Tuesday, 28 June 2016

"A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work."

It's been a restless few weeks for Opeie recently sleep wise. We're not really sure why but he's been waking up on and off and occasionally has been a little upset. It may just be a growth spurt but he's never been the best sleeper and would keep us up sporadically through the night for the first 4 years, which at times was exhausting. A few nights back we heard him wake up and Mrs. M went upstairs to make sure he was ok. He was still semi-asleep and explained to Mrs. M that he had had a bad dream.

When asked what the dream was about (because it's always important to ask in case it is something serious) he explained that the dream was about a small fish who was being chased by an angry whale and couldn't get away. Although he was clearly quite upset about the poor little fish he said it was ok because a swordfish had come along and saved the little fish from the big bad whale. Despite the tears and restless sleep I've got to say, the whole thing was pretty adorable.

I'm not really sure where it all started but swordfish keep popping up a lot recently when Opeie is talking. As far as I can remember we've not been anywhere where he may have seen a swordfish, read any books including a swordfish or even spotted one in any documentary we may have been watching recently, but it is clear that this new love of the hero swordfish is here to stay. So when Opeie decided he wanted a craft session a few days ago we came up with a plan to recreate his dream.

The idea was to make something cute that Mrs. M could have in her work space at home to make her smile. Opeie and I had a long discussion about the dream and he explained what the fish looked like before drawing them for me. We cut the front and sides out of a box and covered in duck tape that we had left over from our Custom scooter. Opeie did a great job of mixing some lovely colours and painted the inside of his fish tank and the three fish. We had a big bucket of shells and rocks in the back garden from various visits to the beach which were waiting to be used for something fun, so we made the most of them.

After Opeie had painted his dream fish and given them button and googly eyes, we suspended his creations with the only string we could find (yo-yo strings) and our fish tank was complete. Our craft session gave us a great chance to talk about dreams and why we think we have them. We talked colour mixing and textures, but most importantly to him, he got to use a glue gun. A pretty perfect little craft session and a splash more colour added to Mrs. M's office area.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

"It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength."

New LEGO kits for us are always exciting! When you have a real passion for a product, like we do with these amazing bricks every new kit released tends to get those corners of my mouth pointing upwards. What really makes me happy though especially as a custom builder is a new LEGO piece. To anyone else it would just seem like an insignificant piece of plastic but each new element created can open up a world of building possibilities.

When I first saw the LEGO City - Town fun in the park kit I was in complete awe! I know, I know, that sounds ridiculous but as I have said many times before, LEGO is a way of life in our home and has a huge effect on how me and the boys interact every day, so it's only natural that these little things (to us) would be a big deal. With so many Minifigures in the kit, there is a great selection of torso's faces and legs. I'm not sure how many of them are new designs but I've not seen most of them before and didn't have any of them in our collection so from a custom builders point of view, the body parts alone would have already had me hooked on this interesting kit.

What did make me laugh to myself was the fact that for the first time ever LEGO had made me broody. With the inclusion of the amazing new baby minifigure, It had me wishing there was a baby in the house just so the Lego adventures that we come up with for our posts could include a Gifts from the Pirates baby. I could have a word with Mrs. M but I'm quite sure it's not the best reason for having another baby

What really touched home for me about this amazing kit was the wheelchair included in the set. When you have a son with a disability who is as much of a fan of LEGO as his brick obsessed dad, having these sort of extras is really important. Seth isn't in a wheelchair but he does have mobility issues himself and for me seeing this little piece of plastic showed that the world of LEGO was becoming even more diverse.

I had made a wheelchair myself a few months back when I needed a professor X for something we were building. It turned out fine but this new LEGO wheelchair has a lot more playability.

I love a kit that Spurs on some serious LEGO roleplay. What I found really interesting about this kit was the fact that when I opened the box for Opeie to build, for the first time ever he didn't follow the instructions when building the Minifigures. He sat and created his own little families and friendships and all I could see between his characters when I looked at what he had created was love. It made me realise how innocent Opeie still is and being homeschooled means that he will keep that innocence for a little longer. 

It may be a bold statement but for me, this kit is my favourite from this year so far.  While Seth and I like to create large structures, Opeie definitely concentrates more on the characters, their personalities and what sort of people they are. These City characters have been played with every day by Opeie and I imagine they will all be going on many adventures over the coming weeks (possibly even to a volcano).

