Friday, 8 November 2019

"Don't cry because its over, smile because it happened"

It's been a while since me and the boy have had a break longer than a couple of days away camping. So when Becci asked us if we wanted to join her and her friends in Boscastle for a couple of days she instantly peaked my attention. Part of me was going to say no straight away as I didn't want to impose on anyones holiday. Having a stranger there is one thing but a stranger and his 8-year-old son is a lot for anyone to take on. After double checking about 20 times though we said yes (I'm such a worrier).

The morning we were leaving came with all sorts of unnecessary drama that could have easily been avoided so by go time we were desperate to get away from it all, my foot was down and we were off. The drive there was a breeze and seemed to go so quickly, I'll put that down to Opeie's DJing skills, that kid knows how to drop a beat. We arrived at Polrunny cottages where we were staying late afternoon and I was super excited to see Becci. After meeting Dean and Jenna (who are awesome) we headed out with Becci for a quick tour in the rain. Boscastle is Becci's 'Happy Place' and she showed us around the harbour, it was lush.

The following afternoon we headed off on a walk from Boscastle to Minster church to go looking for the shrine of Joan Wytte (The Fighting Fairy Woman of Bodmin) who was tried as a witch in the 1800's. It was wet and muddy but a really satisfying walk. Surrounded by ancient woodland and with the sound of the river valency at our side it was exactly where I needed to be for a full brain reset, and who better to be there with than two of my favourite people.

Halloween was the best, we were up and out fairly early and headed over to Tintagel for a good old stomp. The weather was pretty rubbish but we were all smiles and Becci was excited to show us some more of the Cornish coastal magic. Braving the weather ended up working out great for us as when we arrived at Merlins cave we were the only people on the beach and it was so peaceful. Opeie had fun climbing the walls and I was feeling really loved up. Life has changed so much over the last couple of years and thanks to a special someone, things are definitely moving forward again.

I did my usual trick within the first hour of being there and was standing too close to the water when a wave covered my boots. I spent the remainder of the afternoon with soggy, squelchy feet but it didn't dampen my mood. We had a great walk along the cliffside and sat and ate our lunch on the edge and was joined by a big fluffy caterpillar which was adorable.

We hadn't quite had our fill of the coastal fun when we left Tintagel, so we stopped off at Bossiney Cove on the way back. As we walked down the steps against the cliffside and saw the water gushing over the cliffs edge we couldn't wait to get down to the bottom and kick off our shoes. The secluded picturesque beach was so peaceful and we were all smiles as we held hands and really took it all in. 

Back at the cottage it was my turn to cook, so while I made the gang pizza, they carved pumpkins and chatted. Opeie was clearly enjoying Dean and Jenna's company and it was lovely to listen to the four of them having fun while I did my thing in the kitchen. Becci made me chuckle telling everyone that every year she has big plans for her pumpkin but then gets frustrated and ends up doing the same face. The pumpkins turned out amazing, Dean definitely took the gold though with his frankenstein's monster pumpkin, genius.

The remainder of the night was filled with movies and maybe a touch too much wine, but it was the perfect end to the most unforgettable Halloween.

The following morning we embarked and a coastal hike from Boscastle to Rocky Valley in search of some mysterious Bronze Age labyrinth carvings located near a delapidated mill on the River Trevillet. The weather started off fairly nice but then ended up very wet and very muddy. Opeie quickly lost interest in the walk but we managed to have a good laugh along the way. As we reached Rocky Valley he'd had enough until I slipped on some mud and managed to keep myself up by turning into what looked like a crazy dance with a musical soundtrack. That seemed to be all we needed to pick up everyones spirits, as Opeie and Becci took the Mickey out of me.

Five minutes later we had found the carvings and it was a pretty satisfying end to that part of the walk. The river was beautiful and although we were soaked and caked in mud I had had the most amazing day. It really does make all the difference when you are with someone that wants to get involved in the adventure and Becci has really opened my eyes to how relationships are supposed to be.

