The Morning I Cried on the Stairs

I’m at home with the three children, and things are crazy. The amount I have to do to sort out my uncle’s affairs and funeral and flat and car seems endless. Plus the all the organising and getting ready for both boys to return to school next week. L is moving up to juniors so there’s lots of new things, including the logistics of actually getting him there and my work days and how it’s all going to fit in with dropping off C and baby F. And did I mention the cat?

My uncle kept a cat in his flat, called Little Bob. Pets weren’t allowed, and my uncle lived on the the 9th floor of a tower block, but never mind any of that. Little Bob has been living with us for the last few days and it has been a total nightmare. He is toilet trained, but a) the kids screaming and playing and shouting is freaking him out, b) my uncle dying in the flat and laying on the floor all night probably freaked him out, and c) coming here and being in a new home is almost certainly freaking him out.

So, as I was saying, he’s toilet trained, but I think the stress is disturbing him because he has weed half in the litter tray and half in the house. He’s pooed in front of the washing machine, he’s weed on the coir mat area by the front door. He’s also knocked all of the (overdue and unsorted) papers from my desk onto the floor and then weed next to them, so they soaked it all up. Nice. God knows what’s in that pile, but it’s probably a ton of things I should have done by now but haven’t.

This morning, after the bank holiday weekend, I tried to ring around and find a rescue home for him.

Oh my god.

What the fuck is everybody doing in the world that each rescue home has 50+ cats on its waiting list? Honestly, why oh why oh why does ANYBODY get a pet without thinking for a second that it’s a decade+ of commitment? Why isn’t the pet industry better regulated? Why is there so much cruelty? One woman told me not to share on Facebook because free cats are picked up for bait in dog fights. I mean, what the actual fuck? She started to tell me about them being tied down and I just spoke over her and told her to NOT tell me any of this because it would stop me sleeping at night.

I called so many places and everyone said there was a waiting list of weeks, or they would just ring me if they could help. There are now five of us and a cat in an 840sq/ft house. We’re all sleeping with all the doors closed to keep him out of the bedrooms (which I hate), and I am not kidding when I say the entire house is covered in cat hair already. It is everywhere. I come downstairs each morning and it’s on top of the fridge, the table we eat from, everywhere. I was hoovering it up yesterday while the husband was sorting out the litter tray and we had taken up the matting by the door to wash it and let it dry in the garden (thank goodness we are in the middle of a mini heatwave), and I had to wonder – why would anyone do this voluntarily? All the extra work, and time taken away from all the other stuff you need to do and time taken away from time you want to spend with your children?

And before I incur the wrath of pet-lovers everywhere, I grew up in a house of animals. I am not a pet-hater. But why add so much more responsibility to an already frantic life? Everyone is always complaining of being too busy. Rescue homes are heaving with abandoned, and neglected pets. Why do people keep buying them??

Anyway, after that I called the funeral policy company. My uncle had one single asset – a policy to contribute to funeral costs, bless him. This was probably the 15th phone call I’d made that morning with screaming, shouting kids in the background, barely able to hear anything. Because I am my uncle’s niece I have to jump through hoops and then some in order to be able to administrate all the paperwork left behind (distant next of kin, no will). I have to fill in forms, get things signed, you name it. At least with my Nan I was executor of her will, so it was straightforward. This time, I could be anyone, and everyone is not very happy about it.

I put the phone down after a particularly trying conversation on a bad line, trying to hear the billion things I needed to do and begging the children to please be a little quieter, and I just cried.

I sat on the stairs (because the kids were all upstairs and they couldn’t be out of sight), and cried. I cried about the inordinate amount of shit that I am currently trying to deal with, and how fucking tired I am all the time, how difficult everything seems and also for Little Bob, who is a poor innocent cat and god knows where he’s going to end up, and for my uncle, who died alone on the floor of his flat and has no one else to sort this out for him. And I cried because the children haven’t listened to me all morning, and because we have taken them out for treats and days out and yet sometimes they are so whiny and ungrateful and they take everything we have for granted, always asking for more and always moaning about wanting to play on the iPad. And I cried because I feel so out of shape and old and horrible and the most basic things of each day – feeding everyone, getting everyone into bed, clearing up – all suck all the joy out of me on a regular basis.

And then the phone rang, and I didn’t even catch her name or the organisation, but someone can take Little Bob. I was so relieved and grateful, I then cried on the phone to her. I am still waiting to hear from the lady who is going to take him in, so I’m not quite convinced yet that I’ve managed to sort something out, but I am hoping.

And then I cried some more and decided that things need to change.

