Today we are lucky.

Today was cow diarrhoea between my toes.

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It was lots of pirate accents, some dodgy pirate jokes. (What do pirates like looking at in the night sky? A starrrrrrrrrr.)

It was wooden swords, it was crying and/or laughing children, it was rolling down hills and getting muddy.

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It was playing croquet. Then using the croquet set to build a castle, ride horses, have sword fights, find wood louse families, practice bowling…and cry over how hard croquet was. To sit squashed up against each other and slide down concrete walls. To run away, over the horizon and down a hill, and have no grown ups worry or fret.

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It was hunting for treasure, running in the rain, roasting in the sun. Rolled up pirate maps and little golf pencils, playing in every tree we saw, ice cream dripping down faces and drying like pirate beards.

Today was texting with friends who wandered off, imagining boat battles in a dried up lake, wondering about that guy who kept taking pictures of leaves. And keeping a safe distance from the rock and roll speedy red van delivering post.

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It was shouting out to hear our joyful echoes, and exploring a place full of rusty farm implements (!), and being Frodo and trying to bring a golden ring to a lava filled mountain. Milking statue cows, getting stuck in an empty fountain, running…running…running. Mud coating our bottoms, our boots, our backpacks.

We are so lucky this can be our every day. Even when it means we have to come home and wash cow diarrhoea off our feet, even when we get tired from walking for five hours, even when the rain pours down and bathes us as we run back into our house.

Lucky.

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Most of these pics were taken by our friend, the mother of the other three joyful children pictured! We are especially lucky to have such great friends to share adventures with.

A smurfing betrayal.

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“Where the smurf are we?” Grouchy asked.

“We are up Smurf Creek without a paddle,” Gutsy said, pointing to the portal. It was beginning to close!

The book A Smurfin’ Big Adventure is simultaneously the worst thing I’ve ever read, yet the most intriguing. The dubious plot is spiced up by random nonsensical things being thrown in – portals, human beings (!), and endless TTDMS (things that don’t make sense). It’s well known amongst close friends that I like bad things. Things that are so bad they circle around to being good again. The movie Sleepaway Camp springs to mind.

The Smurfs, though, never fell into that category. They were smurftastic. My little smurfy friends. Until this book morphed the traditional exchange of variations of the word ‘smurf’ with any and all adjectives to a straight up expletive replacement. I half expected there to be a bank robbery, with the villains shouting, ‘Gimmie the smurfing money before I blow your head right the smurf off!’

To be honest, it makes me want to inject a little blue flavoured obscenity into my own life, though my wife has made it clear she doesn’t approve of my new ambition.

Perhaps it is for the best. Because those blue guys fight smurfin’ dirty. Look:

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Gargamel suddenly saw that the walls of the castle were covered with Smurfs- and more were coming up behind them! Gargamel raised his wand, but the Smurfs started pelting him with with walnuts, eggs, and even a frying pan! Gargamel dropped his wand.

I’ll bet he did. It’s obvious that the poor guy suffers from food allergies and the Smurfs will stop at nothing to defeat him, even anaphylaxis. I hope he has an epipen hidden in his smurfing wand.

Balloon frenzy (or the day my kids discovered the art of picking glue off their skin).

We are lucky enough to live in a city that loves hot air balloons. Spring through autumn (but especially summer), when dawn and/or dusk are clear, dozens of balloons fill the skies. And due to the way the wind blows, they drift right over our house. We often wake up to skies of balloons – rainbow coloured, chicken shaped, countless balloons – low and lazy, we can hear the fire and see the flames as they heat the air. And when we go out for sunset adventures, a great summer tradition, they hang low in the sky above.

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My childhood was filled with memories of watching hot air balloons take off. The high school just down the road from us had a big field, and we’d go down once a week or so to watch the balloons be unrolled, inflated, floating. One landed in the field across from my house one day, and that memory of excitement is as bright as the balloon itself was.

Last summer we took the kids to our city’s International Balloon Fiesta. It always happens right around their birthday weekend, and they are already looking forward to this summer. We spent the day in hot sun, picnicking, watching planes do aerobatics overhead, riding Ferris wheels. And at sunset, we watched over a hundred balloons depart the skies. It was amazing.

We’ve been having jokey conversations about what sort of balloons we would design – because the balloons in our city aren’t just all colourful, but multi shaped – and so I thought, Hmm. Let’s make some to hang in the house. I cast my memory back to the third grade and some Christmas decorations I made in school, explained the idea to the kids, and we ran out into the garden.

Armed with glue, yarn, balloons, empty yogurt pots, tissue paper, and all sorts of stuff. An easy little craft, I thought. And I’ll put up a tutorial once we’ve finished them.

But OH THE DRAMA. We had popped balloons, glue covering most of our bodies, soggy wet yarn drying itself to the path in big clumpy knots.

At one point, little S actually fell backwards into the paddling pool while fully clothed. It was like a bad children’s movie! To her credit and determination, her grip on her wet balloon never faltered and though she was crying and covered in suspiciously green, ice cold water, she held the balloon up and safe.

