Monday 30 January 2017

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

All last week Seth had been watching videos on YouTube of how to make DIY hockey goalie pads. We are forever looking on eBay for some because in this country they are a nightmare to get hold of and when they do pop up they are really expensive. With Seth's recent video viewing, it was inevitable that this weekend he would be wanting me to make some. So after talking to a friend in the library early in the week, I was told about 'Scrappies' a shop in Church Stratton that sells bits and bobs for craft ideas. I was hooked by the thought of a shop dedicated to that so as soon as I got home that day I checked out their website. Their website header says 'supporting creative arts and children's education'. That sold it for me.

The following day after a fun (but freezing) afternoon at Stiperstones we decided to detour home slightly to check out Scrappies in hope that we'd find the things that we would need for Seth's pads. I needed foam and something strong and water resistant to wrap the pads in. The store was a lot smaller than I was expecting but it was packed full of all sorts of random things and the staff in there were so friendly. I quickly found some large pieces of foam and a roll of yellow plastic that looked like the kind of material gym mats are covered with so that was perfect. I also had a yoga mat in the loft that I had brought home from a Netflix event a while back so apart from Duck tape (which I picked up on the way home) I had everything I needed for Seth's big hockey idea.

I had an idea of what I wanted to do and like most of our creative ventures I tried not to over think it and just get stuck in. So we cut the foam and the yoga mat to the correct shape for Seth's legs and glue gunned the layers together. The plan was to stitch the yellow plastic material around the foam but it wasn't doable with Mrs M's sewing machine so we had to improvise. Mrs M had a large can of spray adhesive for carpets so I took the foam and material out side and I wrapped the pads. For extra support, I used the yellow duck tape to seal the edges. I was so excited when I saw the yellow material in 'Scrappies' as our team, when we are playing hockey in the street is 'The Bees'. So with some black Duck tape, we also gave our bright yellow pads some black bee stripes and they looked great. I also took Seth's plain white hockey mask and with the yellow and black Duck tape and a stanley knife, gave it a makeover, fit for any hockey playing bee.

The part that was concerning me from the start, was how we were going to attach them to Seth's legs. Seth set about rummaging through the house looking for anything strap like that we could use, but there was no joy. So we jumped in the car and headed to Hobbycraft and found some thick black elastic to use. I still had no idea how we were going to attach it though. As we were walking back through the door though it came to me. We cut 4 slits in the pads and threaded the elastic through the front and then tied them around his legs, job done! I will get round to adding clasps on the back at some point but for now they are awesome.

All that was left to do was play and the boys were loving their new pads. Seth was blocking most of my shots which meant he was brimming with confidence, talking about wanting to become a professional hockey goalie. The goals that the boys are using were also made by us, we used heavy duty Wilkinsons bags with bees on to hold the netting to the pipes, we're very resourceful.

The pads were a touch too big for Opeie's little legs (even though I think they look great on him), so as there were some leftover materials I made him a smaller pair. He wanted his Bee pads to say 'HONEY' though, these boys of mine are too cute!

Seth has now asked if I can make a blocker and catcher! A hockey dads job is never done.

Game On!

Thursday 26 January 2017

"Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know."

As I watched Opeie doing his work today, sprawled across the kitchen surface, I chuckled to myself thinking maybe a classroom environment with chairs would be more comfortable? Obviously, I don't actually think that. This world of home education has been amazing for so many reasons, one being having the flexibility to learn wherever he chooses. Maybe learning Symmetry on kitchen work-tops boosts productivity? who am I to question Opeies practices.

Today was one of those awesome, effortless home-schooling days, we had planned to visit a place called Venus Pools which is a great place for bird watching. We were going to take paints and canvases and make an artistic day of it. During Seth's school drop off though, the sky was thick with fog, it was freezing and poor Opeie was looking a bit peaky and dark around the eyes (we've all been a little under the weather lately). So we decided to head back home into the warm and curl up on the sofa reading books. After a few books, we made our way to this custom kitchen top chaise Lounge and as I cleaned the kitchen and prepped lunch, Opeie learned about symmetrical patterns and then we covered a few pages of number bonds and times tables.

The great thing about the way we learn at home is that to break up any academic work we are doing there is no end to the amount of creative things we can do in between. A lot of them being general tasks around the house that need doing, which aside from being creative also teach great life lessons. As much as we want Opeie to be a well educated and creative grown up we also want him to reach his adult years knowing how to do things that will benefit him, like being able to cook and look after himself. Today's fun task was prepping tea for when Seth came home so that we had plenty of time to be doing something fun together. Seth's tea time request was pizza, so It was Opeie's and My job to make the dough.

The remainder of our afternoon we talked about all the things that we want to do during our home-schooling fun and Opeie informed me that we wanted us to have some singing time which I thought was an amazing idea as he sings to himself all day long, making up the lyrics that he doesn't know to his favourite country songs, so I'll be printing out lyrics for us to learn as part of this learning adventure. This self-guided motivation is exactly what we want for Opeie and we'll embrace all of his ideas if we can.

