Happy First Birthday!

Sometimes I can’t believe it myself. Has it really been a year? 12 whole months? Since I gave birth to Little J, that is. Well, now he’s not so little anymore, and definitely much more cheeky and active. Little J officially turned ONE more than a week ago, and he was so lucky that a few of our good friends from Malaysia happen to be in Sydney to celebrate his first birthday with him. :) At first, I just wanted to have a simple lunch with our friends at home, seeing how with a baby, it’ll be difficult to organize and cook without help. But Saucer suggested getting takeaway food instead, so we decided to invite a few of my relatives over as well.

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Birthday cake

Our initial plan was to have the little lunch party at the park just down the road from our house, and we even went on site to mind map where our balloons and banner would be placed there. However, when the time came, the weather was just turning dark, windy and cold, not very ideal for an outdoor event. So we had to change the venue last minute and have it at our very own deck. Luckily we didn’t invite too many people or they wouldn’t have been able to fit! :) Thanks to the guys for blowing up the balloons and decorating our humble deck.

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Food and decoration ready

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The little boss of the day

Little J was in a happy mood that day. He woke up from his morning nap just in time before everyone arrived for the lunch. I wonder how he felt seeing so many new faces at home that afternoon. :) While waiting for everyone to arrive, we took the opportunity to take some pictures with the food still intact. :) And also while baby was still in a good mood!

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“Daddy, what big teeth you have”

For food, I made pasta with pork sausage and Saucer prepared a lovely salad of lettuce, spam, feta, olives and tomatoes. We placed some fish fingers and chicken nuggets in the oven for the little ones (Little J loves them!) plus also ordered some pizzas and bought KFC for everyone. On the side, we had some crackers, chocolate bars and of course, the cake!

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The food spread

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The happy birthday boy

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Caroline, Eric and Grey all the way from Malaysia

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 Everyone celebrating J’s birthday

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Our little family of 3

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Saucer and Little J

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Sweet smile from Little J

It was great fun to meet up with everyone that day, including my cousins and their kid/spouse. Little J received lots of attention from everyone wanting to hold him, take pictures with him or play with him. He was certainly one happy boy that day. Once everyone was done with eating, we had the cake ready and sang a birthday song to Little J. The cake was a combination of a white chocolate mud cake on top and a chocolate mud cake at the bottom. And yes, I decorated it with M & M’s to make it less plain. :) The cake itself was really yummy and moist! I especially loved the chocolate mud cake which was super chocolatey and dense.

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Birthday cake for the 1-year old

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Cake-cutting!

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Yummy and moist chocolate mud cake

Then, it was time to open up the presents! Of course, the first one had to be from his parents. :) We got him a giraffe car that he could sit on and ride. He was so excited seeing the box that he would not let go of it! We had to pry the box from him to open it and start assembling the toy car.

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First birthday present for Little J

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“Give it to me!”

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Riding on his giraffe

All of us had lots of fun that day, so much so that Little J only had his afternoon nap an hour later than usual. As he grows older, he’s becoming more fun to play with, and definitely more interactive. Here’s to many more fun birthdays to come, Little J. We love you very much!!!

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 Happy birthday cutie pie!

Fondue for 2 + 1

It’s the middle of winter in Sydney and what’s better than having a mug of piping, thick, hot chocolate to drink? A chocolate fondue, of course! We were at the Theobroma Chocolate Lounge a few weeks back on a rainy and cold afternoon for hot chocolate. After settling Little J down on his high chair, we made our orders at the counter. Both Saucer and I felt like indulging in something sweet so we decided to share a Chocolate Fruit Fondue. Well, now that Little J is part of our lives and our outings, everything that used to be for 2 will be for 2+1 now! :)

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Chocolate Fruit Fondue for 2 (AUD$19.90)

The Chocolate Fruit Fondue came with a thick chocolate dip and 4 different fruits – kiwi, bananas, orange and strawberries, plus 2 skewers of marshmallows. Little J had most of the bananas while I absolutely loved the kiwi with the chocolate dip. The combination of something slightly tart with something sweet was just yummy. I reckon this is a surefire way to get your kids to eat fruits if they refuse to eat them normally. LOL. The chocolate dip was very good too – thick, smooth and very very delicious. We were this close to licking the bowl clean when we’re done with all the fruits!

