Thursday, 17 October 2019

Your friendly neighbourhood... fairground vendor?

Over the summer holiday we didn't venture out anywhere near as much as usual and ended up spending a lot more time at home and surprisingly I absolutely loved it. During term time we're all over the place, adventuring and visiting interesting places but as soon as the holidays arrive we tend to shy away and keep ourselves to ourselves, It seems to be common practice among many home edders. The erratic weather helped with the 'parent guilt' of not doing much but I think Opeie  got as much out of the rest as I did. Because of the hermit like behaviour our weeks ended up being heavy on the LEGO building and we were been busy creating all sorts. The building of Opeie's upside frown made him realise again that a little time and effort with the building goes a long way.

So after that was finished we were having a discussion one evening about where to go next with those magical bricks. I asked him if there were any other of the larger kits that he liked the look of for a bit of inspiration. We had a little mooch through the LEGO site and Opeie decided that he really liked the look of the Ferris wheel but had a much more 'Opeie fitting' theme to base the build around.



So the following afternoon we went on a piece finding binge In hope that we had the parts for the main structure before we started putting our own spin on it. Aside from a few technics parts and some pieces for the main wheel that we had nowhere near the quantity needed, we were pretty much good to go. As expected Opeie had no interest in the start of the build, as building the main body is "Boring", he's all about the cosmetic flair. So I got a chunk of the 'boring part' out of the way while he was in bed over the first couple of nights and got the build to a point where I knew he would be excited.



While I carried on with building the main posts and the big wheel Opeie got to work on the kiosks and as you can see, the 'Opeie fitting theme' was of course Spider-man (which is why I was so excited from the get go). A Spider-man themed Ferris wheel got us talking about all sorts of creative ideas to follow up this build and the the more parts we connected the more the ideas were flowing. I could never get bored of the great ideas that Opeie comes up with, his imagination is amazing.



In no time at all we had the main structure completed, the base of the wheel filled with Spider-man themed things and we were left with the part of the build that Opeie was most excited about. We had decided early on that the twelve Ferris wheel carriages were each going to based around a different character with colour schemes matching their costumes or personalities. This part was really fun because the carts themselves were pretty basic to make and we didn't want them to be too heavy and affect the way they moved, so we had to be creative with the parts etc. My favourite was definitely J. Jonah. Jameson's carriage with his Daily Bugle desk in and Opeie's was Sandman's bumpy looking sand carriage.



Unlike other things that we have built recently there was the added satisfaction of adding the power functions in to make the wheel spin. The fact that Opeie could have it remote control made the whole thing more exciting, and there was nothing quite like the look of pure happiness on Opeie's face being the first to push the button and watch our creation spin.




"Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success"


I love everything about home-ed but one of the things that really makes a huge difference is not feeling restricted when heading out adventuring. Some days we have most of our work finished by 10am, some evenings we are out till late stargazing, it's nice to not have that 'its too late to be thinking about going out, its a school night' mentality. So when we decided at 4:30ish on a Sunday to take a drive to Lake Vyrnwy for a bit of a stomp and have some fun while the sun comes down, there really was nothing holding us back.

Lake Vyrnwy has always been one of those places that I like to go to reset. If things have been a little stressful and my mind is wandering it just seems to even me out. Opeie hadn't had the greatest week so a little adventuring was just what he needed. As you drive up the hill to the dam and reach the opening of trees the view of the water gushing through is always a satisfying start to the visit and it was lovely being able to share that with the newest addition to out happy little family.


There seemed to be a few people along the dam as we drove across which I was really surprised at but by the time we had parked up everyone seemed to have vanished and it was almost as if we had the whole area to ourselves. The walk about the sculpture park was so peaceful, I seem to zone out from the noise from the dam until we are standing right at the bottom of it. The first part of the walk had already chilled Opeie out and he was back to his usual self pretty quick.


These kind of adventures that we have during the week are great for the soul, but there is always an educational element to the visits too. Opeie picks up a lot through experience and he asks a lot of questions along the way. The animals that we spot, fungi, structures, and everything that we are taking in around us is for me what education is all about. When we google the areas we visit for more information Opeie gets to learn random facts about the area too. We had no idea that the lake is actually a reservoir, supplying water to Liverpool 68miles away.



