Tuesday 31 March 2015

"It is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life."

You cant beat a good LEGO competition, we have them all the time at home, it usually starts with one of seth's cunning plans, 'i need lots of vehicles for something I'm doing so...' "Hey everyone! lets have a LEGO competition... who can build the best vehicle!". This time though a team building exercise, limited to three bags of the series 4 Mixels and the aim was to build an ultimate mixel. If you combine 2 or more Mixels it becomes a Murp!!

After emptying all the bags out over the table we discussed our ideas and came up with something a little different. When series 1 of the Mixels was released i tried desperately to get the boys interested, the parts were the big appeal to me and the fact that they were such a good price for what you got in each pack. By series two though they could see what i could and they were hooked.  The fun part about creating your own Mixel for me is the eyes and teeth because it doesn't matter what you create you can just attach eyes and teeth and instantly it becomes a character, genius.

Our Mixels creations were well thought out though. Opeie's main specifications where that he had fire coming out of his hands and bottom. He also informed me that he was a snowboarding Mixel and set about building a Snowboard to ride on. We also thought it would be fun if we could turn the Mixel around and see a completely different character on the back. That's what i love most about LEGO, the versatility. You can come up with an idea and if you have the patience to sit and work out the dynamics of it, literally anything is possible. Because our Mixel has two different heads Opeie decided that the most obvious name would be headbanger.

 Unfortunately Headbanger didn't stay erected for very long and Seth pulled him apart and made a Mixel of his own. No need for a name here though as Seth informed me that he is in fact a mysterious Mixel and no one knows his name.

Get to the shops and pick up some LEGO Mixels, these little monsters are seriously addictive.

Monday 23 March 2015

"If you worried about falling off the bike, you'd never get on."

There are so many great milestones growing up as a child and as a parent, being able to experience each one is priceless. your child's first steps, words, tooth are moments that you will never forget and being able to watch them develop, while maturing as an adult yourself is (for me) beautiful. These amazing moments don't seem to end and if you are an active parent who gives your child the love and attention they deserve you can be right there with them as they make discoveries of the things they are capable of. 

as these amazing children get older and start to realise more just how awesome they are and whats going on, when there make these findings the pride that they feel themselves is really infectious and if you've been there to help them get to that point the excitement and pride in yourself as a parent can be euphoric.

I was lucky enough last week to experience this from both of the boys and it left me feeling like a pretty awesome dad (but then having two amazing children makes me feel like that most days). Opeie had completely thrown me earlier in the week when he tackled a rock climbing wall, despite me thinking there was no chance he would even give it a chance (i feel pretty guilty for that now). 

Later in the week though it was Seth's turn and again i didn't expect the ask to work out so easily. He came home from school the week before excited about a cycling class at school that was coming up and how he had signed himself up. He told us all about it and said it sounds like lots of fun, the only issue was that he hadn't asked to go on his bike for quite sometime due to finding it difficult to ride with stabilisers on. Seth had made it clear the last time he had his bike out that he was frustrated that he was struggling and because of his muscle condition we didn't want to push him.

So we aggree'd that last Sunday was going to be our 'Teach Seth to learn to ride his bike afternoon', We got his bike out of the shed and i took the stabilisers off straight away, there was no point beating around the bush, he wanted to ride his bike properly and his determination was enough to know not to pussy foot about, he meant business. I think Seth had got it in to his head that the whole learning to ride a bike thing was going to take weeks but as i walked along the road with him holding his coat to steady him i could feel that he was shifting his weight to balance himself and i just let go. We'd been out roughly 3 minutes and he was peddling a bike without stabilisers.

 (I used to stick my tongue out when i was concentrating too, clearly it was helping him balance)

So cycling in a straight line was a doddle! the turn at the end of the road however was not and he quickly lost his footing and fell. Luckily i had been jogging along behind him and caught him before hitting the floor. There's no time for thinking about what went wrong, best to just get back on and try again. That turn caused problems for at least 8 or 9 attempts but eventually Seth nailed it. A quick pat on the back and hair ruffle and i send him on his way to turn in the opposite direction (he would never get anywhere if he could only turn right).

Seth clearly couldn't believe what was happening, his happy little face had a smile from ear to ear (even if his tongue was hanging out concentrating).Watching him ride about knowing it was me that got him there as well as his determination was a great feeling but the hug i got afterwards and the 'thank you so much for teaching me how to ride my bike and helping me, i love you' just makes all this parenting worth while. When your children really look up to you there is no better feeling.

I'm looking forward to the boys next big venture whatever it may be.

Thursday 19 March 2015

"You cannot push any one up a ladder unless he be willing to climb a little himself."

Opeie has never really been the physically adventurous type, he loves to run about and is one of the happiest children I know but he's never really shown interest in attacking the climbing frames at the park or shooting up trees. Obviously that's never going to be an issue but secretly (and it seems ridiculous to me now) I had always wished he was a little more that way. As I lay in bed writing this it has come to my attention that my reason for feeling like this is because of how I was when I was younger, what I am only realising now though is that this memory of myself like that is around the age of 7 and Opeie is still only 3 (for a couple more weeks anyhow).

