It Happened Again

Rhema pulled a disappearing act – the third in as many days.

This afternoon we were playing in the backyard. When Rhema ran around to the back gate, I followed. However, instead of running after her (which is what I’m always doing, it seems), I stopped to grab Hope’s hand and we walked to the side of the house. (The backyard is large, wrapping around much the house, and enclosed with a tall wooden fence.) I knew that earlier Brandon had made sure the back gate was locked, so I wasn’t really worried. However, Hope and I found the gate door swinging wide open, and Rhema was gone.

I could already hear my heart pounding. I told Hope to “freeze” and sprinted into the neighbor’s yard. Our neighbors have an outdoor pool. Rhema does not know how to swim, and because she’s had tubes in her ears since she was 21 months old, is very inexperienced in pools. I scanned the entire pool, and thankfully Rhema was not in it.

I ran up and down the street, wondering if it was futile to even call her name. As I just blogged, she has gotten better at coming when called, but we have to be pretty close for her to respond. I doubt she would come if I were calling from far away, and she certainly would not call out to me. She was nowhere in sight.

Too much time had passed, and I was starting to lose it. Then I saw Brandon heading home (he was visiting a neighbor), and I told him Rhema was gone. He put Hope in the house, told her not to move, and we continued searching. My biggest fear was that Rhema would dart out into a busy street. She knows nothing of the danger of cars.

Brandon called the police, and the search continued. (I will say that I was mildly comforted by the fact that she had her ID bracelet on, in fact, duck-taped-so-she-can’t-rip-it-off.)

They found Rhema in someone’s house. 

A woman (whom I’d never met) had come home from work and heard a noise in the house. She found Rhema happily playing with toys in the playroom. She said she was not sure how Rhema could have gotten into her house. She had seen a crazed woman running down the street (that would be yours truly) and put two and two together.

Pardon me now while I scream.



Did you hear it?

After Rhema was safe at home and I had regained some composure, we talked to the police about Project Lifesaver. Hope was a star throughout the whole thing, and she certainly gave us something to smile about. In all her 2 year-old glory, she spontaneously jumped up and gave the officer a grateful hug. When she wrapped her arms around his legs, her head kind of landed in his… ahem… special place.

I’m so thankful to God for protecting Rhema yet again. I am concerned = it seems like she has upped her game lately in terms of escaping and wandering off. Brandon is leaving for Iraq soon, and the task of keeping her safe seems daunting right now.

After the officer left, we walked over to the woman’s house where Rhema had been found and thanked her. She kindly offered for Rhema and Hope to “come and play in the playroom anytime.” We went to other neighbors that we did not know, introduced ourselves and told them about Rhema (– something we should have done long ago.) Now they will be on the lookout for her as well. Brandon is putting combo locks on the gates, and we’re going to get a MedicAlert membership.

We’re at DEFCON 1,

and I,

I think I’m ready for some spiked cotton candy.

39 thoughts on “It Happened Again

  1. Thank you so much for your post! I get so much comfort from reading your blog. It is good to know that you are not alone.

  2. I can’t believe it!!

    I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

    You won’t be alone when Brandon is away.

    But Yeah. Better stock up on that cotton candy.

    And the extra precautions sound like a good idea.

    A big hug from here.

  3. My chest is a little tight, still, after reading the ending.

    I give thanks and praise to God for protecting Rhema, too.

    Also praying for you to have continued strength for the time ahead. And for Brandon’s safe return.

  4. oh, honey .. thank God she was safe and sound.

    but i am so, so sorry. i know that moment, i know the heart in your hand and the suffocating fear.

    i’m with you.


  5. OH MY!

    I know that fear. Devin escaped the catering hall at Lila’s 1st birthday party and we found him in the parking lot. Thank God my cousin was out there and she just held on to him.

    You aren’t alone.


  6. The story, like the cotton candy, is sweet and spiked with the grace of God, the bracelet, the neighbor, new friendships and awareness, Hope’s obedience, a rapport with the police department, Brandon being home. Harrowing stuff in the moment with a good aftertaste. Hoping against hope it won’t happen again. xo

  7. Oh honey. Yes, I think I may well have heard that scream, halfway across the country… I’m so glad that Rhema had found a safe place to play.

    I take it that you do have Project Lifesaver in your area? The record-keeping and daily testing (is it still transmitting?) and monthly battery changes are a pain in the patoot, but the tracking ability and increased peace of mind is priceless.

    Thinking of you!

  8. Mason disappeared while we were camping in June, we were near a creek. The longer we looked . . . I became sure he must have fallen in. Thank goodness we finally found him. I’ve never felt that type of fear. Terrifying truly terrifying. My hair will be completely Grey by the time I’m 40 thanks to concern, worry and small disasters.

    I’m glad that you found her. I thank God that she was safe.

  9. she just has to keep coming up with new challenges for you, huh? just looked at project lifesaver and it looks amazing. who knew? gotta get that girl lo-jacked!

    love you and all your adventures.

