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, June 28, 2016

Holiday Adventures 1: Writing A Book

As part of their K2 project many years ago, the twins had to make a book from start to finish. They remember that, especially Jordan who actually goes back to kindy every year to talk to the K2 children about the book she wrote when she was their age.

Anyway, when the opportunity came up this holiday to 'write a book' at Writing Sprouts with their friends, both of them were keen to do so, though Jordan more than Evan. But he went along quite gamely and they ended up having so much fun that they couldn't wait to get dropped off in the morning. The workshop ran from 9.30 to 12 every day but they would clamour to be dropped off at 9.

I had to work so I didn't see much of what they did. But that also meant that all I had to go on was theirs and their friends' feedback.

One of the first things they did at the workshop was to learn to write acrostic poems. So when I asked what they thought about the workshop, they gave me an acrostic poem in response.



To elaborate:

They got to play games. They played charades and they played a version of Pictionary. They got to draw funny things on the board and it never ceases to amaze me how much we aren't on their wavelength. They get what each other draws. I have to look at it as a drawing and try and interpret from the oft-unclear scribbles what they are trying to communicate across. But with each other, they're so in-tuned with each other's frequencies that they get it before the unidentifiable squiggles are complete. It helped that all the children in the workshop were round about the same age so they got each other's humour. Therefore, it was fun.

Well, they now know how to write an acrostic poem. But beyond that, Edna (who ran the workshop) gave them a lot of scaffolding about how to create a story. She taught them to use story maps, mountains, the 'hamburger' ingredients to writing a story. I asked Evan if they helped him. The matter-of-fact answer was "Yes, that's how I wrote the story".

Subtext: Duh, Mommy!

Now, to see if they actually do it when they have to write on their own. 

According to them, it was good noisy. Noisy because they got rowdy when they played games. Noisy because they got to read a crazy poem. Noisy because they got to talk to their friends about what they wanted to write. They got to discuss what they wanted to write. Evan and his friend Mark decided to join brains and co-create and co-write their book. They divvied the work, chatted about what needed to be done, how to do it, how to grow the story and eventually put it down and paper with illustrations.

It was happy noise.

Neat not as in clean and tidy. Neat as in cool. Writing wasn't labourious composition. We have come to the sad conclusion that composition isn't really writing. But what they discovered during the workshop was that 'composition writing' wasn't the only form of 'acceptable' writing. Edna got them to create their stories as comics and learning how to write dialogue with the speech bubbles. I have since found scraps of paper round the house with comics scribbled on them. Not to be thrown away, I have been sternly warned.

They even got to write dedications for their books and they took that very seriously. I know that if I were a kid and I could write my every single page of my own book right up to the dedication page, I'd be absolutely chuffed too.

Evan's dedication was a bit unclear so I had to ask him about it again for Edna and he told me that it was for, in a nutshell, everyone in the family, because they were special. That was beyond thoughtful and neat, in my opinion.

Creating comics

Jordan's comic strip.

A story about Pencil Potter.

And Lord Correction Tape.

The Pencil family safe.

Why yes? Yes to what?

In response to my questions, my 9 yos rolled their eyes at me. They roll their eyes far too much. Ophthalmic callisthenics, my favourite new term.

Anyway, yes was to all the regular questions. They had fun, they'd do it again, they had a great time.

This coming weekend, they get their published books and we get to go their book-reading session.

Having written a book. One thing to check off the bucket list and one thing off their Holiday Wish List of Fun.

Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with Writing Sprouts. Photos are from Writing Sprouts though it's our two cents' worth!

Writing Sprouts is an English Language Arts School for kids. Its specially crafted literacy programme leads kids to creative writing and the opportunity to self publish their work. Writing Sprouts conducts weekly classes, holiday workshops, private coaching, fun literacy events and more.

It is located at 308 Telok Kurau Rd
Vibes@East Coast #01-03/04
Tel: 6247 7173

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Listen to Mommy

She wanted to get her ears pierced.

We've been hedging. We told her that she had to do decently well for the exams. We told her it had to be during the holidays.

It's the holidays now. And she did respectably in the exams. Not fantastic or up to her usual standard but respectable.

So she started her campaign. She is nothing if not insistent.

Eventually, we told her she could and she chose Thursday to do it. A friend of ours told us to use a numbing cream on the lobes so that it wouldn't hurt and she had the cream. But she couldn't pass it to us in time.

I asked her to consider doing it another day, after we could get the numbing cream.

She refused.

Against my better judgement, I allowed her to go ahead with it.

Despite wanting to do it, she was very nervous and was breathing very deeply before even stepping into the shop. She took a long while to gather courage to allow the lady to do the first ear. Lesson number 1: Find a place that does it simultaneously.

