Monday 28 November 2016

The sunshine state, through younger, more inquisitive eyes.

After having such an amazing time away this summer we had a lot to write about and the boys had collected ticket stubs, flyers and a huge amount of photos of all the great places we had visited. Opeie, always wanting to be in on the action, Saw me writing holiday blog posts one night and asked if he could make a holiday book about all the things he got up to. It's really adorable, he see's the newspapers and books that he writes as his own version of the blog and I love that. 

A few days after we got back he started his book and we've completed pages here and there amongst doing all of our other home ed activities. We had so much to write about thanks to Visit Orlando. I love watching him write, it makes me realise how well this home schooling is going and reinforces that for us, it was the right decision to make.

Anyway, I'll leave you in Opeie's capable hands, Our holiday in his words...

"It's an ongoing joy being a dad."

Opeie gets more and more adorable each week. When he was a baby I loved the way he would smile at me and reach out to touch my face. When he learned to talk, the words 'I Love you Daddy' hit me like a crazy wave of emotions (and still do). Now that he can write himself, his latest addition to his adorableness, is leaving me little notes about. I had hoped it for so many years, but I never actually realised that being a dad would be this amazing. I feel so lucky every day


Thursday 24 November 2016

"There's excitement in the air!"

We have been to some awesome LEGO events over the last few years and each one that we have attended has left us with huge smiles on our faces. When you love a product like this as much as we do then you can imagine the excitement of feeling like a VIP at these brick related soirees. Despite all of the previous events being amazing, there was something extra special about our recent invite. It's not every day we get invited to a LEGO store opening and if that wasn't exciting enough, also the biggest LEGO store in the world.  The countdown to this amazing day, for me, was more exciting than the build up to Christmas.


 Opeie and I traveled to London in a bit of a giddy mood, We were looking forward to visiting some great museums in London but the main event was definitely what was keeping the Cheshire cat grins on our faces. Opeie had come up with a great idea a couple of days before our trip to make LEGO name badges for the event so that people knew who we were, So we had some fun on the build up.


After pottering around the Museum of Natural History for a couple of hours we headed towards Leicester Square. It was exciting to see the escalators at the tube stations advertising the new store and the excitement almost tipped us over the edge. We were definitely ready for some LEGO action. The store location really couldn't get any better, we could see the bright yellow store covering that was up for the official store opening that following afternoon from quite some distance and the surrounding area of Leicester square was buzzing with street entertainment and people enjoying the sights.


Being able to see the store before it was opening was really special for Opeie and he loved that we had to enter behind the huge LEGO covering hanging over the store, he said he felt like we were important, which I loved. The store is AMAZING and we were greeted by the happiest group of people, who were clearly loving being there. There were loads of LEGO staff around waving at Opeie and coming over to talk to us, it was a really amazing experience.

The Leicester Square flagship store seems to have every LEGO kit available at the moment and they were also offering the chance to buy the new Architecture kit the day before it was officially released. This was made even better by the fact that the creators were in store that evening and we got to chat to them for a while and they showed Opeie how Big Ben worked. The guy that created the enormous Big Ben in the front window was also in store and we got to chat to him about building on a bigger scale which was really interesting.


What I loved most about this bright colourful store was that everywhere you turn there is somewhere amazing to take a photograph. With Big Ben, a Tube carriage, Phone box , Lester (the store mascot) and the feature wall, it is like one huge eye-catching backdrop. Aside from the amazing Staff and people to talk to, the thing that stole the show for us was the Mosaic Maker. On arrival we had both been given a scratch card to win a prize. Opeie had scratched off a LEGO mosaic and I had no idea what it was. While we were chatting to our friend Sophia she filled us in and was really excited for us. The Mosaic Maker is the first of its kind, a photo booth that takes your picture, turns the image into a LEGO guide for a Mosaic and then prints out the large image along with the bricks to build it. We couldn't have asked for a better souvenir for our visit to the most exciting store in London. 

