Raising a family takes a sense of humor. I don’t care who you are, how many kids you have, or how many issues you may face, you have to have a sense of humor. The ability to laugh really helps a lot, too.
The last few weeks at the Janssen Ranch have been particularly crazy with two different school homecomings and the culmination of about eight weeks of rehearsals in three shows for three of our children. Add in a high fever for one child, nausea for another, and a mom with an upper respiratory infection and laryngitis, a cross country meet on dress rehearsal night, visiting family, and all the running involved with Homecoming parade, football game, and a dance for a non-licensed driver of a teenager and you have an inkling of all that was our reality, and that’s before you throw in our Ben Factor: autism.
Wednesday night came and we found the blessing in disguise of illnesses as we cried “uncle” and stayed home. It was a much needed night of rest for the five of us who could be here. The girls and I were playing a game in our reading room while the boys were doing their thing in the living room. Without warning I heard the frantic cry of our middle son bidding me to come and quick. I thought sure someone was hurt or something was destroyed.
I ran to the living room to find our wild card, Mr. Ben, covered in orange. COVERED. Face, hands, arms, every exposed inch of his skin except thankfully his eyes and neck was covered in orange marker. It was even in his ears. Tom was beside himself at the sight of Ben and I absolutely could not contain my laughter, probably because from the sound of the beckoning call, I expected disaster.
“Ben! What did you do?”
He struck the best stage pose ever and exclaimed, “Pumpkin!” Looking me straight in the eyes, he finished, “It’s a great night to play Blue’s Clues, Mommy!”
It’s always a great night to play Blue’s Clues in our house and this was no exception. He brightens our world with so much joy and laughter over the silliest things. It was a fantastic way to wrap up a night of being home, and I have to admit, I was more than a little relieved it was dry erase marker and washed off so very easily when he took a shower that night.
Our oldest daughter had a cross country meet the next day after school and before dress rehearsal, so I picked Ben up on the fly and we headed out to Canton. It wasn’t until we got there and I got him out of his seat that I noticed he still had orange marker under his jawline, in his hairline and up one of his arms. I laughed it off, but still felt like Mom of the Year award had once again gone out the window for having obviously sent him to school so rough around the edges. We had a few chuckles about it throughout the night and moved on. Seriously, things could be so much worse.
We survived the weekend of homecoming and shows and family and Spoon River Drive and more than I can even recall at this point and everyone slept so hard Sunday night that no one, no one, wanted to get up Monday morning. Monday in and of itself is typically a challenge around here, but this one also happened to be school picture day for four of our five kids. Deep breath, we can do this!! All the kids made it on the bus, but two without their lunches. I finished prepping the lunches and took them to school.
Imagine my surprise while walking down the hall when one of Ben’s teachers asked me if my son looked a little jaundiced the other day. It caught me off guard because like I said, we’d been battling several different illnesses the last couple of weeks, but Ben had remained unscathed. He was one of the healthy ones. And then it hit me, the pumpkin incident.
I started to chuckle and explain that yea, the lighting in our bathroom must not be all that great because I really thought I had gotten him cleaned up pretty good when she started to tell her story: We were all so busy. Everyone was working in their different stations. We were testing some kids over here, working with other kids over there, and this, that, and the other, and Ben was having marker time when he came over with the biggest smile and said, “Just look at my pumpkin!” I was so surprised but could not help but to laugh. We all got the biggest kick out of it and then nearly panicked wondering how we’d ever get him clean!
I had never been so relieved to hear my kid had colored all over himself (again!) as what I was in that moment, just to realize that I had gotten him clean the night before. Often as a parent, it is the little things that trip our triggers, but when you’re a parent on the spectrum, little thing become big things, sometimes when you don’t even expect it. I felt redeemed!!
The laughter that ensued in that busy hallway was the best medicine for a Monday morning any of us could have received. What a treat our little pumpkin is! Every night when we snuggle in to pray and thank God for another day together to enjoy the blessings He has so lovingly given us, I thank Him specifically for the joy our children bring us, especially for the laughter, and the different way He lets us see His world and live our lives through this amazing little boy.