My minivan has always been messy. Who has 3+ kids—or any kids—and doesn’t have a messy car? Toys, lovies, snacks, shoes, and sippy cups cover my rubber floor mats at all times. And let’s not even talk about the miniature wasteland of forgotten things trapped between and underneath my many carseats. There’s crumbled goldfish, Shopkins, charms, Skittles, petrified nuggets, and who knows what else hidden there.
For the record, I do my best to dump the contents of the van into the house every few days, but things always pile up again in no time. The blanket of stuff always returns with a vengeance, no matter how hard I try to keep it at bay.
On the ordinary afternoon when this story begins, my van was in its typically messy/dirty state when I pulled into our carport for the day and unloaded all the kids. On the drive home from school, we’d rolled down one of the back windows halfway. In the effort to get everyone unloaded, I forgot to roll up the window. No big deal, right? Who really cares?
You, my friend, will care after I tell you what happened next.
Bedtime came and went in a blur and, before I knew it, it was the next morning and I was getting ready to load the kids for school. I went out to grab some water bottles from the van (because heaven forbid they use a water fountain), when I noticed the contents of my purse scattered on the passenger seat floor. Hmnnn. I didn’t remember leaving it that way.
I also noticed that the emergency granola bar that I keep on hand for my hangry family members had been opened and partially eaten. Huh. Had someone broken into my car? I checked my cards and they were all there. So no, nothing taken. But my things had been moved around which was odd, especially the granola bar.
I reassured myself that maybe my purse had fallen off the seat and maybe someone had eaten the granola bar earlier. Then I opened one of the sliding doors to grab some shoes when I spotted two packs of gummies that had been torn open and half eaten. Hmnn. Did the kids eat them when I wasn’t looking? Entirely possible.
And then I noticed the first carseat. The carseat cover had been pulled back and there were bits of crumbled Styrofoam all over the seat. I looked back to the other three carseats (yep, so many kids), and two of those were the same.
What. The. Hell? Whatthehell. Who or what had gotten into the van?
I backed up from the van, still puzzled, when I saw little paw prints all over the window. And then it hit me like the smell of one of those forgotten sippy cups of milk.
Raccoons. RACCOONS! Raccoons had invaded my van overnight and feasted on EVERYTHING in my van. The granola bar, the gummies—they were the work of hungry, ransacking raccoons. And the carseats? Oh no. Oh noooooo.
The answer presented itself in slow motion horror: they were trying to get to all the food trapped underneath the carseat covers, as well as the snack wasteland between the carseats. In the process, they’d eaten chunks of Styrofoam panels from the carsesats.
I immediately dropped every single thing and closed the van. Did I yell? Maybe. Did I curse? Definitely.
My head was spinning as I tried to figure out what to do next: What if they were still in there? What if I had contracted rabies? How do you contract rabies? Should I call animal control? Who do I even call for this?
As I closed the van, I noticed all the raccoon prints on the windshield too. Those seemingly-cuddly-but-actually-ferocious raccoons had apparently climbed up the windshield and then somehow gotten themselves into the van through the cracked window. Impressive. They must’ve known that they’d hit a goldmine of stale snacks.
Laugh or cry. Laugh or cry. That was my choice. I opted for watery eyes (there was too much to do to sit and cry) and the knowledge that one day I would find this funny. But not yet.
Then I made a panicky call to my husband because I was not dealing with potential rabies on my own. I started talking before he even answered: What time will you be home? Raccoons were in the van. I can’t use it until I disinfect the entire thing. And the big kids need to get to school.
[Long pause. Very long pause.]
Wait, what? What?, he said.
I repeated it for him but this time I shout-talked into the phone, because sometimes I find that more effective: Raccoons got into the van and I cannot use it to take the big kids to school. RACCOONS. IN. THE. VAN. He had worked all night and was not too thrilled to be walking into this shitshow. But you know, through good times and bad, and this was a BAD TIME, my friends.
Okay. I’m 15 minutes away, I can take them. Steady as ever, he was unfazed.
Miraculously, the kids got to school on time. I did have to call and cancel some well visits for the triplets. I went back and forth about mentioning the fact that hey, funny story, raccoons invaded my van and I am now spending my day in a homemade hazmat suit cleaning my van, but I thought that might make me sound a little (or a lot) unhinged, so I left that nugget of info out. My schedule was clear to begin the lengthy task of disinfecting my van.
And let me tell you, it was hours and hours of work cleaning the van and all its contents. It looked like our playroom, the kids’ rooms, and the entire kitchen had vomited all over our driveway by the time I was done taking everything out. And the entire time, I was waiting for some rabid raccoon to pop up from underneath a seat and scare me to death. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, but it did add an element of fear that made me sweat even more as I cleaned. It was so lovely.
As I worked through the rows of seats, I found more evidence of the raccoons’ handiwork. Their paw prints were all over the triplets’ birthday party invitations that I was getting ready to send out. (Don’t worry, friends, I threw those particular invites away!) More half-eaten gummy bags were shoved underneath the middle row of seats. More bits of Styrofoam from the carseats. They had really made their way into every nook and cranky, scavenging for anything they could find.
By the time I finished, I had done about 4 hours of cardio and 6+ loads of laundry. I had also cursed the bulky carseats about 438 times. I really think that removing and reinstalling carseats in 150% Louisiana humidity is one of Dante’s circles of hell.
My van was spotless. And I was exhausted. I vowed to never let my kids eat in the van again, but after 2 days and 10 tantrums, I decided it was more realistic to make sure I rolled up my windows at night. I’ve been diligent about that task, though on one recent morning, I discovered that the kids had left a sliding door open overnight. My heart skipped a few beats and panic set in thinking about the possibility of a raccoon ransack, but alas, I had been spared, thank you sweet baby Jesus.
And as for you and your messy kid-mobile? All I can say is: let me be a lesson to you.
You don’t want to research rabies and call animal control. You don’t want to remove, sanitize, and reassemble all those carseats. So my unsolicited advice is to either (1) roll up those windows every single day or (2) clean your car enough that it’s not a banquet for hungry raccoons. And failing all that, just remember that you’ve been warned.
Godspeed, parents, Godspeed.