Memorial Day: Patriotism, pride, stars and stripes, summer, BBQ, lemonade, family, road trip, minivan. Thank heaven for the minivan! Thank heaven for THIS minivan. The 2005 Toyota Sienna arrives just in time to greatly increase my quality of life during the long summer weekends. Oh sure, the kids love it too. But everyone knows that a happy mom means a happy family. The Sienna does its part to make me ethereally happy, which through the halo effect rubs off on the rest of my family.

It all starts with the side doors and rear tailgate that automatically open as if by command as I approach the vehicle to load it up. A push of the key fob button is all it takes. The recessed cargo bin and grocery bag hooks on the back of the third row make storing all the necessities actually pleasurable. Pair that with a ridiculous amount of storage bins, compartments and pouches throughout the vehicle and you've got a virtual container-palooza.

Since my husband will be joining us on this Memorial Day adventure, occupying the passenger's seat that normally acts as my purse rest, I'm thrilled to find a convenient purse hook.

The innovative Latch system in the second row keeps car seat installation time down to mere seconds. A Velcro flap hides the Latches when they're not in use, and lifts up for easy access when they are needed.

My 4-year-old wants to sit in the "way back," which has me up in arms, initially. There's no way that I'm going to climb back there to buckle her in. However, as my luck would have it, the seat belts are easy to use and she's able to buckle in her own booster. With the flip-down conversation mirror, I can glance back to check on her occasionally without taking my eyes too far from the road.

Now that we're actually ready to motor, pulling out of the garage is made simple with Toyota's park assist system and the addition of a backup camera (part of a $3,580 Limited Package No. 2). The backup camera displays an image of what's behind the car while it's in reverse, while the park assist system offers an audible tone to monitor the rear, rear corners and front corners of the Sienna.

Also part of this package is a touchscreen navigation system that is actually useable. Without even referring to the owner's manual, I type in the name of our road trip destination, and an angelic voice guides me the whole way there.

Come lunch time, this kind system offers me a current list of restaurants in the area, helping me steer my family away from inedible rest-stop food.

Before having kids, my husband and I idealistically vowed that we'd always put our marriage first, but family road trips have put that to the test.

After nearly five years of trying to have adult conversations between "Are we there yet?" "I want a snack." "I'm bored" and "Baby Cade is looking at me!" we started to give up. However, with our children enthralled by the Sienna's DVD system, my husband and I are finally able to speak to one another, uninterrupted for an extended period of time.

I can actually boast that the rear seat DVD is good for my marriage. It's placed just right so that it doesn't obstruct my rear line of sight.

A whole slew of other features on the Sienna combine to make our road trip more pleasurable. Some of these include roll-up window shades on all four rear windows, second-row windows that roll down (a feature not seen in other minivans), and a dynamic laser cruise control that maintains a set distance from the car in front of us.

After my Memorial Day road trip in the Sienna, I find the devil on my shoulder dreaming up excuses for why I can't return it to Toyota. Um, it was abducted by aliens for motor vehicle research. No, I forgot to put on the parking break and it rolled off a mountaintop in Colorado.

Maybe I'd have better luck just resorting to the truth; I'm a normal mom who gets overwhelmed some days just trying to get out the door. The 2005 Toyota Sienna XLE Limited actually makes my life as a mom easier. Please, pretty please, may I keep it?

Now, if only we could get Toyota to integrate the ignition key into the remote fob. Come on! I have enough junk floating around my purse as it is. A one-piece key and remote would be greatly appreciated.

*For more information on the Toyota Sienna and its safety features visit

LET'S TALK NUMBERS LATCH Connectors: 4/5 Seating Capacity (includes driver): 7/8

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore

SENSE AND STYLE Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent! Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times