Friday, April 18, 2014

Easterfest Day 1

Easterfest 2014 is a good one. The children particularly have had an absolute blast! Kids World is amazing!  To be truthful, I haven't even scratched the surface of what's there, but hey, that's to be expected if you take 5 kids to a music festival - especially when said festival caters for the kiddos so well. You're bound to stay in that corner!

The Accountant was very adamant that the lawn needed to be mowed this morning.  It rained while we were away, so the grass was long. He did have a point. After all, I didn't want tigers that have hidden in the grassy pasture of our backyard jumping out of the long tufts and devouring our children.

And so he was out on the ride-on this morning, doing the obligatory rides for each child. Thankfully, once each child had their turn, he was happy to give it a break since the lawn was heavy with dew this morning, so it wasn't easy to cut.

So, we headed into Easterfest. Perfect timing really, we got to line up with my bestie Belinda from BBeingCool.
Belinda has crutches at the moment because she had an ankle re-construction. The poor thing had to explain this repeatedly throughout the day, and I suppose she will be explaining the whole time she sports a moon boot - which she wore with flair, I might add!
Because she is such a lovely person, there was no pretence she didn't know us while our children dropped to the ground repeatedly and did their toddler thing.

Once we got our tickets (Thanks Easterfest!*) We had to deal with the toddler fallout. The two year old identicals did not approve AT ALL to having 'bracelets' put on. Mammoth two year old tantrum was thrown. You know the type where everyone turns to see what the heck is happening.

(Of course, Immy had no probs with the bracelet, thought it was the perfect accessory for the occasion. Look at her showing it off to her little friend that she bumped into at the animal pen later in the day!)

(I do hope she wasn't rubbing in the fact that we had a premium upgrade though!)
We made it as quickly as possible over to Kids World. The boys didn't want to be distracted from their very important tantrum, but within three minutes they gave in. Honestly, resistance was futile with the myriads of exciting activities therewithin! At that point I blew The Accountant a kiss and raced down to "The Forum" to listen to Nanalew, Meekakitty, (awesome you tubers, search them, so cute!) and the dude behind yesHeis (can't remember his name, but he was seriously inspiring) and our very own Toowoomba blogger, The Crafty Mummy.

After that finished, I returned to Kids World. The Accountant was slightly frazzled, but still in control. Seriously, my husband is a legend. I know for a fact that there are many Dads who wouldn't stay on their own with five kids for an hour and a half in a public place. Or Mums for that matter, to tell you the truth the thought scares even me. Alex ran out for a little bit for a look around, and I was very grateful the kids were happy eating some lunch and watching the SU chaplains run a  SUPA club. It was so good seeing the kids engage with the Gospel message.

After SUPA club, we did a few more fun things like play in the giant sand pit, merry-go-round, pirate boat rides, knock-it-down games, petting zoo and a giant shark slide.

Oh, and I shouldn't fail to mention, we met Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber! Christian vegetable royalty! 
With the triplets at first...
I hadn't noticed the duo at first. Toby kept pointing and saying, "Look!" I finally noticed that he was pointing to a person dressed as a tomato. I just commented, "Oh yes, a big tomato." I thought it was really random that they decided to have a tomato walking around the grounds when there was a pirate theme! (In my defence, Bob was standing side on and I couldn't see his eyes!) The boys kept getting excited and watching the tomato. Then Larry walked out and I finally got it!

Then the big boys saw his and joined in. Having grown up on a cucumber farm, I have soft spot for good ol' Larry.
So, altogether a really fun day. Oh, except for the walking out bit. Which was much like the walking in bit. Toby was objecting loudly because he didn't want to leave. Then he screamed blue murder while we buckled him into the stroller. Unfortunately the mega you tubers were right next to us conducting an interview on camera. I don't know why they decided to interview them in Kids World - although I'm glad they did, while they were waiting for the interview to begin, I had a chat with them while I was in the petting zoo. Nothing like shaking the hand of a famous You Tuber with around a million subscribers while a goat is pooping next to you. (The goat had no social graces.) Anyway, to leave we wheeled a screaming two year old through the crowd and went home. Hung clothes on the line, had fish for dinner, put tired triplets to bed, read a devotional with the big boys and said some prayers remembering Christ's sacrifice on this Good Friday. 

