Tips for Working from Home – with Children

I am a tutor, lecturer, work on social media and mum to four children ranging from 4-17, all in education – or not now.  Having homeschooled in the past this doesn’t worry me (see other posts) but I appreciate the challenge of working with children around.  I am not an expert but here are a few tips.

  1. Be kind to yourself – your idea of being a superhuman and working at full capacity, achieving all your targets, getting employee of the month and having any sanity probably aren’t going to happen.  That’s okay!  Your personal work expectations may need to change down, they may be barely clinging on but adding your own high standards isn’t going to help anybody.
  2. Be realistic – where can you work? When can you work? How can you work? For now it might mean getting up an hour earlier to get some undisturbed time or working in the evening when little ones have gone to bed.  Do you have a space that you can limit interruption (don’t expect to avoid them altogether)?  Try to find a little place, where you can have work things, where you can put work things away and that gives you a different environment.  Even a tray with a pot of pens, plant and some paper gives you a little different space!
  3. Back to those interruptions…. How can you work?  Do you need the computer and internet at the same time as someone else is being expected to use it?  This is a great space for teaching your child negotiation skills!  If you are on ‘conference calls’ explain to people that you have children there – they may not understand and it may not be your ultimate professional dream life but right now it is reality.
  4. Prioritise – I love lists and having a clear pattern of what needs to be done and giving yourself that satisfaction of being able to tick things off is a great motivator on days where you feel like you’ve done nothing but answer a thousand questions, tidied the house, cook meals, stopped a hundred squabbles and been interrupted a billion times… is that just my house?  No financial interest to me but https://crossbowprintables.com/ has the most amazing organisers, planners and even just list sheets.  I make lists of lists I need to make just to tick things off!
  5. Wearing different hats is hard, it’s hard for you but it’s also hard for others who might not realise you are wearing a different hat.  Apart from physically wearing a hat or a badge to say what role you are in at any given minute just be aware that for now it might mean leaving something ‘really’ important to be present with someone who needs you.
  6. Interruptions – it makes life more stressful to be swapping and changing but ultimately we are here to be care providers for our family, to show them love, to protect them, the comfort them, to help them.  That interruption may just be the 20th request for juice that is sitting on the side this minute but it might really be about a little person who wants your attention because they are unsure right now.  It might be a strop that is really saying “I don’t know what’s happening and it doesn’t feel right inside” or it might be another argument because I miss seeing my friends, my family, my club, my world.  In ten years you probably won’t care you finished that email.
  7. I need to go, my own advice is pretty good, it’s much easier to read and write than to live.  Lots of us are in this situation – so be generous when you don’t get an email or report back straight away, be caring when you haven’t heard from a colleague and get dressed every day!

    design desk display eyewear

    Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Baby Shark Nativity Style!

Nativity Hark – Baby Shark Christmas story CLICK HERE!!!

I was challenged at work to lead devotions to Baby Shark…. not sure I will use this in that exact setting but going to use it with the children’s work and home!

We made a really simple nativity story to Baby Shark, that annoying song that the little ones love.  It obviously isn’t complete and my theological colleagues may question some of the story – but hey!  It’s memorable, simple and keeps Jesus in Christmas!

So in case you need the words –

Hello Mary (wave hand)

Hello Joe (wave other hand)

Donkey ride (donkey ears and then ride the donkey)

There’s no room (wag finger) – we added no,no,no,no,no for this instead of the do’s

Baby’s born (rocking baby)

Shepherd’s here (thumbs to self)

Wise men’s star (twinkle star hands)

Christmas time (jump and pull those shapes!)

Not the end… (clap)

My 10 year old said “But it is the end.” Which gave me a great chance to share that Jesus being born was not the end, we are all part of God’s great big story.

Hope it’s useful or doesn’t drive you too mad!Nativity Hark – Christmas Baby Shark

Confessions of the worst mum in the world…. me.

My eldest is almost 16 but I remember at toddler group a mum saying how tired she was but that she felt she always needed to play with her children – make belief, at the park, cars, kitchens, lego, whatever they wanted. All day… apart from nap times. I didn’t do that and maybe that was where the guilt began.

I went to the park with the youngest two the other day and little one asked me to push her on the roundabout – I did. But then as she moved on to the next activity I just stood and watched her, shivering. I got my phone out to take a couple of photos of the girls having fun. Pictures of my guilt.

We have Youtube videos of someone opening tubs of playdough on in our house – no I don’t get it but she seems to like it and so she watches it.

We sometimes skip mealtime for snacks in front of a movie with blankets and pyjamas on – I don’t think they got their two a day never mind about five.

This morning I took little one in her slippers to drop my daughter off at school – truthfully I would have worn mine if I could drive in them. I had no make up on and my hair was just put up in casually (translate I couldn’t be bothered).

