Monday, 3 February 2020

"There is no better high than discovery."

We should really be getting used to the cold, wet UK weather by now, but Friday we all woke up to a gloomy grey light, forcing its way under the blinds. It was one of those days that really needed a splash of bright colour and we had the perfect day planned for the kids. Its been a while since I have been to Birmingham but with the new Legoland Discovery centre opening there it seemed like the perfect excuse for a day out in the city where I was born, with three of my favourite people. 

We were loving the walk along the canal when we got to Birmingham, watching the boys getting excited the closer we got and when they saw the giant lego giraffe towering over the wall we knew we were going to have a great day. We were fully engulfed in that 'splash of bright colour' that we were desperate for from the moment we walked inside and it was such a huge change from the gloomy, grey Birmingham outside.

When visiting any of the awesome Legoland locations, my favourite part is always the Miniland, as I love to see scaled down versions of iconic buildings. This LEGOLAND Discovery centre for me went one step better than the others, creating buildings that were a big part of my childhood, including the electric cinema, Edgbaston cricket ground and Cadbury's where I first worked. It was a bright and colourful walk down memory lane and it really added to the visit.

The mini land was also great how the lighting changed, giving you the chance to view brick Birmingham during the daytime and the evening. With mini games to play including barge racing on the canal and football at Villa park it kept the boys more than entertained and built up a little bit of healthy family competition. 

After a good walk around the miniland we headed over to the Kingdom Quest ride because Frankie was desperate to shoot some trolls. Opeie decided that he was going to aim for the princess' which didn't work out well for him and it turned out that Becci ended up being the dark horse and walked away racking up more points than any of us (I need to keep an eye on her).

Then it was on to some building as the boys were itching to get their hands on some bricks. When we visited the Lego Discovery centre in Manchester a few years ago, one of Opeie's favourite parts was the LEGO Racers build and test where you can create vehicles and see how they hold up hitting the ramps. This was the perfect way for the 4 of us to have a quick build before the 4D Cinema showing.

After a spot of lunch we had another build off, creating a build that could zip wire down a vertical drop passing through rings which the boys loved so much I've said we'll make one from the bedroom window over to the shed at home, which should be a fun. It's important to know that when booking the LEGOLAND Discovery centre that although it is lots of fun and will keep the kids more than entertained, it's not really an all day kind of attraction, like the main LEGOLAND in Windsor...

...which is why it's handy to know that on the other side of the canal facing the building is the Sealife centre. Again this isn't really somewhere you could fill an entire day but the 2 being so close to each other makes for a pretty lovely extended visit to the area. Combi tickets are also available when booking. If you are lucky you may also get to visit while there is a LEGO event on there too which was something that was on during one of our visits a few years back.

Opeie has just started a project on animals, so the trip to the Sealife centre tied in perfectly to that, giving him the chance to see some interesting sea creatures that he could later write about. It was really lovely after the colour explosion at the Discovery centre to then find ourselves in the more relaxed and calming environment of the Sealife and as the boys walked around taking it all in it gave me and Becci a chance to just be us. 

The visit was packed with interesting facts and information to read along the way. My favourite being ....

These kinds of days out are awesome especially when the weather isn't at its best. Also from a home ed point of view both are Perfect for information, creativity and building a Childs imagination. For us it was the perfect outing for building a stronger relationship between the boys and helping to get us one step closer to the extended family we are slowly merging.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

"To do good, you actually have to do something."

After having an afternoon talking to Opeie about plastic in the oceans and the pollution on our beaches in the UK, we watched a few short videos online about the effect if has on sea animals and we wanted to do something to help. It's so easy to learn about these things but then not do anything productive to better the situation. We've recently started to cut down the plastic we use in the house starting with cleaning and body products after learning a few interesting things from Becci and we wanted to continue with that way of living.

Last year Opeie was given a plastic bottle as a 'write a message in a bottle and send it out to sea idea', which was a lovely sentiment but obviously we didn't want to be throwing more plastic into the sea, so the bottle had been sitting on the side for some time. One evening we were all chatting and Becci came up with a great idea to go back to the beach in Crosby after our amazing New Years eve, but this time (as well as collecting sea glass) arm ourselves with bin bags for a beach clean up, but use the bottle to collect small bits of plastic as a way to remind ourselves of the afternoon we had had and the difference we had made.