I have three children and I cannot do everything. My inbox is literally bursting with (probably urgent) unread mail. I am behind on some work things I needed to do over the summer. My budget is out of the window. The house is a mess. The boys room looks like a war zone.

Modern life sucks!

There shouldn’t be this much to do all the time!

I hate the fact that at the moment I am reacting to everything, instead of  preparing and planning.

I am constantly in fire-fighting mode and I need to get out of it.

Am I the only person who feels totally overwhelmed by all the things that life seems to need, all the time?

Things are going to change. I need to start getting rid of things and cutting down what we have to do. Everyone is crabby and miserable all the time. Failing a move to a remote ranch in Australia (if only), we’ll have to recreate that as best we can here. I’m sick of fast food and overconsumption. I’m sick of landfill toys and throwaway belongings. I’m sick of constant days out to keep bored kids happy, and too many treats and taking everything for granted. I’m sick of it all.

Through The Night

Having decided, after 21 months of incessant night waking, to let baby F cry it out, here’s how it’s gone:

Night 1

I moved her cot back into her room as she had spent the last week in with me and was getting even worse at night-waking, crying up to six times a night for a cuddle, even though she was sleeping right next to me (so much for that idea). I had an errand to run so the husband put her down at bedtime. This in itself was a recipe for disaster and she cried for a while before dropping off. She was exhausted after another day of barely napping so thankfully it didn’t last too long.

She then woke at 11pm and had an almighty screaming session. After a few minutes I went in and gave her a cuddle, mainly to reassure her that I was home. She then slept until around 5am. This is a HUGE block of sleep for her, and I was frankly astonished she lasted so long. I left her to cry for a few minutes at 5am and she stopped and went back to sleep. She woke again at 6:30, which is our getting up time. Not too bad for the first night.

Night 2

She fussed so much at bedtime. She didn’t want to go to bed and cried as soon as bath and stories were done. I went back in about ten times after putting her down as she was crying and screaming in her cot. She finally dropped off at about 19:20. She woke at 1:15 and screamed like crazy. She was crying ‘Mama! Mama!’ so I went into to check her (can you see how I’m not very good at this??). She was fine, so all I did was say ‘Sleepy-time’, which she understands, and I walked out without a cuddle or doing anything else. She screamed for 15 minutes and went back to sleep at around 1:30.

She woke again at 2:10 and screamed hysterically. It was very, very angry screaming. Again she was repeating ‘Mama! Mama!’, but with real rage. I felt awful, but kept reminding myself that we have literally tried EVERYTHING else out there, and we have reached this point because neither of us has slept a whole night in almost two years. I never left the boys to cry, aside from a short phase of bedtime screaming when L was a toddler. They never needed it – sleeping through was something they just did that I took for granted. Baby F is actually waking as much now as she was at three months old and I am losing my ability to parent my children properly because I am just so exhausted all the time. After 25 minutes of total rage, she cried a bit quieter, still just saying ‘Mama, Mama’. It was so awful. But all that she ever really needs is a cuddle.

That’s fine in theory, but when you have to get up six times a night just to cuddle your toddler for five seconds so she can go back to sleep, you know you have created a habit that is bad for both of you. I reminded myself repeatedly of all the reasons I had decided to do this while I laid awake listening to her. She cried on and off until 2:50 when she changed to saying ‘Out! Out!’ but it might have been ‘Ow! Ow!’ so I went in again (how can you not? How can you know they are okay?). Well, she was fine, sat up in the cot. I laid her down, said ‘Sleepy-time’, and left the room. She started crying again.

One minute later she started calling out ‘Bee Bee! Bee Bee!’ which is her special blanky. I sighed and went back, because maybe she couldn’t find it in the dark. I gave her Bee Bee, said ‘Sleepy-time’ and came back out. She started crying again immediately, now back to ‘Mama! Mama!’. Are you bored of this story yet? Because it was very trying in real life. She carried on crying until 3:50am and I didn’t go back again. Then she slept til we all get up at 6:30. Waking up felt like I was surfacing the titanic.

Onto night 3.

Night 3

She went to sleep at around 8pm after a lot of fussing and crying, and me going back around 8 or 10 times to cuddle her.

Then she slept through, without a peep, until 6:30am.

I KNOW, RIGHT??

Like – what the hell happened?????

The FIRST EVER TIME she has slept through the night. EVER.

I on the other hand woke at 1:30am for the bathroom. Then at 2:18 because I was hot and fidgety. I stayed awake until around 3:30 even though I was so tired because I just couldn’t get comfortable (restless legs is real, people. As weird as it may seem to those who have never suffered this evil ailment). At 5:45am C came in because he’d lost his teddy. At 6:30 we all got up.

