“Wow!  Everything is so…different!!”

Those were Howie’s words when we walked in after our big house cleaning occurred.   We had spent the afternoon at a friend’s pool, and came in just as the nice ladies were finishing the last of the dusting.  He was right, everything was very different.  Clean doesn’t even begin to describe it.  The kitchen and bathrooms were scrubbed, the carpets had that cool triangle pattern in them from being vacuumed well, and we no longer stuck to the floor.  They even cleaned inside our refrigerator and washed out the dog’s food and water dish – things I haven’t done since we moved in.

“I haven’t seen it this different since I was a baby!”

Howie had just walked into our toy room.  The bookcase that housed his toys and puzzles was up against a different wall, and his Hot Wheels tracks were in a new spot across from the window.  The Thomas trains were piled up near the lamp and the blocks were moved up higher.

“This is SO different!”

The nice lady in charge was smiling from ear to ear.  “I love hearing that!” she said to me.  We were both grinning as Howie walked around pointing out all the things that had changed.  She was happy because she knew that meant she had done a great job.  I was happy that the house didn’t smell like spoiled milk anymore.

As I was paying the nice ladies, Howie and Gerry disappeared upstairs to their rooms to see how clean things were up there.  First I heard the “Wow!  This is SO different!” from Howie again.  And then, a giant crash.

Tim had just walked into the house at this time, and we both went flying up the stairs to see what had happened.  The nice ladies had put Howie’s container of Hot Wheels cars up on a shelf so they could vacuum under his bed, and he had tried to pull it back down without help.  I made sure he was ok, came back downstairs and continued to marvel at the new color of the carpet.

Several quiet minutes went by which in my house is always trouble.  I went upstairs to see what was going on.  Peeking into Howie’s room, I saw that he had taken out about 20 cars from his container, and he was quietly lining them up in a row.

The air went right out of me.  Along with running around in circles and babbling, lining up Hot Wheels cars is what Howie does when he’s out of sorts.  It’s his way of making order in his world when things are not right.  It’s a behavior I haven’t seen from him in a long time, not since we had started him in OT therapies at school.

How could I have missed that the “Wow!  Things are SO different!” was not a statement of happiness, but more of a exclamation of a world turned upside down.  The house smelled different, looked different and felt different.  In my head I saw this as a positive thing.  In his head, nothing felt right.

The experience reminded me once again that I have to look at everything through his eyes, even something like cleaning the house.  My only thought when scheduling the cleaning was thinking about me and how good I was going to feel walking into a spotless house.  I never would have imagined that it would have any impact on my kids, except that maybe now their pajamas wouldn’t be covered in dog hair after playing in their room before bed.

It didn’t take long for “different” to become “the same” again.  Within 10 minutes, Gerry had spilled chocolate milk on the kitchen floor.  An hour later, every Lego Duplo block we own was spread out all over the toy room.  After dinner, dishes piled back up in the sink and leftover crumbs had made their way into the living room.   And even though Howie was up twice during the night that night for the first time in weeks (new pillowcase and sheets tucked into the bed rail), eventually everything was back to how it was.  Not normal.  Just our normal.

The sticky spot on the kitchen floor is back.  It’s just in a different place.  And now, the epic NASCAR-style race can continue once again.