Our Advent Calendar

I have written about one of our families Advent Traditions & here I’m going to talk about our Advent Calendar which we’ve used for many years.

Advent Calendar

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Exciting Adventure Stories for Advent

While we have done a number of different things for advent over the years, including building a paper chain by adding a link each night with a person to pray for & putting baby Jesus (one of my daughter’s dolls in her dolls cot) under the Christmas tree.

Christmas Treasury for KidsTwo Activities have definitely become traditions.  The first is reading a story for advent.  One year we used Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas Treasury for Kids but then I found a series of books by Arnold Ytreeide.  I found Bartholomew’s Passage on sale in a local Christian bookstore.  When I started looking at it to see if it was suitable to use with my children, I read it in one sitting! Each chapter finishes with a cliff hanger so you want to know what happens next.  In the story Bartholomew gets separated from his family.  The story is of his adventures until he is reunited with his family in Bethlehem.

All of the books in the series follow the journey of a different child to the birth of Jesus.  They all met a man called Nathan, a wise Essene monk who knows about the Messiah’s coming.  The children’s paths cross in all of the stories but each story is just following the main character of that book.  At the end of each chapter is a reflection with a question.

There is a chapter each day for the first 3 weeks of advent & then depending on what dayBartholomew's Passage2 of the week Christmas Eve is you read 1-7 small sections each day of the last week of advent.  For this year with Advent being on a Sunday you would read the last section all in one day.  Then there is a final chapter for Christmas Day.

To be honest there have been many times when we have been catching up on missed chapters by reading an extra chapter or two.  Or reading the book in the car on the way somewhere or reading a chapter or 2 at Grandma’s.  Many Christmas Eve’s have found us reading the book at the back of the church while my husband sets up the Data Projector for the Christmas Eve Service.  And occasionally we have finished the story after Christmas Day but that’s ok.

We actually read Bartholomew’s passage for 4 or 5 years in a row as all of the books were out of print.  I had seen one of the others in a Christian bookstore but didn’t buy it at the time.  My family was happy to read the same book, they liked it that much.


Once the books were reprinted we have continued reading one each year for about 13 years.  They’ve been keen to hear what happens to all of the children & try to remember how their journeys cross.  We only got Ishtar’s Odyssey last year, as it is a newer addition to the series.  I’m not sure that we’ll read them as a family anymore, as my children are much more independent now.  Having read them from when my son was 4 until my daughter was 18, I can say that these books are great for any age.  I cannot recommend this series of books enough.

Are there any particular stories your family likes for Advent?

In my next post I’ll talk about our Advent Calendar, the other Advent Activity that has stood the test of time.

Reflecting on being a School Mum

My son only has just over a term of his final year of school left.  So I’m coming to the end 1st Day of schoolof being a parent of school children.   I have been reflecting on my many years of being a school mum.  If I had my time again there are many things I would do the same but probably some things that I would have done differently.

So what have we done & how would I have changed it or kept it the same?

My children both attended the small, local state school which had many children from a lower socio-economic area than us, as there was a housing commission area nearby.  The local primary school was 8 houses away from our house at the time.  My daughter had a grade 1 class with 17 children, so I was very happy with that.

I did occasionally consider home schooling my son during his last couple of years of Primary school but never really considered it.  I do sometimes wonder what sort of difference this might have made, though on the other hand I don’t know if I would have coped.

They then went on to attend a large, private school about 20 minutes drive from our house.  This was the school my husband had attended & he believed that no matter what they would be into, that they would have the opportunity to pursue it at this school.  Both children moved to the school to start grade 7 as that was the start of middle school.  This was before all Queenslanders started high school in grade 7.  My son struggled with this move more than my daughter.  However we believe that it was good for him to have a change then, rather than the just the massive change when you finish school.

No matter which school they have been at I have been involved in the school.  During theclassroom helper early years I was a classroom helper.  After a few years I joined the P&C and was involved until the end of their primary school years.  At their high school I was involved in the Auxiallary until it folded & have helped some of the relevant supporter groups at specific events.   I have been a tuckshop helper at both schools, so also coming to the end of my 14th year of volunteering in school tuckshops.  I have also been part of a Mum’s prayer group at their high school.

watch-tv-2158506__340During the early years of school we had a no tv rule before school.  If I recall correctly that changed to no tv after school as well, except for Friday afternoons.  It became harder to control screen time when they had school laptops & smart phones.  We have limited their daily downloads and had their devices only connected to the internet at certain times.  They rarely watch tv now but screen time is a real issue, not sure how we would have handled it if they had access to laptops, smart phones & other devices at a younger age.