The whole experience had me and Opeie excited and chatting all the way back to the hotel that night and the following morning Opeie couldn't wait to look at his new (very special) LEGO kit. There is something so magical about those amazing bricks and they have been the reason for countless hours of bonding with the boys. Our visit to the Leicester Square store reinforced even more why LEGO is such a huge part of our lives

Monday 14 November 2016

"And all that glitters is gold, Only shooting stars break the mold"

After months of discomfort on my poor ears, it seems that Bieber fever in our house has finally passed. Obviously, I have no problem with Opeie listening to what he wants to, we all like what we like and to be fair there are a couple of Bieber tracks that I do actually like myself but when you have been subjected to songs like 'baby' and 'one last lonely girl' on a constant loop, then its nice to have a break. Plus I have a real issue with the boys listening to songs that state that buying a girl diamond rings or anything she desires and this materialistic way of looking at life is the way to build a healthy relationship. I could spend the entire post dissecting popular tracks for inappropriate content for young kids.

Anyway, that ex-Bieber fan of mine has now come full circle and has found his way back to his more rocky roots. Years ago it was all about Thin Lizzy, which I adored and now Opeie has found his way to some new headbanging material. Anyway, enough of my waffle! Here's a few tracks that have made their way to Opeie's iPod and have been entertaining him recently...

After a good rock out, sometimes Opeie just needs something to bust a move to and this track has popped up a lot over the last few months. Although I'm not a fan of the song, I think the video is AMAZING! I love that already Opeie has his own style and taste in music. He's got the most amazing personality and is an absolute joy to be around every day.

Rock on ya'll!

Wednesday 9 November 2016

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."

Mrs M has pointed out nearly every day recently that this is the most beautiful Autumn that we have had and she is so right. The colours on the trees have been amazing and the dry weather has meant that all those red, orange and yellow leaves have been blowing around in the wind for weeks. It has also given me and Opeie the chance to get out adventuring even more. This has been the perfect season for our home schooling fun and we've been taking the Micro scooters out looking for interesting things wherever we've been. Autumn is great for fungi hunting and this year has been exceptionally good as we've spotted toadstools and lovely red Agaric fungus, which Ive never seen out before.

There is so much fun to be had in this dry, sunny autumn weather, making piles of leaves and jumping around in them and we have been taking full advantage. These scooting adventures of ours are what homeschooling at this age is all about. Getting out and taking in our surroundings is the best kind of education for young children and these afternoons scooting together have also been a great way of breaking up the more academic learning we have been doing at home.

I'm hoping that this dry Autumn means that we are in for a similar winter, so that our Micro adventures can continue through the colder months and our outdoor home education can continue on wheels.

"Education isn't just about feeding the brain. Art and Music feed the heart and the soul."

There are so many great reasons for learning to play an instrument. It teaches coordination, perseverence and discipline not to mention that it has been scientifically proven to increase the capacity of your memory. I was never given the option to learn an instrument as a child which was disheartening but the thought of one day playing an instrument was something that stayed with me throughout my adult life to date. Years ago it was the violin that really interested me but I was too scared to take the leap as I was told by a violinist that I know that it was a really difficult instrument to pick up as an adult. Years went by and still I hadn't taken any musical leap, until recently. Seth has been taking Trombone lessons for a few months now and although he enjoys his lessons he is frustrated that he cannot hit certain notes after this amount if time. His teacher keeps telling him that he needs to practice for short periods every evening but sadly he rarely makes time for it and this is something I will never push because I feel that this is something he needs to work out for himself.

That being said though, this was all the motivation I needed to start learning an instrument myself. A few months back it was Opeie's friend Matthews 5th Birthday and we thought it would be nice to buy him a Ukulele. I had always loved the sound and felt like they were a very misunderstood instrument, often being seen as more of a toy. I couldn't shake off this niggling in the back of my mind that I wanted to learn to play one myself and eventually caved in three weeks ago and bought myself my first Ukulele. This was so out of my comfort zone but I really wanted to give it a go. 

