Friday, 23 June 2017

"This is the day you will always remember as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow!"

When it comes to movies and things on TV Opeie can be very fragile at times, he gets easily scared,  by things that I wouldn't even think would affect him. He's a sensitive little thing. If this happens then we can pretty much count on the fact that we will be in for a rough night with him as the things that do affect him really play on his mind. You can imagine my surprise when Opeie informed me a couple of weeks back that he wanted to watch Pirates of the caribbean, I was a little reluctant (mainly due to the zombie pirates) but I thought we'd give it a go. Suprisingly he loved the film (although as expected not a huge fan of the cursed pirates) and straight after asked if we could track down some of the LEGO minifigures (I'm feeling a custom Silent Mary with a GFTP twist on the horizon).

It seems we had watched the film at the just the right point, although I'm not in a position to be splashing out on the latest pirate ship there were two other recent Pirates of the Carribean releases in the LEGO range. Brickheads have hit the shelves and from what I have seen online have made a huge impact. If I am honest I'm still not sure how I feel about them personally as I love some playabilty in the things that I build and Ive not been a fan of the pop! style figures that have been hitting the shops recently.

That being said though, its not all about me and Opeie absolutely loves them as they are just the right size kits for him to build quickly so that he can play with them soon after opening. Captain Jack Sparrow and Armando Salazar from the recent installment 'Dead men tell no tales' are a great start to what may end up being a Brickheadz collection, which I dont mind at all because at the price they are perfect LEGO kits for keeping the kids entertained with having to spend a large amount of cash.

The full Brickheads range can be found HERE and if you are a fan of the range be sure co check out some of the custom builds as there are some really great ones out there.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

"Oh dear," thought Snuffy sadly. "I can't help, I'm afraid, but wait... oh, yes I've got it! I'll call the fire brigade."

I cant believe it has been almost a month since I posted anything. The build up to the election was really getting on my nerves so I removed social media off my phone for most of that time and because of it I didn't really fancy writing. Add that to some new responsibilities I have around the house and its no wonder I have been quiet. Its not the first time I've gone this long without posting but other times it has been utter laziness. This time though my loafing has a face... and a really cute one at that.

Since we have been walking the dogs at our local dogs home, Mrs M and at the boys have gone into full on 'dog mode'. I made my feelings clear early on that I really didn't want a dog. As usual though my tiny voice went unheard and the hunt for 'the right' dog for 'us' began. Mrs M finally thought she had found the right dog through a Bulldog charity and it seemed as though Alma the bulldog would be finding a new home with us. The home visit went fine but we found out that she would most likely need operations due to medical conditions and we didn't feel that would be fair on the boys seeing how excited they were about getting a dog.

On the day of the home visit a very disheartened Mrs M informed me that there was a local family who had pug puppies, the mouse like comments of "I don't want a dog", "I DONT WANT A DOG!"  of course continued to go unheard and Mrs M said that she had already spoken to the 'pug lady' and could we go and see them. Push over Pauly caved (as I always do) and we were straight in the car to look at puppies. I wasn't really prepared for the puppy ambush when we sat on the floor in their lounge and we were bombarded with excitable pups. There was a faint thought of 'Smithers release the hounds' in my head as 5 fun loving pugs started climbing all over us. There was only one of the 5 left and of course that was the one that found Opeie, curled up on his lap and fell asleep. Mrs M looked across and said "what do you think?" It was at that point that I realised the trap I had fallen into, there was no saying no to that.

We visited our new family member every week for 4 weeks before we could take her home, sometimes spending 3 hours there chatting to the breeders. Opeie, Seth and Mrs M were smitten and although I still didn't want a dog I couldn't help but fall for that cute squashed up little face. 

At this point its probably important to point out why I dont didn't want a dog. I'm not some sort of animal hater or weird dog Grinch, I'm just not a fan of pet ownership. It is such a HUGE responsibility and I'm not sure anyone in the house has realised quite how much yet. I wasn't a fan of getting a cat but they are low maintenance and Polly is not interested in our attention at all, if anything she is more like a lodger than anything else. Dogs though take up a lot of time, which I have found out to the full extent over the last 3 weeks because I have done none of the things that I needed to have done during the evenings. The thing that I couldn't get across from the get go was that the HUGE responsibility is so much bigger if you didn't want the pet in the first place and when Mrs M is working away, that is all on me (maybe I am a dog Grinch).

