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.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Slime Industry

Since the exams ended, JED have been on a high. As they go up in the years and the exams get harder, the relief is dizzyingly palpable. It drives us adults batty because they are bouncing off walls and occasionally that high energy becomes destructive. So it became a compromise of what we were willing to put up with and how to channel that energy into something that didn't involve beating each other up.

Packrat had a dinner and dance and his department wanted to go as Ghostbusters. So he decided to commission the kids on our floor to make him a litre of slime. He told them to come up with a business plan. They had to

1. Come up with a break down of costs and how much they need to charge to make a decent profit. Profit enough to pay all their
workers ( the head honcho being our neighbour and the workers being JED)

2. Create a prototype of the slime and get approval from buyer (Packrat). They ran through 3 prototypes because each suffered from the Goldilocks syndrome. One being too watery, one being too opaque and one being just right.

3. Once the prototype was okayed, they had to figure out how to multiply the materials in order to create the required one litre.

4. Even with the prototype, they had several failed batches and it took a large part of the day for them to complete it; just in time for Packrat to pack it up and bring it to the function.

5. They had to split the profits in an equitable fashion and since Muffin did the least amount of work, they wanted to pay him the least amount of money. Eventually, there was some under the table payment for Muffin to pay him off so that he would not disturb the peace by chucking a fit and demanding fair wages. 

For those who are late to the game and need a recipe, this is our neighbour's.

What you’ll need

Half bottle glue (Elmer's if you want it opaque, Chunbei if you want it transparent- They can be bought at Popular) (that’s 50-60 ml based on a 120 ml bottle)

Baking soda (1/4 tsp)

Contact Lens Saline Solution (Add in little amounts till the consistency is right- too much saline makes the slime hard!)

Food colouring (optional)

At the end of it, they were pleased. They made a bee-line for the mama shop where they spent their wages on ice cream and junk food. A true case of one hand in-one hand out and nothing for the bank. I guess that's the next lesson they would have to learn about being entrepreneurs. If they spend everything they make, they aren't going to have anything to help them make more money.

They haven't quite figured out how to spend money to make money yet, just to make money to spend. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why Exams are Important Pt 2

So I get a message from Jordan's teacher yesterday.

She's been doodling a lot in class. Even when the teacher is teaching.

She's always been a doodler. She draws everywhere. Any time she gets her hands on scraps of paper, she'll doodle.

Sometimes, the doodling is effective because it helps her understand concepts better. Sometimes, it's just doodling for doodling sake.

Just a quick glance at her things all over the house, I found a variety of different sorts of doodles on everything from scrap paper to school test papers.

Hence, an annoyed school teacher.

To be fair, if I were the teacher, I'd be annoyed too since it's easy to assume that the child isn't paying attention when there is doodling. My own students do it as well.

Admirably, she admitted openly to the teacher that she doodles when she is bored (they've been going through exam paper after exam paper) and when she finds things hard to understand (that's how she unpacks things).

I also try and suggest to the teacher that instead of fully banning her from doing it and understanding that this is something that she does to process and to decompress, why not let her doodle as a form of note taking. To channel it into something the teacher can accept.

She seems to be open to that idea and I'm grateful.

Then, in the evening, I read about Nike's Chief of Design and how he doodles. All. The. Time. Part of me wants to send that article on to the teacher but the other part of me knows that's just being snarky. But it would be cool if her doodling allowed her to become chief of design, somewhere.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Why exams are important

It's exam time. Again.

And that's usually when creativity flourishes most. When there is real work to be done, the mind wanders and interesting ideas and creations surface. It isn't really necessity that was the mother of invention. I think, more possibly, boredom.

One day, Evan comes out of school with his finger encased in paper. He says it's a dragon's talon. His friend made it for him. And he asks if I can find out how to make them. We YouTube it, I learn it, I pass on the information to him and promptly forget how to do it. He goes on to make 10 talons; he has to make 10, after all he has 10 fingers and makes a couple more in case he chips a nail. He's become a grand master of it.

