Monthly Archives: July 2010

Speaking and Celebrating

I’m off to the Connect2Mums Conference and Awards Night this weekend.  This is the second year it has been running, and it promises to be an exciting weekend of learning, sharing and growing.  Last year I came home with the Top Parenting Resource Award, as well as the TopMumpreneur Award, much to my surprise.


This year I am a finalist in the Best Blog Award.  I’m delighted to be a finalist for the second year in a row, though competition is fierce this year and there are some beautiful blogs and bloggers nominated.  I’ll also be a busy bee throughout the weekend, sharing what I know about blogging.  I’ll be giving a workshop titled “The Online You” and I’ll also be running, and participating in a panel for open discussion about the blogging.  I’m looking forward to hearing the questions other women in blogging and business have to ask.  So, I thought I’d throw it open to you as well.  Is there anything you’d like to ask about blogging??  Now is your chance… leave a comment below and I’ll endeavor to answer everyone!

Psst: Have you entered yet…?

A Musical Home

Music has a special place in our home, and I’ve shared before about singing together.  We sing a lot, but we also have music in our house in other ways.  You see SquiggleDad is a great guitarist.  He doesn’t get to play much any more, but he still has an impressive collection of guitars.  Classical, acoustic, electric, bass.  I think around a dozen instruments all up.  Except now the collection is growing…

If my children end up in some sibling folk-rock-fusion band in their teens, I’m so bringing out this photo.  At the tender age of 4 my daughter already writes some very creative lyrics.  And my son has fantastic rhythm, not that I’m biased in any way.  I recorded them both singing and playing during an impromptu lounge room concert recently, but I’ll save that footage for now.  It could come in handy down the track…!

Is music played in your home?

PS – Speaking of music, have you entered my Justine Clarke giveaway yet? Click here to read my interview with Justine and leave a comment to enter!

Justine Clarke Interview + DVD Giveaway!

If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would you choose?  For me, it would be Justine Clarke.  Oh to be a Playschool presenter – singing to, reading for, and entertaining children around the country!  While I might not ever be on Playschool, I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Justine about her latest album Great Big World.  (You can read my review of the album here, and check out the title track below if you haven’t seen it already.  Please note that if you are still using IE the video may not play…)

Cath - Congratulations on another wonderful album that kids (and their parents) are sure to fall in love with. Which is your favourite track?

Justine - It changes but at the moment it’s My Shadow and Me. I love the arrangement and the sentiment of the song – that you can always make your own fun. I loved dancing with my shadow when I was a child. I adore that jazz feel that Peter Dasent (composer) captures so stylishly.

Cath - Do you sing your songs at home with your own children, or does it feel like work?

Justine - I do find myself humming them occasionally. My kids are getting beyond the songs age wise so they like to make up their own words to them now which can be pretty funny. Singing never feels like work. I love what I do.

Cath - You give so much to families around Australia. How do you make sure there is still enough of you for your own family?!

Justine - That is something I have to keep in check. We try to keep one day of the weekend to being at home as a family and I tour only once in the year and try to bring them along when it isn’t too disruptive for them.

Cath - Peter Dasent and Arthur Baysting just keep coming up with brilliant melodies and lyrics, and again you have collaborated with them on a few songs. How do you go about writing songs together?

Justine - Over the years the process has changed. At first Peter and Arthur had so many brilliant songs already written that it was just a matter of tweaking them before we recorded them. Peter had half-written a song (Scoot On My Scooter) which he was about to give up on until I resurrected it, I liked the idea of an action song that had a good rock feel with a chorus (‘Do it again, do it again’) that is so simple but so true. Now, Arthur and I communicate via Skype and have ideas we are working on together from scratch. There’s one we are trying to write together at the moment called Silver Trails, it’s about a snail who has to leave home. It’s tricky, I hope it stays in the mix.

