Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The week that was.

I've started to wonder if I will ever write a well-constructed blog post again, and I think the answer is: not while Fixit is off work. Too distracting. However. He has taken himself off for a therapeutic motorbike ride to visit his parents' little home-away-from-home in the mountains, and I will be single-parenting until Thursday. So I think I can manage a quick update now, but only if I limit myself to the show-and-tell style post. Fixit goes back to work on Monday (fingers crossed that he'll be okay) and maybe then I will get my act together. Maybe. Can't promise anything. Depends a bit on my neck as well, sitting at the computer tends to aggravate it.

On with Show and Tell.

Here is my proud Cherub doing his first ever Home Reader with me.

Home Reading_8184
I like to jump.
I jump up.
I have a lump.
He read it very well indeed, doing excellent sounding out. Then he read it about 20 more times, just 'cos he could. He especially needed to read it to the big brother.

This is him filling out the paperwork afterwards...

Home Reading_8182

...which I am mostly showing to you so you can see the pretty purple glass bead bracelet that my visiting Mother gave me as an early birthday present.

Gorgeous, isn't it? Here's a close-up.

Oh and here's the new teapot and the teapot giver. Sadly they are both not quite in focus but you can't have everything. I don't want to hear any nagging from the We Know Your Life Is Crappy At The Moment But We Don't Care Just Show Us Your New Teapot Brigade. (You know who you are.) Wedgewood, designed by Vera Wang.

What else?

Oh yes, I finally got to the Comedy Festival. I took the Climber to a show at the Melbourne Museum where 3 comedians took us round the bugs, the dinosaurs and the underwater bit and told as many jokes as they could, interwoven with the occasional fact. It was completely ace to go out with the Climber, such a nice little companion. I now have a new celebrity crush on Andy Muirhead who was by far the funniest. Funny AND good-looking, gotta love that. Somehow he managed to fire off a large number of risque jokes without the kids in the audience cottoning on, I think that's a skill. Although Climber informed me later that he understood that referring to the Insect Display as The Buggery was in fact rude. Clever boy. Where would he have heard the phrase Bugger, I wonder?

Melbourne Comedy Festival 09

On Sunday Jenny, Astrid and I went to see Denise Scott's show (an adaptation of her book - an excellent read which I recommend). I love Denise Scott. Her encore was a comedy tap-dance. The girls and I then went out to dinner at a nice Japanese place on Bourke Street. We had a bonus celeb spot while we ate too, Kram, eating at the same place and looking unmistakably like himself. Not quite as exciting as Fixit's celeb sighting last week, he saw Dylan Moran (Blackbooks etc) shambling down Brunswick Street.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In summary

Sand Hands_8119

Fixit's blood tests came back; he has terrible cholesterol (7.7: I know my Mum will want to know this) and pre-diabetic sugar levels. The GP (a wonderful woman) doesn't want to medicate yet as she feels it is stress related. I'm not quite sure what the actual plan is, but Fixit is going to see the counsellor she recommended.

We are coming out of the let's just get him into a better headspace time and into the right, who do we need to contact to try and make some improvements time. Phone calls, emails, list-writing etc.

My Dad has just had the most fantastic victory on a great big law case that he is Special Counsel for. I think he is an absolute legend.

The kids are back at school after a lovely holiday, including the trip away. Climber did a tennis clinic which, as we hoped, boosted his confidence and enjoyment of tennis, so the weekly lessons will be ongoing. They were looking a bit shaky for a while there. At the holiday clinic he won his little tournament to the tune of 2 free movie tickets, so the whole family saw Monsters vs Aliens. In my To Dream the Impossible Dream way, I am now referring to the movie tickets as the first of Climber's Tennis Winnings...

My Mum has been to visit, bearing a gorgeous new teapot, and is back again this coming weekend. She would have preferred a leisurely week-long stay with her 2 Melbourne social engagements, but is very conscious of taking good care of her elderly husband.

I've had two blog-meets with the lovely Mary - the first in the Fitzroy Gardens with Pea Soup, Fairlie, Muppinstuff and Sheeps Clothing and the second just Mary, Jodie and I cruising down Gertrude St together- and they were both a lot of fun. We all got on so well and talked like old friends. Which we are, when you think about it. I have to tell you though, that I let Mary and Jodie meet Mister Fixit when he arrived to pick me up, and they behaved like teenagers meeting a rockstar, and yelled out Isn't he GORGEOUS?! as we started to drive away. Very, very funny.

I got so far behind with reading blogs that my Google Reader had over 300 posts for me to read and the pressure of that became too much. So I've cleared them all and will visit at leisure when our life is back in control. At present it feels like we're treading water here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Hi! Mobile Blogging from Portarlington where we're sharing a house with friends. My back is out and the kids are getting up WAY to early but it is completely ace to be by the sea. Hope the Easter Bunny left you lots of chocolate Cx.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Apprenticeship Blues

About a year ago, Mister Fixit gave up his lowly-paid job as a motorbike mechanic to become an Adult Apprentice Aircraft Mechanical Engineer. You can read what we thought about it here.


