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, April 15, 2015

Things to say if you want to be a bad mother.

Part of my reading diet consists of parenting blogs from the NY Times and Huffington Parents. It's a nice read when I'm in the mood because it inspires me to be a better parent and to be mindful of how some stuff I do could or say could impact JED.

But then there are days where everything I do and everything that comes out of my mouth goes against everything I read about positive parenting. I'm rude, I'm condescending, I'm mean and sometimes just plain bitchy.

Here are things that JED have said that made me snap (in every sense of the word).

1. "Mommy, Mommmy, Mommmmy, Mommmmmy! Where are you Mommmmmmmmmmmmy???"


2. Me: So can you tell me one thing you are thankful for today?

JED's response: NOTHING. Today was a horrible day. Nothing was good. At all.

Me: Okay, fine. Then we'll switch off the air-conditioning, strip you of your clothes and you sleep on the floor without pillows.

3. One of JED: I don't want to wake up for school tomorrow. I hate school. I'm tired and I don't want to go to school.

Me: Fine, then don't go. And you can be illiterate for all I care.

4. One of JED: Why can't we play Minecraft? Everyone plays Minecraft. Why can't we?
Me: It'll make you stupid. Do you want to be stupid?

5. One of JED: Mommy, drop me here, NOW.
Me (Stops the car by the side of the road): Ok. Get out. NOW.

6. Me: Wake up. It's 6.15am. You're going to be late for school. (10 mins later) WAKE UP! It's 6.25 am. YOU'RE GOING TO BE LATE FOR SCHOOL!

One of JED: I'm still sleepy. I'm tired.

Me: Okay fine. We're leaving at 6.50AM, if you're not ready, we're leaving without you. You can walk to school. And if you're hot and sweaty, too bad. If your teacher scolds you, too bad. If you get lost because you don't know the way, too bad.  And don't think you can stay at home because you can't. You can jolly well find your own way to school.

7. JED, even the barely literate one, love reading at meals and it drags meal times past the hour. Despite nagging, no one hurries. So one of two things happen. Sometimes both. The meals get taken away from them and dumped in the trash. Their books get taken away and hidden.

8. Me: It's time to wash up. Please brush your teeth and get ready for bed.
One of JED: I don't care.
Me: Okay, then I won't care either. (Opens the front gate and walks out of the house).

9. Me: Go to bed. It's late.
One of JED: I can't sleep.
Me: Close your eyes and you'll fall asleep.
One of JED: I can't sleep. I'm restless. I don't want to sleep. Lalalalalalala!
Me: Get out of the room, NOW.
One of JED: no,
Physically hauls said child out of the room, slams the door and locks child outside.

A contrite child, knowing that she and her siblings had incurred the wrath of the mater.
When all these things happen, it's a surreal out of body experience. I see myself yell and I know I shouldn't. But it's like aliens have taken over and I have no rational control over the parts of my brain that does these things.

Sufficed to say, I am horrified at myself after said exchanges. Actually I'm mortified. And then I berate myself for being an awful mother.

It's been one of those days.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Making a will

Last year when all the air disasters started happening almost in succession, the paranoid and somewhat morbid me started worrying about what would happen to JED if anything, touch many pieces of wood, were to happen to us.

And while that is a scenario that I truly never want to consider and hope that it never ever happens, I didn't think it would wise to live in that much denial. Because my denial could one day hurt JED.

So, I started thinking about making a will.

To even make that decision to make a will was difficult. I pretty much had to stop being ostrich-like and pull my head out of the ground. And it was coming to terms with the possibility of my pre-deceasing the children.

That was hard.

But because Packrat and I occasionally travel without the children, it would truly be irresponsible for us to not have everything in place. I know of people who think that by doing so, we were cursing ourselves and our children by doing that.

We're travelling again, year end without JED. And I'm nervous about it. Every time there is yet another plane crash, I quake and shudder. But at the same time, it would be the beginning of a very huge and steep slippery slope if I stopped travelling because I was worried of orphaning my children. Then I ought to not drive because car accidents are so much more prevalent. And I shouldn't eat chicken and other hormonally enhanced meat because I could die of cancer... slippery slope.

So the only thing we could do short of cancelling the trip or carrying out a personal pre-flight check of all the aircraft we are flying (though lot of good that would do) was to get started on making the will. So I did eventually call up our lawyer friend to start the ball rolling. 

Preliminarily, he said we had to think about various things, including what our declarable assets were (not much!) and in my opinion, more importantly, who ought to be the executor of our will and who would be the legal guardians of JED. 

Apparently, the executor has to be someone who is good with the nitty gritty but also someone who knew the children because they would be the ones who would eventually have to deal with the executor. 

The executor and the legal guardians also had to be people who would be less likely to pre-decease us, meaning that they couldn't be aged or ill at this point. So no grandparents. Picking the executor, we felt was an easier decision to make because the executor's role is a short-termed one. The legal guardian, that was going to be a different matter.

It led to an interesting conversation between Packrat and myself about who ought to be JED's legal guardians. 