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Hot Chocolate with Warmer (AUD$6.80)

For our afternoon cuppa, Saucer had the Dark Hot Chocolate with the warmer while I had the Milk Hot Chocolate. I thought my milk chocolate was pretty good, until I had a taste of Saucer’s dark chocolate and I was blown away! Once I tasted both, the milk chocolate really paled in comparison and I kicked myself for not choosing the dark one. I guess this also depends on personal preference, and from this, I discovered that my preference is for something less milky and more chocolatey. Well, we all learn from mistakes, so I’ll know what to order next time. But on the whole, the hot chocolate was reasonably thick, smooth and delicious. Also, the warmer was perfect to keep the drinks warm for as long as we were sitting there, even in the middle of the winter.

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Fondue for 2+1 :)

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Chocolate-dipped Strawberry

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Marshmallow – hot chocolate’s best friend

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Little J munching his banana

Overall, we had a wonderful experience at Theobroma with great chocolate fondue and yummy hot chocolate. We still thought Little J was too young for the hot chocolate since we didn’t want him to get hyperactive but when the time comes, I’m sure he would enjoy the chocolatey drink too. For now, he’s happy with the fruits sans chocolate. :) We’ll definitely be back!

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Happy  boy

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Our +1

 Theobroma Chocolate Lounge
Civic Lane, Rouse Hill Town Centre,
Rouse Hill
2155 NSW Australia
Tel. No: +61 2 9836 3281
Website: www.theobroma.com.au

Australian War Memorial

Just before we left Canberra, we made our way to the Australian War Memorial, which was recently named as the top landmark in Australia by TripAdvisor. As its name implies, the Australian War Memorial was built to honour the members of its armed forces and supporting parties who have perished or contributed to the wars of the Commonwealth of Australia. I was surprised that it was open even during public holidays (Easter weekend) and parking was a breeze in the undercover car park.

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Australian War Memorial, Canberra

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Australian flags in front of the memorial

My first impression of the memorial was that it was gigantic! I initially expected a museum-like experience that would be boring (no offense) but it was actually pretty interesting. There were areas encompassing World War I and another on World War II. There were pictures of soldiers all along the walkways and real-life fighter jets within the building too. I was just sorry I didn’t allocate more time for us to visit the memorial. We only reached there around noon and were planning to drive home around 2.30pm so we would reach home before dark. That left us with slightly more than an hour to roam around, leaving less than an hour for lunch.

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View from the top near the entrance of the memorial

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The huge war memorial

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Making our way in

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Pictures of soldiers

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Little J didn’t seem very interested :P

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More pictures of soldiers

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Badges of honour

We spotted something that looked like a metal cage during our visit and eventually realized it was flight trainer. It was from an Avro Anson plane that used to be a bomber and later salvaged as a training plane. It certainly did not look very comfortable in there and there was no screen whatsoever to display any information. It looks like we have really come a long way in the aviation industry.

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Inside of the Avro Anson training plane

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The olden days cockpit

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The Avro Anson trainer information board

There were also a few life-size fighter jets and bomber displayed in the memorial. One of those was the Kittyhawk “Polly”, which I took a picture of because the Lieutenant who flew this plane actually named it after his girlfriend. So romantic! :)

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Kittyhawk “Polly”

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ANZAC Hall entrance

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Another air craft

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Avro Lancaster Mk I Bomber ‘G for George’

Just before we left, we took a stroll along the Memorial Courtyard. The weather was gorgeous and sunny, perfect for photography. I guess you can tell our visit wasn’t very comprehensive based on the sporadic pictures and short description on my post. Hopefully when Little J is a bit older, we would return to the memorial and allocate more time to fully appreciate the wealth of information it has to offer.