I have always made my kids school lunches.  Since my daughter has finished school she making lunchnow makes her own lunch but I continue to make my sons lunch.   As children we made our own lunches from an early age so not exactly sure why I didn’t get my children to make their own lunches.  I have continued right through high school but partly because I think my son would take nothing if he had to make his own lunch.  This is my last year of making lunches for my son.  They have both been independently making their own breakfasts for a long time and also make their own lunches on weekends & during holidays.

walk to schoolAs we only lived 8 houses from the primary school we generally walked to school & my children carried their own bags, apart from the first day when they had to carry all their school supplies to school.  I have tried to make them responsible for their school work & school supplies.

As we lived so close to the school my daughter wanted tobus-2145402__340 walk to school by herself & did from mid primary school.  When we moved houses & had to cross a major road sometimes I would ride/walk with them & help them cross the major road & let them go the rest of the way by themselves.  Other times we just drove.  In highschool I have driven them to the school bus or to school depending on before/after school activities.   To get to the school bus by themselves they would have had to walk a fair way or catch another council bus and walk.  I think what we did was the best option but now when my daughter has less then a 10 minute walk to the bus to get to uni, she will often try & find excuses to be driven to the bus.   She catches 2 buses to get to uni & has been quite independent in catching buses to meet her friends at shops or similar since mid high school.

deskRight through school we have had their homework area in a central spot in the house.  When my daughter started university we set up a desk area in her room.  We liked having the homework area in a central spot, particularly when they started having school laptops as we didn’t want these devices in their room.  Recently my son has been doing his homework in his room more but I think we will encourage him to do his homework in the central area again.

Early on we limited after school activities to 1 thing.  My daughter did ballet & my son jazz-1415982__340played soccer.  During primary school they both pretty much only had the one outside school activity each.  When we got to high school there was so much offered at school that if became harder to limit it.  My daughter wanted to do everything & in her final year of schooling she played sport in 1 term & debating in another term, along with being involved in 4 school bands & 2 school choirs.  She coped with it all and I think thrives on the activity.  She is still involved with a university band & works part time while studying engineering.  My son on the other hand has done club & school soccer as well as 2 school bands for most of high school but only just copes.  This year due to injury he withdrew from club soccer but managed to continue with school soccer.  He is still in 2 bands but they have very few performances outside of school (1 of them is the school worship band for their chapel services), so he can cope.

Which of these areas have you done similar things or have you done something different as a school parent?



Books My Children Enjoyed

Last week it was Children’s Book Week in Australia.  Each year The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) together with schools, libraries, booksellors, authors & illustrators help children & students celebrate Australian Children’s Literature.  As I’ve seen many posts on Facebook this week of children dressed up for Book Week this year, I have reflected on the importance of reading & some of the books my children enjoyed reading.

Many schools have a book week parade during the week where children come dressed as their favourite book character.  My son’s school, a Pre-Prep – 12 school, celebrates book week with a whole school parade.  Apparently there are many who dress up in the junior school but not so many by the time you get to senior school.  I only have a few photos of my children from Book Weeks from the early years of their schooling. (A couple are above).  I’m sure my daughter did get dressed up for Book Week when she was in Middle or Senior school.


However reading was a huge part of their life before school.  We read bedtime stories to both children from when they were babies.  Starting with little chunky board books before moving onto picture books when they were toddlers.  “Stop said the man in blue.  He is a policeman.”  is a page that we can still recite from one of the very first board books we owned.  Some of the picture books have been taped back together as they were loved so much.  We have kept many of the favourite picture books, though we often borrowed from the local library.

We continued reading with our children until they were in upper primary school.  Even though they could well & truly read by then it was fun to read chapter books together or read harder books with them.  Here is a link to one of many articles on the benefits of reading to older children.  I remember my daughter’s grade 2 teacher who had children ranging from about 5-17 years of age said that she was still reading with her 17 year old.  When my son was in grade 7 I do recall reading to him when he had a scratched eye so couldn’t do anything because he needed to lie with his eyes shut.