As I said, I wanted to learn to play an instrument for many years and this was a very exciting step into the unknown. There was another bigger reason regarding Seth's trombone predicament that was my motivation for taking the leap though. The information that is readily available to us these days means that anybody can do pretty much anything if they put their mind to it. All this information is now available at any time and no matter where we are, and that is a really exciting thought. I want the boys to realise that because of this, NOTHING is out of their reach if they really want it and if they have any questions that maybe Mrs M or myself cannot answer, then the information is only a few clicks away (what an amazing time to be a child growing up). I also wanted to show Seth that if you put the time in to your endeavors you can see the results pretty early on.

So I began to play, and Youtube became my teacher for the first few nights. I learnt to play a few chords and practiced. I sounded terrible! So I waited until everyone was in bed, shut the lounge door and strummed away out of tune. Desperate to learn quicker, I clicked on a link for Yousician that kept popping up in my browser. You've got to love how clever computers are these days, offering you the information before you even need it based on your web browsing. I downloaded the app to my phone and signed up for a free trial. Two weeks on and I still cant believe how quickly I advanced playing. Being able to have a music teacher of this calibre to take with you in your pocket is truly amazing.

Yousician makes the introduction in to learning the Ukulele so simple and each tutorial when completed makes you feel increasingly confident which is what you need from your first few steps. With videos on the basics like strumming and how to play your first chords, Yousician has the sort of direct information that you really need as a newby to the instrument. The Chord and Strumming workshops and lessons on finger picking (which I am terrible at at the moment) steadily advance at just the right rate that it pushes you, but not enough for you to get frustrated and possibly give up. The video's and tutorials are so clear that you could use this app from a young age, which has been really interesting to learn, as Opeie has shown some interest in playing so I think that santa may send a Ukulele his way.

The best thing about this app though from a personal view is the impact it has had on Seth as he has seen me advance through perseverence and practicing every day. Last week I played my first song through, which was the Lava song from the Pixar short movie. I still cannot believe I have come this far in 3 weeks. Seeing this has motivated Seth to practice a little more which was exactly what I had hoped for and now I am excited at the thought of one day playing together.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

"It is better to travel well than to arrive."

Booking a holiday, as exciting as it is, can also be very stressful! With so much to organise before you actually board the plane, the build up can be quite a daunting time. As a parent, I am thankful for anything that makes the trip that little bit easier on everyone and this year before heading off to Florida my favourite company came to our aid, helping with something that worries us every time we go away. There is a lot of walking involved at the airport, which I guess I don't really notice that much because I am so focused on getting from A to B with all the bags etc. For Seth though, all this walking can be very stressful due to the effect his muscle condition has on his legs. 

If we have to walk long distance while at home, there is a lot of stopping and starting so that Seth can relax his legs before starting the next leg of the journey (haha). A few years ago we started an ongoing adventure with a company that has changed our lives in so many ways and helping Seth get to his destination quicker and with a little less strain on his legs was one of them. Being able to push and roll gave Seth much more confidence getting about and really changed our outdoor play. So much so that before heading out to the states, Seth, along with all of us in fact, were talking about how much we wished we could have taken all of the Micro Scooters away with us.

As much as we would have loved to take the four scooters away, it was Seth that could have done with one the most and Micro (being the AMAZING company that they are), had a very special scooter, suitable for our needs, taking the strain off of Seth and giving him the confidence to be on his feet a little longer than he probably would have liked, while turning heads and giving him a huge amount of street cred! 

The ladies were swooning as Seth scooted by...

The Steve Aoki Micro Luggage Scooter is an awesome bit of kit, with its colourful quirky design it had everyone taking at the airport as Seth whizzed by. Being able to maneuver from baggage, through to security then to the shops before making our way to the departure lounge on wheels made all the difference to Seth's legs, and the smile on his face as he did so was contagious. With certain points of the airport being too busy to scoot, due to the number of people about, being able to turn the luggage scooter into a trolley to pull along made our journey even more productive.

