Sometimes I have those days where nothing seems to go right. I wake up in the morning to the sound of the dog barking and kids frantically chattering. That's a bad sound combination to wake up to. I've learned 2 things from those kinds of days:
#1: Always wake up before the kids
#2: Never sleep later than the kids
As I looked out the window on that bright sunny morning that I just happened to commit both
You try waking up and the first thing you see is a headless, dead kitten hanging out of your dog's mouth. Seriously, try it. See if your day turns out nice.
After bucketing the fragment of the once-cute-kitten, we went inside for breakfast. I pretty much had no appetite after seeing that disgusting kitten but the kids seemed undaunted. In their enthusiasm to eat, an entire bag of cereal spilled gracefully all over the badly stained carpeted dining room. Which, reminds me... don't get me started on carpeted dining rooms because I really don't have too many good things to say about them. Or the people who would even think to put carpet in a dining room.
From then on, the day went down hill. If it wasn't one catastrophe, something greater and more dangerous was happening. Of course it sulked me into a "why is this happening to me" mood which made me feel guilty because I frequently like to remind myself of all the true hardship in the world and the fact that I really have NO hardship at all compared to other mothers. Like my poor mother cat... her darling baby had just been killed by a ravaging dog. At least all my children's heads were accounted for.
Seriously though, there are mothers all over who have it far worse than I... either they live in a battle torn country or they have a terminal illness or their children have all died or they have no home to raise their children in or they have no loving father to share parenthood with or they have no understanding of how to raise children or they're lonely childless women, arms aching to hold a child. I knew I didn't have it bad so I scolded myself soundly for sulking.
It was also about 100 degrees that day with full sun. My brave husband was battling a high, hot roof a good distance away and being the good husband that he is, I wanted to reward him with a cool refreshing drink.
So, I packed up the kids, departed from our comfortable air conditioned house and we began our little journey. Now, in case you think this seems mild and peaceful and mothering and kind, I think you should understand that you have no idea what it's like to ride in our van when all the kids are in there. And they're not sleeping. Or eating.
First of all, they yell (in order to be heard, of course), "Cold air on please" over and over until you turn the cold air on. And "cold air on please" literally means, turn the thermostat to 60F and turn the fan on full blast. If you adjust the fan at all or make the air slightly stray from freezing cold, you will immediately hear a simultaneous, "coldaironplease" chorus from the back of the van.
And they do this of course, to survive because if for some reason there should be any trace of anything warm in the van, they will surely die of a complete heat stroke. So we "coldaironplease" all the way to our destination and we "coldaironplease" all the way back home again.
While their hair is standing on end from the force of air blowing on their little heads, they begin a series of lessons. They question about all the deer in the woods. And what would we do if there was a bear trying to get in our house. And how many lions are probably over in that field. And what kind of thing is that tractor pulling? And why do we have to take the semi road? (Interstate) And why are they building a field with all that dirt? And "Mom are you going speed limit?" And what kind of plants are in that field? And what would happen if we turned the head lights off and drove in the dark. And WHO put that moon up there. And do skunks bite?
You must understand that these questions are being bombarded to the front of the van over the roar of the A/C fans. If there's any music or radio on at the same time, they just yell their questions louder. If they can't hear your answer (which is typical), they will repeat the question as many times as they need to. Pretty soon everyone in the van is hollering and yelling in an attempt to achieve ultimate communication and we travel merely down the road like one, little, happy family.
Alex chimes in quoting a phrase from a little "Old McDonald tractor" that goes, "Uh-oh, I can't drive" when you put the cow or the duck or the pig in the driver's seat. Like a broken record, he repeats that over and over from his cracker crumbed carseat.
It usually goes like this until Janae has to puke, which happens on any ride over 5 minutes long. There's usually a mad scramble for a cup or a bag or a box or a something to toss back to her. She then hangs her mouth over the cup or the bag or the box or whatever it is and sits there mostly quietly for the rest of the trip, giving us a running dialogue on the puke situation.
Funny thing how she never has puked in the van, except for the one time she was sick with pneumonia. The puke-into-object is completely psychological and we only give it to her for her own peace of mind. And our sanity. Hearing, "I need to go puke" mile after mile gets a little disturbing. The situation is purely mental on her end but anything to squelch her mad puke panic gives us a better ride. And helps us not go mental with her.
