Archive for May, 2009

At our previous church, the Vicar and I were involved in regular holiday clubs. We’d have around 25 kids from the church and church school attending and a team of about 10 from church leading and helping. Most of our holiday clubs lasted just a day, although we sometimes did a three day one. They were lots of fun and a great opportunity to teach kids about God and bless parents with some child-free time.

We would have around three clubs a year, depending on other church events and energy levels within the church family. You can do five days of 4 hours without Ofsted having to inspect you (oh the joys of government control). And you can do 2 hours as many times as you like.

The church here has a weekly Kids Club, but hasn’t really run Holiday Clubs before. It’s one of the things on the Vicar’s To-Do List, but not at top priority, as the church family are already really stretched by the regular activities.

But at Coffee, Cake and Chat, the coffee morning I recently started for school gate mums, there was a suggestion that we all get together with our kids in half term. People don’t have lots of space in their houses or gardens round here. If you have a few friends around it gets really squashed. And we mums like to be together as well as the kids, so the Church Hall is a perfect venue.

So I proposed a DIY Holiday Club. I volunteered the Vicar to do games and a talk type thing. We all agreed to bring food for lunch, and noone needed CRB checks as they all came with their own kids.

So yesterday, from 11am-2pm we had nine kids aged 4-9, 3 toddlers and about nine grown-ups (some came and went). It was terrific fun. We learnt a memory verse, we played relay games in the churchyard (thank you Vicar), we sang loud songs, we made bedroom door labels and those folded paper ‘fortune tellers’ (but with kind Christian sentiments…mainly), we ate a wonderful lunch and enjoyed ourselves enormously.

I think the kids were even happier than this

I think the kids were even happier than this. The mums certainly were.

I am so grateful that we’ve landed up here, with such a great and energetic group of mums. And a holiday club sorted with minimal effort. The next one is now high on the To-Do List.

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Our kids don’t watch much telly. In fact, we don’t even have a TV licence, though we have a whole cabinet of dvds. They watch it in the mornings at the weekends, and in the holidays (and sometimes play PS2 now instead).

On Sunday mornings, they watch something Christian before church. So far, the viewing has been mainly VeggieTales (we love those show tunes) and Colin (very funny with good music). I think we pretty much have complete sets of both of them.

The kids have watched those dvds tons, so we were pleased to find a new series of Christian dvds recently. It’s called Torchlighter ‘Heroes of the Faith’ and the dvds are cartoon stories of various Christians through the ages.

Inspiring Sunday morning viewing

Inspiring Sunday morning viewing

We bought ‘The Gladys Aylward Story‘ a couple of weeks ago. It made me weep as I watched. The kids loved it so much they watched it twice in one sitting.

We’ve ordered four more as a set, with the stories of Eric Liddell, John Bunyan, Jim Elliot and William Tyndale. I’m looking forward to seeing them, though I shall make sure the tissues are handy.

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As I mentioned earlier, we ordered the full set of Seeds Family Worship bible memory song cds. They cost a bargain $65 for 5 double sets. Or so we thought…

We had a delivery slip – more to pay. So the Vicar went off to the sorting office, where we were charged an extra £14.70 = £6.70 VAT + £8.00 ‘Royal Mail International Handling Fee’.

Not as cheap as we thought - but still great value

Not as cheap as we thought - but still great value

Hrmph. According to the sticker provided, ‘Goods purchased and imported into the EU with a value over £18 (for VAT purposes) … are subject to Customs charges.’

The cds were still fairly cheap (less than £7 each) and we are really enjoying them so far, but I need to remember to factor that in next time I get enthusiastic about a US shopping site.

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We had a mellow Bank Holiday Monday. The Vicar mowed the lawn and papered a wall. I washed everything I could lay my hands on and mopped some floors. The big kids and the Vicar went to the park and fed the ducks. There was Lego play and art production inspired by the PS2 (you have to get inspiration where you can find it).

This is the Engineer’s masterpiece (I edited out his name in this blog’s spirit of semi-anonimity):

Monster Engineer, whose favourite meal is fish.

Monster Engineer, whose favourite meal is fish.

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This picture shows the Vicar's family after being interrupted on the PS2

A picture of the Vicar's family being interrupted during a PS2 game

Why does a Vicar’s wife need to be able to wield a Buzz Junior PS2 buzzer? Well, when the church magazine editor rings and the Vicar is in the middle of an important round of Monster Rumble with the Engineer and the Joker, who has to take his place in the game?

I valiantly took his place twice in yesterday evening’s game. And even won a couple of bouts. But I made sure I was doing badly as soon as the Vicar returned. I don’t like to show him up.

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One evening this week things got a bit crazier than usual in our house. All was calm at tea time and our next few hours ahead looked like being fairly gentle. I had to take the Queen to her swimming lesson, and the Vicar had offered to help a homeless youngster move into some new accommodation, which was going to take him about an hour. Polly’s baby was beginning to get into a sleeping routine.

