Monday, 22 April 2013

In Commemoration of ANZAC Day

Anzac Day Pictures As Australian and New Zealanders we are born and bred to understand the significance of ANZAC Day to our two nations. A day to stop and remember all the soldiers fallen and returned that have fought battles in all too many wars for our great nations and kept our shores safe. We live in peace and harmony because of these great men and women that sacrificed themselves for us. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts and we remember them with gratitdue and fondness.

There are however members of a younger generation still to learn and develop a respect and understanding that comes with knowledge. I wanted to provide a list of reading material suitable for kids of varying ages and abilities, but decided it was better if they were read with a parent anyway, so ability level doesn't quite come into it as much as I originally pondered. I found this great site linked below titled "kid size living" which not only lists some brilliant ANZAC Day books, but gives a brief synopsis of each book as well. Among them are  "A Day to Remember - the Story of ANZAC Day" by Jackie French ,(one of my favourite authors), and "Why Are They Marching Daddy?" by Di Burke. A great book that not only discusses war and its consequences both good and bad but also our reasons for commemorating on April 25th. The list is definately worth a look at and consider worth buying one or two books to read to/with  your children.

Another site that lists a number of different books of varying levels including chapter books for older children to read and discuss the deeper issues of war is linked below.

After that to lighten things up a little, curious little minds might be interested in finding out about their ancestry. Do they have a grandparent, Uncle or Aunt that has been an ANZAC?  Why not help them
draw up a family tree? How far back in the generations can you go? My grandfather was involved in WW11 and ao was my husbands father. I also have very dear friends whose son has completed two tours of Afghanistan. It doesn't take very long to think of people we know who have experienced war. It touches our lives in so many ways.
Another great family activity that also includes reading is making traditional ANZAC bisuits. Following a procedure (or recipe) is loads of fun and yummy too! ANZAC biscuits were sent to our troops in WW1 due to the fact that they had excellent keeping properties.

1 cup plain flour
Anzac Biscuits with Wattleseeds1 cup rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup desicated coconut
125g soft butter or margarine
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda


1. Sift the flour into a bowl. Add sugar, oats and coconut.
2. Melt butter in saucepan, add the golden syrup and water.
3. Stir the bicarb into the liquid mixture.
4, Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
5. Using a teaspoon drop small balls of mixture on a greased oven tray and bake at 175C for 15-20 minutes.
6. Biscuits will harden when cool.

Note: If you like your ANZACs a little crunchier, add a little more golden syrup.

I use to cook these when we lived in Thailand for our International school's Harmony Day. They were always a great treat, but for some reason my oven always made them spread so that they appeared lace-like around the edges. I could never work out why? They looked great though. :)

The very first writing competition I ever won was for a poem I wrote about ANZAC Day when I was sixteen years old. I would have loved to share it here but I was young and foolish back then and didn't realise the significance of it at the time. Over the years I let it get lost. I've tried to write to the NSW RSL to see if they have a copy in their archives but have never had any response. The lesson here is never throw away any of your writing, keep it safe!

Hope you found something of interest here.
Have an ANZAC story or poem you would like to share? 
Maybe write one about this years commemorations.
I'd love to read it. Add it below.

Remember...have fun reading. :)

Monday, 15 April 2013

Let's Celebrate!

 I have several things I am lucky enough to be able to celebrate and share today.

1. My first guest blog thanks to Morgen Baily is now viewable at

2. My first Giveaway on Goodreads is almost complete. The response has been far more than I could ever have imagined. 578 requests at time of writing and still rising!Thankyou to all those wonderful people who have entered the giveaway.

Gingerbread Aliens by Sandra Bennett
Gingerbread Aliens
Meet the three cheeky Bradberrie brothers, Brian the curious scientist, Simon the youngest and most mischievous and David who is always nervous about…more View Details »
Giveaway dates: Mar 17 - Apr 17, 2013
10 copies available, 578 people requesting

3. On a persoanl note, my second son and his lovely girlfriend announced their engagement! I am so pleased and happy for them both and wish them all the best for a wonderful future together. :)

This brought me to thinking about parties....... 

birthday parties for kids! Over the years we certainly have had our share. Some that were really successful and others not quite so good! One in particular comes to mind that we thought should have been a fantastic experience for our eldest son and his friends.
Mr 12 yr old informed us he was big enough to have a bushwalk for his birthday party and we didn't need to go with them ! "Oh No!" I hear you say. "You didn't agree!" Well, we kind of did. We gathered the boys together, at a local bushwalking track that our family had been on many times before. The boys were determined to go it alone. My husband drew a map in the sand with a stick to explain where they needed to go. They all nodded in agreement that they understood. BIG MISTAKE!

