Life’s Not All Roses:

A Mother’s Journey With Twins, Disability, And Adapting To Change

An excerpt from 'Life’s Not All Roses'

When I was a kid, my favourite bedtime storybook was Harry the Dirty Dog. Harry was a happy dog with white and black spots. He loved everything except for taking baths. When bath time came around one evening, Harry ran away and had fun getting dirty instead. Before too long, Harry had changed from a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots. Eventually, Harry decides to return home, but his family doesn’t recognise him because he is dirty! Many years later, I read that story to my own kids and discovered the story has several lessons in it. The first is being able to recognise who people are. People aren’t always what they seem, especially when they are disguised by dirt! Secondly, we all need a place to call home. So how does this story relate to Mitchell?

Two years ago, Dayna won a spot prize at a local kids variety show. We had received a special invitation because we had a special-needs child. I don’t often take Mitchell with me to movies, concerts, or anywhere where children need to be quiet, but at the variety show, he was right at home. No one blinked an eye when Mitchell squealed to his heart’s content. He was in his element, clapping his hands and being his usual loud self. The magician took centre stage, noticed Mitchell’s antics, and pointed his magic wand at him. The whole audience looked at Mitchell and especially at us! Instead of looking at the floor as I normally would, I stifled a grin and was thankful to feel welcome. The magician thanked the audience for being there; I think what he really meant to say was that special-needs kids were welcome. Later in the show, one of the featured entertainers threw two spot prizes into the air. Dayna caught one of them. Her prize was a family pass to the Space Place, a tourist attraction at the Carter Observatory in Wellington.

We organised a family visit to the Space Place. It was our highlight of the year. We were treated to a 3D surround sound movie about aliens in outer space, including incredible visual effects portraying our solar system. After the movie, we toured the Carter Observatory. Matt bought a small flying toy for our children – including a small helicopter which lit up as it flew through the air. That night, Matt took Brianna, Connor, and Dayna out to the local school to fly the helicopter. While they were out, I bathed the baby while Mitchell sat strapped in his chair, happily eating some food.

Whilst bathing Mackenzie, I heard Mitchell banging something against the table. I thought nothing of it, because he sounded happy. I dried the baby off and changed her, then decided to check on Mitchell.
First, I found piles of soil spread around the kitchen floor.
It was like a scene from C.S.I. Then a dirty boy with black spots looked at me proudly as if to say, “Mummy, I just ate a plant and it was delicious!” What was left of the plant was strewn across the table, ripped, shredded, and beyond repair. It was at least, an edible plant – a nasturtium, to be exact. Sadly, it was also Dayna’s Girls Brigade project.

Mitchell had eaten things before, like Brianna’s science experiment. But I had dared to hope history would never repeat itself. I felt waves of frustration building up inside me. “Shit! Mitchell, why did you have to do that? That was Dayna’s plant!” Not normally one to swear, I did – only because there was no one else around to hear me. It felt good to purge those unsaintly utterings out of my mouth. I’m a Christian, but I’m far from perfect.
I surveyed the soiled mess, assessing what needed to be done first. Mitchell needed to be cleaned. To be more specific, he needed to be hosed off! I peeled off his clothes layer by layer.
In the process of devouring the nasturtium, he’d also managed to tip a cup of water all over himself, making the soil stick to his body and clothing. No wonder he’d had so much fun entertaining himself while I was attending to the baby. Murphy’s Law prevails again, I reasoned.

Luckily for us, we had our disability shower. I set the shower nozzle to high pressure or ‘poo extractor’ and watched the dirt vaporise before my eyes. The dirt swirled around the drain a few times, then magically disappeared in a whirlpool of water. Result achieved – a clean boy.

Once Mitchell had been escorted to his bedroom, dry and dressed, I busied myself in a cleaning blitz. I knew I didn’t have much time on my hands to clean up. The others would be home soon. The mere thought of Dayna discovering her dead plant amongst foot deep dirt was enough to motivate a dramatic speed clean. It’s a wonder the baby slept through it. Like a possessed cleaner, I grabbed the Mr Muscle Total Kitchen 5 in 1 spray and got to work. The dining table was first on my hit list. In no time at all, the slate was clean. Next, the floor needed cleaning. Mitchell had done a really good job of scattering dirt from one end of the kitchen to the other. Soil filled every nook and cranny imaginable. Out came the big guns of the kitchen: sponge mop, vacuum cleaner, broom, dustpan, and rubbish bin. After declaring war on the kitchen floor, I knew the battle was over within five short minutes. I wiped the sweat from my red face, surveying my now sparkling floor. Then reality hit. Loud knocking at the door broke my happy thoughts, as I quickly glanced around the kitchen, ensuring there was no evidence of Code Plant. My secret was safe.

Happy reading!