He is 6. I Repeat, He Is Just 6.

Sometimes I forget.

Jay

That my boy has only just turned 6. And sometimes, rationale flies out the window at the drop of the hat, and when an awesome song comes to mind, it has to be belted out, and loud. No matter the location – middle of the shopping mall or the middle of the night.

(The above is just from yesterday – a special trip to the Fish Market as it is the start of the Easter break for him, for crabs, which are his absolute fave. He doesn’t get a chance to go on normal school days, as the Market closes at 4 p.m., and weekends are full of hungry tourists, we shun this area then too haha!)

Even in the last one year we’ve been in Sydney, my not-so-little-anymore boy has grown. Partly been “forced” to by circumstances (read: school), and also bearing the brunt of our decidedly fiercer tempers.

And he is 6 years old. Just 6. And I think being the oldest of 3 kids, sometimes there is the pressure there to be the “most sensible” and the “obedient” one, and I find myself having to utter things like (when I am frazzled or highly irritated), “What is the matter with you?” and it guts me. I know I shouldn’t say that, and it is I am trying to curb my tongue. Trying to be more gracious to my 6-year-old. Trying to give him space to be a 6-year-old. Learning to be a mummy to a 6-year-old, a more chill version of me, if you will.

God has really blessed me with a sweetheart of a son. He is affectionate, generous with his out-of-nowhere “I love you”s  and readily loves his parents despite our flaws. And I reckon he deserves a better version of me. :)

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Older. Again. *gulp!*

So I am a year older. And this is possibly the lowest-key birthday period in my last decade – but nonetheless still one of the sweetest, since I get to spend it with my favourite people.

Two things the hubby knows to bring a smile to my face. Desserts and shopping. And he ticked both boxes.

As he has classes on Monday afternoons, he decided to celebrate a day earlier. The morning started with him wanting to bring Jayvon in on the little secret – “Psst, Jay come over… It’s Mummy’s birthday tomorrow and…” and before he finished whispering, my excited and loud son went, “MUMMY’S BIRTHDAY IS TOMORROW! HURRAY!!!” and came running to my room to tell me that very fact. Haha! Nice trying to play it subtle. The hubs wanted to NOT tell me where we were going, and one thing about me you need to know: I am not a fan of surprise outings. Not with three kids. I need to know where, and how long and what. Else the kids would be going to the beach with long pants and shoes or have to brave chilly weather without a jacket. And so, he reluctantly revealed the destination – Hunter Valley, a 2.5 hour drive!

So we were off on a road trip! It was a gorgeously scenic route, and the kids – well-trained after our previous road trips – hardly made a fuss as well.

The hub did his research, and decided on The Mill Restaurant – for its good reviews and the fact it offered a children’s menu! It was a little like Masterchef come to life, with dishes like ‘Duck done two ways’ and ‘Crispy Skin Atlantic Salmon’ making our tummies rumble! It was a very enjoyable meal – and the kids loved their pizza and fish fillets (the fish I thought was really a good deal, as it was $12 and almost a full adult-sized plate!) The kids’ meals came with chips, which were awesome enough for me to steal a couple for myself!

The Mill

And since we were already at Hunter Valley, we decided to make a stop at Sabor at the Hunter – for some decadent dessert. Yes. We had a full meal. But dessert? I love this place!

Sabor

The kids were in a food-induced coma state (haha!), and it was left to the less-than-desirable position of the hubby to bring us all home safely. We made it, obviously!

So the desserts – done.

And the shopping? Well, we managed to squeeze in a princely 30 minute at Birkenhead Factory Outlet. My first time there, and I didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t have much high hopes. But this one trip (and the one store) will change my mind.

Steve Madden.

I love the shoes, especially the boots – for the rugged yet chic look! Their heels are also to-die-for, but gosh, I am horrid at stilts, I mean stilettos or high wedges, so I will be content with just rugged boots. And let’s be honest, I have three kids. I need all the rugged shoes I can get.