We had tickets to go to the theatre for us all yesterday but Mrs M had to work and Seth wasn't with us so we asked our friends Emma, Wilberforce and Waldon if they wanted to join us. Emma mentioned that Wilberforce had his second rock climbing class and would Opeie be interested in joining in? My first thought was 'there's no chance he'll do that!' But I booked it anyway on the off chance.

I told him all about it and he'd seen the pictures of Wilbs on Facebook high up the wall the week before. He was really excited about going (I was sure he wouldn't make it two feet off the ground though). We arrived at the climbing place and Opeie entered with a loud 'Wow!'

Wilberforce and his troops followed us in and the fun began. Neil the instructor was a top bloke and really made Opeie feel at ease as he attached the harness. Opeie was chatting away which was great as usually he would seem a little anxious at going out of his comfort zone. I on the other hand was getting very anxious. It looked like so much fun as Wilberforce shot up the wall and I really hoped Opeie would give it a try.

Opeie's turn and as he climbed up the wall I was left at the bottom in complete awe, thanks to Neil's support and motivational words Opeie clearly felt at ease and made his way up without over thinking what he was doing. It was amazing to watch and his enthusiasm and strength blew my mind.

Opeie didn't quite make it to the top on his first attempt but for the second attempt Neil put a monkey at the top and explained to Opeie that he was stuck and Opeie was the only one that could save him. As Opeie climbed, Neil told him to say things like 'don't be scared monkey, I'm coming to save you' and before he knew it he was right at the top clutching the monkey, I was so proud of him.

It wasn't quite the save the monkey had hoped for when Opeie threw him down and then landed on him on his descent, it did make us all chuckle though.

The class was for 30 minutes which was more than enough time for a couple of hardcore rock climbing three year olds. 

Opeie had completely shocked me and I was left thinking 'what else can I throw him into' because as a doting parent I got as much out of the experience as he did. The best part of it for me though was the excitement afterwards and how much throughout the day I heard "daddy I've had such a fun day" and "I'm so proud of my rock climbing". 

Children are amazing! And Opeie had shown me a side of him I'd never seen before, I couldn't be more proud. We're all looking forward to class next week and it's another chance to hang out with his partner in climb (ba-dum tis) Wilberforce.

"The most important educational vehicle in all life is a parent figure."

I love mothers day, probably more than Mrs M's birthday, but then shes the kind of person that stresses about getting older so that may be why. Mothers day and fathers day have been huge for me since having the boys as they are a celebration of parenting, the thing that is most important to me. Becoming a dad changed everything for me and having children makes everything so much more amazing. They are hard work at times and demand a lot of attention, so I have always made it very clear how important it is to say thank you to mommy for everything she does for us.

The boys don't need any prompting when it comes to this time of year, when the words 'Mothers Day' are mentioned they spring in to action. What can we make her? can we buy her something nice? To be fair though, being such caring thoughtful children they are like that all year round, always wanting to put a smile on Mrs M's face (and i know how they feel).

After waking mommy up and presenting her with lovely cards we asked her what she wanted to do and she told us she fancied a walk up Carding Mill Valley, so we wrapped up and headed towards our mothers day celebration. I think as soon as she opened the car door she instantly regretted her decision as it was freezing. But we ventured up the valley and it was a lovely way to spend the special Sunday morning.

After an hour or so we we all craving a hot drink so we headed to the cafe and Mrs M made a bee line for her table, situated right next to the log fire. So we all sweated having our lunch before heading home for an afternoon of family time together.

We're so lucky to have Mrs M looking after us and it was great getting to spend some quality time with her considering she has had so much work on recently. 

To all my mom friends out there...

I hope all you moms out there had an amazing Mother's Day.

Sunday 15 March 2015

Unexpected kindness is the most powerful least costly and mostunderrated agent of human change.”

It is so nice to see daily how much Opeie loves his family. When he's playing / role playing all our family and friends are included even if they are not there at the time. Last week while shopping for Mrs M's Mother's Day gift Opeie started to get really excited and couldn't catch his breath. When he finally got his words out it seemed that he had spotted an enormous Lindt bunny and knowing how much Nanny loves Lindt chocolate he was desperate to have a picture taken to send her way...

Opeie is such a thoughtful little boy. I think, like me, he really appreciates the family he has and he wants to make everyone happy with these thoughtful little acts of kindness.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

"Magnetism, as you recall from physics class, is a powerful force that causes certain items to be attracted to refrigerators."

Being able to stay home and teach Opeie is a dream come true, I craved this for so long but I used to get a little anxious at the thought of it. would I be any good?, what if I end up holding him back? and how will i know what and when to teach him? It turns out though that if you have a curious child who is always asking questions then it makes things pretty easy.

