The Diaperbag family.

We are the Diaperbag family. There are Jordan, Evan and Dylan (also known as Muffin) and they are fondly known as JED. We are their parents. Ondine and Packrat.

This is JED

Always playing or planning and plotting to take over the world. Always up to shenanigans.

This is Jordan, our first born

Actually she's part of a twin set. She was known as Twin 1 in-utero. She loves to draw what she dreams, dances what she draws.

This is Evan, reluctantly the younger twin

He's Twin 2 by two minutes because it took the doctor that long to find him. We don't think he'll ever forgive the doctor!

This is our youngest, Dylan (also known as Muffin)

He fancies himself the Lion King. His favourite activities are to climb, jump, pounce and roar at the world. The world is his Pride Rock.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Captain Kantang

Kantang means potato.

Evan is a total kantang. In every sense of the word.

We met with his teachers today and no surprise that the subject he struggles most with is Chinese and the teacher basically told us that his biggest problems are comprehension and sentence construction. No surprise once again. We're told the old adage; read to him, expose him, speak to him, let him watch Chinese stuff. Basically, as the teacher very succinctly and hysterically put it, 'no input, no output.'

Basically, he's living up to the expectations of him being totally anglo. In other words, kantang.

The local phrase for someone who is Asian but is totally anglo. Because the anglo-white stereotype is one where many potatoes are eaten.

And once again, that's Evan, described to a T.

He does love his kantang. If I let him, he would eat it every meal of the day in any form. Shepherd's Pie, hash brown, mashed. Cubed and fried Asian style with carrots and minced pork atop rice.

There's no convincing him that it's high carb and he should cut down on it.

It explains the chubbed up version of Evan.

And since he was home today while we were waiting in the sweltering heat to see his teachers, it was perfect time for him to learn to cook his favourite kantang dish.
Happy is the boy who has his kantang.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Exams are over and it's PLAY time! - A review for Kaboodle Kids-

The exams are finally over! Finally. We don't know how they did and we won't know for a while but for now, it's time to go a little bit berserk. The house is flooded with Young Scientists magazines and there is Lego and Magformers strewn all over. The noise level is also decibels higher.

But they deserve the break.

As a treat, I packed them all off one afternoon Kaboodle Kids one afternoon. It's an indoor play gym at Big Splash. Actually, I wanted to go more than they did. I was curious about it because it was a play gym unlike any other and that in itself piqued my interest. Here are 5 ways it was different.

1. It was all blue. Unlike other play gyms that are a cacophony of colours which sometimes assault your senses, this just had blue bits. Lots of blue bits.

2. And they truly were just bits. No ready made structures. There were no slides or ball pits (though you could technically build your own ball pit). All the bits fit and connected to each other. So it was up to JED and their friends how they were going to build stuff. That way, they built their own fun.

3. Everything was foam. Giant foam noodles, blocks, wheels, balls, everything. That meant they were light and the noodles were malleable but at the same time they were heavy enough (especially after it was built) to stand on its own. And if the entire structure collapsed onto anyone, everyone else laughed because it was comical and it didn't really hurt at all. In Muffin's words after his entire marble run collapsed onto him "Not pain!"

4. There was no set way to play. Evan spent a lot of his time building a giant spider or what I saw as a contraption a mad scientist would use to suck up your brain juices. Jordan and her friends, built a fort that became their castle and Muffin loved that the walls of the castle connected into a huge room length marble run.

5. The entire room was as messy or as built up as the children wanted it to be. At one point when Evan and the girls had concentrated all their efforts on building their structures, Muffin was racing back and forth, slip-sliding around in his socks because there was just so much space for him to do so.

We were there for a good 2 hours and it would have been longer if it wasn't closing time. The only way I managed to drag them out of there was to promise that they could go look for the chickens that roosted near the beach. I also had to promise that we would come back again.

I loved the place. Simple as that.

Primarily because
1. It was a play gym that subscribed to the same play philosophy as I do. Don't tell them what to do, just let them figure it out, do it play how they want to.

2. I could play too. I could build stuff too, me-sized and JED were thrilled because in most play gyms, Mommy's too big to follow them around inside not that Mommy would want to.

3. It was bright. There were windows all along the side which meant there was a lot of light. But that's just me. I have a thing for natural light.

4. It wasn't an entirely huge area that I lost sight of JED but big enough for them to lose each other and that meant lots of fun playing Hide and Seek.

5. It was near the beach. Anything near the beach makes me feel like I am home. That's what happens when you grow up in the East. Take the girl out of the East but never quite take the beach out of the girl.

