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.

Friday, August 05, 2016

A booklist for the reluctant reader

Last year, I wrote about how we enticed Evan to read by introducing him to audio books. He's still not as voracious as his sister who finished tome of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in a week with school, training and a full schedule. But he's come along very nicely and pleased us immensely when he bugged usto go to the library to borrow books for him. 

So I decided that it may not be a bad idea to record the list of books that he started off with in case there are other reluctant readers out there that need a bit of encouraging. 

Of course, his perennial favourites are the Harry Potter Series and science comics (but those don't count because those are in bad English!). He took it very seriously when we told him that he could read the Cursed Child's script till he finished Deathly Hallows. Two days later, he was done with Deathly Hallows, rearing to start on Cursed Child. 

The beginning of the Harry Potter mania
Jumping ahead and reading the Cursed Child on launch day. 
But Harry Potter worked for him because he had the audio books as initial scaffolding; to get used to the length and the language. 

The ones he picked up by himself were
1. The A- Z Mysteries by Ron Roy.
They are straightforward and simple mysteries. Each book has an alliterative title. The Absent Author, the Talking T-Rex. The titles were enough to draw him in.

I think he liked it because it followed a particular formula and the chapters were short and easy enough for him to get through. The characters in the book carried through into the next book so he felt he knew the characters quite well by the end of the 3 week library loan period. And the sense of achievement from being able to read 2 or 3 of these in a day was tremendous for him. There are Super Editions which he didn't enjoy as much even though he read them as well.

2. Encyclopedia Brown
Packrat introduced this series to the twins. He read it as a child and wanted to be a detective after that. Both twins lapped it up though Evan was more intent on trying to figure out how Encyclopedia managed to solve the mysteries instead of reading the explanation for it. But the fact that there was an explanation was pretty cool and both Packrat and I took part in trying to figure out the mysteries as well. 

Right now, he's back on Harry Potter. Well, after the 8th book, he won't have that anymore unless he re-reads them which is he likely to do too. As with his sister, there's a sense that he's feeling a bit lost as to what to read after he's done here. He wants to go back to the A-Z and Encyclopaedia Brown types but I'm hoping he's willing to push his boundaries a little bit more than that.

3. How to Train A Dragon Series by Cressida Cowell

Evan read some of these last year but listened to the entire audio book series. It was the first series of books he fell in love with. I could never get into them but both Packrat and he loved them and would talk about them at length. They aren't as tome-like as Potter but definitely more than the chapter books above. He keeps them all in a box by his bed and is territorial over them. Nothing can go in that box except for the Dragon books and now his Potter books. Potentially a set that we could get him to revisit now that he's older and has a longer reader span. 

I'm toying with Alex Rider and some of the Morpugo books but we'll see what bites we get.  

It's not a long list but it was a list that worked for him and it's a great improvement from last year. I don't expect him to be reading Arthur Conan Doyle anytime soon but I'm happy he's read more books this year than he has fingers and toes. 

Monday, August 01, 2016

Of Potter Heads and Potter-lets.

I was late to Harry Potter. I only read it in 2000. I remember discovering it one day when I was home, sick from school. I don't think I was sick for that long but I stayed home for the next three days. And the good thing about reading it then was that shortly after I played truant, the fourth book was released. At that point, Packrat the fan boy, who was my then boyfriend, told me that I should wake up early and get the book the minute the book store opens and start reading it immediately.

That was the beginning of our Potter book launch rituals. The last book was launched during my confinement with the twins and I broke out of confinement to go get it from the now defunct-Borders. I am grateful for the weight and length of that one because it kept me company during the long mindless hours of breastfeeding.

That was 9 years ago.

Yesterday was the launch of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And in the span of 9 years, I haven't become less of a fan but my fan-mania has been overtaken by the Potterlets that I've spawned. So it was fitting yesterday that they wanted to go for the book launch more than we did. At the crack of dawn, they were up (very much unlike a school day where they would have to be dragged out of bed kicking and screaming) and they were dressed for the part; robes, wands and all.

I can't say we weren't excited. We were. We peeped into the Times near us and saw boxes ready to be unpacked for the 7.01am launch.


And the 5.45 am wake up on a Sunday morning was well worth it. 

