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, August 27, 2014

The twins: Performer and Prop.

Evan's school is running this thing, it's an international competition called Odyssey of the Mind and its sister competition called Destination Imagination. It's a critical thinking, problem solving programme and it sounds like great fun. Creativity, confidence, on your feet problem solving, performing. All good things.

The thing is, I don't think Evan would be keen to do the performing bit. And unfortunately, that is a big part of OM or DI. We were keen to let Evan be part of it but one of the reasons holding us back is that his ideal role in it would be that he is a tree or a rock. Evan doesn't like to be in the limelight. He isn't a performer.

That is Jordan. From young, she's loved performing and speaking in front of people. It hasn't scared her. That has never been a problem for her.

Hard to believe they shared a womb.

Yesterday, she decided that she would create her own Rainbow Loom videos. As with many other girls of her age group, she's pretty caught up in it and she's always wanting me to show her new styles of doing bracelets. So, in the style that the instructional videos are made, she decides to do one too. She chats through it with her idea of small talk and she explains what she is doing though not very clearly because that's her jumbled, creative, unrehearsed mind talking. But we did it, in one take. All of it was her direction, where she sat, what she had in the background and where everything was placed. I was just the camera person.

So for her, that opportunity would have been great, playing on her strengths and I am sad that she isn't going to get the opportunity to do it.

As for Evan, it'll be good for him if I can convince him that the stage won't collapse on him if he were more than a rock or a tree. The question is whether or not I can.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A contractual agreement

Evan signed his first contract today. Just before heading off to bed, he asked me very innocently if there was 听 写 (Chinese Spelling) tomorrow. To which my reply was "you tell me?". When he unearthed his Chinese list, it was evident that there was 听 写 tomorrow.

I had two options.

1. He sleeps late to study for it.

2. He doesn't learn it and faces the consequences of doing badly tomorrow. Both from us and from school.

I chose the latter.

I asked him if he thought I was mad, he said yes.

When I asked him why, he said because he lied.

I told him it wasn't about lying. It was about being responsible for his work. With both Jordan and him, I forget dates and what they have to do. It's impossible for the most Type A amongst us and I am by no stretch of the imagination, super Type A. So I tell him that I am upset because he was irresponsible. And that came with consequence.

Thereafter, I asked him what did he hope to get for 听 写. He said full marks. So we drew up an agreement that anything less than full marks would have consequences because he forgot to study for it.

A concept he is unfamiliar with.

We came up with a list of the 5 things he enjoyed doing most and ranked it.
1. Playing with our neighbour, Kate.
2. Going downstairs to play.
3. Going on a night walk.
4. Watching television on the weekend.
5. Reading his Star Wars books.

The agreement:
If Evan gets 100, nothing gets taken away.
If Evan gets 95, no Star Wars books for a day.
If Evan gets 90, no watching television on Saturday.
If Evan gets 85, no night walk for that week.
If Evan gets 80, no going downstairs to play for 3 days.
If Evan gets 75, no playing with Kate for 4 days.

Signed and agreed by him, witnessed by Jordan.

It's up on the fridge in the kitchen with everything else important, for everyone to see.
I'm not sure if he truly understands consequence yet but I sure hope this teaches him something because behind the 'zen' mommy was a one who was about blow a gasket and have an aneurysm, all the while still in work clothes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Taking the fun out of cussin'

- Warning: There are real swear words in this post. If you think they might offend you, please stop reading.  Thank you! - 

I remember watching an episode of Malcolm in the Middle where Malcolm was caught swearing. What his dad did was to make him type up a whole list of swear words and look him in the eye and read them out loud. I always remembered that as great way of teaching a child not to cuss.

I had two 7 year old boys in my car. And as boys would do, they jibed each other throughout the drive and tried to get each other into trouble. It meant making fake calls on each other cussing.

Evan, being Evan, wanted to know what each word he was accused of saying meant and he wasn't letting me off with "it's a rude word."

So, I tried the truth instead. I explained every single one to him. Thankfully, they weren't the really difficult ones to explain.

To state from the outset, none of them were used on him. 

It started with
1. The middle finger- I told him sticking it up at someone meant to show the guy his penis.


2. Bastard- As boys are wont to do, they mishear everything on purpose. So when Evan exclaimed "busted!", it was misheard as "bastard!" to his exasperation. And then, I told them bastard meant a child without a dad, both boys' reactions were "So mean to be mean to someone with no dad."

And the kicker was

3. Fuck- They didn't actually use it. Since they realised that I was explaining cuss words to them, they asked about something they saw scrawled on the wall in the playground. My version went along the lines of 'that's how Daddy and Mommy made you.' The two seven year old clowns in the back seat couldn't get past how it sounded like 'duck' and started going "hey, you know that word that sounds like 'duck'?"

Did I say driving with 2 seven year old boys meant a great amount of face-palming?

But the general consensus seemed to be that swear words were over-rated and couldn't figure out why people would want to use them.

Hopefully, by demystifying these swear words to them, they won't think them as attractive to use. I'm not sure. I'm not a boy. But I am a pretty big fan of explaining things to them properly instead of the misinformation they're bound to be exposed to in school. Packrat concurs on this point. He said in boys' schools, the amount of misinformation is actually more than accurate information. Humph. I can imagine the amount of 'hum-ming' and 'haw-ing' that's going to happen as we explain to them the birds and the bees.

Anyway, I did end the entire conversation on cuss words with the cursory "Please don't use these words because they aren't very nice and are hurtful to others." Plus the short version. "And it's rude." And they did reply with the cursory "Ok, we won't use bad words."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Relishing Kampong play

One of the things I loved about Enid Blyton's boarding school stories was that there was always a half-term holiday. In Singapore, I suppose that amounts to the week break in March and September. Even then, the terms always felt a bit too long and by week 6, we would be wilting and limping along.

