Monday, March 30, 2015

A Whale of a Time!

Ship Ahoy!

As the timing was tight, we packed lunch to go and gobbled it down while on the road to our next destination - a spot of deserted beach in the middle of nowhere; well, to be precise it was a pre-arranged spot in Dunsborough, just east of the Yallingup Maze. Our boys were thrilled to see a ship offshore; and we told them that we were off on an adventure - this time on a whale watching expedition hosted by Naturaliste Charters!
Our home for the next four hours. 
Sending a motor boat to fetch us from the shore. 
Almost like a scene from 'Survivor"!

All ready to board.

There are a number of whale watching boat operators; however we chose the Naturaliste Charters due to their track record as well as a result of a local recommendation.
The 4yo getting ready for his adventure.

All set!
Climbing to the second storey for a better view.
A slightly apprehensive 2yo resting snugly with his Mummy.

A lovely photo with the grandparents.
No, I have not put on weight! It's the wind...
My father-in-law looking cool.
A Daddy-Son moment. The 4yo feeling a little scared due to the high speed of
the boat and the strong winds.
But he still feels secure holding on to his Daddy!
Waiting for the whales to come.

Into the horizon. The intrepid crew begin their search for the whales. It's quite an art and a science actually. 

The first sighting. The creatures truly look majestic!
Splashes in the water show how close the creatures were to us!


Up close and personal! It was truly special to see those magnificent creatures doing a "backflip".

There she goes!

A final glimpse of those lovely creatures.

And our tired little 2yo slept through it all....
The entire afternoon was a really surreal experience of a lifetime. We could almost feel the splashes of seawater from those majestic creatures. 

We were anxious at the start that we would not get to see any whales, despite the fact that Naturaliste has a good track record and is #1 on TripAdvisor. The first half of our journey, we had only spotted two humpbacks from a distance. We were almost nearing the point in our journey when we had to turn back when a whole pod started breaching, lobtailing and slapping in the near horizon in synchrony. 

We were reminded of how these great beasts of nature continue on their journeys, without regard to human will or intervention. It was a humbling experience. 

With the aroma of saltwater in the air, and the hypnotic rocking of the boat, I know we will always remember my encounter with the beauties of the deep...

Previously: Wandering in the wooded Yallingup Maze...
Next: A whirlwind adventure in the Margaret River region...

Friday, March 27, 2015

My Father's World K: W is for Water

Learning about the water cycle.
I hardly have the time to blog our homeschooling journey. This week, we are at Unit 10 of our My Father's World K curriculum, W is for Water. Perhaps there's no better time than to be doing it this week, especially with the weather being unbearably hot recently. 

It's also been a time of great mourning for our country with the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, a founding father of our country Singapore. The concept has not been an easy one for our boys to grasp - they already understand his death to some extent, but understanding the immenseness of the loss for our country and the greatness of Mr Lee's rule and governance to make Singapore what it is today are not things that preschoolers can easily comprehend.

We have started telling them stories of how he helped to make Singapore the place that they enjoy today, and one of the things the boys can relate to is the fact that through Mr Lee's leadership, we can enjoy clean potable water from the tap, which when visualised in a four-year-old's mind, also means water for his favourite water play spots in various locations in Singapore.
The 4yo boy immersed in his favourite water play spot at
Gardens by the Bay.
The boys and I have been thanking God for the water that we have in Singapore - clean, unpolluted water, safe enough to drink and to take showers in. For the water that they see in the canals and surrounding waterways in Singapore at the beautiful parks we visit; for the water in Z's favourite Children's Garden at Gardens by the Bay.
At Labrador Park, one of our favourite restful spots.
We have also been discussing about how just as we should be grateful for good leaders who have helped us enjoy clean water, we should also save water by using less of it when we wash our hands. Z once asked me, "Mummy, isn't the Jurong Bird Park wasting water in its water play area?" We talked about the concept of recycling water. We hope to take them to the interactive exhibition at Marina Barrage soon to help them better understand how we conserve water in Singapore.

