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.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

"it's got what it takes..."

Some days are just pure happiness, filled with positivity and affection and today was beaming with it. I woke up excited and perky about the day ahead and I'll shorty be going to sleep feeling completely content and smitten. There is something so satisfying about seeing those unexpected smiles out of the corner of your eye and its made me feel so loved up all day. The more little snippets I get of our intertwining past lives the more I realise the connection that's there, Fate seems to have a handle on this one so I'm leaving it in the driving seat. I don't know what this is, I don't know how long it will last but I'm holding on to it with both hands and I'm not letting go.

If nothing else though its been pretty special getting photos of me and Opeie together again. 💜

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

"Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive"

I honestly don't know how I'd cope without these two in my life, they are the best friends a guy could ask for. I think the pair of them could seriously get me through anything life throws at me. 

Monday, 5 August 2019

"Where oils lumber... watercolours prance."

With the last 15 months being like an emotional rollercoaster, it's been really difficult at times to properly relax and get myself (and Opeie) into a good, clear headspace. When you're dealing with a heartbroken kid its hard to think about anything else. Ive been doing my best to keep us both entertained though and have been really surprised at some of the things we have found to relax.
We've always been an arty pair, always creating something and we've used so many different mediums over the years,  I've always avoided watercolour though out of fear. I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous but I was 110% confident in the fact that I couldn't produce something I was proud of and because of that I held Opeie back too (naughty daddy), until now.

With a little creative guidance from someone that knows what they are talking about we found ourself a few weeks back sat at a desk with paper taped down and paints and brushes at the ready. It turns out that painting is one of the most relaxing activities (after LEGO of course) that we could have been doing and definitely nothing to be afraid of. 

There is something so satisfying about experimenting with colours and then turning the experiment into something fun. I can quite easily get a little lost in the activity, which recently I feel pretty thankful for.

Opeie has really been getting into the beetles too but he's also been having fun with colour mixing and creating galaxies (as you can see he's a bit of a Doctor Who fan). I love seeing him get into creative ventures like this, its nice to see him concentrating on something so positive and activities like this are really good for the soul.  

So thanks for the tips, sitting with us and taking the edge off of my watercolour fear, you know who you are. 💜

Saturday, 27 July 2019

"Colour is the finishing touch on everything"

"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves."

Im really having to force myself over this blogging hump and its getting to the point where I'm driving myself insane, Its like I'm desperately trying to claw back my confidence. Aside from the boys obviously, writing was one of the things that really kept me going through the emotional battlefield I had been dealing with for the last four or so years.  I would look forward to that quite time when the boys were asleep so that I could get on here and write down my thoughts and document all the fun we had been having, for them to look back on. Things had to go and get complicated though and in no time at all that fire to write had gone out and that evening quiet time, became the darkest time of the day for me. I had a plan, it involved a strong family unit,  content and happy children and life of adventure and learning together. Im still working on that daily and to a certain extent we still have it, but now there is a dark cloud looming over all of us that we just can't shake.

I want to see the blog as a positive again but with so many people that I know reading it, it can at times make me feel a little uneasy. Especially when they get the hump about light comments written within the more personal posts. I need to get myself back to that place I was when writing was exciting, there is so much that I've not written about over the last 15 or so months and I want to continue giving the boys something amazing to look back on. 

Im not the same person I was a two years ago and I'm only just starting to realise just how much has changed. My views on life and relationships are so much clearer now and feel like I've reached the point where I can move forward in hopefully a healthy way. So for now, a bunch of short posts to ease me back in gently and hopefully I'll have my confidence back in no time at all. 

A weekend lost in the 'Upside Frown'

Ive never bought anything LEGO that I had seen as just mine, any kits bought over the years have been inevitably broken up and the parts have vanished into our huge amount of mixed LEGO ready for future creative builds. A few weeks back though I decided to treat myself to a kit I had been pining after since I had first seen the pictures online. I picked it up just before my birthday and planned to build it on the day with Opeie. As he obviously hadn't seen Stranger Things I assumed there would be no interest in the Kit, but he would just be happy building it with me, how wrong was I! With the kit being that little bit different with the 'Upside down' aspect in the build, Opeie was hooked as soon as the two pieces where joined and saw that the upper level was flipped.

Opeie asked to get it down from the shelf a few times that week and although he loved the build he knew nothing about the characters so it was a little lost on him. While I was putting it back on the shelf one evening I looked across at the big colourful Unikitty build standing next to it and noticed Unikitty and Master Frown standing next to each other with the contrast of 'bright and positive' and 'gloomy and negative', I'm sure you can image the next thought that went through my head. yup.... Opeie needs an upside down of his own. 

So last weekend we woke up on Saturday morning after a fairly busy week with friends and decided that we were going to do nowt all weekend and slob about the house, the perfect time to start a fun team build I thought. I ran my ideas past my building assistant and he reeled off some awesome ideas of his own and we got building (well I got building, the first part of the upside down build is a large obscure shaped baseplate and as far as Opeie is concerned that part is boring and beneath his skill level). With the base plates built we started the 'Fun part'. Saturday was one of those building days where it felt like we had slipped into a black hole of bricks, before we knew it it was bedtime and we had spent the entire day rummaging for parts.

Sunday started pretty much the same way Saturday had ended. Opeie (now my 'build master') had pretty much ushered me into the lego room as soon as I was awake and on my feet, he did however make my breakfast and bring it into me with an excited 'I'm ready to build' face. By late Sunday afternoon we had built both houses but realised that we didn't have any of the pieces to hold the two together so we were straight on Bricklink to make sure they were here this week. When I had put Opeie to bed that evening I sat and built the trees that hold the houses up. I loved building the original Stranger Things kit but I got so much more out of this custom one building with Opeie. Theres something about recreating a LEGO build with an extra fun twist and not being held back by colour schemes is really satisfying (and we went all out with the colour... well it is Unikitty).

