us for a week!


Charity said...

Man do I feel your pain. I have been thru something very similiar. We drove cross country to NV. On the way home, in Amarillo, 6 hours from home, the car blew a piston. And we faced much the same dillema you guys faced. It was terrible.

I hope the new car proves more reliable than the last. I know how awful it is to face buying a car when you hadn't planned on it.

lauren said...

That was a very exhausting day. But i guess you still had fun later. I just hope that it won't happen to us. We are planning to visit our folks tomorrow and we just got our car from a garage for new chevrolet tahoe ignition coil. Somehow, I feel confident by the mechanics assurance of smooth driving after the repair.

Anonymous said...

Oh Lis, I feel for you guys. Dad had said you'd gotten a new car, but I didn't know the circumstances. How awful. I entirely know what you went through!! (Except without the kids!) Love you.