Because people care about us and they know it's been more than 6 months since Fixit's retrenchment, I've recently been fielding questions about Fixit's job-hunting a LOT. And whilst I absolutely appreciate that these questions come from love and concern for us, I can't give a good answer to the question, so I am starting to find dealing with it (a) depressing, and (b) slightly annoying, because it keeps bringing up how anxious and frustrated I'm feeling about it all: primarily because nothing has changed and nothing appears to be about to change and the longer this goes on the more likely it feels that nothing will ever change.
Current employment climate aside, some of the no-change-in-the-situation status is because Fixit is dragging his heels on applying for jobs, initially because he wasn't sure what he should pursue, then because he decided to do the re-training at TAFE (part 2 of which is in hiatus while the TAFE get their act together) and recently, I think, because he is intimidated by the nature of job applications; the fact that he has to sit on the computer and find sites, and register, and then tweak and submit cover letters and resumes, and worst of all promote himself, is deeply off-putting for him, and he keeps finding all these very important tasks he needs to do in the shed instead. Well, the man is a mechanic, not a desk-jockey. Computers are not his thing. I have put it to him that he really needs to start casting his net wide in the current job market, and that maybe he could delay shed-gratification until after he's spent a portion of his day at the computer looking at job sites and sending emails. And in theory he agrees. But then there'll be a snippet of paid handyman work to pursue, or an important thing needed on his or a friend's motorbike and, well.... The other reason I'm finding it too-depressing-to-think-about is my lack of faith in the hiring process, probably due to the experience we had when he applied for work at Qantas all those years ago. There are just so many hoops to jump through these days - a veritable rigmarole of submissions and tests and phone interviews and day workshops and only then a face-to-face interview - and at the end of it I'm not sure I have any confidence in the HR people to know a good worker when they see one, specifically in something like mechanical engineering which doesn't necessarily need a sparkly go-getter person who can talk the talk in an interview. My feeling is that his best chance to find a new job will be through someone he knows, but he can't sit round indefinitely waiting for that to happen.
So yes. That's where we stand, and as I say, the longer it goes on, the more depressing and uncomfortable I find it. We're still okay money-wise, provided nothing goes pear-shaped in our lives, and the rest of our life is chugging along really well, so meantime I may have to redirect all queries to the man himself. Otherwise kind and concerned friends and family might find themselves on the receiving end of me-in-a-state saying he hasn't got a job, he doesn't seem to be looking particularly hard and I'm starting to worry he'll never get one now, which will inevitably end with people trying to offer me helpful solutions and actually, although we've all done it, that's never really as helpful as people think.
(Having said that, if you have asked me recently how it was going please don't feel like
you've done wrong. This is about how I'm feeling, and I do appreciate
the concern. But I am starting to feel like the best approach is for
everyone to trust that if we get good news I will broadcast it far and
To counterbalance all this stress, there have been lots of nice things happening around here.
Astrid, Jenny and I celebrated 13 years of motherhood and friendship together by taking our teenage firstborns out for a lovely meal.
Cherub's school has introduced a new music program and Cherub, having watched his big brother learn flute, was keen as mustard to join. He has now had 3 lessons on the clarinet, knows how to play 6 notes and is less squeaky every time he shows us.
He was very proud to show his notes to Grandma when she came to visit, and even set up a music stand with his music book on it, despite not yet being able to read music.
When Mum was here, we took her to see my sister's new house, which was fun.
Cherub came second in the breaststroke at his school swimming carnival, which meant he got to compete in the District Carnival where he came a very creditable 4th in his heat.
And we had a fun night out celebrating Jen's birthday,
Plenty of good times, then, just no news as yet. I'll tell you when there is.
Unlike his spendthrift younger brother, Climber has always preferred to put aside his birthday and Christmas money. I think he quite likes having money, as opposed to spending money. He only wants to spend it on stuff that he really wants, specifically stuff that he doesn't think will come to him any other way. And (again, unlike his little brother) he doesn't really want a lot of stuff. He is currently sitting on a nest egg of a couple of hundred dollars, and I'd been thinking I really ought to get around to opening a bank account for him, just in case he started frittering it away on illicit sugary treats. But then he suddenly announced last week that what he really wanted was to buy a kid's pool for our backyard, and could we take him shopping please.
Although I did think this would be a fun way for him to spend his money, his request made me remember that somewhere in the deeps of the junk cupboard in the sewing room was an inflatable pool that someone had given us a long time ago. It seemed worthwhile to check if that one was any good before making a trip to a shopping mall.
The pool from the back cupboard turned out to be quite fancy, with a central octopus fountain that also doubled as a quoits game.
Fixit set it up for the boys, and they did have a happy frolic in it, but I think on Climber's part it was less than wholeheartedly. Not because of anything wrong with the pool, just that it had dashed his dreams of owning his own pool, although of course he never said as much. With words anyway. He walked away from it after a surprisingly short play, not sulky, but not happy either.
