Saturday 31 March 2018

"I'll stop wearing black when they make a darker color"

7 years feels like it has gone by in the blink of an eye. One minute I'm watching that amazing boy of mine make his dramatic entrance in to the world, the next I'm celebrating his 7th birthday. As quickly as it has gone though, that time has been packed full of amazing experiences that have made him the most amazing human being. I have never been more connected to another person and knowing that I have taught him how to read and write etc through his homeschooling is such an amazing feeling, he has taught me so much about myself though too.

You always hope as a parent that you can introduce your little ones to the things that you love yourself, and these things become an interest to them. Sometimes though they take the things that you love and then take that passion one step further. Music has always been a huge thing for me, for as far back as I can remember and I'd say Ive got a pretty eclectic taste. This passion for music has become a big thing with Opeie too, In fact I'd say big chunks of his days revolve around it. If he's not listening to it he's singing to himself, and has now started drumming lessons so that he can play like the artists that he looks up to like Andy Hurley or Travis barker.

It was inevitable that we would eventually get to the point where I could introduce him to one of the things that I loved to do most growing up. Any chance I could get to go to a gig, I was there and over the years I have seen so many amazing bands from all sorts of music genres. As we use Spotify to play all of our music, we are always receiving emails letting us know when our favourite artists are playing locally. When an email came through letting us know that Fall out boy were playing in Birmingham we were so excited. Although I was a little apprehensive about taking a 6-year-old  to a rock gig, they were playing the evening before his birthday, it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed. 

There was so much excitement during the days building up to the gig but on the day that excitement turned to anxiety and Opeie was really worried about being in an arena with so many people (he's never been great in places with lots of people). We headed up to Birmingham a couple of hours early though and pottered about, hitting coffee shops and places of interest along the way. Before we knew it it was go time and the excitement was back. 

Arriving when the doors opened meant that we could get to our seats and watch the arena fill up slowly which definitely worked out better for my little rock enthusiast. The only other issue was always going to be the late night. Come 7:30 any night of the week, Opeie will start to say "I'm tired" and this night was no exception. During the second support act he fell asleep... Bummer! I thought for sure that I was going to have to take him home but I held on and as soon as Fall out boy hit the stage Opeie was up and headbanging all over the place. Ive been to some amazing gigs in my time but this one was unbelievable, maybe it was being there with Opeie, maybe the music? all I know is it was a very special night.

They belted out all of Opeie's favourite songs, which was great because that kept him awake. As we started getting to the end of the evening though it was clear that all the excitement and great music was too much and he looked exhausted so we ducked out a couple of songs before the end. The cold air outside quickly woke him up and the walk along the canal back to the car was filled with singing and talking about what an amazing night we had had. I'm not sure I'd book anymore tickets just yet but what amazing experience for that little rock enthusiast of mine.

Happy 7th birthday Opeie, you are my world. 💖

Tuesday 13 March 2018

"I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never, ever possibly destroy us. Mr. Stay Puft."

I'm quite sure many of us have got that one friend that no matter how much effort they put into life they just cant seem to catch a break. Mines called Steve! After meeting him one afternoon in our local toy store we got chatting and our friendship blossomed from there over a love of LEGO, Movies, Games and many other geeky things that we have in common. Steve is the kind of guy that will just continue to graft in his work life despite what is thrown at him, and it has seemed like over the last few years, the obstacles that have been placed in his way have become a lot more frequent. Whenever I go an see him though he always has a smile on his face.

The last few months for him have been a little harder than usual with being away from his family due to work commitments and I like to think that as a friend I've always been there to help him out when he (and his family) have needed it. I really wanted to do something special to put a huge smile on his face though, so in my classic brick lovin' style I hit the LEGO.

Steve is usually the first person outside of the house to see anything that we have created with those magical bricks, and has been a huge fan of the custom Death star's that we have created over the years. If you remember a few years back, he was the chap that created the LEGO arcade with me, housing the first Death star that the boys and I had built. Well in all fairness he built the entire thing and took care of all the electrics etc (I just threw some Lego on it), He's such a smart guy, it just always seems like the world is stacked against him.

For years Steve has been making off the cuff comments about me building him a Death star, Id always loved the idea he had had for one and knew that I would inevitably build it. Recent events though gave me all the motivation I needed to get going.

Steve's idea: A retro Death star using all of the great characters released in the dimensions range.

Luckily they were all TV shows and movies from my childhood so I was excited to get stuck in. It gave me a great excuse to watch them all over again too (because what else was I going to do with my evenings?). As I said before, I knew that I would eventually start this, so for the last few months I had been picking up the Dimensions kits that I needed in preparation.

As soon as I had built all the floors for each section of the build (which is by far the most boring part) I was ready to let my creative juices flow . The boys sat and watched all the movies with me (apart from Beetlejuice) and came up with some amazing ideas. The bottom floor of the Death star build can be a little wasted, as unless you have it up high you cant really see whats going on, I really wanted to make the most of it though, So for the first room I created the scene from Ghostbusters, the part when they have dug up the street and are lowering Ray into the sewers and he finds the river of pink slime. This was great as I could make the bottom level look like a sewer. As soon as I had built it Opeie said 'Dad, didn't you watch ninja turtles before school when you were little?, you could put them in the sewer!' Which I thought was a great idea. So I added in an upper sewer tunnel with Michelangelo skateboarding out, which fit into the build perfectly.

