Welcome to our world of 4 boys, Autism, Homeschooling and life in general.

Hi I'm Angie, busy Homeschooling Mum of 4 young boys aged between 4 and 11 yrs.

Bailey (11) is a huge car enthusiast, particularly classic cars, VW 'Herbie' beetles and VW Combi vans. Bailey lives with Autism (ASD) and Epilepsy but does very well coping with everyday life these days since we made the change to homeschooling back in 2010.

Dane (8) enjoys playing guitar, building Lego masterpieces and all things superhero! Dane also lives with a form of Autism (Aspergers) and a Language developmental delay (Apraxia of speech).

Ehren (5) is our gentle 'giant' and is a keen student in our Homeschool classroom. He enjoys both physical and mental pursuits and has a clear interest in currency!

Fraser (aged 4) is our little pocket rocket. He's a confident, head-strong little boy who never stops talking, singing or dancing!

Follow us on our journey as we learn about the world around us in our own unique way!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


A friend has asked me to give her some ideas for what to do whilst staying up here these holidays. We love to travel and do exciting things and quite often find lots of fun stuff in and around Brisbane. We take day trips as far North as Bribie Island, out west to places like Ipswich and Toowoomba and love visiting the Gold Coast and it's hinterland. Here are my top 10 picks for a day trip with low cost but maximum thrills.

I recommend keeping a kit in your car for all these day trips including Water (Aldi water dispenser only $3.99 great for filling bottles), Insect repellent (Bushman is great), Hats, Sunscreen, good walking shoes, camera, spare light shirt or jacket for warm months or heavy jacket/trackpants in Winter. You could even pack a small first aid kit and add a few extra bandaids for those little trips kids often have.

1) NATURAL ARCH: Also known as Natural Bridge, this is located within the Springbrook National Park. It is approximately 1 hour drive from Burleigh Heads or about 1 1/2 hours from Brisbane. Take a short, easy bushwalk (approx 10 mins each way) to a magnificent cave made of basalt rock. Inside you will see the amazing waterfall and at night the added treat of cave bats and glow worms on the walk to and from the cave and on the wall of the cave itself. This is a real treat for kids and adults alike. Take along your insect repellent, good walking shoes and water. I recommend visiting a little before sundown to get the cave just on sunset and enjoy the amazement of nature at it's finest! WEB http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/springbrook/index.html

2) BEST OF ALL LOOKOUT: This lookout would be the perfect place to visit earlier in the day before you head to Natural Arch. It is in close proximity to the cave and there are quite a few nice little country cafes to eat lunch at on your journey. Follow your way along Springbrook Rd, towards Springbrook National Park and take the Repeater Station Rd along til you follow the signs to Best of All Lookout. This will give you amazing views across to New South Wales and of Byron Bay. Did you know Byron Bay is the southernmost tip of mainland Australia?

3) THE WORKSHOPS RAIL MUSEUM: Located on North St, Ipswich this place is an absolute winner for all kids in love with trains but if you child is not then rest assured they will be once they have visited this place! Plenty to see and do, you'll need to allow at least 2 hours but we've had days where have spent at least 4 hrs, especially during special events. Their biggest event of the year is the Day Out with Thomas and it commences this coming Boxing Day and on til 29 January 2012. The cost for entry to the Museum are fairly reasonable considering how much fun you'll all have and you can bring along a picnic lunch to eat somewhere on the shady grounds to cut your costs down even more. Otherwise if you like there is a cafe on site with very nice meals, sandwiches, snacks and drinks. Day entry is $57 Family (2A,up to 4C) $19 per adults, $11 per child (3-15) and free for under 3s. You can also purchase Annual passes for equivalent cost to 2 visits, which is great value as they have special events on all year round. WEB http://www.theworkshops.qm.qld.gov.au/

4) SOUTHBANK PARKLANDS: Located in South Brisbane, opposite the city these parklands have it all. Great for weekend markets, swimming in the man-made beach/lagoons, strolling along the riverside, catching a ferry across to town or stopping for a delicious lunch or dinner, you'll find everything here to keep the family entertained. I can recommend grabbing some fish and chips and sitting on a blanket on a nice shady tree or dining in at Amicis for some yummy Italian inspired food. Take a ride on the Wheel of Brisbane (costs involved), treat yourself to a yummy dessert at Max Brenners or take a walk over one of the bridges to get to town. I can recommend parking in the Convention Centre parking (one block over from Southbank) as there are always plenty of parking and it is usually cheaper if staying for more than an hour or two. WEB http://www.visitsouthbank.com.au/

5) BRISBANE MUSEUM PRECINCT: Located in South Brisbane, just a few minutes walk north of Southbank we have the QLD Museum, The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and the Qld Art Gallery. The Museum itself was partially damaged by floodwater earlier this year so it is due to reopen in January 2012 after extensive refurbishments. Both the Museum and GOMA are free to enter with only special events payable. My boys love GOMA as there are usually totally unique exhibitions to interest the children and keep them amused for at least an hour or two. The Museum also has the ScienceCentre operate from it's premises. There is a cost to enter but it is quite reasonable as you can expect to spend at least an hour or more learning and interacting with cool exhibits.

6) BRIBIE ISLAND: Unlike many of Queensland's islands this island is accessible via a bridge. It is located about an hour drive North of Brisbane or just under 2 hours from the Gold Coast by heading towards the Sunshine Coast on the Bruce Highway. Follow the highway and take the Bribie Island Rd exit just north of BurpengaryWoorim beach. There is plenty of space for you to find your own piece of the beach and take a dip or sit back and relax. If you head North enough you will see the city of Caloundra. Towards the top end there is also a back access point so you can head back around direct to the front part of the island. This is particularly handy if you get stuck with the tides or washouts that sometimes run across the sand. Bribie is one place Clif and I love and have been visiting many times a year even before we had the kids.

7) MOUNT GRAVATT LOOKOUT: Located on Shire Rd, Mount Gravatt this is a great vantage point to see beautiful sights of Brisbane and out into Moreton Bay. There is a small children's playground at the top and a Cafe-Restaurant that serves Australian cuisine. We often grab some Red Rooster which is at the bottom of the mountain and eat it up at the top whilst overlooking the city before giving the kids a run around to burn off some energy. It's a nice spot and usually nowhere near as busy as Mt Cootha Lookout, which is also a lovely place to see Brisbane in all it's glory.