And so we only spent 30 minutes in this one Steve Madden outlet shop. And it was enough for me to walk away entirely fulfilled.

I first saw this awesome pair of dark silverish boots, that showed 50% off its regular price. Hmm, $110 isn’t too bad for a birthday gift, eh? Till the shop assistant smilingly informed me that it was going for an additional 40% off that price. GET OUTTA HERE! $60?

The black crossbody bag with a gorgeous gold buckle for 50% off too?

And that almost-reaching-knee-level studded leather boots for $40?

It’s like my presents bought themselves.

How do you say “No” to good buys? I can’t apparently.

shoes

Even the hubby managed to snag a pair of leather shoes for himself at the Steven Madden shop – which is our my favourite-est shop EVER now – and we all left happy!

A very happy birthday to me, indeed! ;)

In the not-that-distant past of mine

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Dork alert.

See if you can spot me in the above picture. My 12-year-old self. (Or at least I think I was 12. But I might have been 11. I have no clue.)

And now, the reason why this horrendous photo is seeing the light of day? I blame my friend, who blogs over at Gingerbreadmum.com. Who decided it would be a lark to host a linky on “Old School Memories”.

#ChallengeAccepted.

My primary school memories are fuzzy at best. I blame the three pregnancies. But I do remember one incident vividly. In my last year there (and the year we take the PSLE), my Chinese teacher came right up to me, gave me a pat on the shoulder and a smile and told me, “你考的很好!” (translated: “You did very well!”), giving me high hopes for the mid-semestral Chinese exams… before realizing I scored somewhere under 70 (a B or a C grade) – and I guess that kinda stuck to me that the “very well” standard of Chinese is only deserving of a measly B or C. Haha!

My secondary school days are a little less fuzzy. (Not crystal clear, you do remember the three pregnancies, yeah?) And I so wanted to find a photo of me in my secondary school uniform, but alas, a relocation to a different country meant the pictures were either discarded or at my mom’s house back in Singapore. I went to the all-girls’ Tanjong Katong Girls’ School, by the way – where it was considered hip to wear our belts low-slung and sarcasm reigned supreme amongst us 13-16 year olds. Oh, those were the days. Pooling all our loose change to share a large Coke at the Burger King at Parkway Parade, or even getting large french fries (if we were particularly rich that day), and spending the next few hours chatting and chatting and chatting away.

And there was one little thing that made our little clique uber special. We spoke the “F” language. Now, fess up – how many of you have heard of this? It was like the cool language before cool languages came about. And I remember teaching some of my close friends this. And I was so proficient at this made-up language because, believe it or not, my entire family (‘cept my dad of cos) would speak to each other in the F language (especially useful when we are trying to be furtive in public) – and even my mom AND her sisters know it. I kid you not. Even till today, my sisters and I find ourselves breaking out into the F language – especially to craft out plans that we don’t want the kids to know (yet) or the domestic helpers to know (like our schedules… cos we are secretive that way haha!). And if you haven’t heard of this language – it basically makes you repeat each syllable – only adding the “f” sound in that repeat syllable. It sounds super easy – but to the untrained mouth, it can be a tongue twister, and to the untrained ears, it sounds like a load of gibberish.

My little trip down memory lane!

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An Artistic Flair

An artistic flair is something I lack. Seriously. I can’t draw. I can barely shade. And if I ever make it to France, seeing the Mona Lisa doesn’t really rank very high on my list (I mean, yeah I will go see it but …. An art museum isn’t somewhere I can linger for hours.)

Nic is somewhat the same. But where he lacks in artistic flair, he makes up by having a keen musical ear (almost pitch perfect, which means he can hear and shudder at an off-key pitch a mile away – making him quite the perfect karaoke partner. Not. Cough.)

Jay, on the other hand, is talented. He loves drawing. And, in my biased mummy point of view, he is pretty darn good at it!

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He is now in ‘real life’ drawing.

I reckon I should get him to an art school – any recommendations in Sydney?