Our fun didn't end there with the LEGO building. On the evening that Opeie built the kit I popped out to pick a friend up from work and he had very kindly got hold of the fountain kit for the boys, to say thank you for helping him out earlier in the week. All this LEGO City fun has got us all talking about whether we should make our own custom LEGO city so watch this space.

If from the post I haven't made it clear just how great the Town fun in the park kit is then I'll leave you with this. If you are a fan of LEGO you need this in your collection.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Nintendo: Kirby Planet Robobot for 3ds

While visiting my friend Steve a few weeks ago, we got on to the conversation of gaming. Steve is the chap I built the LEGO arcade with and we have both been huge gaming fans so at some point when we see each other that topic will pop up. As we were chatting I was explaining about my life long love of Nintendo and the impact the games had had on my childhood growing up. I was really shocked when he said 'I never really got Nintendo, they keep using the same characters over and over!'. This, is of course, true! but for myself and probably a huge amount of Nintendo enthusiasts, this only adds to the magic of them as a gaming platform. By playing the various games you build a relationship with the characters. I remember defeating Koopa for the first time, watching that floor disappear beneath him, which was around 24 years ago and I have followed the plumbers escapades ever since. Mario, Link, Samus, the Pokemon and all their Nintendo buddies have had a pretty lengthy career and although Mario has had many reincarnations over more than two decades, each game I play takes me right back to that moment as a child. I really have grown up with Nintendo.

Kirby is right up there on that list. There have been a few titles from Kirby's back catalogue that I haven't played but I do remember playing Kirby's adventure when I was around 13, as well as many of the other titles and there was something really addictive about that cute, round, pink character and the way he sucked up the baddies to take on their abilities. Kirby is another of Nintendo's iconic platform characters and what has always stuck out to me (as with most of Nintendo's games) is that the games are suitable for all ages.

Kirby: Planet Robobot for the 3ds is the latest instalment from the ever growing Kirby franchise of games. This new Kirby though, (although still cute), has definitely upped his game (nice pun there!) with the awesome addition of robot Mech suits throughout the levels. Kirby can still inhale his enemies taking on their powers and abilities but he has the added fun of mech suits which have him lifting heavy objects and smashing through walls to protect his beloved home planet Pop Star. The Mech suits aren't just for destroying everything in its path, they can also be used to scan enemies throughout the game to take on their personas, plus there are new abilities which are a great addition to the game play, Doctor, Poison and ESP.

Aside from the main story there are also 2 other modes that can be played, Team Kirby clash is a multiplayer game (up to 4 players) where the team works together to take down larger enemies and Kirby 3D Rumble is a solo game where you have to defeat waves of bad guys to progress through the levels. 

The boys have always been interested in the things that fuelled my childhood and being able to introduce Kirby to them too has been great. Nintendo meant so much to me growing up so being able to share that with the boys has been really interesting and I hope that the boys enjoy following the lives of their favourite characters too. Seth is there already when it comes to his love of Pokemon. Sun and Moon is released later this year which is definitely on his list of future games to play and I can't wait to get stuck into it with him.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

"she believed she could so she did"

There's not a day goes by where I'm not in complete awe of Mrs. M. Meeting her has completely changed my life in so many ways. I know this is going to sound really cliché but she makes me want to be a better person. I've seen every moment of her going from amazing stay at home mom to the awesome career that she has built for herself and us as a family and it has been really inspiring.  She is proof that if you put your mind to something, anything is possible and her positivity and drive have definitely rubbed off on me in some ways and given me a lot more confidence to achieve the things I want to do.

Being driven can come at a cost though and there are days (like yesterday) where she will get up and start work before 8am and still be working around 10pm, which can inevitably take its toll. Mrs. M spends a lot of time in her office area upstairs, which honestly I don't think I could do but her passion for the work that she does keeps her striving for greatness. What most people that know Mrs. M don't know is that aside from her demanding job and the long sometimes intense hours that she does she still finds time to help so many people throughout every week. whether is is mentoring other people in her line of work or fundraising for friends and charities that she feels connected to. She's not the sort of person that will gloat about what she does, she just gets the job done and moves on to help someone else. 

