Friday, 24 March 2017

“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”

It seems that the macabre stories of Mary Shelley have made a lasting impression on that boy of mine. So much so that while writing about her in his history book that we have been creating, he decided to immortalise her in LEGO. His creation gave me the chance to show him how to take the colour out of the image and highlight the heart that he had added, giving his photo a little more character.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."

My relationship with my dad has been a confusing one over the years. I spent my entire childhood looking up to him and really respecting him for holding down 3 jobs and working hard to keep us all happy. That pedestal that I had put him on for so many years was sadly shattered though, when he told me some home truths as an adult about how he really felt about me as a child and although our relationship and contact had been on an off for a long time, I never looked at him the same again. We've not spoken now for around 7 years, which could be seen as quite sad, but when you have a parent that doesn't bring anything to the relationship then in my view you are better off without them.

The one thing I can thank him for though is showing me how to be a father, there's always that fear becoming a parent when you have come from a broken and disruptive family life, that there will be a knock-on effect and you will unknowingly follow in your parents way of doing things. Thankfully I began this amazing parenting adventure with that thought at the forefront of my mind and I deviated from my unnecessary concerns and took my parenting in the opposite direction.

If I am honest, I rarely think about my dad, but as I stood on the beach last week playing frisbee with Opeie, I told him that playing frisbee was one of the only happy things I can remember about my time spent with my own dad. Opeie looked shocked and said 'that's really sad'. He asked questions and I tried to explain, but when you are from a loving family and you spend so much happy time with your dad, I imagine it is had to understand that family can be so cruel. It did make me feel a little sad, but I think that was mainly because of Opeie's reaction to the conversation. I've never known a 5-year-old with the emotional intelligence that he has. That afternoon reinforced how I feel about my family and made me more determined to do everything I can to nurture this relationship I have with Seth and Opeie so that our happy time together isn't diluted to one insignificant moment, like throwing a frisbee.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

"My dreams were at once more fantastic and agreeable than my writings."

I've started so many of our blog posts off with "Home schooling is amazing" or words to that effect. When we first made the decision to educate Opeie from home I knew it was going to be the right decision and I had my romantic ideas about what it was going to be like, but nothing really prepared me for the fun and excitement that was going to happen from that first term. Having control over how your child learns is really empowering and although I still have my 'Should I be doing more?' moments occasionally, Opeie's interest in everything and his happy, confident personality says it all, we definitely made the right decision.

It isn't all me and Opeie though, I know it's us in the pictures, adventuring and having fun but we couldn't do what we do if it wasn't for Mrs M being an absolute rockstar at work. I sometimes can't believe how far she has come in her career in the last 2 years and we are so proud of her. Having the flexibility to go where we want during the week and Mrs M working away every so often is a great combination as we occasionally get to tag along and adventure in a different part of the country.

Last week was one of those awesome opportunities and Opeie and I jumped at the chance to spend a few days in Bournemouth. I'd never been before and I love going anywhere new. Opeie, like myself, really enjoys our 'adventuring in a new city' routine, spending a day or two before researching the area to find out where we can visit. It doesn't always turn out how he plan and we definitely aim to cram a lot more into our days than we can physically achieve but it is always good to have a list of places to hand that are of interest to us.

It was our first time staying in an Airbnb and to be honest I was a little nervous. I'm definitely a fan of having my own space and I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about being in someone else's home. It turns out though that Uli and her daughter Eva that we were staying with were awesome and really made us feel at home, we had only been there about an hour and we were Micro scooting along the promenade with Eva, which was great.

Our plan (as always) was to make full use of those amazing wheels of ours and have a Micro scooting break. We had planned out rough routes between all of the places we wanted to visit and after chatting to Uli added in a few more that didn't pop up on '20 things to do in Bournemouth'. It's always handy to chat to the locals. I wanted to take full advantage of being on the coast with the scooters so on the first evening there I decided to venture out alone to see what was going on. Turns out nothing was, Boscombe was so quiet. I scooted along the promenade for 5 miles and then up a hill and 5 miles back along the street, it was so peaceful.