Never assume a 12yr old knows what he is looking at or what he is doing! I had a bad feeling, but agreed to let them go on ahead, giving them a 5 minute start. We would then follow, seemed like a reasonable compromise to me. After all, how much trouble could a group of boys get into if only 5 minutes ahead of us?

We finished the bushwalk and returned to the designated meeting place, but surprise, surprise, the boys were not there!

Fortunately one of them had a mobile phone, which my husband promptly rang. Where were they? Down by the waterfall....but there was no waterfall on the walk they should have been on!

We had to try to get them to backtrack, but the more they did, the more lost they became.
Have you ever watched the 'Blair Witch Project"? Fear and terror could be heard in the voices in the background over the phone rather similar to that movie. I went home  to try to calmly explain to waiting parents that the boys had gone on a longer walk than planned, while my husband desperately tried to talk them out. Luckily, just as he was ready to give up and prepared to call Search and Rescue, the boys finally appeared. Exhausted, thirsty and elated !

The moral to this story, keep the party organised and never let your child or
your husband talk you into anything you can't control !!

In other words party games at home are probably the best solution all round. As usual being keen to keep the kids reading while having fun, here's a few ideas for games that the kids will love and be reading along as they go!

1. Celebrity Heads: / Animal Heads (For younger kids)
   Use thick strips of cardboard to print names of celebrities (or animals) and staple together in a circle to fit heads.
One person at a time sits out the front with a celebrity name on their head. They have to guess who they are by asking questions. The audience can only reply with yes or no.

2. Charades:
 Always a fun one. You can use a ready bought pack of cards or make a stack of cards  yourself. Use TV shows, movies, books etc the kids will know.

3. Pass the Parcel with a Twist:
As the parcel is passed around the circle, when the music stops and the person with the parcel has to open a layer, inside they find a note they must read. It will tell them to perform an action, sing a song, tell a tale etc.

4.Secret Message Mystery:
A fun relay race for indoors or out.
Write an invisible message on two sheets of paper. Use Magical ink to write the message. (Magic Ink is easily made with lemon and water.) When the pages are dry add them to two seperate stacks of paper. Diviide the party goers into two groups. One player from each team must race down to their plie and take the top sheet of paper. Return to the team and using a torch see if they can read the message. Keep going until they find the message and perform the task.

5. Word Scramble.
Think of appropriate party words,(themed if the party is themed.) Write each word in large print on cardboard that you can cut into pieces so that each letter is seperated. Place each word in a pile of its own.
Each team may have three or more words to unscramble.
To make this a little quicker and easier to prepare, if you have the game Scrabble you can use the tiles. 

6. Story Challenge Game.
Great for sleep-overs when it is time to settle down into sleeping bags.
Give each team a funny or unusual setting, character etc to start their story written on a piece of paper. It can be used anywhere in the story, not necessarily at the beginning. Each person in the team must add their sentence or two to complete the story. It can go for 2 minutes, 5 or even 10, depending on their imagination. The other team has to try and work out which line was the story starter. eg "In a candy striped house beside the chocolate flowing river an orange bird chirped."

Last but not least Read them a favourite story to settle.

As always have lots of fun reading. :)

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Finding a Happy Balance between Parent and Educator.

This week a friend came to me for a bit of advice as both a teacher and a mum. She and I are alike in that we have been both, the difference being where my boys are now grown, her boys are just starting out in the education mine feild. As a parent we expect the best education possible for our children, as a teacher we know we can give that, but if you don't agree with a curriculum decision made in the classroom just how far do to you take it?

I pondered on whether or not I should blog about this topic as it was a personal request, but then I decided perhaps whether or not you are a teacher, parents from all walks of life often have issues with the school and are unsure how to deal with them. I considered the perspectives of both parents and teachers and came up with the same conclusion. No matter which side of the fence you appear to be sitting on, we all want the same outcome. That is, an enjoyable, safe and memnerable learning environment and experience for our children.

I remembered many years ago back to when my eldest son was in Kindergarten. I had an issue with the classroom teacher at the time about a decision she made that I definately did not agree with. It effected my son and I was not at all happy. I spoke to her about it on several occassions, but the problem was never adequately resolved. In more recent years I struck the same issue with a boy in my own Kindergarten class. I decided to make sure that I spoke to his parent to reach a mutually satisfying agreeement on how to deal with the issue. This kept everyone happy at home and at school, but what do you do when you can't agree?

As a parent, you do have options. You can speak to the Executive teacher in charge of the year level, you can speak directly to the Principal. Some parents may even feel strongly enough to bring up the issue at a P&C or School Board meeting. All these options do have an effect on your child though whether you mean them to or not. Another option is to quietly withdraw your child from the event in question, (if that is possible). This in turn presents its own set of issues. The child is missing out on a group activity and may not understand your reasoning. However in the end, as a parent, only you know your child the best and what is most suitable for them, therefore you are the only person who can inevitably make the decision. Whatever that is, you and your child have to be happy with the choices you make. 

