as big as a mouse

Oh, that first field trip.

It was a Saturday, the jet lag had mostly passed, and we decided it was high time we headed into the real world and saw a little more than the commissary.

We opted for Heidelberg, since it was the first place we ventured to seven years ago. There’s a castle, a tram, and a really good creperie that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for over half a decade.

Despite having to trick June into fastening her seat belt and fighting with Rex over which of his beloved stuffed creatures would be allowed on the trip, the ride there was quite pleasant. She got candy and he chose Mouse, a rather detestable white rat he recently earned at Ikea; Mouse has lots to say to us about everything.

Rex loves his animals. They’re real people with real feelings and they go everywhere with him. They’ve been especially important to him these past few weeks, providing a much needed sense of security and friendship.

We parked the car at the base of the hill, hiked the 303 steps to the castle ruins, and spent a leisurely hour roaming around the grounds. The kids were great, no one urinated on the bushes and the girls loved the backpacks.

Of course, life is like a popsicle; it’s meant to melt down. We descended from the castle mount and so did the children’s blood sugar. In the blink of an eye they were starving and I? I didn’t even have a fuzzy breath mint to offer anyone.

After a rather loud and obnoxious public display of hunger, we finally dosed the children with Nutella filled crepes and soda pop and began herding them back to the car just in time to make a fourth bathroom stop.

June and I emerged from the ladies room and waited patiently for the boys so we could head to the car and get ourselves home.

And that’s when it happened.

I looked up and saw Jason and Rex walking toward me and instantly my heart broke. Rex was sobbing. Sobbing like a boy who had just lost his best friend.

Mouse had fallen in the urinal, and much to Rex’s utter horror, Daddy had plucked him out and threw him in the trash.

Daddy killed Mouse.

I have never seen a child cry such a devastated, soul crushing cry. It was as if his world had collapsed and there was nothing left for him but buckets of tears.

He obviously needed the emotional outlet with so much going on, and boy did he let it all out. For two hours in the car we heard, “Daddy killed mouse! Daddy, you’re just a big jerk!! Oh, my beautiful beautiful mouse, he’s gone, he’s gone! sob sob sob!

Watching Rex mourn his animal was extremely hard for me, even though I knew he would be fine in a day or so. That knowledge didn’t make his sorrow less, and it didn’t stop his pain from bleeding into my own heart. His problem was so teensy in the big scheem of things, but at that moment it was enough to suck all the happy from his little universe.

I bet God feels a lot like that watching us struggle with work and life and family trials. Things that take up months and years of our emotional strength will someday show as nothing more than a personal stepping stone, an opportunity for long-term growth.

It hurt me to watch him hurt like that, even if it was only a little mouse.







  1. I love the picture where you and your boys are facing the camera and your little girl looks like she is having a little attitude problem. Please post more pictures of your surroundings. I have really enjoyed your stories of Germany. my daughter has spent time over there with her high school class and just recently , well, last December going for two weeks.

  2. Time to make a new German friend.

  3. I can’t belive you climbed that hill with those shoes on lol! Ouch! Always loved heildeberg castle 🙂 So sorry to hear about mouse 🙁

  4. That picture of June facing away from everyone else is hilarious:) Sounds like the rest of the trip was a little more up and down—but what a great experience! I think I’d sob if there was a mouse in my bathroom period—no matter what anyone did to it.

  5. We have 3 or 4 of those IKEA mice at our house. My children have never played with action figures, but they are very attached to their stuffed animals. There was much mourning when red-eyed tree frog was accidentally left behind at the airport (still on his leash). What color was his mouse? Send me your address and I will replace it. This is not a joke; it will be a good kindness exercise for my children. Please take me up on the offer.

    Also, I replied to your comment on my blog today, but I’ve never figured out whether or not my blog notifies you (by email) that I responded. Would you mind telling me just to satisfy my curiosity. I often cut and past my replies into an email but always wonder if I’m sending a duplicate.

  6. I know this situation far too well. I will never stop hearing about the time M’s fuzzy, pink elephant from the nice ER nurse @ Civista was left on the plane to California. (make it stop! make it stop!—rocking back & forth). Last year we had a real funeral service for a different stuffed friend.
    M currently has exactly 2 bajillion stuffed animals who are very, very real. They all have their own very original names–of which I am constantly quizzed. My current project has been making a nametag for each and photographing the animal with its tag. I’ve already started formatting the book. I don’t care how many she has—but they all have to fit in one very specific place. That’s the deal.