Another great thing about this trip to Crosby was that we had Becci's boys with us too. Frank and Vinnie are so much fun to be around and having these days out together has been really important for me and Becci taking the next steps in our relationship. We've really been working on us all getting to know each other properly so that when the time comes we can merge in to one bigger happier family. 

Vinnie loves taking photos and while we all combed the beach looking for sea glass and bagged up rubbish he took some great shots of the beach and the sun slowly setting. It's always great watching kids really passionate about the things that interest them and I'm really looking forward to more interesting days out with them so that I can see what he comes with.

As expected the day was really special but how could it not have been really? the company was perfect, the weather lush (apart from the cold) and the cause... well that ended up being really satisfying for all of us and gave Opeie something to write about in his recent animal project. 

As the daylight disappeared we all sat in the back of the car playing card games and having a good chuckle before heading home and having a good sing along on the way back. It was one of those days that just felt right and both myself and Becci could see clearly just where our lives were going.

Oops! I almost forgot about that bottle of plastic...

Sunday, 19 January 2020

"The only source of knowledge is experience"

It seems like we've come such a long way since those early days of Opeie's home education journey. I'm no longer second guessing that decision to take that path and whether it was the right thing to do at the time. Watching Opeie develop over the last few years has been amazing to watch and his thirst for learning and creativity is something I strongly believe would not be there had he been in a school environment. Opeie has many genuine interests and being able to shape an education around these things and focus on his passions is what learning should always be about.

One of the things I've loved most about this journey is having the flexibility to just drop what we are doing and focus on a day out somewhere relevant to the projects we are covering so that we can learn through experience. These kinds of fun educational outings are beneficial to all involved as they really get you thinking and tend to put you in a much more creative headspace.

After a morning of maths the three of us decided to take a trip to Derby Museum and Art Gallery, we'd visited last summer and had a relaxing afternoon painting there. With Opeie starting a new animal project we thought we'd make the most of the natural history section of the Museum and gather images and information for the coming weeks, plus I was hoping we'd find something of use for Becci's uni work too.

We took lots of interesting photo's for the project and found a really interesting book by Jean-Baptiste De Panafieu and Patrick Gries called 'evolution in action' which I think is going to come in really handy for reference purposes. After a good look around the animals we headed upstairs to the Japanese ghosts and demons exhibition on loan from the Ashmolean. The art work was amazing and Opeie really enjoyed the macabre feel to each piece. With the exhibition being so quiet we were able to sit and spend the last part of the visit doing Origami which was a really nice end to the afternoon, with Becci's Origami crane and Opeie's Frogsf itting in perfectly with his animal project.

Learning through experience makes so much more of an impact, over having information just thrown at you. we're all so different from each other and it's really important to be able to focus on the things that make us 'us'.  An afternoon of education like this should stay with Opeie (and us) forever.

Monday, 13 January 2020

"To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there."

I'm developing quite the soft spot for these dudes. 2020 is going to be full of adventure and I can't wait to see what it throws at us. Aside from the recent drama coming my way and having to help Opeie through some difficult times I feel like for once in my life everything is moving the way it is supposed to and I'm finally receiving the love, affection and family life that I've been working towards all these years.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

"A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind."

I like to try and make the most of our days in full, it doesn't always happen because at times life just gets in the way but making the most of our time together is really important to me . Its so easy to fall into that headspace of getting to a certain point of the day and deciding that there's no point going out, especially this time of year when the weather is cold and wet. 

After an afternoon out with Opeie's home ed friends on Friday we got home, packed our paints, pens and Becci 😂 and headed over to one of our favourite hideaway spots for an evening of creativity while watching the sun go down. We backed the car up to the edge of the hillside at Titterstones, dropped the seats, opened the boot and we had the perfect relaxing view to accompany a creative mind. 

Nights like this are perfection and are everything we need as a family for calm and clear headspace.