As always though I have adapted to the change in our home life like I always do, no matter what is thrown at me and I've got to say despite my reservations its nice to see everyone in the house so happy. Someone once told me that getting a puppy is like having a baby but I would take 10 babies over the broken sleep Ive had recently. I was so exhausted a few nights back that I stood in the garden at 4am half asleep (on wee patrol) and it wasn't until I went to walk back into the house that I realised that my underwear was wide open and I was hanging out (I just hope our neighbours aren't up at that time of the morning).

 So this is life now, cleaning up wee, broken sleep and minimal time to do the things that I want of an evening. In its place though is an adorable little squashed up face to wake up to every morning who likes to eat my beard and chew on my stretched ear lobes. I may have been converted... but don't tell anyone here I don't want to lose my Grinch like status.

Welcome to the family Snuffy.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

"Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."

The sun is out, the sky is blue (well at least it was on when I took the photos) and for us that means that the Micro Scooters are going to be hitting the streets. The scooters have always been a great distraction from any work we are doing at home and it's always fun to take our learning to the great outdoors, investigating an area or doing some sort of scavenger hunt. Today's hunt was to spot as many different flowers as we could, as we had downloaded a really interesting app called PlantNet where you can photograph plants and the app will tell you what you are looking at (Shazam for horticulture fans).

Considering we were only out scooting for an hour or so we managed to spot so many different varieties of flowers and it made for a really interesting Micro adventure.

Monday, 15 May 2017

'So awesome she deserves two mothers days'

After spotting online last week that it was mothers day on the approaching Sunday, I had a chat with mini me and he informed me that 'mommy deserves a second Mothers day'. So we decided to make her an American themed card and get her a little gift to show her how amazing we think she is. I like to think we treat every day with Mrs M like it is Mothers day but its always nice to have these moments to give her a surprise treat.

I couldn't have picked a more amazing person to have a family with and like the boys I am thankful every day for her being part of our lives.

"Learning how to learn is life's most important skill."

While I sat writing about Opeie losing his first tooth, I was thinking about how amazing it is becoming a parent and being there to experience all of their awesome milestones. Opeie's first words, steps, the first time I heard "I love you daddy", are all so special to me. I realised though, that although I've written about many of these over the years, I did miss a recent one out.

Opeie had never been interested in learning to ride his bike, Micro Scooters had pretty much dominated wheeled transportation for him and although there had been a BMX sitting in the shed, it was just there collecting dust. Two weeks before his 6th birthday though, he told me that he wanted to learn to ride his bike and he wanted to do it as a 5-year-old. It kind of came out of nowhere and the way he worded it really made me chuckle, but I loved the way he had set himself a challenge and was determined to learn this new skill. The bike came straight out and while all the kids were at school and our street was quiet we got on with it (I love the freedom of homeschooling). 

Seth had learned to ride his bike late on after a huge confidence knock when he ended up with a fractured arm but when he was 8 he decided to have a go and with a little patience, we got him riding within 2 hours which was a huge confidence boost for him. Knowing that this was how Seth did it was all the motivation that Opeie needed to get this new skill under his belt.

Day one was 1hr of trying to balance while I held him up, with tears from pure frustration but he was adamant that he could do it. Day two was a more confident half an hour of me holding him while he pedaled around and day three's hour and a half session completely took me by surprise when he held himself upright withing the first 5 minutes and I just let him go. Kids are AMAZING! I wish I could pick things up as quick as they do.

So our happy little 5-year-old had reached his goal in a few hours which was amazing. What I love most about all these new skills is the confidence that comes with it. To some people, these things may seem insignificant but I see the value in every little thing the boys pick up as they are developing. The more of these skills they acquire the more they realise, that anything is possible if they put their mind to it.

Monday, 8 May 2017

'Mind the Gap!'

Its been hanging on for dear life for weeks, but finally Opeie's first tooth has come out. Watching him trying to coax him out during that time took me right back to trying to get my own teeth out when I was younger. I'd sit there wobbling, pushing and even twisting to get that sucker out. Being woken up crazy early to give us the good news wasn't the most relaxing way to wake up but the huge gappy smile and glowing face was a fun start to our weekend.

As expected Opeie is proud of his new gap and has found that when having a chupa chup the stick fits tidily in the space. Another great thing to have come from the toothy event is that Opeie has been introduced to his own personal toothfairy Penelope sparklebottom, who wrote him a lovely letter letting him know that the tooth was very clean and that sometimes when she is tired she rides around on the back of a ladybird or bumblebee (a classy way to travel). Of course Opeie has a huge list of questions for her and has requested a photo, so watch this space (Or gap!).

