Monday, 25 March 2013

An Expat Family Easter in Thailand

The International school did an Easter Hat Parade, the Pattaya International Ladies Club put on a luncheon to raise money for the children of the local orphanage, but when I informed our boys that we were going to an Easter Egg treasure Hunt and lunch at the Thai Amari Orchid Hotel on Easter Sunday, to say they were excited was an understatement.

The gardens at the hotel were spectacular by anyones standards. Orchids of all colours, sizes and species bloomed in abundance alongside lotus flowers, lillies and all sorts of fragrant flowers that were a buzz to the senses. It was a very tranquil setting amidst the hustle and bustle of the beachside resort. A refreshing escape from the turmoil of the traffic of baht buses and bikes rushing around with a constant stream of tourists and Thais hanging from every part of the vehicles

Here we were able to relax and enjoy our Easter Sunday. Celebrate with good friends. Enjoy a smorgasbourd of exotic foods and chat and laugh the afternoon away. The long trellis linen clothed table was covered in an array of tropical wonders. Watermelon, rockmelon, pineapple and star fruit sculptures cleverly decorated the centre in a lusciously inviting manner. Yet despite all the splendour that surrounded us there was only one thing on the minds of our not quite five year old and seven and a half year old sons.

The Easter Egg Treasre Hunt! It couldn't come soon enough for the eager juniour members of the expat community.  Bear in mind the constant humidity and engulfing heat of tropical Thailand, while mums and dads were happy to sit quietly and sip on tall chilled glasses of juice, beer and champagne, the kids were keen to run all over the garden in search of their treasure. Imagine the surprise and disappointment when my boys discovered the Easter eggs were not chocolate! They were beautifully hand painted blown out egg shells. Have you ever tried to explain to a four year old that the Easter Bunny couldn't leave chocolate eggs in the garden because they would melt too quickly?  By the time the eggs would have been found they would have turned to a dripping pool of mush!

It was very hard to find chocolate easter eggs anywhere in Pattaya that year. So the Easter Bunny only left one small egg for each son and a promise to do better next year. Fortunately things did in fact improve the following year as the hotel shops were more prepared for the expat community expectations and needs.
However forwarned is forarmed and to prevent disappointment other activities could have been added to the treasure hunt to make it more enjoyable and memorable.

An Easter Egg Hunt with Games and Activities attached could be a lot of fun and help with that ever elusive reading practice. Since chocolate was out of the question due to the heat,  we could have used cardbourd eggs and hid actions or activities inside them. As the children varied in ages and reading ability, it would be best to pair up older children with younger children. This encourages co-operation and team spitit too! The activities on the cards could include fun hints like "hop like a bunny to the nearset tree", or "jump on the spot and count to ten." When each child or pair has then done a designated amount of activities they could then be directed to a small gift.

A Scavenger Hunt is another great idea when chocolate easter eggs are out of the question and it also provides another source of reading that the kids don't realise they are doing while they are so busy having fun! Give each child or pair, depending on ages and ability levels, a list of things to go and find and bring back. To add to the tension you could set a time limit if you wish.  The list can be kept simple with things like, a tiny fluffy yellow chicken, a ribbon, or a hat, or the list could be more complex with things like a specific coloured ribbon for each pair, a different coloured pencil, or clothes peg, a scarf, the list is only limited by your imagination.

For a lot more Easter fun activities and games visit

For tips on how to decorate a hard boiled easter egg or Blown out Egg visit
While you're in the mood for cooking, don't forget the recipe for making your very own gingerbread aliens is on mywebsite and please take a photo and send them in, I'd love to see the results!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Raising Awesome Readers: "The World is Full of Cans not Cannots"

Raising Awesome Readers: "The World is Full of Cans not Cannots": "Your son cannot sit still!" "Your son cannot concentrate!" "Your son cannot hold a pencil properly!" &...

"The World is Full of Cans not Cannots"

"Your son cannot sit still!"

"Your son cannot concentrate!"

"Your son cannot hold a pencil properly!"

"Your son cannot read the entire alphabet!"

"Your son cannot write his full name!"

"All he wants to do is play with the big tonka trucks. "

I glanced up at the brand new, shiny, clean, bright yellow trucks high on display well out of reach on top of the cupboard.