Cath - I promised my four year old daughter she could ask a question (to which she promptly replied, “Dear Justine. Can you come over for a play?”) We’ll go with her second attempt! “Dear Justine. My favourite song is Happy Dog. Do you have a dog?”

Justine - I don’t have a dog. I’d love one though. Until then, I’ll just pretend to be one – a happy dog!

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If you missed out on winning Justine’s CD a couple of months ago, thanks to my friends at Roadshow I have FOUR copies of the new Great Big World DVD to give away to SquiggleMum readers!  Just leave a comment below either sharing a favourite Justine Clarke song (from any of her three albums) or one thing you like about Justine.  One entry per person please, Aussie residents only, winners will be drawn at random 8pm Sunday 1 August, Qld time.

Tickets are still on sale for the upcoming Great Big World Tour too.  You can find tour dates and details here. We’ve already bought our tickets as we didn’t want to miss out!  Don’t worry – if Justine invites me backstage I’ll be sure to post photos for you all to see…



Congratulations to the winners (contacted by email):

  • Gayle
  • Michele
  • Jude
  • Jane

Laptop Love (Thanks Logitech!)

There are some lovely perks to being a blogger. Logitech recently contacted me to see if I would like to try out some of their new products, and I jumped at the chance. They are a tech brand I know, trust and use already, so I was delighted to take part in their new campaign My Laptop Gets Spoilt!  I am one of their featured users, so you can jump over to the site and see how the products have worked for me.  Here is what they sent me:

(Notebook Kit, LapDesk, AnyWhere Mouse)

You can jump over to the site to see what I liked about each of these products, but as a blogger and writer, I have to say that the Notebook Kit is my favourite.  My Notebook Kit is permanently set up on my desk for when the kids are asleep at night and I can get some “real” writing done.  I actually had the older version of this product on my desk already!  I like that the new version is more streamlined, takes up less deskspace, and has the huge added bonus of Unifying technology.  Basically a tiny device plugs into one of your USB ports, and just makes everything work without wires.  If you want to see mine in action, check this out:

If you’re interested in winning some of these products for yourself, jump over to the My Laptop Gets Spoilt campaign and upload a pic of yourself.  The grand prize even includes a Macbook!!

Oh, and in true SquiggleMum style, here is what my kids did with the boxes from the Logitech products.  Yes, a laptop and a robot ;-)

Reading Aloud Ain't Rocket Science

I was eavesdropping on my husband reading aloud to our daughter the other night, and I was very impressed.  He was doing so many great read-aloud things with a familiar and much loved book.  He paused to allow her to jump in with words she knew, he invited her to make predictions about the text, he encouraged her to investigate the illustrations for further clues, and he varied the volume and pace of his voice according to the story.  I smiled to myself as I listened in on their reading time.

When she was tucked in for the night and he finally emerged from her room I said, “Nicely done. Have you been listening to me reading that one with her?”  He looked at me blankly and said “Nuh?” with a shrug.

It suddenly hit me how incredibly arrogant my question, and my thinking was.  My  husband wasn’t copying me.  He was using his own common sense!

Sometimes as an educator I forget that you don’t actually need a teaching degree to be able to teach a young child.  There was so much fantastic teaching and learning going on in my daughter’s bedroom without a B.Ed in sight.  How did my husband know what to do then?  He simply:

  • modeled good reading
  • shared the book with his child
  • engaged in meaningful conversation
  • made the book exciting
  • remembered the way he was read to as a child himself

There are thousands of posts floating around the blogosphere telling parents how to read with their children.  Heck, I’ve even written some of them!  Ironic then, that the lesson I learnt this week about young children and reading came from within my own home.  The lesson?  Reading aloud isn’t ain’t rocket science!

To all the parents (without a B.Ed) reading this, I want to reassure you that you don’t need any special training to do a good job of reading aloud to your child.  You have the tools you need, so just spend time with your child and a book every day.  Engage with your child, engage with the book, and let yourself enjoy it just a little.

