Trying to be normal

confused-smileyThe KCPE exams finally kicked off. I can’t wait for Thursday when they end. Obviously it is not much respite for me as I will begin all over again on Monday with KCSE.

Somehow things are different. There is huge focus on preparing for the exams. I have been on Sunday washing up duty all year in order that my candidates have some additional study time. Well, that was the plan. We have lots of books all over the place, and I wonder whether I will recognise the house once they have all been put away. Starting yesterday we even have a candidates’ menu! (My mum used to bring out the special chair covers on CPE day).

It’s weird having candidates in this year when there have been so many changes to the familiar. Everything was well-coordinated for me when I knew that the older candidates would finish before the younger one, and I would only need to manage 3 days of ensuring she had peace to study. Now I am looking at a whole month of having one person who has completed her exams living in the same house as another who still has a month of it. .

Lately, ‘everyone’ has been sending prayers and good wishes our way (thank you, by the way). People keep on asking after the candidates like they are ill or something. (Well, two of mine sprained their ankles within one week of each one, one week away from starting their exams so I guess they are kinda ill). We have attended several prayer sessions for them, and Daddy has been particularly solicitous. Suddenly this exam thing is getting to them, and I find that I have to be the ‘normal’ one.

So I am trying not to show my concern when I hear a ka-small cough, and I am praying that no one falls, or catches a cold,  or forgets something or even misplace anything (like the clear pencil-case).  I am looking at what and how much they are eating and wondering if it’s enough for all that brain work (or whether it’s a sign that the brainwork is limited). I am trying to be so normal as not to repeat, for the umpteenth time, that ‘they shouldn’t even look at a friend’ during the exam.

Well, it isn’t normal that their phones have been under my custody practically all year, ’just in case some-one sends a leaked exam to you without your permission – and these things can be traced’. Thankfully they get that.

I am trying very hard not to be mother hen! (Is that even possible?)

I had this phase of buying and sending success cards, but the other day I found a stash of addressed, stamped, cards. And then I also found another pile of unused ones. (So I need not have bought the last lot). Goodness, what’s happening to me? Just in case you are wondering why I haven’t sent your son or daughter a card, you now know why. Please just accept the thought.

And If I look like I am really concentrating on something when you see me, know that I am counting the days to Nov 30.

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Watch that Gremlin!

im-possibleThe term “gremlin” originates from Royal Air Force slang in the 1920s. It describes a  so called ‘mischievous creature’ that sabotaged aircraft. Gremlins were responsible for otherwise inexplicable accidents which  occurred during flights

In coaching terms, a gremlin is a habit that stops people from achieving their goals in business or life. Gremlins are also known as the inner critic, negative self talk or negative fantasizing.  Gremlins are keepers of the status quo. They love to keep you locked in your comfort zone and they are experts at blocking you from reaching , and sometimes even seeing, your greatest potential. There are many examples of areas in which gremlins show up. Here I will take an example from parenting teenagers.

When your teen distances himself from you, your gremlin tells you “teenagers are impossible”, and so you keep away, making the gap wider. When your teens mood fluctuate your gremlin tells you “she is impossible to manage” and you retreat leaving  her alone to navigate the twin confusions of wanting to belong while desiring to be independent. When your teen shouts hateful words at you the gremlin says “shout back, louder”. And so you do, and send  a message that you do not love or respect her, even when that is not true.

Gremlins love to act out your worst fears.  When it comes to teens, you are already vulnerable because it is a confusing time for them, and you will be questioning your parenting skills more than ever. They can act weird, and bring back all sorts of memories and emotions from your own childhood. If these memories and emotions are not pleasant it makes it harder for you to parent your teen effectively. Still, you can break the cycle.

Awareness of what informs and influences your parenting style is the first step to breaking the cycle. Parenting is a journey fraught with trial and error. And as we navigate the roads as parents we carry along our baggage as individuals.

What are you carrying along from your teenage years that’s getting in the way of your seeing the signs and taking the right direction? How much is this baggage weighing you down?  To what extent is this baggage reflected in your parenting style? How willing are you to do something differently so that teenage become an enlightening journey rather than self defeating conflict? Is your gremlin whispering “you have too many other  things to deal with, and no energy to spare for your teenager”?