Monday, 6 January 2020

"If we don't get where we're going, baby I don't care. I'm already there"

I wanted New Years this year to be special with it being mine and Becci's first one together, I also wanted us to do something that really took Opeies mind off the miserable build up to Christmas and start 2020 with a positive clear head, full of excitement and a hunger for that spontaneous adventure that we try and live for throughout the year. When we first started talking about what we were going to do we were aiming towards Seaham, Opeie and I had spent an evening camping over that way a few years ago, which was followed by a 5am comb along the beach, watching the sun come up and collecting sea glass. It was one of those adventures that will always stand out above the rest and we wanted Becci to experience the magic of sea glass hunting too. Seaham is a good drive away and with the nights being pretty cold we figured being somewhere a little closer would be a better idea.

So after a bit of deliberation we decided on Crosby beach in Liverpool. Crosby is also known for it's sea glass hunting, we'd not been there before and it had the added bonus of being the home of Antony Gormleys 'Another Place' sculptures, which we were all excited to see. The plan was to drop the seats in the back of the car and make a bed, park up on the sea front and see in the new year looking out over the sea. Before heading out though we decided to change our plans and stay there until late, then drive home so that we can be warm and comfy in our own beds, it was freezing in Shropshire so it wasn't going to be any warmer on the coast.

When we arrived at the beach it was straight into the sea glass hunting and we ended up with quite a haul. It was so satisfying watching Opeie and Becci really get into the hunt and the surprising burst of   beach worthy sunshine really added to the magic of the afternoon.

After filling a big container with our treasure we headed off for a stroll along the beach to look at the sculptures. The sea was going out and as we walked we could see sculptures appearing out of the water in the distance, seeing them standing there all looking out towards the horizon as the sun set was pretty lovely, but also a little eerie as the light dropped. Opeie was a little scared of them so refused a photo, clearly he's watched far too much Doctor who as he kept saying 'what if they come to life?'

With darkness finally upon us we headed back to the car which we had turned into a little duvet filled den for the evening. It was nowhere near as cold as we were expecting it to be so it was lush being backed up to the beach front with the boot door open, playing games, chatting and messing about. The music choice as always was perfect and the evening ended up being the relaxing end to the year that I think we had all hoped it would be.

For the last few years we've been writing three things that we want to happen the following year on a piece of paper, to burn and send out into the world. This year Becci brought bay leaves to write on and we all sat and wrote our hopes for 2020. I'm really hoping for a much kinder year this year, 2019 was full of negativity and far too much stress and upset for Opeie so I'm hoping all our wishes come true and the year is filled with love and kindness. 

Happy new year from Gifts From The Pirates

Saturday, 4 January 2020

"I love the sounds and the power of pounding water, whether it is the waves or a waterfall."

With Christmas finally out the way and Opeie feeling a little more relaxed with the 25th behind him, it was time for us all to start adventuring again, to get us all in a much better head space. We had New Years eve all planned out (which I'll write about next) but we still had the 30th to fill with fun. So we filled the car with blankets and food, packed coats, scarves and woolly hats and headed over to Pistyll Rhaeadr for a good old stomp up the waterfall.

Its Been a while since we last visited and we were looking forward to taking Becci with us this time, she has a bit of a weird fascination with making Boomerang videos of running water (she wasn't going to be disappointed here). It was cold, wet and very muddy but I had the best company and everything is all smiles when we are together. Clearly I got a little lost in that company though as I failed to take an actual picture of the waterfall, but instead ended up with a load of pictures of myself mucking about trying out Instagram worthy poser shots after watching a couple duck facing all over the place.

The afternoon stomp was just what we all needed and Opeie went to sleep a lot more relaxed than he had done for weeks, I think we're all really happy to see the back of Christmas this year.

Thursday, 26 December 2019

"And if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again"

I thought this year was going to be the one where I really struggled to buy a Christmas gift for Seth as he never wants anything. Thankfully though he saved me any panic buying and told me exactly what he wanted, rollerblades! when he said it, it instantly took me back to a Christmas when I was roughly his age and asked for the exact same thing. I couldn't wait to get them on my feet and as soon as all the presents were opened I put them on and awkwardly walked over the road to knock on my friends door. Unfortunately there were some steps going down to his front door which I handled with minimal grace and hit his back fence as I lost my control and ended up in a heap.