8) MALENY CHEESE FACTORY: Located at 1 Clifford St, Maleny. We often take a drive to Maleny to have a delicious cheese platter lunch at the factory, followed by a stop in Maleny town centre for a browse through the shops, buying of some candy from the candy shop and then grabbing some wine on the way out (right side when exiting, just look for the big wine barrel). It's also a nice spot to take a drive as there are really lovely country views of the hills and farmland. It will take you just over an hour drive from Brisbane or closer to two hours from the Gold Coast. There is a really nice park on the way in/out located on the corner of Caloundra St and Steve Irwin Way that we often let the kids stretch their legs at on the way home. WEB http://www.malenycheese.com.au/

9) JACOBS WELL: This quiet little town sits along the ocean's edge tucked neatly behind several small islands so it's a great spot to take young children for a swim in the 'ocean' as the water is gentle and there is a small netted enclosure to swim. It has some small shade sails right on the sand so you can sit right with the children whilst they build sandcastles and splash at the water's edge. The town itself has a few stores, take-away places and a pub so you can take along your picnic lunch or grab a bite to eat whilst there. It is an easy drive from Brisbane or Gold Coast with the exit off the M1 (Pacific Motorway) at Yatala (opposite side to Yatala Pies). There is also a Drive-Inn located at Yatala so if you wanted to make a whole day of it you could grab a movie at the end of the day. Make sure you line your car up early though as it can get quite busy on weekends and peak holiday periods. WEB: http://www.yataladriveintheatre.com.au/         http://www.yatalapies.com.au/

10) HONEYWORLD GOLD COAST: Located on 35 Tomewin St, Currumbin, directly opposite CURRUMBIN WILDLIFE SANCTUARY. This is a great place to take the kids for a taste test of a variety of honey products and for a small fee you can take the children through the back and learn all about bees and how they make the honey. My big boys loved this place and sat listening so well for the 30 min session. You move from room to room and get to see how honeycomb is spun and taste super fresh honey. You can start your day off here then move across the Wildlife park for a full day visit or FREE to simply feed the lorikeets. Check with Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary for feeding times. WEB http://www.superbeetourism.com.au/maps.htm          http://www.cws.org.au/

So here are just 10 of our favourite places to visit! I can think of another 10 just off the top of my head so keep your eyes pealed for part two soon! Have fun in the great outdoors!

Sunday, December 18, 2011


What a year 2011 has been. It's the first year in the last 3 that I haven't had a baby but strangely it has been one of the most fulfilling. I have felt this year more than ever like a brilliant new butterfly emerging from it's cocoon. For the first time in probably my whole life I feel like I have a perfect balance between being there for family and friends but also making sure I make time for myself.

I've made many new wonderful friends this year, the kind of friends some people search for their whole lives and still never find. I'm also very lucky to have made contact with old friends this year too. I've had such little time these last few years that I hadn't had a chance to see my close friends nearly often enough. Those of you reading this will know who you are. I thank you for your love, support, friendship, company and excitement.

I made a pact with myself this year that once I was fully recovered from my Hysterectomy I would take better care of myself. It's not that I've lived a ridiculously unhealthy life before but just I'd lost touch with the old Angie, the one who loved exercise, being in the sunshine outdoors and eating really good, fresh, healthy food. It wasn't a new years resolution, it was a promise to myself to ensure I had the energy to live a full life with my children, husband, family and friends.

After recovering, around February I embarked on this mission. Now almost a year later I am down 3 dress sizes and feeling fit and fabulous. I didn't need to join a gym or a weight loss program, I just needed to get my zest back for life. I haven't felt this good since I fell pregnant with Bailey 9 years ago.

This year I decided to officially homeschool the second of our boys, Dane. He was due for Prep, but I decided not to send him and see how we went at home. I probably would've gone crazy if it wasn't for meeting a local Homeschooling group for regular playdates, learning days, sports and excursions. The boys have all made some great friends with other homeschooling families. It's so nice to see them so happy to see all their friends each and every week. Dane has come a long way since schooling at home. He has just started to read basic early readers and is increasingly impressing me with his writing, which is almost as neat as his brother. Bailey has mastered addition and subtraction, his spelling has improved dramatically and is counting money with very little assistance. He's also come a lot more out of his shell this year. He's better able to manage stressful situations without totally falling apart and even tries to push himself out of his comfort zone from time to time.

Ehren has been talking up a storm this year. It's so nice to know he won't be needing speech therapy like his two older brothers. At 2 1/2 yrs he doesn't seem to have any developmental delays and is constantly surprising me with his conversational skills. He's a real gem to have in the family, always using his manners and thinking about his other family members.

Fraser turned one this year. He has started walking, talking and voicing his very strong opinion on things. He is very outgoing and seems to strive to keep up with his big brothers. Out of all the boys he's probably the one with the personality most like my own. Even though I know that means he'll be high energy and a chatterbox I'm happy to know he'll be full of life and character!

I'm very lucky to have this wonderful life. I'm so happy that I married a man that I'm in total love with and who loves me regardless of my faults. He amazes me all the time with how well he copes with four children in the house, let alone two born so close together.

So after such a great year how on Earth will I top it next year? Well, I have some crazy ideas rolling around in my head. I have a few friends turning 40 in 2012 and we have some big plans to celebrate, perhaps even involving a sky-dive! I'm sure you'll all be the first to hear about it ;)

Thanks for reading in 2011
Stay tuned for 2012

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Today I was in the throws of teaching my sons at home as I usually do. I got to thinking about the different ways in which I go about teaching them to make allowances for their learning difficulties. Some of these things have become quite automatic over time and others I'm still learning as we travel along this path. I'm thinking there are many teaching methods I change, tools and resources I use or topics I spend time emphasising that might help others in a similar situation. Some of these things could even be applied to children learning in a normal school environment if the parent is willing to put in some extra effort or has a good relationship with their child's school teacher.

Here's some of the things we do:

1) MAKE GOOD USE OF A PHOTOCOPIER. Some worksheets I set for Bailey have a lot of things happening on the one page. Simply by photocopying a normally brightly coloured sheet to take it back to black and white can make a big difference in the way Bailey looks at the work. I then just highlight any key words that I want to ensure he doesn't miss. I even copy half a page at a time sometimes if I think there's too much work on the one page. It's not enough for me to tell him he only has to complete a portion of the page. The second he lays his eye on the page he instantly sees the quantity of work and goes into mental shutdown mode.

2) SECTIONING OFF WORK. When Bailey is completing worksheets I often ensure I draw a distinct loop around each question or each column of work. To you or I the difference may seem minimal but he doesn't notice the normal small numerical or alphabetical cues attached to each question. If I don't section off work he will draw lines from one side of the page to the other if he thinks the answer fits!

The first picture above is how a child would normally see this page in a typical classroom setting. The second picture is how I section off a page of work for Bailey to make it easier for him to follow and not be so daunted by the amount of work visible as the book is opened. I usually do the first question from each set with him so he understands what is expected for each subsequent question.

I gave this worksheet to Bailey yesterday and I explained that each picture had 2 words in the line alongside that had the same word pattern. He needed to circle those 2. I left him for a moment to come back to tears as he advised that he could not find any of the words. He was looking in the large group of words for the word 'six' and 'pin'. I had thought he could complete the activity without sectioning but I was wrong. We started with a fresh sheet as seen in the second picture and he completed it without an issue. Only a small difference to us but a huge difference to him.