I saw the looks from other parents walking their children into school whilst I let mine run off herself into the playground whilst I didn’t get out the car. Lazy mum, uncaring, irresponsible.

Oh my, I don’t need you to look at me like that I already know I am a terrible mum. The problem with all these things that you may look and see as terrible is that I believe that it’s okay so doesn’t that make me even more terrible?

I actually think my kids are doing okay – they have developed imagination to learn to play and create for themselves, they dare to try to do things on their own and feel proud when they manage it and have resilience when they can’t. When my little one couldn’t manage the bigger wooden equipment she looked at me and said “I’m too small for this” and ran off to something else. I followed her, she had learnt her own space in that world, her own capability for now and expectation for the future. I had just stood and allowed her.

Healthy eating is important but my kids love movie nights and have memories from them.

I ask my daughter every time if she wants me to take her into the playground and she doesn’t, she loves that she is old enough to go by herself, there are no roads to cross and I know she is going there, she is safe.

Will my children have issues? Yes. Have I done my best? I hope so.

The main reason I confess to being a terrible mum is because I am bothered by what other people are thinking as they see me stood around, phone in hand, doing nothing. I confess to letting others expectations make me feel like I’m not doing the best. I confess to believing in free play, exploration, independence, adventure and at the end of the day walking hand in hand with my child, side by side where they feel secure as they tell me what they have done. By the way that little hand is normally at least a little bit grubby – terrible isn’t it?

Who is feeding the sheep?

Apart from the very cool look on the sheep’s face I love this photo from Muddy Church at St Andrew’s, Rugby (https://www.facebook.com/StAndrewsChurchRugby/). In the bible there is an account of Jesus talking to his disciple Simon Peter (read about it in John 21) and asking him if he loves him. After Peter’s response Jesus tells him to feed him lambs, or his sheep. The theological depth within this is beautiful, but the simple message we can see is that Jesus was basing involvement on relationship not any other criteria. He didn’t give Peter a pop-quiz on his knowledge at this point, a character assessment, a skills audit He wanted to know “Do you love me?”

This picture shows these sheep aren’t worried if it’s the adult, the farmer, the trained shepherd or the small child, they see the food and trust the feeder. The little hand can fit through the fence and give the food direct to the sheep rather than just tipping it over and into the trough. We all have our skills and abilities, not that others can’t do something but that sometimes we can do it that bit better, engage deeper, be more appropriate because of who we are, our story, our journey.

This photo shows an adult helping a child by passing them the tools (the food) and a child able to get their own food for the sheep and passing it on but most of all sheep- happy to be right there and getting to eat.

Jesus wasn’t talking about his actual sheep that He’d left but about people and sometimes we can put off doing things because of what we aren’t or haven’t got – a qualification, academic knowledge, status or age. I believe God’s Kingdom is a place where all are able to make a difference, there are things we can do differently at different ages and stages but let’s take the opportunities this week to see others and release them in their skills whilst also looking for where God is using our story.

Muddy Church is a place that encourages each community to engage with it’s local area and people. For some that might be a park, a plant-bed or a mud slide. Each community is different and has spaces where people can connect with creation and explore God within our world. Get in touch for more information about what Muddy Church might look like for you.

Where is Freedom?

This video shows some of the depth of need that our children have, in fact that all of us have. A need to be free, to explore, to have spaces no matter what our limitations that offer us places to be and to become. Our moments of outside often are limited between building and vehicle, office or school to bus or car, shop or church. But the greatest cathedral ever built with the most breath-taking architecture is that one all around us, the great outdoors. It is unbelievable that we see the need for prisoners to have space outside but don’t insist the same for ourselves and children. How can we change this, how can we encourage the connection with all the outside freedom and learning if we don’t go there?

Muddy Church isn’t about a set program, do this or that. It’s a place for groups, individuals, churches, communities to stop and look around them, to explore around them and to look where God might be. It doesn’t take huge planning or any expense it it about each of us realising we need to feel the fulness of life that certainly extends walls and doors. Why not try it for yourself today, step outside for five minutes – feel the wind, get wet in the rain, listen and ask yourself – where is God right now?

This is in no way a promotion of Unilever but fascinating and deeply saddening.

Wandering and Wondering

A conversation with someone led to the start of Muddy Church, developing the idea of making church accessible and also celebrating the different ways we connect spiritually with God.

Muddy Church is a space to wander and wonder… to walk alongside people (and animals), enjoying the outside, community, friendship and the wonderful world around us.

Living on the edge of a nature area we are fortunate and yet overlook this luxury often and Muddy Church hopes to re-discover this lovely area and the fun that can be found in the steep mud banks, scrunching through leaves or bouncing in puddles. The beauty of the seasons captured and enjoyed, the creative God recognised and delighted in and the lovely companionship of easy talk and sharing life.