When I came back from swimming things were looking more frantic. Polly greeted me on the doorstep rolling her eyes. ‘Just ask the Vicar’ she said.

Keep a stash handy for callers in need

The Vicar now has a stash like this in his study (minus the radishes)

Whilst the homeless teenager was waiting downstairs, the Vicar had been putting the boys to bed. And then another visitor had appeared, asking for money for food. We don’t give money, but we are happy to provide food. The Vicar’s head was spinning so rather than grabbing a few bits from the cupboard, he agreed to take our newest visitor to Sainsbury’s after his homeless teenager rehousing run.

He didn’t get back till after 10pm. But he’d stocked up with supplies to keep in a box in his study. Which came in handy the following evening when SainsburyRunMan returned with another friend in need.

I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to half term next week.

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Polly and her baby are staying with us. They became homeless the weekend of the Visitors, and moved into council funded emergency accommodation for a week. It was clean but horrible – noisy, rather smelly and insecure (she could open her room by shoving on the door).



I’d known Polly for a while and get on well with her. She is from Eastern Europe and all her family support is back at home. Her baby is only five months old and she was exhausted. We have a whole floor of the Vicarage which is unoccupied because it’s dilapidated. I don’t think the rooms have been used for at least twenty years.

So I invited her to come and stay in the attic whilst the council sort her out with housing. Since she’s now officially homeless, we’re hoping it’ll not be toooo long. She’s going to paint the attic room and we already have the promise of a bed for her – at the moment she’s in the spare room.

So now we have two extra people to stay. So far it’s been great, but it’s also coincided with a whirlwind of meetings and people in distress calling at the Vicarage.

My head is buzzing and yesterday evening, as we passed each other at the front door, the Vicar said to me ‘See you on Friday’. (He’s not actually going away anywhere.)

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My friend DoctorMum is a curate’s wife, shortly to be a Vicar’s wife. She posted this video clip on her Facebook profile. It illustrates perfectly how we all feel about change in church.

This one’s expecially for my dad, who is at one with Mrs B on the peace.

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We’ve all heard the jokes about only working on Sundays, but in reality the Vicar works a 50-60 hour week (he knows that because he keeps a timesheet). So a good day off is essential if we want to keep going at this job in the long term. You need to clear your head and take a breath.

The Vicar takes Fridays off. This works well for us, cos it almost feels like the weekend. Saturdays are too close to sermon time and are often interrupted with church events.

It works for the kids – the big ones have a good evening with Dad after school and the Engineer, who’s still in nursery, gets to see Dad for even longer. The Vicar’s Wife likes having some child free time with her husband too.

We have developed a bit of a pattern for our days off, which worked very well in Wolverhampton, and we are now trying to replicate in our new parish. Long trips out are a bit of a no-no for us as we only have 2 1/2 hours in the morning until we have to fetch the Engineer from nursery.

So what we like to do is to go into the town. This may not seem very exciting to you, but let me explain how we manage to enjoy a morning out in a deprived and delapidated town centre.

First stop is usually the library to change books and pooch about in the quiet and elegant Carnegie library we have. Then we gae the messages in our local shopping centre (built in 1971 and partly funded by the National Mineworkers Pension Fund, with shopping opportunities that are cheap and cheerful rather than expensive and elegant – just what you need for vicars and their cash-strapped families).

Day Off treats...

Day Off treats...

The best bit of our day off, though, is the next bit: sitting down in a local caff for strong tea and a bacon sandwich. Sometimes we’ll chat and sometimes read our new library books or the paper. The key is not to talk about church. Last Friday we did this bit at lunch time. There were three of us (since we’d already picked the Engineer up) and we all ate at the Cosy Corner in the indoor market for less than £10.

What do you do on your days off?

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I am a bad mother. It’s true. The Queen and the Joker both have fillings.

Every parent knows that brushing the children’s teeth is an excruciating experience for everyone. I loathe it and confess to having been a slacker (hence the fillings). My inner city dentist, used to the bad diets of local children, told me to stop giving them pop and sweeties but I am a bit of a food Nazi and the kids hardly ever had them anyway. So it must have been my bad brushing.

Actually, you should only have a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Actually, you should only have a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

But since I started my new brushing technique the fillings have stopped. Phew.

What we do is count elephants. This is because:

  1. It makes me smile and reminds me of the Vicar’s favourite movie (where someone counts elephants to time the processing of a photograph).
  2. If you count ‘one elephant’ it lasts pretty much one second.
  3. The kids think it’s fun and it can also be done in French (or other language) or you can use dinosaurs too.

What I do is go around the mouth counting twenty elephants seven times – twenty elephants along each side of the mouth, top and bottom, with the mouth open. Then twenty elephants each side and front with the teeth together. This makes a total of 140 elephants, which is the dentists’ recommended two minutes with a bit extra to compensate for grumpy children.

It seems to be working for us, and can also be transferred to the kids as they start to brush for themselves. ‘Have you counted the elephants’ I ask the Queen when she brushes her own teeth…

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