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Memorial Courtyard

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Some familiar countries on the wall

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Our little family

Our Date Night ‘In’

Having a baby has been the most overwhelming experience that I have ever been through. Sure, I am filled with joy and pride whenever I see Little J growing up well and happy and achieving milestones. But there’s no denying that there are rough times too, especially times when he’s sick, when he’s cranky and when he refuses to sleep at night. Ever since he started child care and I returned to full-time work, I have put Little J to bed as early as 7pm or the latest by 8pm. I believe he needs to sleep early since he wakes up early and doesn’t seem to sleep much at the child care itself. If he doesn’t get enough rest, he will get cranky the WHOLE day, but it’s also not easy to coax him to sleep at night because he just fights sleep most of time! So when I managed to get him into a working routine that has him asleep by 7.30/8pm at night, I did not want to disrupt it at all. Come what may, my baby has got to be in bed by 8pm. You may say it’s a rigid method but most babies thrive on routine and when you find one that works, you just stick to it.

While having a good sleeping routine allows Little J to be up fresh and happy the next day, the downside to it is that we are not able to go out in the evening or at night anymore. In fact, I don’t think we have been out for dinner since Little J was born, except for the couple of times we went to our aunt’s place for dinner, and even then, we had to leave early. Also, Little J gets extra cranky past his bed time, so at the end, we just thought it wasn’t worth it pushing him to stay awake. So what do we do when we crave for the occasional date night with a nice dinner, just the two of us (of course I meant Saucer and me :))?

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Appetizers for our date night

Ordering delivery is our next best bet! There are plenty delivery services around our suburb, but we were recently invited to try out Menulog, No.1 for Online Takeaway. It was a Friday night, and as usual, after picking up Little J from child care, it was close to 6pm. I asked Saucer to scroll through the list of restaurants available around our suburb, and to pick one that he liked.

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Online takeaway made easy

There were over 40 restaurants for our suburb alone! So it wasn’t easy picking out one that we liked. In the end, we chose to have Thai food, simply because we’re both fans of hot and spicy food and it’s perfect for the winter days. The restaurant we ordered from was called Aroy Thai, which we have heard good comments about from our neighbours. Ordering was easy peasy using their app, and payment by credit card. After placing our order, we received an SMS telling us that our food would arrive at 6.20pm, which was about 40 minutes from the time we ordered. While waiting, I put some rice to boil and sure enough, by the time the rice was cooked, our dishes were here! Perfect timing.

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Bowls of rice to go with Thai food

The first dish we had was a combination of Fish Cakes and Gai Hor Bai Teuy or pandan leaf wrapped chicken. Saucer never fails to order fish cakes from any Thai restaurants because he always thinks the Thai fish cakes are just different from the Chinese ones, perhaps more herbs/spices within? We quite enjoyed the fish cakes but thought the chicken was a little too tough. They tasted as if they had been fried and re-fried in the pandan leaves, rendering them to be hard and dry.

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Fish Cakes (AUD$7.90) and Gai Hor Bai Teuy (AUD$6.90)

My favourite dish that night was the Yum Pla Fu, which was deep fried fish fillet served with mixed salad vegetables, fresh chilli and lemon juice. It was great that they chose to separate the sauce and the fish in different containers so that the fish remained crispy instead of soaking wet. And indeed, they were still hot and crispy when we ate them! I loved the fish just the way they were, without the sauce.

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Yum Pla Fu (AUD$15.90)

Last but not least, Thai food would not be complete without a curry dish to complement our rice, would it? We chose the Red Pumpkin Curry with Pork. It was loaded with coconut milk, which made it fragrant but also toned down the spiciness of the dish. This would be great for those who cannot tolerate very spicy food because of its mild heat, the milky texture and also the addition of pumpkin that gave the dish a tinge of sweetness. An aromatic and tasty dish nonetheless.

