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.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

First week of school? No tears, no fuss, no big deal

Our youngest is no longer a pre-schooler. On the 3rd of January, he joined the ranks of a primary school going child. And unlike the twins, he seems to have taken to it like a fish to water. I suspect, that has got to do with him having seen his older siblings go through it. He couldn't quite understand what the fuss was about and why he had to wait so long to do things.

When asked what he did the first week, he told us that there were a lot of lines and a lot of waiting.
1. Waiting to line up.
2. Waiting for the class to quiet before anything happens
3. Lining up to buy food.
4. Lining up to put the plates back.
5. Lining up for the bathrooms after putting the plates back because evidently, everyone needs to pee after returning their dishes.
6. Waiting to go back to class after going to recess.
7. Lining up for the right bus.
8. Waiting to get on the right bus.

Has he learnt anything substantial in the last two weeks of school? Learning to queue, obviously. And also learning how join the shortest line at recess to maximise time in the playground. He also learnt how to make change.

Outside of school, he learnt how to cook a meal from scratch. Slicing, dicing, sauteing, the works. And he learnt that a little kindness goes a long way. He cooked the meal from start to finish for his brother and that won him the choice of television programmes for the entire day.

What he learnt in the first two week of school wouldn't have helped him survive if he were marooned on a desert island but those are good survival skills to learn. Did he learn any reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic? I'm not certain of that bit but that'll come because Singapore. 

Friday, December 30, 2016


There's been radio silence.

There's a reason for it. Every couple of years, we take the kids on what has become a traditional odyssey of sorts.

To date, our odysseys have been to the North American continent and this one was no different.

It was meant to herald the beginning of Muffin's primary school life. We did a similar one to Hawaii when the twins were entering primary school.

Our vacation this time was unabashedly non-educational. There was going to be no value in it in terms of exposing them to new lands, new cultures, geography or scenery. We went with one intention; to go on the Disney Cruise, which itself was just about indulgence and comfort. Add on to that, being in the theme park city of the world, we spent the rest of our time in theme parks, riding roller coasters and soaking in everything make believe and computer generated. In other words, we did not go to the United States, we went on a themepark holiday.

But JED had a great time as did we. And it wasn't true that they didn't learn anything. This trip was a first for them in many ways.

1. They had to look after themselves and they did so in a myriad of ways.
In Orlando, they slept in the upstairs bedroom while we were downstairs. They were in charge of getting themselves ready in the morning without any prompting. Many a morning, they appeared at my bedroom door all ready to head to the parks.

2. They had to look after each other.
On occasion, we would leave them alone to get groceries, get dinner and even do a spot of shopping. My paranoid imagination had them fighting and hurting each other or me coming home to a house on fire. But none of that played up. They watched TV, cleared the table at the designated time (as monitored by Evan), brought everything into the kitchen with no mess and nothing broken (supervised by Jordan) and then trooped up to wash up (closely watched by a hawk-like Muffin).

3. They looked after their own things.
For children who have a helper in the house, they can be awfully spoilt and messy. But on vacation and with my declaration that I wasn't going to pick up after them, after the nth time they were unable to find their toys or their pyjamas smelt funky because they left them in a pile together with a wet towel, almost everything got folded away or put away nicely. It wasn't perfect but it was good enough.

Granted, there was the non-Facebook- non Disneyfied version. That included
a) a bout of food poisoning which required a jab and quarantine
b) a hacking cough (that lasted all holiday and made it back 3 continents)
c) bad food (Poor Chinaman Muffin had nothing much to eat except for fries, hash browns, sausages and chicken tenders and even that got old quite quickly)
d) the occasional bad weather (either too hot or too cold)
e) too much walking causing exhausted, painful feet, whiny children too heavy to carry
g) bad airport queues causing us to almost miss on flights on multiple occasions
f) 13 hour long transatlantic flights with our girl child who was unable to sleep, kept throwing up and eventually only settled sleeping on the cabin floor at the back of the plane.

But even then, we miss it.

So, posterity, the a video that JED and Packrat worked very hard to make.

It'll be a holiday we all will be talking about for a long time to come.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Unknown rewards

Jessica Lahey in her book, A Gift of Failure, tries to convince helicopter parents to wean off extrinsic rewards for behaviour. She asserts that this stunts the growth mindset in children where they do things because they are trying to figure things out rather than because they get rewarded for it. While I find it hard to adopt everything she says, I fully agree with her ideas.

She also talks about how, if it was necessary to reward, the rewards had to be inconsistent and rare enough not to form a pattern.

Fast forward to this upcoming weekend. Packrat and I are away this weekend. JED want to know if they can watch TV while we are away. As we are not around, we felt that it was only fair to put that decision into the ones who were caring for them in our absence. The twins were told that their TV privileges would only be made known to them during the weekend. How that decision was going to be made, was a secret. Not very democratic and transparent but child rearing rarely ever is.

These uncertainties brought about a sea change in their behaviour. Instead of the regular bickering and occasional-come-to-blows responses to each other, in the split second after the aforementioned pronouncement about television was made, they became helpful siblings who looked out for each other and were accommodating of each other.