The Accountant went in to see the night time action at Easterfest while I'm looking after the kids. I've received a text from him. "Jars of Clay playing some good tunes. The Flood - old classic. Music not to loud so I'm not too old yet!" 

Meanwhile I've been sitting here looking at all the #easterfest2014 hashtags on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and reflecting how awesome this event is. If you live in Toowoomba, or even nearby, seriously it's not too much of a drive for those who live in Brisbane and other nearby South East Queensland areas, you really should consider making a spontaneous decision and coming, you can buy a one day ticket at the gate. 

I'm going to indulge in a little editorial at this point.

The tickets aren't cheap. Especially for families. Some of you really couldn't afford it, and I get that. There have been years that we have not come because of the money also. However, if you do have the funds, consider coming if for nothing else to support the cause. Because how seriously awesome is it that there is an Easter event in Toowoomba, in Queensland, in Australia (because this is the biggest Christian music festival in Australia) that there is an event that proclaims God's name into the supernatural realm of our town/state/country? It is the type of stuff that by just by the amount of worship that comes out of this event, darkness is pierced. 

You might have a family like ours, or be an older couple. I get it that you don't want to spend all that money to sit in Kidsworld or don't have a connection with the majority of the artists. But can I encourage you, your children pick up something of that spiritual dimension just by being in the place. You will pick something up. Just being here allows God to work in your spirit. Just coming is stating that as a family, we support this cause because we want God's name proclaimed. The reason Easterfest tickets do cost so much money is there is soooo much funds that are required to run a festival of this magnitude. If you're just not into this type of thing so you think that it is not value for money, think of it as a donation and think of the value this event is to our nation. If you have tweens or teens, it is excellent value on all accounts. This is absolutely quality music and a super fun venue.

So stay tuned to my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as I track our movements at Easterfest 2014. We are feeling the Crazy Love**! 

Jars of Clay playing at the concert I missed out on tonight. (sniff, sniff) Glad that Alex is enjoying it! Photo taken from Easterfest's Facebook page.

Are you at, or have been to Easterfest? Favourite moments there?
What type of music is your type?

* Easterfest gifted a family pass to us, and another pass as a giveaway. But everything I have shared about the event is my honest opinion. Because a liar liar pants on fire is something I'm not.
** This years theme for the event!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - 40th Birthday Party

I haven't shared many photos of my husband's 40th birthday party, so I thought it would be a good chance to this Wordless Wednesday. If you want to read a few details on how and what we did, head to my post about Planning a Milestone Birthday Party. But here is the night in pictorial detail.

Immy's grand entrance
The Birthday boy and the whopping big gawdy badge my sister put on him. I wasn't very impressed at all when I  turned around and saw him wearing that. I'm already finding something incredibly tacky for her to wear on her 40th in several years time. Except I wouldn't be that nasty.

The room.
The triplets were ready to eat the bonbonneires (giant freckles) well before dinner was on the table.

Hanging out with my family. Mum, Dad and little sis. (I'm sure she would like me to clarify that she was not the badge giving sister.)

Alex with his family and Toby. His Mum, Dad and sister.

How boys keep themselves amused at parties in the iPad age.

Toby and Imogen packing up at the end of the evening.

Oh yeah, she knows how to work a camera!

Immy had her entrance, Toby had his exit. At the end of the night, he stood at the automatic doors and giggled hysterically at them opening and closing.

My beloved and I at the end of a lovely evening.
Linking up at these lovely places:

My Little Drummer Boys
My Little Drummer Boys

Twinkle in the Eye
Twinkle In The Eye
Ms Mystery Case
5 Minutes for Mom
Mama to 5 Blessings

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter Egg Hunt and Easter Books for the Kids + GIVEAWAY!

This Competition is now closed. Thanks to the entries in the comments section and on my Facebook page. Congratulations to Tanya Clark, Kylie Walters, kookla123, Essentially Jess and Annstruck

This morning I invited a few of the younger children's little friends around for a morning of Easter fun and literacy.

