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marie wallace reserve

Pre-Rocket, I don’t think I would have given any thought to parks. If anything, I was probably a bit annoyed at them for taking up precious space that could be used to build a block of units that then I could buy for, say, $200,000. Instead, here were these ridiculous places with swings, and they weren’t vital to my pre-Rocket state so why don’t we just knock them all down? Anyway, this is why I am not in politics, and boy am I now grateful for parks. All the parks. Parks everywhere, yet still not enough. Could there be more parks? I mean, I have to walk like four houses down before I get to my nearest park. Couldn’t there be one next door?

I’ve mentioned Playground Finder before, a ridiculously useful resource for finding parks near you or near where you’re going. But still I miss them, until someone points them out. Finding a new place to go is a delight, and I don’t mind driving a bit to get to a really good one. The other day my dear friend S, who has very selfishly moved all the way to Upwey and who I did not make the most out of during the brief time we lived within walking distance of each other, suggested we catch up at a park between both of us. Usually we just meet at Knox City, because there is an abundance of coffee and the park has a fence so the kids cannot escape, but it was going to be a nice day so she suggested Marie Wallace Reserve in Bayswater, or The Train Park as it is also known because there is an actual life-size steam train in it. Sorry Marie, I’m sure you were super ace, but kids will only remember this train, as will I probably too because I can barely remember the names of other parents I meet even as I accurately remember their children. (Sorry other parents too, while I’m already apologising.)

S and her kids, newborn Z and the Rocket’s beloved best friend W, caught the train (which we could have done too, but I had the car and am lazy) and the two two-year-olds threw themselves at each other in delight upon meeting and then explored the park. And it’s ace! The train can be climbed on, there is a pretend platform, a smaller wooden train with levers to get into arguments over, and the rest of the park is an adventure playground type setup with ramps and things and slides and climbing walls and all sorts of things. There are swings that spin and there’s a giant sandpit and really, I was very impressed and would return, even if I felt slightly disoriented because I grew up in that end of town and had actually been to that park before, for netball training in 1995. Which then made me feel a bit old, but also a bit young again.

Before I get too involved in waffling on about my Lost Youth and other insufferable things, I will just cut that off there and say this was an excellent park, A+ would visit again, especially when we work out which place nearby has decent coffee. While trying unsuccessfully to find a website for this park, I discovered that there are hopeful plans in the works to put a cafe on site, in which case I will be back ALL THE TIME.

Marie Wallace Park

cnr Mountain Hwy and King St (parking for the playground is off King St)

Bayswater

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More than a year ago, when all of our kids were still too young to walk, my mothers group took our pile of children to Ruffey Park. On the Victoria Street side, there’s an adventure playground, barbecues, a set of very shiny toilets; we were impressed. But kids who can’t walk don’t really enjoy parks that much; we sat under the shade of a tree, threw a pile of toys in the middle and let them Battle Royale it out on our picnic rugs. We always went to parks when our kids were tiny, just to sit in the grass and swap stories and breastfeed and not actually touch the playground equipment, because don’t you know swings are DANGEROUS? I remember those times fondly, distant memories where our children couldn’t run off at high speed in different directions halfway through an important and meaningful conversation with another mother. I enjoy my time with the Rocket more now that she has an attitude, but I probably haven’t finished a sentence out loud with my mother-pals for about ten months. (At least they understand.)

Then, at their first birthday bonanza, while they were all precariously balancing and taking tiny steps, we met at Ruffey Lake Park again, with all children and bonus fathers, this time on the other side, coming in off the Boulevard. That park is for younger kids, but even then, none of us really tried out the equipment (I heard that someone broke BOTH LEGS *AND* THEIR KIDS’ LEGS going down a slide together!), too busy, anyway, playing with all our new birthday toys. But it planted a seed, and we’ve met there at least ten thousand times since.