With a 26 litre capacity, the Micro luggage scooter is perfect for hand luggage, which means your wheels can stay with you throughout the entire journey. This was great as I don't think Seth wanted to let it out of his sight. If the look, feel and fact that it revolutionalises your travel isn't enough, the SoundtoGo sound system included (yes is has a speaker built in!), easily connects to your phone via Bluetooth making it possible to listen to your favourite music as you scoot along. 

While reading the box when the scooter arrived, Opeie informed me of who Steve Aoki is and his favourite Aoki remix (yes our 5-year-old is that cool!).

Sunday 6 November 2016

"On Purple Days I'm sad. I groan. I drag my tail. I walk alone."

Do you ever wake up in the morning and instantly feel like you are on the brink of tears?
Emotions are funny things and although I have a very happy life and can nearly always be seen with a big smile on my face, every now and again I have one of these 'out-of-character' days. I have no idea what causes it and definitely have no control over it. A friend informed me that it could be something to do with the new moon??? but I will put it down to just being a pretty sensitive guy.

With the 'Man Up' campaign doing its rounds at the moment, highlighting the importance of expressing our emotions as a male and encouraging men to Cry in a bid to raise awareness of male depression and suicide, it seemed like an important and relevant campaign to mention. I however have absolutely no problem shedding a tear! Put me in front of 'The Holiday', 'Serendipity' or 'Love actually' and you will see this bald, bearded man weep! like I said... sensitive!

This post isn't meant to bring anyone down though. This is actually about what I do to get myself out of this unexpected funk. When I wake up on these rare mornings and have a generally off day, I make sure that on the evening, I give myself some time to pop my headphones in and hit the streets on those amazing wheels of mine. A solo scoot in the moonlight is all I need to sort out this uncontrollable mix of emotions and whizzing about on my own, with great music can really clear my head and make me feel a lot more productive. 

Micro Scooters have changed my world in so many ways and continue to shape the time I spend with the boys. I imagine that it will be quite some time before I have one of these random emotional days again but I can be safe in the knowledge that my wheels are not to far away.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

"Clothes make a statement, Costumes tell a story."

If you could be anything, what would you be?  hmmmm.... a LEGO minifigure! was how the start of a conversation went with me and Opeie recently. He then went on to explain his reasoning. "I can build my house to look however I want", "I could fly in a spaceship and I could ride a dinosaur!". Come to think of it, I'd love to be a minifigure myself, it would be amazing. And then that awesome email came through, 'can we send you a LEGO Ninjago dress up costume?'... being a blogger is the best. I won't lie, when I clicked on the link and saw the Deluxe Lloyd costume by Disguise, I was a little jealous. Jakks Pacific have designed these children's costumes perfectly. To look at, they are like scaled down versions of the costumes you see at LEGO events and around the parks, which the kids always love.

With Kai, Lloyd, Jay and Nya to choose from these are a must for any child interested in the world of Spinjitsu. Opeie couldn't wait to transform himself into Lloyd and everything about becoming a LEGO minifigure was as exciting as he imagined it would be, that was until he attempted to open a LEGO packet to start building his Ninjago Ninja bike chase kit. It turns out those LEGO clawed hands aren't great for opening up those packets, but Opeie didn't let that stop him. 

Opeie attempted to build the kit in full suit but eventually gave in and slid the mask back. The boys love the Ninjago LEGO kits so being able to be a ninja while he built was a lot of fun for him. 

There was a moment at Halloween where I thought there was going to be tears. We had been asking Seth for weeks if he wanted a costume and he had just shrugged his shoulders and not really shown any interest. When all hallows eve was upon us though it was a different story and when Opeie ran out to go trick or treating with his friends on our street, Seth didn't look happy. The trousers on the Lloyd costume were slightly too big for Opeie so for safety reasons we thought it best to not wear them walking the streets in the dark. I asked Seth if he wanted to try the costume on and it fit perfectly, so we had a happy two boys carving pumpkins and doing Halloween crafty with their friends.