With the sun starting to drop and us quickly losing light we made our way over to the waterfall. This part of Lake Vyrnwy has always been a really satisfying part of any visit. The 20 minute walk from the carpark to the fall is really peaceful and the surroundings are idyllic. Becci chatted about her uni work as we walked and took pictures and with the sun setting as a perfect backdrop I was feeling pretty smitten. By the time we reached the Rhiwargor Waterfall it was all about the slipping our shoes off and submerging them in the cold fresh water.




I try and fill most days with at least a little bit of crazy, its important not to get swept away in the often mundane routine of life and sometimes those random moments can be the difference between going to bed anxious or going to sleep relaxed. As the sun had well and truly departed and with there being no light pollution at the lake, it was pitch black. We pulled up at the bathroom and all slipped into onesies for the drive home. We all had a good chuckle making our way back to the car wondering what someone might say seeing Pikachu, Stitch and a skeleton emerge from the gents toilet. 


It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday evening, great surroundings, great people and a calm, happy head space to take home to bed.




Monday, 14 October 2019

“What's meant to be will always find a way”


Its crazy how much a view of romantic relationships can change over the years, If I'd have been asked what I wanted 20 years ago I would have said I was looking for something that avoided marriage and kids, 10 years ago I wanted to meet 'the one' and settle down. 2 years ago (after a pretty awful few years) I didn't want to be with anyone full stop and then now, While actively not looking for anything, I find myself a little disorientated by a whirlwind of emotions and at a point where I have no say in the matter because my body seems to have taken the driving seat. It seems that the searching wasn't what I needed, fate had things covered.


Recently I've been completely knocked off my feet by a pretty amazing someone and it has come as a real surprise. I say fate had things covered because the more we talk about our past and the places we've been the more apparent it is that we could have met so many times before this. I like to think that the universe was keeping us apart until we were both ready, and ready we are. It's all been pretty magical since this began and I'm preparing to fully embrace these feelings that are making me smile constantly.


This feels so different, and I definitely need that because my past approach to relationships clearly hasn't worked. Its been a long time since Ive been able to be fully honest about my feelings with anyone but we're on the same page and communication is key. It looks like life is shaping up to have a bit of sunshine, and honestly I feel like the Both of us have definitely been due some of that. 



Sunday, 29 September 2019

"A painting in a museum hears more ridiculous opinions than anything else in the world."


When we started the home ed back up at the start of the month, I had every intention of having a museum week but sadly something happened and it completely threw me. So last week we decided it was time to start making up for that and decided to visit Derby Museum and Art Gallery. I love a museum that grabs your attention straight away and the Natural history section of the museum was pretty much all we needed for a perfect afternoon of visual education.


We can pretty much rate a museum on the amount of beetles we find there and this one did not let us down. Opeie loves Coleoptera displays where he can see his beloved beetles up close. 


After having a look around we fluttered our eyelashes at the front desk and asked whether they would mind us painting while we were there. We've gone ahead and painted without asking in places before and people can be really funny. They were more than happy to let us get arty so we found a nice spot to get set up and let our creative juices flow. Museums and Art galleries are usually quiet but this place was so peaceful. We were both fully relaxed as we painted in perfect surroundings.


It's afternoons like this that really reinforce the decision to home-ed. learning visually in a relaxed environment and at a Childs pace is what education should be. Opeie can take what he wants from a visit like this and the both of us probably came away learning something completely different from each other. It's always important to end a day of learning on a high and it was all smiles as we left Derby. Time to plan our next museum trip.




Thursday, 19 September 2019

"A good picture is equivalent to a good deed."



With it just being Opeie and me most of the time I very rarely get pictures of us together so it was a nice surprise recently when Seth said that he had taken some photos while we were out walking. We had gone for a walk around comer woods and passed a field full of bails of hay, so inevitably the boys said 'can we climb on them?'. One of the many things I love about the boys is how they don't need to do the kinds of things that cost  the earth, just to have fun. Life is about adventure and adventure can be found anywhere. For me its all about the company rather than where we are because when you are around people that make you happy that fun and adventure happens organically.