On Tuesday afternoon the beautiful sound of package hitting the hall floor filled the house with excitement. Opeie couldn't wait to get our creation clipped together. Once it was all secure and he could see it in all his glory, we really started getting stuck in to the little touches that we love so much. The build of course needed to be populated, Someone pretty amazing had bought me Unikitty's Sweetest Friends Ever, for my birthday, which was the perfect start. Opeie pointed out a whole bunch of characters we didn't have and I'd not even seen before so it was back on Bricklink, like I need an excuse to be buying more LEGO.

The build turned out to be one of the most fun things that we've built together, usually I prefer to build something completely 'US' but this fun colourful twist on a pretty amazing build was very satisfying... but what to call it? the Upside-Frown of course!

Oh and I may have also built a Unikitty Demogorgon... I get carried away, what can I say.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

"Little things make big days"

There really is never a dull day in our house, we always seem to be doing some random activity or out looking for adventure. For all the fun that we have though there are always those random days here and there that stand out from the rest and today was one of those days. What seemed like forever ago, when we read the first of M.G. Leonard's books (Beetle boy) our whole world was opened up to to the fascinating world of Coleoptera. I can honestly say that I had never given beetles a second thought, I barely even noticed them, but those first few chapters changed everything for Opeie (and myself) and in no time at all it had made us so much more aware of the things that are around us.

The second installment of the story (Beetle Queen) was released and we were hooked, becoming more and more interested in beetles and why they are so important to the natural world. I had been so desperate for Opeie to take a real interest in something and this was it, so it became the driving force for a lot of the things we were doing with his home education. 

By the time the third and final book came out for the Beetle boy trilogy (Battle of the beetles), We could be found many times a week crawling around in the woods, turning over rotten logs and rummaging through leaf piles, it had become a way of life. We have a beetle hunting kit (which we take out everywhere), we stopped cutting our grass in the back garden and gathered rotten logs so the beetles had somewhere to live and the house became a shrine to all things beetle, with decorations and themed furniture everywhere.

When the forth book (The Beetle Collector's Handbook) had been released we had got to the point in our beetle loving lives where we were in farmers fields breaking up pooh looking for Dung beetles, I guess you could say that we had fully embraced Opeie's main interest and honestly, I was loving every minute of it.

We owed a lot to the hero Darkus and his amazing transgenic beetle Baxter, but more so to their creator and Opeie was desperate to meet her. The magic of this generation means that we were able to chat to her occasionally via social media which was awesome and we hoped that at some point that she would be book signing somewhere over our way in Shropshire. It was a long shot but we were patient. While we waited for this encounter to happen we continued our Coleoptera adventure, attending Entomology events, visiting museums and even spending an afternoon with a Dung beetle specialist in Oxford (which was really interesting). We made a list of all the places we wanted to visit and at the top of that list was Dr Beynons bug farm over in Pembrokeshire. The plan was to visit over the summer but then...

It was like a dream come true for Opeie, His favourite author at Dr beynons, Suddenly it was all systems go, Opeie was going to meet his hero and there was so much excitement surrounding the event. We tweeted Maya and let her know that we were coming to meet her finally and to have her pen ready to sign Opeie's books. The plan was to take Opeie's beetle book that he has been creating as part of his home schooling to show her so that she could see what a huge inspiration she has been to him. 

As we pulled into Dr Beynons Bug Farm on the morning of the visit another car followed us in, it wasn't until we were getting our things together ready for the visit that we realised it was Maya and her family. Opeie was in complete awe and just watched her walk by with his mouth open, Starstruck. 

Not wanting to pounce on her from the get go we spent a couple of hours looking around the bug farm, it was full of interesting information and some beautiful beetles including the Rainbow Stag Beetle which Opeie has decided he would really love as a pet.

The talk by Maya and Sarah was awesome and hearing Maya read an extract from the book in her very flamboyant way must have made my bedtime reading seem really dull, she really drew us in with how she saw the characters personalities. After the talk we waited for all the other visitors to chat and get their books signed and then it was our time to pounce. Opeie was in his element and I was feeling pretty excited for him. We chatted beetles and both Maya and Sarah read through Opeie's beetle book and seemed genuinely impressed by the work he has been doing, Sarah even requested a copy of his beetle poem to display somewhere in the beetle farm which is really exciting.

It was one of those days that was just filled with pure happiness. 

By the time we got home we were exhausted, it was one of the most fun days out we had ever had and as Opeie drifted off to sleep the huge smile on his face said it all. There must be something so satisfying when your heroes actually turn out to be heroes in real life and Maya is as super as they come.

Friday, 8 March 2019

"You couldn't be kindred spirits with a beetle . . . could you? "

Opeie was adamant on the build up to world book day that he didn't want to dress up. He just wanted a day of reading and to take cake and biscuits in for the staff at the library to say thank you for all the books they have ordered in for him in the last 12 months. That of course all changed on the morning of world book day when he informed me that he did infect want to dress up and as expected he wanted to be Darkus from M.G, Leonards Beetle Boy. So we quickly headed out mooching around our local charity shops for an oversized brown wooly jumper and a headband to hot glue his beetle too. Im So glad he chose something doable on a short timescale.

With the costume complete we headed down to the library with our gifts for the staff and came away with a handful of new books for an afternoon of reading. It was a pretty awesome world book day.

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