This is as far we we’ve got:

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For our physical and emotional safety (only half a joke, folks!), we’ve decided to leave it for today and do more tomorrow. Don’t ask why there’s only one. What happened to the other one is busy being repressed by the owner of that ill fated hot air balloon. Maybe it’s gone to that clear, lightly breezy place in the heavens.

We are powerful, out here in the garden.

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Naked children running free out in the sunshine,
and I wonder how anyone could think that shady classrooms,
lining up, sitting in seats, staying still,
is more powerful than light, air, water fights, daisy chains.

We are four.

We are watching that magpie nest in the garden, we are drawing
our own hopscotch. We are watering our seeds,
squealing naked bums against slides,
pouring water onto the grass to make muddy puddles
so we can
SPLASH.

We leave all the doors open so we can wander in and out.

If our friends come over, they wander, too. We are watching clouds,
digging up ants, riding scooters, laughing and running
and chasing each other
and we have the space to be, be, be.

This is exactly where we are supposed to be, at four, outside and
breathing deep.  This is where we draw our power,
where we discover heat and rain and
ourselves.

Today. Remembering rest is very, very important, too.

I really really want to hop on a bus and go to this one market in town. It has all sorts of stalls selling all sorts of things, including a wonderful, funky vegan cafe. I want to go there with the kids and get them some decadent chocolate thing.

Then wander around, listen to street musicians. Maybe play in the fountains. Or take a long boat ride.

There is a lot to see and do, but today we are staying home yet again because my pelvis/coccyx/spine still isn’t quite right. This too shall pass, right?

I do love days where we stay in, maybe because they are so rare. Yesterday we missed pottery and a park home ed meet, but the kids spent a lot of time outdoors with their Grampy, building a bee house and planting wildflowers. In the afternoon friends came over. S and her little pal went up to my room with popcorn and Lady and the Tramp. M and his friend played a bit of minecraft, took a bunch of Lego outside, got rained on.

We painted some faces. Got hot in the sunshine, and then chilly in the house. Gave friends a tour of the Baby Animal Club. Swung from branches in the front garden. They also did some phonics apps, and M read a few words!

So you see, even when we stay in, there is lots to do.

But still, as the sunshine pours down and the temperature is expected to be roasty and lovely, it’s hard to not hop on a bus and go see where it takes us.

Tang Soo Do.

The kids were told off several times tonight (in a nice way) for cuddling during Tang Soo Do. It would be one or the other’s turn to punch and kick stuff, and they were too busy hugging.

The teacher was like, ‘What are you doing?’

S exclaimed, ‘Cuddling!’

After class, the teacher was hanging around while all the kids were getting shoes on, etc. S went up to say thank you, and the teacher replied, ‘You’re welcome. You did really well tonight. But the two of you need to stop cuddling! Cuddles at home, kicking and punching at Tang Soo Do!’

It was at that point that I chose to inform her that the mainstay of their recent home activity is, in fact, punching and kicking.

Making a life…one empty yogurt pot at a time.

One of the phrases we are hearing all the time from S goes a little something like this:

You know how we have cool ideas and then make them? Can we do that?

Today she said ‘crafty things’ and I initially thought she said ‘trashy things,’ which made me laugh because it is so apt. So much of what we make is made from ‘trash.’ Empty salsa jars, bottle tops, cardboard boxes.

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Owl fabric pencil topper, chequers board for bottle top pieces, a cool tree, R2D2.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the mom who suggests we make huge, awesome stuff every day. No. Most of what we do is led by an interest one or both of the kids have, a specific request, or S’s recent daily requests to make stuff. And I’m pretty good at it. With some mutual creative thinking and hunting round the house for materials, we can usually make whatever we can think of.

Suzy takes it to the next level. She’s helped the kids make Angry Birds Star Wars spaceships from tinfoil, a huge dinosaur island habitat from paper mâché, and a puppet theatre and puppets from cardboard and popsicle sticks.

I suspect that S will be the sort of parent (if she wants kids, anyway!) who makes elaborate and beautiful things often. She’s got the great combo of being an ideas woman and having follow through. M is similar, though he builds things most often in minecraft or Lego! We are constantly making toys that are made to suit (blue life size light sabres, anyone?). They tend to get played with as much, if not more, as the non-homemade stuff.

Recently S made a cardboard airplane hanger and a junk art plane for her RAF bear. M has made a few combine harvesters to chase after Lightning McQueen. These toys are fun because they turn out to be exactly made for purpose, but also because we get to make them.

So much of our life is making – toys, crafts. Making recipes, making sandcastles, making friends.

Making memories.

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Some of our endless collection of homemade Angry Birds, a magnetic fishing game, a toilet roll marble run, a minecraft diving board.

When disability mellows.

For those of you who aren’t aware, I’ve got a nifty little chronic pain/disability problem called SPD – symphasis pubis disorder. It’s also known as pelvic girdle pain. Many women, I think it’s one out of four, will have minor SPD during pregnancy. It’s really very common.