As we sat in the field mucking about we didn't need anything else. It was one of those afternoons where everyone was just content and its the kind of day I strive for every day. It was really nice having a day like that and then coming home to find out that Seth had documented it to. Im definitely going to encourage Seth to take photos more often. 




Thursday, 12 September 2019

一期一会


A few months back I had a message from the mom of Opeie's penpal asking if we would be interested in being interviewed by a Japanese newspaper who were writing a piece on education and had been let down by a home ed group. The whole thing sounded really interesting and I thought it would be a great experience for Opeie and something fun to add into us documenting his home ed journey.  To make the visit even more exciting too, Opeie would get to meet his penpal Caelan as his mom Melissa was driving the journalist over to our home.

On the morning they arrived I was a little apprehensive, mainly because our house isn't a classic style home and although everyone that has visited here seems to love the way that we live, I wasn't sure that would translate well to the journalist (I'm pretty sure eventually someone will think we are idiots). It turns out there was no need to worry, when Melissa, Caelan and Saori arrived they all seemed pretty excited by the madness and as we talked I think it was clear why I chose to have our home this way.



The boys hit it off straight away and disappeared to play LEGO while I chatted with Melissa and Saori. It was really lovely having someone so interested in our home ed journey and despite being filmed (which is really out of my comfort zone) the morning was very relaxing. I feel like we have been home-schooling forever, it's the norm for us now and has been such an exciting adventure for the both of us. Being asked all about the reasoning behind home ed and my feelings on the education system in this country reinforced my passion for why we took the step.



Another thing that really reinforced this was Opeie's confidence talking to Saori and feeling completely comfortable with her observing him and how we are together as a family. He happily played his drums, discussed his beetle project and explained how much he loved having his work on display around the house. I'm pretty sure that Opeie comes across as a very content child to everyone he meets and this one to one education along side our happy home life is definitely responsible for this. I genuinely don't think that he would be the same child being dragged through the education system. 


The article was published last week and it was really interesting seeing the both of us in a Japanese newspaper. It definitely wasn't the way that we were expecting to be starting our first week of home ed this year but every September we have done something special to make sure that we realise how lucky we are to be on this education path for Opeie, and our presence in The Asahi Shimbun Globe is definitely this years bit of magic.  





Saturday, 31 August 2019

"Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud."


Gifts from the pirates blossomed from the early days of becoming a step-dad. I had never been in a relationship with anyone with a child before and it was a real life changing experience for me. One of the hardest things to try and get around was how to react to a child that wasn't mine when they were acting up, in many ways in those early days I was still the guardian as such but there are lines that I feel you don't cross and working out the guidelines for that can be tough.

This is why I created 'The Pirates', a way of communicating with Seth about his behaviour without having to cross any of those lines. He was never a naughty kid but he did know how to throw a tantrum of epic proportions. The Pirates were a crew of magical folk that kept an eye on his behaviour and kept him in check, rewarding him when he deserved it. They visited many times over those first few years but in no time at all Seth had calmed down.


I never really needed to use them with Opeie as he has always been so relaxed, but there was a few times that they visited during the night to leave him something when he had done something awesome. Aside from naming the blog after them, I thought I had long ago got to the point where they were no longer needed. That was until recently. I met up with a friend last week and we got chatting about school etc as the holidays are coming to an end and she started telling me about how much her little boy had changed on the build up to him starting school this year. She said that he had become very anxious and didn't want to talk about it at all and that she was really starting to worry. The conversation got me thinking a lot about the complete change in Opeie's personality during the few weeks that he attended nursery . The whole thing really played on my mind and then a couple of days later I was talking to my friend again and her little boy had accidentally completely destroyed his favourite sword. I felt like the poor kid was having a tough time so later that day I messaged and said ask him what sort of sword he would like and I'll make it for him, but don't tell him.

She messaged back with a drawing that he had done with his mom and he said that he would really love a rainbow sword with an anchor on. As with most creative things I do, I had no idea what I was doing, Its all about the winging it with me. So I searched the shed looking for wood and got to work. While I was In the garden sawing away I started thinking again about his anxiety and Opeie's face over this nursery months and that's when I thought the Pirates might come in handy again, So I wrote a letter from that very famous pirate Captain Rainbow beard...


