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.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A $1.60 lesson

Muffin's turned 7.


How did that happen?

Anyway, he really is growing up and we're seeing signs of it everywhere.

1. He's become more shy with strangers though still extremely cheeky and rubber-faced with us.

2. At the same time, he's become more rambunctious. Rough playing with his friends and having a whale of a time.

3. He's learning to problem solve quite effectively.
When daunted, this small one finds a way around it. Faced with difficult words to spell, he doesn't give up taking down information as would have some of my other kids, he approximates. So his school diary is a hoot to read and it has to be read out loud so that we know what word he's phonologically spelled out.



4.  He's learning to be responsible.
He's also learning that whining and obsessing about a problem doesn't help him. His wallet strap broke as a result of rough-housing with his friends. I hear later that his friend is the one that broke it. But all Muffin did was to be matter-of-fact about it. He tells me his wallet strap broke and could he have $1.60 to buy a new one.

It did puzzle me how he knew it was $1.60.

His friend's mom filled in the blanks when she apologetically told me that her son broke it. Apparently, the strap broke during recess. All the boys were stunned and wondered if they were going to get into trouble or if Muffin would cry. Muffin didn't. He suggested going to the bookstore to see if he could buy another. They discovered it was $1.60. However,  this was post recess meal and all the boys, Muffin included, on emptying out their wallets discovered they didn't have $1.60 to pool together.

So Muffin decided he would break into his savings and buy one for himself. When the boy came to school with a replacement for Muffin, Muffin declined. He said he had his own money and he'd buy it for himself, otherwise his friend would be short of one for himself. Another of their friends was clamouring for it and Muffin suggested he give it to the other friend.

The story amused me but also made my day. Muffin is truly growing up and he's growing up great.

With this figured out, who really needs to learn how to spell neighbourhood?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Flunking

One of the things that kids today are not allowed to do a lot of is to fail. We try our darndest to protect them against failing. Offering them pre-emptive help, berating them for failing and instilling the fear of failing in them because that leads to them not doing well and not doing well causes them to not be able to get into good schools and not getting into good schools causes them to not get good jobs and then they will be broke and homeless. Or so the cautionary tale goes.

It's hard not to get sucked into it. It's so much part of our vocabulary. It leaves our lips before we can stop ourselves.

One of JED came home with a badly done math paper and hides it from us. Another of JED calls from school to dejectedly inform me of failing Chinese. Another had an entire page of math streaked with angry red crosses.

How do we respond?

The immediate, instinctive reaction is the Tiger Mom one.
1. To be accusatory: WHY DID YOU FAIL?
2.  To be reactive: More with the tuition!
3. To be punitive: No more toys, no more TV.
4. To be self-flagellating: It's my fault. I haven't done enough work with them. I haven't been home enough.

But then, when those thoughts have been processed, the lingering question is "To what end?". Would more tuition help? Would punishment help? Would my sitting beside them all the time be of advantage to them?

Then the more reasonable Mom struggles to take control.
1. Failing is good. At least JED learn to fail. Learn to cope with failing. I did have a 'gua gua gua' moment when the math paper was discovered. Because that's something so rare in our lives.
2. Failing allows for introspection. Why did they fail? Lack of preparation? Lack of comprehension? Lack of motivation?
3. Failing allows for longer term solutions. How can it be fixed? Should WE fix it? Or should the child learn to fix it?


The latter is really hard to do. It isn't as solution-oriented. The outcomes take a long time to surface. And we really do struggle to not be reactive. It's so easy to panic. It's so easy to get sucked into the vortex of grade obsession.

So the important thing is for us to remember is that in the larger scheme of things, what's failing a test in primary school? What's failing a test full stop? Do we do more harm than good when we prevent them from failing when it isn't of great consequence? Conversely, would a perfect school record be indicative of anything else later on in life?

What are we going to do about the little fails that JED have encountered?
1. We've figured that the math fail was about being reluctant to go the distance. To read the question in its entirety. To slowly break it down. When we sit at the table and help deconstruct the question, everything works. Unfortunately, exam entry usually prohibits a parent sitting beside the child so said child just has to learn to do it without us there. How do we do that? Model the sum and set many others. As with sport, much of math is about repetitive memory. Hopefully.

2. Chinese- well, that's an uphill battle. When I've figured out that one, you'll be the first to know.

3. Fearing the fails- The constant reiteration that they have to tell us if they don't do well because we need to work with them to figure out why it happened. Hiding it from us does none of that. They also need to take responsibility for the fail. And also the undying promise to each of them that we love them for who they are and not what they can do. That while we may berate them when they don't do well, it doesn't take away from how much we love them.

To which, all 3 dissolved into puddles of grateful tears of relief.

For us, when JED fail, we have to learn to not take it personally and by 'we', I actually mean me because Packrat is more chill about it. And the most important question to ask is...

"So, what's next?"




Friday, February 03, 2017

A love story


This is a story about a duck and an elephant.

Duck Duck and Amelia (Ellie for short) were given to twin babies 10 Christmases ago. Duck Duck went to the boy and Ellie to the girl. Both of them loved the twins immediately and adopted them as pets. Duck Duck and Ellie were inseparable from their pets.

They went on the same dream adventures, possibly because they slept with their pets every single night and when their pets got older, they went on real adventures together.

The rule though was that if they were to sleep together with their pets, every week, they had a bath so that they would always be fresh and clean.

Duck Duck and Ellie were a source of comfort for their pets and they would always be sought out when their pets were upset or ill. Their pets would also include them in the games and Duck Duck and Ellie were happy. Duck Duck was always amused when they played Duck Duck Goose and would look suspiciously around to see if a Goose actually showed up.

As their pets got older, they included Duck Duck and Ellie in a lot more things. Both became very well-read as their pets read to them. Duck Duck's favourite books included Super Diaper Baby and the Tree House Series and Ellie was warned not to be like her name sake naughty Amelia Jane. Occasionally, they stowed away to school though that happened more with Ellie than Duck Duck.

And when their pets went on vacation, Duck Duck and Ellie got to go as well. Both of them have their own passports and thankfully, when they travelled to the United States with their pets, there wasn't any of the current nonsense about visas and aliens from other countries. Their pets would have been very distressed if they were told that Duck Duck and Ellie could not enter the country with them.

 


 

Now, the problem was that Duck Duck and Ellie were growing old and they were beginning to look their age. Their frequent baths had made their skins a lot thinner. Ellie had even gone to Build-A-Bear one day to get stuffed because she was rapidly losing weight. It had been gently suggested that Duck Duck and Ellie take residence by the side of the bed and start to take things a little bit slower; perhaps not travel as much and to cut back on rigorous activities which included bathing.

But their pets who loved them dearly were heartbroken to even think about Duck Duck and Ellie in that way. "We don't want anyone else!" they cried, sobbing their hearts out. "No one can ever replace them!" they wailed.

Both Duck Duck and Ellie have promised their pets that they'll still be around and will still love them but perhaps, as their pets grow older themselves, to perhaps just hang out at home and lead quieter lives. Their pets would have nothing to do with that though they have been noticeably a lot gentler and a lot more loving with the two seniors in their lives.

For never has there been a story of more love than this of Duck Duck, Ellie and their twin pets.

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

Odyssey


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.