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, March 02, 2015

Choosing our battles with Chinese

We're almost at the end of the first term of Primary 2. Things are moving at an infinitely faster pace. It isn't frenetic yet but it's slowly getting there. There is something on practically every day and the twins take it in their stride as long as they get some time to run around downstairs and shout on top of their voices. But the day they hate the most is Wednesday. On Wednesday, they spend two hours in what Packrat and I have labelled Nazi Chinese class. This was the same holiday class that the twins were doing at the end of last year. This was the same class that Evan didn't want to continue and we insisted they had to because it was good for them.

Admirably, they've stuck to the strict regime of homework that would require the entire week in between classes to complete. Chinese compositions to re-copy, spelling to practice, paragraphs to memorise and passages to practice reading out loud. But the thing is while they've definitely become more resilient in the face of great difficulty and in their eyes, drugery, we have decided to concede that it isn't for them. 

We discovered this about 3 weeks into the term but decided that we had a responsibility to the twins to make sure they see through the term. The reasons why we felt this way were that

1. Evan was demoralised. Every single Tuesday night, he would tell us how much he dreaded going to class the next day. He felt like he was being picked on by the teachers because he was slower writing. I didn't believe him until I saw the teacher rolling her eyes at him above his head. So he didn't see it but the Mommy peeping in to check if they were done caught it in full.

2. The school and therefore the teachers work on a different pedagogical philosophy than we subscribe to. We don't and have never believed in putting down a child to motivate him or her to succeed. Perhaps some children respond to that but we have never treated JED that way and therefore they recoil from being treated in that way. It has a lot to do with my mother reminding me to "teach a child from what he knows to what he doesn't know" rather than "This is what you ought to know, I don't care how you get to that point, but you bloody well get there or suffer wrath." And it didn't seem to matter that what they ought to know was various standards above what they actually knew at this point. This actually makes this Nazi Chinese class a great class for kids who want to excel. But for kids like mine that still need to have the love for the language cultivated and the pillars of the language strengthened, nope. Akin to building a skyscrapper on swampland.

3. We spent many of their pre-schooling years in schools that were bigger on nurturing than demanding excellence for results. This school was markedly different. Nurture? Where is there time to nurture? We have things to do and places to go. Flail? Learn how to swim? Can't? Then, drown.

4. Jordan was becoming too competitive. Because they put so much emphasis on who finished first, she always wanted to finish first regardless of the quality of her work.

I did blog about sticking to our guns and letting them go through it. Well, guns have been stuck to and gone through they have. We've given our notice and we're done with it.

Practically, it does leave a big hole in supporting their Chinese. And we've been trying to plug it ourselves, the way we want them to learn while we find something of the right fit. This has meant that I've had read to JED in my very rusty and patchy Chinese. It's also meant that Packrat and I have spent a whole afternoon on the floor drawing up matching flash cards for the twins just so that part of their revision becomes a game rather than mundane memory work. Perhaps this way, they retain it past the test next week.




It would be so much easier to concede as necessary the whole rote, over-teaching schtick that everyone is buying into. That way, I can, in all good conscience, keep them in the Nazi Chinese class because it is good for them and I can be sure that they won't fail at the language. My way? They truly might fail But that is looking at it only from my perspective. From their point of view,  Evan hates the language already and barely tolerates it. If I stuck him at the Nazi Chinese Centre for the long term, it might end up with him having such a revulsion for the language that once he figures out how to be more rebellious, he won't care if he fails at it. Jordan, she might pick up a bit more from it but at what cost? Becoming uber competitive and crying every time she doesn't come in first?

I wasn't fantastic at Chinese but I had neighbours that I played with, who spoke only Chinese and I loved the Channel 8 dramas. Those two things saved me from the fate that awaited my very anglo, mission school- going brothers. I didn't hate it like they did because I used it and I was conversant in it and it helped me do relatively well for it. Even if I'm no longer there, it's where I want JED to be at and my sense is that forcing what seems to be the industry's standard of what is the best down their little potato-banana throats is really not going to help this cause.

So we fight smart. We forsake this war in the hope that we will have energy for the longer battle and it might be a little bit more painless.





Sunday, February 22, 2015

Peer Pressure; The Gadget Edition

Over the Chinese New Year season, one of mrbrown's updates was "Words I find myself saying the most to my kids during ‪#‎CNY‬: "Oi! Put the iPad/iPhone down!"

It was a refrain too true for us as well. JED know that iDevices aren't kosher when it comes to entertaining themselves. And they are all good about it until they are faced with some other kid whipping out their iDevice then everyone gravitates toward it. Moths, naked flame, that sort of them.

While they know the rules by heart, their sense of self-restraint is as strong as everyone else playing by our rules. Unfortunately, we are in the minority and that makes it hard for our soon to be 8s and newly minted 5 to resist.

