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, October 20, 2014

The Clubhouse

JED have a club. It's the Secret Seven, Famous Five and Five Find Outers all put into one. Their club consists of Jordan, Evan, two of our neighbours, an honorary member who is the neighbour's friend and Muffin who is the pet dog.

They have a name for the club (which they will not reveal),  a leadership (the eldest is the Big Boss), rules (which include no sleeping at club meetings), a password (stolen straight out of one of the Secret Seven adventures) and apparently a song (Firework by Katy Perry). They plan events like dance parties on Christmas Day (obviously without consulting any of their parents) and they have a clubhouse; a little gazebo at the base of our flats. On behalf of the club, Jordan petitioned for a tree house. We told her that if they wanted a tree house, they needed to find a tree first.

We toyed with the idea of buying a cardboard house for them from Groupon and making them split the cost with us. That way, they could paint it and decorate it as they wanted to.

Then, two days ago, walking past the recycle bin, I see movers deposit a box that could fit Packrat, myself and JED standing up in it. It used to contain one of those luxury massage chairs. Now, it was just empty and I thought that rather than spend money buying them a box, this box was much bigger. The only challenge was hauling it up to our flat.

Our helper yanked while I shoved, up 2 flights of stairs and me plastered against the lift wall with the box towering in front of me and blocking me entirely.

I told JED that I looked like an idiot hauling the box up when movers had so conveniently left it by the bin for recycling. But I also told them that that would be their new club house.

JED and associated members of the club spent two days decorating it and making it their own. I helped by cutting windows and doors for them.

Then, they painted, coloured and drew. They 'built' furniture out of the padding and cardboard beams that were in the box. There was a table, there were pillars and there was a roof awning.

Evan, writing the rules of the club on the front wall.
Jordan putting on the final flourishes to her mural on the back wall.
Painting is hard work. Tea break in the club house.
It wasn't just about making the outside look pretty, there were flourishes too. "Welcome" pillars flanking the "house" and more design more rules on the roof.

Welcoming messages and warnings, side by side.

The club house. Fits five children with room to spare.

Every free moment they get, our apartment empties and quiets down because they are all doing something in their clubhouse.

We thought it was all destroyed yesterday when the cleaners came round to jetspray the corridor. But the kind cleaner had laid their 'cardboard' pillars on the ground and raised their clubhouse onto them, thus rescuing it from the great flood. 

We'll see how long this clubhouse lasts then I'll be looking like an idiot again as I haul it back down to the recycle bin though by then, the box would have been 'upcycled', from a box to a club house of sorts!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Sound of a Story

Books are a sensitive thing these days. The purists worry that the E-Book or the movie adaptation would stop people from reading the book book. I worry too, that my kids will not want to read because there are such easy alternatives. This is despite the fact that our house looks like a library and there are books everywhere.

But I discovered that it doesn't have to be an 'either...or' situation.

When we were in Perth and spent a lot of time driving, we discovered the best way to stop them for squabbling and asking the perennial "Are we there yet?" question was to put on stories for them. We had brought a set of Roald Dahl audio books with us.  And the minute we put them on, they were spell bound. We were spell bound. Packrat and I forgot to use the opportunity to chat with each other because we were intently listening to the stories of Charlie (and the Chocolate Factory), James (and the Giant Peach) and Danny (the Champion of the World) as well.

We didn't think it would last beyond the trip but they're still at it. Every time they are in the car, they ask for the various stories. We've since loaded more stories on for them. 

But it's also started them reading the books that previously would not hold their attention past the pictures.

Evan's favourites are The Charlie books though I have my reservations about the Glass Elevator which really reads like a sequel.

Jordan loves The Fantastic Mr Fox.

Both of them try to do different voices like the story tellers. Their latest is a really weird, Texas twang fake American accent like the president in Charlie and the Glass Elevator. And now, they head straight for the Roald Dahl books in the library. I suspect, it is easier for them to understand the book and not be so overwhelmed by the sheer number of words now that they know the gist of the story.

Even pre- reading Muffin loves everything and has taken to try to make James, the giant peach and the Old Green Grasshopper from play dough as well as writing the names of his favourite characters.   


To be honest, I never quite liked Roald Dahl. I was very disturbed at the fact that all those other kids in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ended up sucked up, tossed, stretched and ballooned (even if it were their fault). Plus Matilda, with the negligent parents and evil headmistress! But since JED don't seem to have such reservations, I'm keeping my mouth shut and letting them have their Roald Dahl fix.

We're looking at other audio books too so that we can eventually expand their listening and chapter book repertoire.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fathers and sons

There's always this saying that there is a special thing between moms and sons and dads and daughters. While it is true that Packrat is ready to buy a shot gun to make sure that no guy gets anywhere close to Jordan and I shudder at the thought that the boys would bring home girls that might break their hearts, there seems to be something special about the converse relationship as well.

Evan and Packrat are best friends. Without trying to, Evan has the same kind of interests that Packrat does. They bond over Mech Warrior Online, Star Wars and Star Wars trivia and all sorts weapons and dangerous/ poisonous animals they discover through Google. They actually converse as equals.

