Friday 29 April 2016

"It says 'Maxi'! Which is french for 'Big Boy'!"

 (Oh and apparently it was imperative that he wore a lab coat!!)

Tuesday 26 April 2016

"Reason, observation, and experience; the holy trinity of science."

Recently we had every intention of having a Science week but one thing lead to another and that week we ended up having a couple of science days and moving on. We did lots of research together, reading books and I spent many evenings watching Youtube videos of fun experiments for me and Opeie to have a go at. He loves anything that makes a mess so we decided that our first experiment was going to be 'Magnetic slime'.

I thought it best to make the slime first and then ask Opeie for his hypothesis on what he thought was going to happen. I had never done this experiment before and I was really shocked at just how simple it was to make the slime, It is the perfect experiment for a 5-year-old as there is no huge amount of effort and the end result is great, So, Goggles on!

Firstly we filled a third of a jar up with PVA glue that we had picked up from our local pound store. You can pick up loads of great experiment ingredients from there and we managed to get things for another four experiments. We then added the same amount of water to the jar and gave it a stir. "It doesn't look like slime at all!" said my disheartened little lab partner.

In a separate jar, we mixed a small amount of water with a teaspoon of borax that we had picked up online. After also giving that a stir Opeie slowly added the Borax mix to the PVA and water cocktail, a little bit at a time. Very quickly the consistency of the mixture changed which got my lab partner very excited, we had slime! and it was great. greasy and gross, perfect for a children's science experiment.

Now it was time to add the final ingredient to our slime, iron fillings, which again we had picked up online. On the youtube video that I had watched, the people doing the experiment seemed to be very sparse with the Iron filings but we found that we needed to be quite liberal with them to get the effect that we needed, so if you are giving this a go don't be reluctant to put lots in.

And here is where we ran into our big problem. It turns out that you cannot get the desired effect from using fridge and other magnets that you may have around the house. For the experiment to work well you need a Neodymium magnet to get the sort of reaction that will make a science-curious child go 'Uhhhhhhh.....'. So at this point in the experiment, we had to scrap the slime, as it turns out that after making phone calls to every hardware store I could find in Shropshire, no-one sells Neodymium magnets. We did, however, purchase some online and two days later we went through all of the previous steps again, this time though at the request of Opeie we added some food colouring for effect.

At this point, I asked Opeie what he thought was going to happen when he held the magnet close to our slime. We had had a conversation about what a hypothesis was so he knew what was coming. We learned about magnets before so he explained that he thought that the slime would move towards the magnet, bright as a button that one.

The reaction from the slime was even better than I was expecting and Opeie's little face was all that I was hoping for. We had a brief chat about what was happening to the magnet and the slime but it was clear that Opeie had his own investigations to get underway, plus his friends had joined us outside and they all wanted a demonstration.

Sunday 24 April 2016

"Hopefully, kids realize you can do anything you want. Skateboarding can be that gateway."

 Out of nowhere there have been some new wheels trying to steal the limelight during our outdoor play. Seth had decided that he wanted to dig his skateboard from out of the shed to give it another try and Opeie had followed suit and made it clear that he wanted one for his birthday a few weeks back. It is great to watch the boys trying to learn something new and as it is something they can't just bomb around on at the moment it is great to just sit out of the front of the house and watch them learn to balance and get the feel of their boards.

I had a neon green 80s style Ghostbusters skateboard when I was a kid and I absolutely loved it. I remember being shouted at by my mom one day and I decided to run away, I didn't actually run away because I was far too scared, I just disappeared to my tree top base for a few hours and I don't think I was even missed. What sticks out most about that time was the only thing I thought that I need, apart from a few chocolate penguins and some slices of bread (I used to eat so much dry bread), was my trusty skateboard.

The boys have turned into a pair of skater dudes over night and have even dug out their cut off denim jackets from our scooting escapades last year. Learning something new together has become great bonding for the two of them and it's really lovely to see them have another common interest. Each day if they have a spare hour, they have been outside practicing and their new love has clearly been a little contagious because both of our neighbours kids either side are now owners of their own boards too. That's my boys, a real pair of trend setters.

