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 I went upstairs to make sure he was ok. He was still semi-asleep and explained 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 could be a decoration for the house. 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 the house.

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. 

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.

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!

Wednesday 15 June 2016

"There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?"

Lego building with the boys is my favourite indoor play activity. Every building session is completely different from the last and the versatility of those amazing bricks is why for me LEGO will always be the number one toy brand. Although I adore those building sessions we have together they can also be very demanding. The boys have so many ideas of what they would like to create next that we have had to create a queue system and while I'm working on something big for Opeie at the moment, Seth is patiently waiting for the build to be complete so that I can concentrate on something big that he has in mind.

Custom building demands a certain amount of creativity and when you have a 5-year-old architect who knows exactly what he wants, that creativity can be magnified on a huge scale. Because of this, I love having a sneaky little kit to build by myself. I do occasionally feel guilty about doing this but there's never a shortage of building sessions for the boys and building the odd kit alone is really quite therapeutic. 

It's nice to build some kits myself because seeing how the designers at LEGO have recreated something triggers all sorts of building motivation for the things that I am creating with the boys. As I slowly crept out the back door a few nights back clutching the Resistance X-wing fighter I could hear nothing but the birds tweeting and it was lush. When I first opened the kit it reminded me of a building session a few years back when Seth had asked me to make an X-wing and he said I wasn't allowed to Google X-wing to get a picture up (just to make it a little more difficult). Luckily at the time, there was a fisher price X-wing on top of their bookcase and I just had a cheeky look at that, It didn't turn out too bad.

This X-wing though was sleek and an absolute gem of a build. I was eager to see how LEGO had replicated the shape of the nose of the ship so perfectly and I wasn't disappointed. This is a great well thought out build and beautifully designed. The parts they have used to shape the ship will definitely come in handy with ideas for my own builds and this is one of the things I love about Lego the most. Not only is it fun to build the kit but with each build comes endless LEGO learning. I am a little confused as to why LEGO had included the transparent pink bricks in the middle of the build, as you can't see them when they are built? If you are reading this and know why? let me know as I'm really interested. You can learn so much from the LEGO kits and without them I probably wouldn't have so many of the techniques I use all the time and these are things that have been passed on to Seth and Opeie to use in the future things they are creating. It was so relaxing building this myself and the only time I felt a little guilty was when I put the Minifigures together as that's Opeie's favourite part of the kit.

There's something about flying vehicles that makes me not want to break them up after building and we have a huge box of built ships including Quinjet's, the Milano and the X-jet, I'm thinking they all need to be suspended from the boys bedroom ceiling at some point. The Resistance X-wing is just one of the great kits from the new range based on the force awakens. I'd definitely love to get my hands on the Millenium falcon and Seth loves the look of Kylo Ren's command shuttle. If it is big impressive ships you want, then the Star Wars range is definitely what you are looking for *Waves hands suggestively, using the force*. 

Thursday 9 June 2016

A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life."

This sunshine has been glorious! I am loving every minute of it. Hot, sunny weather will always mean that wheels will be hitting the pavement and that's just what we have been doing. Today started off with an early reading session from Opeie, I can't believe at 5 just how good his reading is. It just goes to show that one to one teaching and lots of patience really does have a huge impact. The heavy reading session brought to light the fact that we had exhausted all of our library books and needed a top up. With the sun blasting out we got our beloved Micro scooters out and hit the road in search of literature.

(For the record we did stick to the speed limit, we may be rebellious home schoolers but safety first around schools people!)

I honestly don't know what we would do now without our scooters, they have become a permanent fixture in our daily fun and without them outdoor adventures would seem a little watered down. They are an amazing addition to pretty much everything we do outdoors. Mid-week afternoon library visits mean quiet reading for us as most chidren are at school, and because we know a few of the librarians in there now they don't mind if Opeie scoots over to the children's section. This is where we split up, Opeie makes a pile of books for me to read to him, while I hit the 'ready to read' section for fun books perfect for his reading level. I was excited to find 'the magic scooter' and have added that to Opeies pile for the coming weks. I think we both feel like our scooter is a magic scooter.

After an hour of reading, it was back to the streets weaving in and out of all those people that don't have wheels. We did have to scoot around some mobility scooters, elderly shopping trollies and pushchairs though before heading out of the town and back home. Adding wheels to your family adventures really adds to the excitement and Micro Scooters are continuing to pave the way for our father/son bonding and the boys development. GO TEAM SCOOT!

Friday 3 June 2016

"Being a father is the most important thing, if you ask me. It changedme as a person and gave me an all new life."

Selfishly, I love this time of year. I spend so much of my time doing thoughtful little things for the boys to make sure they are as happy as they can be. so when it gets to Father's Day it's all about me and my relationship with the boys and it will always be a special time of year. Maybe that sounds bad that I love a day for me, but when there is one special day every year dedicated to dads everywhere then I don't think it is at all bad to celebrate the one thing I am proud of the most, parenting two very special little boys.

Each year during the weeks before the big day, Im asked if there is anything I would like and each year I give the same (always grateful) answer "something I can do with the boys". A 'world's greatest dad' mug would be lovely but what I really love is something that me and the boys can do together, that's what Father's Day is all about, right?

I think that subliminally when I say 'something I can do with the boys' it must come across as 'LEGO please' because the boys usually wake me up on Father's Day with something LEGO related. I am quite clearly an ENORMOUS fan of those amazing bricks but more importantly, Lego brings so much creative and educational play and bonding time for me and the boys. So what's on my Father's Day wish list I hear you say? Well... I think that the Spider-Man Web warriors ultimate bridge battle kit is aiming a little high and may be deemed a touch greedy but all of the new marvel kits are definitely high up on my list, The LEGO City volcano exploration base and City people pack have also just been brought to my attention and they look really interesting too. there are some great LEGO kits perfect for Fathers day for us dads to drool over in the lower price bracket like the Hoth attack And the Droid escape pod From the star wars range.

If you want to go for a kit from the lower price range then you can't go wrong with Micro Fighters, these little kits are amazing and I loved them so much that I included them in the Hoth scene in the LEGO arcade. These little ships are very cleverly designed and each one comes with a great Minifigure. Star Wars not your thing? The Super Hero Mighty Micro Racers Micro Racers are also great little kits for the price.

I image there are countless dads worldwide who would be over the moon being given the gift of LEGO, not all of them though are fans of Star Wars and Super heroes. One sure way to appeal to those dads is LEGO Technic. I would love to build the new Porsche or Remote control Volvo with Seth as I think he would get a lot out of building something technical that size. Whenever I am custom building I very rarely use Technic parts but I love to get the occasional technic kit to build because I find it fascinating that you can see how the moving parts are going to work as you are putting each piece together. These are the sort of kits that I love to build with Seth because he asks a lot of questions when we are playing and from an educational point of view, being able to see the mechanisms built is the kind of learning resource that you don't get with most children's toys.

LEGO with continue to be my favourite way to spend quality father/Son time with the boys. Being able to watch them build and develop their creative thinking is amazing to watch and as a doting dad I am so proud of the way they are both turning out.

I hope all you amazing dads out there have a fantastic well-deserved fathers day.