Playgrounds are interesting, the way they completely change in size and terror measurements. The first time I went to Ruffey for a proper, actual play, I followed the Rocket around waiting for her to injure herself; the distance from the top of the slide to the ground if you didn’t go down the slide itself (and only on your belly, in case your shoe stuck and you flipped over and fell), was at least three metres, surely. The swings were too high off the ground. The step up to the little wooden cubby house was too high. Those rope ladders – couldn’t she get stuck? What if a kid kicked her in the face when they spun around on those tall poles? And the moving bridge. She’ll fall over immediately, obviously. All these other kids around the place – don’t their parents KNOW that it’s dangerous?

I don’t even consider myself that much of a helicopter parent. I let the Rocket take risks and try to help herself when she’s stuck or tangled, but I have my limits of where I feel too anxious to continue. I have friends who are much braver and I have endless admiration for their ability to let kids run free and figure stuff out, and I have friends who always help out their kids in sticky situations, and I love them for the way they’ve shown their kids that they’re always there. I’m not critical either way. Neither type of parenting is conducive specifically to raising a monster or an angel. We do what we’re comfortable with, and that’s super okay. I stretch the boundaries of my comfort, when I can.

This picture is from maybe six months ago – I tried to be very forgiving as she stomped in mud gleefully and became completely covered, because I am a complete hater of getting dirty and it’d be nice for the Rocket if she wasn’t as precious as I am.

Ruffey Lake Park is beautiful, and big. In fact, I’ve been to both park sides and wandered aimlessly but have yet to encounter the actual lake itself, though there are probably ducks and the Rocket would probably flip right out about that. It’s bushy, with lovely tall trees everywhere, and running tracks. There is a lot of space, and little interesting park additions: metal stands that could pass for bins but that actually make animal sounds when you pass, a water pump, flying foxes, bridges to nowhere, things to bang and make noise with. There’s a sunshade over the playground, and the aforementioned cubby house, and swings and slides and all kinds of traditional things. It’s a park. You know the drill.

I went again, last week, three days in a row. Once with my friend S (who took a couple of these accompanying pictures), once on my own, and once with my friend F and her son, whom the Rocket calls Hammy because no two-year-old can pronounce their friends’ names right. It had been a while since I’d been – pre-Christmas, at least – and I noticed something about the park: it had shrunk. I don’t know why the council made everything slightly smaller, but they did. The distance from the top of the slide to the ground was shorter than I was, because I could reach up and give my daughter a kiss as she stood proudly at the top deciding which way to go down. I didn’t worry that she would catapult directly off the side of the equipment where you slide down the pole; I thought that she’d probably realise she couldn’t get down, and would head for the slide. She had a go at the rope ladder, went into the cubby house and made some friends. She helped another little girl up the steps to the slide. A magpie stole a cracker right out of her beautiful little hand, and she cried for a brief moment, accepted my hug, then realised there was a DOG RIGHT OVER THERE, so who cares if a magpie stole your cracker? (FYI if they weren’t so fast I would’ve punched that magpie right in the face, because I don’t believe in animal cruelty, unless said animal is mean to my kid.)

We call these things “weeble-wobbles”, because everything is baby talk now. Or “waby wawk”, as it is known as of right now. Notice the tucked-in t-shirt is so she doesn’t get slide-burn on her skin. Practical, yet not at all stylish.

I asked the Rocket if she wanted to go over to the big mountain of slides; F hesitated with Hammy, as they are much longer slides, and the climb to get there is complicated. I knew exactly why she was worried – for the same reason I had been just two days earlier – and suggested we go anyway, as a mother team: one at the top, getting the kids up there, one at the bottom to catch them. She walked up the side, looked down at us and said, “You know, this isn’t as tall any more.”

May this campaign to make playgrounds smaller, month by month, never stop.

Slide mountain: you climb up to get there. If you’re two, you might try to climb up the steep side and fall directly on your ass, and your grown-up might laugh at you.