We go visiting or, during the non-CNY season, go out with a bag loaded with non-tech entertainment. Crayons, colour pencils, paper, magnetic puzzles and books; all stuff that JED are happy to play with on a regular day at home. The problem is that these work at home because there isn't an iDevice for them to fall back on. But it's a losing battle that we end up always having to fight; an uphill battle when many around us whip it out as their first resort to resolve boredom. Analogue toys and entertainment don't stand a chance when they are put beside their loud, flashy and digital cousins.

We do need to state on the outset that occasionally, JED do get time on the iDevices, like the last hour of budget-non in flight entertainment- flights where we need a breather from the non-stop stream of conversation that they've held since the plane took off or when they've displayed incredible patience, maturity and resistance in a situation or when there are sharp instruments about and we need them to stay perfectly still.

The point is that we don't want them to rely on the gadget as a first pick antidote against boredom. Because truly, they are harder to parent with the gadgets as child-minders. We've seen how when Muffin gets too much screen time and we try to take it away, there is much screaming and tantrum throwing. We've seen how the twins fight over a gadget because each feels that they haven't had enough time on it. We've seen how they turn into mindless drones unable to answer the simplest questions when they are watching pissed off birds attack alien green pigs. Our solution then, is to remove offensive gadget for more peace round the house. And every time we are at gatherings where these devices reign supreme, we go home with more angsty, demanding and indignant children.

In desperation, Packrat and I eventually resorted to telling them to pick between being able to watch television at home (another rare and treasured occurrence) and crowding around an iDevice to watch someone build something or plant crops. Yes, perhaps it is replacing one evil with another. Our defence is the television is more easily controlled by us and JED have to always come to a common consensus as to what to watch before the television goes on. That and the fact that television is purely a public holiday or weekend indulgence for them.

It is a sad day when the least of all the evils is the television set and it is a viable alternative to 5 kids staring at the glow of one tiny device. 


We've tried everything.

a. Rationalising with them that non-screen games where they can include everyone else are more fun.
b. Lugging about the aforementioned bag of tricks.
c. Rewarding them for not being on the device.
d. Warning them of a future of rapidly increasing myopia.
e. Intoning the dangers of how these devices cause their brain cells to disintegrate and dribble out of their ears.

Sometimes one works better than the other, sometimes they need to work in tandem and sometimes none work at all.

While I love my gadgets as much as the next person, I really don't love how complicated it's made child rearing.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Opti-Muffin

Muffin is into Transformers now, the same way he was into Star Wars last year. He spends his days playing with his toys, looking at pictures of them and trying to draw them. Obviously, his favourite Transformers character is Optimus Prime and he obsesses about how to draw the Autobot sign, how to turn himself into Optimus Prime and everything that was ever written about him.

So, today, he flips to a Transformers Manga comic that Evan borrowed from the library and asked for arms like Optimus.

Short of buying the costume (which will inevitably end up being too hot for him), he wasn't in possession of Optimus arms. He had used the long plastic container that contained CNY  love letters but insisted we cut out the base of it out, but it wasn't ideal because we wanted to put stuff in it, it would have sharp bits if we cut it and it didn't have smoke stacks.

Smoke stacks. Information that take up precious memory brain cells in my mind.

Anyway, he wanted arms. So we made arms with a box.

Things needed:
1. One Bata shoe box (Need not be Bata)
2. Scissors
3. Lots of thick tape
4. Cardboard strips to make the bracket to hold the smoke stacks (I can't say smoke stacks without rolling my eyes).
5. Marker pen
6. Toy golf sticks, recorders, anything long and can pass off as a smoke stack.
7.  Symbol of Autobot to copy. If only we could have traced them then Muffin wouldn't accuse Mommy of drawing uneven Autobots on his arms.



Instructions for those who have Opti-Muffin type kids,
1. Cut the box and tape them into triangles and make sure the arms can go through.
2. Create little brackets for the smoke stacks so that they won't fall through or move about. 
3. Draw signs
4. Use remaining shoe box to make breast plates because Optimus has breast plates. If you have time, you can paint them Optimus colours; red and blue. 





So half an hour and a lot of scotch tape later, we have Opti-Muffin who can transform at will. 


That ought to keep him busy for the morning plus he's got stuff to bring to school for Show and Tell. The other Optimus arm he tells me, is for his friend who is also Optimus Prime. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Countdown to March Hols! A Kids Fiesta giveaway

We've passed Week 5 and that means we're half way through the term to the holidays. Every time JED complain about school and waking up early, I tell them I hate it as much and I wish as much that it were the holidays. They're amused at the concept that Mom hates school as much as they do. For me, I just want to sleep in. Last year, I made friends with moms from the twins' class and all of us would sit around, sleepy-eyed commiserating about how much they needed a sleep holiday. We would express great envy at those who were sneaking off for 'sleep vacations'.

