Seize the moment!

20150129-163156.jpg

Friends were round this morning, and we were lamenting the lack of snow. None last year, and none this year either, really.

I was wrong.

Just now, we had a heck of a hailstorm. Then I hear M shout from downstairs (S and I were upstairs, stretching hands out a window to feel the hail), ‘IT’S SNOW!’ And it was. Snow. Real snow.

We ran downstairs, flung open the door. M dashed out in crocs and a t shirt, bare bum flashing the world as he yelled a barbarian yell and ran. ‘Look, when I run, it makes the snow go faster!’ He continued yelling and running, while S was leaning forward to touch the show, tilting her head to the sky. ‘I can’t believe it!’ she said.

It only snowed fifteen minutes. We were out there, in pyjamas (or not, as the case may be!), the whole time. Catching snow on our tongues, marvelling at the thick flakes. Whirling and twirling and just being happy.

When we came in, I thought, wow. For all the moments I worry I’m not as good of a mom as I can be, there are these other moments. No hesitating, no preparation (and thank goodness, if we’d stopped to get ‘properly’ dressed we’d have missed it!), no worry about anything. Just standing in the snow with my kids, arms wide open, and appreciating what feels like a small miracle on this simple Thursday afternoon.

Joyful fun for everyone. AKA the good stuff about being a home educating parent!

I hear it all the time. I couldn’t be around my kids all the time, I’d go crazy. Do you ever get time for yourself?

Yeah, home education is time intensive. But if we forget about the children for a minute….there are so many benefits for the parents. Benefit one?

Going to visit the local fire station with friends and getting to dress up in an actual firefighter uniform.

20141114-161759.jpg

Yeah, you heard me. I got to wear a skin protecting head wrap under that helmet. Feel what it was like to walk in those heavy boots. Look so awesome all the other people on the planet want to be me! Ahem. But seriously, can you want or need anything more than that?

If so, here’s a few excellent things about being a home educator, from the purely parental point of view:

Getting to finally learn that there’s another way to learn. Maybe starting to find a deeper well that’s been hidden all these years – one filled with longing, individualistic passion, curiosity. You get to see the proof that this well is real because, you know, your kids aren’t getting their wells filled in or covered up.

20141114-164805.jpg

Laughing. Really, really laughing. Parenting can be divisive even among friends you’ve known a long time. But if you are choosing to live a freer life outside of the mainstream, you have a much higher chance of meeting like minded people. People who view life similarly, people who appreciate and celebrate wackiness, people to adventure with. I’ve laughed so hard I’ve almost pissed myself on occasion. And I get to spend hours with these people. And not in an office. No. We are walking through gale force hail storms, we are exploring in Wales, we are playing dangerous little games with actual firefighting hoses.

20141114-164924.jpg

Consensual living. Some people view radical unschooling or totally autonomous education as the kids ruling the roost. Not in this house. We make decisions as a team, we compromise, we try to find good solutions that everyone is happy with. That means if I’m having an overwhelming time, my kids are practiced in the skills of discussion and debate….and I get time to wear fleece pajama bottoms and read if I need an afternoon in.

Being the best version of yourself. I’m still learning, but what can be better than joyfully saying yes to as much stuff as possible? Evening marshmallow roasting, flying kites in the midst of ancient stone circles, making vegan chocolate cakes and throwing a pretend birthday party. It doesn’t get much better than this. (Except if you’re in a fire fighter outfit. Seriously.)

20141114-165259.jpg

Trying new stuff. Many home ed classes or groups are a happy mixture of people of all ages – toddlers through adults. Just recently, I’ve got to sculpt with real clay, walk along a balance beam, learn new songs in various languages from Africa, and picnic in the rain. As the kids get older, I look forward to signing up for classes geared more toward me and bringing them along if they are interested – maybe the local acting group? Harmonica lessons? Hiking meet ups?

