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One of the many perks of owning a minivan is that I get to go dumpster diving in it. My three kids have a precocious talent for throwing things on its floor while we're driving. "I dropped my princess book," my two year old says. "I want mommy get it." On the way home from an aquarium, my son clutches a trio of wind-up boats and promptly releases one, which slides back three rows through the slender opening to the trunk. He treats me to a generous dose of whining for the next half hour.

Just to keep my kids quiet, I find myself chucking fruit strips to the back and usually missing. It is not unusual for Jane, 2, to pick up her bag of goldfish from the wrong end, scatter them on the floor, and snack away for the next week as she's getting in and out of the car. Georgia, 5, vociferously lets me know that it is outrageous that I will not pull over, clamber to the third row, and fetch her marker.

All of this came to a head one sultry day this summer when Jane let go of a sippy cup of milk. Luckily, the lid was on. But when we got home, I couldn't find it. Then I forgot about it.

As the heat wave continued and our van grew rancid, I got so sick of the gagging sounds my kids were making that I decided to renew my search to no avail. Each day, as the putrescence thickened, I frantically tore apart the car. I finally had to remove the second-row captain's seat to find the fetid cup of milk.

While considering whether or not to wash out and reuse the cup, I had a traumatic childhood flashback: We were on a 12-hour drive to Idaho in our station wagon, and at least two of the five kids in the car had tummy bugs. Instead of pulling over to let us vomit, my mom kept passing back an oversized, green, plastic jug for us to retch in. My mother couldn't understand our horror when she presented the same pitcher, now full of OJ, to us the next morning at breakfast.

Needless to say, I threw Jane's sippy cup out.

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