We are free to create the life we want,  regardless of where we have come from.  In the process of dealing with our childhood baggage, healing, creating, and thriving, we gift our children with not having to deal with our wounds and pain, and free them up to live a brilliant life. They get to be free too.

Don’t let that gremlin tell you “teens are impossible”. Take a step to free yourself today.



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Playing my Part

This weekend I had some profound learning.

I listened to a Westgate attack survivor recount her story. It reinforced my belief that miracles do happen. It confirmed to me that someone can overcome really trying situations. It reminded me that there are very many very good people in this world. There were many lessons.

Then one I would like to share today concerns giving. We are often called to give donations for one cause or another, and, with good reason, many of us will hold back because we are not sure those donations arrive at the intended or published destination.

This lady said “If you donated to the Westgate fund you helped pay my hospital bill”. She also said “If you prayed for Westgate victims and survivors, you prayed for me [and here I am].”Camera 034

I will not hold back my generosity just because someone else doesn’t hold back their greed. I will not be stingy with what I can give easily and freely just because I do not see the results. I will trust and believe, and play my part.

After all, I cannot play some else’s  part.


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More checks, but feeling even less safe

masteryIf you are an urban dweller who frequents malls and other buildings or attends events you will agree that ‘checks’ are the-new-thing-that–I- wish-never-happened. They are here for good reason – I know. With plenty of people walking around with the intention of killing as many people as possible, we need to do something to try and deter them. I hate the checks all the same.

I used to hate having to leave my ID at the reception (I still do, by the way, is it legal for the security guard at a building reception to retain my ID even for a few minutes?)

Now there’s something I hate even more, and that’s having to open up my bag  for a stranger to peep through. I have taken to walking around with my bag open just so I don’t have to open it up! And for a mere peep through! I think that if a proper search were done I would not hate it as much because I would justify it by telling myself it’s for stopping bad people from taking  bits of arsenal into a building until they have enough to kill hundreds of people. But a glance through the hole at the top of my bag (I never open the zip all the way) is all I get for this invasion. So on top of the fear is this awkwardness that doesn’t make me feel any safer. At some places you go through the scanner while your bag doesn’t, only for a scared security guard to merely peek at a potential carrier of deadly stuff. Sometimes the open space beside the scanner can accommodate 10 bad people while the good ones queue to go through the scanner.

It’s a new feeling, this feeling of insecurity and having to submit to inefficient and insufficient checks. This feeling that someone who has no clue who I am and what obstacles I have overcome to be here today, like this, could snuff the life out of me just like that. It’s a strange feeling knowing that despite the show many of the premises I walk into several times a week are no safer because the security has really not improved. I imagine it’s an outlandish feeling for the security guard who hasn’t been trained or coached well enough to overcome personal biases. I mean which normal person goes through strangers’ bags? To do so with confidence and accuracy the security guards need to change their beliefs about it. From what I see, this has not happened.

This year I am intentionally taking time to do interrogate my inhibitions and to do what I do masterfully and meaningfully.

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miraclesI am rummaging through my bag when I find a caramel toffee. The chewy ones that I really love. It must have been there for weeks, possibly months, as I haven’t bought any in a while. I am thankful because after 3 hours at my desk I am tired and could do with a sugar boost. The toffee has appeared at the perfect moment.

It’s not the first time that such little miracles happen to me. I found £100 that had been missing for weeks. I had put it aside for a trip but when the time came to travel I couldn’t find it. Then in the middle of ‘Njaanuary’ I find it. In a wallet I had looked through before! I often find currency notes used as bookmarks in books I have read, and ’emergency’ money in the pockets of jackets I haven’t worn for a while. I once found a piece of silk fabric in just the right colour for an outfit I was working on at the time, and a contact number long lost and forgotten, which, when called, opened up the perfect opportunity at that moment in time.