After the first ear was pierced, there was a delayed reaction of shocked pain and then the very reaction where her eyes rolled to the back of her head, she turned rigid and collapsed into her Papa's arms. Her lips were white and so was her face. Apparently, she had worked herself into such a state that she was hyperventilating and then subsequently, passed out.

Of course, after that, with full knowledge of how painful it was, she covered her ears with her hands or tipped it into her shoulder, refusing to let the lady do the other ear. It took another half an hour of coaxing (and almost coercing on my part) before she allowed the lady to pierce the other side.

Eyes all puffy from crying

It took all of me to stop from saying "I TOLD YOU SO!" There was so much annoyance that I had to swallow because she was already so upset.

But in the end, I figured she'd learnt lessons.

1. If she's impatient and makes impetuous decisions, she has to suffer the consequences of it, especially when we tell her that waiting would result in a better experience.

2. She has to follow through once she makes the decision. She wanted to do just the one ear and come back another day. I told her that would mean the other earring would not be sterile and that she would then need to pay for a new pack and it would cost twice as much. Plus, it was still going to hurt. The same amount, if not more because she would have had time to exaggerate the experience in her head.

Then she wanted to just keep the one earring and we told her that wasn't possible either.; that would just look plain weird. She had to get the second one done and she had to do it straightaway.

3. Despite the fact that it sounds too much like the evil mother from Rapunzel, Mother KNOWS best.

That one, she had better not forget.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Holiday Wish List of Fun

Today is the last day of school and I couldn't be happier. I look forward to the coming month of minimal work and lots and lots of play.

I was asked why I looked forward to the holidays since it would mean having 3 kids underfoot and fighting. True that but I revel not having to worry about homework for a while. During one of the exam nights where we were fantasising about what we could do post exams, the twins came up with a list. I did promise that we would try to do some of the things on their list.

So here were some of their requests.

1. Go to Playeum.
Some months back, we were invited to Playeum and their Art of Speed installation. They loved it and have been clamouring to go back. Fortuitously, right about the same time, Playeum invites us to their new theme, Hideways- Creating with Nature. So the day Jordan was done with her exams, we high-tailed out of school like a bat out of hell and we spent the afternoon there .

I need to state categorically that I love Playeum and revel every chance we get to go there. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

a. This installation had a science geeky bit with microscopes and specimens that Evan gravitated to. On top of that, there was a live stream of a hornet somewhere outside, building a nest. Near enough to see, not near enough to get into trouble.

b. It had a buffet of raw materials for JED to create things. 
They don't tell the kids how to play, explicitly or implicitly. They just leave out trays of raw recycled material and art supplies and set the kids free onto them. Of course, for those who need a bit more structure and order, there are helpers around to help guide them to make stuff. This installation's theme was to make Sounds of the Earth, which was cool on its on. 

JED however, deep into their Harry Potter obsession chose to use the raw materials to fashion themselves some pretty awesome wands. And rafts. Very Lord of the Flies.

c. The Possibilities
There was the Dark Space area as well as the Creative Cave. Personally, I love the Dark Space. The whole of Playeum including the Dark Space is a play of play but the kids naturally slow in it and they take time to look around and revel in the dark. The dark triggers and heightens other senses and children play differently there. 

JED however, used it as a juxtaposition to the bright outside; when their play required them to be in the day light, they were outside and when it was night, they would come in here and they used the strips of fabric and everything they could get their hands on to build a night time web.

Everything was up to them. They got to create their own worlds and after weeks of doing what they needed to do for the exams, it was such a relief for them to just unwind and create. So we got that checked off our list fast and furious!

2. Read.

They wanted to read uninterrupted and that was one of the first things they did post exams. During the exams, they could only read in spurts. At meal times, at break, at bed time. They really just wanted to be able to read and lose themselves in it.

And they've been reveling in it. The house is occasionally quiet with the kids fully immersed in what they are reading and both twins have finished the huge tome of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Even Evan, who is more reluctant to read, has asked for more books to read during the holidays having polished off 4 in the time between his exams ending and today. 

I've hit the library for them and have been trawling both Book Depository and Amazon to pick out stuff for them. Their birthday is the end of the month. I've declared a moratorium on toys as gifts but books, I'm very happy to indulge. 

3. Write.

This is more Jordan than Evan but she wants to spend time writing. She's discovered that writing and compositions aren't synonymous and now that she has a month away from compositions, she just wants to write. She's got books and coloured pens to write with and she's ready to attack writing with a vengeance. We've also signed both of them up for a writing workshop at Writing Sprouts where they get to do a week of writing and gets to publish their own book at the end of it. 

