On the day that I watched Rhema tilt her head back and gulp down my contact lenses and saline solution right out of the case, I knew it was time for us to get out of the house.

My twin and my neice Lexi showed up and we were off to Bonkers, an indoor funhouse with lots of rides, mazes and games. It’s not the place for anyone who dislikes germs, but it’s a dream come true for a kid like Rhema.

It had been a long time since we’d dared to show our faces there. The last time we were there, Rhema was in full-blown stripper phase. While she was playing in a huge tunnel-tube-maze-thingamajig up in the ceiling, she decided to get “indecently exposed.” She slid down the bumpy slide in her birthday suit. She gleefully ran around inside the gated area, completely oblivious to the fact that she had no clothes on. We watched her run toward a group of kids, and then we watched the kids scatter and scream as N@ked Girl approached.

We tackled her, but Rhema did not understand why she had to stop playing and went into meltdown mode. Meanwhile employees went inside the tunnel to try and gather the clothing that had been deposited in various parts of the maze. Someone loaned us a T-shirt, but I could not get it on her because she was tantrumming so much. I finally just decided to carry N@ked Girl out to the car kicking, screaming and flailing the whole way. Brandon came to the car with Hope and then ran back in to collect Rhema’s clothes. When he climbed into the driver’s seat, we just sat and stared out the window for a while, our hearts pounding.

He cleared his throat, “Well, I think it was really bonkers in there tonight…”

And, because I think I could have cried, we laughed. A lot.

The girls had a blast on our return trip to the funhouse. Rhema was in heaven running from ride to ride, sprinting through the maze, jumping up and down. She wanted to ride a small ferris wheel, and I tried to help her wait in line.

When it was her turn, she scampered into a car and buckled herself in. I had not paid to ride any rides myself, and I was uneasy about her riding alone. But I decided to let her try.

I nervously watched from the sidelines. She giggled and did a little dance in her seat. I watched her lean over and snap and unsnap the empty seat buckle across from her repeatedly. So far so good, I breathed.

Then the ride ended, and I waited as the operator stopped each car to let out the passengers. Rhema was in a car at the top of the ferris wheel – I worried that the starting and stopping of the ride was going to bother her. I strained to see her – she was fiddling with her seat buckle. And then, in an instant, she was climbing out of the car.

Oh Lord. The operator saw her the same time I did.

“NO! Get back in there! You have to sit down!! Oh no!” the woman screamed.

“Ummm. Ma’am? She has autism. She doesn’t understand –”

Immediately the woman lowered her voice. “Oh.”

We watched Rhema as she briefly checked out the view from the top outside the car, and then she casually climbed back in and snapped her seatbelt. (I actually was not very afraid. Rhema is incredibly coordinated and loves heights.) The operator quickly advanced the ride to Rhema’s car, and I grabbed her out.

She squirmed out of my arms and ran off to the next thing. I said a quick thank you to the woman before chasing Rhema to…

(insert hallelujah chorus) The. Merry. Go. Round.

I think she almost paused for a nanosecond to admire it before jumping over the rails. The girl is obsessed with Merry Go Rounds.

I told the operator about her autism right away (should have done that back at the Ferris Wheel). He offered to let me go on with her. And that’s how it went for the rest of our day at Bonkers – everyone was extremely kind and accommodating.

The rule on the Merry Go Round is that you cannot change horses in the middle of the ride. Well, Rhema didn’t get that memo. And she could not decide on a horse, so the operator stopped the ride and everyone waited patiently while Rhema methodically tried out each unoccupied horse (and a few occupied ones as well). She finally settled on one, and the ride resumed.

In the end, Rhema had to ride every horse on the Merry Go Round. For many rounds she was the only child on the ride. Each time she would purposefully slide off one horse and move to the next. She enjoyed every minute of it.

I loved the kindness of the Bonkers staff. I loved the fact that she was able to have fun, and run and play freely. I loved that she kept her clothes on the whole time. It did my heart good to see her giggle and smile.