The following morning we kicked off our itinerary with a visit to Oceanarium which was great as it was on the seafront and was surrounded by lots of space to scoot. Opeie is a huge fan of penguins and could have happily sat there for the afternoon watching them. There was something about visiting an aquarium right next to the sea that made it that little more magical for him.

Opeie had never been on a pier before so being able to scoot along it, out over the sea was really exciting. The weather was a little overcast but nothing was getting in the way of our fun.

One of the great things about Bournemouth and the surrounding area is there are so many places to take fun pictures. Everywhere you look there is something that can be used as an interesting backdrop.

While chatting to Uli on our first night there, she told us that Mary Shelley was buried at St. Peters church in the centre of Bournemouth. I was surprised that that hadn't popped up on our Search when researching the area. That night as Mrs M and Opeie fell asleep pretty early I lay in bed and read up on Mary Shelley and her interesting life. As we were scooting through the town I filled Opeie in on some macabre stories and we visited the tomb. I'm not sure it was the highlight of Opeies scooting adventure but he was definitely interested in the story of her husbands heart.

We had made the mistake of driving into the main area of Bournemouth in the morning after dropping Mrs M into work, getting stung by the parking charges. What we didn't realise until we got back to Boscombe that afternoon was that we could scoot from Boscombe pier to Bournemouth pier (roughly 1.5 miles). So that's exactly what we did that afternoon, stopping off at the beach to build sand castles and splash in the sea. That evening we went out to dinner with Mrs. M's friends which was great as we don't ever get to meet the people she works with. Opeie was shattered by the time we got back and went straight to sleep, surprisingly I followed soon after.

The following morning, after a recommendation from Mrs. M's friend Duncan we drove over to Hengistbury head. Opeie had packed his Binocs (as he likes to call them) for a spot of nature watching and while heading there we drove past a juggling shop, so we popped in and picked up a frisbee (I used to love playing frisbee when I was younger). Hengistbury head was very windy but it was beautiful. I'm not sure Opeie was impressed by the 3.3 mile walk and in hindsight, we should have grabbed the scooters to take the edge off, this was made worse when we saw our only other Micro scooter of the trip whizz past us (I think we need them permanently attached to us).

By the time we got back to the car Opeie had only one thing on his mind, eating chips on the beach (which has become a tradition with every beach trip). We sat on the beach for ages just chatting about all sorts, Opeie as always had a barrage of questions and I did my best to answer them (Google may have backed me up though). With only a few hours left before we picked up Mrs M and headed home, I asked my little sidekick what he wanted to do? "Can we get some nuts please dad?" The day before we had watched a lady in the pleasure gardens feeding the squirrels, who were very tame and climbing all over her, Opeie wanted some of that action so we bought a big bag of monkey nuts and headed to a squirrel heavy grassy area. 

Opeie was in his element and would have happily sat there for hours feeding them one at a time. I tried my best to coax them on to the scooter for a shot but they were having none of it. They were so gentle the way they put their paws on our hands to take the nuts. This was the perfect way to end our three days in Bournemouth.

As always our adventure was amazing and our fun time was magnified by the magic of Micro scooters. I often wonder how we ever got by without those awesome wheels of ours. Well, it's definitely getting warmer which means one thing for Opeie and I... Camping scooter trips. I can't wait to start pitching that tent of ours, so stay tuned for more scooting fun over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

"There is sunshine in my soul today"

The sun coming out makes a huge difference to our moods and productivity. It's been a wet and gloomy few weeks in Shropshire, so we've tried to make the most of the sunshine when we've had the chance. I've been meaning to renew our National Trust passes for over a year and something about the bright sun and blue sky this week was all the motivation I needed to get that sorted. With our temporary passes in hand, we headed straight up to Attingham park to make the most of the weather before it inevitably disappears and we are left with the wet and cold again.

"Don't limit your challenges, Challenge your limits"

I love those occasional emails that we get where we are asked to show our creative side. If you are a regular GFTP reader then you will be fully aware that we are big crafters and love to show a bit of creative flair when we can. We have only ever been asked once before to come up with something creative using those amazing bricks that we love though. When one of our readers came up with an idea for an interesting build. That was until I opened a recent email titled 'The Debenhams Big LEGO Challenge'. These are the sort of emails I love to open and when I explained the rules of the challenge to the boys, like me, they couldn't wait to get stuck in.