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Red Pumpkin Curry with Pork (AUD$12.90)

In case you’re wondering, yes those dishes were just for the two of us, and no, we did not finish all of them that night. We did, however, manage to have that date night that we wanted, albeit at home. Hey, after all, it’s always the company that matters, right? Of course, the experience was made better by the fact that we didn’t have to do any cooking to enjoy nice and delicious food. I must say Menulog’s delivery service is pretty impressive. We look forward to try other restaurants for our next date night!

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Our dinner for our date night

Applying for Malaysian Passport from Australia

As mentioned in my previous post, we went to Canberra just before the Easter break to register for Little J’s birth and to apply for his Malaysian passport. There were a lot of planning involved in that trip, not only logistics (Little J’s food, clothes, nappies, timing the trip with his nap/sleep time, etc) but also preparation in terms of the documents we needed. The last thing we wanted was to drive all the way there after making an appointment a month in advance, to find that we forgot to bring an important document needed to register his birth! That would really be a disaster and a waste of all the effort we (I) had put in.

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Nothing like a sleeping child on a road trip :)

Anyway, as with everyone else in Sydney, our nearest option to register for our child(ren)’s birth with the Malaysian Consulate would be in Canberra. All the information you need really is in their website. One key point to note is that to register for your child’s birth, it is highly recommended to do so before he turns 1 year old, because after that period, you would need more documents and have to wait for a longer application time (more than 6 months according to the website).

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We’re there!

For the list of documents required for the registration, you could check out this link. For passport application, check out this link. Other important key points to take note:

  • Make an appointment as soon as possible. Note that appointment times available are only from 9am to 10am, Monday to Thursday. So if you are making a day trip there, it means starting your journey from Sydney at 5.30am the latest. Or if you are planning to stay the weekend there, you might want to book a Monday morning appointment. For us, we managed to get the appointment on the Thursday before Good Friday, so we got to stay a night there after our official business.
  • Take passport photos of your child beforehand (if you want to save money). If you are like me, trying to save the AUD$15 for photos, you could take the photos of your child beforehand at home. It’s actually not too hard especially for babies who are not that mobile yet. Just lay them on a piece of white cloth and snap the picture with his/her eyes looking at the camera, mouth closed and head straight (not tilted). We did this and the officer accepted our photos! Printing the photos ourselves at the photo shop only cost us AUD$0.15 by the way. :)
  • Double and triple check all the documents required for the application. Most importantly, make sure all the original documents are with you. If you don’t/forget to make enough copies, as long as you have the originals, you could still make the copies there. But without the originals, your application might have to be put on hold.
  • Parking off-street in front of the consulate. Since it was our first time there, we were not sure where to park and tried to enter via the gates which were closed. After several attempts at the intercom, we then found out that public cars were not allowed inside the building. We had to park outside by the road or across the building. Entering the building was via a side gate which was unlocked.
  • Child registration and passport application are two different processes. Read more about this in my experience below.

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Posing in front of the Malaysian Consulate

We reached there right at 10am on the dot. We were worried about being late but there was actually another family in front of us still in the process of renewing their passports so we sat down and waited. There were 3 counters but only one with an officer. There was no numbering system so we thought we just had to wait until the family was done to get to our turn. That family actually took more than 30 minutes (3 adults and 2 kids) to renew all their passports and by the time the officer was available, it was about 10.45am. So we quickly went over to the counter, ready with documents. When the officer asked for Little J’s Malaysian birth cert/Borang W, I said I didn’t have it and that I was supposed to apply for it then. Little did we know that the officer that we were waiting for was actually in charge of passports ONLY, while registration of birth was handled by another officer who was freely roaming around in the office behind the counters. :( When he came out, he said “Oh I saw you waiting earlier. Why didn’t you call me?” I felt so stupid for waiting for 45 minutes with a hungry Little J for no reason. Stupid for assuming that everyone was supposed to wait for that one operating counter. Anyway, to cut the story short, we had all our documents ready, Little J did some thumb prints, we paid the fees and proceeded to the next counter for passport application. Thankfully, the officers were quite nice and fast, so we managed to submit everything within half an hour.