The staff really knew how to throw a party. There were drinks and 'treacle' tarts and the twins were sorted while waiting in queue. They also got key-chain door gifts. Unfortunately, Muffin's was a key chain that said "Platfrom 9 3/4" but he loved it as much as Evan loved his wand and Jordan her Hedwig. 

The twins kept making friends, kindred spirits and all. By the end of the morning, I had triple the number of kids I came with and even though they didn't know everyone by name, they were playing quite chummily with each other. They shared food, they sat in the corner and played Top Trumps; Harry Potter edition, the older ones kept an eye on the younger ones while speed reading through the book, all while waiting for the next activity to start. 

They took part in everything from the Cosplay competition to the Snitch Hunt and Trivia Quiz.

The highlight of our day was seeing everyone so dressed up, from Loopy Luna Lovegoods with the Lion's Head atop her own to an incredibly sullen- adolescent Snape and a teeny tiny Harry Potter in Gryffindor Quidditch Robes.

The highlight of our day as parents was to watch the girls take part in the Cosplay contest where they were among the youngest, without a care in the world, duelling like they always do when they get together. It got loud, very heated and seemingly real. We were so chuffed that they did it without a hint of nervousness and they got so into character they could barely stop.

And at the end of it, they got some other Harry Potter books for their effort.

They were on such a high for the rest of the day and it carried through when they found out that they were featured in the newspapers the next morning.

Jordan is speed-reading through it and trying very hard not to spoiler Evan who is half way through Deathly Hallows. We love how they've fallen in love with the world like we did and how they've taken it a step further by imagining it through the eyes of children.

I spent yesterday and part of today getting through the book so that Jordan could talk to me about it and an added advantage was being able to annoy the heck out of Packrat as I gasped and growled at the parts that he hadn't got to yet.

We've both finished the book now and are discussing it in hushed terms lest our 9 year olds overhear us.

One thing's for sure though; we're feeling a little bit lost now, after all the hype and high of yesterday and the fact that tomorrow is just going to be boring and ordinary again. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Tooth Fairy

Muffin is growing up fast. He's shot up so quickly in the last few months that he's become gangly and clumsy. He's also started losing his milk teeth.

The first tooth he lost was at the gym. He left it on the bench but he couldn't find it after.

Tonight, he dropped his second tooth. We have been telling him, the last few days, to not swallow his tooth so that we could stick it under his pillow like the Jordan and Evan did.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. The tooth found the most inopportune time to fall out; as Muffin was rinsing his mouth after brushing his teeth. So it swirled in the sink and went down the drain pipe before anyone could react.

Evan tried. He tried to cover the hole in the sink. But the tooth slipped right through his fingers.

Muffin howled. It wasn't one tooth he was mourning. It was two. And he cried so pitifully, his usually combative brother came running to get us.

No amount of carrying and consoling soothed his distress.

Right till Evan offered him one of his own milk teeth (that he knows I keep in a container), to lay under his pillow so that the tooth-fairy would come.

Even with that, it took him another 10 to 15 minutes of sobbing, gulping and hiccoughing before he picked a tooth, laid it in the box and slipped it under his pillow. And then he cried himself to sleep.

But at least there was recourse.

Evan, the brother who fights so bitterly with him sometimes, rose to the occasion, put aside his own grumpiness and showed kindness and compassion. He did ask me to return him his tooth once we were done with it. To which, I gladly acceded. After all, the tooth was his.

So not only did we leave a note and 2 $1 coins for Muffin, we told him in the note that his big brother helped to make it happen and that he had a wonderful big brother. So we were leaving an extra $1 that he was to give to his big brother for helping him feel better. 

Sometimes, we don't give Evan enough credit. He's the oft-misunderstood, bullied, overshadowed middle brother. But he always, always rises to the occasion when it matters the most.

Like tonight, where he saved the day and was the tooth fairy through and through.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ducks of a feather

Evan has a thing for ducks.

It all started when we bought him a duck when he was a baby. A duck blankie.

It was what soothed him to sleep, thumb in his mouth, twiddling a corner.

We used to do this thing where we would throw the blankie over his head and like Pavlov's dog, he would grab it, tumble over and stick his thumb into his mouth. It didn't matter if it was hard ground that he was going to tumble into. His ducks have seen many adventures; travelling the world with him and being thrown out the window by Muffin!