The Rules:

After being sent a LEGO kit from Debenhams awesome LEGO Range, along with a Mechanical timer we had 15 minutes to come up with 'the most adventurous creation' using the bricks inside. I know what you LEGO enthusiasts are thinking "I could build something cool in 15 minutes" and I thought exactly the same thing but when you get into it, 15 minutes really isn't that long at all.

So... We had to be strategic.

We couldn't start as soon as we received the kit so the boys and I spent a little time assessing the kit on the front of the box trying to decide what we were going to build. It didn't take long for Seth to come up with an amazing idea, so we sat and worked out what parts were going to go where.

On the day we got the all clear to start, we didn't dive right in and start building, as I said 15 minutes really isn't that long. So we opened the bags and separated the parts clearly so we knew exactly where the parts we needed were. I'm used to building under pressure because Opeie is always coming up with ideas for things he wants building and he is really impatient, but I've always had a lot longer that 15 minutes to play with. This was going to be tough.

After discussing what each of us was going to be doing, Seth wound up the timer and we started building, completely focused on what we were trying to create.

I know it probably sounds like we had our plan well mapped out but when it came to the execution it started falling apart pretty quick and those minutes kept ticking by at what seemed like a crazy speed. We lost Opeie in the first two minutes when he decided he was going to go rogue and build the Minifigures and freestyle his own creation which he named the 'Ultra Jestro Super Suit'.

As for me and Seth, we stuck to our plans and attempted to create a mask that you could wear like a pair of glasses that resembled Jestro, the Nexo knights antagonist. While Seth worked on the glasses section using those awesome translucent wheels as eyes, I worked on the nose and mouth section making the most of all those teeth included in the kit. Had we have had a little longer we could have used a lot more of the parts included in the kit but we stuck to the timer and here is our creation...

Attaching both Seth's part and mine together was really tricky and to finish it off Seth did an awesome job of making curved arms that sat behind the ears. I don't think it came out as either of us had planned but it was a really fun and exciting build and as always the perfect father/son bonding time together.

Seth said it would be really cool if we were set a challenge to create something using every piece of a lego kit, which I thought was really interesting So the offer is there if anyone wants to take us up on that haha. LEGO kits are amazing but it's sometimes easy to forget that they are a creative building toy too. I think Debenhams has done a great job of reminding us that.

You can find their full LEGO range HERE.

Now get building!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Look, it’s the Batsub!... the Batzeppelin!... the Batkayak!... the BatMicroScooter?

While watching The LEGO Batman Movie last week, Dick Grayson was walking through the batcave spotting all of Batman's obscure vehicles (the Batzeppelin, the Batkayak) and Opeie was left thinking there should have been a BatMicroScooter and asked me I'd make one for him. You know me, I don't need my arm twisting when it comes to LEGO so got building. I'm not sure he'll outrun any villains on this but he definitely looks awesome on his new wheels.

"I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny..."

"The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house on that cold cold wet day..."

Obviously, we weren't going to let the rain get us down though, despite the fact that we were desperate to get out scooting.  In keeping with our World book day preparations, Opeie asked if there was any chance that we could decorate his Micro Scooter ready for our trip to the library to drop off his card and gifts to the lovely staff on Thursday.

We always have extra copies of the books that we love lying about, I tend to pick them up from charity shops when I spot them as they come in really handy for craft ideas. While I was searching for something in the boys room, I spotted a copy of the Cat in the Hat missing its cover and had an idea. We had some extra plastic piping from when we made Seth's hockey goals and some clear sticky sheets, so we created a sleeve for Opeie's scooter that can slide on and off the main post easily. The perfect quick craft session for an excited book-loving boy.

"And on that day Mr. Caper learned how sweet being earthy and acidic could be."

