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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Coming into their own- Jordan

Evan's character building moment for the year was having gone away to camp with Packrat. Jordan's came in the form of the inter-club gymnastic competition that she chose to take part in. She wanted to take part in it because she wanted to win some medals.

A week before the meet, she realises that taking part wasn't really going to be enough to win the medals, she actually had to do well enough to get placed.

On her own accord, she ramped up her training sessions. The two weeks before the meet saw her practically live at the gym, going every other day and towards the end. every day. 3 days before the meet, she had a freak out melt down about not being able to turn herself on the uneven bars. She was convinced that if she didn't, she would not win. It took us an hour to talk her down from that.

But whatever she put herself through, it paid off. Her coaches told us about the focus and glint in her eye when she was on the floor and even though she didn't get a gold medal for any of the events, she was placed in every single event and managed to come in 2nd overall.


Going through the motions

My mother tells me that when I was eleven, something clicked in my head and I realised that if I put in effort into my work, it would pay off. She tells me that it was the same year that I entered and won my first competitive sporting event; I took part in a swim meet and won in the events that I swam in. She thinks that it made me realise that there was a correlation between working hard and succeeding. 

I think Jordan's figured that out. 4 years before I did. 

So pleased, she is. 

The challenge for us is to manage her. Well, me specifically. Packrat says that Jordan is a clone of me. That perfectionist, high strung, achievement oriented and competitive streak got passed down to her by the buckets. And through this entire experience, we learnt that

1. Like me, she drives herself into a frenzy because of her own extremely high expectations. Hence, the melt down. Thankfully, I've gone through enough of them in my life time to know that the melt down is necessary as an outlet for the build up of stress. And after that, it'll be okay. But at 7, she needs someone around to talk her down from it.

2. Remind her that no matter how high the stakes are, she has to have fun and enjoy doing it. Before her rotations began, I took her aside and we prayed and then I told her that the most important thing was to enjoy herself out there. And if she could do that, the medals would be easier to come by. So when she ended up every routine with a face splitting grin, I knew that regardless the previous freak outs, she was doing okay.

3. We cannot belittle her expectations. Telling her that it's okay if she doesn't win might be our way of telling her we won't be angry or upset with her if she doesn't win. To us, it's a good thing. But to her, telling her it's okay that she doesn't win when she badly wants to, it is that we aren't supportive of goals and we don't think highly of it.

4. We have to teach her to take instruction. Jordan's got an athlete's personality. Their perception of their abilities is sometimes over inflated, especially when they think they've already got it. Jordan's a little bit like that. She knows she's good but because of that, she thinks she no longer needs to listen. This is something that extends into her academic work as well.

5. We have to teach her about failure. As far as possible, I don't ever want her to fear failure. Inevitably, she will. It is one of the pillars of why Singapore is so successful. But I also know this fear is crippling and is what kept me from achieving greater athletic success. So I sit with her and talk to her about how falling off the beam isn't because she is lousy at it but because she didn't hold in her muscles enough to stay up; that her slightly weaker placings on the floor and the vault weren't condemning her but where she had to listen to her coaches more about how to make it better.

But none of them really take anything away from her victory of last weekend. She deserved every medal she got. We told her how proud  we were of how hard she worked and what she achieved because of it. It's a mouthful of praise but worth a lot more to her than telling her how good she was.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Holiday things to do- A day camp with a difference (Review)

We've just passed the first week of the holidays and JED have done their fair share of lolling around. Evan and Packrat have had to recover from camp and Jordan, from her gym competition (which I shall blog about soon.) I'm loving all the random stuff that they have been able to do, sleep overs at grandma's, play dates with friends and they even had some new experiences in the week.

The Giving Treehouse Student Care Centre wrote to invite the twins to their holiday programme. I'm sticking to my guns about not having the kids swamped by holiday classes but this one was different. This one had a heart and it was something I could totally get behind.

The twins, together with their friend Kate, did only 3 out of the 5 day programme but it was enough for them to have a lot of fun and to come home a little bit more thoughtful. Each day was markedly different from the next.

I was very taken by the colours and vibrance of the place. There was a lot of green, inspired by Shel Silvertein's The Giving Tree (already a win in my book!) and an entire wall that was a chalk board for the kids to scrawl on. Obviously, that was what the twins descended on first.