PS – Sorry Honey.  Ego put back in its place where it belongs :-/

This post is part of the July Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival.
The Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival hosted by Science@home is for anyone, because we are all teachers and learners all the time. This month our theme is “English”, including Speaking, Listening, Reading and Viewing. I think our bloggers have covered all of these and there are lots of resources and game ideas, plus a giveaway. Please read through to the end to find links to the other participating blogs.


Visit Science@home to find out more about the Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival. Teach/Learn

Please take the time to visit the other participants and check out their posts on “English.”

  • Monique at Your Cheeky Monkey has written about why her family thinks storytelling is so important, some storytelling ideas, and a few of their favorite books.
  • Julie at Works For Me Homemaking is encouraging sound play with preschoolers and not just for fun. It is an important tool to develop sound awareness skills and enhance early literacy development.
  • Staci from Teaching Money to Kids reminds us that sometimes language and interaction need to be explicitly taught and practiced, and has some ways to teach the language of sharing.
  • Leechbabe from Stuff with Thing asks what happens when your child interprets everything said to them in a very literal way? How do you aid their understanding of the funny things people say?
  • Lisa at SMMART Ideas has a LETTER MATCHING activity to help you practice spelling words, or even foreign language vocabulary.
  • Deb from Science@home has a giveaway to help you go on an expedition on your bookshelf.
  • Colin Wee at Super Parents is teaching his kids to argue by learning how to create a reasoned argument for English creative writing and the OREO Acronym.
  • The Planning Queen from Planning With Kids had her own bookclub when she and her son read the same book. It was a great experience to have a book discussion with her son where she hadn’t been reading the story “to him”.
  • Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori agrees with Maria Montessori that young children have a natural love of learning. Thanks to matching Montessori sandpaper letters with small objects, her son decided as a toddler that learning to read was just a fun game.
  • Amanda at HomeAge posts that we all know The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but Eric Carle has so much more to offer to young readers, particularly those interested in the natural world. With bright, beautiful artworks and simple, repetitive stories these books are a wonderful way to entice the young “reader”.
  • Miss Carly from Early Childhood Resources has steps and advice in creating a literacy rich environment for children of all ages.
  • Christie at Childhood 101 points out that the process of sharing stories through oral storytelling is an age old tradition amongst families, but does it have a place in our busy modern day family life?
  • Sarah at Bringing up Baby Bilingual describes her public library’s Writing Buddies program where high school student volunteers lead groups of at-risk fourth and fifth graders through a series of outer-space-themed writing activities. Writing prompts and resources included in the post!
  • CatWay at Adventures With Kids asks What is phonics all about? Is this something I should know more about to help my child learn to read and write?
  • Narelle from A Bunch of Keys has some simple suggestions for making your own literacy resources for children at home. Includes ideas for books with simple rhymes, books with puppets, books about family trips and making felt boards.
  • Zoe at Playing By the Book has gone fishing for words in illustrated dictionaries to support her early reader.

Thanks for visiting our carnival, we hope you enjoy some of these posts and have found some interesting blogs.

Finding Frogs: Catch and Release

While doing some weeding around the yard (yes, we have a lot of weeds) SquiggleDad found this frog.  He carefully caught the little guy to show the kids.  We have a lot of Cane Toads here in Queensland, so our children are cautious about picking up frogs and toads without a grownup.  It can be hard for kids to tell the difference!  We put the frog into a viewing container and had a close look.

After observing the frog’s movements, and helping the kids to look at the frog’s

  • shape
  • colour
  • markings
  • feet

we decided he was probably a Striped Marsh Frog.  Marshies are common around here, and I’ve often heard their tok-tok-tok call on balmy nights.

My daughter really wanted to take the frog to kindy to show the other kids the next day, so we made the container a little more homely for our amphibious friend.  We talked about where the frog was found, and tried to recreate that environment in the container.  We added sand, sticks, leaves and fronds as well as a shallow dish of water. We also got busy catching any bugs we could possibly find in the garden to add to the container in case our friend was hungry.

