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.

The Terrible Twos and Just One Goal

The Terrible Twos

Baby F is approaching 20 months old. I swear the universe laughs at me daily. I wanted a third baby so much I can’t even put it into words – it felt like my soul had a hole in it before she arrived. And since around 24 hours after she forced her way out into the world without any hesitation, she has been demanding every ounce of patience and willpower and parenting skill I possess.

There was a brief period, from about 9 months to about 12 months where things were calmer, but we are back in the realm of extreme behaviour again. She has returned to a level of clinginess not seen since she was a newborn. She will not be put down at the park, she will not go in the buggy, she will not walk anywhere if she can be carried, she cries when people talk to her, she clings on to me as if her life depends on it. And at home she is THE ANGRIEST TODDLER EVER. We have tantrums about once every 15 minutes or so, over the most ridiculous things. She has to do and have everything the boys have. She has this odd thing going on where she is obsessive about the clothes I put on her. She strips off and redresses herself multiple times a day (I had no idea a baby of this age could get dressed until I saw it with my own eyes, but for a few months now she has been able to put on and take off tops and leggings – the only thing she hasn’t mastered is pulling the bum of her trousers over her nappy). She screams at C and L when she can’t get what she wants. She hits C over the head. She screams at nap time, at bedtime, and just generally throughout the day, sometimes for reasons I can’t even imagine. She screams when I try to do anything with either of the boys (like homework, playing or even just talking to them). She screams sometimes when I pick her up, but screams more when I try to put her down… she is very, very hard work.

C was the easiest toddler in the world. L was more of a challenge, but he was never the screaming-meltdown type. He was more silently defiant and completely impossible to control (haha). So, I can say with all honesty that if I had had baby F first, I would probably be in the throws of postpartum depression right now, because she is SO hard to be with and as an inexperienced mum I know I would be taking it a lot more personally. However, having been here before, I spend most of my time in disbelief at how crazy it all is and telling myself that I have survived these “phases” before with two other children and I will do again. I have a suspicion that a part of her behaviour originates from witnessing the boys. They obviously argue and fight with each other in a normal sibling way, but she seems to mimic this and direct it towards everyone. Our current plan, after a particularly trying day with the youngest two yesterday is to ignore anything above conversation volume. From all three of them.

Sigh.

It’s just three weeks until the 6 week school holiday, so I am hoping that the ignoring technique brings about some level of calm before school finishes. Trying to do anything with a 7 and 5 year old while managing a thrashing, screaming toddler is really quite hard work.

Just One Goal

I’ve downloaded a trial of a task manager called Things 3 for the Mac. I used Things 2 for quite a long time before switching to Omnifocus, but of late I have found Omnifocus only working in one direction. I would record all my todos in Omnifocus all the time, but even after watching tutorials and setting up custom-perspectives I still can’t find a view that makes sense to my brain in order to check through my list and tick things off. I have hundreds of items in there, and everything just ends up being so cluttered all the time, I never view them. So in all my tasks go, and I never check anything off – I just rely on memory to do it, which is a totally ridiculous way to use a piece of software.

Things 3 has been redesigned completely and I have to say it is beautiful to use and exceedingly well thought out. I have been very impressed with it so far and have now spent the £10 to get the app on my phone. It syncs between desktop and phone, but the desktop app is just shy of £50 which is a lot of money. So, I’ll see how the trial goes for two weeks, then I’ll get by with my phone and maybe at the start of next month I might pay for the desktop app. We’ll see.

Two things that I have decided on are that:

a) I want to try putting everything else aside and focusing on one goal only, until completion. I’ve never really worked that way before and a lot of my projects take years to complete. I have always spread myself thinly across lots of different hobbies/projects because I have a flighty mind. I’m starting to think that this is just a really inefficient and unrewarding way of working that leaves me prone to regular feelings of overwhelm. So, I’m relegating pretty much EVERYTHING to “someday”. Even the mental lightness of knowing I don’t have to do it all now is wonderful. I’m also thinking I might start timing work on goals. I already record everything I do for work in Toggl, so I’ll just create a new workspace for personal goals and then I can see exactly how long things are taking me. It will be quite cool to see how many hours I spend completing goals too, as it will give me more of an idea of what is achievable.

b) I need to get back to a more minimalistic way of living. I was very focused on paring things back when we were trying for baby F, mainly because everything seemed so superfluous to getting pregnant and having a baby. Since her birth though, I have lost my way a bit. The result is a far more cluttered house (which also adds to horrible feelings of complete overwhelm). I know that there has to be a line between practicality and minimalism when you have three children, but I think I have started to slip back into allowing things to accumulate in our living space that we don’t really need. Rampant consumerism makes me feel like I am not taking care of myself, or the planet. We do not need SO much of what we all own.

Ensuring I am vigilant enough to keep the worst of it out of my life (novelty gifts and plastic toys sold for pence that destroy our environment and end up as landfill), is something I have realised I can never stop doing. It is quite sad that when you let down your guard your home fills mysteriously with crap. So anyway, I want to get back to a more minimal mindset and way of living. Too much choice is even more overwhelming for children than it is for adults. Have you ever taken a child to Toys R Us with some pocket money? It’ll be two hours of anguish to decide how to spend it, and you can pretty much bet they’ll still cry on the way home because they’ve made the wrong decision.

So there we go. Focus focus focus, on the essential and only the essential is what I’m going to be trying to do. I’ll still be running, blogging and doing all the things that I need to do to run a house and look after the children, but my personal time (what little there is), will be better directed now, I hope.