And then it was time to put on our jerseys and grab our sticks for hockey time, the perfect end to a perfect day of home education.

Wednesday 25 January 2017

"My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard..."

Sometimes I just can't help being childish, after opening 'Fairy Batman' in our blind bags from the new LEGO Batman Movie range, Opeie set about making a ballet studio for him to work his stuff. Obviously, his lovely display got me thinking..

...and I couldn't help but add a little bit extra into the mix! I love LEGO!!!

Tuesday 24 January 2017

"Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it."

After our visit to RAF Cosford air museum, Opeie couldn't wait to get home and get the LEGO out. Part of the museum had an exhibit based around the Berlin wall and he had asked a lot of questions about it while we were there. He thought it was really interesting that a city was separated into two halves by a huge wall and was asking questions like "what if people in the east had friends and family in the west" it was really quite cute how concerned he was. When we got home he got those amazing bricks out and built his own berlin wall, with upset, angry looking people. He then broke down part of the wall letting in the happy people after we had watched a video on youtube of the wall being opened and how happy and relieved the german people were.

This is one of the things I really love about LEGO. It doesn't matter what it is we are covering, somehow it can be re-created by those amazing bricks.

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


These gloomy grey skies recently, make it really difficult to get motivated to get out and do stuff. It's wet and cold and would be so much easier to take the literal sense of Home-schooling and stay at home where it's warm and there is a steady flow of coffee and warm milk if needed. Sadly that doesn't fit into how we want Opeie to be educated so we've been going out as much as we can, braving the damp, bleak daytimes.  Over Christmas I watched a Youtube video made by a 13-year-old girl who was home schooled talking about her experience and how she felt it had benefited her. It was an awesome video and she was a very intelligent and well-spoken girl which was great to see as even now I still have my 'Is this really the best thing for Opeie?' moments.

One of the things that really stuck out for me was that there had been no structure to her home education by her parents and that she was left to her own devices as she got older. Her parent's roles were to simply keep her motivated and help with the things that she enjoyed doing. She also said that most of her home education was project based, projects that she chose herself and if she enjoyed them she continued with it and if not she moved on, giving her the flexibility to really get stuck into the things that interested her.

I loved this way of educating as it made me think of a project I did at school (a long, long time ago). I was probably around 8 and we started a project on dinosaurs, I remember thinking Wow! and I was hanging off every word the teacher was saying, it was fascinating, but... within a couple of weeks the project was over and we really hadn't covered much. I don't ever want Opeie to feel like that about something he is learning and both Mrs M and I will always do our best to get both of the boys the best resources that we can to things they are interested in.

So... projects! Opeie loves going to museums, I couldn't even tell you how many we have been to as there have been so many. We had a little chat and have decided to start a history project, which of course gives us the opportunity to go to even more museums and find out lots of interesting things about the past. On Seth's recommendation, Opeie has been watching horrible histories which he loves and it has been great for breaking into our project.

Today we decided to go to our first museum of the project which was the RAF Cosford Air museum. We've visited many times, but not in the last 2 years so it was clear that Opeie would take a lot more in now and ask lots more questions. I love the museum mainly because of the planes, so visually it is a great place to spend a couple of hours. If I'm honest I had not really taken the time to read much of the facts and information that is available during previous visits as Opeie was so young and excited just looking around, so this was a completely different kind of visit for me too.

As we walked about looking at the planes we talked about World War II and what it was all about. We talked about what life must have been like back then, compared to how different things are now and it was interesting listening to Opeie, really concerned about 'why people can't just be nice to each other'. At 5 he didn't really understand some of the things I was talking about and reading to him but what is great about museums like this is that between all the information available, there are lots of child-friendly things to do to break it up and make it more of an experience. We got to climb into a cockpit and play with all the buttons and switches, learn about altitude and how to measure wind speeds, fly a model plane and do some experiments around air pressure. One of Opeies favourite things there was learning about how ball bearings work.

We only stayed at the museum for 2 hours but as with all museum visits it was fascinating to see how much information was actually picked up, we talked about what we had seen all the way home and when we got home we printed out our pictures and Opeie wrote about it in his history project book. Today was a home education day at its best and this hands-on active learning is what really sticks with Opeie. I think it's going to be a busy few months making the most of the museums that interest us.

"And I can take you for a ride on my big green tractor. We can go slow or make it go faster. Down through the woods and out to the pasture. 'Long as I'm with you it really don't matter."

When it comes to LEGO from what I have seen from friends and family, it is the large kits that really spark the kids interest. Before Christmas, I spoke to a lot of parents who had said that their kids either wanted the Deathstar, The Ewok village or one of the large Technics kits like the Porsche or the Bucket Wheel Excavator. In the past when the boys have wanted larger kits we have always sat down and built own custom versions but when it comes to Technics we just don't have the parts.  When Seth was younger, like lots of kids at that age he LOVED tractors and the one Tractor make that always stuck out for him was the Claas tractors. He would get so excited if we were out for a walk and he spotted one while in his pushchair. So when LEGO released the Technic Claas Xerion 5000 Trac VC it was a no brainer. 