Muddy Church gives a place that people can meet together with others of shared faith or none. A place families can gather together and adventure – getting the kids off screens! A welcoming place for the extended family of furry friends (treats provided for the dogs) and supporting the local community businesses and facilities.

Perhaps Muddy Church is a breath of fresh air for spiritual wanderers and the church?

Parents Evening TCK style

color conceptual creativity education

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Parents evening, the name (or whatever it is called locally) still strikes a fear in my heart.  It’s not that I doubt my children’s behaviour or ability – I know they are more than a school grade.  It’s memories of confusion, misunderstanding, frustration and sadness – and I’m the parent.

As the first teacher arrives he tells my son to sit in his chair and he joins me, the other side of the table and he tells him to begin.  My son is confused but also amused and so asks the teacher how he thinks he has done.  They swap back around and I hear reports of the ways my son helps hand out books in class, he gets distracted at times, generally works hard and is a good student.  Presentation is an issue, I explain it always has been and the teacher says he used to have the same problem and it’s okay, he’ll get there.  I ask my son if he has got anything to ask or say to the teacher?  “Thank you.”  My tears well up and the teacher is taken aback, humbled, amazed and appreciative – in all his years….

With that word – presentation, my son and I were both taken back to his overseas school where ‘parents evening’ was held with students and parents all together in a class.  The only foreigners the first barrier was that usual one of what happens here?  Trying to understand the fast speaking teacher whilst rushing through your head the search for the norms and expectations of this setting.  The teacher began picking out the best students and praising them, how wonderful they are, how beautiful their hair, how well they are doing (often they were paid to like this child).  They would then go around the class and pick out the faults of the others, not good at this, bad at that, not trying, no hope, waste of time.  The aim was humiliation – it worked.  As the only foreign child in the class he got no favours, he is disorganised, untidy, his writing is atrocious. There was no use trying to explain dyspraxia and it’s effects (I did once try) or explaining he was really left handed but not allowed to use that here (yep, tried that one too).  There was no mention of his friendships, the things he was good at or his kindness such as the time he took some paper and sticky tape from home and covered the broken window that had been blowing freezing winds and rain into the unheated classroom.  When he left the school after four years all his teacher could say was the general greeting of ‘safe roads’.

That was why his reaction was ‘thank you’, someone who had seen his messiness and untidiness but saw more and focused on that.  A teacher who first talked of his character and then discussed his academic life.  Every time we sit down I feel the need to explain to the teacher first that he isn’t really English, he hasn’t been through the system and has only been here for two years.  My son rolls his eyes at me but they see the funny blonde haired, blue eyed, gangly teen and don’t realise that he’s never learnt those grammatic rules or writing style – but he could do it in another language!  When they do they understand him a bit more and can take the time to explain, maybe it’s just the mum in me jumping to his defence.  But I see the miracle of his determination in sticking at school to become a student who is achieving and enjoying the experience which demonstrates the resilience of so many TCK’s.  Laughing about their history, which to others is a horror story but to them is part of who they are, and also the challenge of what sets them apart.  With his ‘thank you’ I again realise the richness of how he values and sees beauty in simple things that others would take for granted.  How easy it is to focus on the wrong things, to find criticism first or not see the full picture and yet how powerful when we touch a heart by seeing the fulness of who they are.

As a mum, I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the dread of parent’s evening,.  But just as I did as we walked down the dust road, we walk across the concrete play area and I tell my child how proud I am of them.   Each time I say it I see the fullness of their journey and it means just that bit more.  How grateful I am for a God who sits by me and listens as others declare things about me, who stands for me, who sees my mistakes and failures but also sings over me with delight.

(just to add we did also have an amazing teacher at the same school for my other son and both of them learnt well at the school – in the fullest sense).

Beyond the image, children.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5115441/Albanian-stowaways-sneaking-Britain.html

Migration, Daily Mail and Missing the Point

Beyond the sensationalised images of adults and aggression are some shocking statistics that are the true story.  Last year alone 407 children and young people were recognised, caught, registered, however you would like to say, as migrants seeking safety and support.  The highest number of lone children, not from war or conflict but from families dreaming of something more.

The Northern village is typical, it is true, there is no work, there is a lack of hope, there is despair and there are families who just want more for their children and give money they don’t have, to people they don’t know in the search of  a dream.  Most of these children won’t be thugs, thieves or delinquents but very well may end up that way because of the systems in place.  Disappearing into anonymity, without a place to settle and belong to, fleeing the authorities they hoped would help them.  These children know that their parents have paid thousands that they don’t have because the expectation is they will earn some money and support the family in the future.  They can’t return because they know their families have less than nothing.  They can’t stay because they are not at risk, until they have to put themselves at risk through illegal links and relationships.