As with everything new skill that the boys decide to take up, their duo venture inevitably quickly becomes a trio and this time was no different. The boys were desperate for me to get a skateboard too and although I'd not been on one since I was a boy I thought What the hell!

We've now reached the point where the little smooth piece of path outside our house isn't enough and they have watched enough skateboarding videos to learn that they need to go out and find some great places to practice. With it being Sunday we headed over to a local industrial estate where we knew the business' would be closed over the weekend and we took full advantage of their quiet empty car parks. Mrs. M even had a little go too.

And when the weather isn't playing ball and it's too wet to skate? Well, Netflix have had that covered with a great selection of inspirational Skateboarding documentaries including Plan B: True, Hill Street, Tru to this and our favourites The Motivation and Motivation 2: The Chris cole story. It is handy to know that if you are watching these with kids there is a little bit of language in so I tend to watch these things first so I know where to skip or mute.

I don't think there is any fear of skateboarding taking over the amount of fun that we have on the scooters but I'm loving the fact that the boys are branching out and giving something else a try and I do love having a go myself too.

Remember kids 'Wear those pads!'

I had to include this video, I love the satisfaction on Opeie's face!


Friday 22 April 2016

"It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project."

After opening my presents one Christmas as a child (I think I was around 8) I was lead into the kitchen where there was a shiny new blue BMX waiting for me and it looked glorious. It was the 80's so it came with those foam padded frame pads, which to me at the time were cutting edge. After I had added some spokey dokeys and some Cornelius the rooster-shaped reflectors from the Kelloggs cornflakes it was well on its way to becoming a traffic stopper.

I never really grew out of owning a BMX and although I never chose to aim towards becoming a pro biker, as an adult I went on some pretty awesome (mainly alcohol fuelled) adventures all over the place with friends. Not being a driver at the time, my BMX served as a way of getting me all over, as well as to and from work. Tinkering was always a big thing for me with bikes, I loved to buy a bike, take it apart, pick a colour scheme and completely glam it up, much like my recent scooter customizing.

The boys have really picked up on this and are always so interested In the things that kept me entertained growing up. Taking apart a bike and rebuilding it has always been of real interest to Seth and he loves listening to me talking about the fun I used to have. I love how the boys seem to want to relive my own childhood and I get a huge kick out of introducing them to these things too. At the end of the summer last year, I was putting Seth to bed one evening and we were chatting about this and that as we do every night. We got back onto the BMX conversation and I mentioned that if he could clear his room of all the things he no longer played with, we could make some cash to start our own build for when he grows out of his current BMX.

As excited as he was at that idea, the weather inevitably started to get grim, his own bike seemed to get asked for less and less and then the subject wasn't brought up again until recently. Seth has now started clearing his room of untouched toys and games (which saves me the job) and after selling a couple of games last week I went mooching on eBay and spotted a great looking GT BMX for sale and managed to win it for the starting price as it finished one afternoon midweek.

So our planned summer build has now started early and the boys have been busy helping me to take the bike apart and move the unwanted decals etc. Opeie has been a great help with cleaning the frame and as always is loving being one of the lads...

And Seth has been learning how to use a Rivet extractor to combine different coloured chains. He has also been researching various parts online and has got his eye on a nice set of Skyway mag wheels so is desperately on the hunt for ways to make some money to fund that, which is also great as it is teaching him the value of things and what he needs to do to reach his targets.

I think it is really important to have a project or two on the go with your children. This is going to be great for some quality father/son time and I'm really looking forward to that proud look that they will have on their faces when they see what we can achieve together. Watch this space.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Monday 18 April 2016

Why fit in when you were born to stand out (part 2)

I'm not in the habit of reusing quotes for post titles but as I'm writing about the same product I was before and it seems far more fitting to this post I thought what the hell!

It's no secret that I am an ENORMOUS Micro-scooter enthusiast and if you have been reading the blog for a while then you'll have been following our Micro adventure and be fully aware of the amazing impact the scooters have had on us as a family. The Pedal flow has been taking up most of my scooting time since Christmas and although it is a really fun and interesting scooter it was missing something really important, a splash of colour. The Pedalflow may be aimed at us adults but I find the colour schemes and prints of the children's scooters far more appealing (it must be my playful side).