3) GETTING THE ENERGY OUT BEFORE SITTING. This one applies to hyperactive children like Dane. I've found I can get Dane to sit a little longer without as much fidgeting if I allow him some time to run off some energy. In the cooler months I let the boys go outside to ride bikes, jump on the trampoline and run after the dog first thing in the morning. In Summer it's a little harder to use this approach due to the heat outside so we do some dancing or play some instruments instead. Once they have run off some energy I get them to sit on the mat to do some general reading and discussion before sitting down to around 10 mins of work with a 5 minute fun activity in between. I can normally get up to 1 hour out of the boys which is about all I expect from a 5 and 8 year old with concentration issues. Bailey will however also do some reading usually later in the day.

4) DOUBLE SHARPENING PENCILS. Anyone who has a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder will know that one of the biggest struggles with teaching them is their lack of concentration. One thing I found that was constantly distracting my boys was their need to keep sharpening their pencils. I now control the sharpener myself and have taken to sharpening both ends of the pencil so if one side breaks they can continue without interruption just by flipping it over. Seems simple but works a treat!

I think I'll leave this blog here and continue again soon with some more hints and tips ;)


Monday, October 31, 2011


The boys have had a great time learning about all the things that live under the sea this month. The Ocean Life book I bought from Coles has been a real godsend as it has given us lots to read about as well as maths and english based activities. I find the boys are so much more willing to do some schoolwork when it's fun and centred around our monthly topic.

We finished off the month with some super cool art activities so I thought I'd share them with you all.

We bought some plain white paper plates in 2 sizes, some brightly coloured paper patty pan cases in 2 sizes and pulled out our scissors, stapler, sticky tape, paint, glitter and some party string. I found these 2 activities can be done with children of all ages. Ehren (2) did some of the painting and glitterwork, Dane (5) did most of his artwork alone just with some help with the stapler and sticky tape. Bailey (8) was able to to do all the work himself.


Take a large paper plate. Cut from the edge towards the centre and stop in the middle. Holding the plate upside down pull the edge around until you get a cone-like shape with the plate and secure with 2 staples. Next the child can paint their jellyfish in a nice bright colour and finish by sprinkling some glitter over the top of the paint whilst still wet (glitter optional). Leave to dry. When dry tie a little piece of party string through the centre to hang the jellyfish from. Then cut several pieces of long party string and use sticky tape to secure under the jellyfish. Hang your jellyfish somewhere impressive where the glitter can catch the light.


Take a small paper plate. You or the child can cut a little semi circle from one edge for the fish mouth. Get the child to paint their paper plate in a bright colour, sprinkle with glitter and leave to dry. Once dry take a small patty pan case and fold in half. Glue this to the fish in the middle as the fin. Take 3 large patty pan cases in different colour and fold them in half with each colour showing a little. Staple this to the tail and fan out. Paint a black eye on the fish and then it is ready to display.

My boys loved doing these. We spent the afternoon out on the veranda where they could make as much mess as they liked, as the glitter can get things a little messy.

We finished off by cutting some starfish out of some remaining paper plates and painted them to stick on our light with our jellyfish. They were very simple and could be done using even the back of a cereal box!

This month we are doing our theme as 'Around the world in 30 days'. Watch out for the blog soon!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Never a dull moment

To say life with my boys is busy would be a total understatement. I often find myself in the midst of several things at once, some of which probably never fully get completed, but would you expect anything different with 4 active young boys aged 8 and under in the house? Some days can really feel like groundhog day, stuck under a sea of washing up, mountain of laundry and never ending dirty nappies. For the most part though our days are great, filled with smiles and laughter with my boys proving just how clever and amazing they really are.

This week has started with a bang. Over the last few days I've had so much happen I can barely keep up. My boys are changing, evolving, learning at alarming rates, keeping me guessing what next surprise is lurking around the corner! It's been a magical time in our home, one I doubt I'll ever forget. Nevertheless I thought it's best to blog about it so when I am having one of those groundhog days I can look back and get the inspiration to keep on keeping on!

This week we've officially started Toilet training (TT) with Ehren. Ehren is 2 years/5 mths old and although I'm ever mindful kids do things in their own time I've also been vaguely aware that this is the exact age Bailey and Dane conquered their TT. Well yesterday we had success! He used the potty of his own accord, exactly when he needed it. He's also gone again today so I think we're well and truly on the road. I know it's not complete yet but at least I have relief knowing very soon I'll have only one in nappies. Ehren is also talking up a storm these days. He can have a proper conversation with us now. It's such a relief knowing he probably won't need speech therapy as both Bailey and Dane did.

Yesterday was also a day of success for Dane. He was doing a colour by numbers page and was able to identify the words black and orange. Today he was able to read the word Mum, yellow and red. Seems all the phonics work he's been working hard on is starting to show results! I'm such a proud Mummy. The funniest part though was last night he said "Mummy I didn't read those words, I just remembered the sounds". I said "Dane, that's what reading is!"

Bailey lost another tooth last night. He's looking more like a big boy with every tooth he loses. He's a little concerned that the new one isn't there to fill the gap (most of his teeth had the other halfway down by the time they came out). I reminded him that teeth grow very quick and it will be in before he knows it. He's also going very well with his homeschooling lately. I gave him a Maths test yesterday out of an actual textbook he'd be using if he were in standard school. He aced it with a perfect score.

Our baby Fraser is 14 months old now. He's just started walking around the house and although he's a little unsteady on his feet he'll be chasing after his brothers in no time. He's coming out with new words all the time, yesterday's new word was banana! They truly do grow up too quick!

So there it is, our magical day. Seems all my boys were wanting to outdo the other! I'm equally as proud and in love with all 4 of them. It's really beautiful having a big boy, a preschooler, a toddler and baby in the house. As busy as I always am I wouldn't change it for the world :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Totally blasted - Fire Safety talk day!

Last week my boys were lucky enough to join their Homeschooling group for a Fire Safety talk with some local firemen. I thought the boys would find it quite interesting and get a nice look at the truck but it turns out that it was a much more in depth look than we originally thought.

The firemen gave a talk firstly about fire safety procedures in the home. It was an interactive session with many delightful questions from our kids and lots of answers to the fireman's questions. They discussed the importance of smoke detectors, procedures to take if a fire occurs in the home and reinforced the importance of fires not being lit in bushlands and public places. Then they took the kids over to the fire truck for some demonstrations.

The children got to look at some of the tools and machinery they keep on board the truck. My boys have always had a liking for the jaws of life and were absolutely delighted when they got to see it working along with the cutting implements used primarily in car accidents. The firemen donned the full fire-fighting equipment explaining how they use the oxygen tank to breathe when in the midst of a fire.

