1 February 2018

And a month of 2018 has gone already. Last night was better:

22:30 F screamed
01:30 I woke for the bathroom (stupid bedtime herbal tea)
04:19 F cried (rather than screamed)

A better night, made worse by my own stupidity in drinking peppermint and lemongrass tea before bed. Lesson learnt.

I just felt so worn out picking the children up today. It’s an hours drive from 4pm to 5pm to get all three. I cannot remember if I felt this way before I became a mother. I can’t really remember how I felt at all before I became a mother most days. When I got the children home my brother called. He’s been quiet recently due to lack of credit on his phone. He’s awaiting a hospital appointment to check on an erratic heartbeat. He keeps getting these spells where he feels like he’s blacking out when he’s walking along the street. A friend of his said he nods in a scary way when it’s happening. He’s already on a host of medication and diabetic. He’s 36. I got off the phone and cried some silent tears. One day he’s not going to be around any more. My mother’s health is also bad. One day she won’t be around either. I know that their deaths are probably on the medium term horizon unless something changes drastically in their lives. How am I going to cope with that loss when they go? I don’t have any coping left.

Is it me, or when you reach your forties, does life just seem like it’s all a lot more serious than it used to be? I am probably never going to be rich or famous. I’m probably never going to do much more than I’ve already done. Relatives and friends will grow older and get sicker. None of them are getting younger and healthier. People will die.

One thing I never knew before I became a parent was how much motherhood depletes you. The lost sleep, the physical endurance of pregnancy and birth, and then the emotional toil – the guilt, the worry, the frustration and the numbness at the end of long days that only offer long, difficult nights as consolation. And even getting to the point of having a family can be so tough. After what we went through I was the equivalent of lame and half blind before I even started the journey. There’s no recovery, or time to build up your strength and resources. Some women go through years of hell to get pregnant, a hellish pregnancy, a three-day labour that rips their bodies apart, and then bang! Welcome to 18 years of being a mother – oh didn’t we tell you it doesn’t get any easier?

Maybe I am depressed. I certainly feel like I am dragging my heels through every day, just waiting to get to a point in some distant future fantasy where I can sleep, laugh, relax, and enjoy life.

Today when I collected the children L was upset as soon as I picked him up that there was no snack, and he was starving, and he has a mouth ulcer that hurts. Then I collected C, who had a biscuit from after school club, so L cried and C said he wouldn’t share because L never shares. They tried to hit each other in the car. Then I collected F. While I went in to get her the boys let themselves out of the car and ran around the car park. The manager came to tell me my children were loose. I rounded them all up and got them all home and made a 5 minute dinner of pasta parcels. F cried all the way through dinner. I tried to find out why but I couldn’t understand her because she was crying too much and that just made her more angry. She lashed out at me, kicking and pushing me away.

I left the devastation in the kitchen for later because they all wanted to play upstairs, so up we went. F cried and complained of a sore bottom, but as soon as I mentioned a bath she got hysterical, so we scrapped that idea. I managed to get her into bed and for once the boys weren’t trying to kill each other. I read C stories and tucked him in, heading downstairs to clean up, but as soon as I’m down he got out of bed, was in my room, dropping stuff on the floor and doing god knows what. I went back up and put him back in bed. I came down and we have a repeat. I went back up and told him off – the last thing I want to do at the end of the day. I came back down and resumed the kitchen.

L was looking for an envelope and wanted to start doing craft activities now the other two are in bed, but all I could think about was how I didn’t want to clean up any more mess. Normally I would put him in my room to read before bed, but I can’t do that now as F is in there, so he has to stay downstairs until C is asleep. I finally get him up and teeth brushed, but it’ll be an hour before he goes to sleep, during which I will no doubt have to make several trips up the stairs. Everything just seems so hard all the time. The constant tidying, the constant mess. The same things I put away day after day after day. The way the kids will get things out of cupboards and drawers while I am still putting away the last thing or clearing up the last mess. The endless complaining and crying and bickering and the relentless asking for things I have to say no to on a daily basis (chocolate for breakfast/legoland/instant playdates/digging up the lawn for treasure/buying new toys/bike rides when it’s raining/going to Australia/new shoes/etc). I sometimes feel like my children must be the most miserable and unhappy children ever with the amount that they ask for that I can’t give them.