And the best bit. Being there. I get the zany questions, the little lips blowing raspberries on me, the hugs and every day moments that are so filled with magic. I get to throw my arms up and be loudly me, loudly their mother, loudly a friend. I get all those explosions of wonder and happiness and love.

20141114-165211.jpg

There’s nothing better.

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.

20141030-160933.jpg

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.

20141030-161319.jpg

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.

20141030-162008.jpg

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.

The after eights edition of my extrinsic rage.

Tonight we go back to martial arts, and it’s got me thinking: how many people are raised with an obligation to just get through the broccoli so they can get to the chocolate cake?

If desserts/puddings/junk food whatevers are labelled and valued as treats, it can actually devalue other foods. The treats are seen as desirable, more worthy and delicious than the other food. (And if you’re thinking, yeah, but they are! perhaps cast an eye back to your own childhood!) So kids stop looking forward to the carrots, the entree, the banana. They want the biscuits, the juice, the sweets.

This post isn’t about food. I have a lot to say about food, but here it is just a metaphor.

Because I wonder if all these extra bribes and treats will teach the kids that martial arts is something to get through, some sort of weekly obligation, and if you manage to put up with it all you get toys. Because of course kids like toys. Mine effing love them. They’d probably do just about anything for the chance to earn a toy. Fair enough, I guess. Toys are awesome.

But bottom line? Martial arts is awesome, too. No, really, it is…no, not just because bribes are being thrown at you, uh….no, I know it’s all a subtle attempt to control kids…yeah, but…I….

Oh well.

original post on this topic

Brown bear, brown bear……why are you here?!

My kids really like their martial arts class, particularly S. Up till now it’s been a standard thirty minute class each week, with the slightly annoying sticker reward at the end. I know, I know, I’m such a sticker hating hippy. But seriously. At four, five, and six, why can’t the joy of the sport be enough? Little kids shouldn’t need to be bribed. But if there is a week when the stickers are forgotten, every bloody kid is upset. And why? Do they actually cognitively link the sticker to anything? Every kid gets one, so they are not merit based.

My kids like the stickers, so I’ve squashed my anti sticker sentiment. I don’t want to make them give up something they enjoy. And as we used to say when I was back in the therapy world, everything is ‘grist for the mill.’ We can have lots of discussions about these things. Fine.

But then talk of the reward charts entered the scene. Myself and a couple of other parents weren’t pleased, and that included parents of schooled kids. These reward charts are to get them to do things at home that the parent might normally have trouble getting them to do. Oh, there is so much wrong with that last sentence I don’t know where to start! We don’t have continual problem behaviours. Nor do we have to (often) coerce the kids to do things. We have a lot of freedom and choice, and both kids have taken on growing responsibility for stuff – their own personal care and toys, as well as helping pitch in around the house. There are no obligations, no punishments if someone doesn’t want to help – because they only help if they offer to. I know some of you may think we are crazy. That’s okay. Maybe we are. But it is working for us.

I just don’t get why martial arts should be rewarding kids for doing nightly reading, brushing their teeth, etc. I wonder if it is because it is trying to instill some mystical martial art thought processes or something? But surely martial arts are an inbuilt meritocracy – you earn belt/badges and progress to different levels depending on how much you train. Fair enough. That’s the nature of it.

Then why The Bear?

The Bear is a giant bear neither of my kids has cared too much about. He’s a relatively new thing, only making an appearance twice so far. The ‘best’ kid gets to borrow him for the week after class. I’ve been very lucky in that neither of my children has had a breakdown over not getting The Bear, though other poor souls have.

Until today. S worked her arse off. There was lots of (brilliant, really brilliant stuff) about heart rates, being healthy, etc – and she participated more than anyone. Did she win the effing bear? Nope.

She hung her head and asked me, ‘Why didn’t I win the bear? I tried so hard.’ In my head I was thinking, I don’t know, dude, but you totally should have. Ha.

