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.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

What mums want for Mother's Day

Mother's Day is pretty much a commercial thing but since it's around for us to honour and commemorate mothers, I'm going to use it to do just that.

I haven't been a mother all that long. I recently told Muffin when I was filling up a form for him that where it stated "Name of Parent", I once wrote down my own mother's name. Because in my mind, she's the mother. I'm just a kid, playing house.

But I guess, I am a mother, with 3 kids to care for, love and fiercely protect. But the most difficult part of this aspect of my life is not that. That comes naturally, as does the worry and stress about everything from their well-being to something as inconsequential as exams.

So what is the most difficult part? It's protecting myself as a mother. Not just physically and that in itself as tough. The eye bags, the shot memory and the late nights are testament of how I and probably we often forget to look after ourselves physically. But what's even harder is to protect myself emotionally. And I know I speak for more than myself.

Like I say, we love our children fiercely. And for good or for bad, we do everything we can to make sure things work out. But that means laying ourselves vulnerable to attack. The twins do science in school now and they learn about exo-skeletons. One thing they have been able to point out is that exo-skeletons are hard external coverings to protect the soft inner bodies of the animals or insects. Yes, mothers need that too.

We constantly worry whether we are doing right by our children and doing enough for them. We are paranoid enough to worry that we aren't doing enough despite all signs to the contrary. And because that's where we are most insecure, we are also most open to attack. It could be by another mom who is well-meaning, chiding us for not giving our child a particular opportunity to flourish. Then we feel that we are lousy mothers.

It could come in the form of an elder who defends our child when we try to discipline the child thereby eroding our authority or our conviction that we were right in disciplining our child; implying then that they know more about parenting than we do. That's when we feel that we're ineffective as the mother.

Or it could come from someone who, past their own years of parenting has forgotten what it feels like to be in the trenches, waxes lyrical about how easy it was for them to have parented their children and look back with rose tinted hindsight on how fun parenthood was; making us feel like incompetant frauds because we run furiously on the hamster wheel just so that we don't fall off. Then that voice in our head tells us how useless we are as a mother.

Or it could be someone who tells us that despite how established we are professionally and how we spend all our time struggling to keep all the balls up in the air that "No, you can't have everything" and we ought to chuck our life and our profession to stay home so that we could helicopter our children. Because, that's what true mothers do and when we are not home all the time, there are no two ways about it; as with every single jibe against us, we are made to feel that we have utterly failed as a mother. And that's what rips apart that soft inside within us.

So that, is what we have to immunize ourselves against; our confidence as mothers that people around us knowingly or unknowingly erode to make themselves feel better or look better. We always try to do right for our children and we do what we can within those limitations. And for most part, the children thrive when mothers do it that way despite these perceived imperfections.

So my rally call this Mother's Day is not just to honour mums by buying her flowers today and taking her out for a meal but to make it an effort to not judge mums; to encourage us every day as we battle both the outer challenges and inner strife that comes along with motherhood. That way, we help each other create that necessary exo-skeleton against all the world and their criticisms on what we are  obviously doing wrong. That way, we help each other be the best mums we can be. Because at the end of the day, it isn't a contest where only one of us can be the best mum. Just as we want the best for our children, we should also want the best for every mum out there. We are all in the same boat.

Not the Oscars.


Now, that would make a rockin' Mother's Day gift.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Journey to the gym

Jordan's been putting in a lot of hours at the gym. She had a club meet last weekend. And despite the fact that it wasn't a big competition and it wasn't exactly high stakes, there had to be full-hearted commitment of time and effort.

So over the last months, it's been 10.5 hours at the gym full on. And for now, we're done.

What came out of it?

1. Tempering expectations.
This was more me than her. She had no problems getting top grades last year despite hours at the gym. This year, it's been more exhausting and there's a lot more work. Some things don't come as easily and there's a lot more struggling. But I also knew that this was going to be more important than keeping her nose in the books all the time just so that her grades kept up with last year. So, we made the conscious decision to let go a bit, close an eye and let her use this to learn something that no amount of studying was going to teach her.


2. Oodles of discipline.
Even then, what came out of it was then a juggling act we all had to perform. To make sure that we could get what was necessary done, everyone had to be on a schedule. It went against giving her time to be creative and time to play but it had to be done. There was value to that as well, laying all her cards on the table, training, homework, sleep (which was very necessary seeing the number of hours she spent training) and having her see what she needed to do and giving her the space to process how to do it.

3. Moving beyond the complaining.
There was whining and there was complaining and there was comparing. But I had learnt that as long as I gave her complaints air time, she would go on to do what was necessary. And that in itself was something admirable. She would do it. Despite the exhaustion and sometimes, even tears, she would get it done. She would express her feeling of being overwhelmed, we would acknowledge it, comfort her and let her go on and that she would.

4. Grace under pressure.
One of the reasons why the girls trained so hard was so that the moves they had to make became part of them. That was essential because nerves tended to hit big time during competition. And when they were going to be jumping and twirling on a beam 4 inches wide, nerves would be what would cause them to fall. So, at training, they went through the routines over and over again. They got yelled at about everything, right up to the twirl of their fingertips.