Then for the part the children had really hoped for. They all got a turn using the fire hose, with the help of a fire-man of course. They were so surprised at the force of the water and there was even a bit of mucking around from the firemen trying to wet the Mums!

They finished up with a little more of a talk, then the children were all given special activity packs. After about an hour of fun and learning it was time for the firemen to leave, but not before giving us some sirens on their way off! What a blast the kids all had. Even us Mums didn't mind standing around chatting to half a dozen firemen. Funny that ;)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Those who know me well know that I keep my boys fairly well disciplined most the time. I like to keep their bedtimes the same just about every night. They are not allowed to leave the inside of the house without shoes on nor are they are allowed to play in the front yard. Our front door (or veranda gate) is always locked and they are not to play with Mummy and Daddy's phones, laptops or go venturing into Daddy's office.

Sounds a bit harsh? Perhaps. Mind you the rewards certainly pay off when we have all 4 boys sleeping straight through the night and a happy home where rules aren't made up on the spot. The boys have boundaries and always know what to expect from us. They have learnt to respect valuable belongings and to treat each other with love and compassion. Sure they have their odd arguments at times for the most part they are really good kids.

The one area of discipline I've been slow to take on with the boys however is housework. I am very mindful that I need to show them what to do and how to do it so they are able to care for their own homes when they are older, but I'm also very wary not to let them feel like they are being treated as my own personal little slaves. Lately I've been explaining the concept of a whole family helping out in order to keep a house looking clean and tidy.

The older boys have been responsible for tidying up their own toys now for quite some years now but up until this year I've not really given them any regular chores so to speak. Just lately I'd been thinking how nice it would be to get a bit of help with the dishes. I'm sure most people would agree that handwashing dishes for a family of 6 can sometimes be a nightmare. Imagine my surprise when Bailey suggested he should start doing the washing up for me! I was worried at first he wouldn't do a good enough job so gave him some plastic plates the first few days and then I realised he was doing a better job than me!!

Bailey has been washing up the plastics most days now for the past fortnight and not only does he love helping out it's also made the rest of the dishes so much less daunting for me to complete :)

Dane asked if there was a special job he could do so he wipes the table down now after every meal. He also likes to grab my upright stick vacuum and have a bit of a go with that. In fact Bailey & Dane take it in turns as they love using it so much.

What I am realising now is that by introducing the concept of helping your family and being considerate of other people I've automatically introduced the idea of helping with household chores without to need to actually delegate or enforce them. Bailey, Dane and Ehren continually surprise me with their helpful gestures which makes me so proud that they are growing to be beautiful, caring young boys. I'm definitely one lucky Mum!

Monday, October 10, 2011


Every month we choose a topic to base our homeschooling activities on. This month is UNDER THE SEA OCTOBER!

So far we have visited Seaworld and seen many exciting ocean animals, read many books about marine life and got up close and personal with some very interesting sea creatures during a Ocean Life presentation with our other homeschooling friends.

The Ocean Life presenter brought along some sea creatures so the children could look and touch. They learnt about the animals' natural habitats, feeding and breeding habits and also how to ensure our waterways, rivers, lakes and oceans can be cared for to preserve for future generations.

The kids were thrilled to get up close with sea urchins, sea stars, a small shark, sea cucumbers and even got to pat a freshwater turtle.

We were all quite surprised to find that the sea urchin's spikes felt like bits of wood and the sea cucumber didn't feel spiky at all, just soft and squishy. Dane exclaimed later that the sea cucumber was just like a pillow!

We are using a brilliant book we bought from Coles (bargain price of $5) to tie in with this months learning of ocean life. The book is proving to be a huge hit with the boys with a good mix of learning and fun, incorporating maths, reading, writing and science. I'm getting even more value from it by photocopying all the worksheets (which I do with all our workbooks).

I'm hoping to take the boys to Seaworld a few more times this month as we have annual passes now. Perhaps some of our homeschooling friends will join us next time?

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I often get asked by friends and family how we manage our space for Homeschooling and exactly what we have to help us on our journey. I thought it was well past time that I took you all for a tour through our classroom/playroom and show you the types of things we use.

Our classroom was originally the home's loungeroom. We live in a home that has fairly good sized rooms but not a lot of them so we needed to be very organised when planning how to best use our space for teaching all the boys and allowing them enough room to learn and play. I moved the loungeroom into the smaller room that I guess was intended as a formal dining room. We don't need to use it for that as the kitchen is huge with more than enough room for our large table and 6 chairs. I thought outside of the box and realised myself and the boys spend the majority of our time at home in that classroom so it not only needed to be the bigger of the rooms but also central to the rest of the home. Putting them all into a bedroom located at the back of the house would just be a recipe for disaster as I wouldn't be able to properly supervise when working and cleaning in the kitchen (let's face it, with 4 boys I spend quite a lot of my time in the kitchen).

So we made the move into the loungeroom, added some new blockout curtains to avoid the afternoon Summer Sun flooding in and ventured off to Ikea to fitout the classroom. I have found the Expedit series of storage solutions to be the best for our purpose. We've been able to make the most of the vertical space in the room by shelving up against walls and right up to the front windows. Unfortunately the only downside is we have little wall space for displaying posters and artwork.

I recently bought a new Expedit bookcase to serve as the resources library. It houses all the workbooks for both Bailey and Dane, curriculum and reporting materials and some cool educational activities and toys. I find that by tucking it away in the corner beside my desk it deters the little ones from thinking it's interesting enough be pulling things out.

Our large Expedit shelves store art materials along the top in lightweight mesh Ikea storage boxes. The far left side stores boardgames and we keep more Art stuff on the top shelf next to more advanced educational toys and our little library of Usborne Young Readers. I plan to add more Usborne books to this library as time goes on as the boys adore the pictures and Bailey finds the word layout easy to read. We also store Playdo & tools, puzzles, cars, trains and playfood things to use with the play fridge and oven/stovetop.

 It is great that the room has timber floorboards as any playdo, paint, collage mess is very easy to clean. Each pigeonhole within the shelves have boxes with the name and a picture of the items that are stored inside. This way we all know exactly where everything is and it makes packing away a much simpler and quicker process.

I have a large desk for myself which I use to plan and organise workbooks and lessons. It also houses things like our current curriculum so I can constantly reflect and assess areas we haven't yet covered. We display on the wall a weekly planner for all the family to see. This is a great visual aid for Bailey so he can expect what may be coming in that week and also look forward to special events or spending the weekend at home with Daddy. We also have a World Map poster which is not only great for the boys when learning where places are located but is also used during our various units of study (eg: whilst we were learning about endangered animals we flagged the locations they live).

We have a good sized bookshelf but I am fast realising that this is not going to be big enough down the track. Here we store various encyclopaedias, science books, books on history and geography, animals, transport, etc. We also keep our special family reading books here at a higher shelf level away from little fingers. The two little boys have 2 of their own small bookshelves where we keep baby, toddler and young children's books. Ehren quite often takes a book from there to look at or selects a book he wants me to read to him. We have a road playmat that doubles as a softer floor to sit on an oversized cushion to have a little read of a book.