It didn't put me off though and although I didn't keep it up for long, the time I did have skating with friends was a lot of fun. So... I decided that if Seth was learning to skate then it would be a fun thing for all of us to do together. Becci already had a pair of skates that she'd not been on for years, so I went looking for some for me and Opeie. As a nice little bit of Christmas build up excitement, when I did find some, I decided to give them him early, so we headed to a park we love with a big open basketball court and got those wheels on our feet. 

I may have jumped the gun a little as I was yet to get him any pads, but I figured he was going to be holding on to us anyway for his first few tries (and he was in very safe hands). It was amazing watching how quickly he went from sheer panic as he got up on his feet for the first time, to excited smiles as he went from one end of the court to the other. I love any activity that builds confidence and this one is clearly going to be a winner. Becci and I took it in turns to help the little dude out while we had a skate ourselves too.

Opeie's excitement was so moorish but the smiles on this cuties face was contagious. It had been me and Opeie for some time, adventuring and filling our days with spontaneous fun but its so lovely now to have someone in our life that genuinely wants to be a part of everything we do. She never says no, which is a real breath of fresh air. She was all smiles helping Opeie and skating about too, until....

... she was the first (and only one) to hit the floor (and hard). But, despite hurting her wrist and having to get a support for it, she's still up for getting those skates on again, and that's the kind PMA we need in our life, it's great for Opeie to see that (and proper does it for me... but shhhhhh...).

It turns out that I'm not anywhere near as bad as I anticipated being and ended up feeling pretty confident skating about, so I think its going to be a fun few months of skating for us. I can't wait to get Seth on his too and hopefully come summer we can all hit up somewhere like Bournemouth, with a nice long promenade to go skating along and we should be playing some interesting street hockey over the holidays, exciting times.

Monday, 9 December 2019

“Crackers!” said Dumbledore enthusiastically, offering the end of a large silver noisemaker to Snape, who took it reluctantly.”

Home ed has gone out the window a little this week, and we've decided to focus the week on Christmas craft. If I'm honest we were in the Christmas wind down zone a couple of weeks back and it seems like all our other Home Ed buddies are feeling the same. With a list of things that Opeie wants to make he decided to kick off the week with home made Christmas crackers for the tree. I disappeared upstairs looking for patterned paper to use and while rummaging I found some Doctor who magazines that had the perfect pages in to make Christmas crackers fit for a Timelord.

Becci had brought Opeie a selection of cardboard tubes round over the last few weeks (that boy loves a cardboard tube). So we cut one of the tubes down so that we could support the main body of the crackers, folded the ends of the paper and cut in diamonds into the fold for where the ribbon would be tied. Then we unfolded and rolled the paper around the tube (nice and easy).

We had picked up a roll of Harry Potter wrapping paper a few days back that Opeie had spotted in a shop and as soon as we started making the crackers he told me that he wanted to make the hats with that, So much better than the hats that you usually get in crackers.

Opeie had the time of his life writing the jokes (which obviously I wasn't allowed to see) so I'll be looking forward to hearing those on Christmas Day. All that was left to do was to find something fun to put inside them and we came up with a pretty lovely idea, but I can't reveal it on here because our Christmas guest will be reading.

The crackers were a nice easy activity to kickstart a week of Christmas fun and its already making us  feel a little more festive. 

Saturday, 7 December 2019

"you've got a bug on you"

I love a good challenge and when Opeie told me that he was changing his costume idea for comic con this weekend with 7 days notice, I revelled in the excitement. His friend Cara had decided to go as Hilda from his favourite graphic novels/TV show, so he decided as they were going together that he wanted to be Hilda's friend David. Tuesday morning we headed out combing the charity shops looking for all the bits we needed. While hunting we found some brown womens trousers that I altered, and a top a similar colour. 

I used the left over fabric from the trouser legs to make the patch, The waist strap from an apron hanging on the back of the kitchen door to make the necker and used a magic tape centre for the woggle (it wouldn't stay in position so I glue gunned a lego tyre inside it to stop it sliding). The glue gun was still hot so I glued a bug to a head band (he's always got bugs on him). Cara's brother Fynn gave us some brown socks and then we finished the outfit off with some white plimsoles, job done! and it only cost £7 boom!

We still felt like we needed to accessorise though, so as David is always eating Frazzles I 'made' Opeie eat a packet so that I could stuff it and make something fun to hang from his trousers (Its all about the little details).