I panicked slightly today about the six week summer holiday. Amusing toddlers is a hard enough job, but young boys need space, and exercise. Their energy for play burns up everything around them. What on earth will I do with them every day? I have no idea. I have no energy of my own. My fading light is letting my kids down. I cannot be the mother I want to be. I feel guilty about living apart from my husband. That was not the vision I had of family life. It’s not what I wanted for my children. It’s not what I wanted for me. I could write oceans of words on my emotions but it wouldn’t be right. I can tell the world about my miscarriages, but not the problems in our marriage.

The house looms with all it’s chores. My freelance work is becoming something I am starting to resent. Even just getting through the day requires so much work, and that’s before I’ve tackled the school emails, newsletters, work emails, post, household admin, budgeting and food planning. There is only so much that one person can do. I fantasise about getting rid of almost everything, and having time to play with the children, and to sleep. Always sleep.

I should pay more attention to Buddhist thought. Unburden myself of so many attachments, both emotional and physical. I cling in fear to so much in my life, terrified of losing those I love and pondering who will be next to go. Having been through three family deaths (aside from all the miscarriages), in the last few years that were all so traumatic in their own way I find that thoughts of funerals and loneliness haunt me. Mum is the same. She has told me she is saving for hers. She wants me to place a star on the tree in the big church on the Christmas after she leaves us, just like we did with her brother a few weeks back.

In short, I have lost the joy of the day and I want it back so very, very much.

Chance Letter

We often get letters delivered to our house incorrectly. There’s one house in our village that has almost the same address (one word different) and we’ve had crossed post several times. Often we get letters for next door. Sometimes the postman just gets it randomly wrong.

Like today.

I saw the address was wrong – it was for a house around the corner. I was just about to put it to one side to deliver later, having already recognised it as a hospital letter (I’ve had enough of them to know), when I noticed that you could read some of the letter through the transparent envelope window.

This is what it said:

... 2009 breast biopsy ...
 2009 radiotherapy, started on tam ...
... bone scan osteoporosis
10/1/2018 CT scan metastatic ...
cancer

Pretty sobering, right?

I know I shouldn’t have been reading this (although it was displayed for all to see). I felt shocked, seeing it written there. A lady around the corner was going through hell right now. I felt awful for reading it. Like I’d invaded her privacy (which I had), but most of all I felt such a sense of sadness and grief for her. How awful and unfair that she had to be in this position. Presumably she knew, presumably this was to confirm the ongoing care plan and how they were going to deal with it. But I know that cancer that has metastasised is not something many people come back from. It kills, rapidly.

When I dropped the letter off after the school run, I recognised the house. I’ve spoken to the lady there once. She lives in the road behind our house and next door to a man who has a really irritating, noisy dog. We spoke about how annoying it was listening to it bark all day long. I know her husband – he often visits an elderly couple across the road from us.

It really puts things in perspective doesn’t it?

Here I am, sleep deprived after around eight severely broken nights with a poorly toddler. My skin has developed the worst acne I’ve seen in ages for reasons I am unable to fathom. I have terrible period-related backache. My arthritic joints are constantly hurting from the lack of sleep. My dentist confirmed today that I have gum disease at the back of my lower jaw. I feel tired, and old, and pretty sorry for myself.

And then I wonder how the lady with the letter feels. Is she wondering how long she has left? Is she thinking about how she has lived her life, the choices she’s made and the paths she’s chosen? Is she afraid for what she has yet to face?

Our health is really our most precious gift. Because without a healthy body to take us forward and allow us to live each day, what else do we have?

I wish I could magically make her better.

A Walk In My Shoes

Just for fun this afternoon I wrote down everything I did for the seven hours between 1:30pm and 8:30pm.

