Focus Schmocus

Where has the year gone? I ask myself every year at about this time.

I was just reading my most recent blog post (apart from the Angelina Jolie garage sale reblog the other week) from SIX months ago…where I said, “…I’m clearer now about what I want this blog to be. So here’s to my renewed focus!” Blah blah blah.

Winter and almost all of Spring have passed since I wrote that sentence, and the new blog focus has clearly not manifested.

So what have I been doing? Plotting and planning for The Alexcellent Life, figuring out the best way to structure my actual life,which – I’ll let you in on a little secret – is sometimes the mediocre life rather than The Alexcellent life – but we have to have something to aspire to! There’s parenting, my school-hours job, any freelance work, other business ideas, family time, extended family time, social time, life-admin, house maintenance, and just the business of living.

I will sum up the past few months with a visual retrospective of what I didn’t blog about…

I also didn’t blog about:

  • My 30-year high-school reunion which I was nervous about going to but turned out not to be so bad. In fact I’m really glad I went. It was great to reconnect and realise that those girls are just real people and we’ve all had our share of knocks
  • Lots of joy in the ordinary, but also a decent amount of worry, tiredness, and frustration
  • Flu for Spider Boy and me
  • The passing of Spider Boy’s grandfather, my-ex’s dad
  • Lots of work. Work work, housework, personal work
  • Bill juggling, haggling and staggering
  • 9am Sunday morning soccer in Winter
  • Several Sydney visits as well as visitors from Sydney
  • Plotting, planning, thinking, consolidating.
  • NO Tinder-swiping which has been a big fat relief

I have loads more photos on my phone but my old MacBook already has so many photos on it that it really struggles to cope with more.  Otherwise I’d show you more pics here.  I really need to buy a hard-drive or something.

So that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. So I’m not going to talk about things like “my renewed focus”. I often think about something my year 3 teacher from 1978 said.  I can’t remember her name, but I remember her well. Our class motto was “Don’t say it, do it!”

And that is exactly what I will do.


Feeling guilty like a mother part 2: the broken wrist


The broken wrist

Plaster day 1

In my last post I wrote about the challenge of adjusting to full-time work for me, and the shock of going to after-school care every day for Spider Boy.

To add to this, about three weeks ago (the week before I started a new work contract), Spider Boy broke his wrist when he fell off playground equipment at after-school care.

It was a terrible day.

A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

It was the day of the year 3 NAPLAN Maths test. It was the day BEFORE Friday the 13th.

That morning I’d wanted to acknowledge Spider Boy’s completing NAPLAN, so thought an after school special treat was in order. I told him I would pick him up a bit earlier and that we’d go to his favourite cafe, a 50s-style diner.

Usually my boss (at the job I was about to leave) was really good about me leaving on time to pick up Spider Boy from after care. But on this day, she said:

“I know you said you wanted to go at five but did you manage to do those budget updates?” Damn, damn, damn. I hadn’t. I had planned to tackle it tomorrow.

“No…” I told her. “I needed to ask you about it because I’m actually a bit confused about something” I explained to her disappointed face. (I’d shared the pain of this particular work project with my sister, who made me laugh by texting me a line from that carpet ad from the 80s or 90s, “Oh Mr.Hart, what a mess!”)

So after a discussion with my boss about the approach for tackling the mess, I left work at 5.25pm that day instead.  When I arrived at aftercare at 5.45pm, Spider Boy had a dark look on his face. He didn’t look happy to see me. Because yet again, it was “dark and night time.”

I didn’t rush up to him; I felt bad, because I realised he remembered I’d said I’d get there a bit earlier. But I hadn’t. I felt like he was calling me out with his eyes for breaking my word.

I walked over to the sign-out book.

It was only when he was standing next to me I noticed he was holding an icepack to his wrist. The carer explained he’d hurt himself when he fell off playground equipment.

“I didn’t see it happen, but then I heard him calling me and he was on the ground crying”. It turns out he’d jumped off something and landed on this wrist.

“But I don’t think it’s broken,” she said. She illustrated this by moving his wrist this way and that. He didn’t seem to feel it. He said it didn’t hurt. He didn’t wince anyway. I’ve witnessed a couple of other broken bones (not Spider Boy’s) and this didn’t seem to induce the pain of those ones.

“I think it’s just a sprain.”

“See? If you’d come early I wouldn’t have hurt my arm” said Spider Boy as we walked to the car in the dark, the bitter late Autumn wind whipping around us.

I felt like karma was stabbing me in the heart for arriving later than I’d said.

“No, Darling, no. It could’ve happened even if I’d been watching you in the park on an afternoon play date. Sometimes these things just happen.”

I tried to work out his level of pain. In the car I asked him to move his wrist for me again and he said it didn’t hurt. It’s probably just a sprain, I thought.