I don’t know if this was just a fluke because she was so tired after night 2, or whether the multiple conversations I had with her about sleeping and not crying for Mummy in the night actually made a difference. I can’t imagine that this will be repeated, but at least I know it’s possible. That’s more than we’ve had for the last 21 months!

A Trip To Wit’s End

That’s where I am right now. I am at my wit’s end. I don’t get here very often to be honest. I am not a patient person, but I am born problem solver. However, I am all out of ideas.

Last night, for the third night in a row, baby F woke several times. She’s now waking up to 5 or 6 times overnight. Last night it was 10:30 (I was probably asleep by 9:30 I was so tired), 11:45, 12:40, 3:30 and 5:30. She screams each time, and settles when I pick her up and put her back down. At 5:30 this morning that didn’t work. She just cried and cried and cried. But it was toddler crying – more like constant wailing. There were no tears, it was noise in order to protest something (what?? If only I knew what??).

Yesterday was the second of two day’s I’ve spent clearing out my uncle’s flat.


I don’t think I con convey in a photo the extent of this job. I haven’t shown the worst of the dirt and clutter in the kitchen and bathroom, and the blood on the floor where he fell.

Eric was a hoarder and a collector of things. The amount of stuff he had was incredible. There were things in his flat that I remember seeing in my grandparents house when I was a child. A box of lots of old tobacco tins containing nails and screws that used to live under their stairs. Paintings that hung on the wall in my house when I was a child. It was so sad.

My mum is on full benefits and has been having problems with falling over so there is no way she could manage it. I am the only other person Eric has that cares enough to do the right thing.

My uncle died in social housing with no will, no estate and no assets. His rent, at £200 per fortnight, is due from Sunday if the flat isn’t vacated. House clearance companies (I tried three), all said the same – it would cost from £200-£600 to clear the flat and they couldn’t come until the week after the bank holiday.

At about 11:30am yesterday I sat on the floor in Eric’s lounge and felt utter despair. I had already shifted around 20 black bags of clothing down nine floors and into my car, on my own, but the flat didn’t really look any emptier. There were hundreds of china and wooden ornaments that together weighed a lot more than the clothing. I couldn’t even imagine how I was going to get the furniture out.

I called housing, the benefit office and citizens advice. They all took the same hard line – rent is due from Sunday. Citizen’s advice weren’t even offering advice any more because they are restructuring.

Then I googled my situation and of course, the answer was there. With no estate and no means for me to clear the flat, I have to hand the keys back and walk away. The council will then clear and clean the flat, using taxpayers money.

And of course – this is what happens to every elderly person who dies alone with nothing but a house or flat full or possessions gathered over the decades. I felt horribly guilty. So much so that I phoned the housing office and explained I was going to hand in the keys and I apologised and cried.

Yesterday afternoon we closed the door on Eric’s life and walked away. It feels wrong in every part of me not to tidy it away properly, but it would have taken me months, in all honesty, to get everything out of the flat.

The warden for the block said that there are many other tenants with flats full to bursting with stuff. One of the house clearance men I spoke to on the phone said,

That’s just what people do when they get old. They hoard.

It is so sad, and so worrying, that we place such value on things. When I went to the tip to get rid of all the black bags in the car, it was heaving with people dumping stuff.

How can our planet hope to survive when we live in a throwaway society? Where is all this rubbish going to go when the space runs out?

Back to last night. Baby F has been sleeping in with me, her cot next to the bed, since her illness. I thought she would sleep peacefully there because she seems to need me so much in the night.

However, if anything, things are worse! She is waking more than she ever has. I feel like I am dying inside. She’s 21 months old and she has never, that I can remember, fallen asleep and not cried at some point overnight. 

She hates sleep in the day too. She’s tried to push through two days this week without a nap at all. I honestly don’t know how she’s doing it. My 6 year old is pretty much always asleep before her each evening, and baby F is always the first to wake.

Well, as I was saying, I am at my wit’s end. I cannot deal with being screamed at, multiple times a night, for what is turning into years on end. I’ve had enough.

Baby F is going back in her room today. I am going to put her to bed tonight when I am sure she is tired and I am not going back til 6:30am. And that’s what we’re going to do until she sleeps through.

It may sound harsh, but I just don’t think anyone can understand how desperately difficult it is to be woken multiple times every night for almost two years.

Life and Loss

A young Eric. Sideburns were all the rage.