  • Change baby F’s nappy
  • Make lunch for me and the kids. F won’t sit in the highchair because of the cat, so I eat my lunch, with her eating her lunch, on my lap
  • Clear away lunch stuff
  • Call coroner
  • Convince all three children to get dressed so we can walk to post office. Bribe C by telling him he can take his remote control car in the lanes
  • Deal with baby F who refuses to get in buggy for first 10 minutes of trip
  • Deal with tantrum from C and take car away as I have already explained he can only use it in the lanes, not on the road
  • Post eBay parcel at post office
  • Walk home, baby F falls asleep in buggy
  • Wheel buggy into house and try to catch up on a bit of work I was supposed to do at the weekend
  • Finish an editing task and email a client
  • Get drinks for the boys
  • Tell the boys there are going to be some changes around here and that Mummy is going to get organised. Okay they say, and run off to play.
  • Shout up to the boys to stop bouncing on the beds
  • Log into eBay and mark parcel as dispatched
  • Hit re-list on a dress that didn’t sell and reduce the price
  • Empty tumble-dryer (we have no washing line, so I am tumble-drying in 25 degree heat), and fold up washing
  • Empty washing machine and put damp load in the tumble dryer
  • Open all the doors and windows as the house is overheating
  • Take the tags off some new winter clothes for the boys and run them through a quick wash
  • Get the now awake baby F out of the buggy
  • Try to take off her shoes but she refuses
  • Put the buggy back in the car
  • Put the shopping bags back in the car from this mornings supermarket trip
  • Enter post office spend in my budget (I use YNAB)
  • Help L find C’s watch
  • Help F put on a thick winter cardigan she has found on the floor even though it is boiling hot
  • I walk away after putting on the cardi, which is apparently the wrong thing to do because baby F immediately has an inconsolable tantrum
  • Bring the washing upstairs while she screams on the floor as she is too angry to hold or to comfort
  • Take the cardigan off because she is sweating and overheating
  • Tell C who is lying on my bed naked to put his underwear back on
  • Put some washing away until baby Fs rage calms to normal crying. This takes almost 15 minutes from start to finish
  • Cuddle her (now she isn’t thrashing against me) and sit and read some picture books with her
  • Move to her room as she wants to play with toys
  • Help L look for his watch. The boys room is so messy we can’t find it
  • Go back to baby Fs room
  • Help baby F try on several outfits she has pulled out of the cupboard
  • Break up a fight between L and C
  • At 4pm decide that the TV is going to have to babysit as I cannot leave the three of them unoccupied and I have to prepare and cook dinner
  • Pick up and put away all the outfits away that baby F has pulled out
  • Change baby F’s nappy
  • Track down the lady who offered to help rehome the cat by going through this mornings call history on my mobile until I get the right number
  • Call her and check I didn’t imagine it, and apologise for crying on the phone this morning
  • Empty the tumbledryer and fold up all the washed and dried bedlinen, some of which has sat on the floor for two days after the boys managed to smash a glass lampshade all over the bed with their lightsabers
  • Put the next load of washing in the tumble dryer
  • Chop up a broccoli and a cauliflower for tonights dinner
  • Get baby F a drink
  • Put the last 40g of a 200g bar of wholenut chocolate that I’ve eaten over the last few hours back in the cupboard. I now have a mouth ulcer
  • Get pots and pans ready for dinner
  • Sit down and watch some CBeebies with the children <– THIS IS MY BREAK TIME ?
  • Three minutes later answer the phone to the cat shelter who can take Little Bob this evening. End up in tears again over everything. Wonder how I’m going to manage to drop him off without being a sobbing mess
  • The husband arrives home. Pass the kids over and, give him a fun summary of my day
  • Take the last load out of the tumble dryer and fold up the clothes
  • Make cheese sauce, cook sausages, cook veg
  • Wonder, while I am cooking, if my stress levels contribute to how anxious baby F seems to be all the time. Feel guilty. Feel guilty about always having so much to do. Feel guilty about the cat. Feel guilty about everything
  • Serve dinner. L says ‘Yuk’. C leaves most of it. They all eat some yoghurt and apple
  • Feed the cat
  • Break up a fight between C and L over cheating at Guess Who
  • Deal with C’s tantrum over it being too late to get a new jigsaw out
  • C hits me on the back while I am sorting out toothbrushes for L and baby F in the bath. C refuses to get in
  • Finally convince L to let me remove the remnants of the three stick-on tattoos he got over a month ago
  • Get F and L out of bath.
  • Send L to get dressed and read downstairs
  • Read stories to F
  • Get F a drink
  • Put F into cot
  • Get cat box out of garage
  • Go back upstairs and cuddle crying F
  • Say goodnight to C (husband has read stories)
  • Go back and cuddle F again
  • Gather up cat things
  • Get husband to help get cat in cat box
  • Drive to rescue house, leaving baby F still crying, and try not to imagine horrible things happening to Little Bob
  • Arrive at rescue house and discover a wonderful lady in a wonderful house with a wonderful cat “hotel” in her garden
  • Drive home and thank the universe for looking after Little Bob
  • Stop for wine at the local shop, even though I finished the last of an open bottle yesterday and I said I wouldn’t buy any more
  • Get home and tell the husband the cat lady is lovely
  • Go and reassure L, who is still awake, that Little Bob is going to be fine
  • Open the wine and sit down, grateful for a good end to a difficult day.