In our room we have various educational activities that help with an array of skill building areas. We have a lovely set of scales purchased from Edsco which is great for teaching measurement and mass in a more hands on manner. We have 2 sets of different tesselate shape sets for counting, sorting and creative play. We have a small container of counting bears which proves very beneficial teaching addition and subtraction and well as teaching younger children their colours and sizes. We have a Tupperware Shape-o-ball and a Stack-a-peg set which are good for teaching shapes, sizes, colours and great for improving fine motor skills and cognitive development. We have a sentence building set bought from Modern Teaching Aids which is awesome for sight word recognition, sentence building and spelling skills.

I'm guessing by now you've all got sore eyes from reading too much so I'm thinking I might continue more on this topic in a part two! Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Using inspiration from the Art classes the boys have been doing at their Homeschool Group's Monday classes we decided to have our own little Art class this afternoon out on the verandah.

I had some canvas tucked away that I bought from Riot Art n Craft a few weeks back when they were reduced. I was just waiting for the right opportunity to bring them out to paint. Bailey asked if we could do some painting so I thought I should join them and be a little more formal this time.

We drew our sketch onto the canvas with a lead pencil and then added our paint to create our little masterpieces. Bailey and Dane decided to do their artwork inspired by one of their favourite ABC shows 'The Octonauts'. I decided to imagine it was a beautiful sunny day at the beach, quite a contrast from the sun-showery Winter day that surrounded us out on the verandah.

We spoke about colours as we mixed the right shades for our paintings and we tried to keep a balanced hand whilst we used to the brush to do small details. I showed the boys how to layer colours to create depth. I was very impressed with Bailey's attention to detail and the fact Dane managed to sit in the one spot for at least an hour.

Bailey and I took our time and spent a good 2 hours chatting and painting whilst Ehren slept and Fraser ate and played. All in all it made for a lovely afternoon. Something we'll have to do again very soon.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kiddies Food ideas & recipes

A friend of mine asked for a recipe I recently made for Milo muffins and was after some kiddies lunchbox ideas so here goes. Anyone who knows me knows that I try to give my kids as healthy foods as possible, so this always includes plenty of fresh fruit, dairy items like yoghurt and wholemeal bread is always a must in my house. I have 1 boy that's quite lactose intolerant and another 3 boys that are mildly lactose intolerant so I always use the Lactose free milk in my baking. I also use olive oil in place of butter in just about all my recipes.

The best way to cut your grocery bill down when it comes to kids lunches is buying things whole and packing them yourself. I have found Tupperware to have the best range of containers for storing food in. Their kiddies' snack cups are awesome for sultanass, chopped up strawberries/kiwi fruit/grapes, etc. The dip bowl containers are slightly larger and perfectly fit a small muffin or cupcake, a chopped up apple/orange/mandarin and the sandwich box is a great alternative to gladwrap (think of the money saved and environmental benefits), plus it's easy for little fingers to open, easy to clean and stores even those sandwiches made from the larger bread. The initial investment of these core tupperware items will eventually pay for themselves.

Some recipes we love here in our house are:


1.5 cups SR Flour
2/3 cup Milo
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup brown sugar (or raw caster sugar or whatever you have)
1/2 tsp baking powder
60g Butter, softened (or olive oil)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Add all ingredients into a mixer and beat until smooth and combined.
Pour into muffin cases placed into a greased muffin tray. (Use olive oil spray to save time)
Bake for 25 mins. (Check after 15 mins and every 5 mins after to get the best time for your oven)
You'll know they're ready as they'll bounce back when you touch the top and will look smooth and glossy instead of sticky. HINT: I always open one to do a quick taste test ;)


70g Dried Blueberries (or sultanas or other dried fruit)
1 cup rolled oats (you can use quick oats for a smoother blend)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup SR Flour
1/2 cup raw sugar (substitute for more honey or maple syrup if you wish)
125g butter (or olive oil)
2 tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Melt butter and honey in a large saucepan until bubbling. Take off stove.
Sift in flour and add all dry ingredients into the saucepan. Stir until combined.
Press mixture firmly into a lightly greased and lined (one strip baking paper lengthways) small rectangle baking tray.
Bake for 10-15 mins until golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool in the tray for 10 mins.
Remove by holding onto end of baking paper and transfer to a chopping board. Cut using a long knife and cut continuous straight cuts lengthways first and then across to make the size you require.
Will make approx 12 small squares.


You can make these using cheese & vegemite, ham & cheese, sundried tomatoes & cheese, whatever your family likes. Just substitute tomato paste/bbq sauce for the vegemite to keep it moist.

3.5 cups Plain flour
3.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk (can use plain milk if you wish)
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp vegemite
1.5 cups grated cheese (use low fat if you wish)

Combine flour and baking powder in bowl.
Slowly add both milks til they form a sticky dough.
Place on floured surface, kneading til it can be rolled into a rectangle.
Roll out to approx 30x40cms.
Evenly spread the vegemite all over, then pop cheese all over.
Roll longways into a tube and cut each tube into approx 12 rolls.
Pop oven on at 200 degrees at this point.
Arrange closely together on a lined baking tray, brushing the tops with lightly beaten egg if you wish.
Bake for 20-30 mins, watching to check the best time for your oven.
They'll be ready when they look golden and puffy and cheese melted and bubbly.


2 cups SR flour
1/2 tsp milk paprika (omit if desired)
1 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)
1 egg, lightly beaten
80g olive oil (or butter)
2/3 cup grated cheese
1 small zucchini, grated
125g can corn kernels, drained
1 shallot, sliced thinly
2 tsp parsley

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Grease muffin pan and line with 12 muffin cases.
Sift flour & paprika into bowl and then add in other ingredients.
Stir gently, do not over mix. You want the mixture to be lumpy but all mixed together.
Spoon evenly into the cases and bake for approx 20 mins.
HINT: After 15 mins if they look slightly golden you can use one for a taste test as I usually do ;)

These should get you started! Now I'm off to go make some muesli bars I think!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Our Homeschool Group

Thought it's been a while since I've done a blog on our homeschooling so here I am ;)

I've had so many friends ask us lately what I actually do at home with my boys. Seems people either think I get my boys to sit a desk from 9am til 3pm with a few short breaks or the other extreme I just let them run wild through the house and do as they please. Well yes some days they do more as they please but it's on those days that I just steer them into a learning direction that they don't even realise.

This year we found a local homeschooling group which has already been established for quite a few years. They consist of a very organised group of Homeschooling Mums that together formed a committee (much like the P&C committees within the state school system). They each have their roles and organise excursions, plays in various parks and what they call Lucky Monday classes. These classes are held within a local community centre and are set to a timetable for different age levels. My boys have had the joy of partaking in Spanish, Art, Drama, Science and this term Martial Arts lessons. The classes are mostly run by professionals in their field and we pay a small charge for each class that they take part in.

