Every weekend on at least one day at around 7:30 am I wake up, turn over to my husband and say in my brightest, most cheerful voice: "where do you want to go for a country walk today?"
He's not divorced me yet, so I'm taking this as him being on board.
The hiking backpacks were packed. The kids were dressed and ready in their sneakers, the dog had his cute little coat on and I'd raided the kitchen for anything that could pass as a picnic lunch - a hastily made tofu chao mein. The coordinates were in the sat-nav and we were ready to go - to Cow Roast, England (yes, really) the starting village for our brisk 5 mile morning hike.
It started out fine, as it always does, with a lovely walk along the Grand Union Canal - walking past canal houseboats and along the charming green waters and locks. We'd been passed by a couple of cyclists and some smug runners, stepping patiently to the side and continuing on our way. A few minutes later the same smug runners came back toward us - on a circular route this seemed strange - maybe they had left something in their car .
We should have paid more attention.
In another ten minutes we came to a bend in the path, the thin strip of land between the waters of the canal and the thorn bushes on the other side had been flooded out - now a path of squelching mud and deep puddles dotted with bits of dry (ish) grass. Thus began the hop and dance among the mud and along the canal, understanding now why the runners had wisely turned back to smugly run along the motorway instead.
There are only so many times you can say "it looks like it gets better around this bend" until you just give up hope, each pick up a child and slog straight through the puddles, stagnant muddy water submerging our white sneakers up past our socks. It didn't matter, our shoes were already well past the point of salvation and it surely had to get better at some point. It would just be better to continue on than to head back. And so we did.
We sludged through the 'path' of mud and water for another mile and a half, carrying the children and gripping tree branches for support where we could, the girls begging for a picnic break despite our assurances that a mud-hole was not an appropriate place to put down the picnic blanket.
Having completely missed the turnoff for the route we were on we ended up in a random farmer's field with distant cows and some sort of prison tree planting work crew off in the distance, a perfect place for a picnic! We unpacked the blanket, ate our chao mein noodles and then sat back to enjoy the lovely view.
"Mummy, I have to pee."
"Mummy me too."
We turned around, sat on the blanket, to look for a concealing bush when instead we found Kaitie, standing beside the picnic blanket (and the back of her father's head) completely naked from the bottom down. We hadn't realized how serious her need to pee was and both scrambled to get up from the blanket - dead leg! We both had dead leg! Pins and needles shot through my legs as I struggled to my knees, Paul having resorted to rolling around on the picnic blanket yowling and cheering me on. I was shaking with laughter and trying valiantly to get to my feet when Paul shouted "hurry! Her hips are wiggling!"
He was right, Kaitie's knees were crossed and the pee-dance had started, there was no turning back. I had to get to her before she wet her pants and shoes for the remaining duration of the hike - and also before she got the blanket. Paul cheering me on from his own dead-leg struggles on the ground I lunged for Kaitie, scooping her up in my arms from behind and gripping her by the calves I pulled her up to my chest, barely able to stand and she peed - a powerful arc of yellow spraying out and into the field like a fire hose, barely turning her in time to miss the blanket and her sister. I was laughing hard from the pins and needles numbing my legs and from having barely missed Paul with the pee-cannon, my thighs shaking from the squat position I was in. Kaitie's stream sputtered to a finish and feeling immensely relieved I made to put her down when she shouted "no wait, I have to poop!"
"No Kaitie no! You can't poop in a field! Wait until we get back to the village! Or something! Paul! Help!" She wasn't having it, she said it was coming out right then. I couldn't do it, I was laughing so hard I was near to wetting my own pants. Paul had recovered and ran to the rescue, snatching Kaitie from my arms and holding her 'in position'. I was positively howling with laughter on the sidelines as Kaitie asked Paul if he had a bag - like for Huar Huar's poop. I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe as I guided Paul in teaching a girl 'how to poop in the woods (he was holding her far too close to the ground) when Lochie chimed in with "Mummy I'm going to pee my pants."
What is with these kids! Do they not feel the urge of bodily functions before it hits crisis point? Do they wait until the most inopportune moment to need us?
I left Paul bent over in the field holding a straining three year old and yelling "this isn't funny!" as I wiped tears from my eyes and darted over to Lochlynn, ripping down her pants and gripping her by the back of her calves - I would at least keep this one away from the field and headed for the cliff overlooking the trail to the canal. Off she went with a powerful foamy spray - I had to lift her continuously higher to avoid the spray hitting her pants and shoes, bum high up in the air just as a large family passed by on a canal boat, looking up at the hills to see me holding a half naked toddler up like Baby Simba and shooting urine directly toward them, Paul yelling "it's a big one!" in the distance behind me. Shocked faces looked back up at me as I stared back at them, mouth agape and all words having escaped me.
Lochie finished and I ran her back over to the blanket, leaving her to deal with her own pants as I was now laughing so hard that my bladder had hit its own critical level. Paul's did too, as he left Kaitie mid-strain and ran for the bushes to relieve himself, me right behind him shouting "what is wrong with our family?" and him nearly peeing on our boundary-challenged dog. Everyone having relieved themselves Paul picked up Kaitie's poop in a wet-wipe, placed it inconspicuously in the bushes, wrapped the wet-wipe in a bag, just like one of huar-huar's, and put it in the backpack, as you do.
The four of us gathered back around the blanket and just kind of looked at each other, unsure of how a family hike and picnic had descended into urine-shooting chaos quite so quickly, but all now feeling full, relieved and ready to get on with our hike toward the prison gang up ahead.
And really, really hoping that they didn't see the whole thing.