In the last few months, she has fundraised for a wheelchair for someone she knows, raised money for our local hospital, has been helping out with all of our amazing local junior doctors and gave up a big chunk of her Saturday last weekend to help a children's hospital. This lady of mine is truly amazing!

What I love most about the way that she is though is the impact it has on the boys. All children should be brought up to think they can achieve ANYTHING and the boys get to see first hand that this is possible from hopefully both of us. Mrs. M making a huge impact on so many peoples lives and myself hopefully giving the boys all sorts of creative experiences, keeping them mentally stimulated and as happy as they can be.

Again, although she would never gloat, this evening I am so proud of her for being featured in the Guardian as a 'Rising star.' It is something I saw in Mrs. M since day one and it is so exciting for us to see that she is being viewed that way by the people in her profession.  I have been smitten by her since the moment I saw her and she continues every day to blow my mind.

You can read Mrs. M's article here:

Monday, 20 June 2016

"Being a father, being a friend, those are the things that make me feel successful."

I'm not usually a fan of being woken up early in the morning before I'm ready to get out of bed. For the last 6 and a half years though it has pretty much become the norm. Becoming a father means giving up many of the luxuries that you become quite accustomed to over the years, which doesn't sound great, but what you get in its place is a sense of purpose and an unconditional love that you could never get anywhere else. Becoming a dad for me was my defining moment, and from that moment I felt like my life had finally started and everything about this new path was glowing.

Every day feels like fathers day to me and being the stay at home parent makes me feel like that even more. Yesterday as I was woken by the usual "Daaaaaaad" it seemed like the start of every other amazing family morning but this time, there was an extra pitch of excitement in Opeie's voice and he wanted me awake right away because he had something very important he wanted to give me. Walking through the house and seeing colourful decorations everywhere and handmade cards are going to make any doting father feel very special.

Yesterday as always was a great day and that amazing little boy of mine that fills my world with complete happiness yet again reinforced the importance of having a loving and caring family around me. It was a shame that Seth wasn't there too but we have more than made up for it after school today by starting a new project so we can spend some quality creative time together. 

The only thing that did get me a little down yesterday was thinking about my own dad and how disappointed I am that he let our relationship go the way that it did. We're on different paths now but I will always hope that he is happy. Becoming a parent isn't something you go into lightly, you have to make an enormous amount of effort every day to make sure your children develop in the happy and content way that they should. I can go to sleep every night knowing that I have done everything I can to show them how much I adore them both and how proud I am of the little gents they've become.

Happy belated fathers day to all you amazing dads out there!

"We built this city on rock and roll..."

When I think about the long relationship I've had with LEGO I can go back around 30 years, right back to my excitement one Christmas morning when I unwrapped a LEGO Firehouse (6385). I remember putting my road baseplates together and attaching the Firehouse before using the remaining bricks I had to attempt to build a police station and an airport. That is where my love of these bricks started and when I wasn't building robots (I loved a good robot build), my attention was on creating my very own LEGO city. These 30 years have passed and the variety of themes that LEGO have in their current and back catalogue is huge but I will always have a nostalgic soft spot for the range that shaped my building development. 

Of course, it wasn't called 'City' back then, after Googling for the set number it seems it could have been 'Town' but I remember it simply as LEGO! It was a LEGO city kit back in 2011 that awakened my LEGO obsession from its slumber when Seth asked for his first ever kit (7498 - Police station). Seth wanted to keep that kit built forever but when he accidently broke it one day I saw that as my chance to explain the full educational and creative advantages to LEGO. At 5 I don't think he had a clue what I was talking about but what stuck out more for him was us sitting together and building something as a team and it has been that way ever since.

The LEGO City range has come a long way since I was a boy and it is great to see that the boys are as excited about the new products as I am. From a home education stance, LEGO is a great resource on so many levels and the new Volcano exploration base is about to start a new project for Opeie after the build spurred on many many questions. The boys wanted control of this post so with a little camera help from me they set about their LEGO volcano adventure...

It's great 30 years on to be watching the boys fully embracing their love of LEGO as I did at their age. I'd have loved the variety of LEGO kits that are available today but the great thing about those amazing bricks is that even though the kits weren't available back then it didn't mean that you couldn't build a volcano, a limo or a cargo plane. The magic of LEGO has always been the same. If you've got the bricks in front of you, all you need is an imagination.