We started by reading a really sweet "Little Mates" book, "Easter Egg Express" by Susannah Mc Farlane and Caroline Keys ($4.99, Published in March 2014, Scholastic Australia). It introduced in the concept of an Easter egg hunt for the morning. The thing I liked about this story was it was overtly Australian and featured bilbies! (My kids didn't even know what a bilby was, despite eating chocolate in years gone by…) The Bilbies were responsible for hiding Easter Eggs for the children to find on Easter morning. They enlisted the help of their friends, and the book is a great example of how teamwork and co-operation can accomplish a task. It's such a sweet little book, and actually would be ideal to chuck in your children's Easter basket. Something to read while they munch on all that chocolate Easter morning.

Once we had discussed the possibility of an Easter egg hunt, we did some craft with the children. I gave them each a Chinese noodle box that I had picked up from a local kitchen wholesale outlet.  Inside were some Easter stickers, foam shapes and animals and Easter egg foil we'd saved from a previous year. The kids were very focussed on glueing them to the outside of their boxes to decorate them.
It may seem like a simple task, but it doesn't hurt approach a task with double capes, bat mask, superman clothing and watch that play superhero theme music. Never underestimate the creativity that is unleashed when combined with super powers.
 Thanks to the help of the super Mummies,

I think the boxes turned out pretty darn cute in the end.

Holding their little boxes the children settled down on the lounge chair for another story while the Mummies hid some eggs.

The book was "We're Going on an Egg-Hunt" by Laine Mitchell. We actually didn't read this book, we listened to it, because it comes with a CD with a lively and funny recording by the popular entertainer, Jay Laga'aia! The children were very attentive to the story, especially the two kindy aged children. I thought they might have been distracted by the impending egg hunt, but the story, which is reminiscent
 the popular tale, "We're Going On a Bear Hunt", truly held their interest. Especially when the Easter Bunny came on the scene!

(Although Jayden thought it was a lion. Big teeth equal lion, according to him, it doesn't matter if they are buck teeth.)

After the story, the kids went on their own Easter hunt. Yum, yum!

And just to complete the sugar high, cupcakes for morning tea.

While the children ate, we had one last book, "There Was an Old Bloke Who Swallowed a Bunny!"

It's a hilarious new story from the duo (P. Crumble and Louis Shea) who created one of my children's favourite books, "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Mozzie". It's a farmyard take on the classic nonsense rhyme as a hungry old bloke looks for a feed -

There was an old bloke who swallowed a bunny. 
I don't know why he swallowed that bunny … 
Crikey, that's funny!

There's a lot of repetition, which is always popular with children. We had our own Crikey, that's funny moment when we got to the end of the story, and found the ending was missing! At some point a triplet had obviously accessed the book, and decided to rip out the last page! Just as well we could work out from the page that remained that the old man had ended up exploding and the animals safely escaped his interior!

So altogether, it was a really pleasant morning with busy and engaged children.

And guess what? You could win one of the books we read today! I have FIVE copies of "We're Going on an Egg-Hunt" book and CD to giveaway to Caitlin's Happy Heart readers.

For your chance to win, comment below** on something you plan to do with your family over Easter.  We're going to Easterfest! (Super Dooper Christian music festival) Hopefully I will be able to report back some exciting stories about our time there. Two year old triplets at a music festival. There's got to be some stories waiting to happen there! Stay tuned!

I would love it also if you could click on my side bar and follow me via social media! (I love Facebook and Instagram best, so I'm very active on them!) Brownie points go to new followers. *Big smiles*

As a lovely Easter surprise, the winners will be chosen Good Friday by a random number generator (18th of February) at 7am. Nice and early so I can email (make sure you leave contact details, otherwise you'll never know if you won!) you before heading to the festival. Please check your emails, because if I haven't heard back from you by Saturday 10pm I will choose another winner. Sorry to my international readers, but this is only open to Australian residents.

What are you doing with your family this Easter?

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

** Some people have had difficulty posting. If this is you, please head over to my Facebook page and leave your comment there to be eligible to enter.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rawr! and Dinosaur Farm

Rawr! by Todd H. Doodler and Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon are two books about dinosaurs that will capture your young child's imagination and interest.