It's a thing in class now. They're all little dragons that have started to spout talons. Poor teachers. The only things I cautioned him against was to NOT do it during teaching or work time and please use rough paper rather than buying a clean sketch pad from the book store for this.

The annoying thing is that there are talons all over the house and he refuses to throw it out. He puts them them on to claw menacingly at Muffin when his brother annoys him.

Then, there was this.

It's a creature. Not enough legs to be an insect or an arachnid but enough to be an Evan creation. It's made out of staples, magnets and an eraser. All things you find on the study table especially when you're parked there for extended periods of time.

He tells me it's science. He uses the magnet because that's how you get the staples to hold on. The eraser is important because that's how you anchor the staples and it's what forms the body.

Ingenious though extremely annoying because of the high wastage of staples and the random staples lying around waiting to impale the random, unaware adult.

He's proud of his creations and he brings them to school to show his friends. Honestly, these are probably going to be the things he will remember learning in primary school, not so much the fanciful and impractical Chinese phrases that he's had to memorise by the boat load. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

To the parent of a first time camper

Dear Parent of child going off to camp for the first time,

I recently went through the first of my children going to camp. It was a somewhat surreal experience that I feel I ought to share. In a grand scheme of things, it is in preparation for the mother of all camps, 8 years from now for my eldest boy child.

We knew that it was coming but we didn't think it would be all that bad. After all, she has had sleepovers before.

But everyone did miss her and everyone felt her absence. She's home now though and we're back to regular programming.

There was a sobby (I am assured they were tears of joy) reunion but all is good in my world now and I can now objectively think back to the last three days.

So here's what I've learnt.

1. You will want your child to call home. Don't.
Packrat went to the briefing and reported that teachers were inundated with questions about whether their children could bring air-mattresses, sleeping bags, portable diffusers. They faced disgruntled parents when they informed them that the children would not have access to their mobile phones and that no, they could not queue up to use the coin phone either.

This caused much distress and I think this was where the camp experience differed from a sleepover. A sleepover would have involved the constant exchange between the parents on what funny things the kids were up to and this sometimes included photographs and videos. This time however, there was a complete cut off from our children.

But, now that she's home and she's told me what went on at camp, I think the teachers were indeed wise. After all, they have done this year in, year out.

She told me that she went to the sick bay on the first day. It was a bad headache, despite drinking gallons of water. And she stayed there for 3 hours, napping before she felt better and more human. It was at that point, that I realised that, had she been able to call home or get in touch with me, she would have told me about being in the sick bay, possibly been weepy about it and I would have immediately asked if she needed to come home. There would have been a possibility that she would have said yes and then, the camp would have been a slightly extended version of a day camp.

Because I didn't know, because she had no idea that coming home would have been an option, she got  over herself and her headache and went back out to play.

So, the radio silence was great. It prevented homesick children from indulging in their homesickness and anxious parents from finding reasons to bring said child home early. I suppose if she really were unwell, they would have called me. And headaches, in their book, weren't serious enough to warrant a potentially heart dropping phone call for me to receive.

2. You will want to spy on your child. (See Above)

With 240 ten year olds away from their parents for the first time, there were bound to be anxious parents. And because Singapore is small enough and the camp location was made known to the parents, some showed up, testing their prowess at stealth hunting and paparazzi level stalking. There were also parents who worried that their children needed creature comforts and attempted to show up under the guise of delivering them or simply delivering pizza. Whatever was necessary to gain access to the child. 

I asked her if she saw parents hiding in the bushes or pretending to be trees. After she finished laughing, she looked at me in all seriousness and asked if I had been one of those nosy parents. I said no. She said good. I asked her why. She said it would have been an interference on the part of the parents. She said it would have been embarrassing (She tried to soften the blow by saying she would have been happy to see me but even then...). And she said it was only for 3 days and if she could miss me and didn't beg her teachers to send her home and didn't run away from camp to come find me, I didn't need to stalk and spy on them. 

Basically, she was telling me, in her 10 year old way that she needed this space to grow up. 

Wise one, my first born. 

