The Case of the Unclothed Child in a DMR Office

anneI don’t have red hair and freckles, but growing up, I believed that Anne of Green Gables and I understood each other. She was always getting into scrapes, and so was I. My sisters alternately called me Calamity Jane and Charlie Brown.

If you have visited my blog for any length of time you know by now that I use Bible verses a lot in application to our lives. I know that some of you are not “religious”, and I appreciate you for being willing to read my posts anyway. My faith in Christ, my dependence on the Bible colors everything I see and do.

So when I was a young girl, there was one particular Scripture that was my plea, given my tendency for catastrophe:

(Often muttered feverishly in my best Anne voice), “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me… in the shadow of thy wings will I take my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.”

As I got older, the mishaps all but disappeared. I was on my way, the rough edges smoothed. In fact, I found that I was rather poised, refined, and dignified. All my mama’s hard work and prayers had paid off. I was Green Gables no longer; I was Avonlea. 

God has quite a sense of humor, though, because then He sent me Rhema.

The day Psalm 57:1 came back into my life was the day I had to take Rhema and Hope down to the DMR (Department of Mental Retardation) office. Although I had already completed oodles of paperwork, I was told that I would need to bring Rhema into the office and answer more questions. I knew it was going to be interesting.

I met with a woman we’ll call… Patience. I entered her nice, neat office with Rhema and Hope in tow. Hope was content to sit in the stroller while Patience and I sat at a round table. Rhema sat on a couch in the office with a coloring book.

One minute into the interview, Rhema climbed onto the back of the couch and began eating plastic grapes off the fake cornucopia arrangement on the wall. She would NEVER eat a real grape, but plastic ones are all the rage.

She clawed at the wall decoration as I pulled her down. A myriad of plastic grapes rolled onto the floor.

“It’s o.k., it’s o.k….” said Patience. “You know, I have a puzzle that she might like.”

It was an old wooden puzzle, and Rhema was instantly interested.

We continued the interview, and I signed paperwork as fast as I could. Minutes later, Rhema began to wail, frustrated with something. Perhaps she was hungry for more plastic fruit? I jumped up and walked over to the couch.

Rhema picked up the puzzle board and flung it. She did not realize I was right in front of her and the puzzle board hit me across the bridge of my nose, right between my eyes.

I saw stars. And the pain quickly turned into a headache. I gingerly touched my head. There was blood.

Must. Keep. My. Cool.

I blindly reached down into the back of the stroller and grabbed a tissue for my cut. Time to pull out the big guns, I thought as I pulled out the portable DVD player with a Dora video …aka “last resort.”

I quickly turned on the DVD player, handed Rhema some raisins and a juice box and we were good to go.

Patience and I continued the interview.

Then Rhema spilled her juice in her lap.

Oh no.

Instantly she stood and removed her pants, underwear, socks and shoes.

I tried to put her pants on. She took them off. I put them on. She took them off. I tried to reason with her. There was no way, absolutely no way she was putting slightly wet pants on. Dumb me did not have spare clothes for her. I ALWAYS have spare clothes, but of course not on the day I actually need them.

At this point, Hope began wailing because she could not hear Dora because Rhema was tantrumming… in the buff.

That’s when it started. I heard someone muttering feverishly, “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me… in the shadow of thy wings will I take my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.” Anne, is that you?  Then I realized it was me.

“It… It’s o.k., It’s o.k.” Patience’s words snapped me out of it.

I looked at her. Huh?

“It’s o.k.,” she said.

So I went back to the table to complete the paperwork for eligibility into the Autism Division of DMR.

I glanced over. There stood Rhema, eyes fixed on the Dora video, bare bottom and all. Yes, there she stood, daughter of The Queen Of Couth, with nothing but a T-shirt on, in a (once) nice and neat office. A wall ornament hanging by a thread, spilled juice, and plastic grapes and puzzle pieces scattered over the floor. In a matter of minutes.