And we saw how that paid off. At warm up, with all the distraction and noise, there was a lot of falling off the beams and tripping about. As spectators, that worried us; what if the same thing happened during the routine? But the girls took it in the stride, with eyes forward. And for each and every one of them, during their actual routine, where it counted most, they did not fumble or fall. The training and the mental wind-up got them through the pressure of performing. And all looked cool as cucumbers despite the fact that Jordan had told me her heart was going to explode out of her chest. None of them looked it.

5. Cheerleaders
I asked Jordan if she wanted her friends around for her competition and she said yes. She brought some paper to school and wrote some invitations to some of her closest friends to ask them to come watch her. And they came, armed with banners, flowers and gifts. When she saw them, her grin threatened to split her face. It helped dissipate her nerves and made it all the more enjoyable for her. She is also so much more in love with her friends because they came when she needed them and she couldn't help gushing about it. I think she also felt that she had her own audience she wanted to perform for. I was very wowed by the fact that her friends and their parents made the effort to come Sunday morning to watch her and thank God that she has friends like them!


And then, it was over.

And she had done really well. In all the ways that mattered.
She had enjoyed herself.
She had given her best in every routine she performed.
She had remembered everything the coaches had drilled into her.
And she looked like she owned the routines.

The medals were just the icing on the cake.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Experiment 3: Making fire

Because it's been crazy hot, we've been staying indoors.

But an off the cuff remark sent us all out of the house, into the sweltering afternoon, to make fire.

The heat led us to comment that it was how bush fires were made.

JED did not believe us.

At the same time, Jordan was brandishing a magnifying glass, muttering something about looking for clues.

Packrat then took the magnifying glass from her, braved the sweltering heat (he, especially, melts into a puddle within seconds) and gathered up some crinkled leaves, angled the sunbeams onto it and made fire.

The kids' jaws dropped in unison as the leaf crackled and smoked.

Each got a chance to do it and because it was blazing, it really didn't take much skill.

Man make fire
Son follows suit.

Leaf has big hole in it.

They wanted to make a bonfire but they were becoming Olaf in the summer. So they got shephereded in to have a shower.

While it was fun while it lasted, I still think we need to move to colder climates. 

Friday, April 08, 2016

Meta humour

Muffin has developed a weird sense of humour. He loves telling stories. But his stories send him into gales of laughter and infuriate the listener because they cycle. But the fact that he came up with it and sees the humour in it warrants some record of it.

Story Number 1:

Once there were three children. One night, two of them went out and left the tanned one (him!) at home. He played basketball with his mommy and they played for so long that he vomitted! He was a bit upset after that so he decided to lie down and tell his mommy a story. And this was his story...Once there were three children. One night, two of them went out and left the tanned one at home...

How long the story lasts depends very much on how long he can hold a straight face and how hapless his poor victim is and how long it takes his victim to realise that it's a version of Groundhog Day.

Story Number 2:
There were 3 children in a boat. Their names were Wee-Pete, U-Pete and No-Pete. U-Pete and No-Pete fell off the boat. Who was left?

When you answer Wee-Pete (Repeat), he runs through the whole spiel again, in gales of laughter.


I don't know where he learnt it from but as long as I don't have to be the listening end of it, which I unfortunately am, it's funny.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Siblings

JED fight like cats some days. They really do. Sometimes it gets violent enough that toys get viciously stomped on and stuff gets thrown at each other. Inevitably, I get an angry and indignant phone call that makes me want to block our home number. Sometimes we think they need to be either separated, into different houses (put up for adoption!) or put together in a get-along t-shirt (A huge t-shirt they all have to wear at the same time).

At their most unreasonable, they are mean and sometimes even cruel to each other.

But thankfully, there are also times that I know they love each other, will look out for each other and all is good in the world.

There are times when there isn't enough of me to go around. Muffin wants to be read to. Evan wants me to play cards with him. Jordan wants to make stories or one of the twins has last minute stuff that I need to help them with and Muffin is going on and on about wanting to play/ read to etc.

So on occasion, I deputise the free-er twin to help. Both Evan and Jordan love reading to Muffin. They read in different ways. Jordan's more expressive and the true storyteller. Evan reads it deadpan, which is funny in its own right, but knows how to run a parallel discussion about the book that interests Muffin.



And then there is this. 
The twins are at the age where affection from someone other than their parents is 'gross'. Muffin is very affectionate and tries to hug and kiss them especially when we send them to school and the twins get all sputter-y and grossed out by his affections. I suspect the more they try to thwart him, the harder he tries, just to annoy them but to get them to 'love' him. 

But one morning recently, both Muffin and Jordan crawled into my bed and kicked me out. Jordan threw open her arms and said "Come Muffin, let me sayang you!" and Muffin leapt at the opportunity and they spent a good 5 minutes smothering each other in too-tight hugs and kisses all over each others' faces. 

Recently, Evan had a terrible nightmare that involved a plane crashing. He was crying in his sleep, just before it was time to wake for school. It was too real to him and it took him a long time to understand that it didn't happen and no one died. Jordan was worried, ready to bang down our doors to get us. She even tried to console him though he pushed her away.

Eventually, at wits end, she wrote him a note and left it at his seat on the breakfast table.


I don't know if it made him feel better but it was very good of her to keep trying, to let him know that she was thinking of him.

This and the fact that when each child is given extra money for an excursion for school, they choose to buy something for their sibling. Occasionally, they come home with treats for each other from the school canteen.

Hopefully, as they get older, there will be more days like this and fewer cat fight, fur and fluff flying days.