A miracle is an event not explicable by natural laws. How is it that I just happen to find a sweet when I wasn’t looking for or expecting to find one, but I happen to need that energy boost? How is it that even though I was ‘sure’ I had put the money in that wallet, because it’s the one I travel with, and had looked several times, I and didn’t see it? How did it just happen to show up at that exact moment?

I am always praying for miracles, and sometimes I am disappointed because my prayers are seemingly not answered. But many times I have had desires, lodged so deep in my heart that I am not even aware that they exist, filled in such a perfect way that I cannot explain it.

My miracles are little things. So I am not holding my breath waiting for big stuff to happen. I am enjoying the moment and daring to trust that when the time is right my miracle will happen.

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In 2016 I will be finding time

We have 3 candidates this year so it’s inevitable that we are talking targets, time and techniques to ensure the best possible results at the end of the year.

Each of the candidates is not doing badly now, but no one is happy to have their current performance as their final exam grade so they are looking to improve.  And to do that they are all looking at more study time. But where from?


Every day has 24 hours, and the candidates have had to look at what are they doing with their 24 hours.

So we created a table with time slots covering each 24 hour period for a week. We shaded out school time, times for meals, sleep, worship and homework. Weekdays are practically full, so to find ‘optional’ slots we focused on the  weekend to find  quality study time. So everyone’s having to sacrifice a few things, well, to be honest, it’s mostly day time sleep and TV that will have to go.

I have to make some adjustments as well. Not because I will sit an exam at the end of this year, but because they need my support, by way of my presence. I can hardly expect my 12 year old to sit up studying while I lie in bed on a Saturday morning. And my 16 year old will not concentrate if, while he is working out math problems, I am cheering Wayne Rooney on. I doubt he will study if I leave to go party while he stays home alone.

I can remind them all I want that they are the ones sitting an exam, and that it will be their names on the certificates, not mine. Still, to get the best out of them I must walk this road with them.

So, don’t be surprised if I write more regularly this year, I will have the time, sitting at the table with my candidates. This is how I will spend my optional slots. And that’s why i will say no to many events and activities.

In the words of Art Buchwald, ‘whether it’s the best of times of the worst of times, it’s the only time we got.’  I plan to make the best of it, at home, with my candidates.

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What Parents Say

What parents say survey

Camera 283I am writing a paper on how what parents say impacts our lives as adults. Please help me by sharing your experiences. Follow the link to complete the short anonymous survey.

Thank you

What parents say survey

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The words of a parent can build or break

Parents have a duty of care to children, and words they utter can build or break.

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Why you should talk to your 2 year old rather than take them for extra tuition when they are 14

It’s never too late to change, but it makes sense to start the way you mean to continue.  Are you struggling to get good academic results from your children? Many of us spend a lot of money on extra tuition for our children when they start preparing for exams  yet there are things we can take care of years before that to minimise the need for this investment. Here are 10 things that you do when your child is young that interfere with their ability learn optimally:


  1. You don’t take them out or play with them or facilitate play for them. You even scold the maid if she is caught outside playing with the baby! Spending time stimulating their senses helps children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially and emotionally, physically and creatively. It exercises the brain! Seen how babies are all eyes when they go into a new environment?
  2. You don’t talk to them. Speech and language are the tools humans use to communicate and share thoughts, ideas, and emotions. The most intensive period of speech and language development for humans is during the first three years of life. These skills appear to develop best in a world that is rich with sounds, sights, and consistent exposure to the speech and language of others. If you don’t talk to your baby, they won’t learn how. Expressing oneself is a core part of learning. And don’t talk to them as if they are stupid.
  3. You are inconsistent. Consistency means that rules and expectations are the same from one time to another. Consistency makes the child’s world predictable and less confusing. It frees their minds of worry about what might happen and teaches them accountability for their actions. How will they learn there is a link between the effort they put in to pay attention, study and complete assignments, and the grades they get?
  4. You lie to them. “Ok sweetie, go get your shoes so that we go together”. As soon as the baby is out of sight, you drive off without them. Why should they believe you when you later give advice about studying and other things?
  5. You say one thing and do another. You threaten to take away their toys if they don’t put them away neatly, but you don’t. Soon they understand it’s all a game. So threatening to take away privileges when they don’t make the grade is just another game.
  6. You discredit their educators in their hearing. Children cannot learn from someone they disrespect. If you disregard and malign teachers and other educators in your child’s hearing you make it more difficult from them to learn.
  7. You don’t show them how – you rescue them. You do everything for your kids. You carry their school bag; you pay for drivers and maids and chefs; people to make sure they ‘don’t suffer like you did’. What about the lessons your ‘suffering’ taught you? What about the resilience your ‘suffering’ helped you build? Try getting a child who has ‘everything’ to give up something – like TV time, or an hour of sleep, or going out with friends – for study. It’s painful for them because they have never learnt how to exert themselves, or to delay gratification.
  8. You make academics a battle ground – nothing else matters. You congratulate them, or praise them or give them treats only for academic achievement. When they don’t do well you punish and abuse them. You don’t recognise any of their other talents and achievements. They are so stressed about trying to please you in this way, they cannot learn.
  9. You don’t grasp and use teachable moments. When your child gets teased on the playing field you go join the fight…instead of teaching them how to respond. When they are unable to do a sum, you do if for them, instead of showing them how (if you know, or asking the teacher to revisit the concept). When they make a mistake you berate them, instead of helping them learn from it. When you talk about your childhood, it’s gilded and perfect. Yet, when they get to a certain age, you expect them to engage in self-directed study, or some other stuff that you have never shown them how to do.
  10. Long before your child is 14 you have full control over what they eat, yet you don’t feed them right. Balanced nutrition to match the child’s developmental needs right from conception is critical. Did you know that a baby is born with all the brain cells they will need, but they are not connected? By 3 years the brain has developed 80% of its full capacity? Your child’s developing brain needs protein, or more specifically amino acids, to make neurotransmitters (the connections between cells). Calories provide your baby’s brain with the energy it needs to function properly. Fats are necessary for the development of your young child’s central nervous system, vision and intelligence. Certain vitamins and minerals impact the development of your young child’s brain. They include iron, zinc, copper, iodine, selenium, vitamin A, choline and folate. Iron is especially important, as studies have shown that children who were anaemic in younger years perform poorly on cognitive tests and have a harder time catching up when they enter school.

Invest in your baby before they are 2, when it make a critical difference, rather than paying for extra tuition at 14.

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Lotion bottles and why there’s more left in you than you think

Lotion botleI don’t like to throw out the lotion bottle until I am convinced it is truly empty. So when pumping doesn’t get the lotion out anymore, I begin to store the bottle upside down, then screw off the pump to dispense by tipping the bottle directly into my hand. When that no longer works, I begin shake the contents out. I will even run my finger into the bottle to scoop everything out that I can reach. I get many  additional lotion days out of doing this, so I know not to throw the bottle out when the pump doesn’t deliver anymore.

So it is with Life. There are ways of being or things we do routinely, or habitually, that usually work. But they don’t always work. Every now and then we are called to approach a common issue differently, or to give more of ourselves. It  often  means squeezing more out of ourselves when we think we haven’t got anything left. It’s trying one more time before we give up. It’s making one last push before we let go. And then, when we are spent, trying once again.

It is surprising how often we think we cannot go any further and then find, on looking back, how much further we did go.

Here are a few things you could do to reach those ‘deep-inside-reserves’ of whatever you need to go further:

  1. Take some time to cool off or re-energise before you try again. Fatigue gets in the way of giving your best. It’s the law of diminishing returns.
  2. Ask  the opinion of someone you haven’t asked before or someone you wouldn’t ordinarily ask.  It’s amazing what a different perspective can do to your motivation.
  3. Take a step back, like high jumpers do, to ensure that when you need to  jump you have built up the momentum to propel you over the bar.
  4. Start over. Knitters know that when you are knitting to a design or a pattern and you  make a  mistake you often need to undo what you did and start all over, otherwise your pattern will not come out right.
  5. Follow a different order. Some things follow a logical order, many don’t. If you have run out of steam you may just reconnect with your goal by doing  step 5 before step 2. Succeeding at step 5 will give you the impetus to go for step 2.
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