However, on day two, Climber went out on his own to play in the octopus pool, and after half an hour of wild splashing he came in and said I'm sorry I said that pool wasn't very good. It's really cool. I really like it. And then the games were on.
Other backyard equipment - of course - was dragged in to improve the set-up.
I made sure Fixit came out to supervise the safety of the procedures. Some of the slide-balanced-on-a-milk crate stuff was making me nervous. I'm such a sissy.
Of course, if Climber still wants to buy his own we could do that. It would be pretty cool to be thirteen years old and to own your own pool.
But meanwhile, it brought home to me the way in which Climber is often the catalyst for fun stuff around here. He's always been a dreamer, but he's very good at making his dreams come to life. I love that about him. He could have a happy life with those skills.
The end of January, and indeed the start of February, went by in a bit of a blur. In between getting my ducks in line for the start of the kids' school year and my new term of tap, I zipped up to Sydney to see my Mum who has had a pacemaker inserted. It was good to spend time with my Mum. We didn't get up to much because she was recuperating, but I really like her little area of Sydney and we managed a stroll or two every day and some nice together-time. I am feeling grateful to live in this age of medical miracles. A tiny machine inserted in her shoulder and a life-threatening condition is fixed. She was fit to go home the same day and will tick away safely for many years to come. Amazing.
While I was away Fixit and the boys were gainfully employed helping my aunt and uncle move out of their city flat and fully into their beach home. Poor fellows were working in a nasty heatwave, which made me feel guilty for not being there to look after them and happy because I was enjoying some beautiful balmy Sydney weather and the air-conditioned comfort of my Mum's house. No-one likes a Melbourne heatwave. The hard work and high temperatures took their toll on the boys, who fell asleep on the floor in the middle of the day, something they haven't done for years.
I made it back to Melbourne in time to see my baby off to his first day in Grade Five. The big end of school. He looks too small for all that.
Climber started Year 8 a couple of days later.
It is like a switch has been flicked in Climber's head. Last year he seemed rather foggy about what-things-needed-to-happen-when, a fairly common reaction to the rigours of Year 7, I'm told. But at the start of this year, he started really thinking about getting himself organised, and not just thinking: doing. The new-found focus was first evident when he asked if Fixit could make him a desk. Fixit knocked him up a temporary one, thus.
Then we inherited a proper desk which Fixit modified for a small space. I suggested we put the hulking great [white-elephant] landlord's wardrobe to use, by removing the door and putting in some shelves, and Fixit obliged. Prior to that it had only been good to store toys in-and-on-top-of; the doors didn't fit properly and were a nightmare to open and we don't need much hanging space for the sort of clothes my kids tend to wear. So now Climber's schoolbag and books and uniform have an organised place to be, instead of (despite my nagging) all over the kitchen floor. What's more he has been sitting down enthusiastically to complete homework. It is a beautiful thing.
The Climber was very busy fitting out his new workspace, whipping up a homemade pen holder and a calendar, and asking Fixit to make him a bookend for the textbooks. His grandmother will be pleased to hear he has been using the reference books she sent him last year to help with English grammar work. I am observing all this focus and drive with great admiration and some relief.
Our desk donor also bequeathed us a bookshelf which has provided somewhere to store lego creations, textbooks and trophies. And the ukulele. Perfect.
All in all, it has been a very good start to the school year.
To celebrate his big birthday we rose early for a pancake breakfast ...
(no photos of that so here he is opening his presents.)
... took a train trip into the city ...
... saw a movie (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2) ...
... came home and watched some Modern Family episodes (the dvds were his birthday present)
... had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant...
... and then had birthday cake at home.
I have it on Tracey's authority that teenagers are wonderful human beings and that we shouldn't assume that the adolescent years will be awful. My gut feeling is that Climber won't be awful, given his sweet nature and kind heart. I do expect him to give me cheek and question my authority, and that has started already, but he's pretty funny with it so it's not unbearable. (Yet.) I think that what I really fear about the teenage years is the inevitable pulling away from us, his parents, and while I see on a rational level that this is something that needs to happen, I will miss the close and almost exclusive relationship that we've had. My intention is to follow Suse's example; she said once that no matter how old her children get, the rule is they must still kiss and cuddle their mother. This is a most excellent rule, and I hereby put it in writing.
Happy birthday gorgeous boy. Every day you make us happy.
The good news is that Mum's recent fainting spells were not, as first suspected, mini-strokes. It was her heart, not her brain, that was the problem. She was having an ECG when she again passed out, and they were able to see that her heart stopped for 9 seconds. Yikes. So this afternoon she was fitted with a pacemaker. My sister and brother are in Sydney at the moment, and I will fly up on Sunday. We're all very relieved to hear it wasn't a stroke. Hearts are less complicated than brains. And we're also relieved to know what the problem was, and to have such a straightforward remedy. I am also getting retrospective heebie-jeebies thinking about her collapsing from heart failure when she was travelling alone in Italy last year. It was bad enough when we thought she'd fainted. She was lucky to just have a cut on her head really.