4. Help. (This was more mine!) 

We're also going to use this holidays to help. Life isn't just about spending all your time trying to cheat the system and do well in exams; that's something we're very clear in wanting JED to learn. JED need to learn that there is a bigger world outside of school and homework and that there are people out there with bigger problems than not having enough time to play. So, we're going to be spending some time this holiday trying to help out at Willing Hearts. The twins are becoming aware of how there are people out there with more needs than they have and are empathetic enough to want to help so there's no better time to start. 

5. Swim

They want to swim and they want to play in the sun. Sunstroke and sunburn notwithstanding, they can spend all the time they want in the pool and different pools at that. They have a list and they want to slowly make their list down that. Who cares if their skin shrivels and their hair is wrecked by the chlorine? I do but when I was 9, my hair was green from chlorine so why deprive them of that? 

6. Crocodile Hunting.

Muffin has an obsession for big creatures. Dinosaurs, big cats, reptiles. He keeps asking if they exist in Singapore. Some, like dinosaurs don't but others do. He wants to watch Jurassic Park/ World, look for big cats and big reptiles. Thankfully, we have Sungei Buloh and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and there's a possibility of finding some of those creatures there. JED recall snakes at Bukit Timah and we recall otters at Sungei Buloh. We just need to be outfitted in military strength insect repellant. 

7. Celebrate their birthday

I'm turning 40 this year and I hate the thought of it. But for the twins, birthdays are exciting and fun. It's not an elaborate party but there's open space for the kids to run around screaming. Since they've become old enough to be involved in it, it's more fun for them and less work for me. They want decorations? They organise playdates with their friends and create the decorations. This birthday, we need to create a Platform 9 3/4 wall since it's a Potter Party and some broomstick goodie bags. 

8. Night Walks

One of their all time favourite activities is to go on night walks, with friends and or neighbours. They love carrying torch lights, shining it at random things and scream "SUSPICIOUS!". They love scaring each other and talking loudly enough to wake the dead. We've done Botanics and places nearby our place. With more time during the holidays, maybe we'll venture further from home and perhaps be able to see chickens roosting in trees.

9.  TV

The rule in our house is no TV on the weekdays. It's religiously adhered to even during the holidays. The only way the rule is broken is when what they watch is in Chinese. We kill two birds with one stone. They get their TV hit and they get some Chinese input. Everyone is happy and sometimes, it's just the breather we all need from the noise, the mess and the fighting. 

10. Being with each other

While we do spend a great amount of time with JED, during term time, much of that time is spent with us in the driver's seat sending them around or as the teacher, helping them with their work. During the holidays, they want us to play with them and we want to as well. Basketball, frisbee, going to breakfast and going to the movies. They also want to be with each other, play uninterrupted without having to be hauled away to do work. They have plans to build Minecraft and Lego worlds. We want to gladly indulge them. 

So there, our very simple plans for the holidays. Minimal structured activities (except for the writing workshop) and hopefully enough down time for everyone to re-group, refuel and recharge. 

Sunday, May 08, 2016

What mums want for Mother's Day

Mother's Day is pretty much a commercial thing but since it's around for us to honour and commemorate mothers, I'm going to use it to do just that.

I haven't been a mother all that long. I recently told Muffin when I was filling up a form for him that where it stated "Name of Parent", I once wrote down my own mother's name. Because in my mind, she's the mother. I'm just a kid, playing house.

But I guess, I am a mother, with 3 kids to care for, love and fiercely protect. But the most difficult part of this aspect of my life is not that. That comes naturally, as does the worry and stress about everything from their well-being to something as inconsequential as exams.

So what is the most difficult part? It's protecting myself as a mother. Not just physically and that in itself as tough. The eye bags, the shot memory and the late nights are testament of how I and probably we often forget to look after ourselves physically. But what's even harder is to protect myself emotionally. And I know I speak for more than myself.

Like I say, we love our children fiercely. And for good or for bad, we do everything we can to make sure things work out. But that means laying ourselves vulnerable to attack. The twins do science in school now and they learn about exo-skeletons. One thing they have been able to point out is that exo-skeletons are hard external coverings to protect the soft inner bodies of the animals or insects. Yes, mothers need that too.

We constantly worry whether we are doing right by our children and doing enough for them. We are paranoid enough to worry that we aren't doing enough despite all signs to the contrary. And because that's where we are most insecure, we are also most open to attack. It could be by another mom who is well-meaning, chiding us for not giving our child a particular opportunity to flourish. Then we feel that we are lousy mothers.

It could come in the form of an elder who defends our child when we try to discipline the child thereby eroding our authority or our conviction that we were right in disciplining our child; implying then that they know more about parenting than we do. That's when we feel that we're ineffective as the mother.