Ruffey Lake Park

King Street, George Street and Victoria Street, Doncaster

website

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Earlier this week Teach went off for a few days on school camp. Which, you know, fun for him (turns out all teachers I speak to love going on camp, I always imagined it was a nightmare for them) but annoying for ME, as this meant three whole days in which I had to change every single nappy, get up for all the night yelling, and could not blame the trashed state of the kitchen on him. Terribly sad, etc. However, I found people who would at least occupy my days, and on Monday I bothered my parents all day (I didn’t get a picture but hot damn the playground in Knox City shopping centre is a great one and it has a FENCE to trap kidskies in), and on Tuesday my friend S came over and stayed until dinnertime. We knocked up a pasta for lunch – our go-to recipe is basically pasta, spinach, dukkah, sun-dried tomatoes – and then drove to Balwyn to bash about in Beckett Park.

I’ve been once before with my mothers group, but it’s not great for crowds of kids as they all run off to different places and let’s face it, 83% of the point of mothers groups is hanging out with other adults, so when you have to run off after your kid it defeats the purpose a little. Anyway, when it’s just your kid, it’s a bunch of fun. There’s a tiny in-ground trampoline for bouncing, a wooden maze that even I could find my way out of (and I am terrible at all mazes), lots of wooden ramps and pathways, four swings (including two side-by-side baby swings for those with twins!) and a big-ass sandpit with two of those ride-on scooper things. Also it has a table, see above. Beckett Park’s actually pretty great – there are toilets, heaps of space to run around, a viewing tower (padlocked and with no note, WHAT IS THE DEAL BOOROONDARA COUNCIL) and an indigenous flora reserve. We didn’t make it to the flora, alas, too busy chasing dogs and patting all the wooden sculptures in artistic appreciation.

After an hour and a half, we were burnt out on playgrounds (Rocket was NOT and threw an appropriate tantrum) and went off for a quick poke around in the new nearby organic supermarket Apples & Sage (no website yet, located on Whitehorse Road between Balwyn Road & the Safeway.) Holy shit, this place has everything a health person/junky vegan/etc could desire – meatless pizza, chick’n & cheeze pies, everything else you’ve ever seen or imagined. All not even particularly comparatively expensive, though S and I were a bit skint so we passed up any purchases though I was pretty pleased to know it exists and will totally return and buy pretty much everything.

For dinner we went to Vegie Mum in Doncaster – we’ve been a couple of times and it’s always been a success. Vegie Mum is a Chinese/Malaysian vegetarian restaurant, and serves up a bunch of mock meats and vegetable dishes. The decor and atmosphere isn’t incredible, but the service is always grand: they’re lovely to the Rocket and have a pile of high chairs, the staff are friendly as anything, and the food arrives at speed. This time, I ordered a laksa for myself ($10), and a plate of fried tofu ($4.50) for the Rocket, along with some rice (usually $2 but I think they charged us less for the small bowl.) S got tea, spring rolls and some other noodle dish I can’t remember and didn’t try because my laksa was far too delicious and I could barely spare some concentration on my daughter as she got rice all over clothes and her hair (but to her credit mostly did a vaguely good job.) S kindly shared some of her noodles (mine were too spicy) and the Rocket was generally very pleased with the whole scenario, especially when she got to dump a cup of water over herself too. (SIGH.)

I didn’t take any pictures of my food, because I have fallen out of the habit due to, uh, not blogging in months (which, mild excuse, is because I now also blog over here!) but my Laksa was a perfect kick of chilli in gorgeous coconut broth, with beans, noodles (ask for the egg ones to be swapped out for rice), eggplant, tofu, chicken, prawn and pork. Turns out I like fake prawn more than real, and I ate stacks of it, and BEST YET, when I was almost done I found SNEAKY HIDDEN PORK AND PRAWNS, praise be. Writing about it is making me a little dribbly so I best stop now.

