Thursday 30 March 2017

“Ninjas don't wish upon a star, they throw them.”

I love that I've now got to the point where the boys can just use their imaginations and create blog posts for me. Opeie received two great LEGO Ninjago kits for his Birthday and he was so excited about getting them built and creating a story for them. He called in the help of his big brother and they sat, played and created. It's what being a kid is all about and I love watching them play together.

Anyway over to them two...

Samurai VXL and Dragons Forge are just two of the great new kits from the Ninjago range. The full selection can be found HERE.


"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

It seems that every year at the end of march, that Ferris Beuller quote pops into my head "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it". Tonight was no different, as I stood in the kitchen making a cup of coffee, thinking about Opeie's birthday yesterday, it surfaced again. These are words to live by. 6 years can go by so quickly and the last 6 have been my quickest to date. Becoming a parent seems to push the accelerator down on life and as I reminisced about that first time I saw that boy of mine, I found myself feeling so proud of how much we've packed into this time, it may have flown by but we have embraced every family moment.

Those first years, as difficult as they were at times, taught me so much about myself and shaped me into the person I always wanted to be, becoming a father was my defining moment. As Opeie developed so did I and things have been that way ever since. Parenting has been the most amazing adventure and I feel so lucky to have both of the boys in my life. With each birthday of Opeie's that passes, I find myself going over all of the the things that we have accomplished as a family and it really blows my mind.

During those early years I never could have envisioned me being the stay at home parent, let alone home educating Opeie too, but that is where our lives have taken us and I would never change a thing. Watching your children grow up and pass that birthday milestone each year is amazing but home educating adds an extra level to that feeling because you get to fully see that development and be a full time part of it. Knowing that you have been the one to teach them to read and write, learn maths and be a fountain of information at the age of 6 is a huge thing for us.

6 years on and I honestly couldn't ask for a more amazing child.  Opeie has completely changed my world. He is witty and kind and so much fun to be around but most importantly, he is always smiling, which for me was the most important thing to concentrate on as a parent.

In my head this was going to be a post about his birthday celebration, but as usual I've waffled on.
There was only one way he wanted to kick off his birthday fun, and when given the option of what he wanted to do on his very special day he opted to go to Ikea (which made us chuckle). It wasn't quite what I was expecting him to say but our little Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen has big design plans for his bedroom wall and was desperate to get some colourful picture frames so that he could start redesigning, I love his creativity. Yesterday was a day of family and he had an awesome time. 

Another year has passed and I cannot wait to see what the next 6 years have in store for us. Being a dad is Awesome!!!

Sunday 26 March 2017

"You can't win unless you learn how to lose."

Although I'm not really the sporty type, there have been some great sports games released by Nintendo the years. When I was at school Nintendo world cup was one of my favourites. For a sports game back then it was really basic, but there was something about those cute 8bit players being able to scissor kick the ball that had me hooked. When the boys and I are having a little one on one gaming session with the 3DS's, we still occasionally have a Mario slam basketball still tournament and we like to get a little competitive with Mario and Sonic at the Rio Olympic games. Nintendo does a great job of adding a less serious, more quirky approach to sports games.

With the release of Mario Sports Superstar, 5 more sports have been given the Nintendo twist. The Football for me didn't have the same nostalgic feel that I got when I recently played Nintendo world cup again at my friends, but... it is still a great game and I loved being able to play as Nintendo's finest. Baseball took us a while to get the hang of, Pitching was fine but when it came to batting we all had teething issues with actually hitting the ball. We had a really good chuckle though at just how bad we all were. 

The tennis and golf were like playing old favourites with a new twist. And the Horse racing was definitely one of my favourites as it was like playing a strange game of Mario kart. Whats great about Mario Sports Superstar is that the fun isn't just stuck at playing the actual sports, there is a lot of strategy that also goes into the game play to help your progress. 

There are a variety of tournaments to get through in single player mode and although I'm yet to fully try out the multiplayer mode , I am looking forward to competing against online players. I'm still holding out for ice hockey to be included in a Mario sports game somewhere down the line, maybe next time. 

Friday 24 March 2017

“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”

It seems that the macabre stories of Mary Shelley have made a lasting impression on that boy of mine. So much so that while writing about her in his history book that we have been creating, he decided to immortalise her in LEGO. His creation gave me the chance to show him how to take the colour out of the image and highlight the heart that he had added, giving his photo a little more character.

Thursday 23 March 2017

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."

My relationship with my dad has been a confusing one over the years. I spent my entire childhood looking up to him and really respecting him for holding down 3 jobs and working hard to keep us all happy. That pedestal that I had put him on for so many years was sadly shattered though, when he told me some home truths as an adult about how he really felt about me as a child and although our relationship and contact had been on an off for a long time, I never looked at him the same again. We've not spoken now for around 7 years, which could be seen as quite sad, but when you have a parent that doesn't bring anything to the relationship then in my view you are better off without them.