The pedal flow as it is, is a real head turner and I've been stopped many times out and about because it seems people want to know 'what it is!'. It definitely needed a bit of extra pizazz though so I started looking in to what parts I could change easily on the scooter and after talking it over with the style council about colour schemes, a decision for pink and green was unanimous.

If you are looking to spruce up your pedal flow it's handy to know that the handlebar grips can be replaced with any standard size bike/scooter grips. Micro-scooters have an amazing selection of coloured grips to choose from. Unfortunately the two colours I need we're at that point out of stock. When changing the pedals, any 9/16" thread pedals will fit so I went hunting for some to fit our colour scheme. 

Our plan was to put a snazzy pink chain on the Pedalflow but when I noticed a seller online selling both pink and green chains I couldn't resist buying both, along with a rivet extractor to make the chain stripey (I think it made all the difference to the overall look). I couldn't not have coloured dice for the valve caps to finish it off, all my bmx's had them as a kid.

The scooter looked a lot more fancy but I really wanted to do something about all of that white. I did a bit of research online and a friend of mine told me about Hydro dipping. If you've not heard about it, I'd definitely recommend watching a video on YouTube, it's fascinating. I really wanted leopard print covering the frame but after requesting a quote from a local company, that came back at £200, I ruled out hydro dipping straight away.

We drove past hobby craft a few days back, which got me thinking about d├ęcoupage and whether there was any way that I could somehow apply it to the scooter. Then I had a eureka! Moment and remembered working with Duck tape on the blog some time ago and thought yeah that could work. So after parting with probably the best £6 I have spent in a long time, yesterday while Opeie played with his friends, I sat in the sun and began wrapping the frame.

The curves were a bit of a pain to get around but after a couple of hours wrapping, some skillful cuts with my trusty x-acto knife and a little help from my awesome neighbour, the Pedalflow diva deluxe was ready to be put back together. Today was the perfect day for its first public appearance and as I pedalled away from the car after arriving at Ironbridge, Mrs M said 'that man just stared at you open mouthed as you rode by!'. I'm still not sure if he was solely taking in the awesomeness of the scooter or whether it was more the fact that attached to that sexy set of wheels was a built, bearded man. Either way it was exactly the first response I was expecting for my new glamorous wheels.

As Dr. Seuss so rightfully put it, "why fit in, when you were born to stand out"

Monday 11 April 2016

"There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents, and only one for birthday presents, you know."

I'm not sure why but every time I have started to write this post about Opeie's birthday over the last two weeks I have drawn a blank. I honestly think that I'm in some kind of shock that he has already been around as long as he has and it has thrown a spanner in the works as far as writing has gone. It doesn't matter how many times you hear the words 'they grow up so fast' or 'they'll be a teenager before you know it!' nothing prepares you for just how fast the time with your child really does go by. The day he was born is so fresh in my mind and that look he gave me when I held him for the first time is permanently etched.

Becoming a dad completely changed my world, it took every thing I had thought about 'family' and turned it right on its head (for the better). After a pretty confusing upbringing from a family so wrapped up in themselves, I had got to my late 20's with no real value for family and now that I think about it that was pretty sad. Then Mrs M came along with Seth and put me back on the right path, a path I felt like I should have been on many years ago. When Opeie joined us our family felt complete and having him there really gave me purpose.

I get a little emotional around Opeie's birthday and I kind of feel like I'm not myself for a few days. I think its because in a way it does take me right back to all of the bad times that we were living with on the build up to his arrival. It was a tough pregnancy, physically for Mrs M and emotionally draining for me, watching the person I adored really suffering. All through the year I think about how lucky we are that Opeie is here and how much respect I have for our independent midwife Amanda who was there right by our sides through the entire pregnancy. Amanda not only made sure that Opeie was brought into this world safely but she also made me and Mrs M realise just how strong we are as a couple. 

I obviously didn't plan on Opeie's birthday post being so bleak but then there are a lot of emotional events surrounding his amazing day. 5 years old, I still cant believe it, although that time has gone fast we can happily say that we have filled those years with many amazing experiences for him and he is growing up to be a really amazing child. Not a day goes by where his dancing, skateboarding, amazing vocabulary and general glowing happiness doesn't blow my mind. There is always something he is doing or saying that is really special and as a dad I am completely smitten.

