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.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dealing with loss- a 9 year old's perspective

JED lost their great granddad last week. The twins, in particular were close to him because they grew up living in the same house as he did. There's something to be said about living in a multi-generational house.

Anyway, he passed, at a ripe old age of 100. We knew it was soon because he wasn't doing so well and had done our best to prepare JED. Even then, when we found out that he had passed on, telling them was still going to be no easy feat. For good or for bad, Grandma broke the news to them before we managed to.

Jordan was inconsolable. Evan was very take charge. He took it upon himself to ring myself and Packrat to let us know. He also let us know that Jordan was distraught about it. Muffin was confused because he didn't have as many memories about Tai Gong as the twins did and he couldn't understand why he wasn't as upset as they were.

It took some time for us to talk Jordan through her despair. And what perhaps helped them all process it was for them to write cards to Tai Gong to place before the casket. We also got them to share their best memories of Tai Gong.

Jordan: Going into his room and taking his hymnal and singing with him.

Evan: Stealing butter cookies from his cookie tin (the traditional round tin of butter cookies)

Muffin: The stuffed tiger that taught him to roar loud.

Allowing them to talk about Tai Gong seemed to help. So did bringing them to the wake. When there weren't many people about in the afternoon, we brought them over and allowed them to say goodbye and place their flowers and cards.

We didn't stop them from crying. Some of the elders tried to console them by telling them not to cry since Tai Gong was in a better place and had gone to heaven but we told them they could cry and it was okay to be sad. Because we didn't hide how sad we were to have lost him, we told them they didn't have to either.

By the end of the funeral, everyone was emotionally spent but I think we were all calm and at peace with Tai Gong's passing. And while I thought we were done processing our grief, I found a letter Jordan had written to a friend, two days ago. The passing of a friend's cat had triggered reminders of all the deaths she's had to see through this year and that's when I realised that in their own little ways, they were still coming to terms with Tai Gong's passing.

He had no longer been part of our daily lives but I think he was always at the back our minds. And even though the twins had memories of him, it didn't seem enough to make up for the fact that he wasn't physically present anymore. So slowly, they have to work through it and as parents, we are just there to answer their many questions and hold them tight when it gets too much.

 But in the little things that they have said and done since Tai Gong's passing, they're also showing themselves to be little grown up beings in more ways than one. And I'm pretty sure, Tai Gong had a little bit to do with that too.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

No Need MBTI

The next few posts will be exam-related because it's October and we have two kids prepping for it. November, however, I promise will be full of glee.

Anyway, it's the exams and we've realised how the twins are different in how they take on the challenges of revision and the actual stress of taking the exams. We try very hard not to be the stressors for the exams. But they don't actually need us to be the stressors because they pick it up subliminally from school.

So the night before their composition papers, the emotions were running on high. Jordan was trying to pull a Hermione and cram all sorts of things into her head. She had copious notes copied into a book and when I declared it was time for a hard stop, she sneaked in two more bits of information into her notebook and stuffed it into her school bag surreptitiously, hoping that I didn't see it.

Evan, on the other hand, grew quieter and more agitated by the minute. He kept worrying but his worry was the 'walk round in circles' sort of worrying which eventually culminated in him hyperventilating in fear that he was about to fail his exams.

We had to pull everything we had out of our metaphorical bag of tricks, convincing him that he wasn't going to fail and if he did then he just needed to figure out why. We promised him that no one got kicked out of school for failing exams. It took him a long while to settle down especially with the sister chiming in about how many things she had tried to remember and that was what he ought to have done. Eventually, he fell asleep and both Packrat and I commented about how the twins were different as an eggplant and a bag of nails when it came to how they faced challenges.

 I recalled that years before we had kids, over late night prata and Milo Dinosaurs, together with our friends, we  came up with a matrix that described people's behaviour as an interaction of how motivated they were versus how anxious they tended to be. Over the years, Packrat and I have desperately tried to recall it that matrix that we had drawn on a paper napkin.

The next morning, after the meltdowns, I could't suddenly see it in my mind. And this was what I came up with that I think approximated what we did all those years ago.

