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I still can’t put my vacuum away

29 Jun

Once upon a time, I had three little kids, ages 5, 3, and 1. I also had a dining room that was carpeted and a tiny galley kitchen that was too small to eat in. My mother came over one day, and for some reason, asked where my vacuum went. The vacuum that stood proudly in the corner of the dining room.

“Where does it go?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” I responded, confused.

“Where do you put it away when you’re not using it?” she clarified.

“I don’t understand what you’re saying…away…not using…what?”

One kid and a few houses later, and I should be able to put my vacuum away. Yet I don’t. You can come over and find it parked somewhere, still plugged in, ready to be used in a heartbeat. Oh sure, I can say it’s because the one dog sheds a tiny dog’s worth of hair every day, and both track in dirt. But it’s also because we’re still in the “discovery” phase with Maura. The “if left to her own devices, it may look like a hurricane blew through here” phase. The “I swear, I just vacuumed, what the heck kid? That was a full box of cereal. Why do I never have a dog that’ll eat cereal?” phase.

Luckily, I now live with hardwood and laminate flooring, so when Maura dumps milk across the table and onto the floor, it can all be easily cleaned up with a towel, and the cereal and dog hair are easy to vacuum up.

If I stop to over-analyze it all, it could become very depressing, being stuck in this phase of development. Luckily, I know that with Maura, one shouldn’t look at the broad picture. One looks at what’s happening in front of us, the little things that are big. Like she was able to button a button herself – huge for a girl with bendy fingers and wonky fine motor skills! Or the other night, without prompting, she took her plate to the kitchen. Sure, she scraped it all off into the sink, but she’s now equal to her siblings on this particular task. If she spills the proverbial milk, she will grab a kitchen towel and do her best to clean it up.

I may never be able to put my vacuum away, but I don’t see that as a loss. Instead, it’s a reminder that we’re still winning. We’re still moving forward, even if it’s in baby steps. It means that we have more important things to do than unplug the vacuum, wind up the cord, and put it in a designated place. In a weird way, it’s a symbol of development in my house. Progress is messy, people, but we’re prepared to handle all that comes with it.


For now, rest, little Shark

And now, a guest post from my sister, who’s not sorry

18 May

(While we parental units were in Ireland, my sister came out to hold down the fort and keep people alive…and she has some words to say to those who thought this was a bad idea…)

Sorry, I’m not sorry…..

But I just want to take a minute to apologize for not understanding that when I tell people why I’m going to my sister’s and watching my niece, the first thing response I always get every single time is “I’m so sorry” or “It must be so hard”.

Excuse me???

Sorry for what?  Sorry that I’m going to go see a part of my family?  Sorry that I get an opportunity to be a part of my nieces (and nephews) lives?   Sorry that I get to terrorize with them with stories of what would happen to their mother and myself if we didn’t clean our rooms?  Playfully threaten that it was three against four and we are bigger than them, so they better make sure they keep up with their chores now that the all the adults are teamed up?  Sorry they that when ask for McDonald’s, all I ask is for to be good that day at school? Sorry when after an evening bath and tucked into bed (ponies, penguins, and all) she surprised me with a kiss and a “gnight auntie”?


Maura and her auntie

So sorry again, but to me this sounds like something every aunt (and uncle) should look forward too and not have people think that this is some sort of punishment life dealt us.  Maura may have specials needs…she may require special care and she most certainly requires a special kind of patience and understanding…but to me, all it means is she just need is a special kind of love

At the very beginning of this visit, Maura had a meltdown in public…  big time.  I knew it was looming because of how she acted at lunch. Slightly manic… kept mimicking antics of a Hollywood scripted panic attack one we left the house.  BUT it was her older brother’s birthday and he asked to have friends over… you know, the one teen who doesn’t raise fuss, scene, or commotion?  Oh..  you’ve heard of him, but not much else? That’s because he doesn’t raise a fuss, scene, or commotion. So what better gift could Maura do for her big brother on his 18th, was to let him be an 18 year old boy having a pizza party with his friends.  Alone….  No Penguins…. No Frozen… No stealing his day with blossoming tween Maura theatrics.

So burgers with the girls, couple fights over whose shoes which girl wanted to wear (while at Five Guys)  and it was off to Target to buy Sean some birthday gifts.   Right away Maura picked up a map book she wanted and since I got the warning that Maura loves Target when she gets to buy all the things, I thought we did pretty well that she was cooperating with a map book while we bought cards and candy for sean.  So it was at the check out that behind me I heard fussing…..  Well fussing turned into tears…. Tears turned to “mom’s”….. “Mom’s” turned into butt on the ground, hysterical crying, refusing to even stand or stop screaming.