And I? I had a huge bloody welt between my eyebrows.

“So do we qualify?” I joked.

I am quite certain that Patience never forgot us. And I know, that when she closes her eyes, she sees Rhema’s bare bottom… as it is forever seared in her memory.


My friend Carrie and I exchange “crazy kid stories” all the time, and her stories have me laughing until I’m in tears.  She recently started blogging here, so pay her a visit!

22 thoughts on “The Case of the Unclothed Child in a DMR Office

  1. You are SUCH a good storyteller.

    I love Anne of Green Gables, too. The books, the show, the whole thing. Both my husband and my brother held long-standing crushes on Megan Followes as Anne!

    “So do we qualify?” LOL. But seriously, I’ve been advised more than once to deliberately set qualification-visits up so that they… ummmm… DON’T show Joy’s best side. Like schedule them at naptime or the like.

  2. awesome. I didn’t know there was a DMR? Maybe it’s not called that here. . . I’m SURE this woman has seen a LOT of things. What shel’ll probably remember the most is your patience and calmness. ; )

  3. i LOVE it. funny, all our best (worst) stories have the same theme song as yours .. da-da-da-da-da-dora .. dora the explorah!!

  4. Oh good grief.
    I once used to pray Foster would show his issues as needed. I didn’t need to pray that prayer long.

    You are one of the best storytellers and writers I know. You could go into stand up comedy… should you ever need another ill-paying gig.


  5. Oh, girl, what a gift you have for bringing a story to life … plastic fruit, bare bottoms, and all. 🙂

    This story brought to mind something that I wrote to another friend last week. It’s probably not new to you. My friend had written that she couldn’t understand why God had answered her prayers in the way that He had.

    I responded:

    “[As Jesus prayed], an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him.” (Luke 22:43)

    The cup was not taken from Him (thank God for our sakes!), but He was strengthened to drink from it.

    Remember the old saying, “If you pray for patience [or insert your own word here!], God doesn’t make you patient. He gives you opportunities to practice patience.” 🙂

    What did you pray for, my precious friend? I’m thinking that it must have been something along the lines of wanting to be a good witness/impact the world for Him.

    And, that you are. That you are. One day at a time. One moment at a time. One story at a time. One calamity at a time. 🙂

  6. I love how you called her “Patience!” If she weren’t patience embodied you can bet they would be loosening the requirements of meeting in person!

    You are such a gifted writer! Thank you for blessing us with it!

  7. Portable DVD player to the rescue! That has also saved us many times in recent years. I always wished they were around when Nigel was little! He was also one to “drop trou” whenever something spilled on him. I think we need to compile all of our stories into an “Autism Bloopers Anthology” of some sort!

  8. Even should Patience forget, I never will. Indeed, you weave a good story, friend, albeit the price paid to write it. Thanks for sharing your life with us. You breathe a living witness to me each and everytime I come by.

    Walk your Easter, friend, and for the record, I’m glad that you bring your faith into the mix. He is everything to me.


  9. What a great story! So familiar to me that I could substitute your childrens names with mine. The whole “stripping” of the clothes if they are wet is commonplace to us! You are a great story-teller.

  10. Wow, you amaze me in every sense of the word. Oh, and I LOVE Anne of Green Gables. You do beat all, girl! Want to be my bosom friend?

  11. Oh dear, that is quite the story, I block those kind of things from my memory. Dylan has outgrown those days, we have different challenges now. Small closed offices always seemed to bring out the worst in him. Usually in front of mental health experts who I was sure were sizing me up as crazy. As he climbed the walls or dug through a bookshelf.

    In truth I hope I never forget what it was like to be the young mother who was doing her best, put in situations were success involved making it to the car before I cried, or hoping that I could just keep a hold of him long enough to get him some place safe to tantrum. I want to have patience, understanding, and kindness in my heart when I see these mothers with the struggles that I have lived through.

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