Low Anxiety, High Motivation- Zai/ Steady (Unfazed and gets things done)
Low Anxiety, Low Motivation- Bo Chup (Lazy and unfazed)

High Anxiety, High Motivation- Mugger Toad (High Achiever)
High Anxiety, Low Motivation- Gan Cheong Spider (Runs around like a headless chicken but not actually doing anything)

So there.

My twins, both high anxiety but differing on levels of motivation. I had thought that I would use the melt down Evan had to point out to him, when he was calmer, how he could avoid such a situation again.

Unfortunately, with the terror of the first paper past, he was back to just being Bo Chup and nothing I could say could inject into him a sense of urgency.

 But that wasn't my epiphany this time. I had already known my children to be like that. The achievement and accomplishment in this case was figuring out this matrix.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Great Expectations

The exams are looming and that brings out the tiger mom in me no matter how much I try to squish it back in. The twins have only finished the essay papers for both languages and that itself brought epiphanies to me.

The most glaring one. 

I expect too much of my twins. 

Not in terms of grades though. 

It's partially an occupational hazard. When my livelihood is dependent on teaching pre-university students to think critically, I suppose that it is inevitable that some of that spills over into what I do with the twins. 

It doesn't feature as much in the actual content papers because honestly, some of that is beyond me, even as an adult and a teacher. It does rear its ugly when it comes to composition. It isn't about the phrases and whatever rubbish they are often encouraged to memorise and regurgitate. It's to do with the ideas. 

An example. 
A composition about helping. A picture of an old man selling magazines. 

Jordan's take.
Old man is poor. Needs to sell magazines for a living. 

Nothing wrong with that. But I prod on. 

Could there be anything else wrong with the old man that might require him to sell magazines? 

Erm... He's sad. He needs money. 

He likes reading magazines. He can read them and then sell them. 

I wanted to lead them to talk about people who might be disabled and what led them to that point as well as what their struggles were. I asked them about the old lady who sold tissue paper at the MRT station near us. She always had a walking frame with her. I asked them if they noticed the walking frame. I asked them why was it that the old lady had to sell tissue paper and wasn't doing anything else. 

She stuck to it. The old lady was poor. Needed money. 
Evan wondered what it was like to have a walking frame. 

Smoke started to slowly escape my ears. 

I asked them how else we could  help people apart from giving them money. Jordan offered to give them food. Evan thought very hard and wondered what toys they could give away. 

I realised that their answers were fine. But just not the direction I wanted them to be moving toward. 

I gave up.

Eventually, I showed them the video of 6 year old Alex who wrote to President Obama. Both of them were interested in what had happened that caused Alex to write the letter. I pointed out to both of them that helping could come in this form too. And that little children could help in big ways too and that little Alex had written to the most influential person he could think of to ask for help and that was being helpful as well. 

But on hindsight, I wondered if it was too much to expect my 9 year olds to think of it beyond what they see and to draw connections to things around them. I wondered if my being disappointed that they couldn't draw these connections was an unreasonable expectation. 

I guess, for the purposes of their compositions, their answers were sufficient to get by.

But for them, as people, it's definitely insufficient. I think that was why I was distressed. I see all these young adults who have such beautiful transcripts but without a heart or thought about the world they live in and it makes me angry. I fear that it's the transference of that frustration that manifests when the twins give me trite, textbook answers. 

Then I wondered if by wanting them to think about ideas in such a way , was I telling them how to think. That truly frightened me. What if I was squashing them into the exact box that I hoped they would think out of, unintentionally? 

So I stopped and I left them with Packrat and went out. I wasn't doing anyone favours. Them or myself. 

I come home to this. Of all the things that I talked Jordan through that afternoon, she remembered one thing. She made her letters bigger and clearer and she co-wrote a joke with Evan about Obama for me.

So, without these great expectations, my 9 yos are pretty great and funny and I have to remember that.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Hamming it Up

As JED get older, they get a whole lot more self- conscious. They don't want to look or act stupid and they're conscious of people laughing at them. I wish they weren't.