Friday, 5 May 2017

"He's going to build a supernatural entourage"

The Yo-kai watch buzz is still going strong at chez Pirates. Since the boys started playing Yo-kai watch 2 Fleshy souls a few weeks back, Opeie's watch has been permanently attached to his wrist and he has taken to carrying a big bag of medals everywhere with him (I'm guessing in case he needs to do battle). Seth has even picked up a watch of his own too. It's great seeing the boys roleplaying together. The Yo-kai excitement has had Opeie asking whether we can get a Yo-kai pad from anywhere. After looking online it seems that you can only get them in Japanese, so I decided to give my phone a LEGO upgrade for his Yo-kai play with. I love those awesome bricks.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

"What a beautiful world it would be if people had hearts like dogs"

It has become even more apparent over the last few weeks that when it comes to family decision making I have absolutely no power. When you are as laid back as I am you can't help but end up becoming a massive pushover. A few years back I was doing my best to put my foot down about having a cat and then we found Polly and that was that. My 'I don't want a cat' comments were just laughed off. I inevitably became a huge Polly fan, that grumpy lady has become such a huge part of the family now and although I do still have my moments about cat ownership (I hate litter trays in the house), I do what I always do and let it wash over me.

Which leads us to my current predicament "I don't want a dog!" (That is how my comments are coming across in the house), but 'dogs' is all I've heard about for the last few weeks. Opeie has always loved little dogs but has become a huge dog lover recently and Mrs M has been hounding (hehe) me for quite some time for a new addition to the family.  I'm still quite sure I don't want a dog but nobody really takes me seriously because as Mrs M puts it I'm a big soft bear (or a huge fluffy pushover).

Opeie's new love of dogs has been really good for him though as we have been volunteering at our local dogs home, walking those poor dogs so that they get out of their cages and get some exercise. It has been a really great experience for Opeie (not to mention a great distraction for Mrs M to occasionally pop out on her lunch break) and it has made us realise just how good it would be for him to have a furry best friend. Hilbrae dogs home do such an amazing job of looking after stray and unwanted pets and it's a really lovely feeling to be a small part of the great work that they do.

We've walked some great dogs and it's hard to believe that anyone could turn these lovely pooches away (and trust me that means so much more coming from someone that has been very vocal about not being a dog fan all his life). Volunteering, of course, hasn't helped my predicament but it has been amazing for Opeie, learning about different breeds of dogs, what goes into looking after them and about the amazing work that Hilbrae do. It has given him a lot more of an understanding about what having a pet dog would be like. As expected though, being around all the lovely dogs has changed Opeie and Mrs M's 'if we get a dog' to 'when we get a dog!' and now the hunt is on for the perfect family dog (which I imagine will happen a lot sooner than I am expecting).

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

“Put aside the bug net, and try out this precious little beauty instead!”

When it comes to gaming, for me its all about the 3ds and it has always been the same for me when it comes to Nintendo's handheld gaming. I love being able to squeeze in half an hours game play here and there when I have the occasional quiet moment. I sometimes don't feel like I am able to give the games the times they deserve though because of all of the other things I have going on, this is where the boys come in, I love how excited they get about certain games and its awesome to see that they are as passionate about Nintendo as I was when I was their age. Now I say that sometimes I don't feel like I have the time but every now and again a game comes along and completely sucks me in and this Easter holiday has given me that game.

I really enjoyed playing Yo-kai watch when it was released but I got stuck somewhere in the game, got sidetracked and just never went back to it. The boys though were all over it and really got stuck in while we were flying long haul to Orlando. This spurred on Opeie to buy himself a Yo-kai watch from Target to wear all holiday. With the release of Yo-kai watch 2 I was looking forward to giving it a go but I knew that it was going to be one for the boys. How wrong was I!!! for me Yo-kai watch 2 has been the best game that I have played in quite some time. I have been so hooked that every given chance, while Mrs M and the boys are doing something, Ive slipped away and disappeared upstairs to have a bit of gaming time to myself.

This game is awesome! having two versions of the game has been great as it has meant that we've all been able to have our own games going on. Seth and I have been playing Bony Spirits and Opeie has been playing Fleshy souls. Like the first installment the main protagonists are Nate or Katie, the story starts with your chosen character having no recollection of Yo-kai and their adventures from the original game. Eventually you find your Yo-kai butler Whisper and the fun begins again. The story is so well written and with a huge open world to explore the game is full of tasks to complete to earn new parts to the story.

As you progress through the game you battle and befriend Yo-kai and can build up your strength during battle in preparation of stronger, more difficult Yo-kai. A great addition to the battle mode on this game, is being able to aim your attacks at certain parts of your enemy giving you the upper hand and attacking their most vulnerable areas. You are also able to upgrade your watch to the 'Model Zero' which packs much more of a punch in battle mode.