…well, just after a quick smooch to my olderiest friend Rachael who prompted me to write again. xx

Beckett Park

the end of Parring Rd

Balwyn

Vegie Mum

27 Village Ave

Doncaster

ph: 9816 3222

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trippy taco

The weather was unexpectedly excellent this afternoon, so once we’d done enough block-flinging (the Rocket) and cartoon-watching (Teach) we went out to Fitzroy to the endlessly tasty Trippy Taco. We’ve just recently rediscovered this place after a few years of neglecting it (why past self, why?) and have visited it relentlessly since. We generally order the same thing (two mandarin Jarritos, trippy fries, quesadilla for Teach and the tofu asada tacos for me) but with Teach limited to one arm and me limited to one arm due to being the one to hold the baby, we both ordered burritos.

Teach ordered the original, and I got the tofu asada (because, well, I don’t really like change), the Rocket ate some of her That’s Not My Robot book and as per usual everything was delish. The trippy fries have this smoky seasoning that is near-mythical in vegetarian circles, and help me with my need for skinny fries. The tofu asada burrito (or tacos) is full of spicy chargrilled tofu, cheese (real or soy), salad and salsa, with a squeeze of lime. It was the right decision regarding the ability to eat it one-handed, but still ended up over everything, including my chair. Lord, do I love me the tofu asada–I don’t know what they do with the tofu, because I am bad at all things tofu, but these guys make it divine. There’s a step into the cafe and it is almost always insanely busy and is far too crowded for a pram inside–though not as much as their previous location on Smith St–but they’ve never minded us bringing the Rocket in, and today we sat next to a two-year-old who pointed out to the Rocket what teeth and chairs were, and called her gorgeous. So their clientele is clearly one of excellent taste.

After that, we wanted to make the most out of the weather and the end of Teach’s school holidays, so we went to Studley Park in Kew to look at the ducks. Teach bought some duck food and we sat by the Yarra River feeding them, and the Rocket was having a grand old time watching them intently. Turns out, ducks there are very tame, and will come right up to you for food. Turns out, baby toes look like duck food. Upshot is she got nommed on the foot, I shrieked unhelpfully, and that is probably the story of Why Rocket Hates Ducks Forever.

Trippy Taco

234 Gertrude St

Fitzroy

9415 7711

website

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blackburn lake

Last Saturday, the weather finally barreled over twenty degrees for the first time in about five months, and I immediately started shouting “PARK PARK PARK” so that we could go outside and properly appreciate this thing they call “the sun”. So we packed up the baby and a picnic and headed out to Blackburn Lake, where I’d never been, but Teach had a few times with students.

Before you assume that this picnic will lead to sepia-toned pictures of my carefully constructed quiche, cupcakes, iced tea in a fancy bottle with a cork, and a wicker basket lined with gingham, just know now that I am not that person. We went to the supermarket and bought grapes, sushi rolls, corn chips, salsa and a two-litre bottle of orange juice to drink out of, because we forgot cups, and we also forgot our canvas bags so hauled them in plastic bags and did I mentionour surname is Classy? I did remember my ten-dollar picnic rug from Big W, and we were very good parents who remembered to bring a hat for the Rocket. And we only got maybe a third of the salsa on the rug, so, good outcome.

The park itself is quite lovely; it feels like you’re in the bush in some places, and is an interesting experience in how waterways work (i.e., some parts are full of rubbish, but downstream it’s cleaner). It’s a decent walk around for those with young ones, but not an exhausting one, and there’s lots to stop and exclaim at (i.e. overheard from myself saying it: “That DUCK is LANDING like a SEAPLANE!”) The lake is not for swimming but is very nice to look at, and there’s a playground, an oval for ball-kicking, and toilets, and car parks, and a community board with decent info on it. There’s a disabled toilet and apparently there’s a baby change room too, but I didn’t find it, though I wasn’t searching hard as I just changed the Rocket outdoors. Having visited the normal toilets, I don’t think you should be expecting a squishy couch and a microwave. We set up our rug away from the pathway and had a great time under the trees yelling at magpies and getting peas up our nose.

Blackburn Lake Sanctuary

Central Rd

Blackburn

website

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