All that was left to do was to get back to the cottage, there was no way Opeie was walking much further so we decided to get the bus. Which actually ended up being the perfect end to an amazing hike along the coast. Becci laughed all the way back to Boscastle on the bus and then back to the car when the bus driver charged us £10 for a shockingly short journey, I was so shocked that I just stood there speechless and did nothing but move some change around in my hand, Is that how much buses cost these days?

The following morning was home time, I was feeling pretty anxious about travelling back into the possibly volatile situation that I'd driven away from but I had that Dr. Seuss quote rattling around in my head "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened". Life can throw some serious rubbish at you at times but if you are a good person and surround yourself with kind people and real genuine love the universe has a habit of guiding a path for you. 

Sunday, 3 November 2019

"I want to run towards something. Not away."

Autumn is by far my favourite time of year, Unlike most I'm a big fan of the temperature drop, Ive always had a thing about my coat going on, making our outdoor adventures that little more cosy. And who doesn't love the colours on the trees, that autumn change is pretty magical. For the boys it's an exciting time of year because we get to go up the loft and start bringing down those end of year decorations. It's always so nice to transform the house and make it that little more interesting and of course that always includes some spooky LEGO building. We were all wrapped up one evening with hot chocolates making Halloween characters and a big sign for the wall in The LEGO room.

Opeie requested we build a witches house another evening and despite not feeling in a creative mood we stuck with it and it all turned out pretty lovely. The LEGO building really got us into the build up to halloween festivities.

With the decorations out and the house feeling a little more spooky we were pretty excited about the fun that was going to be had. Pumpkin carving at home and maybe a spooky party.

Then at the last minute our plans changed and a couple of days before the big spooky celebration we found ourselves driving down to the Cornish coast to Boscastle to join Becci and her friends during their week away. With a mass of negativity starting to muscle its way into our lives at home I think we were both really needing to get away for a bit and selfishly I was really missing Becci and wanted to see that smiley face of hers. 

Halloween ended up being an awesome day at Tintagel, adventuring around Merlins cave, Stomping up some big hills, finding waterfalls and falling in love with that girl of mine all over again. 

The evening was full of fun with new friends and they really don't come any nicer than Dean and Jenna, these guys were so much fun to be around and considering we were basically gatecrashing their holiday, me and Opeie have never been made to feel more welcome. We carved pumpkins while we chatted and then lit some candles and watched some spooky movies. To quote Opeie "Best Halloween ever!", it was a bold statement but honestly the kid hit the nail on the head.

Happy Halloween ya'll.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Your friendly neighbourhood... fairground vendor?

Over the summer holiday we didn't venture out anywhere near as much as usual and ended up spending a lot more time at home and surprisingly I absolutely loved it. During term time we're all over the place, adventuring and visiting interesting places but as soon as the holidays arrive we tend to shy away and keep ourselves to ourselves, It seems to be common practice among many home edders. The erratic weather helped with the 'parent guilt' of not doing much but I think Opeie  got as much out of the rest as I did. Because of the hermit like behaviour our weeks ended up being heavy on the LEGO building and we were been busy creating all sorts. The building of Opeie's upside frown made him realise again that a little time and effort with the building goes a long way.

So after that was finished we were having a discussion one evening about where to go next with those magical bricks. I asked him if there were any other of the larger kits that he liked the look of for a bit of inspiration. We had a little mooch through the LEGO site and Opeie decided that he really liked the look of the Ferris wheel but had a much more 'Opeie fitting' theme to base the build around.

So the following afternoon we went on a piece finding binge In hope that we had the parts for the main structure before we started putting our own spin on it. Aside from a few technics parts and some pieces for the main wheel that we had nowhere near the quantity needed, we were pretty much good to go. As expected Opeie had no interest in the start of the build, as building the main body is "Boring", he's all about the cosmetic flair. So I got a chunk of the 'boring part' out of the way while he was in bed over the first couple of nights and got the build to a point where I knew he would be excited.