The thing I have enjoyed most about the second installment is the sheer size of the open world. You can travel long distance on bus and train and can also travel in time (which is where I have just got to and it has got me even more hooked).

If you we're a fan of the first game then I'm pretty sure that Yo-kai watch 2 fleshy souls or bony spirits will have you even more hooked than the original game. I can tell that this one will continue to fill those quiet moments in between all of the other things that fill my (always eventful) days.

Opeie's LEGO building has received the Yo-kai treatment recently too. He recreated his favourite part of the game 'Terror Time'. Its safe to say that the boys love of Yo-kai watch has been reignited. Opeie now has us trying to track down the new Model Zero watch so that he can continue his Yo-kai adventures with Seth and his friends.

The only question left to ask though (and its an important one), do you prefer Soul of Spirit Doughnuts?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

"You’ve got to take life and ride it till the wheels fall off"

Seth has had the BMX buzz back over this easter holiday. After finding a dumped bike at the start of the holiday and spending an afternoon taking it apart and cleaning up the usable parts, I sold some unwanted things to fund new parts and the excitement of the new project was all the motivation Seth needed to continue our original project that we started last year. Seth has been doing odd jobs around the house and even wrote me a blog post a couple of weeks ago to make some extra cash for his creative ventures. This week all the new red parts came for the dumped BMX and Seth ordered a seat, brakes and calipers for his own bike that he has been building himself.

Having these projects on the go has been great and we've sat in the garden chatting and having fun while he learns his way around his new bike.

On Friday when he got home his new seat was waiting for him and he couldn't wait to get it on so that he could give his new wheels a test ride. The bike looks so nice but what really did it for me was the huge proud smile on his face knowing that he has built that bike himself. All we need now are the brakes which should be here very soon, then he's good to go.

Hi! its Seth, This bike has turned out great, I feel so proud of myself. I am looking forward to a cycle with Pauly. This was really fun!!!!!

As for our found BMX... Well, Seth put that together too and it looks amazing. We had a slight issue with the chain which neither of us could work out, but after a good night sleep we had another look in the morning and worked it out together, real team work. The boys informed me that day that the new 'Spider-man bike' as we have named it is for me as the boys want me to go on some Goonies style adventures with them. Don't mind if I do!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love being a dad!!!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

log off, shut down, go outside!

We've been getting out so much more recently because of the weather being nicer. It has been great adventuring all over the place but the writing has taken a bit of a knock so I'm now playing catch up. after our trip to Bournemouth a few weeks ago, I thought it would be quite some time before we got a chance to scoot along the beachfront again. Last week though we found ourselves in one of those situations where it was just me and Opeie for two nights with no responsibilities keeping us in Shropshire. This also came with the added bonus of the sun being out and us having the best weather we have had this year. We've been itching to get the tent out, so we packed up the car and headed out on a spontaneous adventure.

I had asked my friends online for recommendations on where we should go and thanks to many of them we now have a long list of places to visit over the coming months. One town that popped up several times was Ynyslas. I'm not sure if it was the multiple mentions or the interesting spelling, but I knew that that was where we were going to be heading the following morning. Being only 2 hours drive from where we live it was the perfect destination for us if there was a sudden change in weather and we had to get back.

When we arrived we tried a couple of campsites but they were closed for the season, I was thinking maybe we had been a little too ambitious trying to make the most of the first real bit of summer sunshine that we'd had, but the third site we tried came up trumps and it was an added bonus that although they only had an 8 pitch camping plot, we were the only ones crazy enough to be pitching a tent in April. As we had pulled into the site I had to chuckle to myself at the signs they had used to slow down drivers, the wording seemed a little strange but I also loved that for me it summed up our home-schooling adventure as Opeie does have a lot more free range than most children his age.

 The tent was up in no time at all and Opeie had made it very clear from the moment we had turned the engine off on arrival, that he wanted to be on the beach, so we packed some snacks and drinks and headed over to see what Ynyslas had going on on their seafront. The sun was lush but there was a strong cold breeze for the whole time we were there so our jumpers stayed on. That didn't stop us paddling in the sea and spending hours having fun on the beach though. When the wind had got too much we headed back to the tent and went for a drive to see what was going on. Plus we had to find a chip shop. Opeie has his own little tradition that if we go to the seaside we have to have a bag of chips on the beach.