The A-team was one of the highlights of my Saturday afternoon when I was younger and With Mr. T being released for Dimensions, I had to build the other 4 characters and somehow add the iconic truck into the build. It was at this point where I really started getting into the creation .

I had originally wanted to make the classroom scene from ET as one of the things that stuck out most for me was the little girls face with the frogs around her, but as that scene didn't include ET it was clear that I needed to go for the spaceship scene where ET finally 'goes home'. I didn't want to leave the frogs out though so I had the girl standing in the section surrounded by frogs anyway.

With the way this build comes together, building each quarter at a time and then working upwards is quite exciting when you get to the next level as it all starts taking shape and you realise how big the finished build is going to be. The Goonies was the section that I was looking forward to building the most as it was (and still is) my favourite film growing up. I was a little disappointed that LEGO had only released Sloth with the Dimensions pack but I still managed to build the Goonies despite their outfits not being spot on. The boys were playing and they were using LEGO dynamite and I had a eureka moment for what I was going to build for the section.

Steve is massively into retro gaming and all things arcade so I wanted to include an arcade into the build which I also thought would be a great spot to put a minifigure of himself in. The boys decided that I should be in there too as I was building it so they made a LEGO Steve and a 'daddy figure' to live in the arcade.

I was really looking forward to building a Back to the future section but it ended up being such a stress and I wasted a whole day building. I had originally planned to build the Delorean which the boys said not too as I had added the A-Team van in and they thought I should do something different. So I decided to try and create the scene when Marty gets to Hill valley after going back in time (You know the part "Mr Sandman......"). The section wasn't high enough to add the clock tower in though and it didn't seem right without it, so after a few hours building I broke the section up and attempted the enchantment under the sea dance. That didn't work either and by this point I was feeling pretty frustrated. Then, Opeie said 'You should build the big speaker from the start of the movie with Marty playing his guitar!"... the kids a genius! Within an hour it was looking amazing.

I knew that the final quarter of the larger section was going to be for the Gremlins but I had no Idea how I was going to create the idea I had so I made some make shift walls so that I could put the next level in and start working on the top layer. With all of the previous Death Star builds the top level had been split up into 4 sections but I had an idea and wanted to do something a little different. Before I started the build I knew that I wanted to build the closing scene from Ghostbusters with the Staypuft. It seemed like the perfect idea for high up on top. I was concerned though that the size of the Staypuft minifigure would look silly compared to the giant one in the movie but once I'd added the terror dog statues and the Ghostbusters it all looked pretty cute. 

I was talking to a friend of mine on one of the LEGO FB pages about the build and I told her that I was struggling for an idea for the Beetlejuice section. She said that I should make the graveyard scene, I couldn't remember it so that night I watched the movie again. She was right, it was the perfect idea and when the advert comes on with a country looking Beetlejuice riding a cow I knew I needed to include that too, along with his coffin and sign pointing to his grave. The double section was too big to be all graveyard so I added a sandy area and put the sandworm in their too. All I needed now was to come up with something for that Gremlins section. 

I knew what I wanted to do but I just wasn't sure how I was going to make it look how I wanted it too. The kitchen scene was one of my favourites when I was younger, I mean whats not fun about seeing a woman Microwave and blend up a Gremlin? Building a kitchen was the easy part but I needed chopped up gremlins in pools of gremlin slime. It wasn't until I had built Billy's knife wielding mom that it started to come together. I somehow had to add Gizmo in there too so I had him casually cruising in his remote control car.

It's so satisfying to complete a build like this, but this one was even better as it was a gift for Steve, a top bloke that deserves to have good things happen in his life. Lets hope that good things come in 3's and this has just kick-started it. Either way hes got a new toy to play with, I know that always makes me smile.

Sunday 4 March 2018

"Then come my black days, MAD and loud. I howl. I growl at every cloud."

After a confusing end to 2017 and what can only be described as one of the worst starts to a year I've encountered, I'm trying so hard to not let recent events get the better of me. Writing was always an escape for me but in the last 6 months it has seemed like such a chore and if I'm honest I'm really having to force myself to write this as just seems like too much effort. I'm really hoping though that it somehow flicks a switch on how I am currently feeling, allowing me to get back to where I was last year, as I have so many happy things to write about. As a blogger (especially a family blogger), how you appear on the surface is so important, I never wanted to be one of those writers that is all doom and gloom. It can be really difficult at times though to write about the happy things in your life when inside that couldn't be further from how you actually feel. 

The blog has always been a happy place for me but amongst the back catalogue of unpublished posts that have been written, there is an insight into how I've actually been feeling deep down over the last few years. 

Do you ever feel like for some reason your emotions are completely out of whack?

Well that's pretty much how I am feeling at the moment and if it wasn't for the boys and close friends I honestly don't know how I'd got through to the other side with only this uneasy feeling to show for it all. One thing I have learnt from all this though, is that it's ok to not be Mr Sunshine all the time (although Ive always prided myself on being that happy guy that people generally like). We all have our 'off times' in life and I'm hoping I'm coming to the end of one of mine.