Unfinished business

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So in June 2012 we moved to the money pit, work started in earnest in January 2013 (…at 5 months pregnant) and the loft extension was completed on my due date, excellent.

Work progressed, with external walls going up, interior walls coming down, kitchen and bathrooms were fitted, curtains went up and there was some painting done…that should really have been the end of it.

However the trouble is it still isn’t finished.  When I went back to work after 14 months of maternity leave it hadn’t occurred to us that the work still wouldn’t have been done, but naturally whatever wasn’t finished then still isn’t finished as being a SAHD doesn’t really lend itself to house renovating at the same time!

I don’t want to moan, but my view is that the real issue why it’s not finished is that the Turk has an aversion to completing a project.  The Turk is of the view that it is my fault because I insisted on doing irritating things like using rooms (ie rather than confining the 3 of us to a 10 meter square area of loft I insisted that we used two of the bedrooms downstairs, kitchen and living room.

Whichever one of us is right, the bottom line is it’s all a bit….well…unfinished.

Yes we have a living room, but there’s a patch of plain plaster on the ceiling which hasn’t been painted, no coving, the whole room needs painting and other than our sofa all furniture is cordoned off one half of the room which we don’t use because it’s too unfinished and therefore unsafe for the boy.

Yes we have a kitchen but it only has around half it’s work surface and a huge damp patch with no sign of either being completed in the near future.

The hallways and stairs are in a complete state of disrepair whilst we argue over floorboards v carpets so I frequently loose items helpfully posted by Jem between gaps and trip over the loose floorboard at the top of the stairs…

The main bathroom and guest en suite both leak, have cracked tiles and need work on the ceilings.

The spare room would be ok if it wasn’t for the tools dumped in there.

The loft has become a dumping ground for everything that can’t be put in the unfinished rooms…

It’s all getting a bit frustrating.  The Turk has suggested that a second maternity leave would be an excellent opportunity for him to complete the work…I’m not enthused about the prospect of another 12 months of looking after a new baby almost completely alone whilst he rennovated…

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There’s a mouse in this house…

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We once had a mouse in our first flat, we realised because when I pulled out my bag of flour it was empty…

The next night we could hear the little blighter scrabbling around behind the kitchen cupboards, we sorted it out pretty easily by blocking up the air vent and ensuring that all edible food was in mouse proof containers, we didn’t have any problems after that.

When we moved to the money pit we were convinced there would be mice, on occasions we have suspected that it is their scuttling sending bits careering down the chimney, but this time we were not afraid…we have cats!

Now one of our cats are hunters!  I know this because the little one has a tendency for bringing in spiders, moths and daddy-long-legs in for us (he used to leave them at the top of the stairs and miaow until we came to admire…)  They loved the new house, so many rooms and nooks to scratch and sniff…so many mouse holes!  Paws were thrust down them, floorboards were pulled up and explored behind, we knew there had been mice as one of our first tasks before the kits arrived was to remove the numerous traps lying around (we don’t want paws to get caught in them), but we saw no sign of mice.

For a while…

Then one day I looked at my two cats sat in the hall, nose to nose, looking at a leaf….

…looking at me…

…looking back at the leaf…

…looking imploringly at me….

….back to leaf…

…I came closer.

It was not a leaf.

It was a mouse.

A tiny little triangular thing.

I hadn’t seen them touch it, to be fair they were both effectively asking me in cat to take the scary thing away.

I went back to the kitchen to try and find something to pick it up with, I was newly pregnant so didn’t fancy using my fingers.

The mouse didn’t move.

A journey down the road to the high street in my dustpan and brush still didn’t disturb it and I released it into the wild.

That was two years ago, and this weekend I found my cats playing with a teeny tiny mouse in the garden.  They were much braver this time, little mouse moved so slowly and they would occasionally paw at it trying to tempt him into moving.

Part of me thinks I should have left them to it, it’s good for them to play and catch fresh food.  But I couldn’t do it, I have a fondness for small furry things and yet again trusty dustpan and brush came out and mouse went far away.  The cats were fairly miffed, but wet food helped them get over it!

Damp

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The dehumidifier rumbles on…

drowning out voices saying “damp be gone”

Rising, dripping, seeping through…

We stare in wonder “what shall we do”

pipes and leaks, they have all been tested…

But still the water comes, never arrested

Love your house, love your home…

With all this damp we’re never alone.