Small-big things to be thankful for.

And the reminder that we’ve come a long way, and we can do this.

29 thoughts on “Bonkers

  1. HUGE, life-transforming things to be thankful for!! I love the mile markers. Reid’s got that same uncanny coordination with heights…and the same God dispatching legions of angels to protect these two from catastrophe. xo

  2. No she did not eat your contact lens!!! I just hid mine in a better spot from Lila cause she is obsessed with them.

    I’m glad you were able to get out and have fun with your girls.


  3. I’m thinking that self-selected movement (sensory input) is very good for her. (Sorry, I am obsessed with a therapist’s perspective.)

    And how about understanding customer service people?

    Thank Goodness for a day that encourages!

  4. I’m glad the staff was so accommodating. What a relief. I don’t think I could trust Kayla on a ride by herself yet. Even those kiddie rides go fast enough to cause harm to a child who doesn’t understand danger!

  5. I love it when people understand. I know that’s such an understatement, but I think you know what I mean. Life changing, even if just for those few moments.

    Hurray for you, Rhema AND Hope!

  6. I love Brandon’s comment at the end of the prior visit. What a blessing to have a life-partner on this incredible journey who can deliver a line like that at a moment like that!

    And all the accommodations, and the kindness, and how far Rhema has come — what a wonderful experience and collection of milestones.

    P.S. Another similar-sisters moment — I’ll have to send you a “Joy on the merry-go-round” photo sometime.

  7. Saw the title and wondered if you’d teetered over the edge with all that you’ve had on your plate lately. 🙂

    So glad to see that it was a place and not a state of mind.

    And that Rhema had so much fun.

  8. You are amazing. I could not get past the ferris wheel incident, I would have completely died on the spot. Last summer I went on one with J. and he tried to get out of his seatbelt at the very top. So wiggly, I could barely hold on to him. It is great, though, to see how much fun Rhema had 🙂

  9. Oh, I so loved reading this post! Love when you find a place that has nice staff–it’s lovely in a way that not many understand. Sounds like a great place!

    And yes, you can do this.

  10. “It was a little bonkers” and “I loved that she kept her clothes on” – You keep me laughing! So glad you keep each other laughing!

    And SO, SO GLAD Rhema had fun! People won’t ever know how hard that is for our kids and how much it does our heart good.

  11. First, I love it! I laughed (obviously) at your first line. Then as she stripped, then at the “bonkers” comment….all things you, we, can laugh at now, after the fact.

    I have found that when you explain to people, even the shortest one word explanation, they become very understanding, accommodating. Thus is the reason why I am so happy that autism and many other disorders are so publicized, made a household word, a part of education of integration in schools, is talked about by bloggers like us.

    I couldn’t be happier that Rhema enjoyed herself as much as she did…clothed. And that you know, we know, “we can do this”.

  12. How good is God! Let me know if you would ever like Rhema and Hope to come and meet some live horses. I happen to know the saint of all horses.

    I love you!

  13. Jeneil:

    Just read through some of your recent blogs. Amazing stories. Amazing mom you are and amazing God we serve. May the grace of God constantly give you the strength of being a mom.

  14. So wonderful to hear there is a place like that near you. I love taking Wyatt to those indoor playgrounds and watching him light up. It’s the little thing like keep their clothes on!

  15. You are brave. I don’t like going to these types of places with my NT kids. These places are a nightmare for my own sensory issues…like noise and things that go round and round.

    I’m so glad that everyone was so accommodating for Rhema. So did your sister watch after Hope?

    How is your sister doing? I remember her and Brandon and you too, often. I know that God is supplying your every need.

  16. N@ked Girl! You’re hilarious! Even though that first time was brutal isn’t amazing when you have such a clear way to measure how far Rhema has come? I pray that this becomes a familiar experience for you!

  17. How fun!! It sounds like the people there were awesome, what a difference that makes :).

    Bitty does the same thing on Merry-go-rounds (has to keep getting up and trying different horses). So glad to hear she had such a great time!

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