For most part, when they are chatting, I get the sense that I am sitting amongst Packrat and his gamer/ tech friends and what they talk about sound like googlygook to me. They are in their own world and Evan loves it. Often, I have seen him look at Packrat with an unadulterated look of admiration. Packrat is his hero.

And on top of that, Packrat gets him and is able to relate to him in a way that I can't. When he is upset or something has happened in school, my reaction is often an emotional one. But Packrat knows exactly what to say to him and what he needs to hear. It helps that he has been in the same position that Evan is in, in the same school with similar circumstances.

When I look at them, I see Packrat as a great dad because he sees Evan for who he is and relates to him on a level Evan gets. That's when I totally get why dads are important and am grateful that JED have Packrat.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Home Made Play #4: Milk Magic

Nope, this isn't a breast feeding post.

It's about cool science. You get to dot milk with pretty colours and then  get the coloured swirls to move around as if they had a life of their own.

All 3 love this experiment though it requires a bit of dexterity and not dunking the entire cotton bud in.

It eventually looks the colour of strawberry, orange or weird green melon milk when they are done with it. But it's cool nonetheless.

All it requires is
a. Food colouring
b. Detergent
c. Full fat milk (The more milk fat there is, the more dispersal effect there will be)
d. Cotton buds

What happens in this 'experiment' is that milk has 'surface tension' that is created by the cohesive forces of milk molecules. Liquid colouring, being less dense than milk stays on the surface, most of the time in the vicinity of where it was dripped. Detergent weakens said surface tension. So when the detergent is dipped onto the colour droplet, it breaks down the fat in the milk and the tension outside of the detergent drop pulls the colouring outwards, forming a colour rim. (See Muffin's right corner picture)

The first time Muffin did it, he simply could not follow the instructions of 'touch the surface of the milk with the cotton bud' and 'use the other end of the cotton bud to dip detergent onto the coloured dot.' He spent his time turning the milk into coloured liquid.

The second time we did it, he was much more conscientious about following instructions. And managed to make some nice patterns before he started stirring it and declaring he was making 'orange' or 'strawberry' tea.

Evan was more fascinated with the effect the detergent caused (true to his curious and slightly more science inclined mind) and would repeat it again and again just to see the dispersal effect while Jordan , true to herself, wanted to make complicated swirls before she dispersed it. She saw that as a means of clearing her pattern so that she could start with a relatively clean milk surface again.

It's not something that will occupy them the whole day but it did keep them quiet for a good while and doesn't cost much to create (I bought home brand milk and used whatever colouring we had left from the cloud dough session) and the added bonus of it being pretty at the same time.

There's more of an explanation here if needed. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Home Made Play # 3: Ice creatm stick catapults

One of Muffin's favourite games that he keeps going back to is Angry Birds Jenga where there are birds, catapults and blocks. He has an even greater love for it now because he has a few Star Wars Angry Birds pieces. It is one game that he can be left playing all by himself for hours.

The only problem is that he would willingly forgo playground time just to continue building  and destroying structures. And because we generally like that the kids are out of the house, out in the open, we don't like it when he opts for the indoor choice.

Then I found something that could be made with ice cream sticks, rubber bands and a bottle cap. Very imaginatively, it was called the Ice Cream Stick Catapult. But it was a great discovery because it pretty much took as long to make as it took the glue to dry under the bottle cap. And instead of launching birds, Muffin could bring down his catapult and launch beans. We used black beans and green beans. Black beans being a better choice. (We'll explain that later)

We didn't use a bottle cap because Muffin was too impatient and it was almost time for him to get to school. That meant improvising with a plastic spoon.

Did it hold his attention as long as the Angry Birds set did? We don't really know because his school bus came before he tired of it. He didn't let me bring it home though. He insisted that it had to be brought to school for show and tell. And it hasn't come back since. I suspect it's taken up residence in his classroom and I'm pretty sure it's being used to launch balled up paper, erasers and goodness knows what else the little ones can get their hands on. 

It's just occurred to me, while writing the last line that should Evan bring said catapult to school, it would likely be a bigger hit.  But it would almost certainly guarantee me an irate phone call from his teacher about how I had put a weapon into my son's hands and his entire class had taken cue from him and were launching all sorts of things at each other and teachers. 7 year olds are much more creative in their destruction and play. It would have pretty much guaranteed a full scale class war.

Thankfully, Evan hasn't seen it yet though I have plans to make one for each one of them. Then we can have a challenge to see who is able to launch the beans the furthest and we could be single-handedly responsible for an entire patch of bean sprouts growing in the grass patches.

Incidentally, we don't encourage the use of green beans especially if said child using it is young or lacks coordination. Muffin ended up looking over the catapult as he launched the beans. It meant beans flying straight into his nose and giving me a bit of a panic attack. Thankfully, he had a runny nose and we managed to blow out the beans together with his snot.

But even that, he found very amusing and declared the black beans the ones to use because 'my nose holes are not so big as the black beans.'

Spot on observation, my young baked good.