I too will pass on the message to any expecting parent that the parenting years (especially the early ones) really do go in to hyperdrive but I will always follow that with 'Embrace every parenting moment you have!.

Happy birthday Opeie x

Sunday 10 April 2016

"I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay Wastin' time"

I can't even begin to tell you how much I am loving this sunshine. Waking up in the morning and seeing it desperately trying to find a way in under the blinds, sets me up for the day and where there is sunshine there is adventure. If you read our previous post then you will know that after a trip to Liverpool to pick up Mrs M's passport we were eager to get back there with the scooters to scoot Albert dock. Well, last weeks sunshine and lack of needing to be anywhere important was all the fuel we needed to pack up the Micro-scooters and head out.

Opeie was the DJ during our journey and with Justin Bieber and Taylor swift being his choice of soundtrack I couldn't get there (and out of the car) quick enough. When we arrived the sun had dulled a little but we were confident that weather wise it was going to be an awesome day. I used our outing to put the Pedalflow to the test as it had not been out long distance and I really wanted to see what it could do.

The thing that was so appealing scooter wise during our previous trip around Albert dock was the flat, smoothness of the area and the huge amount of space to bomb about. On top of that there were ramps to raised levels, which made our scoot even more entertaining. Its great to be scooting around new cities as it gets Opeie asking lots of questions and for homeschooling these kind of days out are a great source of education and experience.

I mean where else are you going to scoot past a picture of the Beatles made entirely of Jelly beans?

Scooting together has really become our thing. That special father/son time where we can concentrate completely on having fun while whizzing around. It has given us an extra level to this amazing relationship that is continuing to be built daily. This awesome bonding time is made even better when Mrs M and Seth are scooting with us.

The evening we got back from our trip, I sent a picture to a whatsapp group of all the cool moms I hang out with. One of the moms recognised the Beatles jellybeans, which started a conversation about the universities we all attended. Emma over at Another Last Story mentioned her time as a student in Leeds and how lovely the city is. Which without thinking got me asking "Whats the scooting like?", it made me chuckle to myself that I have actually reached the point in our family scooting adventure that I am measuring the appeal of a new city solely on the ability to scoot there. That's how much of an impact those wheels have had on our life though.

As much as we love those wheels of ours, the afternoon wasn't all about scooters. With every city scooted we also try to hunt down any museum or educational establishment to add in to the adventure, Its what makes our home education so great. We had visited the Tate and the Museum of Liverpool during our previous visit but this time we headed towards Liverpool's 'World Museum' as I had read some great reviews (and they've got dinosaurs!).

The great thing about all three of the museums that we have visited in Liverpool is the size of the lockers available which comfortably held a Pedalflow, a Mini Micro and our bags and coats, genius! When we were getting them back out before leaving there was a mom with her two children who was very impressed by what we were pulling out, which started a long chat about Micro Scooters and all the benefits to having them and again the impact they have had on our lives. I think that may just have been another customer coming their way.

The museum was great, with lots of different themes to keep us both entertained. The dinosaurs where what had me hooked when I was researching online but there was and eqyptian themed floor, a planetarium, an Aquarium and lots of other interesting things to look at and information for the little sponge that travels with me.

(Get a room Starfish!)

I was expecting the dinosaurs to be Opeie's favourite part of the visit but it turned out to be and exhibition called 'eye for colour - the rainbow revealed!', a collection of information and activities around how colour is formed and how the eye processes colour. Opeie got to learn about how colour is used in art and we went over colour mixing again but this time using light too.

There was a great section on colour in the animal kingdom and how colour was used to attract mates, scare off predators and also how it was used to stand out. Opeie's favourite part was using colour as camouflage to blend in to a surrounding environment.

We could have quite happily spent the bulk of our visit at this exhibition as there was so much great information to keep us entertained. Using the Dog, Fish and Bee heads below you could move them around to look about the room and it gave you an idea of the colours that these animals can see compared to what we do. Opeie of course used them to pretend he was a spy and I had to jump out and make faces while he was looking around.

The museum visit really added to our already eventful scooting adventure and as we pushed off in to the sunshine we were reminded yet again of just how much Micro Scooters has been shaping these amazing homeschooling days together.