Stalking the chickens barefoot, to be quieter. No chicken was fooled. 

The only issue I think I had with it was that there was a lot of unhappiness when other kids who had also paid to play came over and inadvertently destroyed what JED were doing. And when they got tired towards the later part of the day, the unhappiness turned into sullen moodiness. But then again, my message to them was suck it up and play with others or accept that your structures might get destroyed.

We'll probably go back again at some point and in truth, we think it'd be a great place to hold birthday parties because you get to book out the whole place and build and play to their heart's content.

Anyway, Kaboodle Kids is really new and only just celebrating their half year anniversary. So they've got a promotion running for the next week. If I can find the time next week, we might spend a day there again. And if not, definitely during the holidays.

For those who can't make it next week, if you pop by and mention you came by them through our blog (the Diaperblog), you'll get 10 % off regular admission rates  till the end of June.

Here's to lots of fun and lots of building.

Postscript: We are thankful for Kaboodle Kids sponsoring JED's visit and everything written here is our own two cents' worth. 

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Girl Justice Jordan

My daughter literally gave a boy an ass kicking two days ago.

Part of me was horrified. Using violence is something we do not endorse. My initial reaction was "SHE DID WHAT??!!"

She tried to defend her actions.

The boy in question was eleven. He's been pretty mean to his sister. His sister and Jordan are very close friends. So she tells Jordan about it. Jordan has told me quite indignantly that he's mean to her friend. She begged me to tell her mother. I guess she decided enough was enough and she took matters into her own hands.

So two days ago, said boy was in our house. He was bending over to pack his bag when Jordan walked in with his sister. She saw that he was bent over, walked over to him and delivered a swift kick to his behind. Literally, a kick in the ass.

Pissed off he was and yelled at her. She yelled back. He hurled names at her.

They had to be physically separated. Almost garden hose style.

She was upset after that. She cried.

We haven't made a big deal out of it for two reasons. One, we don't really know where we stand on the whole thing. Don't hit, yes. But protecting your friend, also yes. Two, we figured she felt bad enough. And when I did mention it, she was still indignant about how the big brother was being mean to his little sister and we could stand by and help. I've promised to talk to the siblings' mother. The only thing I've said to her regarding the issue, very clearly, is that she should never, ever, hit anyone. Well, there may be exceptions but for now, we're going for black and white.

That's our Jordan. Girl Justice Jordan packs quite a punch and looks out for the underdog. This is coming through very clearly; that she has a very strong sense of morality and justice. Both of them do but she's more proactive in responding to it. Sometimes, it comes across as tattling though Evan does that quite well too. But the other part of it is that she wants to act as the mediator and the one that smooths things over (of course, they are on her terms) and she wants to right every wrong (both perceived and real).

Another conversation I had with her was about helping others. I was trying to explain to her that sometimes, telling people how to act or behave isn't very welcomed. In fact, sometimes people might not take it well. It can come across as imposing and judgemental; in kid terms, downright bossy.

Jordan: But what if they are fighting? I can stop them and help them make friendship. My power is to make friendships.
Me: But they may not really want you to. You can go up to them and ask them if they need help. But when you ask them if they need help and they say no, what do you do?
Jordan: Walk away?
Me: Yes.
Jordan: But what if they don't know they need help?

Good point. But also the beginnings of a superhero complex.

Superhero training
So what do we do? We haven't quite figured it out. Vigilante superhero justice isn't as clear cut in real life. Whatever it is, she's got to learn that with great power does come great responsibility.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Exam Season

The question I'm getting asked most often this week is "Do your kids have exams?" followed by "Are they/ you stressed?"

The short answer is no, they don't have exams. But the long answer is that the short answer is a load of crap. Any test that we are informed of at the beginning of the school year, has the children bringing homes files for revision and has a mock test before the actual one is an exam however they try to couch it. Mini-test, Bite Sized test, Continual Assessment, Holistic Assessment; all exams by another name.

Are we stressed? A little bit. The twins are resentful of the sheer amount of work they have had to do in order to revise and be prepared for the test. But a contract's a contract and they're very admirably sticking to it and living up to their part of the bargain.

There are a few things that have helped me and them keep sane. I know the pressure and expectation intensifies as they get older. But here are some things that have been doing the trick this time round.

1. The aforementioned contract: Now, knowing that Packrat is dead serious and knowing what they have to lose if they slack off, both Evan and Jordan have been remarkably on task. Of course, there is complaining and mistakes but the earnest attempt to actually complete their work is more visible. That helps because I don't need to come home to a pile of undone, messy work.