She is the sort of person who does try very hard. She wants to be perfect. That worries me, but that’s a post for another day. Bottom line, though, my daughter cares a lot about stuff like this. And while The Bear is supposed to build children up, for kids like S, I think it only has the potential to do more harm.

So as we walked to the car I told them the truth – a little something I picked up from other mothers who also had bears in their children’s activities (wtf is up with these bears?). I told the kids that The Bear would likely just be rotated, that everyone would get a turn. I’d rather break the mystique of The Bear than have it break my kid’s spirit.

She loves martial arts. The exercises, the kicking, the punching. Her face glows while we are there.

And I wish that could be enough. Her joy, her getting to try new things, her working hard to progress.

Perhaps this is an inevitable problem – as we are now the only home educating family in a class of children who are daily offered rewards (that may not logically link to anything! I’m a rant girl!), use behaviour charts, are daily forced to do things they do not want to do. It makes me happy that we are not living that way – not that I judge people who are. Each to their own.

A few months back I took the reward chart issue to an online group filled with experienced, wise unschoolers. I read and deeply considered everything that was discussed, and it has helped us move forward. My kids can choose whether to do the charts. I won’t be signing my name in the squares – they can put happy faces in themselves. But The Bear?

You don’t need him, S. You are strong and smart and you may feel you are not sure, but I am. I can hold the sureness for you until you are ready to rise up, magnificent, and claim it for your own.

follow up post

Honestly.

Yesterday morning I just blew up.

Too many little things combined together to create a maelstrom of angst on my behalf, culminating in me yelling my head off about socks. Seriously.

Then crying over a piece of toast, in some monologue of self pity. ‘I do everything around here. I make the lunches, I get your clothes, I clean up breakfast. All you have to do is sit and play! When do I get to sit and play?

The crying increased. Mine, not theirs.

I felt terrible because as bad as I felt, neither kid had actually done anything warranting my reaction.

Another gem was me effectively stomping my feet like a two year old. ‘I don’t even want to go out! I’m doing this for you guys! When you want to stay in, we do, but what about ME?’

As it happens, I developed a giant cold around eight last night, so I hopefully blame my crazy blow up on the cold. Because in reality, we live consentually here. We make compromises. If someone really wants to do something, we find a way to make it happen, most of the time. But that’s not the important part. This is:

I said sorry. I came into the lounge, still half crying, and said, ‘I’m sorry. You did nothing wrong, this was not your fault. I should not have yelled like that.’ Then I said I needed a cuddle, and I got a big one, from two very empathetic kids. I said, ‘Its okay to need help. Even grown ups need help sometimes. I love you.’ Still feeling like a wrung out piece of wet towel, I got into the car and we drove to my/our friends.

Once there, once seven kids were happy, I told my friends. In excruciating detail. ‘I dropped the f bomb! I’ve maybe said that three times since the kids were born. And just because a kid wanted help with their socks!’

And their words embraced me.

It became a friendly competition of who had dropped the occasional f bomb in what situations, how we acted when we were driven crazy, the sorts of behaviours we did. We laughed about it, there, in that playroom. About being overwhelmed, about parenting, about life.

And it was a relief. This is the healing power of honesty. There we were, three parents who saw the other two as fabulous parents, and then heard about all the tiny, five minute times of yelling, frustration, upset. We were not alone, and we were still fabulous parents.

I think the fact that we can beat ourselves up over these occasional blow ups shows that, usually, we aren’t blowing up. We are somehow holding court with seven hands and thirteen things to do at the same time. And we do it well, even when we feel frazzled and don’t do as much as we feel we should.

I’m not superhuman. I am tired, I get sick, I want time alone. Even when I know I’m normal, I’m doing a good job, it is still an immense relief to hear other people voicing the same thoughts as me.

