I say this every time we get out of the mini-van. I want all wrappers, books, toys, rolled-up-socks, coats, pencils, chewed-up-spit-out straws, water bottles, fingernail clippings, shoes, Bibles, crumbs, sweatshirts, notebooks and coffee mugs out of the van and put away. With six people making daily trips, the van can easily become a toxic dump site.
Each time I arrive home and put the vehicle in park, I remind my loving and obedient children, "Empty the van." It seems the more I say this, the less they hear it. Instead of becoming a wonderful family tradition, like Christmas cookies and birthday parties, it has become a source of contention.
One Saturday, I decided to take action and emptied the van myself. In the driveway, I made a huge mountain of all the coats, wrappers, toys, shoes, coats, baseball cards, school books. If an obliging cloud had dumped snow at that time, my boarders would be strapping on their snowboards.
I was very pleased with myself. I didn't yell, I didn't nag, I didn't cause a scene that would horribly embarrass my children and scar them for life. I just made a big pile, confident that my statement would speak louder than words.
As I trounced through the day, doing all the things a mother does on a Saturday while her kids read, take naps and catch up on the fun things they think they missed out on during the week, I noticed the pile wasn't shrinking. I think it was growing mold. My husband stepped in towards the end up the day and began calling the guilty parties to take their portion of the pile to their rooms.
I heard one interaction as he asked one of the older children to help out a younger child. "Will you please take the rest of this stuff inside?" A little jealous that he got immediate reaction, I didn't really pay attention to the verbiage, I was just thankful that the mountain would soon be a molehill.
Instead, an hour later, I found the bag of offending items on the kitchen counter. I asked the older child, "Didn't Dad tell you to put this stuff away?"
"No, he just said bring it inside," she replied.
"Inside and put on the counter? C'mon, you know he intended you to put it away. We were emptying out the van and all this stuff needs to be put where it belongs. Just finish the job." The child complied and I watched her walk down the hallway.
I almost wanted to cheer. The pile had slowly disintegrated during the day and the van was ready to start a new week of accumulations.
A little later, as I was tucking Rebekah into bed, found myself bending over a pile of stuff on her bed. Because we had spent hours cleaning her room over the weekend, I was surprised at this mini-mountain.
Too beaten down to even fuss anymore, I just put it all away.
The van was emptied.