What I liked about the programme was that it was obviously non-academic and these were things that I would have done with JED if I had the time, space and didn't have to worry about anything else. And in my book, that's what holidays are meant for. 

So the highlights for us were 
1. The Trampoline Park (Jordan and Evan)
An entire hour of non-stop bouncing and challenging each other to see who could jump the highest, twirl the most number of times or somersault into a pool of foam had the kids drenched in sweat. Evan's frustration was that he couldn't get up to the top of the mattress no matter how high he jumped. But his efforts did make him look like a basketballer ready to dunk a shot. 

2. Making stuff (Evan)
Some time ago, we made lava lamps at home out of recycled bottles, cooking oil, colouring and Alka Seltzer. We've since thrown those away and he's been bugging us to do it again. I've been hedging because it's a lot of oil to use. So, the fact that The Giving Treehouse's programme included the making of lava lamps, sold the progamme to him in a heart beat. He didn't even ask about what else we were going to do. Lava lamping was good enough for him.

Their weird humour surfaced with the Alka Seltzer bubbling in the oil and colour mixtures. Small eruptions were  and large eruptions were obviously, 包. I didn't get it but they seemed to think it was hilarious.

Making the lava lamps

Making kites. 

3. Helping Others. (My favourite)
Evan wanted to do the camp because of the lava lamps, Jordan wanted to do the camp because of the day at the Trampoline Park and I wanted them to do the camp because their last day there had them going to Willing Hearts to help prepare meals for delivery. After Evan's whole 'poor people are Muslim' thing, I really needed for them to see more of this part of Singapore that features so little in their psyche and helping at Willing Hearts was a good start to it. They had to slice food for cooking and then label the boxes. It wasn't very hard work but it was hot, tedious and repetitive. They stuck to it though and Jordan announced that she had helped prepare meals for people who needed food. 

So by Friday, the twins felt very accomplished. In Evan's words, they had had an exercise day, a 'make things' day and a helping day. I couldn't have summed it up better.

My only reservation about going to The Giving Treehouse was that it was in the East and we lived on the other side of the island. But it turned out to be well worth the commute.

The Giving Treehouse is essentially an after school care centre and if I were a working mom and my kids were in school in the East, this would really be the place I would send them to. The coaches were great; they hung out with the kids, talked to them at their level and played with them. The centre was filled with books and games and everything was welcoming. I had a look at their regular after school schedule and there was conscious effort to always include time to do things that were beyond just the books. All good things.

Having grown up in the East, I've always believed that the best things are in the East and this pretty much reinforces it for me.

Now, if only I could convince Packrat that moving to the East was viable.

The Giving Tree House is at Laguna Park. (
5000F Marine Parade Road, 
#01-24 Laguna Park
Singapore 449289

T: 6448 5700
M: 9150 5756
It is a Before/ After School Student Centre and there is the option of doing ad-hoc drop-offs too.

The twins were offered a week at The Giving Tree House's holiday programme. There are four more weeks of it and I'd do it too if we didn't live so far away. Anyway, that's pretty much testament of our opinions of the programme.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Coming into their own- Evan

The first weekend of the holidays had the twins going off separately to do their own thing. As twins, they started off doing everything together and being clones of one another. As they got older and because they were first in different classes and then different schools, they began to do different things and go their separate ways. We see this as a good thing. Especially when the things they choose to do are so different.

Evan chose, very excitedly, to go to camp with Packrat. His school organised a Father-Son Camp and Evan wanted badly to sleep in a tent and be at a camp fire. Packrat's response was luke warm, filled with bad memories of NS field camps. But the enthusiasm of his son was something that he couldn't say no to.

So they spent the weekend out in Sembawang where occasionally mobile phones get the "Welcome to Celcom" message.

When he came back, I asked him to write down words and thoughts about the camp. From all that, this is what we surmised.
The things he enjoyed about camp:

1. Playing catch with his friends.
Any time he had while waiting for the next activity to begin, he would do what other 7 year olds did- he played catching with his friends. And they did a lot of that, complete with monkey photos.

2. Skipping.
A first for him where we realised that the kid had remarkable air time. Just like his dad. With such utter glee at that. 

3. Hop Scotch
Both father and son came home raving about Sembawang Park. I guess that's going to be on our holiday 'to-do' list.

