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, August 24, 2015

What a teacher truly wants on Teachers' Day...

I could go with a nice long holiday without any papers to grade but that would be wishful thinking. I've had lots of friends with school going kids ask me what it is that teachers truly like for Teachers' Day and what were some of the Teachers' Day gifts that I remember.

While I can't speak for other teachers, here are some of my favourites and the ones I remember fondly.

The funniest one, I cannot find a photograph for. It was back when mobile phones had no cameras and my darling class gave me 2 mango fruit which I ate! They had noticed that their teacher, i.e. me, never repeated her wardrobe which consisted mostly of Mango outfits. So come Teachers' Day, their corny 18 year old humour had them present me two HUGE mangoes. And to top it off, a T-shirt that I still have.

2. The most self-aware one was an urn that I still use. It came from a class I had to learn to love because they were really trying. They made me stage a walk out, a strike and eventually swear at them. I put small change in it now but for the years it sat on my desk in the office, it elicited chuckles from both staff and students alike.

The weirdest would be a toilet scrub brush with no message whatsoever. 18 year old humour, I did not and sometimes still don't get. 

The ones I found most useful. 
1. Honey- I always left them in school and I'd always use them up. Teaching for long stretches and a propensity to get laryngitis made it extremely useful. Honey and lemon drinks. No lemon, just hot water and honey.

2. Lozenges- I've come to appreciate all kinds. From the  Nim Jiom ones to the medicated or the honey eucalyptus ones for the aforementioned reason. I started keeping them in my pencil case and when I was really ill, I'd carry a pot of it around.

3. Red pens- I generally graded in red. Occasionally pink or purple if the mood hit me. And we used to lose our red pens all the time because we would take our papers out to grade every time we got a chance and we would leave our pens all over. Years after I stopped teaching in school, I opened a handbag I hadn't used in a while and found 2 red pens in there. But woe was the day that I had planned to go out to work, settled down nicely with a drink somewhere only to realise I had no pen! I have also on occasion graded with a coloured pencil and a crayon because I wasn't in proximity of a pen (of any colour). So we never ever had enough red pens and were always thankful for those.

And then there were the ones from students who knew me and understood that teachers were human and appreciated the same things they did.

So they've come bearing  cups of MacD's iced tea because they'd seen me come into class with it and we had chatted enough for them to know that I would mainline the stuff if I could. (This is no longer relevant as MacD's iced tea has changed to the run of the mill Heaven and Earth stuff that doesn't work.)

Others pooled together to buy a Starbucks card with enough credit for one drink so that I could grade their papers there (this after spotting me at a Starbucks grading away furiously). All much appreciated and remembered after all these years.

That's the advantage of teaching the older bunch; they remember funny things and have enough freedom to go out and get what they want for their teachers. 8 year old Jordan has, however, very observantly commented her form teacher loves Hello Kitty and that we should buy all her gym coaches bubble tea because they, like Mommy (*guilty here*), drink bubble tea all the time. (Since MacD's doesn't do it for me anymore!)

In a nutshell, the gifts that have meant most are the ones that are the personal ones, the notes, montages, cards or ones where there has been thought put into it. So if you're wondering what to help your kid get or make for their teachers, ask them about their teachers and what they know about them. 

 Disclaimer: Note that all opinions are mine and are not endorsed by schools of any kind!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Something had to give

Our first born is an overachiever. Packrat claims that she takes after me. I guess. At one point, Jordan was doing ballet twice a week, gym twice a week, art once a week, swimming once a week. And at that point, she was doing extra Chinese twice a week and Math once a week. It was a scheduling night mare and it just did not sit right with us because there was too much on her plate and she needed time to play. Some told us we were doing the right thing and comforted us by telling us that since most of her extra stuff was not school related, it was play. Unfortunately, that wasn't our definition of play. So we kept asking her quit something. In response, she asked for piano lessons.

Eventually, she had to choose under duress but not really from us.