While I carried on with building the main posts and the big wheel Opeie got to work on the kiosks and as you can see, the 'Opeie fitting theme' was of course Spider-man (which is why I was so excited from the get go). A Spider-man themed Ferris wheel got us talking about all sorts of creative ideas to follow up this build and the the more parts we connected the more the ideas were flowing. I could never get bored of the great ideas that Opeie comes up with, his imagination is amazing.

In no time at all we had the main structure completed, the base of the wheel filled with Spider-man themed things and we were left with the part of the build that Opeie was most excited about. We had decided early on that the twelve Ferris wheel carriages were each going to based around a different character with colour schemes matching their costumes or personalities. This part was really fun because the carts themselves were pretty basic to make and we didn't want them to be too heavy and affect the way they moved, so we had to be creative with the parts etc. My favourite was definitely J. Jonah. Jameson's carriage with his Daily Bugle desk in and Opeie's was Sandman's bumpy looking sand carriage.

Unlike other things that we have built recently there was the added satisfaction of adding the power functions in to make the wheel spin. The fact that Opeie could have it remote control made the whole thing more exciting, and there was nothing quite like the look of pure happiness on Opeie's face being the first to push the button and watch our creation spin.

"Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success"

I love everything about home-ed but one of the things that really makes a huge difference is not feeling restricted when heading out adventuring. Some days we have most of our work finished by 10am, some evenings we are out till late stargazing, it's nice to not have that 'its too late to be thinking about going out, its a school night' mentality. So when we decided at 4:30ish on a Sunday to take a drive to Lake Vyrnwy for a bit of a stomp and have some fun while the sun comes down, there really was nothing holding us back.

Lake Vyrnwy has always been one of those places that I like to go to reset. If things have been a little stressful and my mind is wandering it just seems to even me out. Opeie hadn't had the greatest week so a little adventuring was just what he needed. As you drive up the hill to the dam and reach the opening of trees the view of the water gushing through is always a satisfying start to the visit and it was lovely being able to share that with the newest addition to out happy little family.

There seemed to be a few people along the dam as we drove across which I was really surprised at but by the time we had parked up everyone seemed to have vanished and it was almost as if we had the whole area to ourselves. The walk about the sculpture park was so peaceful, I seem to zone out from the noise from the dam until we are standing right at the bottom of it. The first part of the walk had already chilled Opeie out and he was back to his usual self pretty quick.

These kind of adventures that we have during the week are great for the soul, but there is always an educational element to the visits too. Opeie picks up a lot through experience and he asks a lot of questions along the way. The animals that we spot, fungi, structures, and everything that we are taking in around us is for me what education is all about. When we google the areas we visit for more information Opeie gets to learn random facts about the area too. We had no idea that the lake is actually a reservoir, supplying water to Liverpool 68miles away.

With the sun starting to drop and us quickly losing light we made our way over to the waterfall. This part of Lake Vyrnwy has always been a really satisfying part of any visit. The 20 minute walk from the carpark to the fall is really peaceful and the surroundings are idyllic. Becci chatted about her uni work as we walked and took pictures and with the sun setting as a perfect backdrop I was feeling pretty smitten. By the time we reached the Rhiwargor Waterfall it was all about the slipping our shoes off and submerging them in the cold fresh water.

I try and fill most days with at least a little bit of crazy, its important not to get swept away in the often mundane routine of life and sometimes those random moments can be the difference between going to bed anxious or going to sleep relaxed. As the sun had well and truly departed and with there being no light pollution at the lake, it was pitch black. We pulled up at the bathroom and all slipped into onesies for the drive home. We all had a good chuckle making our way back to the car wondering what someone might say seeing Pikachu, Stitch and a skeleton emerge from the gents toilet. 

It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday evening, great surroundings, great people and a calm, happy head space to take home to bed.

