Today is the first day of the term 3 school holidays in Victoria. This is going to be a strange spring holidays for us - I'm working four of the five weekdays in each week, and the kids are going to be spending lots of time with grandparents, friends and Daddy. It is an inevitability, given the stage of work I'm at with my projects, but I am ambivalent about it nonetheless.
We got the holidays off to a lovely start today, though, with a family day out in the city - we met friends at Southgate to have Yum Cha at the Red Emperor. The Red Emperor offers gluten free yum cha, which is a massive treat for me, and overlooks the Yarra, which, in spring, is a feast for the eyes as well.
This was the kids' first encounter with the wonder that is Yum Cha, and they were all cautious and a bit dubious about whether they would like the food. My 9 year old is a decided non-fan of Chinese food generally (the child will not even eat fried rice!), so she in particular was concerned about whether she'd end up hungry.
Well, I'm delighted to report that the kids (and my friend's 8 year old, who was also encountering yum cha for the first time) did really well. The 7 and 3 year olds made short work of the spring rolls, as I suspected they would, and also ate pork buns, sausages in batter, and prawn crisps. They also both tried steamed dumplings - they weren't a massive success, but at least they tried. To omplete their meal, we ordered some steamed rice for them and they cleaned it up also.
My 9 year old was not enamoured of the springies but was surprised to find that she loved all the various buns / bread-wrapped delicacies, and managed two steamed dumplings with prawn fillings comfortably. Overall, she pronounced yum cha to be a MUCH better way of eating Chinese food than "from the takeaway shop".
However, the real triumph of yum cha for the kids was dessert. As the trays of fruit salad, jelly cubes, custard tarts, donuts, mooncakes and beautiful pastry swans with custard filling were unloaded, the four girls' eyes lit up with excitement. "This is excellent!" proclaimed E, my 7 year old, chomping through chocolate-laced jelly triangles, donuts and tarts with great good will. My 3 year old was entranced with jelly firm enough to eat with her fingers, while the 9 year old declared the custard swans "delicious".
As for me, I ate myself silly with steamed dumplings of all descriptions, drank a very large amount of Chinese tea, chatted to my friends, cuddled my girls, and had a fantastic time. It wasn't an especially cheap meal out ($135 for our family of five), but it was a treat, and well worth the indulgence for an annual outing.
On the way back to the car, we strolled along the bustling Southbank and looked at the river boats, watched street artists painting a Bacchanalia (extremely well executed it was, too), and stopped to watch an extremely flexible performer who started with acrobatic and contortionist tricks, but moved on to juggling fire sticks and then (oooo, errr) to sword swallowing. My 3 year old had gone for a walk across the bridge with her dad by this stage, but the 9 and 7 year olds (and I) were mesmerised.
The girls were a bit scared, but in that cannot-look-away sort of a fashion. The 9 year old wrapped her arms around her little sister, which was both very sweet and also almost resulted in an inadvertent throttling as the 9 year old reacted to the sword moving down the performer's trunk. (I'm slightly shuddering just remembering it; it was truly very freaky to see).
After applauding and rewarding the performance, we wended our way back to the car. I took the sleepy younger kids in to lie in my bed with me for an hour and chat quietly, and watch a few rounds of The Duck Song on my tablet, while my husband and the 9 year old went to visit my mother in law in hospital.
Right now, the kids are playing with the neighbour kids in the lounge, the kettle is boiling, the birds are cheeping, the sun is glinting through the trees, and for the first time in a long time, I have a decent grip on work and house, an equable mood, and a positive feeling about the period ahead. It may not last, but for today, I'll sure take it.