So here we are today, twenty four hours after I got a little crazy (and eighteen hours after we bought bigger socks to make things easier!) All three of us are not well. Soggy tissues are multiplying, fleece robes and fuzzy slippers have appeared, bed pillows are on the couches. It’s silent, except for that one kid on YouTube that does endless reviews. We are all tired, and sick, and ready for a day of rest and recuperation. I may have finally stopped beating myself up for how mean I was yesterday morning.

And that is largely due to the grace and forgiveness of my children, and my friends. My sweet, funny, smart, honest friends.

Help! How should we talk about fat?

My kids know everyone’s body is different. Different skin colours, different hair texture, some big, some small, some tall, some short, some needing wheelchairs, some not. We’re okay; we’ve got that.

What we don’t have is a Me who knows how to deal with what is often termed ‘the honesty of small children.’

A few weeks ago as we were walking through the woods, a large man went past us. One of the kids said, loudly, ‘Wow, that man is really fat.’

I will leave out the discussion we had (another somewhat inane everyone is different thing, with some added awkwardness about how to talk about differentness).

The thing is, many people are sensitive about their weight. And someone pointing out their size in a slightly awed voice may sting.

But the other thing is that I’m trying to raise kids who celebrate difference. My kids don’t mock people for being fat/disabled/black/a ‘masculine’ woman, but they do sometimes notice it. And I think that’s okay.

I was raised with a ‘colourblind’ society being hailed as the utopia. But I don’t agree with it. I’m different; I’m a queer woman. My difference isn’t one I want silenced – surely we can all be different, can learn from differentness? It doesn’t naturally lead to exclusion or derision. In my utopia it leads to celebration.

That means I have a lot of conversations with my kids. Sometimes they don’t notice what makes people different, and that’s okay – they are too busy noticing what we have in common with others. And that’s great. But when they do – they ask about why some people wear head scarves or niqab, they ask why a black friend has curlier hair than we do, they ask how prosthetic legs work. And then they get on with their day, a little more clued up and a lot more likely to accept these differences in an easier way. Because I try to be open.

Did I initially have an easy time explaining women covering their heads or faces, when my kids have no concept of religion? No. But I muddled through, because we may be different but we are learning about respect, beliefs, choice, and how to talk about these things.

But fat? I don’t know.

It happened again at the pool yesterday. Another, ‘Hey, that man is really, really fat.’ We had a quick conversation about not pointing out how people are different, how it may make others uncomfortable.

But really, I was the only uncomfortable one. Hushing up fat talk, but not hushing up talk about that kid in the wheelchair with the awesome Spider-Man wheels….what message am I sending? That being overweight equals something shameful, abhorrent, embarrassing?

My kids tested it on me. ‘Mama, why are you fat?’ Then, rushing and somehow sly, ‘Oh, sorry, I called you fat.’

Somehow I had turned fat from an ordinary adjective into something darker. And I don’t like that.

So what do I say? How do I say it?

I’m sending mixed messages by talking about my stretch marks with pride, about how all our bodies are just right for each of us. And then cringing with horror when my kids dare to innocently point out a body that is outside of what many would consider a normal weight range. Wasn’t that my opportunity to say, ‘Yes, we’re all different! Isn’t that great?’

Instead I feel like an awkward, socially inept person who knows this conversation is ongoing…and has a long way to go…but I don’t know how to talk anymore. It’s uncomfortable for me. This may be our first experience of really going against the grain when, actually, we may be rubbing people the wrong way no matter what we say.

Maybe I need to carry on explaining that difference can be a really good thing, a chance to learn more about other people and the world around us. But that we need to think about how we point it out – and here’s where I draw a blank. Anyone have ideas? Please do leave a comment below!

Adventure’s burning.

Earlier this week, we had our grand return to gymnastics after a big summer break. It’s all a bit hairy, as S loves gym and would go every week – M has fun while he’s there, but realistically he probably wouldn’t care if he never went again. Luckily, we met some friends there and afterwards dutifully trooped across the street to the little playground and park. We had the plumber coming that afternoon, so when we finally went to leave, we walked back to gym, turned the corner, and were presented with the sight of thick grey smoke flooding out the upstairs window of a house.