Your children are at school for many years. Whether you have one child or a dozen children, it all adds up to a lot of time spent co-ordinating between teacher and home. We all want those years to be happy ones.

My advice in the end? Pick your battles. Decide which ones are worth fighting over and which ones you can live with. Try not to stress over every little thing and look at the question from all sides of the equation before you go charging in. These days we all tend to have a little bit of a helicopter parent in us, hovering closely in case they fall. A well known psychologist, Dr John Irvine, once told me I had to learn to cut the umbilical chord and let my child grow. He was absolutely right! We all need to step back at times, take a deep breath and allow our children the chance to make their own decisions. Even if they make mistakes or we don't agree, at least they have a chance to learn, as long as we are there to help when needed.
After all isn't that what good parenting is all about?

Have an opinion or something you would like to share about this topic? I would be interested to read your comments.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Are We There Yet?

This week I was fortunate to be able to join a Jag Rally for a couple of days with my husband. As we drove along the winding mountain roads I remembered all the games we use to play with the kids in the car to keep them occupied to stop the duldrums and chorus of "Are we there yet?"

We began our journey as dawn broke over the charming farming community around Bredbo in southern NSW. Rose, lavender and powder blue hues mingled amongst the almost luminescent white mist that hugged the valley floor as the dawning sun embraced the mountains beyond. It was a truely spectacular start to the day. The scenery continued to surprise and delight me with every twist and turn as the day evolved, there was no way I was in any hurry to "get anywhere yet." I savoured every moment especially as we meandered along the winding roads of the high country in the Snowy Mountains that we had never driven along before. With barely a tree in sight it seemed like you could see forever across rugged rocky outcrops and hilltops. Eventually we made our way down into the rainforest where the scenes changed dramatically with tall green eucalypts stretching to the sky surrounded by a thick underbrush of ferns. There was always so much to observe and take in I could never be bored, but then I love driving in the country, not like kids who can't sit still for more than two minutes at a time.

 A game of I Spy obviously comes to mind, but this could be a tad difficult when the countryside is rather sparse. It's surprising what you can find though both inside and outside of the car.

A second great game based on knowing the alphabet is Last Letter where someone selects a category, food, songs, bands, countries etc, they then start by naming that place or thing. The next person has to say the next word starting with the last letter of the first word. eg: bannana, apple, eggplant, tangarine etc.

Another option for an alphabet game is Countries where you simply have to name countries in order from A to Z. When you get to the end you can start all over again as there are numerous countries starting with most letter of the alphabet. eg, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark etc. Argentina, Bulgaria, Chile, Dominican Republic etc.

Once you have practiced using the alphabet it's then time to start with some reading! Find the Alphabet is a great opportunity to have a bit of fun. Players look for each letter in order outside of the car.

Car Alphabet has each person scanning the number plates of passing vehicles for the first letter of the number plate. The idea is to start at A and make your way to Z. Take it in turns, say three cars at a time each before passing to the next person.

Name Game uses the first letter of a number plate as well. When a car goes past, try and be the first player to call out a name that starts with the same letter as the first letter on the number plate.

Bored with number plates? Ok, lets move on to signs, street signs, advertisements, cars, businesses anywhere you see words written along the roadside. Match the Word is a game where you must complete the alphabet by finding words on signs, staring with a word beginning with A, call out the letter and a word, eg A Albatross, then work your way through to Z.

A game where you can have a great deal of fun using your imagination is Rhyme Time. When you come across a sign, read it out loud and make a rhyme. eg South Creek "Be there in a week".

Thinking of using your imagination a great game that can keep the kids amused for ages ia Continuous Story. Each person is given one minute at a time to tell a story about anything at all, but it must continue from the one before. The story can change in all sorts of directions as each person takes another turn. One person, (who doesn't get car sick) might like to write it down.

The key to any of these games is to keep it simple, have fun, and enjoy! Never take car games too seriuosly and remember to take a break and let the kids run around and burn off some steam!

A recorded story to listen to in the car when parents need a break is always a good idea. There are so many on the market these days but another great idea is to get the kids to record their favourtie stories before they leave on the road trip. They'll love listening to themselves (or you for younger ones) telling the story. For a great story even the most reluctant reader will love to read over and over and always get lots of laughs go to and purchase a copy. Don't forget to supply head phones so you can have some quiet time!

One last option, the kids can always try their hand at writng poetry. On the road there is always plenty to inspire. Below is a link to a copy of my poem titled The Road Trip for added motivation. With the school holidays almost upon us once again, if you are planning a road trip I hope some of these tips help. Enjoy. :)