As frustrating as this might sound, this didn’t bother me…everything was paid for… and eventually she would take a moment to breathe,  take a second and actually pay attention to me…. Or for the very least get tired of sitting on the ground and want to go home for more of her favorite penguin cartoon.  Here was a little girl, that doesn’t understand where her mom is, being told no to her normal routine at home and at her favorite store to buy all the things.  So you know what?  In my opinion, I totally get why she’s having this meltdown at this moment.  It’s just going to take us a little longer to get out of the store.

What was frustrating was occasionally looking up to catch looks of pity or even worse, annoyance, on other customers face over a sad and worried little girl just working through her emotions as they checked.  I’m sorry, but what am I supposed to do? Pick up her and drag all 5’2” of her hysterics out of the store? That wasn’t going to happen.  Not take her out on beautiful Saturday afternoon? Still not  going to happen.  Not try to make the most of the only time I’ll have with my nieces for an entire year?  I’m most certainly not going to lock her away at the house for their convenience while running errand, so they don’t have to have to be reminded sometimes life isn’t always easy.

What I will do is learn from that experience a little bit more about Maura.  What makes her tick, what might set her off.  This week she taught me that she needs special attention.  My full,undivided, and patient attention.  Everyday we are all too quick in to get annoyed when things aren’t done quick and easy.  With Maura, if you take the time and listen to her clues, the reward for achieving the most simple of tasks are more fulfilling than any mindless convenience money can by.  I’ve noticed Maura’s growing up, not fast,but she is growing up.  After a storm of emotions passes, she does know when she caused a scene and can sense when she did something wrong and apologizes. She apologetic and as remorseful as she can be.  So why should I approach my time with her as burden?  Why should I accept people’s apologies and sympathies for something they see as being hard.  It’s not me that’s having a hard week,  it’s the little girl that misses her mom that’s having the hardest week of us all.

tea party, yo

tea party, yo


Can you see why I have no problem leaving Maura with my sister? Excuse me while I am thankful for having awesome family members. – Phoebe  


The seasons that don’t change

6 May

As I stretched across the bed to catch the corner of the mattress with the fitted sheet, a thought slipped through my brain –

“I’m going to be doing this forever.”

I was changing the sheets on Maura’s bed.

With the older three kids, I’ve watched them grow more independent each year, more able, more adult. They do their own laundry, they can fix dinner for the family, they change the sheets on their own beds.

Meanwhile, I have to help Maura still with all those things, at an age where she should be branching out to be more independent. And it’s hitting me once again, how life with her will be a forever thing. It sounds sad, but I’m not sad about it. Oh, I’d much rather pay someone to put the sheets on her bed and mine – it’s not a task I enjoy at all. But it’s a task that needs to be done, and there’s no village pounding down my door to do the mundane life things, like change her sheets on a regular basis.

So I do it. Because that’s just what needs to be done.

We watch “The Penguins of Madagascar” for the umpteeth time. Because she’s yet to outgrow it. And again, that’s okay, because we still can enjoy it.

She has toys I bought her several years ago that are so well loved and still cherished and played with. Worn, grubby dolls that have moved into almost a Velveteen Rabbit status, they’ve been so loved. Who knows, maybe they come to life at night. They come to life in her imagination still.

So much has changed in our lives, but so much within Maura’s world stays the same. She still has the backpack we bought five years ago, the magenta sparkly one. The penguin collection that includes a one-flippered penguin, and the other one that’s missing part of his beak because Maura used to chew on said beak. The pink Barbie VW Beetle that she got in the charity shop on the way home from school her first weeks in Ireland five years ago.

The seasons of Maura are kind of like California weather. You can have storm or wildfire once in a while, but most of the time, it’s sunny and warm, and all is good.

Things don’t move fast in Maura’s world. Not time, or the seasons of life. That’s okay. Because what also doesn’t change is her great attitude and loving nature. Even with a dose of almost-teen attitude, she’s still so happy and loving. She’s learning to mature in other ways, she’s not stuck in one space. Yet, I also know she’s always going to need some help. And that’s okay. Because even though I hate putting sheets on the bed, and picking up her room after she’s gone through it like an F5 tornado, hearing her squeal and go “OH! My ROOM!” with delight is totally worth it all.

This penguin came to the Great Big Sea concert with us

Maura and a penguin – circa 2010



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