The thing I love the most about Lucky Mondays is that it's a great opportunity for the boys to join with peers to learn in an environment away from home. It's like a classroom setting similar to what they'd be receiving at a standard school, yet the Mums get to be there for support or assistance should they need it. It's a relatively short day, compared to standard school. My boys usually do 2-3 lessons on those Mondays so it's never longer than a 3 hour day of learning, which is about the extent of my boys concentration right now. They are small classes, usually around 5-10 kids per class so it's generally more hands-on and I know with Bailey he feels much more comfortable learning in a smaller setting.

The Homeschool group also organise various sporting activities for the kids. My boys have participated this year in weekly Sports and physical skill lessons run by the Life Be In It association. They've also done some swimming lessons with their homeschooling friends. This will be starting up again in the warmer months. Most of these activities have a cost involved but I've found it much cheaper than if I just sent them on their own, as we receive a group booking discount. I'm sure in the next couple of years I'll also look to putting them into other sports that are organised such as Rock climbing, golf and tennis.

My boys see their friends each week at Monday classes, Tuesdays sports and then at a park, excursion or a friend's home at least once a week. The other times of the week we spend reading, doing art and craft, watching educational documentaries, brainstorming and learning together on new topics, practising handwriting, mathematics worksheets, educational computer games and a host of other activities. They certainly get plenty of chances to socialise with their friends and also an array of learning experiences each and every week.

We've been so very lucky to find this group of Homeschoolers and I've loved seeing my boys make great friendships with some of the other kids. I've also been blessed to meet some amazing friends, mothers who want the same things for their kids, women with a wealth of knowledge in so many areas of life. Homeschooling has been a huge change in lifestyle for us. It's been the best decision I've ever made for my children and one I don't foresee ever regretting.

Thanks for reading

(Life Be In It classes)

(Dane and I at an environmental learning centre)

My personal weight loss challenge

Many of you have commented on the weight I've lost over the last several months. I've been asked time and time again how I've done it and what diet I'm following. I thought this blog might be the easy way to answer your questions all at once ;)
Firstly let me tell you that I haven't reached my goal yet, so if I've inspired you to lose some weight too then I'm happy for you to come along for the last bit of my ride with me. Most importantly I want to make something very clear. What I'm doing is NOT a diet. It doesn't involve attending a gym, it doesn't involve a financial outlay or appointments with weight loss consultants and it definitely does NOT involve drinking a shake instead of good, wholesome food! It's just about changing your bad habits and creating new good habits when it comes to the food you eat and the kind of life you lead. Anyone can do this and the results speak for themselves.

There's a few simple things that I have found that work for me. They may not work for everyone but I'm betting they'll work for most.

Eating small, regular meals - Some people think eating only a couple of meals a day is better than snacking all day long. I find however if I go too long without eating I get so hungry I'm willing to eat anything and everything in sight. The idea of taking my time to whip up a nice healthy meal completely goes out the window when I'm totally and utterly starving. Have a piece of fruit, a muesli bar, a handful of nuts in between meals. It will keep your tummy that little bit full and give you enough time and energy to organise a healthy lunch or dinner as opposed to the first drive thru or packet of chips you come across.

Plan ahead - If you're leaving home for the day and you know you're going to get peckish whilst you're out plan ahead of time and pack some healthy snacks into a lunchbox or handbag. Sure it might be easy to drive thru Maccas or stop at the servo for a chocolate bar but the reality is if you had an apple or muesli bar tucked into your bag you're far less likely to make those unhealthy last minute choices. I find this trick also works really well in saving money. If I stop at the servo to get myself and the kids all a drink and snack I can easily spend over $20 for something that is only really keeping us happy for an hour or two.

Eat fresh food in abundance - We spend at least $50 a week at our local greengrocer. I find that snacking on fresh fruit often gives me the sweet hit I'm looking for with the added advantage of keeping me feeling fit and healthy. I allow the kids to grab fruit straight from the fruit bowl as they like which means it can cost me a fortune but at least I know they're filling up on good healthy snacks. I also make my own juices which I sometimes use in place of afternoon tea to fill me enough til dinner time. My favourite  apple juice is made from green apples, a sliver or ginger and 1 stick of rhubarb.  My carrot juice is made from carrots, a little ginger with a few green apples to slightly sweeten.

Keep active - Friends keep asking me if I'm going to a Gym to lose the weight. I have done the Gym thing in the past but for me it never seemed to give any real noticeable long lasting results. I find that keeping an active lifestyle, running after 4 boys all day is enough to keep me feeling fit. I don't spend much time at home, even on the weekends. We are often out at a park, doing plenty of walking and in the warmer months enjoy going for a swim. I also enjoy going out dancing with friends on occasion. We have never felt the need to get Foxtel and rarely sit home watching movies or playing the PS or Wii.

Drink less alcohol - Here's where things get tough for some people. I've found since having my boys my need for a drink has lessened over the years and I just can't be bothered trying to deal with a hangover when there is 4 boys relying on me. Drinking alcohol regularly can seriously increase your calorie intake for the week without really noticing it. Switching to a glass of wine or low joule beer just a few times a week you'll soon notice the benefits not just on your body but also your wallet!

Changing the mindset - What I believe is the biggest factor in me losing almost 20kgs in the last 9 months is my motivation to leave the old behind and forge ahead feeling fit and healthy. It wasn't just about the numbers on the scale. It was about the gain in energy, clearer skin and about my long term health. I had a Hysterectomy and repairs last year (required due to a traumatic delivery of my first son) and more recently surgery for Hernias I incurred during my last pregnancy. If there's one thing I've learnt about surgery is that you wouldn't wish the post surgery pain and recovery time on your worst enemy. There's no way I'm going back to hospital for something that I can prevent. For this reason I don't smoke, rarely drink and I'm determined to keep myself in optimal health, long term. By losing another 4 kgs I'll officially be in the Healthy weight range. This is something I've been aiming for since back at Christmas last year.

Ideally I'd like to lose another 7 kgs which will put me back at the weight I was 9 years ago when I married my husband, right before we started a family. I'd love to hear from some of you who are going to join me on my weight loss journey. Stay tuned for more updates ;)

Photo 1: Me at Size 18 in red dress.
Photo 2: Me at Size 14 one year later.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kids Kitchen

I'm not sure how these things come into my mind sometimes but I had what I thought was a wonderful idea that I just had to share with you all :)

So here I was, in the kitchen (aren't I always) in the middle of making up some organic vanilla custard for Fraser when Dane expresses interest in trying some. Considering the Heinz packets of custard powder is intended for babies 6 months and over, here I am thinking he's not going to like it at all. Here's where my awesome idea comes in.....