He's 9 now. He's stopped sucking his thumb but he still loves his Duck Duck. And his duck duck collection has spawned. There's the original Duck Duck but there is also Papa Duck Duck and a whole host of siblings whom he loves as well, though not so much as original threadbare Duck Duck.

But this love for ducks doesn't end with his soft blankies. Because he loves his Duck Duck family, he has a soft spot for all ducks. His face goes all gentle and full of love when he plays with them or talks to them. He loves ducks in a pond and he loves seeing them waddle around. But more than that, it has become a social cause for him. 

He will not eat roast duck. He loved the Peranakan Salted Veg and Duck soup till he realised one of the key ingredients in the soup was duck. Similarly, the boy who loves roast meat would not eat duck rice and even went as far as glare at Jordan for wanting to eat roast duck rice. 

When I told him about foie gras, the outrage radiated from him and the look of disgust was epic. "Why would anyone be so cruel?" he asked. The poor ducks or geese. To him, they are literally birds of a feather. 

It might be something he doesn't grow out of. It might become one of those quirky things that he can tell people about himself. "I don't eat duck because I had these furry duck blankies when I was a kid."
And since I don't eat shark's fin because I can't bear the thought of drowning, suffocating sharks, I'm going to be on his side for this one, despite the fact that his sister waxes lyrical about how yummy the duck tastes. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Holiday Adventures 2: The One with the Birthday Party (2)

This post is part of a series for the twins' Harry Potter birthday party. There's too much for one post. This one is about the fun bits that everyone enjoyed. There'll be others to come.

The previous post was about creating the fun that was the party. Today's one will be the fun in itself.

There was the official fun.

The good thing about throwing a party in a gym and having professionals who work with kids all the time and love kids run it is that it becomes a party full of fun. The games were simple with a Potter slant to it. The regular gym drills that the kids do became Inter-house competition and an obstacle course became the Tri-Wizard Cup.

The parents were all pleased that their children were sweaty, got to jump on a trampoline and were made to do things that they thought they couldn't do. One of Evan's friends was heard squealing "I'm gonna die! I'm gonna die!" when he got rolled on a giant roller into a handstand which he had no idea he knew how to do. Not used, they are to being upside down and to see the ground rushing up at them.

The twins spent a lot of time laughing, being sweaty and just enjoyed their friends.

Then there was the unofficial fun.

There was also a lot of open space for them to run about outside and that they did. At some points, they resembled hordes of marauders; this pleased them when we made that comment because that in itself was a Harry Potter reference. They created Harry Potter equivalents of catch and hide and seek and that entertained them while the parents chatted after the party. It got quite boisterous when the girls chased the boys and cornered them in the boys toilet after. That was when the parents had to intervene and tell the girls that they had to stop because the boys weren't having fun anymore.

There was the prop fun.

I made some frames out of old boxes so that the kids could take "Wanted" pictures of themselves. They hammed it up and got into character. The Dreams coaches added to it when they created more photo props that the kids could all use. It was very much in line with what you get at corporate dos or weddings these days.

In fact, the twins did look a little bit like a VIP couple who stood under a banner while we inserted friends to take photos with them. They're young enough to see it for the fun that it is and be silly for the sake of being silly!

The parents' idea of fun. 

Their's was looking forward to a quiet night since the children were likely to pass out early from all the running around. 

That and the fact that we hired an ice cream man. It was one of those hare-brained ideas that popped into my head in the middle of the night and after having to Google and speak to various ice cream men in Chinese (Packrat even approached one on the street), I came away with the realisation that people really like these ice cream men because all of them were fully booked up. Thank goodness for who had an ice cream man available. 

He showed up with the cart, the umbrella and most importantly the bell. He served ice cream with bread, wafer, cups and I think cones. The minimum order was 100 slabs of ice cream and part of me wondered if I needed to bring in ringers to eat up the ice cream. 

But the novelty of having the ice cream man was thrilling and both parents and kids (whose parents allowed them to) went back for seconds. At the end of it, we had 4 slices left. The birthday crowd at inhaled 96 pieces of ice cream all in. Quite an impressive feat seeing that we had 30 kids and some parents.

I've declared that I can only throw a party on this scale once a year and only when the creative energy hits me. 

So, this is for posterity because who knows when the next one will be.