After a secret stealth mission with the boys today, sneaking the sword and letter around to their house, I received a lovely message that I will never forget from my friend saying how much it meant to her and Euan. As expected he loved the sword but more importantly liked the fact that he was contacted by rainbow beard and was excited about being part of his crew.This of course was lovely to read, but that was topped an hour or so later when she messaged to say that he had packed his school bag ready (despite not starting for another 5 days), and this from an anxious child that didn't even want to talk about going to school. 


It turns out that the newest member of our recently expanding crew couldn't wait to write to his captain and drew a lovely picture of rainbow beard which he dropped in the post box earlier (with a starburst). So I should probably get creating the next letter which I shall probably make sure has arrived on the morning of his first school day, to give him that extra boost of bravery for his big day.

It's situations like this that reinforce my whole philosophy that a little bit of effort and randomness really goes a long way and can have such a great impact on a Childs emotional well being.




Thursday, 29 August 2019

'With great building power comes great creativity'


Back in June I wanted to write about fathers day but I really wasn't in the right headspace to be writing anything. I'm kicking myself now for all the things I could have documented from the last year or so because the blog has always been an online journal for the boys to remember all the fun things we have done together. When they do look back on this I don't want them to feel like I was completely lost during the time I wasn't writing. I may have not been posting anything but I was still crafting, adventuring and playing with those amazing boys every single day. 

Last week, while the weather was thrashing it down Opeie decided that he wanted to build the Daily Bugle from Spider-man, A scaled down, solid build that he could transport around backwards and forwards to his friends.


He made a baseplate the exact size floorspace that he wanted for the build and then we started building our way up. I love how Opeie and his friends play with the things that they are creating and the style of the build really reflects that. With something like this, with more than two floors, he really wants to be able to play with each floor in different ways so we built each level separately making it easy to unattached and placed side my side so that all rooms could be played with together.

It's the little quirky bits that Opeie adds to all his builds that really makes me smile. The golden bugle and the stone bugle player really gave Opeie's creation some character.


The great thing about this build was that it made me think about fathers day again and it gave me a chance to tie that build into this one. Opeie had given me the Spider-man kit with Ned in and was desperate to sit and build something together. When it comes to fathers day I just want to be doing something fun with the boys and when it comes to gifts my favourite ones are the ones that get us creating together, its the kind of bonding for us that you just can't beat. Opeie filled me in on his idea and then we sat down with a cuppa and got stuck in. It was the perfect kind of day for a 'dad celebration'.

We seem tone going through a bit of a Spider-man building binge at the moment and we're just finishing off something big so watch this space.





Wednesday, 21 August 2019

"Despite the weather, it gets better, You won't do this alone"


It's been a while since I wrote an update about the music that is having an impact on Opeie but I think it's really important as his love of music gets him through the confusing emotional things going on in his life. When we are at home we have music playing most of the time, it has always been an important part of my life and the love of (all kinds of) music has definitely rubbed off on Opeie too. So here's 10 tracks that he's been listening to recently. Hopefully he can look back on these and remember what an absolute dude of an 8-year-old he was.

Modern Baseball - Your graduation


With Confidence - Voldemort


Hit the lights - No filter


The chats - Smoko


Two Year break - Change my mind


Our Last night - The Middle (cover)


Kid Quill - Daily Routine


SonReal - Everywhere we go


Shakey Grakes (feat Esme Patterson) - Dearly Departed


Queen - Don't stop me now



Sunday, 18 August 2019

"...and of course he wanted his crayons to be happy. And that gave him an idea."


I can't ever see LEGO not being a part of our lives, over the years its been an amazing bonding experience for the boys and I and we have built so many fun things together during this time. I love putting our own spin on the Sets that LEGO releases but for me the real magic comes in those completely original and creative ideas. I love hearing Opeie's weird and wonderful ideas and then sitting down together and working out how we are going to make these things work is something pretty special.