For the unit, we had the chance to explore some Science concepts in two main activities we did: making rain in a bottle and exploring what kinds of substances dissolve in water. We also made "calm down" bottles and had lots of fun mixing the ingredients which went into them. We got our idea from Steve Spangler's amazing blog entry on the Science Behind Clouds. (There are so many other great ideas here which we hope to try one day soon, like the Cloud in a Jar!)
It's raining! The boys get all excited to start their lessons on the water cycle!
Spraying shaving cream to make the "clouds".
Taking pleasure at seeing the clouds form.
The water colouring represents the water droplets in the atmosphere.
One child's version of the hydrological system.
When the water droplets get too heavy they fall as rain.
We studied what causes rain clouds to form and eventually fall as rain. We also looked at different kinds of weather, and explored the 3 states of water - solid, liquid and gas. 
Is it rainy or sunny? Lessons on different types of weather.
States of water.
The boys really enjoyed their "cooking" class, mixing all kinds of ingredients from our kitchen and stationery cupboard to see which ones would dissolve! 
Our 2yo shares a gleeful moment. Who ever knew it would be so fun to
play with your food?!
Flour. Salt. Oil Which dissolves and which doesn't?
Adding salt and learning how to make a solution. 
What if you add flour? The boys learn what is a suspension.
We add oil and this complicates matters. What do we have now? 
Then it was time to add a sparkly touch to our concoctions for our  "calm down" bottles. You can find so many ideas for these on the Internet - they are basically used to help anxious children relax or calm down in an acceptable way.

First add the colouring of your choice. 
Then some glitter to add the sparkle to your mixture.
Getting ready the final ingredient - glitter confetti.
Into the mixture it goes! Now we just have to bottle the mixture, and we're all set to go. And all you need to do if you
want to calm down is to give your bottle a shake, and you'll feel better almost instantaneously!
We ended our unit on water on a poignant note, reading about natural disasters in which people have problems with water. We read books on floods as well as droughts - times of a lack of water or too much water. I also intend to show the boys some photos of the tsunami that took an estimated 16,000 lives in Japan. We want them to have empathy for people in other countries where the forces of nature can often lead to destruction. The boys were saddened to see people's homes destroyed after floods, and roads in chaos with water higher than car-level. We ended the unit praying for people in such countries. The unit on Water turned out to be a lot richer than I initially thought it would be.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Safe Haven & the Alternative Caregiver

It is terribly hurtful when your 2/1/2-year-old proclaims "I don't want Daddy, I only want Mummy!" This may happen when you dispense a dose of discipline after a particularly bad tantrum, or when you insist on holding his hand to walk him through the car park, or even when you simply want to change him and he wriggles out of your hands. In public or in private, moments such as these could have a significant impact on your sense of self-worth; or you could even start questioning why you even wanted to be a father in the first place. 

"Fine. Have it your way. If you only want Mummy, then stop asking me for things. Go and ask her to help you. Don't ask me to play with you. If you don't want Daddy, then I don't want you."

That could be a possible response. But you know that deep inside you, it is something you will never say. How could you bring yourself to say something like that? It might be something you may feel, but as a father who loves his kids, it will be something you will never tell them. 
The 2yo enters a new stage of independence in his life.
I have been taking a postgraduate course in counselling and one of my modules has been on the study of human development. During the course of my studies I came across the work of Hungarian-born psychiatrist Margaret Mahler and her Separation-Individuation Theory. Mahler depicts seven phases in her theory of object relations, detailing the process from birth to the age of 6. The primary thrust of the theory is that our relationships to the "objects of our affections" determine the person that we become. In this light, human development can be understood from the process of separation-individuation from our primary objects of affection.

In Mahler's theory, children begin differentiating from their primary caregiver (this is the mother in most cases) as early as 4 months. But serious "practicing" only occurs from the age of 10 months, when infants begin to explore the world around them and develop an understanding of their own abilities. Despite such explorations, children inevitably return to their "safe haven" (the mother), where they find a sense of deep security. By the time the child turns 18 months, he or she would begin to develop some "bruises" from the explorations, resulting in a certain degree of ambivalence to the caregiver - this gives rise to mood swings and temper tantrums. The process continues until the age of 4-6 years, where there is an emergence of interpersonal systems and social groupings.

Studying Mahler has helped me understand the behaviour of E, who is now 32 months, and in the stage she has termed as "object constancy/consolidation". This means that E is in the process of struggling with issues such as "Can loving feelings and anger co-exist?" and "Can I be intimate and close and yet still be myself?" During these struggles, it is crucial that E finds security in his Mummy. It is crucial that E continues to find his "safe haven" in his Mummy.
In the arms of his "safe haven".
How then do fathers fit in Mahler's theory? Well, her research points to the importance of the father as an "alternative caretaker" to help the child separate from the mother. This implies that while the father does not serve as the primary "safe haven" for the child, he however assumes an important role in the absence of the mother. In fact Mahler stresses that by the time the child reaches the ages of 4 to 6, it becomes essential for the child to have both parents around. The child then begins to establish an identity separate from both parents. This eventually develops into a healthy interpersonal system which forms the bedrock of strong social relationships in the child's future.