As we drove through Ynyslas and into Borth we were clearly both thinking the same thing as we both said 'This looks great for scooting'. So we knew exactly what we were going to be doing the following afternoon. The temperature really dropped that night but we had plenty of blankets as well as our sleeping bags so we were confident that a couple of seasoned pro's like us were going to be just fine. The following morning was bloody freezing and although we woke up early neither of us wanted to get up because everytime we moved cold air would find its way into our sleeping bags. I wasn't holding much hope for a second night camping but once we were up and about it didn't seem that bad. We had some breakfast and I had a hot coffee to warm me up (my aeropress has become a camping lifesaver) and we were good to go.

Opeie of course wanted to hit the beach up again for a second helping of fun so (with the tide out this time) we hunted for shells and interesting rocks  while climbing under and over the breakwaters. Opeie wanted to create something arty on the beach so he started collecting piles of different coloured rocks. Using white rocks he wanted to make a big pair of eyes on the sand. This then moved on to using redish coloured rocks to make a mouth and then we started lugging larger grey rocks to create a face. We looked around for other things to use and Opeie found some green fishermans netting for the hair wrapped around a breakwater and some seaweed for the eyebrows, it turned out pretty good and we had lots of fun.

After he had reached his peak with the beach adventuring we headed back to get the car and of course the Micro scooters to continue our adventuring on wheels. We couldn't scoot from our campsite as there were no public footpaths so we drove towards Borth and parked up close to a seafront walkway. It's lovely to go somewhere like this and have so much free parking about. The scoot was great, investigating Borth and making our way to the high cliffside that we could see in the distance. When we reached the top the views were breathtaking and as we looked over the sea, we chatted about how lucky we were to be in a position to be able to have this kind of midweek fun.

 Later that afternoon the temperature really dropped but we still squeezed in a BBQ on the beach before it got far too cold. I couldn't see us sleeping in the tent for the second night so when we arrived back at the tent we had a little chat and Opeie said that he felt too cold to camp so we packed up the tent and put it on the front seats with all our other bags. Then we dropped the back seats and padded out the back with airbeds, sleeping bags and blankets. Opeie was so excited about sleeping in the car, I'd love to be that age again for a day.

The great part about packing up and sleeping in the car was that when we'd woken up and eaten, we were ready to go. I asked Opeie if he wanted to hit the beach before heading home but I think he had had his fill. So at 7am we were driving back to sunny Shropshire. It may have been freezing but being outdoors and adventuring around a new part of the UK for us, was 2 days full of home ed fun and we can't wait for our next camping adventure.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

My greatest project, the one that is always ongoing, is my family.

There are so many amazing ways you can entertain and educate your children and I like to think that I'm pretty good with plucking fun activities out of the sky and embracing any crazy idea the boys come up with. It's important to motivate their creative side and I've found that having a couple of projects on the go is great for spending quality time together, It's great Father/Son bonding. We started building Seth a BMX last summer which has been great for teaching Seth the ins and outs of owning a bike. It's great riding about and having fun but it's just as fun to get to know how the parts work. Things went a little quiet on the build over the winter but with only a seat and brake levers and calipers to buy Seth is eager to earn some extra cash doing odd jobs around the house to pay for his parts. We try our best to teach them that you don't always get things just for being awesome kids, sometimes you have to earn the things that you want, it's an important lesson to teach early.

While we were out on an adventure last week we walked past a house and there was a BMX at the end of the drive. We were unsure whether it belonged to someone of whether it had been left there as scrap. Later on that day I drove past the house on my way to somewhere and it was still sitting there which sparked more interest. That night I went out on one of my scoots and on the way home I thought 'I wonder if it's still there?', so I took a detour and sure enough it was still sitting there. I had a quick look at the wheels and realised that it flat tyres and banged up wheels, it must have been left as scrap. So I picked it up, held it on to the scooter handle bars and carried it home (which wasn't the easiest thing to do).

As it was so dark I didn't really get to look at it properly but the following morning I went straight into the back garden to check out our find. It turned out to be an old school Diamond back and although there was minor rust and paint chipping, the frame was in pretty good condition. Seth was over the moon when he saw it and that afternoon we spent a few hours in the garden taking it apart and cleaning up the parts worth keeping. It was great to see the skills I had taught Seth being used. He used the rivet extractor to take off the chain and took the tyres off of the wheels to check for punctures. We also managed to sell a few things that we found in the shed that day to fund the project and buy new parts that we need, which was great.

We should have everything we need this week to start rebuilding the bike and I am really looking forward to getting stuck in with him. It's always great to see the end product of anything we create together but for me (and I am quite sure the boys feel the same), It is far more about the quality time spent together.

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