So what were some of the books that were enjoyed in our house:


Picture Books:

  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxbury (board book but can get it in a paper paged book as well)
  • Fuzzy Yellow Ducklings by Matthew Van Fleet (a touch book for toddlers)
  • There’s a Hippopotomas on Our Roof Eating Cake by Hazel Edwards, illustrated by Deborah NilandBanana's in Pyjamas2
  • Bananas in Pyjamas:  Fancy Dress Party – When my daughter was about 3 this was taken to bed with every night for a while, it had to be taped up.  (Well remembered page is pictured.)
  • Mr Smarty Loves to Party by Janine Scott, illustrated by Christine Ross – It’s about a bear who goes to different parties dressed-up for the event and you can imagine what he wears to a birthday party!
  • Pooh and the Dragon (a Little Golden Book)
  • Lullabyhullaballoo! by Mick Inkpen
  • The King and the Cuddly by Majorie Newman, illustrated by Peter Bowman
  • Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Anthony Lewis
  • Hop on Pop by Dr Seuss – This copy was my own from my childhood
  • Nursery Rhyme Books
  • Fairy Tale Books
  • Other books with a compilation of stories
  • Set of Beatrix Potter books
  • The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters by Janet & Allen Ahlberg
  • Spot What books (a whole series with a themed picture on each page with a list of things to find)

Chapter Books:


Advent/Christmas Books:

  • My Birthday, Jesus Birthday by Holly Davis, illustrated by Nancy Munger
  • With Love at Christmas by Mem Fox, illustrated by Fay Plamka
  • Jotham’s Journey; Bartholomew’s Passage; Tabitha’s Travels and Ishtar’s Odyssey a series by Arnold Ytreeide – with a chapter for each day of advent leading up to the birth of Jesus; all told from the perspective of the main character and meets the characters from the other books along the way.  We have been reading 1 of these for about 12 Advent seasons now so great for children of all ages. See more in my fuller post about the series.
  • The Night Before Christmas (pop-up book) – A beautiful illustrated, pop-up version of the famous poem first published in 1823.  A book that Dad reads once a year on Christmas Eve before bedtime.
  • An Aussie Night Before Christmas (pop-up book) – An Australian version of the poem in a beautiful illustrated pop-up book.  This was added to the annual Christmas Eve book before bed routine a few years ago.

There would be many other books that we could add to this list but I’m just going from memory and what we still had.

My favourite picture book (at the moment):


  • Not A Box – My friend sent me this when my kids were older but I was still supply teaching.  I have used this book with lots of Prep & Grade 1 classes.  There are not many words but so much to talk about as you read the book.  I love how it encourages imagination.

What are some of your favourite children’s books?



Planting the Word of the Lord

We want to pass our faith onto our children.  This post by Sam Luce reminded me that I had started the following post but never published it.  When my daughter graduated from high school at the end of 2015 we presented her with a Bible. This was a journalling Bible that I had highlighted verses in and written messages & prayers for her over the year or so before we gave it to her.  My husband had also added to it a bit.  We also asked 7/8 women from church and a few other special people to highlight verses and write in it as well.

As you can see from the pictures above there is a mix of drawing and writing.  Some people wrote about the same verses as others or added to what was already highlighted, so whole sections became highlighted.

I’m not sure how many of the highlighted passages my daughter has found yet or how many she has read.  I figure that it is something that she will have to look back on, at the right time.  I do know that this is the Bible that she takes on camps with her now.

Why am I writing about this now?  We are doing the same for my son who graduates from High School in about 6 months time.  (Shh, don’t tell him.  Not that I think he reads my blog.)  He may have some idea that this is happening as he knows about his sister’s Bible.  We will get some of the men from church to highlight their favourite passages and write messages.

I wish I had started the process earlier but only came across the ideas less than 2 years before my daughter finished High School.

How have you celebrated your child’s graduation?  How are you attempting to pass on faith to your children?


Smartphone Prayers

smartphone-1281669__340Recently I tried a new spiritual practice with my family in our regular after dinner devotion time.  We read the Bible as per normal but then I asked everyone to get their phones.  Normally phones would not be at the table during dinner or devotion time.  As my children are both in their later teen years they both have smartphones.  After explaining that we were going to use different sections on the phone for a minute each to help with individual, silent prayer; I set the timer on my phone & we began.

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An Attitude of Gratitude

Recently my husband sent me a link to this article about 10 skills you should practise everyday.  The top 2 were Practise Gratitude and Keep a Positive Mindset.  This is something we have been focusing on in our family, particularly for my teenage son.  It is very easy for him to see the bad and not the good, especially when it comes to school.


A few years ago I read One Thousand Gifts:  A Dare to live fully right where you are, a book about counting your blessings.  I have been trying to notice goodness since reading this book and some articles on Ann’s blog.  There is so much research that shows that Gratitude is good for us physically, psychologically & socially.  This article shows that even just practicing gratitude for 2 weeks can make a difference in teenagers.