When Muffin dropped his cup, Jordan scrambled to get it and Evan rushed to rinse it out as opposed to the usual "Muffin, why are you so clumsy?" accusation. The twins also wrote down a list of household duties that needed to be done and split it amongst themselves.

They even elected to read to Muffin before they fell asleep.

All this because they know that their TV privileges depended on their behaviour. But they weren't sure which aspects of their behaviour mattered the most. Being helpful, being caring and considerate, being nurturing, being neat... they didn't really know. So in face of the uncertainty, they did everything. We're not sure if it's sustainable but it's been interesting to see how they responded and we'll see what all the good intentions amount to by the time we get back.

At the same time, I'm leaving them a big series of books to hopefully distract themselves.

It's a lot less mess and less painful to clear up than leaving them Lego.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Elections 2016: Evan's Perspective

In the run up to today, we've talked a lot about the US Presidential Elections in our household. JED hear it over the radio on BBC and they talk about it at a child-like level in school. Of all 3, Evan is the most interested in it. Jordan thinks it funny because I rant about Trump.

A few nights ago, at bedtime prayers, we added in praying for the American people and that they would make a wise decision at the polls. They asked questions. Most of them fuelled by crazy hearsay nine year old style. Trump has a nuclear weapon, Trump is going to kill people and so on. We clarified their misconceptions. It was in a sense, their introduction into political science by way of Trump vs Clinton.

Today is a day that will go down in infamy. I exaggerate. But not by much.

Evan rang me at the office. His bus driver told him that Trump had won. He needed to confirm if it was true because his bus driver speaks Chinese and Evan wasn't sure if he understood him right.

His questions to me were rapid fire.
1. Is Donald Trump going to start a war?
2. If he does, is it going to be World War III?
3. Is Donald Trump Hitler?
4. If people say he is like Hitler, then why did other people choose him?
5. Was Hilary Clinton really so lousy?
6. How come Donald Trump won?

His questions were a mixture of thought and hear say but there was also some fear. I liked hearing his questions. Mindful of Packrat's warnings about giving them glib answers like "Donald Trump is an idiot" I tried to explain to him that hopefully, there would be no war because there's too much at stake (though his 9 yo mind didn't buy that). that no, Trump isn't Hitler (Hitler actually killed many people) and how there were problems in the USA that made it possible for Trump to actually happen. I tried to explain how democracy worked. But I could only do so much over the phone.

I'm not sure how much of it he understood but he did try to make sense of it. When he did, he rang off but not before reminding me to get a newspaper so that he could read more.

Well, if nothing else, I'll credit Trump for my son's political awakening.

But if left to me, I wish it were Bartlet for America.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dealing with loss- a 9 year old's perspective

JED lost their great granddad last week. The twins, in particular were close to him because they grew up living in the same house as he did. There's something to be said about living in a multi-generational house.

Anyway, he passed, at a ripe old age of 100. We knew it was soon because he wasn't doing so well and had done our best to prepare JED. Even then, when we found out that he had passed on, telling them was still going to be no easy feat. For good or for bad, Grandma broke the news to them before we managed to.

Jordan was inconsolable. Evan was very take charge. He took it upon himself to ring myself and Packrat to let us know. He also let us know that Jordan was distraught about it. Muffin was confused because he didn't have as many memories about Tai Gong as the twins did and he couldn't understand why he wasn't as upset as they were.

It took some time for us to talk Jordan through her despair. And what perhaps helped them all process it was for them to write cards to Tai Gong to place before the casket. We also got them to share their best memories of Tai Gong.

Jordan: Going into his room and taking his hymnal and singing with him.

Evan: Stealing butter cookies from his cookie tin (the traditional round tin of butter cookies)

Muffin: The stuffed tiger that taught him to roar loud.

Allowing them to talk about Tai Gong seemed to help. So did bringing them to the wake. When there weren't many people about in the afternoon, we brought them over and allowed them to say goodbye and place their flowers and cards.

We didn't stop them from crying. Some of the elders tried to console them by telling them not to cry since Tai Gong was in a better place and had gone to heaven but we told them they could cry and it was okay to be sad. Because we didn't hide how sad we were to have lost him, we told them they didn't have to either.

By the end of the funeral, everyone was emotionally spent but I think we were all calm and at peace with Tai Gong's passing. And while I thought we were done processing our grief, I found a letter Jordan had written to a friend, two days ago. The passing of a friend's cat had triggered reminders of all the deaths she's had to see through this year and that's when I realised that in their own little ways, they were still coming to terms with Tai Gong's passing.

He had no longer been part of our daily lives but I think he was always at the back our minds. And even though the twins had memories of him, it didn't seem enough to make up for the fact that he wasn't physically present anymore. So slowly, they have to work through it and as parents, we are just there to answer their many questions and hold them tight when it gets too much.

 But in the little things that they have said and done since Tai Gong's passing, they're also showing themselves to be little grown up beings in more ways than one. And I'm pretty sure, Tai Gong had a little bit to do with that too.