With tomorrow being World book day you would expect every school around the world to be doing something amazing to join in with the celebrations. Not Seth's school though, for the past 3 years they have not done anything and the couple of years before that they decided to have their world book day on a different day??? I have absolutely no idea what is going on in the head teachers mind but clearly there is something wrong up there. When we asked his teacher why they didn't do anything he simply said "we're not allowed". So again this year March 2nd has come around and Seth, much like many children at his school I imagine, is left disappointed.  He loved the costume we made him a few years back and proudly walked across the playground dressed as Mr Twit. What has annoyed me even more though is that this failure to get involved with the whole world on this awesome day has left Seth unmotivated to get involved in what we are doing too, which is really sad.

Opeie and I have been crafting away this week though and decided to have a World Book Day activity week in preparation for the big day, so we've been busy doing all sorts. Opeie wanted to make masks of some of his favourite book characters. So he made the Lorax for Mrs M, the sweet lollipop and sour caper from The great Lollipop Caper by dan Krall, for me and him and for Seth, Bzzd from the DC Super pets from the books that Opeie is reading at the moment. 

Opeie also wanted to make a giant crayon from Oliver Jeffers amazing book 'The Day the crayons Quit'. If you've not read this book already it's a must.

While chatting to Mrs M in the kitchen a couple of nights back I asked if she had any fun ideas for something we could do to add to our activities and she said we should take some chocolates and biscuits down to the staff at our local library, which I thought was a great idea. We picked up some bits while we were out shopping and then we made some book related packaging to go around each thing. It's been lovely seeing Opeie get into all this book-related fun. Opeie finished off his fun world book day treats with a card for the staff at the library and he's looking forward to dropping them off tomorrow. We also gave his scooter a mini makeover too for the celebrations but I'll put that in a separate post.

It's going to be another fun couple of book themed days for us and We hope you all have an amazing world book day too.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

"A true knight is fuller of bravery in the midst, than in the beginning of danger."

There used to be a time when I was a big part of a LEGO kit build, I'd sit there doing all the hard parts and when the boys had lost interest, because they were taking too long and they just wanted to play with the finshed piece, I'd get to finish them off. These days though the boys get so into building the kits and want to do it all themselves so I have been demoted to the guy that puts the stickers on straight. It's fine though I do get to do the occasional solo build when the boys are in bed, plus I get so much out of watching them work together as a team, building something awesome.

There are so many exciting kits out at the moment and even more due to be released this year, Opeie especially has really got into kit building recently and Seth has been his go-to guy when building custom pieces to go with the kits he is putting together. One range that has really got them both excited is the latest kits from the Nexo Knights range. Chapter 2 boasts some pretty amazing kits and as I stood in our local toy store ogling the boxes, I found myself completely hooked on all the new bad guys. 

The first to get my attention was Ruinas Lock and Roller, the kit is great and an evil looking jail cell wagon is always going to be of interest to Seth, he loves building holding cells. The fact that this one has a trap door though had the pair of them excited while they were building it. Being a collector of LEGO monsters and baddies though, it was the Ruina figure that I wanted to get my hands on most. 

I love all the bad guys from the latest range (Opeie is always telling me it's strange how Baddie and Daddy rhymes, clearly it was meant to be, mwahahaha). Rogul was another minifigure that got my full attention, how awesome is that rock base. Lance's Twin Jouster is the sort of kit Opeie loves, he's all about the good guys and Seth loves locking the good guys up so they play great together. Opeie is also a big fan of vehicles that split to become other vehicles, so being able to split the Twin jouster into a motorcycle and jet pack added another level to the boys play. The jet pack can also be added to battle suit Lance, if you purchase that set too. I love how well thought out these kits are and they are perfect for role-playing action.

I can't wait to see what the Nexo knights have in store for chapter 3 and after seeing this release i'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more interesting baddies.  You can check out the entire Nexo Knights range HERE.

"Love is in the air, everywhere I look around"

As I was scrolling through my phone earlier I realised I hadn't uploaded Opeie's valentines card to Mrs M. Mrs M and I don't celebrate it as every day is like Valentines in our house. That lady has me completely smitten and we are always doing adorable things for each other. After asking about Valentines and what it's all about, there was no surprise that Opeie wanted to share the love. So he created a lovely card for mommy and then made one for his second favourite lady (Nanny Roo).  He may have also created one for the girl next door but that's all hush hush.

Belated I know, but happy Valentines all.

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