4. Eating.
Food is of greatest priority to Evan. He embodies the saying "A hungry man (boy) is a grumpy man (boy)". So as long as he is well fed and his tummy is filled, he's a happy camper.

5. Playing with Papa.
This was what the camp was meant to do. Dad- son bonding and on this alone, they fulfilled the objective, by the buckets. Now more than ever, Evan is Packrat's little shadow, always wanting to hang out with him, do stuff with him and asking for him when he isn't around.

What he didn't like about the camp (much shorter but much more loudly articulated):

1. The toilets
While they weren't spoilt, they weren't clean and there was a smell. So in his words, they were 'disgusting'. He refused to use the toilet if it wasn't necessary and he figured out very quickly when it wasn't necessary.

2. The showers
Open showers with cold water and muddy floors. He declared a moratorium on baths on the second day because he knew I was picking them up late at night. But that meant, the car had an unholy smell to it and the clothes had to go straight into the wash. Leaving it till the next morning would have caused our home to require a HAZMAT team come in to decontaminate it.

Looking dirty and scruffy because of the moratorium on showers
3. Sleeping in tents

While he was all excited to go camping because he could sleep in a tent, he really didn't like sleeping in the tent. It was uncomfortable and he was lying on the ground; despite the yoga mat that I had sent with them and the sleeping bag. When he came home, he rolled around on his bed and relished it, declaring how he missed it.

All in, I'd say the camp was a good thing for him. 
He got to experience 'ponding' first hand when the rains threatened to literally wash the camp away and he was, in a sense, gently pushed beyond his comfort zone; Evan's body shuts down at 8.30pm but at camp they kept going and going and he really didn't have much of a choice so he kept going till he literally crashed.

We tell him how NS would be much more uncomfortable, how Papa won't be there and how he'll be playing catching of another sort with his friends. His response is to pray that there will be no war. He also swears that he isn't going back again, ever. But in spite of that, he wears a huge smile when he looks at the pictures of the camp and he does this repeatedly. He also talks about the camp at every chance he gets.

So, no matter how vociferous his complaints have been about camp, I'm proud of him because no matter how miserable he was when it rained out or uncomfortable it was, he had fun in the things that he did and he never once asked to go home. That to me, is achievement unlocked for Evan.

Perhaps by the time Muffin is his age, he and Packrat (more importantly) will be ready to go again. But then, who am I to say since I wasn't the one out there with him?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Holiday things to do- heART for art (A Giveaway)

The holidays have arrived and I have been asked, with deep seated panic, by other parents 'WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THE KIDS DURING THE HOLIDAYS?'  and then followed by the question, what sort of holiday classes the twins will attend. For most part, I try not to send them for classes, for a variety of reasons.
a. They are generally expensive when I have to multiply them by two or three.
b. Holidays are meant to be just that, holidays- away from structured classes and time.
c. This article together with others about free play vs summer camps echo quite loudly in my head.

I have, occasionally, signed up for classes for JED. It happens when the children are genuinely interested, ask to attend them and we can find space in our budget for them. The other situation is usually when we have to travel and JED are parked with the grand-maters. In that situation, the grand-maters and carers often need some time away from what can be very demanding children so we build in time-outs and breathers for them (the carers not JED) by sending them off for a few hours every day.

When I have to pick holiday programmes for them, my general rule of thumb is that they have to be non-academic, fun and either invokes creativity or are creative and they have to have to pass muster by said child.

Jordan's request for holiday programmes usually run along the lines of arty or dancey classes and over the years, we've figured out how to pick the good ones for her. We've also figured out a way of weeding out the duds.

Arty classes cannot
a. Be large- Art work, especially on canvas requires some supervision. If a class is too big, the pieces come back looking like they fell off a production line or in a total mess. 

b. Have right and wrong- I once had an art teacher who complained about how the twins had done things wrong. All they had done was to add their own personal flourishes into the art piece. That got them labelled as 'disobedient'.

c. Be uniformed- Usually there is a theme for art classes but when a child decides to use his fingers to do dots rather than a paintbrush, it should not result in a scolding. Art at this point is about allowing a child to explore the various mediums of the form.

d. Expect you to pay for the ridiculous- We're done with dance camps where we have to end up paying for tickets and costumes for End of Camp show pieces. 