A house we were sort of parked directly across the street from.

A group of young people were on the corner, and I thought I overheard a girl say she was calling the firefighters out. I double checked she’d called, and then had about a million thoughts zoom through my head in two seconds. One was phoning the plumber – and that’s when I realised my phone was missing. That is a long, dull story in itself; suffice to say, an older man was just approaching me with concern when I plucked my phone out of some long grass, thrust it into the air, and yelled, ‘YEESSSSSS!’

My next thought was trying to very quickly run up the street and get in the car before the fire engines appeared, because I knew we’d be trapped in. We started up the street, and my paranoid thoughts kicked in – what if the bloody house exploded? Was it really worth the risk?

Luckily M took charge. When the smoke hit us, he turned away and went back towards gym. S and I followed. Well, I thought, that’s okay.  This will be a little adventure.  We can watch the firemen, maybe see if there’s some way we can help the people who’ve been evacuated. That’s when my dumb, adventure loving ass noticed that S was physically shaking.

‘Are you scared?’

‘No,’ she said. ‘I’m not scared. I’m terrified.’

We went back round to the front of the gym and had a seat and a cuddle. Then I thought maybe we could get into gym and buy something with sugar in – good for a shock, no? The lovely older man who saw my phone triumph happened to work at the gym. He let us in, we got some chocolate and juice. Then we went back outside, where he brought me some tea. He urged us to come back in if the rain started.

At this point, the smoke was spreading. Fire trucks had arrived, police, ambulances. Roads were being shut off. And both kids started just sobbing. Like losing your mind crying. We kept moving further from the smoke, which by now was so thick it blocked visibility and police had red eyes, tears streaming down their faces. At one point I left the kids in front of the gym and peeped round the corner – flames were shooting from the upper windows, visible even through the solid wall of smoke that made the people fighting the fire look ghostly and unreal.

I’d been texting with Suzy, who arranged for her mum to come collect us ASAP, since it was apparent this little ‘adventure’ would not result in us having our car free any time soon. M lost his shit. He was so scared the car would burn, the car would be lonely, etc etc. He kept scream asking, ‘Is this a nightmare dream or is it real? Is it a nightmare or real?’ S was asking if this would happen to us. She was quietly weeping the whole time.

We actually had people come up to us to ask if it was our house burning, if we were okay. The older guy came back and looked concerned (we looked like tear stained, slightly dusty refugees from the fire), and again told us to come back inside the gym. Eventually my mother in law arrived and order was restored.

Except for the questions. Did the fire have our address? Would it happen to us? How did fires start? If we had a fire, would we rescue all our toys first? Was I careful to make sure our house didn’t burn?

They had a very unsettled night. Me…well, I was fine while we were there, aside from the worry of the fire spreading and burning our car. But once home I felt a little shaky (which still strikes me as somewhat ridiculous). The stress and fear of the children – well, I contained it fine while I had to, but once they were asleep and I didn’t have to stay super calm and reassuring, I just felt tired.

We got the car back about nine pm that night. The kids have seemed pretty fine since then. But it was a harsh reminder that my view of things can sometimes violently clash with how the children view it – and in this case, I think they had the more humane view. It wasn’t an adventure for the man who’s house burned down. For the firefighters that had to stay there ten hours to make sure the fire didn’t restart. For my children, who cried and cried and cried.

I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad no one was injured in the fire. I’m glad life has returned to normal.

Still, I sit, watching my children and wondering. What will it be like to return to gym next week, to drive past that poor house? Should we do more about fire safety in our house? Should I just drop the topic for awhile, having already reassured them that if they wanted to talk about it more, I was ready to listen?

Mostly, though, I marvel at the deep empathy of children, and their stunning ability to house more resilience than you’d think.

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.

20140508-094307.jpg

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.

20140508-095044.jpg

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.