"They do not come down!" the pre-school teacher continued.

"Hang on a minute!!" I was in absolute disbelief with what I was hearing. My son was four years old and this was suppose to be pre-school where you learn through fun, play and social interaction....don't you??? Alarm bells were ringing in my ears, no wonder he was coming home so exhausted.

We had moved to Thailand from Australia only a few weeks previously and I had put the two eldest boys in the closest school to our new home that had been recommended to us. I thought I had done the right thing. Obviuosly I was wrong. The negativity overwhelmed me. The classroom was sterile and unfriendly. Never put your kids into a school, site unseen even if you do move to an unknown country, do your homework first!. I pulled them both out immediately.

The next day we drove to another school with a pre-school attached. It was much further away, so it meant a much earlier start for the boys, that did concern me at first...until I saw the school. We drove through a golf course to enter with magnificent manicured lawns and fragrant gardens that burst in an abundance of vibrant colour.You couldn't help but feel welcome from the onset. As we parked and walked through the entrance I first saw the banner that spread across the hallway.

"The World is Full of Cans not Cannots"

What a great positive motto to greet the students each day as they arrived at school. I have remembered this sign ever since and every time a student of mine has said they couldn't do something, I have quoted this to remind them that anything is possible if you just try. You may not be able to do it today, but with a little practice, oneday just maybe, you will.

We were shown into the pe-school room and couldn't believe our eyes. My four year old was gob-smacked! His jaw dropped, he beamed up at me and asked, "Mummy, can I really go here everyday instead?" 

There was a water play area, a sandpit, a paint corner, a dress-up corner , a drawing area, a big book area, cushions to sit or sleep on and in the far back corner an American Indian Tee Pee! The staff were so friendly and welcoming. The children invited him over to play immediately. Straight away we felt so comfortable and at home, the decision was made, there was no doubt where the boys would be attending school. They spent the next two years there while we lived in Thailand and never looked back. In fact I even finished up teaching there as well, it was such a wonderful place to be.

It doesn't matter whether the pre-school or school is just down the road from where you live, or whether you have to move states or countries, what is important is that you get the right educational fit for you and your family. Don't take it for granted that if something works for a friend that it will be right for you. Recommendations are great, but you do need to look into educational fascilities yourself. They vary greatly depending on peoples needs. Don't make the same mistake I did and let the company my husband worked for tell us where to place our kids. That was very naive of me and I learnt the hard way, we were lucky it did all work out in the end and the boys had the best education in an excellent International school that I couldn't fault. It was a great beginning not only to their learning but to their social acceptance of every culture imaginable.

Of cause the three brothers in Gingerbread Aliens attend their local Primary school as it happens to back onto their backyard. What family wouldn't want the convenience of being able to simply walk next door to school? See what trouble this lands the boys in though when they inadvertently break their feared School Principal's office window while cooking for the school fete.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A Taste of Thailand - Writing.Com

 Memories of Thailand Came Flooding Back.

This week I became a member of the Goodreads Author community. As I sat to consider and compile the long list of all the books I have read over the years I realised that as a former Primary school teacher and now children's author, naturally most of my favourite books I listed were from the Children's and Young Adult genres.
However there were also a good many books I have read from a wide range of genres depnding on my mood and needs just as I have always advocated to the kids I have taught. A key to not getting bored with reading is to read from as many genres as possible. Read from wherever the whim may take you.

The book I found myself drawn to review first was actually one I read many years ago while living in Thailand.
"Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind" by Carol  Hollinger.
Her experiences of expat life may have been written about life in Thailand in the 1950's and 60's and I was there in the mid 90's but nothing appeared to have changed greatly. The Mai Pen Rai attitde was still and always will be the basic foundation of Thai everyday life that keeps life simple and stress free.

As I wrote my review many fond memories came rushing back to the forefront of my brain. I was desperate to write them all down, keen to record the stories of my families experiences and adventures. I wrote a story about one of those experience and shared it on in 2011. Below is the link to that story to share with everyone now.

A Taste of Thailand - Writing.Com

If you click on the Goodreads link you will find my review of Mai Pen Rai, while you're there you can always take a moment to add a rating or review of Gingerbread Aliens too!