Spending too much time together

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Looking back on my maternity leave, my husband and I were very fortunate, although technically allegedly the Turk was rennovating the house, we were both at home throughout my 14 months.  For the first six months I found this frustrating, we never saw him.  I felt so alone.  We would hear him a lot, he would shout up the stairs “why is the baby crying so much, have you fed him?” and I would throw something at him…it wasn’t great…

He worked so hard that at 10pm in the evening I would have to go and find him and beg him to stop work and come to spend some time with us.  Aside from missing out on valuable time with his baby I really needed some support and company.

After Christmas 2013 the momentum on the money pit lessened.  Our builders had disappeared with our money leaving us in an incomplete house so it was just the Turk working on the rennovation, he had lost a lot of motivation and so spent more time with us “preparing to do work on the house” and less time “actually doing work on the house”.  This meant that we spent a lot more time together as a family, admittedly mainly traipsing around DIY stores or in front of the computer trying to work out how to fix the toilet.

This is a good thing…or is it?

I have to say for us it really wasn’t.  I think we spent too much time together, we started to bicker, and pick at each other.  Of course I think every couple does this when you have a new baby and not enough sleep, but to do this more and more as the baby was settled and slept more is a bit strange.  Suddenly my tactics for enforcing naps were questioned, someone else had a view and wanted to try putting Jem down for a nap.  There were two of us there at every mealtime – great – you might think, but actually that’s two people arguing about how much the baby eats, how much is thrown on the floor, whose turn it is to get the water and who left the bib in the living room.

Since going back to work it’s hard to hand over control, but I’ve had to let go.  We still try and have our evening meal all together and we have our weekends, but actually there’s a lot to be said for spending a little less time together.  It means we seem to bicker less, and we actually each have something different to talk about during mealtimes as we haven’t spent all day doing the same thing.  Yes we argue about how many nights out I really need, and why the housework isn’t progressing quite as well as I’d like, but I think we each now have a better understanding of the role of the person at home and give each other a little more slack than we might have done before.

Freecycle – my favourite way to shop!

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When we moved from our flat in Tufnell Park we had to decide whether to bring our furniture with us, normally this seems like a no brainer but bearing in mind we were moving into a house that we were intending to gut we thought it might not be such a wise idea.  Instead we decided to travel light and freecycle most of our stuff.  Bookcases, unwanted gifts,wardrobes and beds you name it, we got rid of it.  We didn’t even have to pay to get rid of it, we advertised our belongings on Freecycle and a steady stream of people came to collect.  Whilst you don’t usually get to know much about the background of people collecting we know that some of our items went to great homes, including a band who wanted our ripped sofa for their studio (…I hope they remember us when they’re rich and famous).

When we moved the previous owners had left a variety of unwanted furniture, so we ended up Freecycling again to clear out before we started building.

We did bring a few things with us that we couldn’t bear to part with, one of which was the cat’s scratching post which had been too large for it’s former owner:

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We spent months and months with only a garden chair (from freecycle) and a sofa chair to perch on while we watched TV in our kitchen.  We slept on an airbed from Freecycle (which we still have – it’s an aerobed which needed a puncture repairing and it’s fantastic – we slept on it until I was about 8 months pregnant!)

This was our only chair for many months...sadly the cats claimed it so we had to sit on deckchairs most of the time...

This was our only chair for many months…sadly the cats claimed it so we had to sit on deckchairs most of the time…

Once our house started coming together it meant we were sorely lacking in furniture so we started scouring Freecycle for anything that would come in handy!

We got a bed, wardrobe and a mattress from Freecycle eventually when we had a bedroom, but that wasn’t the best thing about Freecycle.  When it became really lifesaving was when we had a baby!