I’m pleased to report that the frog traveled to kindy quite well.  I laughed out loud when my daughter told her class it was a… “Striped Marshmallow Frog!!”  The name stuck.

Once we brought Marshmallow-the-frog back home, we were eager to return him to his real home – our backyard.  While I love having the opportunity to show my children creatures up close, I think it’s also important for them to understand that it isn’t right to keep wild animals in captivity (without the right setup, at least).

We removed the lid from the container, and gently tipped it onto its side in a sheltered spot in the garden.  We poured the water out of the shallow dish and into the big container, and Marshmallow quickly settled into the puddle.

We then added the sticks and leaves to keep Marshmallow safe from swooping Butcher Birds and help him to relax, after being passed around a kindy class and ogled by 20 pairs of eyes!  We said goodbye to our frog, thanked him for letting us take him to kindy, then left him there.

And in the morning, when Marshmallow had hopped away and was nowhere to be found – the kids were pleased.  We’ll know he’s back when we hear the tok-tok-tok…

The Butterfly Tree

We affectionately call this tree The Butterfly Tree.  The rambling branches tumble over the fence from next door, creating a perfect little natural cubby house underneath.  The kids and I love trimming the branches from the under side to make more of the space, and sweeping the floor with branches.

I had tossed around the idea of hanging some bunting inside the butterfly house, but then I discovered I had a bunch of these metal butterfly cutouts from a broken piece of jewellery.  Perfect!  My daughter wanted to hang them on rainbow ribbons, so we bought some 99c rolls of ribbon in a range of bright colours.  We also bought some jingly bells to add some sound to the colour.

My daughter threaded the ribbons onto the metal butterflies and I tied the knots.  Then we took them outside to hang in the butterfly house.  They look absolutely gorgeous!  A secret little rainbow of butterflies to welcome visitors to the cubby.  Sadly the photos don’t capture them very well, but hopefully they give you the idea.

By the way, it took me longer to find out what the tree is than it did to plan, photograph and write this post.  FINALLY I think I have an answer: Red Orchid Tree (Red Bauhinia).  It’s very common around Brisbane, and I’ve blogged before about using the leaves for leaf rubbings.  Anyone know if I’m right?!

Where have your kids been playing this week…?

Alison Lester and Little Library Lovers

I might have been born in Victoria, but I am a Queenslander at heart.  Just for the next few weeks though I wish I was down south!  Over the coming weeks, major libraries around Melbourne will host a series of special ‘Babies Love Books’ events as part of the State Government’s $2.1 million Young Readers Program.  Now in its second year, the Young Readers Program has distributed free ‘It’s Rhyme Time’ booklets and DVDs to parents of over 200,000 babies and toddlers.  The program aims to reach 500,000 children by 2011, and to assist in fostering a love of books for life, linking the relationship between literacy and the health and wellbeing of future generations.

Alison Lester, multi-award winning, best selling and much loved children’s author and illustrator is an ambassador for the program. Her picture books mix imaginary worlds with everyday life, encouraging children to believe in themselves and celebrate the differences that make them special.  If you live in Victoria you can meet Alison Lester this month at the events listed below.  But if, like me, you are elsewhere in the country, you’ll have to be content to read my interview with Alison Lester:

Cath - When should parents begin reading aloud to their kids, and what can they do to make the most of read-aloud time?

Alison - I think you should start reading to babies from the word go, or maybe even before. Lazing around reading when you’re pregnant must be very good for babies. To make the most of reading time it’s good to take it slow and cuddly. Always get as close to horizontal as you can.

Cath - What do you recommend parents look for when selecting picture books for young children?

Alison - I shouldn’t say this, being an author, but I don’t really think it matters what you read them as long as you do it well. Children will always let you know if they think a book is a dud.