Meanwhile, this is what happens if you leave cooking chocolate in a cupboard during a heatwave.
We were able to use it all up in a very nice batch of brownies so all's well that ends well.
My mum is having an overnight stay in hospital following a funny turn. The diagnosis at this stage is that it may have been a mini-stroke so they are keeping her in for tests and observation. Fortunately my sister has been staying with her, so was able to take care of her and get medical help. We're all hoping that Mum is okay. She has taken some crochet into hospital to keep her sane. Good plan. It's not like you can expect to get any proper rest in hospital. We'll hear more tomorrow.
Meanwhile, here are some bits and pieces from the homefront....
Although my sister's house had two bedrooms available for the kids to sleep in, my boys chose to share a room for the duration of our stay. Initially because it was too hot to sleep in a top bunk on our first night there, but afterwards really because all the lego was in the boy-cousin's room, and, I think, for the company. It has been lovely how well my two have got on this holiday.
Cherub woke very early on our last morning at the coast, intent on following my instructions about packing their stuff. He's so focused. He did in fact manage a bit of packing without waking Climber or myself, but then found himself at a standstill due to the slumbering brother in the way, and when I got up a bit later I found Cherub hard asleep on the lounge room couch. Very unusual, very sweet.
Fixit brought home with him a good collection of seashells, as you do. He swears he plans to make something decorative with them, and to this end has been experimenting with various products in his shed to see what brings up the best shine. If you were thinking wax you'd be wrong. Top results were archived with a product called Mothers Mag and Aluminium Polish, which is supposed to be used on metal. Now you know.
Fixit and I were both very appreciative about living with a dishwasher at my sister's place. Someone (I can't remember who) once said something to me along the lines of dishwashers still being work and drudgery, but neither of us are buying that. Dishwashers are magic. Put dirty dishes in, take sparkly clean dishes out. So easy. And no unsightly dishes cluttering up your paltry bench space like at our house. We loves the dishwasher, it's our precious. Bathrooms with space in them are very nice too.
Both boys are mad for Sherlock Holmes at the moment. I have Series 1 and 2 on dvd, and they are on high rotation. Series 3 has not been shown in Australia yet, but I was able to purchase the dvd from the BBC online shop, so that will be a good birthday present for Climber. (This will be much better than waiting for a commercial television station to air it here.) Meanwhile, the boys got into character to watch it today.
We were at the beach when the cool change started to blow in this afternoon. We could see it in the sky, coming across the water. And then, in an instant, the hot wind blasting from the north which had been roasting everything, was replaced by a beautiful refreshing southerly. Suddenly the flat sea became choppy, and everyone was smiling. Next thing we knew virtually everyone was packing up their stuff and heading home, and although we lingered a bit longer than most, to have just one last dip in the water, we were soon on our way too. Time to open up the hot house and let in the good air.
What a relief, what a welcome relief. The last two days of the heatwave were hard. I stopped caring about keeping things clean, or picking things up. I avoided clothes where possible. I let the kids have icecream after icecream from the stash in the freezer. They couldn't believe their luck. My sister's house got impossibly hot, so we turned on all the fans, ran a cold bath for hopping into when necessary, and I spent most of the evening with my feet in a bucket of water, sipping on a Gin and Tonic, aka icecream for grown-ups. Actually I had icecream as well.
We have had such a lovely break though. So good to get away from Melbourne, so good to be at the beach every day. The kids have had a lot of fun, and got on together very harmoniously. They have also been getting blonder and more tanned each day, despite the hats, sunscreen and rash vests.
Not me though. I was most definitely the whitest pair of legs on the beach. And the tops of my feet are slightly burned after today too. I'm glad my kids didn't inherit my fair skin.
Sadly, I can't say the cat enjoyed his beach holiday. I suspect all the trauma from Basil vs. Car has made him a much less robust cat. He was happy to be with us, but stressed out by the unknown environment. He barely ate or drank anything, and hid behind and inside furniture quite frequently, usually if he was reminded about The Different Outside.
Yesterday I tried putting some butter on his paws, something I'd read about. It makes them groom themselves which helps them relax. It did help a bit.
I think it was probably the right thing to bring him down though. It has just been too hot to leave an animal untended, even with the nicest neighbours. And I think he was looking dehydrated on the last day so we found a syringe and squirted water down his throat. It helped, and after that he perked up and shared some fish with us, the first time he'd really eaten much.
Tonight is our last night. Fixit and Basil are already back in Melbourne. The boys and I will pack up in the morning and head home too. Big, big thank you to my sister for lending us her new house and letting us have a nice beach holiday.
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