1000 gifts

So what do we do to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.  I often ask my son to look for the highs or good things in his day.  Often when I ask something like “What was the best thing about school today?”, he will still generally answer “lunch” or “the end of school” but we are trying.  I often talk to him about perspective and that if you think things are going to bad then they will be bad and vice versa.  Still working on helping him have a positive mindset.

You can do it

A few times a week after dinner we read a Bible passage using either the YouVersion Bible app or the daily reading from our Church App.   We then use Ann’s Joy Dare which I printed a few years ago.  Sometimes we use the joy dare for the day or from a few days ago that we might not have done.  Now my husband often asks”What are you grateful for, it doesn’t have to be from the joy dare?”.  I think after reading the article he sent me he has got it more as well.  Then we finish with prayer.  There is usually lots of other conversation and going off on tangents during this time but hopefully my family is developing more of an attitude of gratitude.  Occasionally, I even remember to write down what I’m grateful for in my gratitude journal.

gratitude journal

There are many ways to practice gratitude, I’ve just shared what we do.  I also like this idea of taking a photo a day of something you are grateful for.  My daughter was given a photo a day journal for her birthday and is trying to take a photo a day to help her record what she has done.

How are you helping your children have an attitude of gratitude?




Have Fun, Work Hard, I Love You

Recently I watched an interview with Tim Elmore  (on the D6 Days Online Conference).  First of all he was talking to parents of athletes but he also gave a lot of great general parenting advice.

He gave advice on what to say before and after watching your children play sports.  I had heard the what to say after the game previously – “I love to watch you play”.  This is great advice and something to remember for after watching your children perform whether on the sporting field, or a music performance, or at debating, etc.  Tim suggested that before the game you say “Have fun.  Play hard.  I love you.”  For more about this you can read an article from Tim Elmore here.

It struck me that this is not only relevant before a performance but a version of this could be said every time we drop our kids somewhere.  I was particularly thinking about before we send them to school.  So often it is a rush in the morning and I can be giving last minute instructions in the car or making sure my son knows how he is getting home in the afternoon.  However if I simply say something like “Have fun. Work hard.  Love you, mate.” as I drop my son at school or the bus stop I’m sure it will boost him emotionally as he starts the day.  When my kids go out I often do say “Have fun” or “Have a good day” but I think adding the other parts could be beneficial.

What do  you think?

Do you say anything special to your children when they leave for school or other activities?

In a Cast Again!

After visiting emergency & getting a half-cast.

After visiting emergency & getting a half-cast.

My son has spent the last month in a cast.  This is the second time this year.  Earlier in the year he broke the scaphoid bone in his right wrist after falling off his skateboard.  This time he hurt his left wrist and although no break was showing on the x-ray they put a cast on it due to the amount of tenderness in the area and the need for it to be set properly if there is a break.

Both times have been skateboarding accidents and it begs the question, should we

The full cast, with a few signatures.

The full cast, with a few signatures.

ban him from skateboarding?  I am loath to do this for a number of reasons.  He was outdoors in the fresh air getting exercise when he could have easily been on a screen.  Accidents can happen at any time.  The first time he ended up in a cast a few years ago was after he tripped on his scooter on the way to the car and rolled his ankle.  He wasn’t even riding the scooter when that accident happened.  Taking risks is a part of life.  I’m not saying we should let our children or ourselves do anything we want but age appropriate risks are ok.

We have tried not to stop our children from doing things but let them take age appropriate risks.  They both used child scissors from 2 or 3 years of age.  My daughter used to help in the kitchen from a young age and I can remember her helping to cut the carrots for dinner with her knife when she was about 5.  She possibly could have used a sharp knife under supervision.  I’m pretty sure she helped me use a hot glue gun to glue fake gems to plastic cups for her 6th birthday fairy tale party.  They have both climbed trees etc from when they could.  My husband watched my daughter climb a ladder at about 13 months old and was most impressed that she was keeping 3 limbs on the ladder whilst moving 1 hand or foot.  They made their own swings to hang off a tree and swung on them (admittedly they were quite close to the ground).  My son got a pocket knife when he was about 10.   We have let them light candles from a fairly young age, under supervision.

Waiting to visit the plaster room.

Waiting to visit the plaster room.