So we can't wait till March though, thank goodness we have CNY next week as sort of a mid term break. And JED are already talking about what they would like to do during the March break. Being in relatively affluent schools, they are inundated by information about people who travel during all sorts of break and occasionally come home asking if we were too. Our usual response as with the response when Evan requested for another cruise vacation "You think we print money?!" or its derivative "Do you think money grows on trees?"

And we launch into this diatribe about how there is lots to do in Singapore during the holidays and there is no real need to travel.

Evan's more realistic requests have been to go to a water park, to go sailing and also the Night Safari. Muffin has no concept of the holidays and just wants to stay home with his toys. Jordan has asked to go rock climbing, sailing with Evan and play with their friends.

We'll probably accede to the play with their friends thing and the Night Safari. Probably let Evan go sailing because if there are any requests we actually pay attention to, they are the ones that the resemble a dog with a bone. We aren't sure if we'll send Jordan with him because she probably wants to do it because he's doing it and to us, that isn't a good enough reason.

Perhaps, the rock-climbing for her. Especially since the organisers of Kids Fiesta sent me information about their event during the March break. Jordan saw me look through the email and the 'bad' thing being able to read is that they read over your shoulder and are massively susceptible to marketing.



And these were what she saw. The words, "FREE CANDY FLOSS" and "PIRATE SHIP" and "LASER MAZE" caught her attention before I could close the posters and she was sold. Part of the English programme that they do in school now teaches them to effectively pull out information presented in brochures and flyers. So, the date "13 to 15 March" registered with her as well.

Note to self: I should not open files and layer them one above the other because when I close them, there are files underneath and she saw the picture of the Climb Asia promotion where there were two girls happily scaling the rock wall.




Now we have a 7 1/2 year old who seems to have caught the climbing bug from the aforementioned cruise holiday bugging us to go to the event because she gets to rock climb there.

I told her I'll think about it but it's a pretty tempting event to go for because she can rock climb for $10 at the Fiesta. On top of that, she's announced to her brothers that there's the Laser Maze (Evan has a big thing for mazes) and many bouncy items. So now, it isn't just her that bugging me though she remains the more insistent one.

It might be worth a day's trip. At this point, FUNTASY Passports (that's what you need to get in) are $20 instead of $25 here (Till the 27th of February) and that sets the kids loose onto the Laser Maze, the Orbitor (which looks like a bumper car sort of thing) as well as balloon sculpting, face painting and glitter tattoos.

There are other things too that she said she was interested in:
1. A dance performance by Dancepointe
2. A music performance by Cristofori
3. A booth by Genius R Us where you can pay for kids can bake and decorate and shape their baked goods.

Plus I forgot, the free candy floss and ice cream.

We'll see about it but right now, it's down on our list of things to do during the March break.

I know this is Jordan's 'dog with bone' event and she's going to bug me to death about it so I'm trying to figure out what deal to strike with her to 'earn' this.

Though, actually in truth, I would actually just like a sleeping holiday!

And for those who are thinking of going away and even for those who are not but need ideas to entertain the kids at restaurants, long train or bus rides or generally at home on a sick/ rainy day, we're giving away 3 sets of the following gifts, thanks to the kind organisers of Kids Fiesta.

and 
2. Either Suncoat Girl Natural Nail Salon Kit worth $26.90 OR 1 x Kids Fiesta FUNTASY Passport worth $25

So all you have to do is
1. Leave a comment in the blog answering this question "What would you or your kids' favourite item be at Kids Fiesta 2015: FUNTASY Adventure?" Please leave your email address so that we can inform you when you win! You have till 18 February to do this!

2. Visit the Kids Fiesta FB page and like it if you haven't.

3. It's not a must but if you want to be nice to us, share this post on your FB wall and let us know you've done so by leaving the link of your post in our FB post's comment section.

Terms and conditions:
- This contest is open to Singaporeans and permanent residents only.
- Prizes are not refundable or exchangeable for cash or prizes of any kind.
- Kids Fiesta reserves the right to replace the prizes with other items of the same value.
- Winners will be notified by email and all prizes will be collected from the Kids Fiesta organisers.
- The judges' decision on the winners are final and no correspondence will be entered into.

So, either way, we're set for some sort of break or reprieve. Now, to make it through to the end of term.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Diaperbag for Kids Fiesta. The giveaway is sponsored by Kids Fiesta. The images are provided by Kids Fiesta. This giveaway is neither  sponsored, endorsed or administrated by, nor associated with Facebook.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The quest for the elusive CCA

I've been waiting a long time to write this post about Evan and his quest for a CCA and it's taken such a long time because we've had to apply for the CCAs and wait for the results to be released.