The one thing I can thank him for though is showing me how to be a father, there's always that fear becoming a parent when you have come from a broken and disruptive family life, that there will be a knock-on effect and you will unknowingly follow in your parents way of doing things. Thankfully I began this amazing parenting adventure with that thought at the forefront of my mind and I deviated from my unnecessary concerns and took my parenting in the opposite direction.

If I am honest, I rarely think about my dad, but as I stood on the beach last week playing frisbee with Opeie, I told him that playing frisbee was one of the only happy things I can remember about my time spent with my own dad. Opeie looked shocked and said 'that's really sad'. He asked questions and I tried to explain, but when you are from a loving family and you spend so much happy time with your dad, I imagine it is had to understand that family can be so cruel. It did make me feel a little sad, but I think that was mainly because of Opeie's reaction to the conversation. I've never known a 5-year-old with the emotional intelligence that he has. That afternoon reinforced how I feel about my family and made me more determined to do everything I can to nurture this relationship I have with Seth and Opeie so that our happy time together isn't diluted to one insignificant moment, like throwing a frisbee.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

"My dreams were at once more fantastic and agreeable than my writings."

I've started so many of our blog posts off with "Home schooling is amazing" or words to that effect. When we first made the decision to educate Opeie from home I knew it was going to be the right decision and I had my romantic ideas about what it was going to be like, but nothing really prepared me for the fun and excitement that was going to happen from that first term. Having control over how your child learns is really empowering and although I still have my 'Should I be doing more?' moments occasionally, Opeie's interest in everything and his happy, confident personality says it all, we definitely made the right decision.

Last week was one of those awesome opportunities and Opeie and I jumped at the chance to spend a few days in Bournemouth. I'd never been before and I love going anywhere new. Opeie, like myself, really enjoys our 'adventuring in a new city' routine, spending a day or two before researching the area to find out where we can visit. It doesn't always turn out how he plan and we definitely aim to cram a lot more into our days than we can physically achieve but it is always good to have a list of places to hand that are of interest to us.

It was our first time staying in an Airbnb and to be honest I was a little nervous. I'm definitely a fan of having my own space and I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about being in someone else's home. It turns out though that Uli and her daughter Eva that we were staying with were awesome and really made us feel at home, we had only been there about an hour and we were Micro scooting along the promenade with Eva, which was great.

Our plan (as always) was to make full use of those amazing wheels of ours and have a Micro scooting break. We had planned out rough routes between all of the places we wanted to visit and after chatting to Uli added in a few more that didn't pop up on '20 things to do in Bournemouth'. It's always handy to chat to the locals. I wanted to take full advantage of being on the coast with the scooters so on the first evening there I decided to venture out alone to see what was going on. Turns out nothing was, Boscombe was so quiet. I scooted along the promenade for 5 miles and then up a hill and 5 miles back along the street, it was so peaceful.

The following morning we kicked off our itinerary with a visit to Oceanarium which was great as it was on the seafront and was surrounded by lots of space to scoot. Opeie is a huge fan of penguins and could have happily sat there for the afternoon watching them. There was something about visiting an aquarium right next to the sea that made it that little more magical for him.

Opeie had never been on a pier before so being able to scoot along it, out over the sea was really exciting. The weather was a little overcast but nothing was getting in the way of our fun.

One of the great things about Bournemouth and the surrounding area is there are so many places to take fun pictures. Everywhere you look there is something that can be used as an interesting backdrop.

While chatting to Uli on our first night there, she told us that Mary Shelley was buried at St. Peters church in the centre of Bournemouth. I was surprised that that hadn't popped up on our Search when researching the area. That night as Opeie fell asleep pretty early I lay in bed and read up on Mary Shelley and her interesting life. As we were scooting through the town I filled Opeie in on some macabre stories and we visited the tomb. I'm not sure it was the highlight of Opeies scooting adventure but he was definitely interested in the story of her husbands heart.

We had made the mistake of driving into the main area of Bournemouth in the morning after, getting stung by the parking charges. What we didn't realise until we got back to Boscombe that afternoon was that we could scoot from Boscombe pier to Bournemouth pier (roughly 1.5 miles). So that's exactly what we did that afternoon, stopping off at the beach to build sand castles and splash in the sea. That evening we went out to dinner with friends which was great. Opeie was shattered by the time we got back and went straight to sleep, surprisingly I followed soon after.

The following morning, after a recommendation from our friend Duncan we drove over to Hengistbury head. Opeie had packed his Binocs (as he likes to call them) for a spot of nature watching and while heading there we drove past a juggling shop, so we popped in and picked up a frisbee (I used to love playing frisbee when I was younger). Hengistbury head was very windy but it was beautiful. I'm not sure Opeie was impressed by the 3.3 mile walk and in hindsight, we should have grabbed the scooters to take the edge off, this was made worse when we saw our only other Micro scooter of the trip whizz past us (I think we need them permanently attached to us).