Whilst not letting them take dangerous risks we have let our children take age appropriate risks.  They got scooters when they were 3 & 5 and have used them in skate parks from about 8 years of age, but only on the parts they were confident to go on.  My sons confidence is obviously growing as this latest accident involved jumping down 2 stairs on his skateboard, which he did manage the first time.

While we were waiting in the fracture clinic my son was watching some Ted Talks on his phone, including 5 Dangerous Things you Should let your children do. 

Whilst I don’t agree with everything he says I do agree with the principle that we need to let our kids use things that might be considered dangerous in order to learn & develop.  I have also admired Teacher Tom and what he lets children use in the preschool he works in, including hot glue guns.  The more we wrap our children up or stop them doing things the less they learn about how to use things safely.

Although I’m hoping not to be visiting the emergency ward, fracture clinic or plaster room anytime again soon; no doubt my son will be riding his skateboard again in the coming months as long as he is wearing his helmet.

What age appropriate risks have you let your children take?

Forming Good Money Habits

My daughter has just started a part-time job.  In church a few Sundays ago when they were taking up the offering she said to me “Will I put 10% of the money from my job into the offering?”  Ever since we have given our children pocket piggy-bank-970340__180money they have put 10% into the offering, saved 50% and been able to spend 40%.  My daughter is planning to do this with her wages.

Why have we done this with pocket money?  My husband got this idea from someone he worked with.  This is what they did with their family and he thought it was a good way to teach about saving, so we have done the same.  10% into the church offering because we believe everything we have is God’s so we are just giving some back to God.  People who aren’t regular church goers might have their children give an amount to a charity of their choice, it is simply teaching about giving.  My daughter whose love language is gifts once gave money to Jesus for Christmas. On Christmas morning she had $1 under the Christmas tree for Jesus which went into the Christmas offering at church.  50% for saving to teach the value of saving.  Our kids have always banked their saving money along with birthday money from Grandma (for that purpose).  We have usually banked their pocket money about once a term and have always had them help count it, write out the deposit slip & take it to the bank so that they were part of the process.  They will probably get this money when they are 18 and will have a substantial amount saved by then.  They can spend the other 40% however they wish.  Often they have saved that 40% to buy something a little bigger.  We have always given them the pocket money so that it could be easily divided which has meant always having lots of coins to use.  Pocket money has never been tied to their chores.  We expect them to do chores as they are part of our family & live in our house.

Our children both started getting pocket money when they started school.  In grade 1 they got $1 so 10 cents went into the offering at church, 50 cents was saved and they could spend the other 40 cents.  This amount increased by a $1 per year to match their grade until grade 8 and then they have had slightly bigger increases in grade 8, 10 & 12.  Compared to some of their friends they don’t get much pocket money but it is enough as they are not expected to pay for much. Often if my children want something when we are at the shops we will say “if you want it you can buy it for yourself”.  This also lets us see how much they really want the item. As my daughter earns more money through her part-time job she will be expected to pay for more things for herself, firstly starting with going out with her friends to see a movie or when they have lunch at the shops.

What else have we done to help our children develop good money habits?  When my daughter started middle school it seemed that she was forever asking for money as someone was selling something to raise money for something or it was the business market day or similar.  At the end of her first year at middle school we decided to give her a certain amount per term.  She could then choose to spend this at tuckshop or the business market day or on whatever else was being sold.  We also did this with my son when he started middle school.  He quickly learnt to only take a small amount of his money to school at a time!

Also we don’t usually lend our kids money if they want something and they don’t quite have enough for it.  We usually make them save their spending money until they have enough to buy whatever it is they want.  Hopefully we are teaching them you can’t spend what you don’t have.

Here are some other pocket money systems I’ve heard of:

There are variations of the percentage system but just split a different way or for more things.  Such as the 10-10-10-70 plan which is 10% tithing, 10% saving and investment, 10% giving (to those in need) & 70% used at their discretion.  This article talks about spending, saving, donating, investing.  Similar to our method but just adds a 4th area when children are ready.

I’ve heard a Focus on the Family Broadcast where the couple interviewed shared about quite an elaborate envelope system.  The envelopes included spending, saving, clothes, gifts & tithing.  For the clothes they had worked out approximately how much the child would need over a 12 month period and then gave a fortnightly or monthly amount to cover this. With this system the children were very much learning budgeting and for example, what happens if you’ve spent all your clothes allowance but need a new pair of sports shoes!

Families choose different pocket money methods for different reasons.  There is no right or wrong way.  Do your children get pocket money?  If so how does it work in your family?