We had loose parameters: 
1. The people in question had to love kids even if they didn't have any. 
2. They had to be familiar with and to JED (Children stories are often have the poor protagonist staying with a mean aunt/ relative because the child had been orphaned) and loved  JED. So preferably people they were close  to. 
3. They had to be people who understood our parenting philosophy and hopefully would parent in approximately the same manner. 
4. They had to be people who would raise the children in strong Christian faith. 

The various parameters did whittle down some we were considering. Eventually our decision was to ask two of very close friends as well as one of our siblings. When I asked the sibling, the response was "YAY! Pizza and ice cream for dinner every day!" Ah hence, the need to for co-guardianship. 

But when I told our close friends it would be a co-guardianship arrangement, their response was "How's that going to work?" and my response to them was "We'll be dead. You all can go slug it out." 

Moments of reprieve and relief in what is obviously a very serious topic of conversation.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Conversations with the ballet student

I never had very much luck with ballet exams. I would get sick, my toes would get infected and my toe nails would fall out. Thankfully, Jordan seems to have better luck. She took her Grade 2 exams today. Unlike the previous time she took it, she understood the gravity of the situation and the stress that went along with it.

She's been nervous for the last week and it showed with short tempers, being rougher with her brothers and tantrums and fits about stuff unrelated. But at the same time, she was very amenable to all the extra sessions that the ballet school lined up for them to fine tune the little things.

After she was done and the look of relief had fully flooded her face, I thought to ask her, over lunch, what she thought about the whole experience. After all, she is almost eight year old and extremely astute so she would have lots to say.

What did you dislike most about the whole experience of preparing for the ballet exam?

The hairspray. (The hairspray is something part of any ballet dancer/ school's arsenal. It's industrial strength and the very reason why ballet dancers can be drenched in sweat and on stage for hours nary a hair out of place).

Was there anything that upset you while practising for the exams? 
The teachers yelling at me. It made me want to cry sometimes. Sometimes, it made me want to give up.

Do you think the teachers helped you by yelling at you? 
I guess so. I can remember all my steps and I can do them very well now. But I don't like yelling teachers.

What do you think if the teachers didn't yell so much? 
- with a big grin- I won't be so deaf. 
- becoming serious- I wouldn't be so good. 

What were your favourite steps in the exam? Why?
I liked the dances, especially the character dance with the skirt and flowers. You can look cheeky and proud at the audience when you do it. 

What was the one reminder that everyone kept saying to you that helped you through the exam?  
To smile and to let the music flow to the tips of my fingers and my toes.

What did you do just before you started the exam? 
I looked at my toes then I took a deep breath and tried to smile. It was quite hard because my heart was beating very fast.

What was the most important thing you learnt from taking this exam?
It is very important to have courage.

And what was my take away from this?

1. Kids understand stress, even at this age. They fear performing, making mistakes and failing. They really don't need us to add on any sort of stress onto them. They pretty much do that all by themselves.

2. There is a fine line between keeping the child eating healthy and keeping the child happy. With the many hours at ballet and the amount of time she spent away from home while her brothers vegged out in front of the television, it was about plying her with nice cookies and allowing her to eat the Easter eggs she got to keep her her spirits and mood.

3. While my eyes were fixed and they work pretty well on a day to day basis, the technique wasn't aimed at allowing someone to sew silver buckles that reflect light and black press studs with black thread onto a black waist band at night in yellow lighting.

4. My daughter's a pretty tough cookie.

So while we hope that she does well, just going through it was all worth it.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Sailing, sailing home

Evan didn't have much of a March break. He spent 4 out of 5 days of the break in Sembawang. Boondocks, Singapore style.

He was there sailing. After the fiasco with his CCA selection and not getting into the sailing CCA, we promised that he could try out sailing for himself during the holidays.

So we went the distance, literally, and signed him up for a kiddy sailing camp that the SAF Yacht Club offered.

We barely saw him those 4 days. He left after breakfast and came home for dinner and being inebriated by the sea air and sun, he would fall asleep soon after.

But he had fun.

Highlights for him:
1. Being thrown into the sea and made to swim 50 m to shore. He imagined sharks and swamp things lurking in the water.

2. Playing with sand while he waited for his friends to return.

3. Actually being on the water and sailing.

4. Learning all the different parts of the boat. The easiest way to piss him off was to go "the left side of the boat" or the "front of the boat". That would elicit an irritated hiss, "It's the PORT side, MOMMY!" or "It's the BOW of the BOAT!"

5. Being able to master the knots he was taught.

Things he didn't like but we thought built character:

1. Theory lessons about the weather, clouds, reading the current from the waves and knot tying.

2. Being hit one too many times on the head by the boom. He learned pretty quick that he had to duck.We console him and tell him at least he didn't get hit by the boom and end up in the water like another of his course mates.