The classes that worked were always the ones that
a. Had teachers or facilitators that made the children feel comfortable and spoke to the children at their level. They were also the ones that how to relate to children.

b.Had structure. It wasn't that creative and fun meant free for all. Little ones thrive on structure because they have an idea of what to expect and where they were headed to next.

c. Had activities pitched at the child's levels. That showed that they weren't just out to fleece the parents but had some sort of understanding as to what a 3 or 4 or 5 year old was capable of and how long the attention span was for that demographic.

So, Jordan and my choice of an art studio is heART studio. It's small but the ambience is cheery and the teachers engage. In my book, any place that can convince 'does not like new experiences' Evan to do try something different (we sent both of them at the same time) is a win in my book. No tears, excitement at being able to muck about with chalk and get dirty meant Mommy was quickly forgotten.

Jordan loved playing the the chalk on canvas and loved how she was shown to get her pinks just right.

All this and the interesting one- day camps they had made it on top of my list for art holiday programmes.

Even 3 year old Muffin who at that point hadn't gone for anything of this sort allowed Packrat to leave him for 3 hours where he splattered and painted on a canvas and surprised us with a space ship, Mars (in his words) and Earth. My favourite part of his painting was actually the stars.

Jordan and Evan haven't been back to heART in a while though they had a lot of fun there and remember it fondly.  Muffin has since gone back again for another of their vacation programmes where he got to paint Obi-wan Kenobi. He would have gone back for every repeat session if I had let him because he wanted to do a collection of Star Wars paintings.  

So, because it's the holidays coming up and to celebrate the beginning of it, Diaperbag is giving away two holiday camp classes from the many available;

  •  A Canvas Painting session of Mr or Miss Fox from Mr Fox's Adventures-  for 3 to 4 year olds 
  • A Canvas and Clay session of  Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer one for 7 year olds and above
Both classes are on 12 December at 1.30 pm to 4 pm.

Here's how to win one.  
1. What's the one favourite thing that you or your kid likes to draw? (I love drawing snails. I don't know why. All my notes from JC and uni days are filled with snails) Do this by 24 November 2014. 
2. Leave us your name and email address so that we can contact you. 
3. Check out heART Studio's FB page and like it so that you get updates on their courses. 

Some thing to note:
  • The child has to be within the age range for the specific workshop. 
  • No repeat winners are allowed. 
  • Winners will be notified by email, through the email address provided. (So don't forget to leave one!) 
  • Winners must confirm by reply email or phone call, within three days. Otherwise, we'll take it as you aren't interested and give it to someone else
  • The workshops have been specifically picked by heART Studio so they can't be swoped for another  day or another workshop. 
  • No existing students allowed, we want to let the uninitiated have an opportunity. 
  • This giveaway is open to Singapore residents only.

Schedule for Dec 8 to 12

Schedule for Dec 15 to 19 

heART Studio very kindly gave JED an art session for each of them in exchange for this post. But the two cents worth of opinions here are ours. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

We killed a caterpillar; or why we can't have pets

JED found a caterpillar. A teeny tiny one. I don't have photographs of when they first brought it home because it just

Anyway, they wanted to keep it and make sure if became a butterfly. So I figured why not. After all, Muffin's perennial favourite book is still The Very Hungry Caterpillar and it seemed like an apt, post test- end of term experiment for them. And it was as short time and as unintrusive as pets came.

They were amazed at how fast the caterpillar grew and how much it ate. Muffin was wondering worriedly when it would get its tummy ache as the Very Hungry Caterpillar did. I was just amazed at how much it pooped.

Then one day it stopped eating, inched up one of the twigs that I had put into the container (thereby reminding me once again that I was in charge of the pet) and stayed still.

And that's how it stayed. And stayed.

We think it's died. That it didn't manage to metamorphise. And that was as far as it got.

Evan feels sorry for it because he always feels bad for anything that suffers. The other two seem to vacillate between hoping that it will emerge and not caring that it's died.

It reinforces my long term mantra of no pets. If we can't even keep a caterpillar long enough to help it become a butterfly, what more the other higher maintenance pets like fish? And like I said, the onus was on me to check if it was okay and to feel the loss of it because it's died.

I'm not traumatised but really, NO. MORE. PETS.