Im not sure where the idea for this build came from, it could have been influenced by the Oliver Jeffers book The day the crayons quit, which was always a favourite of ours. Or maybe just one of those mad ideas that pops into our heads at times. Either way our mission was to create a box of crayons with a colourful story to back it up. Opeie has a thing for miniature play sets that he can carry around with him so the box had to have some form of scene in there too.



Anything Opeie creates has to have some form of backstory, sometimes the stories are deep and other times they are complete madness. This one was about an angry purple crayon, fed up with the restraints of being imprisoned in a box and having minimal outdoor time to let his creative juices run wild. He eventually reaches breaking point after being mocked by his peers for wanting more from life and goes on a rampage, melting his colourful housemates (poor light green crayon 😭).
For me these are the kind of LEGO builds that really get me motivated, giggling to ourselves as we talk about the story while creating is the best kind of bonding there is. I can't wait to get stuck in to the next crazy idea.





Monday, 12 August 2019

“If there's a better definition of love than mutual benevolent insanity, I haven't heard it.”


We all have a bad day every now and again, one of those days where you feel like you could either scream or cry at any point and that was Opeie yesterday. He's an over thinker like me and I could tell pretty much as soon as he'd woken up that he was processing some heavy thoughts. It's been a really confusing couple of years for him and Ive done my best to try and help him navigate through it all, sometimes though talking about it just doesn't work and instead you need to do something a little bit crazy to take you mind off of all the head traffic.

So as the weather was a bit rubbish on and off yesterday and Opeie was clearly in need of lots of cuddles, we decided to have a movie day. It would have been far too easy to throw a load of blankets on the sofa though and where's the fun in that? Like I said we needed something to take his mind off of everything so after a little chat and a few giggles we decided it was a good idea to take the trampoline down in the garden and put it in his bedroom.


I love a bit of spontaneity, and little crazy activities like this are really good for the soul. As soon as the trampoline was up and was covered in blankets, Opeie had an hour playing with his friends online and then we gathered snacks and chilled out watching movies. In no time at all he was back to his happy self and the rest of the day was all smiles. Sometimes it really pays to be a little bit creative with your time and showing a little bit of genuine effort goes a long way with kids.






Thursday, 8 August 2019

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. "


Ive written so many posts about the things we get up to, the places we go, and the things we create but I haven't actually written about the one thing that takes up my evenings when the boys are tucked up in bed.  Writing the blog has taken up a lot of my evening time over the years. I'd never really been the sort of person that committed to anything but that all Changed when I became a dad and my life was turned around for the better. Being a dad is the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life, my defining moment, and when the boys are awake my time is completely devoted to them and the blog really helps me with this. It keeps me motivated to be constantly doing things with them and making sure that they get the attention they deserve. 



I can see how easily it could be as a parent to just sit on your bum and let the kids get on with whatever they want to be doing but that's not the way I could ever be. I have unfortunately had a bad relationship with my own family over the years and I never want my boys to feel how I have. We may not have a house that is immaculate all the time, the list of DIY jobs keep mounting up and maybe we cant always afford to go on holiday when we want but I know that the boys go to sleep and wake up happy and as a dad that shows me that I am doing a great job.


I started the blog for the boys, we play a lot and I wanted them to be able to look back on this and see all of the fun that we had and are still always having. At first it was all about our Lego builds and the crazy craft activities that we come up with. As the years have gone by though it has turned into so much more, its something for all of us to look back on including friends, family and all of the regular readers that are following me on this amazing adventure of being a dad. I feel so lucky to have the boys in my life they will never know how much they have bettered me as a person and the fact that I can look back on the pages I have written is amazing as I know that time can never be taken away from me.


Even if there are negative things going on my life, things that are getting me down, I know that as soon as I sit down at my computer to write for that time it all goes away. I try not to write anything negative on here, after all the blog is a celebration of everything family, It's about colour, fun and creativity. Its a way for me to come across as I am meant to be seen with out the outside negative influences of my childhood creeping in.


What I'm trying to say amongst all the waffle is that the writing really means a lot to me and hopefully it will to the boys when they are older and understand it all. It's been an interesting journey, not all good, but the three of us have really grown together and we've got each other through a whole mess of heartache. I'm looking forward to another year of documenting our adventures and watching the boys grow into proper little gents. Being a dad us truly amazing.



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