Monday, 14 October 2019

“What's meant to be will always find a way”

Its crazy how much a view of romantic relationships can change over the years, If I'd have been asked what I wanted 20 years ago I would have said I was looking for something that avoided marriage and kids, 10 years ago I wanted to meet 'the one' and settle down. 2 years ago (after a pretty awful few years) I didn't want to be with anyone full stop and then now, While actively not looking for anything, I find myself a little disorientated by a whirlwind of emotions and at a point where I have no say in the matter because my body seems to have taken the driving seat. It seems that the searching wasn't what I needed, fate had things covered.

Recently I've been completely knocked off my feet by a pretty amazing someone and it has come as a real surprise. I say fate had things covered because the more we talk about our past and the places we've been the more apparent it is that we could have met so many times before this. I like to think that the universe was keeping us apart until we were both ready, and ready we are. It's all been pretty magical since this began and I'm preparing to fully embrace these feelings that are making me smile constantly.

This feels so different, and I definitely need that because my past approach to relationships clearly hasn't worked. Its been a long time since Ive been able to be fully honest about my feelings with anyone but we're on the same page and communication is key. It looks like life is shaping up to have a bit of sunshine, and honestly I feel like the Both of us have definitely been due some of that. 

Sunday, 29 September 2019

"A painting in a museum hears more ridiculous opinions than anything else in the world."

When we started the home ed back up at the start of the month, I had every intention of having a museum week but sadly something happened and it completely threw me. So last week we decided it was time to start making up for that and decided to visit Derby Museum and Art Gallery. I love a museum that grabs your attention straight away and the Natural history section of the museum was pretty much all we needed for a perfect afternoon of visual education.

We can pretty much rate a museum on the amount of beetles we find there and this one did not let us down. Opeie loves Coleoptera displays where he can see his beloved beetles up close. 

After having a look around we fluttered our eyelashes at the front desk and asked whether they would mind us painting while we were there. We've gone ahead and painted without asking in places before and people can be really funny. They were more than happy to let us get arty so we found a nice spot to get set up and let our creative juices flow. Museums and Art galleries are usually quiet but this place was so peaceful. We were both fully relaxed as we painted in perfect surroundings.

It's afternoons like this that really reinforce the decision to home-ed. learning visually in a relaxed environment and at a Childs pace is what education should be. Opeie can take what he wants from a visit like this and the both of us probably came away learning something completely different from each other. It's always important to end a day of learning on a high and it was all smiles as we left Derby. Time to plan our next museum trip.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

"A good picture is equivalent to a good deed."

With it just being Opeie and me most of the time I very rarely get pictures of us together so it was a nice surprise recently when Seth said that he had taken some photos while we were out walking. We had gone for a walk around comer woods and passed a field full of bails of hay, so inevitably the boys said 'can we climb on them?'. One of the many things I love about the boys is how they don't need to do the kinds of things that cost  the earth, just to have fun. Life is about adventure and adventure can be found anywhere. For me its all about the company rather than where we are because when you are around people that make you happy that fun and adventure happens organically.

As we sat in the field mucking about we didn't need anything else. It was one of those afternoons where everyone was just content and its the kind of day I strive for every day. It was really nice having a day like that and then coming home to find out that Seth had documented it to. Im definitely going to encourage Seth to take photos more often. 

Thursday, 12 September 2019


A few months back I had a message from the mom of Opeie's penpal asking if we would be interested in being interviewed by a Japanese newspaper who were writing a piece on education and had been let down by a home ed group. The whole thing sounded really interesting and I thought it would be a great experience for Opeie and something fun to add into us documenting his home ed journey.  To make the visit even more exciting too, Opeie would get to meet his penpal Caelan as his mom Melissa was driving the journalist over to our home.

On the morning they arrived I was a little apprehensive, mainly because our house isn't a classic style home and although everyone that has visited here seems to love the way that we live, I wasn't sure that would translate well to the journalist (I'm pretty sure eventually someone will think we are idiots). It turns out there was no need to worry, when Melissa, Caelan and Saori arrived they all seemed pretty excited by the madness and as we talked I think it was clear why I chose to have our home this way.