“Maybe we should go to the doctor. Do you want to go to the doctor?”  It was dark and cold and windy. “No, let’s just get hot chips” we agreed. I was sure it was just a sprain.

Later at home on the couch, he said sweetly, “Mum, don’t promise, but can you try to pick me up early tomorrow?”as he clutched the icepack to his wrist.

His father came to visit him, as he usually does each evening, and they sat on the couch together while Spider Boy showed him his iPad games. He seemed OK and ate his dinner.

But later, about 10pm, he said his wrist was hurting. He’d gone to bed with an ice pack and I offered him Panadol. He had one sip of that and then screwed his face up and said he couldn’t drink it. Not long afterwards he vomited.

He slept in my bed that night, tossing and turning, refusing Panadol and asking for a new icepack when the current one lost its coldness.

I didn’t go to work the next day. My favourite doctor from last time we lived in Canberra wasn’t available so we went to a medical centre.

The GP said an X-ray was in order. He viewed the images straight away.

“No major damage” I breathed a sigh of relief.

“But there is a very small crack in the wrist bone here, see? It’s a greenstick crack.” He’ll need to wear a splint for two weeks, that should be enough. I don’t think he needs plaster. We can do plaster if you want, but it’s probably not necessary. As long as the wrist is kept still. And the benefit of the splint is he can take it off for the bath.”

“Mum, is this my childhood accident?” Spider Boy asked me from the back seat of the car on the way home.

“Darling, if this is your only childhood accident, then we are very, very lucky.”

Still, a little voice in my head niggled at me;”What if the splint’s not enough? what if he needs plaster. The doctor had mentioned plaster. What if he really needed plaster?”

My sister visited that weekend and Spider Boy worked the guilt card a bit. ” Margie’s watching what she wants on TV, and I’m the one with the broken arm!” (ahem…wrist)

We went out on a long walk with Señorita Margarita and he complained that I was talking to her too much. “What’s wrong, Spider Boy, what’s going on?”

“It’s because I have to go to aftercare everyday!” he started crying. My sister and I stopped and tried to calm him with gentle reason, but the big fat fact standing in the way was that I had a full-time job (and was about to start another one) and there was no one else who could pick him up for the time being.

The next night, Sunday, the GP rang me at home. Never a good sign. “The wrist is worse than I first thought,” he told me.

It appeared that the GP had underestimated the damage to Spider Boy’s wrist (as had his mother). Once the actual radiographer saw the X-rays, they determined that it was a deeper crack.

“He’s going to  need plaster. Come in on Wednesday morning to give it time for the swelling to go down.”

Wednesday morning was the day I was to start my new job. I shifted my start day to Thursday.

I sent him to school in his wrist splint on Monday and Tuesday. I waited to speak to his teacher at the morning bell. “Are you sure he’s right to do the walkathon?” she asked me. (I was thinking he’s going to be walking on his legs, not his hands, so yes.)

“Yes,” I told her. But what of the 20-minute playground stop that was scheduled into their walk? “He’s not allowed on the play equipment.” I told his teacher. “Please keep an eye on him”.

“He can sit with me,” she said. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy for Spider Boy, but today was the last day of a work contract and I had to be there to complete as much as I could and do a handover.

Was the teacher judging me? I don’t know, maybe. In an ideal world, I would’ve have gone on the walkathon and sat with Spider Boy at playground time.

The plaster was applied the next day, and we were told he’d need it on for four to five weeks.

I think back to that first night when I didn’t take him to a doctor. The GP who did treat him the next day told me he wouldn’t have been in a great deal of pain with this particularly injury, so I’m grateful for that.

I started my new job the next day and worried about Spider Boy facing the rigours of the playground and after school care.

I spoke to the aftercare carers, with instructions about making sure that he is not on the playground equipment, not playing contact games, but is sitting quietly doing craft, which is really not his thing after 5 minutes.

But as I write this three weeks later, he’s coping so well. The aftercare carers have been fantastic, introducing him to new board games and coming up with non-active, creative pursuits. He is like the godfather of card games at aftercare now, teaching all the kindy kids to play Top Trumps.

I am so proud of him. He complains sometimes, but that’s OK, it’s better he gets it off his chest – his life has changed in many ways.  I’m so grateful he enjoys his new school and that he has made friends. He just gets on with things. He’s a trooper.

And what really helps is that his uncle is now able to pick him up from school on Wednesdays, which breaks up the long week nicely.

I am also grateful to Danny Katz, Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope for writing/producing Little Lunch, a kids’ mockumentary-style comedy on ABC’s channel 23. It gets Spider Boy out of bed every morning by 7.30am. Except when he watches the opening credits, with vision of kids swinging on monkey bars, he says “They’re doing all the things I can’t do.”  But he says it with a cheeky look in his eye and a hint of irony.