2. Planning: I sit with all their stuff and schedules open and look at what needs to be done and whether it is realistic in the given time frame. Then I work backwards from the number of days I have, the number of pages they can realistically complete and date the pages. I don't spring anything more than the stipulated pages that I had already dated. That way, they know that once they are done, they're done and they can play.

3. Have good support: I am thankful I have good support for the twins. They have a brilliant Chinese tutor that makes learning fun. She has squeaky hammers and tennis balls as part of her bag of tricks. I do the boring stuff with them like make sure they finish whatever revision papers she sets them and I try to go through as much of it as I am able to (ability here plays a huge role). I sat with the tutor before the test season and discussed how we were going to do it. I told her specifically not to have the twins sit there and do papers with her but for her to just focus on the bits they needed help with.  So she does just that and I pick up the slack on the bits that the twins need less help with.

On top of that, the twins are still at BlueTree. And once again, while their teacher is strict with them and expects quite a bit out of them, she revisits old topics as she moves ahead, making their understanding of multiplication and division, for instance, more malleable. She intersperses the table work with games and physical math. So the twins came home declaring their ability to use the measuring tape and regaling tales of the various things they subjected to the measuring tape. So, while she keeps their noses in the grind with homework, the twins are willing to do it. It also has got to do with the amount of scaffolding she gives them. Making them not fear Math, just like the Chinese tutor that makes Chinese fun for them is truly half the battle.

If I hadn't been blessed with having these teachers around to help then I think I would be spending much more time making and looking up resources so that I could replicate these things at home though I'm not sure what degree of success I would have with them.

4. Mastery: The biggest thing that is keeping me from losing it and taking it out on the twins is the constant reminder that these tests really aren't about the grades and an end in themselves. Whenever I feel the urge to let rip a roar of frustration, I remind myself (to varying degrees of success) that it's one test and it's not what matters. I'd figured out that a lot of the stress comes from my expectation of what is good for them. Having been brought up in the Singapore education system, it's easy to say that the best thing for them is to be in the top class and in the top school. I constantly have to fight that voice in my head. In the last few months, there is another voice; softer at times, not as confident but gaining more each day, that reminds me that if the twins are truly struggling, despite all efforts then perhaps the top class isn't where they ought to be and what I think ought to be re-looked. The semi-epiphany that I came to is that eventually I want JED, Muffin included, to be able to grasp the concepts and be able to use them. In one word, mastery.  So then, what we should be working  towards  isachieving that mastery and I've tried to shift my focus towards helping them attain that.

I'm not sure if I'll still be singing the same tune next year or this year end when the stakes are raised. After all, I am fighting a rising tide that is our ridiculous education system that epitomises academic inflation. But framing testing in this light does seem to have given me a little bit less to yell about.

All that being said, I really cannot wait till next week is over and everyone gets some much deserved rest and play time. Even as a teacher, I don't know if I looked forward to school break as much as I have in the last 18 months.

On that note, here's a little bit of a shout out, for those looking for something for the kids to do during the holidays. The twins saw this mailer from BlueTree- an Art-Science camp about the feathered friends and have asked to do it. It's two days at the beginning of the holidays and since I'm going to be at work, I figured why not. And the best thing about it is that after having fun at BlueTree, they're still going to have the rest of the day to play!

There's an early bird special going on, so catch it before it flies off. (Bad puns intended!)

BlueTree Education is at  271 Bukit Timah Road, Balmoral Plaza #02-15 Singapore 259708. You can call them at 91064702.

 The twins' Math class for the term are being sponsored by BlueTree Education. If anyone is keen to try their stuff, they offer free trial classes. I love what they do at English, Logic and Literacy (which sounds way fun!) and Current Affairs Club too but for now, the twins need more play time than classes.

Sunday, May 03, 2015


For the times they drive me crazy, they do funny sweet things and spring surprises on me. So, Jordan got hold of my phone and decided to make an art piece and save it on the Camera Roll without telling me.

In Evan's class, there is a bartering system going on. You trade what you have with a kid who has something you want. They bargain and they trade.

So Evan trades an flag eraser for two boxes. In my opinion, it wasn't a fair trade. But it was to him. Because he's seen the skin care products I use and he recognised that these boxes were the brand that I used.

When I came home, he presented me with them.

Putting aside all the thoughts about how I should teach him to barter more effectively, it was a 'melt' moment.

Sweetness that I had better savour while it lasts.