Fast forward to a year later.The reality of Fixit's exciting new job has been as follows:

The Workplace.
  1. No long-term planning to accommodate proper learning for the adult apprentice intake. Random quantities of proper instruction. If he is rostered with a good leading hand then things will be good. But it's not unusual for him to be given tasks with incomplete instruction and help. Many days spent either lubing or removing/replacing panels. And of course, apprentices should expect a degree of hack work but they also need to acquire a variety of skills in order to qualify. Fixit is not convinced that anyone within the management remembers this.
  2. Roster system completely crap. Fixit receives his roster 2 days ahead of it commencing which makes planning ANYTHING completely impossible. Said roster could include night or weekend work which is highly problematic for us given that I work 3 nights a week and Saturday mornings. Bear in mind that there is NO financial reward for overtime, evening or weekend work. Two weeks ago Fixit submitted a letter saying that for the duration of the apprenticeship he would only be able to work day shift, as had been agreed when he signed up. The response from the people he talked to was that it would take at least a month to verify this.
  3. Nine and ten hour days standard for most of the year.
  4. Random stand-downs when no planes in service making Fixit anxious about fulfilling his annual quota of hours.
  5. Lack of any proper chain of command making it difficult to know who to speak to when problems arise.

The TAFE (schooling)

I don't think I can dot-point the TAFE so easily. Last year they received enormous amounts of material to work through in very short periods of time. For example, an A-Z of Year 11 Physics in a bit over a week. These very concentrated bursts of learning are followed by an exam. If a student fails the exam they are expected to pay $140 to re-sit. Handbooks are not given out in advance so you can't swot up before class time, and the handouts often arrive 2 days into the learning process. They have access to some online worksheets from the aviation industry but they don't necessarily conform with the course-work and are available only for the month when the subject is being taught. The TAFE itself is badly organised and the communication lines between the industry authority and the TAFE are laughably bad.

This year, being second year, Fixit and the others were hoping that they would be studying harder stuff but not in such a rushed and pell-mell manner. The preferred method of teaching appears to be an information dump, without practical examples or thorough backup to make sure they understand. What actually happened this year was that the material was indeed harder and more complex but it was taught dumped in exactly the same way. Making it even harder to take all this knowledge in is the presence of the young apprentii who muck around, whinge, or sleep through class and then panic at the end and take up all the tutor's time. Not that that is the TAFE's fault, but it doesn't help the serious learners like Fixit.


So this has been Fixit's existence for some time now. The rostering problems really only started towards the end of last year, but the TAFE stuff has been getting progressively worse since the start. It has been a really hard year for us. We're still on a terrible wage, but Fixit's hours got longer and more unpredictable. Not surprisingly he became more and more stressed and grumpy and frustrated and dispirited. We've been unable to really plan very much involving him. He's had no physical outlet to offset the ongoing stress; finding time to fit in regular exercise what with child-minding on my work nights, early starts and random work hours has been all but impossible.


Anyway, it all came to a head last weekend. I think it is one thing to sort of know you are stressed and another thing to work out you actually ARE STRESSED and that it has started to affect the way you function. In Fixit's case he went to try and have a bit of study prior to week of schooling and found himself staring at the worksheets unable to take in a single thing and in a state of absolute panic and hopelessness. He was convinced that his brain didn't work in the right way. And sometimes it takes someone else to say to you: this is not because you are too stupid to do this, it is because you are too stressed. So I guess it was lucky that I was around, and that I'd just read an excellent article by Stephanie Dowrick on stress. Because when we checked off the physical symptoms she listed as stress-related, Fixit suffered a whole lot of them: Flu-like symptoms, digestive problems, sleeping problems, breathlessness. All on top of emotional and mental symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness. Not fun.


The upshot is that we saw our G.P. who immediately gave him a medical certificate to absent himself from TAFE for the week and prescribed some blood tests and some walking to begin with. And then we applied for some annual leave to give him a proper break. And whilst all this is starting to make him feel better, it only took the sms from his work informing him of his roster for the following week (night shift, despite his letter) to give him the jitters again.


Then Fixit's grandfather, aged 92, without any preceding illness to speak of, died peacefully on Monday morning. So we've had the funeral to contend with too. And the guilt about not having seen enough of Pop recently to contend with too. It hasn't been the happiest of weeks.

Pop and birthday pewter mug

I'm not sure which way forward. We hope that the request for Monday to Friday day shifts will be granted, and that maybe we can devise ways to help him cope with the study load (it would be naive to think the TAFE will change the way it operates). I'm considering spending some of the fiscal stimulus money on a laptop and some wireless internet so he can study in the comfort of the loungeroom while I'm at work. The more he can get ahead of the TAFE workload the better he'll be. I think some regular exercise is vital, as is as much TLC as the boys and I can throw at him. And eventually we have to decide if it is worth hanging in there. We always knew the first few years would be tough, but it's been worse than we predicted. We need to find the balance of how much short-term pain for long-term gain we can bear. It's hard to know.

Four Generations of Fixit Men