At the end of May, Jordan competed in another gym competition and did not fare as well as she did previously. This was about the same time that we were hearing that actually, the gym she was at wasn't all that great for building foundation and skills properly and we were shopping around for another gym. Jordan became taken with this other gym that was run by China coaches and insisted on switching there despite our reservations of it being too great a leap from a 'play' gym to a gym run by China coaches. She dug in her heels and they insisted that if she wanted to join them, she had to put in a minimum of 6 hours a week.

That was the gun to her head.

She chose to give up everything; ballet, art and swimming. We had decided on giving up Math without consultation with her anyway.

That was when you could hear two hearts shatter in unison, from a mile away. Both Packrat and I were extremely saddened at her decision to give up ballet and art.

For me, part of it was vicarious. Because I had danced, I had wanted her to. I am not ashamed to admit that. But it was also because when she danced, there was pure joy and musicality and I would miss watching her move with the music.

For Packrat, there wasn't the vicarious reason but he loved watching her dance and how she immersed herself in it. With the art, her eye for detail and how she drew every time she found a piece of paper made us feel wistful that she chose to give it up.

Putting these away was difficult.

Our consolation was that with the numerous hours of gym she was going to put in, if she wanted to go back to ballet, it would not be all that difficult.

And art was something that she could do on her own and there would always be opportunity. A case in point was when she went off for a day with a friend from church and when I picked her up, she had a canvas painting of the both of us for my birthday.

At the same time, we had to remind ourselves that it was what she wanted to commit her time to and that we had to respect the decision she was making. So, she now spends an inordinate amount of her time upside down and has core strength and abs that put us to shame and she's happy. 

So while we mourn for what she could have done with the ballet or the art, the sparkle in her eye after gym despite 3 hour long classes makes us realise that she knows herself best.

Friday, August 07, 2015

The Stomach Flu Week; What we learnt from it.

The past ten days or so have been surreal. It's been a combination of dejavu and groundhog day. JED have taken ill in a way that they've never done so before. They've never really ganged up on us and plotted to consecutively fall with a 3 day grace period in between.

It was groundhog day because they fell in the same way. First, the complaint of the headache with lethargy, then the stomach ache, which is rapidly followed with  repeated upchucking followed by cramps that could rival contractions and spontaneous diarrhea.

Deja vu was the stronger sentiment because
a. When they were babies/ toddlers with less robust immune systems, if our clinic had frequent flyer miles, we would have got round trip tickets for the family to Disneyworld. In the last week, we were in the GP's office 3 times and the Emergency Room once in the middle of the night.

b. Both Packrat and I have been going to work on 3 hours of sleep and getting through the entire day on that and adrenaline. It's just that the last time we had to do this, we were much younger and we were more junior in our professions.

c. We were chucking out diapers on the hour. With such a virulent strain of a gastro-intestinal bug, the only way to save the furniture was to put even the eight year olds in diapers. My only problem was finding a diaper that could fit a 30 kg child.

d. The house smelt distinctly of oils, soiled diapers, anti-bacterial sprays and the washing machine was going on through the day. At the same time, there was this fog of exhaustion but hyper alertness that we were operating through that felt unpleasantly familiar.

It led both of us to unanimously declare that we didn't miss having young children or the sleep-limited- ships in the night - existence that we end up living through.

e. Children being very ill, like having infants around, bring about back seat nursing by everyone around us, family, friend, foe and even stranger. Everyone insisted on doing what they swear/ swore by. Since we did indeed have 3, we actually tried to take some of the advice. At best, we would have found something that works, But most of the time, it ended up with us changing more clothes, sheets and spraying down the house.