There has been two books I have been wanting to share with you for quite some time. They were instant favourites when a box of books arrived from Scholastic, so I knew that they were on the "must blog about" list. Unfortunately life has a way with interfering with blogging, and it just hasn't happened. (Which I'm afraid is the way it's always going to be. It is only right that my blog takes second place to living!) Because my favourite way to explore books with children is using reading in conjunction with activities and experiences, I had wanted to write an idea packed post about exploring dinosaurs, but it just so happened that the activities we did around dinosaurs were more organic and not photographed. You know stuff the kids loved, but not anything to blog home about!

I am committed to telling you about these books though because they are superb! My little two year old girl especially liked Rawr, and let me tell you, when she joins in with the "rawrs" it's one of the cutest things ever! It really is a book that engages with children and invokes participation.

It's all about a dinosaur who sometimes struggles with people's perceptions of him. Because being big can sometimes be a problem. He explains that if they think he is scary because he's big, they're wrong. There's a whole heap of friendly things he does. There is also a request to tell all your friends that Rawr means hello in dinosaur. So, I am pleased to pass this community announcement on to my readers. Consider yourself told, and don't be alarmed if you are ever rawred at by a dinosaur.  My kids love the page where he rawrs at everybody and they join in enthusiastically. We are such a friendly crew around here!

Ok, so not the most flattering photo, but she's really connecting with the dino on the front cover, she loves him so. Especially since his tummy is soft and squishy at the front.

Anything with the word in the farm in it has a high probability of being a hit with my children. Their Grandad (Farmer extraordinaire) is grooming them to join the family business and return to the land. At this stage, the attraction is far greater than emulating Daddy who sits in an office with a calculator. Even though they think Daddy is the bees knees, his work would be so much more impressive if he needed a tractor to complete his jobs.

And so Frann Preston-Gannon's book, Dinosaur Farm very much appeals to my kids. The text says nothing about dinosaurs at all. It simply describes a day in the life of a farmer. It is the illustrations that bring the story to life. My kids loved looking at all the farming activities and what the dinosaurs were doing. They especially loved the page where the poor farmer had to clean up a humungous pile of dino poop. (I do have boys after all.) It is just one of those delightful books that capture the imagination of a child.

Because the children loved reading about dinosaurs so much after these two books entered our household, we started focussing on dinosaurs a lot more. We didn't really have a chance to do dinosaur craft, despite my best intentions. The triplets had painted a paper plate which we were going to make into a stegosaurus, (there are lots of examples on Pinterest, for instance this Mum made some cute ones with her boys here). However, for us, the enjoyment ended up being just the painting of the paint, which let's face it, the rest of the project for them needed to be completed by me, and as much as they would have enjoyed the end product, I just didn't have the time.

We also rounded up all our dinosaurs in the house and asked to loan my nephew's extensive dino collection. He was madly into dinosaurs when he was younger. My big boys have liked dinosaurs, but have played with cars rather than dinosaurs. The triplets have loved the dinosaurs. For the first couple of weeks it was a guaranteed quiet activity time when a child was on a mat with the box of dinosaurs.

Libraries are often stocked with dinosaur books, and we have borrowed a really great selection over the last several visits.

Some of the books we borrowed. I particularly liked the story about Edwina, the dinosaur who didn't know she was extinct.

We were recently given a beautiful dolls house. Except we have no dolls. But the dinos moved in! The triplets have loved playing with the dinosaurs in the house. We did need to teach them that dinosaurs need inside manners and they aren't allowed to stomp inside houses because the integrity of the structure needed to be retained and protected.

Do your children like playing and reading about dinosaurs? What are some dinosaur favourite games, books or activities in your neck of the pre-historic woods?

PS. Stay tuned! I will share about another book on Monday, (An Easter book no less!) and it will also be a GIVEAWAY!

*These books were gifted to me from Scholastic. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top 5 Tips for Planning a Milestone Birthday Party

This past week has been a big one in our family. The Accountant turned 40 last week. So on Saturday night we partied.

I’m no party planner, but organising parties for those who I love is one thing that gives me pleasure, and I’m fairly certain that my guest of honour and the guests enjoy event as well. I thought I would tell you a little about the party while giving my top 5 hints on how to host  successful milestone birthday party for your loved one.
The Accountant and myself!