3. Sailing around in circles, literally. He got annoyed at the wind getting in the way of the direction he was meant to head. (There's a life lesson in that somewhere)

4. Getting sea sick because the patrolling power boats rocked the bath tubs they were in.

5. Having to eat chicken every day for lunch or going hungry. (He has a strange aversion toward chicken right now)

By the end of it, he was browned to a crisp and definitely had more than the FDA recommended amount of Vitamin D.

 Can he sail? According to the coaches, he sailed decently and could get the boat going the direction they were supposed to head. Will he do the next course? We don't know yet. We're hedging because it's really far. He'd hedging because he worries about being sea sick (telling him that upchucking in the sea was ok and a great way to see fish up close and personal didn't seem to appeal much to him).

We'll revisit it before the next course begins.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Service and Sharing

When I volunteered to get Jordan into school, I brought JED on occasion. When that extended to an island wide search for crickets and they asked why volunteering meant I had to do so much, I explained the difference between just finishing my job of volunteering at school and serving the school. I explained that service meant helping others without really expecting anything in return and that while I had volunteered to help the school to get Jordan in, I didn't expect that my going out to buy crickets every two days was going to give me an extra or better chance of getting her in.

I didn't think they heard or understood me but towards the end of last year, Jordan came and asked me if she could serve at her kindy. Her reason was that if Mommy could serve, so could she. When I asked what she wanted to do, she said she wanted to read to the children or help them at art or something. When I asked her if she expected to get paid, she said no. She emphasised that she wanted to go back and just serve.

The trick was trying to find something she could do and not make more work for the teachers. There was also the problem of trying to figure out when she could go what with her own school and crazy schedule.

It's taken us all these months to find a slot and something for her to do. Eventually, we did; something totally up her alley.

On the last day of the term, she returned to her kindy to share with the K2 children how she wrote stories. They were about to embark on a book project in the next term and she had done one when she was their age. She brought in her manuscript as well as the eventual book that got published and like a visiting dignitary, went to each of the classes.

The teachers like me didn't know what to expect so we had to wing it. She went in with her bestie from the same kindy, Chloe. We introduced them and got her to read her story to them and ask questions. She was noticeably nervous and she couldn't make her voice louder. By the end of the first reading, she was audible from the back but still tentative. To make things better, we got her a mike that she could strap around her and that changed everything for her. The performer in her stepped forward.

Even though she claimed that she was still nervous, she read her story with a song sing lilt and answered the questions clearly. All this was done in utter seriousness.

By the second class, she had her schtick down pat.

First she would introduce herself as would Chloe. She would tell them what she was going to do and then she would do it. She would read her published version while Chloe flashed the identical pages from the manuscript. After that, she would take questions. The teachers and I felt like we were staffing her, telling her where to go and picking out the questions she would address.

This is a sampling of the questions she took.

1. How do you write stories?

A: I have to think very carefully. I use the pictures I have drawn to make stories. Sometimes I add in actions to make the story more interesting. 

2. What is the most important thing on the cover of the book? 

A: The title.

3. How long do you take to write a story?

A: This book that I read took me one week to write. But sometimes I write them in one hour. Or sometimes, ten minutes. (See more about this exchange below)

4. What steps did you go through before the book was finished?

i..  I draw the pictures then I coloured them with crayons and drew the outline with marker.

ii. Then I told Auntie C (her teacher) the story and she typed it out.

iii. I cut out the text and stuck them to the pictures.

iv. Then they got printed and they stapled the book in the middle twice. (She was very obsessed with the stapler and the book being stapled. She went on to explain how to use a stapler.)

5. Why did you write about butterflies? (Her story was The Butterfly Trip)

A: Because I could draw butterflies very well.

Listening to her, we came to the unanimous conclusion that she looked and played the part of the writer pretty convincingly. Quirky clothes and accessories.

On top of that, she seemed to have a knack of facilitating the questions, getting the children to answer questions just like they asked her. No surprise for a child born of two teachers, she had all the teacher mannerisms down; stopping mid sentence when the children spoke over her and giving them a look, shushing them, ending questions with a finger flourish to indicate that it was for children to respond.

Funny things she asked or said to the children.

1. The question was which Starlight (K2) class was she from. Her answer was "I was from..... (insert drumroll) Starlight 4..... + 4! And WHAT'S that?" (pointing at the children)

2. Each time she read the book, she added a little bit extra into it, ad-libbing as she went along.

3. When explaining the back page which was the 'About the Author' page, she pointed to her signature and delivered a public service announcement.

" This is my signature. It's curly and it's special because I am the only one who can sign it. If you copy my signature when you are an adult, you can go to jail! That is called forging!"

4. When asked how long she took to write the book, she tossed the question back to the children with

"You guess how long?"

"1 second!" was the response.

"How can that be possible? 1 second is like you counting 'one!'"  she countered.

5. She pointed to the photograph of her at the back of her book. "This is me. 2 years ago! Like you, now!"

She was on a high after that. She smiled and waved and promised to come back.

When I asked her what was her favourite moment, she said she didn't know because she just loved being back at kindy and hoping that what she said would help them write better stories.

Some days, it's easy to forget that she's not yet 8.