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.

Getting Back Into It

Boo has learnt to climb up onto the sofa. She fell off head first the other day and has a nice bruise to show for it.

It’s funny, but when I’m happy and content, I find that my blogging inspiration dries up. When things are hard, or I’m suffering with self-doubt, I can write thousands of words – they just pour out of me and onto the screen.

I blame obsessive diary-writing for this as a teenager. All my teenage angst gave me so much practice in writing about emotions like frustration, anger and sadness, that it set me up to be a maudlin blogger for life. Writing about secondary infertility kept me going for three long years – there was so much emotion there I practically burned through my keyboard.

These days however, life is good. And my god I am grateful for it. I think partly I worry about somehow tempting fate to take all the good things away from me if I publicly talk about good things happening in my life. But partly it’s just that I’m happy. And my brain is less busy when I’m happy, which means the need to write (which is very cathartic for me) decreases.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t make for a) decent blogging and b) ever finishing any of the books I have started to write and not finished (because my mood affects my desire to write also, and writing is one of my big loves).

So.

I’m going to try something new.

Firstly, I’m going to write a “On The List This Week” post at the start of each week. I love my lists, and this is a great way for me to be even more accountable to the massive list of things I want to get done. It also means I share what I’m up to and hopefully find other people doing similar things.

Secondly, I’m going to try posting more often, even if it seems like I have nothing to say (omg, I can hear you all clicking ‘unfollow’ now).

Thirdly, I’m going to try to find more bloggers out there like me. I really want to read and share and see what other people are up to. It’s really the most fun part about it. I struggle a bit with the WordPress reader, but I’ve been clicking around trying to find new blogs to follow and have a few new ones on my list now (yes, that’s you I’m stalking, mwah ha ha!).

So, without further ado, this weeks “On The List This Week” is late as it’s Wednesday, but here it is anyway:

  1. Start my tax return (yawn!)
  2. Do not buy any food except bare essentials like milk and bread (I am trying to use up everything in the cupboards/freezer/fridge as part of a money saving drive)
  3. Do two more runs
  4. Ring up and check what happened to my pension (I got a statement and its value had gone down by 20%)
  5. Start sorting out my photos (oh lordy – I am in a mess with these. My phone isn’t syncing with my desktop and everything is all over the place)
  6. List baby carrier and pro microphone on eBay
  7. Think about adding household accounts to YNAB (I am a total YNAB convert – it is the best personal budgeting tool I have ever used!)

That’s it for today!

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