Or it could come from someone who, past their own years of parenting has forgotten what it feels like to be in the trenches, waxes lyrical about how easy it was for them to have parented their children and look back with rose tinted hindsight on how fun parenthood was; making us feel like incompetant frauds because we run furiously on the hamster wheel just so that we don't fall off. Then that voice in our head tells us how useless we are as a mother.

Or it could be someone who tells us that despite how established we are professionally and how we spend all our time struggling to keep all the balls up in the air that "No, you can't have everything" and we ought to chuck our life and our profession to stay home so that we could helicopter our children. Because, that's what true mothers do and when we are not home all the time, there are no two ways about it; as with every single jibe against us, we are made to feel that we have utterly failed as a mother. And that's what rips apart that soft inside within us.

So that, is what we have to immunize ourselves against; our confidence as mothers that people around us knowingly or unknowingly erode to make themselves feel better or look better. We always try to do right for our children and we do what we can within those limitations. And for most part, the children thrive when mothers do it that way despite these perceived imperfections.

So my rally call this Mother's Day is not just to honour mums by buying her flowers today and taking her out for a meal but to make it an effort to not judge mums; to encourage us every day as we battle both the outer challenges and inner strife that comes along with motherhood. That way, we help each other create that necessary exo-skeleton against all the world and their criticisms on what we are  obviously doing wrong. That way, we help each other be the best mums we can be. Because at the end of the day, it isn't a contest where only one of us can be the best mum. Just as we want the best for our children, we should also want the best for every mum out there. We are all in the same boat.

Not the Oscars.

Now, that would make a rockin' Mother's Day gift.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Journey to the gym

Jordan's been putting in a lot of hours at the gym. She had a club meet last weekend. And despite the fact that it wasn't a big competition and it wasn't exactly high stakes, there had to be full-hearted commitment of time and effort.

So over the last months, it's been 10.5 hours at the gym full on. And for now, we're done.

What came out of it?

1. Tempering expectations.
This was more me than her. She had no problems getting top grades last year despite hours at the gym. This year, it's been more exhausting and there's a lot more work. Some things don't come as easily and there's a lot more struggling. But I also knew that this was going to be more important than keeping her nose in the books all the time just so that her grades kept up with last year. So, we made the conscious decision to let go a bit, close an eye and let her use this to learn something that no amount of studying was going to teach her.

2. Oodles of discipline.
Even then, what came out of it was then a juggling act we all had to perform. To make sure that we could get what was necessary done, everyone had to be on a schedule. It went against giving her time to be creative and time to play but it had to be done. There was value to that as well, laying all her cards on the table, training, homework, sleep (which was very necessary seeing the number of hours she spent training) and having her see what she needed to do and giving her the space to process how to do it.

3. Moving beyond the complaining.
There was whining and there was complaining and there was comparing. But I had learnt that as long as I gave her complaints air time, she would go on to do what was necessary. And that in itself was something admirable. She would do it. Despite the exhaustion and sometimes, even tears, she would get it done. She would express her feeling of being overwhelmed, we would acknowledge it, comfort her and let her go on and that she would.

4. Grace under pressure.
One of the reasons why the girls trained so hard was so that the moves they had to make became part of them. That was essential because nerves tended to hit big time during competition. And when they were going to be jumping and twirling on a beam 4 inches wide, nerves would be what would cause them to fall. So, at training, they went through the routines over and over again. They got yelled at about everything, right up to the twirl of their fingertips.

And we saw how that paid off. At warm up, with all the distraction and noise, there was a lot of falling off the beams and tripping about. As spectators, that worried us; what if the same thing happened during the routine? But the girls took it in the stride, with eyes forward. And for each and every one of them, during their actual routine, where it counted most, they did not fumble or fall. The training and the mental wind-up got them through the pressure of performing. And all looked cool as cucumbers despite the fact that Jordan had told me her heart was going to explode out of her chest. None of them looked it.

5. Cheerleaders
I asked Jordan if she wanted her friends around for her competition and she said yes. She brought some paper to school and wrote some invitations to some of her closest friends to ask them to come watch her. And they came, armed with banners, flowers and gifts. When she saw them, her grin threatened to split her face. It helped dissipate her nerves and made it all the more enjoyable for her. She is also so much more in love with her friends because they came when she needed them and she couldn't help gushing about it. I think she also felt that she had her own audience she wanted to perform for. I was very wowed by the fact that her friends and their parents made the effort to come Sunday morning to watch her and thank God that she has friends like them!

And then, it was over.

And she had done really well. In all the ways that mattered.
She had enjoyed herself.
She had given her best in every routine she performed.
She had remembered everything the coaches had drilled into her.
And she looked like she owned the routines.

The medals were just the icing on the cake.