We were told to
a. boil rice with lots of water and feed the water to the ill child. - In theory, that makes sense. Carboyhydrates and liquid, necessary for a child severely dehydrated and retching. Unfortunately, the sight of white porridge causes not just one but all my children to retch and becomes counterproductive.

b. hydrate with 100 plus- Isotonic. Makes sense because there are the salts and sugars. Unfortunately, 100 plus itself is gassy and that makes it another trigger for the spewing. And if I'm going to replace 100 plus with another isotonic, I'm going to find a drink that they like, increasing the chances of them possibly keeping it down.

c. let sleeping children sleep- Dehydration causes disorientation and drowsiness. Muffin was rapidly getting to that point, his skin was scaly, he lay still and staring blankly in space drifting in and out of sleep. We kept being told, Muffin just needed to sleep and rest when I insisted on waking him up to force sips of juice/ ribena/ water down his throat. Thankfully, I'm thick-skinned that way and kept insisting.

d. get the child to drink coconut water- Full of electrolytes. Good for the spewing, purging child. Once again, good in theory but did not live up to expectations. My couch is testament to the failure in execution.

e. listen to the child- One of the meds was bitter beyond belief and required said child to leave it under the tongue and let the system absorb it. It worked like a dream but it required a high tolerance for the bitter and the fact that there was no food or liquid for half an hour after made it difficult. Of course, any child would protest a repeated dose despite it being necessary. Unfortunately, in a situation like this, there is nothing democratic about parenting. Unfortunately also, when the grown ups decide to listen to the child instead of the prescription on the bottle, the child ends up throwing up repeatedly till one of us, mean cruel parents returns.

What did however work was
a. oils- We did the whole gamut. I do the whole Young Living thing and threw everything at their bellies and constitution. While it didn't stop the virulence of the bug, it made them feel more comfortable and purified the air in the house. For Jordan, who had cramps that approximated labour pains, we piggy backed both the Young Living oils with the traditional Chinese Ru-Yi oil that they used as babies.

b. the hot water bottle- Cramping in small children apparently cannot be helped by adult type anti-spasmodics. So the only way to get past the cramps is to, like childbirth, let it pass. Easier said than done but the traditional hot water bottle did help quite a bit. Our kettle has been somewhat over-taxed.

c. the onion omelette- About the weirdest thing I've ever done. Once again, a throwback to baby days, this time to the early baby days when our beloved confinement nanny was with us. 8 years ago, the twins had horrific colic and our nanny chopped up shallots, dry fried them, beat an egg and poured it over the onions to fry. When cooled, she placed a muslin cloth over the baby's belly and placed the egg over it with another piece of muslin wrapped over it. Very bizarre to have an infant smell like something out of a nasi lemak dish. Half an hour later, all the excessive gas in the baby would come trumpeting out. Because we couldn't do much for Jordan's cramping, Packrat suggested we tried that. We did, despite her protests and an hour later, she was happily watching television.

d. feed the child whatever he or she can keep down- We ended up feeding JED Milo cereal balls, frozen juice lollies, copious amounts of Ribena and toast with sugar and Milo powder on it. Eventually, there would be a breakthrough and they eat something resembling a meal and we know we're in the clear. Till then, it truly was a matter of throwing high calorie, low irritant foods at them and praying that they pick up some of them.

We're hoping that the worst is over because I'm truly truly exhausted and would love a sleep holiday with a gorgeous pillow top mattress and lush sheets but I don't think that's on the cards at this point. So, I'm thankful for little things like the fact that it's a long weekend and that the house no longer smells of vomit and poop.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


As JED grow older and their exposure to things grows, they pick up strange things along the way. I remember how stunned I was when a 3-4 year old Evan, while playing with toy planes, flew two towards each other shouting "Evasive manoeuvre!"  or when Muffin, on seeing the BBC logo on the screen declaring "This is the BBC World Service!". Along with all these funny and occasionally useful snippets of information, they do pick up things that we have to clamp down on.

Mostly it's got to do with attitude and language.

They watch mostly American television shows and the occasional Chinese animation. And both have issues that we have to temper.

1. Language.
There are words that we ban outright because 8 year olds or 5 year olds shouldn't be using language like that. Evan was stunned when he got smacked on the back of his head for declaring "I am DAMN full!" . We told him "damn" was not a word to describe how full he was and "damn" meant to send someone to hell or criticise badly. Either of which, it wasn't appropriate for him to describe the state of how much food he had eaten.