Cath - Many of your picture books are firm favourites with Australian children and adults alike.  As a mother my pick is Magic Beach.  As a teacher my favourite would be Imagine.  Do you have a favourite?

Alison - It’s a bit like having to say which one of your kids you like the best. They are all special in different ways. I love Are We There Yet? because it reminds me of the happy time we had on that trip.

Cath - As an author/illustrator, do the words come first, images first, or does the book evolve as a whole for you?

Alison – When I have an idea for a book I can generally see it then, as a whole, the style of illustration, the font, the shape and size. The next step is some rough illustrations in a dummy book and then I put the text into my computer.

Cath - You’ve spent a lot of time travelling the country visiting schools, particularly in remote areas.  Why has this been important to you?

Alison - I started visiting schools about 30 years ago, just because they asked me really. Now I can see that those school visits did a lot to get my books out into the world. I love going to remote communities and working with the kids and teachers there. I always get a huge kick out of seeing a class make a book about their own stories, told in their words and their pictures.

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If you live in Victoria you can meet Alison Lester or Jeannette Rowe this month at the Young Readers Program Babies Love Books events :

Springvale Library with Alison Lester

Monday July 12th, 2pm

411 Springvale Road, Springvale

P: 03 9238 1466

Frankston Library with Alison Lester

Tuesday July 13th, 11am

60 Playne Street, Frankston

P: 03 9784 1020

Deer Park Library with Jeannette Rowe

Thursday July 15th, 10.30am

Corner of Neale and Station Roads, Deer Park

P: 03 9249 4171

Sunbury Library, with Jeannette Rowe

Friday July 16th, 10am

44 Macedon St, Sunbury

P: 03 9356 6932

If you go, please do me a favour and tell the awesome Alison Lester that SquiggleMum says hi…?!  I’m going to head back over to her site because I’m thinking about buying this print.

Fairy Stones

I totally stole this idea from my daughter’s kindergarten.  In the kindy “Fairy Garden” they have red polished glass stones which the children can move around as they wish.  My daughter likes them, but her little brother LOVES them.  I have had to drag him away from the shiny pebbles many a day.

So of course when I saw a bag of similarly sized, multicoloured glass stones at the local hardware store for around $5 I couldn’t go past them.  There are about 50 pebbles in the bag, ranging from clear stones through to blues, reds and browns.

Still under age two, my son enjoys putting the stones in and out of buckets and containers, and carrying them around.  He likes just transferring them from one place to another, tipping them out, loading them back up and moving to a new spot!  He also likes hiding them in the sandpit to “find” again.  My big four year old has been making patterns and pictures in the sand with the pebbles.  She has used them to decorate castles, write letters from her name and even make a path for the fairies to follow.

I love simple props for play that appeal to both boys and girls and can be used in different ways according to their level of development.  Oh, and I also love “toys” that are under $5…

What have you bought that has been inexpensive, yet precious to your kids?

Footprints Magazine Blog Tour

Welcome to the blog tour of Footprints Magazine for Christian Women!  This tour is in celebration of the 50th issue of the mag, which started out with very humble beginnings.  I have contributed several articles to past issues, and am delighted to be able to give away a one year subscription to a SquiggleMum reader.  I also had the opportunity to interview editor Janet Camilleri:

Janet, what did the first copy of Footprints look like, 50 editions ago?

Take a look – pretty different huh? It was VERY basic … I’m almost embarrassed now by how naïve I was and how amateurish it looks! But God had planted a seed in my heart and I knew not to despise the day of small beginnings … out of a tiny acorn, a mighty oak tree grows. (I actually read a great blog post about this very subject earlier today – you can find it here.) When Footprints first started, I treasured that Scripture that says if it is of the Lord it will grow; if it is not it will come to nothing (Acts 5:38 – 39).

What is your dream or vision for the 100th edition?

A full colour, glossy magazine with hopefully a lot more pages; available bimonthly or even monthly (instead of quarterly) with a six-figure circulation, available in newsagents and supermarkets!