1. Establish and Work On the Recipients Likes.
Sit down and brainstorm some ides of what your recipient would enjoy doing and what their likes are. This process can lead to choosing your theme and even location. Be creative and don't necessarily restrict yourselves to just the party. Often people are open to make an event into a weekend (or longer!). Some of the close friends or family might be happy to do activities that the birthday boy/girl enjoys before or fter the party. This is a way to celebrate and do some fun things but not have to pay for it.

The Accountant was adamant he didn't want to celebrate his birthday in our home town and indicated he would prefer a beach option instead. We tossed up many ideas of how to make this work, from renting a house and hosting a party there, (not possible because most have no party clauses), to an informal BBQ on the beach, but we finally settled on having the party in a function room at a golf club ten minutes from the beach.
One happy 40 year old at the beach!

2. Know Your Budget
It is an unfortunate fact that parties cost money. Work out how much money you are willing to spend on a party. This information can effect the guest list size, but doesn't necessarily have to. If you want a large number of people, but only have a small budget, you can be creative and find some cheap and cheerful ways to deliver. Another option is to ask guests to not bring presents but rather pay for their own meal.

We had decided that we wanted to pay for our guests, especially since we were basically asking everyone to travel to it. You may be surprised that generally The Accountant is prudent with his money and expects me to be the same, but we don't set detailed budgets. So for us, it was a case of finding what the prices were for various options and deciding what ballpark figure we were prepared pay. We had already decided on the guest list, so we knew that it was going to be a fairly small affair with his closest friends and family but with lots of kids. That allowed us to accept a per head figure that we may have first thought was unattainable.
The function room at Peregian Springs Golf Club was an ideal venue.

3. Choose Location and Food Wisely
Seriously, if you get this right, most other things will fall into place and your guests and guest of honour ought to have a blast! Make sure you are serving food the guest of honour enjoys! Sometimes a favoured food can determine the whole location and theme of the party. (eg. Mexican, seafood, high tea)

If you are catering yourself, make sure you factor in the time you will be able to commit to when planning your menu. You need to be careful to not overcommit yourself, so should always plan on the safe side. You can always add in extra later if you sore running ahead of schedule.

The location should reflect something about the guest of honour and be somewhere enjoyable for him or her.

We choose a BBQ menu for The Accountant's 40th. This made the price range affordable and yet the food was of really good quality due to the location and venue we had chosen. The location turned out to be ideal, not only was it close to the beach, (big check!) but The Accountant also loves playing golf, so he actually played a game with his Dad, my Dad and a mate before the party. (Although they were a little disgruntled they missed out on the last few holes because the party had started!)
BBQ buffet waiting to begin

4. Create Special Moments
It is nice to arrange a surprise during the party if possible. A surprise guest, a video, presentation or activity are some examples of what can work. The surprise can make you guest of honour laugh or given the opportunity to pause and reflect.

My contribution on the night was a slideshow that I showed while making a brief speech. I also opened the floor and a few others also said some kind things about my awesome hubby. He has since told me that this was his favourite part of the evening. I know snoot of people don't like giving speeches, but a few well chosen words and a humorous story can really be very touching.
Interviewing my son during the slideshow.

5. Pace Yourself
Start planning early! Don't get overwhelmed by the myriad of tasks that need completing, tackle one job at a time. Prioritize and ignore the other jobs until you have the time. (Or until you can avoid them no longer!)Know your limitations and accommodate them into your action plan.

We actually started talking about what we were going to do and who the guest list was over a year before the event. Having a general direction was very helpful then when beginning research. Because I wasn't familiar with what was familiar in the area, a lot of Googling was necessary as well as a reconnaissance mission! We did have plenty of time then to book the venue and then forget about it for awhile.

I had to keep realising that having the five kids, particularly the two year old triplets, and being out of town meant that it was wiser for me to outsource some things that I really would have loved to do myself, such as designing the invites and other co-ordination stationary such as placecards and a birthday banner as well as getting a local to make the cake. As always, it doesn't seem to matter how early I start planning, I still end up with lots of late nights and last minute things to do. I highly recommend avoiding this, but cannot give advice on how to be that organised!

The co-ordinating stationary looked great! I made the giant freckles two nights before the big day. Nice and easy!

Have you ever planned a milestone birthday such as a 21st, 30th, 40th ... 100th etc? What advice can you add?

Linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT


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