This however, was something they pick up, not just from television but from the kids in school. Muffin, while unsuccessfully fixing his Lego, uttered the expletive "Ah... F*#k!" to our horror. Evidently, he picked it up from an older kid on the bus.

So these are the outright words that we have to constantly police and Evan, being in a boys' school, seems to hear them in THX surround sound.

2. Words.
Then there are the more insidious words that we have to catch. Words that are inherently harmless on the own but when uttered with juvenile arrogance never fails to make the blood boil.

i. Jordan: Fine (with the eye roll)
ii. Evan: Whatever (while turning his back to you)
iii. Muffin: Boring
iv. JED: Sentences that begin with "I WANT YOU TO..."

Pt iii. is the most commonly used. Every.Thing.Is.Boring. And they whine about wanting gadgets that others have or the television. Our current retort is that if what we do is boring to them and they don't want to do it then we won't do what they want to do which we find boring. On top of that, there are always chores and homework that we can find for them to do to cure boredom. That is usually met with an extremely sullen and reluctant silence.

And with Muffin, we can't issue the awful threat of rubbing chilli on his lips/ mouth for using inappropriate language because he actually likes the stuff. 

If necessary, we'll try soap. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Birds and the Bees Part 1

T'was inevitable that at some point, the twins were going to ask how babies were made.

This happened last night. In bed, just before they went to sleep. It started with Jordan lamenting that she didn't want to get pregnant or give birth because it was painful. And my telling her that it was okay to feel that now and she might change her mind later.

It's amazing that even at 8, they could fathom that accidents do happen because her anxious reply was concern about what would happen if they forgot they didn't want a baby and accidentally kissed and as a result, she got pregnant.

She missed a couple of steps there.

That's when I decided it was time that I took them through some basics. In that split second, I decided that I had to be as truthful and as informative as possible.

1. So I used the right terms. There was no couching of genitalia in more cutesy terms that we do on occasion use (though I try to be evasive here).

2. I laid down the ground rules.
a. Girls and boys have anatomy that work together to create a baby. But that doesn't happen till after marriage. Underline, underline, super bold, with exclamation marks.
b. Since the boy parts are more obvious, the definite curiosity must be tempered with the fact that asking a girl where her specific parts are could lead to very dire consequences; ranging from getting slapped to getting arrested for indecent propositioning.

3. I would explain the processes and the parts involved and talk about how to keep safe. (While I do firmly in abstinence, I want to be sure that if they chose any other path, parental wrath and chastity belts notwithstanding, they needed to be safe)

4. I would also explain where we stood as a Christian family.

I didn't quite manage to cover every bit of it. We never made it to the actual process of how a baby was made. What I had not counted on was so much laughter that it was hard to go on. There were obviously questions and here's the 8 year old's toilet humour laced FAQ.

Q. So I pee out sperm???
A: No you don't. You use the same equipment but different things can come out of it.

Q. What happens if pee came out into the woman instead of sperm?
A. You would have a partner who would be extremely pissed off with you (pun totally intended, which they actually got and sent them into greater gales of laughter) and might never ever want to let you go near her again.

Preamble:  I had explained that it was also something that ought to happen between 2 people who loved one another.
Q: What happens if you want to make love but not want a baby?
A: Then there are things that you can use, like a condom. (They had seen a condom before in a coke-Mentos experiment).
Observation: So you use something like a plastic bag to make sure the sperm doesn't swim out?
A: Uhm, yes.
Observation: Then you just throw away the plastic bag? Do you have to tie a rubber band around it so it won't spill into the bin?
A: Well, it's not exactly a plastic bag but it works the same way and yes, you'll have to tie it up to throw it away. That's only polite.

Q: It's like poking right? So won't it hurt?
A: It would hurt if it isn't done properly.

By which time, they were both convinced that copulating was going to be painful, troublesome and required the use of plastic bags.

I did make them both swear not to talk about this in school because knowing them, something would get lost in translation and calls from exasperated teachers or annoyed parents would be likely to follow.

There will probably have to be a part 2 because we never got to the actual bit of how the baby is made. Time to take out the book that I have called "How babies are made.".