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Malaysian Consulate in Canberra

On another note, we kept hearing about the famous nasi lemak that was sold at the Malaysian Consulate before and I asked the officer about it. Unfortunately, since the processing of passports moved from Canberra to Melbourne, there were less applicants at the Canberra office, which resulted in declined market for the nasi lemak. Apparently, the nasi lemak was made by one of the staff in the office to sell to people who had to endure long waits for the passport processing back in the time where you could collect them within the same day. Now that passport processing is done in Melbourne (or Perth), we could only submit our application in Canberra and wait for a month for the passport to be ready.

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Are we done yet?

By 3pm on the same day, we were able to collect the Borang W (Malaysian birth registration certificate) from the office. For the passport, we had the option of providing an Express self-addressed envelope to the officer to mail it to us when it’s ready, or to go back to the office and collect by hand. We opted for the postage and within a month or so, Little J’s passport arrived in the mail! I have to say I’m quite impressed with the efficiency of the Malaysian Consulate.

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Little J’s Malaysian passport!

Mother’s Day at Hooters

Mother’s Day has come and gone, and for the first time ever, I celebrated it as a mother myself. Every day, I thank God for giving me my precious little bundle of joy in the form of Little J. No matter how tired I am, or how stressed I am after work, seeing him just lifts my mood up! :) Come to think of it, he’s now exactly 10 months. Can’t believe how time flies by when you’re preoccupied with work and mommy duties. There’s almost no time for myself anymore. But it’s just so rewarding when he’s growing well, healthy and happy. That’s all that matters, isn’t it? For Mother’s Day, we decided to go to Hooters, just because they had a promotion that entitled mothers to eat for free. :) What an unconventional place to celebrate, you’d think? But you’d be surprised to see that the Hooters here is actually really family-friendly! More than 50% of the tables were occupied by families with kids, so we felt right at home. :)

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With Little J on Mother’s Day

All the mothers got to be a Hooters girl for the day too. We were given this customized bib that was drawn with the signature Hooters singlet with the accompanying bosoms to wear. I thought that was quite cute, LOL! I don’t think I’ll ever qualify as a Hooters girl so a fake one will have to do for now. :)

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Hooters bib on Mother’s day

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Little J looking suspicious

For lunch, we ordered ribs! Lots of them! You see, with this promotion, the cheapest meal came free so we thought we might as well order 2 items of the same value. Since Saucer wanted to have ribs, he ordered the Full Rack of Pork Ribs (1kg) all to himself. There was a half-rack portion available but it just wasn’t good value since it was around $33 compared to the full rack at $50. Just look at the glorious slab of ribs that arrived soon after! It was just shiny, sticky, juicy and yummy! The sauce was sweet and caramelized, the meat was tender and came off the bones easily, and the surface had a slight char on it, making it perfect. Saucer polished off bone after bone without realizing how much ribs he could actually eat!

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Full Rack of Pork Ribs 1kg (AUD$49.95)

Saucer and his ribs

As for me, I opted for the Combo which came with half rack of pork ribs and a 350g piece of steak. It was expected that the steak was outshone by the ribs, rendering it neglected throughout lunch. We ended up packing most of the steak back because our tummies were just filled with the gorgeous ribs. :)

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Combo of Half Rack of Pork Ribs and Steak (AUD$49.90)

Halfway through our meal, the music suddenly came on really loudly and the Hooters girls all lined up in front of the dining area getting ready to dance. I was a bit worried at first as to how Little J would react to the loudness. It was the level of loudness where you wouldn’t be able to hear the person in front of you speaking. Luckily he didn’t seem too perturbed by the volume of the music, but more intrigued with the girls dancing to the likes of YMCA in front. :) Overall, we had an enjoyable lunch out, thankfully drama-free and Little J behaved really well. That was a great enough Mother’s Day present for me.