Most schools don't have CCAs for P1s and P2s. Evan's school, however, is one of those that do allow the younger kids to do CCAs if they wanted to try stuff out.

When I was in primary school, I went through a gamut of CCAs or ECAs as it was known then. I dabbled in most of it except Red Cross and gymnastics (not for the want of trying but because my mom thought I might crack my head at gym). So between Primary 3 to Primary 6, I ended up trying out basketball, badminton, track and field, swimming, the school angklung ensemble (where my musical instrument was 2 halves of a coconut) and library. I didn't particularly excel in any of them at that point but I had a lot of fun trying them out and aching in places I didn't know could ache till the following week.

But the point was I figured out from all of it that I was crap at basketball, would involuntarily burst out giggling when I had to rally too long for badminton, had absolutely no sense of rhythm and hated running (famous last words) because it gave me a stitch.

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem how CCAs are run these days.

Evan was in tennis last year and it was an eye opening experience to find out that the kids in his tennis group trained outside as well. My naive mind wondered why they were doing so if school was already providing the training. The answer was that school training was insufficient if you wanted to be on the school team.

Anyway, we have no ambitions for Evan to be on the school tennis team. He picked up tennis in kindy, he liked it and had fun. It taught him hand-eye coordination that I never really had so we let him keep playing.

FDA's daily recommended dosage of Vitamin D.

This year, when the CCAs had their open house, he said he didn't mind tennis but was very interested in trying sailing. Despite the paranoid, crazy Mommy fears that ran in my head, "What if he gets hit by a boom and falls unconscious in the water?" "What if a rogue wave takes him out?", I told him Packrat and I would talk about it (distance was an issue) before putting him down for it. Eventually we let him. He was interested, it would teach him things that we couldn't teach him on a regular day and he would be out in the sun. But most importantly, because he wanted to do it.

He also asked us to put down chess. The boy likes playing chess and that's where my greatest failure as a mother lies. I. DO. NOT. KNOW. HOW. TO. PLAY. CHESS. and I have no inclination to learn it to play with him. The solution he came up with, join the chess club.

There we were, his choices with tennis as the default 3rd because I explained to him that between sailing and tennis, tennis was easier for him to do classes outside of school so we would try out sailing.

Unfortunately, he did not get any of his choices because everything was over-subscribed. Even the supposedly non-sport, chess. And every where I turned and asked, I was told that if he had done some classes outside, chess, tennis or sailing, he would have been guaranteed entry into the CCA of his choice.

Leading to the question then, why would I want him to do it at school if we could do it on our own? And while I understood the importance and need for the kids to win awards and medals for the school, shouldn't there also be the understanding that some kids really want to try out these things for the heck of it? For the child, it is hardly ever about joining canoeing and rowing so that they might get picked up by an Ivy league school in need of scullers.  For the kid, it's about trying new things, deciding if he likes it or not and having fun figuring that out.

Then, try explaining to a child who had decided he wanted to pick up sailing because he thought it would one day allow him to captain cruise ships that he couldn't because there weren't enough spots and the spots that were there ended up being given to kids who had had prior training. When I told him that he could try again next year, he sobbed about how he would be too old and there would always be kids that would have more training than he did.

Now, there's a lesson in life for him.

I was ready for him to have more free time this year, with no CCA commitments and no picking him up from school in the evenings. In fact, that sounded quite appealing. More time for him to play with the neighbours. Less driving around for me.

For good or for bad, Evan likes doing things a certain way. Even though they were told that CCAs weren't compulsory, he saw that all his friends had a CCA and didn't want to be left out. So, we looked at what was left. Chinese Culture Club and Rugby, realistically. No golf (too costly), No strings (no musical talent), no dance (But I'm not Jordan, Mommy!). From that list of two, Chinese Culture Club got axed almost immediately ("You subject me to Chinese tuition and you want me to do this?" his eyes silently accused).

So, we were left with rugby which we were in two minds over. On the one hand, I grew up with rugby player brothers and thinking all boys ought to play rugby. On the other hand, I grew up with front row seats to not just the nose bleeds but dislocated shoulders, knees, busted noses, broken heads and teeth. Evan, himself, was convinced that he would get a nose bleed from playing the sport.

But he really wanted a CCA and this was all that I could conjure out of my hat. So he agreed to try it after Packrat likened it to playing catching with a ball. It also helped that he had some class friends with him, equally lost.

So finally here we are, after what feels like a very complicated process to get in some play, committed to being at school early Saturday morning for this year at least. If he comes away from the year with a bit more ball sense, the Saturday morning wake ups which make me want to take a nap right about now, will be worth it.



When I thought about the twins going to school and the stresses we might have to face, trying to get Evan into a CCA that he was interested in trying, never, ever crossed my mind. Such first world problems.