He’ll be OK.

The broken wrist - day 2

Plaster day 2

Feeling guilty like a mother



Spider Boy and I in the days of having time to hold in our hands.

Life is different now. I’ve been working full-time since we moved to Canberra in January, something I haven’t done since before Spider Boy was born 8 years ago.

Since becoming a mum, when I did do some work, it was “freelancing”: a bit of proofreading and editing for a couple of clients, and lots of blog reading “research” into business ideas at home, that I could do between 10am and 3pm. I wrote my little blog, attended writing and blogging courses and webinars.

I did a lot of volunteer work at Spider Boy’s primary school, which I loved. I was always available for school assemblies, reading groups, classroom assisting, open days, P&C fundraisers, carnivals and excursions. Señorita Margarita told me “you’re one of those nerd mothers.”

I felt sorry for the kids that had to go to after-care everyday, especially after a tiring excursion. Other mums used to call me to pass messages to their kids in the playground, like “Don’t forget you’re going to after-care today” or they’d text “is today the swimming carnival and what do they need to bring?”

I was at soccer in the park, after-school playdates, ji do kwan and swimming lessons.I babysat toddlers, picked up other people’s kids and dropped them to school. I was regularly found chatting at the school gate at 9.30am, helping family with errands,  spying on the neighbours, grocery shopping, and baking.

I was doing lots of boring and challenging paperwork and emails while going through my divorce proceedings, half-heartedly attending appointments at Max Employment, and doing very important plotting and planning for business and blog ideas in coffee shops around the Eastern suburbs of Sydney.

I attempted Michelle Bridges 12WBT four times, which took up a lot of time. All those video lectures haranguings, all that calorie counting. I also attempted the 5:2 diet twice, and because I felt dizzy 2 out of 7 days a week, my productivity was down by 2/7 per cent (or whatever, maths is not my thing)

I did Instagram challenges (#hashtag).

I am so, so grateful for those three years of time I could hold in my hand while Spider Boy was in Infants’ school. I am so grateful to my mum for having us to stay all those years, and the gift of time it gave me.

And now, I do none of it, as time slips through my fingers faster than I can catch it.  I work full-time and my son goes to after-school care every day, and I don’t know anyone in the playground because I’m never in the playground.

I’m like that Sheena Easton song, My baby takes the morning train… except I’m nobody’s baby and there’s no train in Canberra. I am grateful to my ex that he’s been letting me borrow his car during the week. For a variety of reasons, he is not able to pick up Spider Boy early.

But at least I’m actually earning good money know. I can pay my bills. I can buy things we need. Save a bit.

Spider Boy knows in theory he has to go to after-care because I have to go to work, but I don’t think he really understands. Or at least, he doesn’t understand why it has to be everyday. He puts up with it, but doesn’t really like it. He gets tired.

“I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be picked up straight after school” he pleads with me, can’t you just pick me up – once?”(I did pick him up at 3pm on the first day of school, his birthday, and also my dad has picked him up early a couple of times – bless him – when he’s visited)

My heart sinks.

“I’m happy to go to after-care two days a week” he tries to bargain. He tells me his new best school friend (thank goodness he has one) and he are the only ones who “…have to come to after-care every day!”

I can only imagine how it must feel. My mum was always there to pick me up when I was at school. She would be waiting outside the school gates in the car with treats. She would wait with a thermos of hot chocolate while I was at choir practice on winter afternoons. my mum organised her work around school hours. She chose jobs not because she loved them, but because they fitted the school hours. But then, I’m living in a single-income household.

I need to make up for lost time as far as earning money goes. I need to be earning. But right now I’m wondering if there’s a way I can work a little less, even 4 hours less per week.

There are interesting well-paid jobs out there, but you’re expected to work full-time hours in those jobs. There must be something out there I can do where I can earn enough to pay my living expenses, but still do school pickup at 3pm, a couple of days?

I could always go back to “freelance”, but am terrified my income will dip too low and the electricity will be cut off.

It seems really unfair that Spider Boy has to be there every day, especially now that it’s so dark and cold when I pick him up.

“It’s night time when you pick me up!” he reminds me.

My work life has really gone from one extreme to another.

If I could make a decent regular income from it right now, I’d be a self-employed interior designer/house-flipper/prop-hirer/home-stager/events-stylist. But I have no interior-design qualifications. Sadly, watching the Life channel is not going to turn me into Joanna Gaines (from the US Renovation show Fixer Upper – I highly recommend it).

I’d also love to be a blogger/novelist/part-time language teacher/greeting-card maker/online shop owner.

Sigh…If only I could get paid for watching the Life channel and plotting and planning.


I took a day off work during the school holidays – yay! We went ice-skating, to the library, Spider Boy-clothes shopping and had the best day ever!