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, 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.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Conversations in the car

I've read so many articles about car rides being the best opportunity to talk to our children. Something about being in the car, in transit, the enclosed space that makes it ideal. I must add, however, that this only works when there isn't traffic to contend with.

Anyway, JED spend a lot of time listening to audio books in the car. Because of that, there is quiet and Packrat and I can catch up with one another. But sometimes, it's also nice to not have anything on and just chat with which ever kid in the car.

With Evan, his sentimentality and soft side surfaces during these conversations.

Evan: My class was very sad today.

Mommy: Why? Did you get punished?

Evan: We had to set free our tank full of mealworms.

Mommy: But they've become meal-bugs right? (Mommy is not very precise with science terms)

Evan: Not all. Some of them are still meal-babies (picking up from me) and some are still pupa. So they are helpless against the birds.

Mommy: I think that's what happens to bugs in the wild.

Evan: Yes, these are spoilt meal bugs. In class, they have 40 boys who squash every ant that goes near them. We have made them helpless and now, we're sending them into the wild to die!

 Yes, it's an analogy to something bigger but I didn't think it was the right time while he was having 'empty tank syndrome'.

This morning, it was Jordan.

She was talking about how Mommy was her best sleep buddy. I apologised that there are days that I can't tuck her in because I'm at work but when I can, I would. And so the conversation ensued.

Mommy: Anyway, at some point, you're going to be too big for me to tuck you in. Imagine if you were married and I came to tuck you into bed. Your husband wouldn't be amused. (visions of Love you Forever- the book that creeped me out because the mum would sneak into her adult kid's room at night to sing lullabies to him came to mind!)

Jordan: Okay, then you can sleep next door.

Mommy: Erm, you'll need to check with your husband on that okay? He may not want your parents in the same house.

Jordan: I'll need to start thinking critically now. For a good reason. Like.... My father makes good ribs.

Mommy: He'll say we can go over to your parents to have good ribs.

Jordan: Okay, maybe if he doesn't agree, we can live near you and pop by whenever we have time. But I think it'll be better if you live with us.

Dear Jordan's Future husband,
You've been forewarned.
Don't say I never tell you.

Jordan's Mom. 

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Tennis Lessons

Evan plays tennis.

He has for a few years but he's only taken it up more seriously in the last 6 or 7 months.

By no stretch of the imagination is he a good tennis player. But he enjoys the game. And he's learning oodles and oodles from it.

By that, I don't mean skill though his skill has markedly improved in the last few months as well.

What I do mean, is the real reasons kids ought to play sport. And none of them have got to do with achieving excellence and being 'scouted'.

In the recent months, he's encountered some situations that have made him angry enough to cry. In each of the situations, as a mother, the easiest thing to do was to remove him from the situation. To protect him from feeling so horrid.

Situation One.

He faced a coach who called it as he saw it. He told Evan that he wasn't a great player; he didn't have drive and it would be hard for him to ever become a good junior player. He also told Evan that everything he was doing was wrong. In one fell swoop, he decimated the forehand that Evan thought was much improved and tore him down for footwork that he had worked hard to learn. In a nutshell, he reduced everything Evan believed he had achieved in the last half a year to near nothing.

Not nice. But not untrue. No doubt, the delivery could have been better but the coach called a spade a spade.

Evan was beyond upset. He was hurt and humiliated.

I assumed that he wouldn't want to see that coach ever again. But recently, he asked if he could have another session with him. I warned him that he would call out his faults as he saw it and if I was going to pay for the session, I wanted to make sure Evan wasn't going to chuck another fit on court and waste the session.

He said he'd try. Try to do as the coach expected. In other words, he would try to adapt.

Situation Two.
Evan plays a practice match with another kid. This kid is much better but both kids make mistakes. Some of the mistakes were called, some weren't. The other kid made some mistakes that weren't called and as a result, Evan didn't get the points. He felt unfairly penalised.

Once again, the water works. He stalks on court. He is disagreeable and he storms off court.

Unacceptable, especially given that the other kid didn't have to give Evan a practice match. We were eating into some of the other kid's training time.

I force march him back on court to shake hands, despite him being close to losing it. I force him to thank his coach too. He does so, without meeting the coach's eyes.

We tell him that even with the points, he would have lost. The truth is that some times, there would be bad calls made. And even when that happens, there should not be McEnroe-brat-tantrum behaviour on court. It's something that happens; both on and off court.

We tell him that regardless of bad calls, there has to be respect for the rules and etiquette of the game. We tell him that there has to be respect for the other player and gracious losing. He sobbed all the way home.
It really did hurt to see him so upset and distressed. For a split second, I, the mother and bystander, wanted to run away from it all. Quit. I wanted him to do the same. But what would have been the point then? What would I have modelled for him? That running away was a solution? No.

I swallowed my own mommy distress and walked him through what was going on.

He was better after a good cry. He could talk about it after that.  He still felt that it was unfair but he accepted it.  He looked forward to playing again today. He acknowledged that he wouldn't like it if his opponent didn't shake hands at the end of the game.

There are so many lessons to be learnt here. Our hope is that he enjoys the sport enough to continue and occasionally pick up a few more of these lessons, even if they cause him momentary pain and dissonance. 

Game, Set, Match. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Cinderella Syndrome

Jordan suffers from the Cinderella Syndrome.

She keeps losing her shoes.

Unfortunately, there isn't a Prince Charming that comes knocking at the door to fit her shoe on her foot.

I don't think he would waste his time.

She keeps losing her school shoes. Those aren't couture enough for Prince Charming to bother with.

At Primary 1 orientation, we were told to label our children's belongings. We were told repeatedly. And it wasn't just to label their books and bottles but their uniforms and shoes.

Even better if we did their socks too.

To illustrate their point, they told us about how children would return home with only one shoe on and none the wiser. It sounded like an urban legend that spread from generation to generation and got wilder and more exaggerated with each re-telling.

Then one day after gym, Jordan climbs into the car and just before we drive off, she squeals for the car to stop and hops out, running back to the gym. Bewildered, we wait for her to reappear. Panting, she explains that she forgot her slippers and was about to go home barefoot.


Perhaps, it's a gymnast thing. After all, they spend all their time bare feet and they get used to the feel of the ground under their very very very black feet. So it doesn't occur to them that anything is amiss when they leave without their original footwear.

Since then, she's lost 2 pairs of school shoes. We've figured that there is a higher possibility for her to lose her shoes because she takes them off. Which means, there's a higher possibility she leaves them somewhere and not take them with her. The agreement has been that her allowance will be docked, to help pay for new shoes. Especially since they were brand new, this last time round.

If only she did a sport where she could keep her shoes on. It would be cheaper for everyone involved. In so so so many ways!