A few months before Rachel was diagnosed with autism, I was having one of THOSE evenings. My husband was late. Dinner was still a mystery. The phone was ringing. Our oldest child wanted attention and was jabbering so fast my exhausted brain couldn’t follow. I hadn’t put on any makeup yet, and the cat had taken residence on the piles of laundry waiting to be put away.

The phone rang again. I ignored it and stepped around the corner to check on Rachel. I could hear her hooting and making other happy squeals, but I hadn’t seen her in five minutes. Plus, the tissue box was missing.

I rounded the corner between the kitchen and living room and gasped. I’d found the tissue box … empty. The remains were shredded around Rachel like a big white nest. She squealed and threw the shreds into the air like confetti. “Whee!”

“Well, it’s a good sensory activity,” I said. “That’s therapeutic, right?”

I started to walk away, but something was bothering me—a funny smell. I squinted at her. Rachel had strange white blobs on her arms and legs. I stepped closer and landed in something mushy. Ugh! Bananas. At least they had been bananas. Now they were toddler war paint.

My eyes teared up. This was not what I needed! I lunged for the massacred peels, but Rachel was faster and jumped on top of them. Then she squealed again. Woohoo, Mommy wants to play.

No, Mommy didn’t want to play. I wanted to run and hide. I was tired of constant mega messes like these. Why couldn’t my house be perfect like so many of my friends’? Why did I have to buy carpet cleaner in bulk?

Regardless of my feelings, I stuffed some chocolate chips into my mouth, grabbed the oxygen carpet cleaner, and went to work. After I scrubbed the carpet, bathed Rachel, did the resulting laundry, and cleaned up the trash the dog had eaten while I was cleaning up Rachel’s fun, I called my sister. As I told her the story, I found myself accentuating the humor, and we had a good laugh. In fact, when I later told my mother the story, she laughed so hard my dad got on the phone to see what was going on.

Along with chocolate, laughter is a healing gift from God wrapped in a gold bow. Next to prayer, I believe laughter has been one of my best coping strategies. So, I hope you can find something to laugh about today—just make sure you have some good cleaning agents on hand. Oh, and keep the bananas out of reach.