Thankfully, the last two weeks have had days off in abundance. Last week, there was the National Day long weekend and this week ended on Wednesday. It's meant that JED have had a lot of time to play.

The school-going twins have come home reporting that many of their friends have been or are still out of town. Effectively, if any primary school (bar Primary 6) child were to skip school on Tuesday and Wednesday, they would have been off from last Thursday till the coming Monday. 10 days. 10 days is a good and decent length for a holiday. Of course, the twins wanted to go and stay in a hotel or take an airplane; both of which we said a flat no to.

It's drawn attention to the fact that the twins, because of school and their age, are beginning to want the same things that their classmates have. And the last thing we want to do is to raise expectant children who think nothing about holidaying overseas every chance they get and also expect money to be spent keeping them occupied and happy.

So, in response to their plea to stay in a hotel or to go on holiday over the National Day weekend, we took them to a roof-top picnic where they could watch the national flag being flown in for the National anthem, the fly by and eventually, the fireworks. It was where they also ate frozen tubes of colouring (a blast from the past from our own childhood days), sat on the ground and ate fried rice out of plastic bowls and chased each other till they were drenched in sweat. They came to the conclusion that playing catch on a roof top was loads of fun, fried rice tasted better while sitting out in the open and out of a plastic bowl and that Mommy was right, those frozen things tasted foul.

Knowing that the last two days have been a holiday for them (PSLE Oral Exams mean P1s to P5s get to stay home and wrestle with their online learning platforms) but not for Papa, they knew not to hound us for a hotel stay. They did however try to  angle an indoor play gym session with their friends. It isn't that I have anything against indoor play gyms; In fact, I actually quite like them because I can leave them to it (except when Muffin jumps about too much and throws up). But  Packrat and I had long decided that if we didn't need to spend money entertaining them, we wouldn't. Our logic has always been why pay money to choose recycled air and an artificial play environment when the outdoors is haze free and free free? On top of that, there is so much literature out there about the 'over-protected' kid and the helicopter parent that emphasises free play, extensively.

So, in response to their constant mewing about indoor play gyms, I took them, to where I went every time we were on vacation. The beach. Granted the beach was much cleaner and less polluted back then but after I swept the area for broken glass shards, I left them to it. They jumped waves, got sand in their clothes and also got, quite obviously, very wet. It was about picking up sticks, digging up sand and generally, trying to empty the ocean.

Their only bug bear was that it was a trip cut short because of extremely ominous storm clouds that quickly dissolved into big, hail like drops pelting down at us. They did however get to experience getting soaked by the rain, sitting on newspapers in the car and having pools of water swilling around in their shoes.

All in, we did nothing special over the last ten days but played the way I remember play to be when I was a child. It had more to do with neighbours and friends, imagining games and playing make belief than gadgets, gizmos and a padded room full of plastic balls. And just as I did 30 years ago, when I called them in to dinner, they refused to come home. Eventually they did so reluctantly, under duress, but immediately begged to go back out again after dinner. To do what? Use torchlights to hunt snails and cockroaches. And they were bringing salt with them to see what it would do to the snail.

Ewww... Sure, go ahead (The after dinner play session) but NO salt (That would be just plain cruel to the snail) and don't forget to wash the cockroach juice off your fingers, JED!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Grooming a young lady

National Day celebrations in school has always been the annual rummage through the drawer for something red and something white to wear.

Tangentially, we've come to the conclusion that Jordan's school is a very conservative and 'proper' mission girls school. Other mission girls schools allow their younger girls especially, to go to school in PE attire and spend the rest of the day in the same gear till dismissal on PE days. I had naturally assumed that Jordan would be allowed to do the same, only that she isn't. She is expected to change back into her uniform because 'proper' girls don't spend the day in PE clothes.

So it came as no surprise that she was given a long list of guidelines to follow for her National Day attire. And that drove me slightly batty.

1. No spaghetti straps.
2. No singlets (though when she told me, it came across as nothing sleeveless)
3. It had to be RED or WHITE with no other colour prints. 
4. Only stripe and dot derivatives were allowed.
5. Skirts/ shorts and dresses had to reach the knees.
6. If they didn't, leggings had to be worn. Leggings had to be white.
7. Shoes could not have heels or wheels. No slippers either.

As Jordan rattled off the list, I pictured her in something resembling and red and white burqa which I was very certain, her Christian conservative school, would not be able to find funny and I would very quickly get called into the principal's office for.

White and red were bad enough. The white shorts we ended up pulling out were too short. The leggings I paired with it had pale grey stripes on it. Same response to the possible skirt options. The white tops we had were all sleeveless and Jordan vetoed it.

Eventually, the option was to go nekkid or in uniform and while she was happy to go in uniform, I was determined get it right and if possible, use it as a statement of how ridiculous I found some of the guidelines to be.

So this was the eventual ensemble that we put together.

When she pointed out that her top was still sleeveless, I pointed out that the material on the end of the skirt more than made up for it. She also pointed out that her skirt was too long and it would be difficult to go to the washroom if it were wet.

I told her we couldn't always win and she just had to hike up her skirt like any other 7 year old would do. And that way, NO ONE could query her length of skirt.

The little girl who HAD to do it as the rules stipulated was having a lot of cognitive dissonance from a mother who insisted on showing her that there was middle ground.

Incidentally, I had also known that the sleeveless top wasn't going to get her into trouble because the aforementioned rules were Jordan's interpretation of it and not really what the teacher meant.

I think she and her school deserve each other.

I shall also enjoy and treasure these days where she loves the long swishy skirts and where "You mean you're going to go out wearing that?" is not about a battle of how short and revealing her clothes are but how hot she might be.