I reflected on my own life and on my own support system during my early childhood years. Looking back, I know I developed somewhat securely due to the presence of my mother as a "safe haven" for me. However, after my parents' separation at the age of 3, I did not have my father as an "alternative caretaker" in my life. Instead, my paternal grandparents filled that vacuum in my life, and they were there for me during most of my childhood years. My world however turned upside down after my paternal grandmother died when I was 12. Looking back, I realise now that her role in my life had increased to become that of a "safe haven". I was therefore devastated when my beloved Mama, my "safe haven", passed away. Thus began six turbulent teenage years when I felt totally insecure and lost. It was only when I found my "safe haven" again at the age of 19, in the personhood of Jesus, that I regained my sense of balance once again.
My "safe haven" when I was young.
Children are such fragile creatures. No doubt there is much in-built in them for them to achieve a measure of greatness. However, for such children to blossom to achieve their fullest potential, it is of essence for them to be surrounded by loving parents - a mother who can be their "safe haven", and a father who serves as the "alternative caretaker".

While I know that my children constantly whine and look for their mother when they are feeling insecure, I take comfort in that when I take them out alone without their mother, both children are extremely obedient. We go for long walks, engage in long conversations, and generally have a fantastic time together. 
Precious father-son moments. 
Parenthood is a journey and we are only at the beginning. I know there will be a day when my sons will turn to me first to ask about the "guy" things of life. I know that I am their primary role model of what a father and husband should be. To me, that's all I need to know; for husband and wife need to work hand-in-hand in order to bring up secure and well-adjusted children. Sue and I - we make the best team for our children!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Australia 2014: The A-Mazing Yallingup Adventure

Not Just a Maze

It was with much anticipation that we arrived at the Yallingup Maze. It was a lovely morning; there were lots of clouds in the sky, but it was clear that our fluffy white friends would not empty their loads on us anytime soon. Sue had set her sights on visiting the maze after she had found out about its exciting puzzle cafe while searching online for things to do while visiting the Margaret River region. We were thrilled to receive an email from the owner of the maze, Amanda Teasdale, who offered us complimentary tickets for the maze. But it was more than tickets that Amanda offered us - she also shared with us her warmth and generosity; and us weary travellers from Singapore learnt much about Perth hospitality during our few hours there!
The welcoming entrance to the Yallingup Maze and Puzzle Cafe.
There is a lovely bouncy castle just outside the maze, perfect for little ones to
work off their excess energy. You are also provided with an opportunity
to donate to a worthy cause, the Regional Kids organisation of Western Australia.
Located on another part of the property is a playground for the kids. The Yallingup Maze operators have spent much time
to create places of fun for the kids.
Enjoying a cuppa and some lovely cakes before we began our adventuring.
Any idea what's behind this puzzle? Well, you'd only get to decipher it if you have special glasses :)

Our older son putting on his special glasses to decipher the "code".
The Yallingup Maze has a fantastic concept - children are free to play with any games.
Our littler son E was clearly in his element!
And our older son Z was trying his best to win his Kong Kong.
We loved the open concept where children were allowed to be themselves and play as they wished.
"Bunny Boo". We loved this game so much we bought a set home for the kids.
The maze is housed in lovely natural settings. Truly a feast for the eyes!
Our boys were quick to get on their feet! Amanda shared with us that the
"natural" playground surrounding the maze occurred in stages. It is
truly a "dream playground" for children to explore and enjoy!
Climbing trees? Every boy's dream adventure!

Little E leading Kor Kor on the narrow log bridge.
The 2yo was clearly at home jumping across logs and testing his agility!
And the coup de grace - a fallen tree for children to climb up on!
There's our little one on top of the tree.
Do you see what I see?
Boys will be boys!
After a fruitful time of exploration around the maze premises, we were all ready to get ourselves lost! Or rather we were hopeful to make it out of the maze - at least before nightfall!

Our little 4yo at the entrance of the maze. All excited and ready to go!
Puzzling over where to go? 
One of the four watchtowers. Achievement unlocked!
View from the first tower. Planning and strategising the road ahead.
The Yallingup Maze is excellent for families to enjoy time together. 
Victory walk. Not quite. But felt that way even though we only made it to one
of the four targets.
Our 4yo clearly had a whale of a time!
Kong Kong and Mama looking not too tired at the end.
The lovely Amanda Teasdale; proud owner of the maze.
It was unfortunate that we had to rush off that day; as we would have otherwise attempted more of the maze targets. What we gained was however more than what we had expected; and we know that we will definitely go back again - to complete what we had started!

To find out more about the Yallingup Maze, do refer to the webpage here.

Note: This is a review arranged between the Yallingup Maze and Parenting on Purpose. We received complimentary tickets for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed here are our own.

Next: A close encounter with the world's most majestic sea creature...