We have so many thank yous to give to our lovely local Freecyclers, I couldn’t possibly list them all, but to give you an idea of what they kindly donated to us:

  • moses basket and stand;
  • Changing table;
  • Wardrobe (for adults but we use it in the baby’s room);
  • chest of drawers;
  • storage unit (we use it for toys);
  • newborn sleepsuits;
  • Bouncy chair;
  • a Bumbo;
  • a door bouncer;
  • Older baby clothes;
  • Muslins;
  • bibs, lots of bibs!;
  • a pregnancy pillow;
  • a nursing pillow;
  • a breast pump;
  • reusable nappies;
  • baby toiletries;
  • two baby baths;
  • an umbrella fold stroller (missing a wheel which we’ve managed without but could buy a new one!);
  • bath toys;
  • a Mothercare playcentre;
  • a BabyDan portable stairgate;
  • a playpen;
  • a travelcot;
  • toys;
  • an Ikea rocking chair; and
  • an Ikea egg chair.

I genuinely don’t know what we would have done without all these generous donations.  Some of these have already gone onto new owners via Freecycle, some of them we only used to try things out before we invested money in them (like the feeding cushion) but others we have kept and will love until we come to pass them onto a new home.  Our financial situation has been very difficult so it has allowed us to prioritise

The best thing about Freecycle is that it has given items which might otherwise have been thrown out another chance to be used.  Pretty much everything we have received or given away (even old paving slabs or bits of wood) has some life left in it and I just hate to throw things out if they can be used!

I’ve put a couple of photos below so you can see us enjoying some of our wonderful gifts.  To all who Freecycle:

THANK YOU!

Our trusty stroller

Our trusty stroller

Jem puts the rocking chair to good use but has less interest in the play centre...

Jem puts the rocking chair to good use but has less interest in the play centre…

This wonderful suitcase allowed us to buy a travelcot mattress and take it away with us...it's also large enough for babies...

This wonderful suitcase allowed us to buy a travelcot mattress and take it away with us…it’s also large enough for babies…

The egg chair...as you see he likes to stand rather than sit in chairs!

The egg chair…as you see he likes to stand rather than sit in chairs!

The controversial Bumbo, we were warned against it but I was so desperate to have "somewhere" to put the baby I wanted to try it out...he hate it, so glad we didn't pay for it!  You can also see the leg of the changing table behind him...and my changing bag...and my foot...

The controversial Bumbo, we were warned against it but I was so desperate to have “somewhere” to put the baby I wanted to try it out…he hate it, so glad we didn’t pay for it! You can also see the leg of the changing table behind him…and my changing bag…and my foot…

Fantastic bouncy chair, missing it's toys but it worked well for us...it even sent him to sleep three times!

Fantastic bouncy chair, missing it’s toys but it worked well for us…it even sent him to sleep three times!

What to do…?

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Toilet roll;

Cat food;

Screws;

Phone chargers (or baby monitor chargers for that matter);

Chopsticks.

What do they all have in common?  Ah well the answer is simple, they all form part of the never ending list of things that my baby wants to eat, seems to be able to get hold of fairly easily, but probably shouldn’t be allowed to touch…

It”s a tricky one, of course I must keep the baby safe and if treated correctly none of these items cause a genuine danger BUT Jem doesn’t want to treat them correctly, he wants to eat them.  Whilst I admit that attempting to baby proof a semi-building site (yes over a year on there are still bits of plasterboard and screws lying around, damp patches etc but we do have all our walls and windows now 🙂 )  was never going to be easy it’s not the overtly dangerous items that he seems to be interested in (well ok he did make a beeline for the cordless drill the other day).  In fact his favourite thing at the moment is toilet roll.  Those parents amongst you will realise that whilst this seems to be a fairly easy thing to prevent once baby has made their mind up to get something there’s no dissuading them.  To deal with the constant dribble/snot there are many tissues or toilet rolls located throughout the house, but these I can often disguise behind cushions or under sofas just beyond the reach of baby arms.  What I can’t seem to prevent is the toilet roll which is actually (quite properly) placed in the toilet roll holder in the bathroom.  Since Jem started standing and coasting around these are no longer out of his reach and as he has to be taken with me to the bathroom (unless I want to deafen the neighbours by way of disgruntled baby) it’s difficult to stop him making a beeline directly for them.  Don’t get me wrong, when the Andrex puppy grabs the end of the roll and runs off with it I think it’s delightful…but this looses something in the translation when it’s baby dissecting the entire roll and leaving me with toilet paper snow all over…

More importantly I feel I could break this cycle if only I could see the attraction, why does he want to eat toilet paper anyway…surely my fishcakes are preferable…?