By the time we got back to the car Opeie had only one thing on his mind, eating chips on the beach (which has become a tradition with every beach trip). We sat on the beach for ages just chatting about all sorts, Opeie as always had a barrage of questions and I did my best to answer them (Google may have backed me up though). With only a few hours left before we headed home, I asked my little sidekick what he wanted to do? "Can we get some nuts please dad?" The day before we had watched a lady in the pleasure gardens feeding the squirrels, who were very tame and climbing all over her, Opeie wanted some of that action so we bought a big bag of monkey nuts and headed to a squirrel heavy grassy area. 

Opeie was in his element and would have happily sat there for hours feeding them one at a time. I tried my best to coax them on to the scooter for a shot but they were having none of it. They were so gentle the way they put their paws on our hands to take the nuts. This was the perfect way to end our three days in Bournemouth.

As always our adventure was amazing and our fun time was magnified by the magic of Micro scooters. I often wonder how we ever got by without those awesome wheels of ours. Well, it's definitely getting warmer which means one thing for Opeie and I... Camping scooter trips. I can't wait to start pitching that tent of ours, so stay tuned for more scooting fun over the coming weeks.

Wednesday 8 March 2017

"There is sunshine in my soul today"

The sun coming out makes a huge difference to our moods and productivity. It's been a wet and gloomy few weeks in Shropshire, so we've tried to make the most of the sunshine when we've had the chance. I've been meaning to renew our National Trust passes for over a year and something about the bright sun and blue sky this week was all the motivation I needed to get that sorted. With our temporary passes in hand, we headed straight up to Attingham park to make the most of the weather before it inevitably disappears and we are left with the wet and cold again.

"Don't limit your challenges, Challenge your limits"

I love those occasional emails that we get where we are asked to show our creative side. If you are a regular GFTP reader then you will be fully aware that we are big crafters and love to show a bit of creative flair when we can. We have only ever been asked once before to come up with something creative using those amazing bricks that we love though. When one of our readers came up with an idea for an interesting build. That was until I opened a recent email titled 'The Debenhams Big LEGO Challenge'. These are the sort of emails I love to open and when I explained the rules of the challenge to the boys, like me, they couldn't wait to get stuck in.

The Rules:

After being sent a LEGO kit from Debenhams awesome LEGO Range, along with a Mechanical timer we had 15 minutes to come up with 'the most adventurous creation' using the bricks inside. I know what you LEGO enthusiasts are thinking "I could build something cool in 15 minutes" and I thought exactly the same thing but when you get into it, 15 minutes really isn't that long at all.

So... We had to be strategic.

We couldn't start as soon as we received the kit so the boys and I spent a little time assessing the kit on the front of the box trying to decide what we were going to build. It didn't take long for Seth to come up with an amazing idea, so we sat and worked out what parts were going to go where.

On the day we got the all clear to start, we didn't dive right in and start building, as I said 15 minutes really isn't that long. So we opened the bags and separated the parts clearly so we knew exactly where the parts we needed were. I'm used to building under pressure because Opeie is always coming up with ideas for things he wants building and he is really impatient, but I've always had a lot longer that 15 minutes to play with. This was going to be tough.

After discussing what each of us was going to be doing, Seth wound up the timer and we started building, completely focused on what we were trying to create.

I know it probably sounds like we had our plan well mapped out but when it came to the execution it started falling apart pretty quick and those minutes kept ticking by at what seemed like a crazy speed. We lost Opeie in the first two minutes when he decided he was going to go rogue and build the Minifigures and freestyle his own creation which he named the 'Ultra Jestro Super Suit'.

As for me and Seth, we stuck to our plans and attempted to create a mask that you could wear like a pair of glasses that resembled Jestro, the Nexo knights antagonist. While Seth worked on the glasses section using those awesome translucent wheels as eyes, I worked on the nose and mouth section making the most of all those teeth included in the kit. Had we have had a little longer we could have used a lot more of the parts included in the kit but we stuck to the timer and here is our creation...

Attaching both Seth's part and mine together was really tricky and to finish it off Seth did an awesome job of making curved arms that sat behind the ears. I don't think it came out as either of us had planned but it was a really fun and exciting build and as always the perfect father/son bonding time together.

Seth said it would be really cool if we were set a challenge to create something using every piece of a lego kit, which I thought was really interesting So the offer is there if anyone wants to take us up on that haha. LEGO kits are amazing but it's sometimes easy to forget that they are a creative building toy too. I think Debenhams has done a great job of reminding us that.

You can find their full LEGO range HERE.

Now get building!