Albania is a country with outstanding beauty, most people are friendly, hospitable, open their homes and welcome you.  The number of meals we have shared where as guests we are the only ones eating because the families can’t afford to serve us and eat as well.  As you sit realising this sacrifice, the impossible challenge of thanking and respecting their kindness but eating their suffering and trying to find ways of sharing whilst honouring.  Having worked with Albanian children and young people their dreams are so often crushed by the corruption but not by their own abilities.  They have pride in their wonderful country but no hope.  They have skills for their wonderful country but no opportunities.  They have belonging to their wonderful country but no future.  This is the truth behind the images.

The challenge doesn’t have a simple solution, as with most immigration issues.  But the answer most definitely isn’t labelling with violent, drug addicted, thugs.  Challenging corrupt systems, supporting those who have found their way here and understanding the search for a dream should not end in a nightmare.

Flying high when the earth shakes

Flying high when the earth shakes

Yesterday I realised I made an error with a holiday booking, the accomodation was two days less than the flights. That is really not like me! I was glad I discovered it before we left our accomodation, got to the airport and had to camp out for two days but as I looked for an alternative every way seemed a dead end. The airline wanted more to change the flights than the cheap rate I got them for. The accomodation was now fully booked. Every other possibility was coming up at hundreds of pounds, which when you are a missionary family and have spent days trying to save every penny to make a holiday a possibility is VERY annoying! I came up with alternative accomodation but with the same firm but wasn’t what we wanted or what the kids had been asking for, but better than nothing or better than expensive right?
I emailed the firm my proposal.
We had been thinking about what to do for children’s day, but hadn’t really got far with plans. This morning at the kids club we ran out of chairs, table space, crafts because of the number of kids there…. not even all the ones registered! Two weeks before children’s day and I had to tell the kids to stop bringing their friends and relatives! Imagine!
This week we have to get our residency papers in, this in itself is the worst bit of being a missionary here… beyond not putting the paper in the toilet, way worse than the mosquito bites, more awful than being away from family and friends… yes that bad!
So in the early hours as the earthquake woke me up it was just another thing. I lay awake for a while, thinking, too hot, too worried about sticking my leg out because of the mosquitos, listening to the ridiculously loud frogs, the rooster crowing, the ducks quacking.
The earthquake didn’t bother me… I wasn’t afraid, wasn’t worried. The holiday situations didn’t bother me either… I wasn’t worried. When we were once again inundated with kids at kids club I wasn’t bothered….
Perspective… we will get to go on holiday, our forms will be submitted, the kids will all keep coming (and probably bring their friends!) and if it doesn’t? If the earth shakes and the skies crumble? Its all more than okay.

I got an email from the holiday place, they can extend where we are staying for no extra cost. We have an incredible possibility for children’s day which is beyond what we could have imagined and for more kids. The forms are all coming together and …. well we’ll wait and see.
Sometimes its good to remember that its just not worth stressing over, it won’t change because of worry, it won’t alter because of a sleepless night. I know that is easier to say sometimes, but for today I will say it, I will choose to fly and I will choose to trust.

Searching for the Cross at the Second Hand Market

Today we went to the market and there was a stall with second hand bits of jewellery, beads, necklaces, rings.  Think plastic, not gold!  The boys wanted to look through things, I felt so blessed, they were looking for a little gift for me.

No, they wanted something themselves. 

Timmy quickly came across a metal cross necklace
Timmy : Look at this mummy
Me : Oh that’s nice Timmy, really that is nice, if you want it though, you have to ask how much it is.
He asked and is told it is 100 leke (about 70p)
Eden is disappointed at this as apparently what Timmy has found is exactly what he wanted.  A cross necklace, but that’s just what he wanted.  So we all start to look to try to find Eden a cross necklace.  Suprisingly we come across quite a few but they are all crucifixes, with Jesus on them.

Image
Eden : I don’t want one with Jesus on it, he isn’t on the cross.

The man and lady at the shop ask what we are looking for and we explain we would like a cross necklace, they pull out several, all with Jesus on the cross.  We explain that we would like is one without Jesus on it.
Wait, wait they tell us, we have lots of crosses, wait there.  The man disappears, a few other customers come along, interested by what we are looking at.  They start to look for a cross necklace for Eden too.  No, we repeat time after time, not with Jesus on it.  We are Christians we believe Jesus didn’t stay on the cross, he rose from the dead.  Now there are at least six, seven people around this little table/store, the man has returned with a carrier bag with several crosses and crucifixes in it and again Eden begins to look for what he wants.
He find a cross, a wooden cross, he also finds a silver cross.  Both plain, without Jesus on them.
We pay for our items, 250 leke or about £1.50 and leave the shopkeepers, the customers, the crucifixes and the other crosses behind, with the words clearly spoken.  Jesus is not on the cross, He has Risen.

Thanks for that great sermon boys.  Words, actions, heart and searching for the cross… that’s Easter.