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, April 19, 2017

Out of the Box came 2 Bags

There was the mother of all storms yesterday.

Add to that, I had recently decided to commit myself to being the "Muber" driver and pick JED after school.

It has not been without its challenges and on top of that, my not-so-organised mind had not told them what to do when there was a storm.

So I brought ONE (not two or three as I should have done) umbrella into school to catch them. I found Muffin but Evan was no where in sight.

Eventually he sidled up, grinning and waving two plastic bags at me. He was late coming to look for Muffin because he had seen the rain and proceeded to

a. Go to the library and try to ring me. But the library was closed.
b. Procure plastic bags.

I kind of figured out why he had done that though I hadn't seen anyone with plastic bags over their heads since I, myself, was in primary school.

But I asked him anyway, why 2 plastic bags?

"One for myself and one for Muffin so that we would be able to walk out and look for you." he replied.

He said it would not keep the rest of him from getting wet but it was like the hood of the raincoat. He also promised that he wouldn't suffocate himself (Heedful of the warnings he'd read everywhere about plastic bags causing suffocation). Thereafter, putting on the plastic bag, looking both amused and full of importance.

Muffin followed suit and loped the bag over his head though his head being smaller caused the bag to cover his entire face. He proceeded to get a stern lecture from his brother about plastic bags and suffocation (mindful of everything he'd read about plastic bags causing suffocation). 

That he thought to call me. That he figured out a contingency in case I was still outside. And that he took matters into his own hands and tried as best as possible to equip his brother and himself for the possible traipse out into the rain. 

I am speechless and a little bit awed by him. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Childlike enthusiasm

The nice thing about having kids is to see the world through their eyes rather than our own cynical ones.

In the last week or so, despite the fact that the twins have been ramping up for exams, they've been very excited about things happening in school. Things that an adult would yawn and roll eyes at.

For Evan, it's an emergency preparedness exercise. He's filled with importance because it's his job to lock all the windows and draw the blinds. And we all know how important that job is especially since Mas Selamat climbed out of an unlocked one.

He also very conscientiously packed his 'lock down' bag full of supplies (enough food and water for himself and some friends, how considerate). We were all briefed. There would be a cryptic message that they'll have to listen out for, along the lines of "The chicken has flown the coop, catch it!" that begins the lock down and a similarly innocuous "All clear" signal as well. So there were muttered prayers for good weather because any sort of attack on a school would only occur when there is good weather.

Jordan, on the other hand, has been a jumping bean because she got roped into auditioning for one of Packrat's student's film project. She thinks she's going to be on TV. She asks everyday if we've heard from the student. We tell her not to get her hopes up. We tell her that she won't be on TV or famous. But she can't hear that, while bouncing around excitedly.

At the same time, there's a concert in school. Where they get to sing and play the ukelele. I'm not sure how good she is at playing it or singing for that matter but every spare moment of the day has been dedicated to strumming and singing.

I would really like to be in school to watch both events happen but short of a Big Brother camera in school, I can only wait for them to recount them to me.

I like that they get excited over these little things. And their excitement is so genuine, you can't help get infected by it. Especially when half the time, we're snippy, cynical and critical of things around us like Trump managing to fail Easter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Not supposed to

I know I am not supposed to get angry.

I know I am not supposed to yell.

I know I am not supposed to bang on the table.

I know I am not supposed to feel like I want to cane.


I do get angry.

I do yell to the point that it echoes round the block.

I do slam the table, so hard I have a bone bruise on my finger.

I do want to cane.


I feel the tears.

I feel the frustration.

I feel the pain.

I feel the distress.

These aren't useful emotions; they don't equip me to do anything useful or to help JED in the ways that they need it. But much as I would like to say that I am the master of my emotions, I am not. So, on days when I really just lose it, I am thankful that Packrat is there to even the keel.

I know what I need to do.

I know I need to stop rescuing.

I know I need to let failing be the teacher.

I know I need to allow natural consequences to follow.

I just need the guts.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The child becomes the teacher

Muffin has effectively completed the first term of Primary One. He's doing okay. He takes on everything with his usual cheeky outlook on life. Like his siblings before him, he isn't too big on homework.

Being the third child through primary education with older siblings whose academic demands regularly floor me, he ends up drawing the short end of the straw. On so many occasions, I've forgotten the spelling and ting xie and remember only to ask him the day after it's tested in school.

So I try to remember.

If I forget, I deputise one of the twins to go through his spelling with him. That often sends him to tears because there is actually something worse than the tiger mom. The Tiger Sister who is stricter and more demanding than the mom. She will berate him in a tone worthy of the Tiger Mom and lay down her strict expectations of his corrections.

But that's where the difference ends.

Unlike the Tiger Mom, the Tiger Sis will be taken in by his tears. She will cave and will try and carry  him. That's when she'll change her tact and surprisingly coax him into trying again. She's has also learnt that yelling at him doesn't work so she tries to be a little bit more encouraging so that she doesn't have to deal with his tears.

