Matchsticks and marshmallows.

Today our little home ed group of friends ventured into the woods for spooktacular fun. And it was. Fun, I mean. It was also frustrating, exhausting, joyful, mysterious, fighting, curious, dog wrangling, screaming.

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An army of children mixed potions from ingredients like crushed Phoenix feathers, bog water, and mermaid scales. They made ghosts to send flying with a good old fashioned parachute bouncing. They tried to eat apple halves hanging from trees and ended up playing tennis, using the aforementioned ghosts as paddles. Some pressed clay faces onto trees.

Every now and then hell would break loose. A quickfire punch here and there, someone falling from a hammock and slamming to the ground, people screaming in terror if dogs came too close.

A friend said, ‘Hey, I read that blog post from the day when you lost your shit and came over, then we all talked about how hard it can be. And that was like the best day of my life, and it was purely down to how shit your morning had been.’ We laughed, and then another child related incident broke up our chat.

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We made a fire in the damp, damp woods…discovering that matchsticks and marshmallows appeared to be the best possible fuel. We swung high in tyres, played tug of war, crammed together in a hammock. Kids ran and laughed and climbed. People used facepaint to colour their nails. Creepy balloon shapes full of water, dangling from a branch, were fun to squeeze, hit, and kick. We ate marshmallows, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate cornflake cakes.

People were upset when friends wouldn’t do exactly what they wanted. Every adult conversation was cut short by various heartbreaks or emergencies. We discovered the ‘joy’ of weeing outdoors when girls are wearing waterproof bloody trousers. One kid collapsed on the ground and sobbed after begging to go home. Another screamed and thrashed when his toddler heart was cracked in half because he had to give someone else a chance on the tire swings.

The adults exchanged glances; we laughed.

The kids hit trees with soft plastic tubes, making a cacophony of sound and music. They screamed with excitement as the adults moved the parachute over their hands. One bent quietly over her mother’s wellies, painting them with facepaint. Some made giant brooms. Some wore werewolf masks and chased each other. We smelled like mud and smoke and more mud.

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It was the way these days can be. Small moments of peace and ease, quickly followed by discontent and control struggles.

It was the way this life can be. Big moments of laughter and discovery, quickly followed by exhaustion and deep sighs. We are so lucky for friends who get it. For other adults who laugh when one of my children does something bossy or mean or crazy. For other adults who don’t mind when I laugh whenever their kids do the same thing.

It’s a shared experience.

One of the best bits of the day was just sitting in a hammock with my kids, the commotion of the Halloween party at our backs, only the deep woods for us to look at. They leaned into me, my arms their pillows, and we rocked. For five minutes we had such joy and peace…..

And then we didn’t.

Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

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