Jordan still loves the limelight though even with that, she needs to rehearse it totally perfect before I video it.
Evan won't even do it if he had to do it solo.
Muffin will yelp and hide behind the someone who is holding the recording device.

So when they throw all caution to the wind and just ham it up, just for the sake of hamming it up, we video them. On top of that, they fight a lot more these days so any opportunity to record them getting along and enjoying each other's company, all the better.

And I'm keeping it here so on days when I feel I need a pick me, like today with massive Monday blues, I can just play it and chuckle like a idiot.

I also look at this and lament at how quick they are growing up. Including Muffin who doesn't look like a Muffin anymore.

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Corner Book Stall at the Market

As the youngest of 3, with brothers much older than I am, I could not wait to grow up. After all, I saw first-hand the freedoms they had as they got older and I couldn't wait to have the same freedoms.

Freedom meant the ability to go where ever I wanted to, by bus, on my own. Freedom was also defined as getting an allowance.

The biggest symbol of this freedom was this stall in Marine Parade Market. It was a second hand bookstore. You paid money for the book and if you returned it within the stipulated period, you got some of the money back. So, the trick was to rent the book and when you returned it, you use the money you got back for the book to offset the new book.

I would take the bus there, once a month when I was younger and had less money. When I got older and had more allowance or when it was vacation time, I would go there more often and get more books. Why didn't I just go to the library? Because the owner would be able to recommend books to me based on what I had previously rented (This was pre-Amazon but he provided that service). And he had series of books that the library thought too frivolous to bring in. I remember a gymnastic series called Perfect 10 and a ballet series called Satin Slippers that I bought from him and I still have them kept somewhere in a box.

It was a great place. It was musty as book stalls with thousands of old books would be. It was hot because it was in a market. And it was tight and squeezy because the owner crammed as many books as he could into that small space. But it was a place where you could always find something you wanted to read. And the amazing thing was that he knew exactly where every single book was.

I hadn't thought about this place for a long time. In fact, since I had moved out of the East, I hardly ever went to Marine Parade Central. But I think it was always there, a memory, deep in the recesses of my memory.

This afternoon, while having lunch with my brother at Parkway Parade, another place that holds much sentiment for me, I talked about the stall and he recalled how the owner remembered him even after all those years abroad. Both of us lamented the loss of such second-hand bookstores; especially this one. Serendipitously, I strolled by the market and my heart actually stopped when I saw the stall open, right where it always was, with the shelves and shelves of books encroaching onto the walkway of the market and the owner looking like he did all those years ago.

We have far too many books at home. We could start a library. Our shelves are actually breaking under the weight of the books. But I could not resist the temptation of looking through the rows of books. I became a teenager again. With the Sweet Valley High covers of the past wedged amongst the more contemporary tween equivalents; the fantasy novels that I remember my brother read to current zombie genre ones, such a great hodge-podge of books past and present. So many of the books had covers that I remembered. The owner asked if I was looking for anything in particular. My mind was blank from the assault of nostalgia triggered by the sight, the smells and the sensation of being so close to all these old books again. I couldn't respond. 

And even though I couldn't tell him what I wanted, he seemed to know that I wanted the books from my childhood and teen years and pulled out the Enid Blytons, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys from that period (also published circa 1980). The pages were yellow and spotted and the print and font familiar. I bought what I could. I wanted to buy the Enid Blyton ones too but I have the recent editions at home and couldn't justify them.

I'm not entirely sure that the twins will read them but it was important that I had them for the twins. I told the owner that the last time I visited the stall, I was perhaps an undergrad or maybe even younger Now, I'm back, getting books for my children who are probably 3 years shy of the age I was when I first found his stall. He remembers me, for bugging him for both frivolous teen romances as well as Tom Clancy novels.

I hope he stays around long enough for them to make the same journey to him for the same reasons that I did.

For those who have asked, here's the address.

Silver Kris Bookshop,
Blk 84 #01-187 Marine Parade Central
12- 8pm  (Closed on Tuesdays)

Find the McDonald's at Marine Parade Central, then find the playground beside it and find the entrance to the market near the playground. That's where it is.