His worksheets then end up having encouraging words planted all over like her teacher does for her, I suppose. And she gets him to re-learn the spelling words he isn't clear of on the white board or with magnetic letters which I used to do for her.

In short, she has learnt some pedagogy.

He'd just as soon not do it if given the choice. His toys are still a big thing for him and he still spends long hours just re-connecting with his Lego and his Transformers toy or reading. 

So it's a fine line that we tread on. To make sure that he revises the stuff he has to for school but to give him time to read and be silly. This is where the Tiger Sis empathises with him and totally caves in; when he looks at her with puppy eyes and says he wants to just spend some time reading.

The young teacher still has much to learn.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Books in the wild

One of the happy problems we have in the house is that we don't have enough shelf space. Even though we trade books with friends, we go to the library and second hand book stores, we still have enough books to run a library out of our house. With 3 kids of different age or interest, there are a lot of different kinds of books in the house. There are books everywhere. Our dining table could be piled high with books and JED would add on more.

Like I say, it's a happy problem to have.

I love that all 3 read. It's the advantage of having a no TV, no gadget rule in the house. There's not much else to do especially at meal times. The grandparents have complained that it's disrespectful to read at the dinner table. So I tell JED that they can read when they are eating alone but when the family sits down for dinner, there are to be no books.

So, anyway, books, all around.

Friends have asked for ideas on what to get their kids to read and frankly I don't know. I look at required book lists (sometimes the books on these lists need to be re-looked at!), browse through curated lists of bloggers and read reviews of books to get a feel of what's out there but it doesn't always work. A best-seller might be a best seller with many kids but not necessarily JED.

I asked them to pick a bunch of their favourite books right now, books that they might want their friends to read as well and this is what they came up with.

We start with the littlest. Perhaps in the last 6 months or so has Muffin taken to reading on his own and reading chapter books. Part of it is him seeing his siblings do it. He still likes pictures in his books but he's less intimidated by the word-picture ratio skewing greatly toward the words rather than pictures. He likes humour, toilet humour, silly humour, laugh out loud ha-ha humour. His favourites right now are junior chapter series like Eerie Elementary (which he has independently drawn parallels to Harry Potter), the Yeti Files (where he learnt the word Cryptid; a creature that has been hidden and there's no proof of its existence) and ha-ha funny Kung-Pow Chicken complete with all its puns. When he reads, the world disappears and he won't know if you're yelling for him because there's a fire.

It's still hard for him to read. He would still rather play with his Lego but more and more so, when the house is quiet and we seek him out, he's hiding somewhere reading.

Evan's an action reader. He likes action in his books. Something has to be happening. His perennial favourites are still the Potter books which I have no issue with but his repertoire has definitely expanded since last year. There's still the silly Wimpy Kid books that he likes but he has also taken to Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider. I had a lot to do with that because I liked them too and I would read them and tell him excitedly what was going to happen in the book I was reading. And he would read to find out. That's been fun for us; conversations about Alex Rider. He's also dabbled with Famous Five and the adventures series for the same reasons. Strangely though, he's not so keen to read the Morpurgo books because his writing is based during the wars and he doesn't like suffering. When I asked why he chose these books to feature, he said that a lot of the other books he reads, his sister or brother would also choose. So these were the ones that were quintessentially him.

And then there's Jordan; the one who doesn't do toys anymore and lamented the fact that she didn't get enough books for Christmas and too many clothes.

Her reading repertoire is anything she gets her hands on. She loves her graphic novels and reads and re-reads them. She loves her Land of Stories fantasy genre books and the Morpugo books I got for Evan, she read them. I asked if she felt sad for the characters and her reply was that sometimes but they always learnt to live on (life lesson there). The book that recently got to her was Wonder about a kid her age having to go to school but having severe crano-facial deformities and how he struggled in school. 3/4 way through it, I found her reading Beezus and Ramona and she said she needed a break  to read something not so sad. She's since finished Wonder and has gone to immerse herself in some fantasy because I think the real world got too real for her. A friend of ours gave us Graveyard Book for the twins as a birth present. Literally, at birth. Coraline and Graveyard Book were their keepsakes and she recently finished Graveyard Book. We listened to it in the car too and I just want to say, Neil Gaiman's voice is a nice voice. The book though, is heartbreakingly sad but it did occur to me that all these things are sad because I'm an adult and I see it through the eyes of a mom or with the understanding of the suffering or pain. For them, for most part, it's just a story.

Tangentially, we're teaching the twins to take public transport. When the time comes for us to allow them onto public transport on their own, Packrat has decreed that Jordan shall not be allowed to bring a book. Because if she does, she might accidentally find herself in Pasir Ris because for her, the world does melt and disappear when she reads.

So there, the books that are currently inundating my house and surfacing in strange places like under my pillow and in my bathroom. I suspect I enable a lot of this too because I'm constantly adding books into my Amazon cart and similar to them being in the library, new books magically appear on the shelves.

I am, afterall, the Book Santa and the acquirer of books from the library.