Top 3 Playgrounds In Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs

This post has been long overdue. I have had friends who have asked me for some of my top recommendations of kid-friendly places in Sydney, as they lug their toddlers along for a trip Down Under.

So yeah – if you’re coming, check out Taronga Zoo (a gorgeous place, with gorgeous view overlooking the Sydney Harbour), Sydney Wild Life & the Aquarium (at Darling Harbour), the Maritime Museum, Hyde Park, Jewish Museum (my hubby tells me it is one of the two Jewish museums outside of Israel), Hunter Valley etc…

But if you ask my boys, what makes Sydney REALLY special… are its playgrounds. Small, large and huge are the three basic sizes it comes in, and littered all throughout the nation. Now, I’ve only lived here for under a year, and as I live in the Eastern Suburbs, so my list is pretty biased – but as you can see, my boys are mighty happy with these. We shall be going exploring soon, in search of better and bigger playgrounds!

Top Playgrounds in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs

1) Maroubra Beach/Playground

There are many beaches in Sydney, and I’m sure you’ve heard of the famous ones like Manly and Bondi. Those are really nice. But crowded. So the beach we love to go to is Maroubra. In fact, the 2013 State of the Beaches report lists Maroubra as one of the 8 best beaches to swim in (in terms of water quality) – and nope, Manly and Bondi is not part of the 8.

maroubra

Gorgeous eh?

But I am getting ahead of myself.

maroubra 1

Tucked away in a corner of the beach lies a huge tentage housing not one, not two, but three (at least if my memory serves) play structures! The kids adore this place – and when they get bored, they can adjourn to the sandy beach to play (and roll and dig and fling sand at Daddy).

We went to Maroubra last Saturday, and as the roadside parking was getting filled out, we drove to the nearby Sailing Club where there was more parking – and discovered a new gem in Maroubra. A part of the beach where there were some rocks and knee-high waters – with fishes! Tiny fishes, yes! Oh, the boys had a ball that hot Saturday morning!

And if you do make your way to Maroubra on a Saturday, check out the North End Cafe – where they serve Brazilian BBQ buffet for A$35 per adult (and kids eat for free), for warm hospitable service and some yummy meats! We’ve been there twice already, and the kids love it – as do we!

2) L’estrange Park (intersection of King Street and Sutherland Street, Mascot NSW)

If the Maroubra playground is considered a “large” one – this playground is definitely a “huge” in my books.

L estrange Park

How huge? Well, the topmost photo is a panoramic one I took using my iPhone – and it DIDN’T capture the little play structure at the left side AND the large spider-web and swings just behind the mini hill.

Like I said, huge.

Another place the boys adore. They can climb, swing, hang, run, even ride a bike on the bicycle path. The playground is so big that it can cater to various age groups – so Xavier can go on structure more age-appropriate for him and Jayvon can be more challenged.

3) C Side Restaurant (110 General Holmes Drive, Kyeemagh NSW 2216)

This little restaurant tucked away in a pretty secluded area is about to be “outed” by me. We love this place. Love. The battered fish and chips is comparable to ones we’ve eaten at more reputable places. Fresh fish, great tasting batter – and if you have it with the seafood salad, it will just put you back by under A$15. So, so good! The boys usually share the seafood platter, and we will get it on takeaway, and walk about 3 minutes to another slice of heaven for the boys.

Cside

A tented playground. An unshaded one. A large spider-web climber. Three structures – and a bike track as well. Is it any wonder we spotted more than one family having a barbeque there on a weekend morning as well?

My top three recommended playgrounds if you are in the Eastern Suburbs – and I am sure there are more gems out there! My boys are very willing guinea pigs in our quest to seek them all out!

So if you are coming to Sydney with kids in tow, consider these out-of-the-way playgrounds – and let your kid experience a little of Sydney like a true-blue Sydneysider kid. And hey – drop me a line and we can have a playdate too!

This is part of my ongoing blog series on Our Sydney Adventures - as we call this gorgeous city “home” for the next year or so. Come and Sydney like a local (almost) with us!

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