  10. Oh. My. Goodness. I was panicking for you as I read your post! I understand that fear all too well! I pray that Rhema will slow down on her escape artist needs and that if she does escape again that God will keep her safe. My heart is still racing from reading this. Wow. (We are considering Lo-Jack as well.)

  11. Not that you need another tip, but we had one therapist that told us (as we were having escape issues) to call out a favorite thing instead of the child’s name when they go missing. It’s a hard thing to remember to do in the moment, but “popsicle” “juice” or “cookie” work for us better than actually calling out Christian’s name as he will (usually) come running for those and will not come running when we call his name.

    • This is a brilliant idea.

      I think it would definitely increase the liklihood of my girl running back to me.

      And with the added bonus of the neighbors calling the police to come help – “Officer, there’s a crazy lady running up and down the street screaming Gummy Bears!”

  12. We all love happy endings and thankfully you had one. I just finished reading “Breaking Autism’s Barriers”, which went into detail on how to survive and protect yourself before, during and when this situation happens. Notice I didn’t say if? Bill Davis wrote the book and he trains Police, Firefighters, EMS etc. on how to identify children & adults with autism and the best ways to handle the situation in light of their disability. You’ll be happy to know you did the right thing, by going to the neighbors and letting them meet Rhema. That’s one of his suggestions, let them know what your situation is and they will keep an eye out for you too. ** I don’t know if he’s a Christian or not, but Bill Davis uses some very non-Christian language. I did not read the whole book, but did find some excellent information that I can use in some of the chapters. He very well known in the autism field and maybe you’ve read the book already. Anyway, I’ve been doing respite care long enough to have lost a kid or two…temporarily and I know the desperation you felt. One girl I take care of wears a special tracking device whenever she leaves the house; like when they are at church, or anywhere she may wander off (yes, they’ve had to use it, it works).

    Get as prepared as you can and let God do the rest. You are only human and despite all the tales we tell our children we do not have eyes in the back of our heads.

    God Bless!

  13. Thank goodness she was safe. I have to say my heart goes out to the escape artist parents. I was very blessed that Daniel does not/nor has he ever done this. Esp. with your husband going away. Going and talking to the neighbors was the best thing ever. Keep talking to them. It takes a village….

  14. Oh girl, I DID hear it!!

    There have been a few times when I have heard noises in the basement and found my neighbor’s son. The first time was a little unnerving. I was pregnant with our third and my husband had taken the other two to a soccer game. I remember suddenly hearing the T.V. turning on in the basement and having a mini heart attack about what I should do (not knowing it was him.) But the phone rang and when I heard my neighbor’s panicked voice we both calmed.

    He is familiar with our house because we are friends. If we forget to close the gate (or the garage door) I think it just beckons to him to come play. He normally comes our way when he ventures out, but he has occasionally slipped into another neighbor’s yard. We all know him though and even our kids do a great job re-directing him or taking his hand to walk him home. (Although it doesn’t happen very often now-it did seem like he went through an active phase awhile back and has progressed through it.)

    You are most definitely NOT alone. Others have and are walking a similar path. God is aware and loves Rhema even more than any of us can imagine. I am agreeing with you in prayer for wisdom, knowledge, and protection for all of you.

    Keep that cotton candy close and keep letting us know how we can be praying for you!! HUGS!!

  15. I am so glad you found her and she was safe! I read the first line of your post and my heart froze, I think we all know that fear too well.

    My son is at scout camp this weekend in an area where many boy scouts have been lost (and not found). It’s pretty rugged and remote. My husband and I were just talking this morning about the constant worry we have that someone will call to tell us that Dylan is missing. We know this is a good experience for him but I will be very happy when he is home safe.

  16. I saw a link to your post on Twitter, and I’m so glad to read that Rhema is home safe and sound. You and your family have obviously been through a lot in the last few days.

    You mentioned that you spoke with local police about Project Lifesaver. Project Lifesaver works directly with our organization – LoJack SafetyNet – to offer a search and rescue solution for people at risk of wandering. Please feel free to e-mail me directly at with any questions.

    You can also find information about how this service works at or

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  18. Fortunately and thankfully she was found!

    Someone mentioned the idea of a GPS Tracking device for such a situtation. If you need more information., feel free to click on my name.


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  20. Oh you poor thing! That must have been so scary. Jeneil, maybe you should seriously consider a service dog? You would tether it to Rhema before you even stepped out the door, and that dog would not let her go.

    I know I’m late reading this, but so glad she is safe.

  21. OMG. Yes! Spiked Cotton Candy is definitely needed there!

    I’m glad she was found okay. We have found that one of our best allies in raising our son is our neighbors. They all know everything about him (we do that so there’s never a question) and they all know that our kids will not be outside without us (something I didn’t realize they knew until a neighbor informed me of this)….it helps. It really helps.

    Again, so glad she’s well….maybe switch from spiked cotton candy to a really, really nice drink! LOL.

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