We recently watched the Postman pat movie, firstly if you are a parent that hasn't been subjected to it yet then do everything you can to steer clear, it is an utter load of tripe! But... it did give us the starting block for a fun lesson in magnetism. At the end of the film one of the characters lifts up a wrapped package and points it at a robot. us older folk would understand what it was as it was a horseshoe shaped package. Opeie was confused though and wondered how the robot knew it was a magnet and was being pulled apart by it. Cue a morning of activities all based around what manets are attracted too and how they work. 

Opeie being the clever boy that he is jumped straight in with his scientific hypothesis 'magnets stick to shiny things!'

To start with we needed a collection of items so we could determine what sorts of things actually were attracted, so we searched all the messy draws (we've all got them) and looked through the 'bits and bobs' boxes in the boys room until we had a fun selection.

We take our science very seriously at the Gifts from the Pirates HQ and made sure we documented our findings clearly. I asked Opeie to smile if he thought the item would be attracted to the magnet and pull a sad face if it wasn't going to. What do you know, Opeie was right, Golf balls aren't magnetic.

It was interesting going through all of the items and seeing that Opeie knew exactly what he was talking about. He laughed at the plastic and rubber items knowing full well that they were not going to stick to anything. When he saw something shiny coming though the excitement started...

(i used to stick my tongue out like that when i was concentrating too!)

 Our excited little scientist ploughed through all the items in no time, he was correct with most of his choices but was confused by the plastic cat ball which stuck to the magnet straight away. It seemed like everything he believed was being tested, why was this happening? After a long deliberation and a full examination of the item in question, Opeie came to the very intelligent conclusion that the magnet was in fact attracted to the small steel bell inside.

Feeling confident Opeie went off looking for places to stick his magnet but was feeling deflated when his hypothesis was shattered. While trying to connect the magnet with the carpet bars joining the flooring to the kitchen. Much to his disappointment, Not all shiny things are magnetic! Its important to be wrong at times, it keeps you grounded. I'm not sure how much that applies to a three year old though.

After we had completed our collection of items it was time for a couple of fun games. I fetched a jar of water from the kitchen and asked Opeie if he could get out a small steel marble i had dropped inside. Of course his first instinct was to dunk his hand in. I explained that he couldn't get his hand wet and he looked really confused. I slyly nudged the the magnet with my elbow and he soon got the hint...

I tried the next game using the ball and magnet through the table but we were using a children's science magnet, which wasn't very strong so i fetched one of the boys canvas' from the wall in their room. Opeie sat underneath and controlled the steel marble from below which he thought was loads of fun. After we had finished i placed a a spanner up top and attached the magnet below "wow that's cool" said and excited little scientist.

Well i may not have enjoyed the film (seriously its bloody awful) but something good came out of Postman Pat and his x-factor style singing robots, hell bent on world postal domination. Maybe if we watch some Fireman Sam we can have an activity based on the theory of relativity.

Sunday 8 March 2015

"It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses we must plant more trees."

This morning I told Opeie we were going to do a spot of gardening, he looked through the back door at the rain bouncing off the slabs and the grim look on his face said it all.

But today's gardening didn't include getting wet or cold. There was no need for wellies or gloves and no unforeseen weather was going to stop us in our tracks.

Today's gardening was going to be a virtual experience! 

When we were asked to review Gardening Mama: Forest Friends I thought it would be the perfect game for Opeie. Bright fun colours and a game with a sense of purpose. I've been desperately waiting for summer to arrive so we can add a bit of colour to our garden, Gardening Mama gives Opeie the sense of what needs to be done to tend to a pretty garden.

Gardening mama takes you through all the steps you need to have your garden in full bloom in no time, without relying on an equal ration of sunshine and rain. You get to pick the flowers, vegetables or fruit you want to plant in your patch and as you progresses through the game more seeds and bulbs become available to you. Gardening Mama isn't a 'chuck some seeds down - throw some water at it' kind of game. It's up to you to be sure that your plants aren't over watered or picked to early. If your garden is not tended to properly you will lose your crops.

I didn't think this game would interest Seth that much but thinking about it I should have known really, considering how much time he spends playing Tomodachi life while doing his physio, Seth loves a game with purpose and especially one where he can go back and expand with each play.

Gardening Mama Forest Friends isn't just tending to crops though, there are a great selection of fruit, vegetable and flower related mini games and tasks, which on completion help you to advance through the game , unlocking new crops. There are also lots of incoming messages from your animal friends asking you to complete tasks so that you can earn garden points to spend on new seeds and bulbs.

Your garden is fully customisable and there are a variety of accessories you can add to get your garden looking amazing as you progress. Fancy some playground equipment? Maybe a bench to relax on and look at what you've created? There are sculptures, water features and pergolas all at hand as you advance to help you to create your perfect garden.

 Although we are yet to use it you can also receive extras using the spot pass on your console.

I'll be interested to see how the boys interactive garden blossoms over the coming weeks. If interactive gardening isn't your thing be sure to check out Mama's other recent release, 3ds Cooking Mama: Bon App├ętit!