Of course, on such days as we were having that day, Landon and Janae gained another 7 notches in their brain capacity and began to delve into the deep questions. Like "where's hell?" And "how do we go to heaven?" And "how do we sin?" And other such brain exercising questions. While mentally trying to lead my children through the Romans road... or some other such process of salvation, I was rather overwhelmed by their barrage of comments revealing their understanding of the whole situation.
Meanwhile, I was trying to stay on the road and find the job site with no directions. And little cell phone coverage. And no GPS.
I was deep in thought and trying to capture the moment to the best of my ability. I mean seriously, when someone asks you how to know God, don't you just tell them? Realizing that my children are quite young and have a very impressionable mind, I had to make this moment count. I thought I was answering them well enough until I heard Janae start tattling...
"Mom, Landon is going to send me to hell... Landon is going to send me to hell... Mom, Landon is going to send me to hell..."
I scolded Landon and assured Janae no such thing would happen.
He argued back, stating he COULD send her there and would because of what she had done to him. (Some minor offence... I'm sure. I don't remember the details now.)
I explained only God sent people there and actually, He doesn't really send them; they choose to go by not accepting God's love for them.
Landon had a reason why Janae fell into the same category and assured Janae again he was sending her to hell.
In case you are concerned about my son's ability to show love and forgiveness, you need to understand he had no concept of hell at that point. Hell was just a bad place for bad people. And in the process of understanding his mind on the subject and the fact he wanted to send his sister there, whom he really does love, I grew to understand a child's idea of God, hell and heaven.
My mind failed to reach into the innermost parts of my being and recollect a good way of explaining to my kids right then in the middle of our errand HOW bad hell was, WHY people go there and WHAT God has to do with it. So I copped out. I told them both that no one knows for sure where hell is.
The bright and brilliant boy in the back seat exclaimed, "Well, I can find it then and Janae's going there."
Keeping myself upright in my seat in order to keep from pounding my head on the dashboard, I concentrated on not driving off the road. My head pounded from the noise and din of the van and I was overwhelmed with the responsibility of cementing into my children the concept of a loving God, heaven and hell. It was a complex situation and as I explained in even greater detail how BAD hell is and how GOOD God is, I realized even more that in order to really understand the horribleness of hell, you must understand the loveliness of God. And when you understand how loving God is, you have a better understanding of how awful hell is. Both go hand in hand. I kept it simple and filed the whole topic away with plans to bring it up later.
I thought they understood it all better and felt content with the level of understanding in the conversation. I was equally pleased Landon was no longer sending Janae to hell and was relieved to have that discussion over with. As we left the job site, I heard an ongoing argument happening over the din of the fans in the back seat...
"Janae, listen to me: Elly (the dog) is NOT a Christian," Landon said, quite strongly.
She retorted with a smart remark and made Landon even more firm. He sighed heavily to reinforce his statement and said, "NO Janae: dogs CANNOT be Christians!"
Landon seemed to be handling his own but I backed him up. We began to discuss that dogs aren't Christians, therefore they're not going to heaven. Who would've thought on a mild little errand to bring water to their daddy, these 4 and 5 year olds would explode into such complex little beings?
As we "coldaironplease" all the way back home, deeper and more difficult questions circled our little van. After completing our errand and putting the littles down to bed (which was no small feat), Landon and I went out back to bury the kitten.
After listening to him eulogize the kitten all day about how she was his best friend and how nice of cat she was and how much we needed to shoot the dog's brains out since she wasn't thinking when she killed the kitten, I assumed the burial would be somewhat emotional.
Landon recommended putting a sign up for everyone to read that said 'the kitten was buried here.' When I constructed a little cross, he thought that was a neat sign to put over the kitten's grave. That way no kids would dig a hole right there and end up digging up the kitten, or so he said. He was really concerned about stray neighbor kids digging a random hole that would end up right over that kitten. She stunk badly by this time so Landon wanted to be sure she stayed under the ground where no one could smell her.
As the day drew to a close, I ended up making another errand up to my hard working husband. He asked me to bring supper up to the crew working so I obliged and made the trek again in my "coldaironplease" van with my chattering children. On our way home, I listened to a story on the radio about a man who's wife and 4 children were swept away in a flash flood.
Just like that, his perfect, wonderful world was gone. Gone.
It was pounded into me again that as long as I have my dear children and adoring husband surrounding and overwhelming my life with all their goodness and personality, I am one blessed woman. Never mind the fact I feel like pounding my head on the dashboard. Or wake up to a dead kitten. Or grow tired after listening to a barrage of questions about the moon. Or hell. Or dogs being Christians. Life is good.
And you know what? Even if dogs really don't go to heaven, life still is good.