Okay maybe I’m dreaming just a little bit… hey with God anything is possible! At the very least, I would hope that our quality would have only improved (layout, content, etc) but most importantly that churches across the country would subscribe and then give them out freely, because they know and trust Footprints as a valuable resource and ministry tool that encourages and nurtures  women, and supports them in their Christian walk!

Many small magazines are ceasing to produce physical copies and instead moving to an online ezine.  Why are you continuing with paper copies of Footprints?

I am – and always have been – a magazine junkie! I’ve always loved reading, but especially magazines. My family will tell you I’m also a computer junkie – I’m always at my PC writing articles, emailing friends, laying out Footprints, catching up on Facebook.  And yet … there is nothing quite like being able to flick through a magazine at your leisure. I do a lot of my reading, curled up on the couch beside my hubby as he watches some “boy stuff” (sports / motor racing / whatever) on TV, so at least I am still being companionable even if I’m not interested in watching the same shows!

Much as I am often on the computer, I love being able to curl up with a magazine or good book even more – and I know I’m not alone! Digital probably is the way of the future but for now, my passion is producing a print magazine.  There is incredible power in the written word. Look at the Apostle Paul’s writings (in the New Testament) – still touching lives nearly two thousand years later! It will be interesting to see which type of words endure longer in our hearts – print or digital magazines. And how would we do activities like the collage activity I recently shared on the Footprints blog if we didn’t have print magazines?!

There is a lot of Christian content available for women online and in print in the US.  Are the needs of Aussie Christian women unique?

I’ve never been to the US, but from what I’ve seen and read it is a very different culture to ours. In some ways it is more “Christian” and conservative – in that most people seem to profess a belief in God, or call themselves a “Christian”. Church-going seems much more common. Here in Australia, you tend not to unless you are real fair dinkum about it! (How’s that for a real Aussie saying!)

And of course that is another reason we need home-grown reading material. Our language – especially our slang – is quite different. Our seasons are opposite. Our holidays and our educational system are poles apart. Politics; television and many everyday things are different. I suspect we are a lot more casual, friendly and relaxed. We need publications that meet us where we are at, and America is NOT where we are at (even though we are saturated with their culture … but that’s a whole ‘nother story!)

At the magazine editor’s conference I went to last year in the Philippines, Sharon Mumper from Magazine Training International explained that their organisation exists because it is important to have “culturally appropriate publications – where God puts the vision into people’s hearts to publish and reach their own …”. Yep, that about sums it up!

If you could put a copy of the 50th Edition of Footprints into the hands of any woman in Australia, who would you pick?

Hmm good question! There is a part of me that would love to send a copy to certain senior church officials who told us in our early days that others had tried before and failed … is that a bit childish of me??! (See I am human, not a super-Christian LOL!)

I would just love to see it get into the hands of any Australian woman who is lost and crying out for God in her life. I’d love to see a copy given to every new Christian, to encourage them in the great decision they have just made. I think Footprints should be given to every woman who ever visits a church, so they have something to take home and read and think about. I’d love to see churches sign up the missionaries that they support – imagine how blessed those on the mission field would be to receive a little slice of home, of feminine fellowship and encouragement, each time the new issue of Footprints arrived!

Sorry, I’m getting a bit of track here aren’t I! Seeing as we have a new prime minister who just happens to be female – I’d love to give Julia Gillard a copy! I wonder what she would think of it?!

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There are still a few days left of the blog tour.  Jump here tomorrow for the next stop off on the tour at Paula’s, then to my friends Kelly and Tabitha!

And if you’d like to win a subscription to Footprints Mag for yourself, or for a woman in your life who you think could use some encouragement… just leave a comment below!  Aussie residents only please.  I’ll choose a winner on Monday.

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Congratulations Erin – you are the winner of the subscription to

Footprints Magazine for Christian Women. Enjoy!!