The Ink Debacle


Our family is such a “mess” and it’s impossible to hide it. Maybe that’s a good thing because we are not the only ones out there who are trying hard every day.

We were ready to go. It is rare for our family, but we were actually going to be on time. The battalion Halloween party was going to start in a few hours and we needed to be at the battalion to help set up. While I was grabbing my purse to run out the door to the car, I was actually gloating to myself. Maybe we were starting to get the knack to this whole “being on time” scenario. Could this be?

As I grabbed the door knob with a smirk of satisfaction in knowing that I could consider driving the speed limit to the battalion today, I heard a high pitched scream upstairs, “Shelly! Grab some paper towels and cleaner now! Hurry!” After I realized it was my husband screaming, I stopped to process of how high of an octave he could scream. I yelled back, “ What’s wrong?! ” because I refused to acknowledge anything could go wrong. He was not going to rain on my parade. Dang it. We were on time, for once.

“Shelly, get up here now!” he screamed. I grab a role of paper towels and cleaner and ran upstairs. As I looked up at the top of the stairs, I gasped. Mark was standing at the top of the stairs with sweat starting to bead on his forehead. He had Broden in tow, who was covered in blue and black ink, all over this face, hands, and feet. We both stopped and stared at each other for a few seconds, but it felt like a lifetime. What were we thinking? We were going to be late.

We knew the drill and started to mobilize into disaster clean-up mode. I have no idea why I thought of this at the time, but I yelled, “Take pictures of everything! No one will believe us!” Mark grabbed his phone and took pictures of Broden and then told me to follow him into our office and craft room. If it were blood, it would have been labeled the crime scene of the century. There were ink footprints on the floor, furniture, television, computer and Broden’s iPad. I stared at the room in disbelief. What did he get into? Mark scoured the room and found two brand new ink pads that I had bought a few days ago. Well, they weren’t new anymore.

Mark started to yell out a list of tasks in order to get the disaster under control. I voted to clean the kid, so Mark  grabbed the bucket of cleaner and paper towels to see what he could do to clean up the room. Broden’s bathwater quickly turned to a deep blue hue as I started to scrub his hands, face and feet. Thank goodness, it mostly came off his face. His hands were a different story, but my standards were pretty low at this point.

Mark ran into the bathroom to see if I had made any progress and smiled saying, “Shelly, I got it off our television and wood hutch.” I let out a huge sigh, “Thank goodness.” We looked at each other and started to giggle. What were we thinking? We were now 30 minutes late to the Halloween set up for the battalion and I was still trying to scrub Broden’s feet.

Instead of Mark texting a long explanation of why we were late to his staff, he just texted them pictures of the ink debacle, including pictures of Broden’s face, hands, and feet. Slowly, staffers were texting back. “Oh wow!” and “No rush! Get here when you can!”

After cleaning up, Mark and I secured the house by hiding the ink pads. There was no need to rush and no need to break any speed barriers on the road. It was evident. We would be rolling in, yet again, late to an event and apologizing profusely that we were not on time. Again.

As we walked into the classroom, the families were already in full swing, decorating and setting up their craft stations. The grille was on with hamburgers and hot dogs cooking. The staff, one by one, came by to welcome us. They had seen the disaster we cleaned up from all the picture sharing that just occurred and knew we had dealt with more than we could normally handle that day.

I remember thinking to myself, “We are such a mess. I wonder if anyone in the battalion feels like they have received a raw deal with us being part of their team.” I mean, we can’t even get to a Halloween set up event on time. As I walked back into the classroom admiring all the hard work the staff had put into this party, our Chaplain came over and patted me on the back with a big smile. He said, “Shelly, thank you for being a mess.”

At first, I didn’t understand why he said that to me, but then I realized what he meant. Our family is such a “mess” and it’s impossible to hide it. Maybe that’s a good thing because we are not the only ones out there who are trying hard every day. We may continue to stumble over and over again, but we still get up every day and try again. What we have to remember is to always keep trying because that’s all we’ve got. •

16Shelley Huhtanen is an Army wife with two children, one with autism, whose husband is currently stationed at Fort Benning, GA. She is an autism advocate and currently the parent liaison for the Academy for Exceptional Learners.