3. You will underestimate your child. (Ditto the previous point)

Admittedly, I worried. I worried that she wouldn't be able to sleep in a sleeping bag. When I found out that someone snuck in a pillow (I didn't even think of getting her to pack beyond her packing list), I found myself wondering if she could sleep without a pillow. I found many other little things to wonder and worry about. Above all, I worried that she would not have a good time and she would be miserable.

Much as I hate to admit it, Packrat and the teachers were right. She had been fine and she came home brimming with excitement of all her achievements. She told me she abseiled down 7 storeys. She told me that she rolled her jacket into bundle and used it as a pillow. She slept like a baby. She, whose extent of cooking at home was to make a grilled cheese sandwich, was able to cook up her own meals on an open flame. She managed to also successfully put drops into her eyes like we taught her to at home. 

In short, not only did she survive camp, she thrived. 

So, my advice? Cede control, trust the school and child. 

And you'll get all the good bits. You'll get to hear the stories through triumphant rose-tinted glasses, you get to stand anxiously at the school gates waiting for that first glimpse of her and you get to get all the air squeezed out of you when she throws her arms around you and gives you a hug big enough to make up for all the time she was away.

I promise you. It'll be hard to do all these things. But it'll be worth it.

From a parent who survived her child being away at camp.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Where have the Mogwais gone?

I didn't believe it when other parents told me that ten was the magic number. That it heralded a new stage of parenting. Where a switch gets flipped and cute, obedient young 'uns turn into surly, smart mouth, sassing tweens. It's like in the Gremlins. The Mogwais are cute and adorable and you want them as pets. But heed the warning.

Do not expose the Mogwai to bright lights or sunlight which will kill it, do not let it get wet, and never feed it after midnight. Feeding them after midnight makes the Mogwai turn into a Gremlin. Getting them wet causes them to multiply.

A tween is what you get when you feed the Mogwai after midnight. I think that happened the day the twins turned 10. We must have accidentally fed them at midnight.

Because my formerly sweet-natured twins turned Gremlin-like.

1. Language:
Where did they learn to be rhetorical?
When asked a question, the choice answers are "Obviously", "What do you think?", "Good luck with that."

Fighting words
"You're always cheating!" "I hate him/ her!", "I wish I were dead!"

2. Physical Aggression:
Shoving, hitting, spitting, anything at their disposal. When warned that the sibling might one day hit back, they ignore me. I'm told that they need to feel the physical pain of the sibling turning on them and socking them back as hard as they gave it.

3. The eyes.
Oh the eyes. The eye- rolling. The eye rolling that communicate "Are you kidding me?" "How stupid are you?" "How stupid is that?" "Who died and made you God?" all in a split second of ophthalmic calisthenics. I know it is necessary for tweens to be able to do that and I know JED  have it encoded in them to roll their eyes since I do it so effectively but it's still riling and it's too easy to say "Don't roll your eyes at me, young lady/man" But I run the risk of sounding like my dad.

4. The moods
The moods are getting dark and twisty and thunderous for now apparent reason. It could be all bright and shiny and all of a sudden, thunder clouds gather and we're all at the risk of being stuck and fried by lightning. Mercurial is a nice word to describe the climate in the house. Not quite global warming yet but definitely, climate change big time.

I know it'll get worse when the hormones catch up with the motor-mouths and the poor hapless 7 year old bears the brunt of it. Us adults, we understand treading on egg shells but it's a minefield for Muffin and he's getting a crash course on how one thing that works today won't work tomorrow.

He retaliates the only way he knows how. He matches their tempers and angers with tears but his physical size and 7 year old vocabulary puts him at a disadvantage.

We can only ride it out, shower them with affection when their moods are right, attempt to express understanding and empathy even when they are being difficult and explain why their behaviour isn't what we expect of them.

On days, there is still the sweetness and consideration they showed to each other as siblings.

On other days, the tween-ness is reflected in hilarious ways with illustrations that give us an insight about how they are processing information. Even the illustrations are filled with eye rolls.

On other days, I want to dig a hole in the ground and hide from the strafing and indulge in looking at cute baby pictures of them.

 But no such luck. It's about wearing the kevlar and hitting right out into the minefield and hope for the best.