How about if I add some Milo and make it chocolate custard? How about if I grate some dark chocolate and sprinkle the shavings on top and serve it like a proper dessert?

Well once I'd created my masterpiece all of the boys wanted some of course! After tasting some myself I must say if I didn't know it was made from baby custard I'd think it was some super yummy dessert snack! So now I've found a simple, yummy and fairly healthy treat for all the family. How much did it cost me to make this yummy snack? About a third of a packet of Heinz Organic vanilla custard, about 200mls milk and a few spoonfuls of milo all adds up to just over $1 for 4 generous servings. Not bad I say! Much cheaper than those Yogo snack things (not that I buy them usually).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Our Easter 2011 Trip

Those of you who have been living under a rock might not know that a few months back we bought an old caravan and decided to fix it up a bit to do some travel with around Australia. We decided late last year that a light weight caravan might be an easier option for taking a holiday every now and then rather than tenting it as we have done now for several years. Space was getting pretty tight in the fourby now we've got the 4 boys and there was only so much stuff we could stow away on the roof basket before it reached weight limits. Besides who wants to spend a good half hour to set-up your basic tent layout just to stop over for a night somewhere and then have to pull it all back down again in the morning before hitting the road. We also soon realised motels charge you a fortune to stay even one night once you're family of 6!

Our best solution was to buy a cheap old caravan that we could pay outright cash on and do it up over time to make a comfortable place to eat and sleep, not to mention carry all our stuff in. Actually who am I kidding, the main reason for the caravan was so I could take a mountain of clothes and shoes with me and not be concerned if my suitcase is going to fit in the boot! We spend a good 3 months searching on Ebay to find the very best bang for buck. We considered a pop top to cut down the weight and the height of the van but most of the second-hand vans we looked at had water damage from the pop top or needed the canvas replacing. We also thought about buying a camper trailer but figured it needed almost as much setting up as our turbo-lite tent and you were still carting something behind your car. Finally we agreed that a basic full height but lighter weight caravan would serve the purpose and if we really wanted to rough it and do harder tracks we would go back to using the old tent for those trips. We bought an old Viscount because there seemed to be a lot of them still available and we did some research and founds parts were still very easy to buy. We got it at a good price as it had a fair bit of work to be done but was still towable back from Newcastle where we bought it from.

This Easter was our first caravan trip so as you can imagine we were all very excited. We spent hours in the caravan, painting, pulling out old carpet, filling holes and taking out the copious amounts of hooks and nails the previous owner had stupidly hammered in all around the caravan! We replaced the hubs and fitted brand new light truck tyres on the van and the spare wheel. Clif took the old dodgy hitch off and replaced it with a brand new assembly and replaced all the brake assembly with new parts. We pulled out the old kitchen and Clif replaced it with a temporary kitchen to get us through the trip, basically a pre-loved caravan sink put onto a new base. We'll work on the new kitchen in the coming months and have it ready for our next trip, hopefully a short one in October.

Our trip lasted 7 nights and 8 days and took us down through country NSW into the Blue Mountains region before heading back up along the coast to home. Our plan was to gradually chill out on the way down to the cold and then thaw out on the way back.

 Unfortunately my itinerary planning for our first night's stay in Armidale was made without the knowledge that it is in fact is one of the coldest towns in country New South Wales! Armidale is set up high on a mountain and catches a lot of the cool winds coming across the surrounding valley. We set ourselves up at the Pembroke Tourist park and were pleased to discover we had been given an ensuite site. For those camping amateurs this means you have your own bathroom (usually a toilet, shower and basin). It might not seem such a big deal but when you've got kids waking up to use the toilet at 2am in sub zero temperatures it's a true godsend!

We all took a walk from the caravan park to the closest Bunnings down the road to get a few odd things we hadn't thought about bringing! Walking back at 7pm the weather had become quite brisk but didn't seem too bad. We had some dinner and went off to bed soon after and figured we'd be ok without the heater as although it was cool we had lots of warm pj's and sleeping bags. Turns out the weather changed considerably at around 2am to the point that poor Fraser just couldn't stay warm and spent a good part of the morning awake screaming in our bed! We had to move stuff around to pull the heater out of the hatch under our bed but by then the van was already too cold to really make much difference til morning. We were beginning to wonder if this trip was going to be worth it!

Next day we headed for Tamworth for some sightseeing. We did some shopping at their 'big' shops and stocked up on even warmer clothes for the kiddies. We were a bit panicked that if the weather was that cold in Armidale what in the world would it be like in the Blue Mountains? We stopped off at the Golden Guitar for a look and some coffee (which was the worst coffee I've ever tasted mind you) then headed for our next night's stay in Scone.

We pulled into the caravan park in Scone and my poor hubby just wanted to turn the van around and keep going. It was a very old park, mostly filled with long term tenants in even dodgier vans than ours. In fact it's quite possible that our 32 year old caravan was the pick of the bunch so that's saying a lot. I knew when booking the park that it would be nothing special as it was the cheapest site on our itinerary but I figured it was a just a stopover so didn't really matter. We set up the van and played some totem tennis that we had brought along for the trip. Thankfully Scone is down in the valley so it was a warmer night than the previous one, but we put the heater on anyway just to be sure. We had a much better night's sleep that night and headed off first thing in the morning for the Jenolan Caravan park in Oberon where we would be staying for 3 nights. We were both very excited and apprehensive about reaching the coldest part of our journey.

I decided that we should take the scenic route and take a drive down through the mountains rather than out through Newcastle. At first the scenery was bushy and slightly boring but as time passed and we got deeper in the mountains we were thrilled to find huge rocky canyons, mountains reaching high into the clouds and deep valleys with beautiful lookouts. At one stage the road got dustier until we were led onto an unsealed road. Unfortunately it was at this time that we lost GPS signal and had no real idea how long the road would remain unsealed or how well suited it would be for the caravan. We travelled for around 30 mins on the bumpy unsealed road until we were back out on the Golden Highway and came across a cute little country town for a toilet stop and a stretch. Clif thought it was a good thing for the caravan to 'rough it' a bit as it proved that it really is a strong, old battle axe.

We reached Oberon late Thursday afternoon and set up the caravan for the longer stay. The big boys were keen to take their scooters for a spin to find out how many kids were staying for the Easter break. The park was at maximum capacity with loads of families setting up their monstrous campsites, complete with outdoor kitchens covered by huge outdoor tarps. Some even had their normal fridge from home stacked with meat and beer in preparation for the long weekend. We looked tiny by comparison. Just our car parked neatly beside our little 13 foot sunshine yellow striped caravan. No annexe, no tarp, just 2 folding chairs and a picnic blanket.