The boys hit it off straight away and disappeared to play LEGO while I chatted with Melissa and Saori. It was really lovely having someone so interested in our home ed journey and despite being filmed (which is really out of my comfort zone) the morning was very relaxing. I feel like we have been home-schooling forever, it's the norm for us now and has been such an exciting adventure for the both of us. Being asked all about the reasoning behind home ed and my feelings on the education system in this country reinforced my passion for why we took the step.

Another thing that really reinforced this was Opeie's confidence talking to Saori and feeling completely comfortable with her observing him and how we are together as a family. He happily played his drums, discussed his beetle project and explained how much he loved having his work on display around the house. I'm pretty sure that Opeie comes across as a very content child to everyone he meets and this one to one education along side our happy home life is definitely responsible for this. I genuinely don't think that he would be the same child being dragged through the education system. 

The article was published last week and it was really interesting seeing the both of us in a Japanese newspaper. It definitely wasn't the way that we were expecting to be starting our first week of home ed this year but every September we have done something special to make sure that we realise how lucky we are to be on this education path for Opeie, and our presence in The Asahi Shimbun Globe is definitely this years bit of magic.  

Saturday, 31 August 2019

"Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud."

Gifts from the pirates blossomed from the early days of becoming a step-dad. I had never been in a relationship with anyone with a child before and it was a real life changing experience for me. One of the hardest things to try and get around was how to react to a child that wasn't mine when they were acting up, in many ways in those early days I was still the guardian as such but there are lines that I feel you don't cross and working out the guidelines for that can be tough.

This is why I created 'The Pirates', a way of communicating with Seth about his behaviour without having to cross any of those lines. He was never a naughty kid but he did know how to throw a tantrum of epic proportions. The Pirates were a crew of magical folk that kept an eye on his behaviour and kept him in check, rewarding him when he deserved it. They visited many times over those first few years but in no time at all Seth had calmed down.

I never really needed to use them with Opeie as he has always been so relaxed, but there was a few times that they visited during the night to leave him something when he had done something awesome. Aside from naming the blog after them, I thought I had long ago got to the point where they were no longer needed. That was until recently. I met up with a friend last week and we got chatting about school etc as the holidays are coming to an end and she started telling me about how much her little boy had changed on the build up to him starting school this year. She said that he had become very anxious and didn't want to talk about it at all and that she was really starting to worry. The conversation got me thinking a lot about the complete change in Opeie's personality during the few weeks that he attended nursery . The whole thing really played on my mind and then a couple of days later I was talking to my friend again and her little boy had accidentally completely destroyed his favourite sword. I felt like the poor kid was having a tough time so later that day I messaged and said ask him what sort of sword he would like and I'll make it for him, but don't tell him.

She messaged back with a drawing that he had done with his mom and he said that he would really love a rainbow sword with an anchor on. As with most creative things I do, I had no idea what I was doing, Its all about the winging it with me. So I searched the shed looking for wood and got to work. While I was In the garden sawing away I started thinking again about his anxiety and Opeie's face over this nursery months and that's when I thought the Pirates might come in handy again, So I wrote a letter from that very famous pirate Captain Rainbow beard...

After a secret stealth mission with the boys today, sneaking the sword and letter around to their house, I received a lovely message that I will never forget from my friend saying how much it meant to her and Euan. As expected he loved the sword but more importantly liked the fact that he was contacted by rainbow beard and was excited about being part of his crew.This of course was lovely to read, but that was topped an hour or so later when she messaged to say that he had packed his school bag ready (despite not starting for another 5 days), and this from an anxious child that didn't even want to talk about going to school. 

It turns out that the newest member of our recently expanding crew couldn't wait to write to his captain and drew a lovely picture of rainbow beard which he dropped in the post box earlier (with a starburst). So I should probably get creating the next letter which I shall probably make sure has arrived on the morning of his first school day, to give him that extra boost of bravery for his big day.

It's situations like this that reinforce my whole philosophy that a little bit of effort and randomness really goes a long way and can have such a great impact on a Childs emotional well being.

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