On Tuesday we had a lovely family day out at the zoo. We bumped into a friend from school so all of us toured the zoo together and all the children had a brilliant time.

We arrived home and within a few minutes the phone rang. It was my Mum, and she’d been trying to contact me all day.

My uncle – her brother – died somewhere between Monday night and Tuesday morning. He was found dead in his bed, although the police said there was some blood on the floor and they think he’d had some kind of a fall. The body will undergo an autopsy to determine cause of death.

He celebrated his 70th in May. That makes him sound old, but he was physically well and active, running car boot sales most weekends. Also, in my mind, he was always Uncle Eric, aged about 40. Pitch black hair and a big crazy laugh.

Mum saw him on Monday and he was fine. On Tuesday he was gone. She is devastated. They lived in the same town and did everything together.

Last night baby F woke and screamed like mad at 10:30, 12:30, 3:30 and 4:30. She’s been back in with me since the peak of her croup/fever/infection last week, the cot taking up all the floor space in our small room. Each time I was jolted out of sleep and then (of course), remembered that Eric had died, all over again.

Usually you only get that effect in the morning. Like a broken heart or other tragic news or circumstance you re-live all the grief and pain in a tough moment of remembering each day, until it becomes integrated into who you are and you no longer go through that moment of “everything is ok” followed by “oh my god everything is not okay”.

I feel totally shattered this morning, both physically and emotionally. We also managed to leave C’s bedtime bear at the zoo yesterday, so we need to ring them and hope someone has handed him in. C cried for ages last night before he finally fell asleep exhausted.

I am so fed up of trying to deal with life through a constant treacle-fog of exhaustion. Life is too fucking hard to feel like you are dragging a boulder around behind you all the time, but that’s how life has been for so long. Everything I do, my running, looking after the home, the children, my business, it’s all twice the effort because really, all I want to do most days, is go to bed and do nothing.

How long can a person keep fighting the current before they give up? You need to be fit and strong to thrive in this world. Bad news and obstacles will forever be out there, waiting to show themselves at the craziest of moments.

None of us can afford to neglect our mental or physical health, because if we’re running around with a badly maintained engine, any bump in the road could veer us off course and into a ditch of depression, self-pity, despair or worse. And then we have all the effort of getting back out and moving forward again. And often we have to do that ourselves – there isn’t always a recovery truck on hand, someone who cares enough to stop and help.

I’m kind of rambling with this post, but I’m sat here in bed this morning and I feel so very tired. I’m helping Mum collect up Eric’s things today. We need to rescue bedtime bear from the zoo (if he has even been found). Tomorrow is C’s 6th birthday. I have lots to do to get the boys ready for their return to school in 12 days. The house needs cleaning from top to bottom. I have piles of paperwork to deal with. There will be a funeral to organise. I have to break the news to my little brother today and he will be so upset. There are lost relatives to track down (Eric was estranged from his own son and his brother).

I need to get out of bed and get on with it.

Keep pushing through that treacle.

This Week’s Goal + Training Log #9

family photo book page layout

Goal

Photo books 2010-2017

I did nothing this week. The husband was on holiday from work so it was a family-focused week with trips out and treats. Plus, I had a total hard drive failure, so it took me three days to reinstall everything and then download my 640GB back-up to get things back to normal (I really need to do a digital declutter). At least it didn’t happen in the middle of a work project.

My 2010 and 2011 books arrived in the post and I love them!

Photo of them so far, below. I’ll do some better ones once I’ve got them all together.

Time spent on goal: 0 hours 0 minutes

Progress

2010-11: Arrived
2012: Done. Awaiting ordering.
2013: To be started

Training

The week started well with baby F finally over her vomit bug and starting to sleep a little better. We even had a single night of no waking, which was pretty cool. I did a great run+HIIT session on Monday.

But it all went downhill from there. Baby F came down with a viral infection that got steadily worse as the week progressed. Two nights of lots of crying with a really blocked nose were followed by five nights of fever, crying and general misery (for both of us). It’s now Monday and she’s still feverish and now croup-y on top of everything else. Two docs have checked her – she just needs to fight off the virus.

I’d planned to run five times, but managed three. And I am so worn out. I have been stuck at 30min 5kms for six weeks and I don’t think I’m going to level up until the sleep thing is under control as I’m just running on empty (literally).

Nevermind – as long as I keep doing something I’m doing good.

Mon – 30 min easy run, 8 min HIIT
Tues – Rest
Wed – 3.9km, 25:05
Thu – Rest
Fri – 5km, 30:55
Sat – Rest
Sun – Rest