A friend of mine had bought the kit for his own son and although I had not seen it built it looked really impressive on the box. All my friend simply said was "It is Huge"! and "It took my son 4 days to build". So the prospect of the boys building it was pretty daunting. When we first Opened the box and sorted the bags we were really confused by the amount of bag 1's and bag 2's and as we started to build the kit it was clear why the kit had taken my friends son 4 days to build. 

With the age range being slightly older on the Technic kits, you can see why. A kit like this takes a completely different kind of building, there is a lot more strategy involved to make the build run smoothly. So we spent a fair bit of time separating all the parts into their own piles, which helped a lot! Seth really wanted to get into building the kit but because of his muscle condition he finds it really difficult to connect the parts, so it was all down to me. That was of course after I stopped being distracted by those awesome giant wheels (I'm going to have so custom fun with those).

The build really did take some time but what I loved about it was that with each step you could see the ins and outs of how each of the power functions was going to work and it was really quite fascinating. I'm not sure what the estimated building time on this kit was but I spent 4 hours on it the one evening, I confidently started it at 10pm, thinking that a master builder like myself would have it done before bed (how wrong was I), when in fact I slipped into a LEGO building meditative state and was completely engrossed until I had finally finished the main tractor part at 2am (oops). 

The following morning I couldn't wait to complete the crane while the boys wheeled the Tractor around the house. The crane took me just over an hour to put together and although 5 hours seems a long time to be building a LEGO kit, it was worth every single minute, This kit is a sheer masterpiece. The was that sinking feeling in my stomach when I put the batteries in a and the power functions didn't work but after going back through the impressively huge manual I realised that it was on something minor and was easily fixed.

All that was left to do was to take the Technic Claas Xerion 5000 Trac VC out where its supposed to be played with, out into the garden to roll over the rockery and plough through the grass. The boys had fun extending the outriggers and controlling the crane and being able to rotate the main cab was a great extra.  This is definitely going to be a fun summer garden toy and the boys love it, it was just a shame that they couldn't join in with the build. I guess I got all the fun this time.

If I haven't made it completely clear in this post yet, this kit is a dream for any Technic lover, it has now got me looking at the Bucket Wheel Excavator even more.

"Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday."

Recently, I have been such a slacker. There is something about January that sucks the writing motivation right out of me. Clearly, I get far too comfortable during my shut down weeks over Christmas. My procrastination has been at an all-time high over the last few days, I've been telling myself since last Monday that I need to write something but have been doing every other thing I could think of to avoid it. Time to get back into the swing of things though. I've got big plans for this year and I'm not even going to scratch the surface unless I get on with it.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

"I saved the city again, it was off the chain!"

It's that time of year again where me and the boys can be found standing around in toy stores for extended periods of time feeling up small plastic bags. We love a new LEGO Minifigures series release, for the boys it means new characters and for me, it means new parts and the recent LEGO Batman Movie Minifigures are the best yet. After receiving a surprise package over the weekend of two of those saute after blind bags it has kick awakened that 'got to have them all' feeling that I get with every series.

We are all really excited about the release of the new LEGO Batman Movie (the trailer is amazing) and the Minifigures and kits that have been released alongside the movie have got the three of us pining (not something we need this soon after Christmas). With Cave Batman and Arkham Joker toying with me from the shelf (I love a good Pun), I rang my mate Steve who works at our local Smyths to make sure that they definitely had lots in because I knew where I was heading first thing Monday morning. 

 For me it was all about Vacation Batman and Lobster-lovin Batman, but the entire series is a must have. As expected that evening the boys began their plans on what they think our next big build is going to be so that should be interesting over the next few weeks.

Right before the boys went to bed they had decided that Vacation Batman needed a pool so while the boys were off to bed, I clanged around downstairs rooting through the LEGO (very zen), finding parts to build them a bat-shaped pool, worthy of the dark knights awesomeness. One of the things I love most about a new Minifigure series is the inspiration for building that comes with them.

Today we couldn't come home from our trip out without swinging by Smyths for another bag feel up session. I must have felt up 150 bags and I still can't find Pink Power Batgirl or Glam Metal Batman which was very disappointing (there's always tomorrow though).

 If you haven't seen them yet, the new LEGO Batman Movie sets are definitely worth looking at. I'm desperate to get my hands on all of them.

Friday 6 January 2017

"Windows down, country sound, FM on the radio. Just me and you and the man on the moon Cruisin' down some old back road"

 I've written so many posts over the years documenting Opeie's love of music. Seth is yet to find music that really has an impact on him but for Opeie, the music he loves is a way of life. I have really eclectic taste and listen to all sorts, but for me, country music is my big love. Last week Opeie heard this track by Sam Hunt...

and his world has been opened up to a new style of music.  Turns out that that awesome 5-year-old of ours is now seriously into country! so I guessed it was time for a 'What Opeie is listening to' update. I won't waffle on, here are some of his favourite tracks. Time to get him a cowboy hat I think... enjoy!