Good Friday was our big day. We had our 2 most exciting activities planned and it would all come down to perfect timing for us to get them both done. We headed off first thing towards the Jenolan caves. The road from Oberon stretches down towards the bottom of the mountain. It's an extremely twisty road, perhaps the steepest drive I've ever done. I put the Prado into first gear at the top of the mountain and it stayed that way right to the bottom, which takes about half an hour to descend. Finally when we reached the bottom we walked towards the amazing chalet type buildings to find a mish-mash of tourists, backpackers and families rugged up in their winter woolies.

The line-up at the ticket counter seemed endless and I was glad I left the family back in the car at the carpark whilst I got the tickets organised. The tour we wanted to do was the Imperial cave tour. I had chosen this tour as it was apparently the easiest and the best for young children. It had just over 300 steps to complete in an hour, whereas some others had over 1200 steps to complete in less than 2 hours. I reached the front of the line at 9:30 and was lucky enough to get the 10am tour. This meant though I had to run right to the top of the very steep hill to get the family to drive down to the drop off point so Clif could go back and park the car. I gave Fraser a breastfeed whilst we waited for Clif to return, whilst trying to ensure Ehren didn't jump into the waterfall/pond in front of us. Easier said than done, without a pram and a baby attached to the breast.

We managed to make our way to the cave opening with a few minutes to spare and wait for our guide to meet up with our group. The boys made friends with a little boy of similar age that was also waiting for the Imperial tour. Our guide showed up and we made our way up a staircase that led us into the top of the cave entrance. The Imperial cave follows the underground river and is mostly flat with a few steps down as you walk along through it. The underground river itself was probably the most impressive thing. It is crystal clear water with limestone sand underneath. It is that clear when you first look you swear it is just sand, no water at all. The stalactites and stalagmites are very impressive. They have been stained with peachy-apricot colours from the sediment washed along with the river over time. Our guide explains that this cave can get quite deep with water during times of plentiful rain and it was impassible earlier this year with all the floods that occurred down South. Our boys were quite impressed with the crystals growing on some of the walls. We are told that the crystals are much more impressive in some of the other larger caves. We will come back again in a few years when the boys are bigger to take a look at those. Clif and I were getting quite buggered as we reached the end of the tour. I was carrying Fraser in his sling and poor Clif was carrying Ehren through most of the walk, up and down stairs, through very low, cut away cave ceilings.

We didn't get much time to hang around in Jenolan as we were hoping to catch the 1pm steam train leaving from the ZigZag Railway in Clarence, just out of Lithgow. We raced back to the car and took the drive through the mountains trying our best to get there in time. Luckily I'm a bit of a leadfoot and a fairly confident driver and managed to get us there just as the train was pulling into the station. We quickly grabbed our tickets and loaded the boys onto the train before it departed for it's journey into the Blue Mountains.

Bailey LOVES trains. In fact that's probably the understatement of the year! Bailey lives, eats, sleeps and breathes trains and the look on his face as we took off in one of his beloved 'steamies' was totally priceless. The train stopped a number of times to turn the train in opposite directions as we zigzagged down and then back up the mountains. The ride was a little scary at first. The track sits right on the edge of the mountains and the train feels a little unsteady as it rattles around along the tracks. There are 2 very old brick bridges that the train travels across and a very long tunnel that puts the train into complete darkness for a good 3 or 4 minutes. The train itself is an old Queensland Rail steam train. You can almost imagine yourself as one of the passengers back in the days when train travel was one of the most popular forms of transport. It's quite smelly from the coal and the train workers themselves end up black by the end of the 2 hour journey. The train ride was one of the real highlights of our trip. It's something I know Bailey & Dane will remember fondly right into their adult years.

The next day we decided to take a drive into Bathurst after a recommendation from a facebook friend that lives there. We took a drive to take a look at Mt Panorama then spent a good few hours at their award winning adventure playground. We all had a ball there, us adults included. The boys rode their scooters on the awesome paths, we all went on the flying foxes, the giant slide and took a climb up the giant web-like climbing structure. After that we moved on to the Kelso Pub. The food was first class country cooking but what really won us over was the huge covered play area that kept the kids happy and gave us some much needed relaxation. For those people who have taken their kids to a Lollipops playland or similar imagine pub quality lunch and free access to the play area, that's exactly what this awesome Pub has!

Easter Sunday also marked Dane's 5th Birthday. The boys woke to find Easter Bunny had made the effort dropping off some goodies in the caravan. Dane opened some birthday presents and we all had a little Easter egg with our pancake breakfast before packing up the caravan to hit the road yet again. It was a little sad leaving the Jenolan Caravan park in Oberon. Most other families were staying for another day and the boys had started to get very comfortable with the 'riding crew' doing laps around our block. The park is top class, roomy powered blocks, clean grounds and immaculate new looking amenities. We're hoping to stay there another time.

We drove that Easter Sunday heading out through the stunning Blue Mountains for the last time and stopped that night at the Big 4 Holiday Park in Cessnock. I had booked this park thinking that being a Big 4 it would have all the usual kiddy friendly inclusions but we were disappointed to find they didn't even have a little playground. The owner advised us they were more a park for the older travellers doing the Wine tasting tours. For a cost of $70 for an ensuite site I can say we won't be going back there any time soon. We found a local park and took some Pizza along for Dane's birthday dinner. I piled up some Dominoes Choc Lava cakes and stuck a number 5 candle on top for an impromptu birthday cake. Dane seemed happy enough with that and we all agreed the cake was yummy.

The next day Easter Monday we made our way up to our favourite holiday spot, Coffs Harbour. Coffs has such a lovely Gold coast feel without all the hussle and bussle. It's always a bit warmer in Coffs than in Brissy, no matter when we've visited. We stopped off for some tobogganing fun at the Big Banana. It's become a tradition for us now! We normally like to go and watch some candy being made too but we needed to check in at the caravan park and get ourselves settled in for the night. We stayed at Beach Park Holiday park this time and it's got to be the best park ever for kids. The weather was quite nice for late afternoon so Bailey, Dane and I went for a play and swim at the water adventure park they have there. We then took a nice drive around Coffs while the sun went down before picking up some yummy fish and chips to eat back in the caravan. Wasn't long before we turned in for the night and headed back towards home in the morning.

The only real mistake I made when putting together our itinerary was not staying an extra night before coming back home. The Easter holiday traffic was a nightmare and together with pelting rain it made for a long and somewhat testing drive home. We saw 3 accidents on the way back, mostly just people being impatient and not being considerate to other drivers. It's amazing how many caravanning families drive like absolute maniacs in their effort to get home as early as possible. We took our time and even stopped off the side of the road to cook up a can of casserole on the gas cooker for lunch before taking a scenic detour through Byron Bay. We were just happy to get home safe and sound.

The trip was our very first in the caravan but it certainly won't be the last. The convenience of pulling up somewhere, pulling the support stands down and being able to enjoy ourselves was simply awesome. I can't imagine ever going back to camping in our tent again. This has me asking the question, should we sell our super-duper $1000 tent or keep it just in case? Hmmmm....