I had a severe sort, resulting in spending about a year and a half in a wheelchair. Eventually I moved on to full time crutches. Now I’m lucky enough to have (mostly) moved away from crutches and would guess most people I associate with have no idea that I live in chronic pain and have to adapt my daily life in order to carry on.

I don’t do as much around the house. I don’t often help with night wakings, because sleep is when your brain makes what I like to think of as natural morphine. So no sleep, less natural immunity/protection against pain. I usually only carry backpacks to evenly distribute weight on my body, and these are hiking packs with chest and waist supports.

My SPD has greatly improved since pregnancy, but four and a half years on I’m still left with daily pain, joint erosion, and decreased mobility. I’ve got a limit to how much physical activity I can do, and what type, otherwise I pay the price in the days to follow.

I’m very, very fortunate to have moved out of thinking I would need a wheelchair for life. Now I don’t really countenance that as an option. Though there are days, days like today, that a wheelchair would help. You know, if our entire floor wasn’t littered with Lego, Playmobil vet scenes, and art projects on the go.

Sometimes I do something klutzy and it triggers a relapse – a fall, moving in an awkward way, carrying too much stuff, etc. Sometime it’s hormonal. But the key feature is that whenever I have a relapse bad enough that I can’t walk without extreme pain (maybe once every three months or so?) I am filled with deep terror.

The last time it happened I really tried to stay with it. I also reminded myself that I had felt the pain before. I’d had treatment, time, and rest and moved through it. I can spend weeks not really noticing minor pains or letting it impact too much on daily life. There was a time I couldn’t bear any weight on my right foot, even while using crutches, and if I reflect back to that time it is easy to see how far I have come.

This time, I don’t know what has sparked a relapse. I just know it hurts.

But the very interesting thing is that for the first time, there is no accompanying terror. I resisted allowing this to become my new normal for a long time. I don’t know if I’ve made peace with it yet, but I think I’m understanding that there’s no point in resisting: this is my life now. This is how my body works, this is how things have changed for me, and it’s been this way for long enough that it’s hard to remember my old normal now.

The terror is absent. So is the guilt. I had to cancel fun plans today, but I was too worried about what pushing through would mean. I pushed through on the weekend, and it’s resulted in it being Tuesday and me still being in a decent amount of pain. So today we stayed home, we read aloud, we released the final butterflies. It was calm and peaceful and sort of a relief to relax into the pain, though I still worry about my children growing up with a mother who has to periodically ask them not to sit on her lap, hang on her, and that she needs a rest before she can get them more of whatever it is they require.

But these are moments. This moment is not as painful as some, though it is stretching for longer than usual. I’ve done what I can. I have an appointment for Bowen therapy later this week (I cannot recommend this enough – and if you google, you may be as skeptical of this weirdo sounding treatment as I was. But it works! I’ve tried everything, and this is the only thing that has helped.), I took it easy today, tomorrow we will go to a friend’s house and hopefully I can spend most of the time sitting on her couch!

Little things worry me. If we need to get to the pharmacy I don’t think I can do it, if my child needs that possibly infected odd spot on their leg to get seen by the doctor I’ll do it, but it will hurt.

Regardless, we carry on.

Into our new normals.

My new normal is so good, most of the time, that today I’ve forgotten to use my crutches. They are not a part of my daily life anymore, though they are a welcome support when I need them. Not using them has hurt me, yet still I forgot again and again to use them. I was so worried, even a year ago, about how disabling my condition was.

Now I feel like I’ve moved into phrase three. Phase one was life before pregnancy, before being hit by a motorbike while crossing the street at five weeks pregnant. Phase two was the pain, the unutterable and constant pain, even when it became more manageable. It was also the terror that each relapse brought – would I need a wheelchair forever? Need codeine every day?

Phase three is gentler. I don’t know that I’ll improve much more than I am now, and much effort will need to be made to make sure I don’t decline any sooner than I would from normal aging. But in phase three it’s a surprise to need crutches, but an acceptance that hey, they are there, I need support, may as well embrace it. My children are older, so much of the heartbreak of not being able to do much for them in their first months is over. If you look at pictures of us then, I’m usually always lying down. Maybe in my wheelchair.

If you look at pictures of us now, I’m usually always happy. Naked feet in cool stream, sitting on a log in the woods with my family. More often than not, I’m not in the picture. We are so busy exploring and doing and being, and the pictures that do exist are of my children. But I’m there, behind the camera, walking along and (mostly) feeling fine.

Finding freedom.

And my question for today is: do butterflies remember what it is like to be a caterpillar? That they were caterpillars once? Or is this process of evolving more of a mini death and rebirth?

I sat in the sunshine for a few hours today as we attempted to release the butterflies back into the wild. They seemed awfully happy where they were, and as we cheered them on, it all seemed so clear where I was, sitting outside their world, an observer of spread wings trapped in a small net home.

As it turned out, only two of the five found freedom today. The others did a bit of flying, and I was abandoned to watch them as my fellow butterfly scientists wandered off to do other things. I didn’t feel a sense of urgency or disappointment. The sun was warm, I had a book in my hand, and it all felt pretty relaxed between us, the butterflies and me.

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