Archives for posts with tag: Childhood

Our boy, AKA ‘The Pok’, says some really funny things with the reasoning of a 5-year-old behind his musings. Some of it is hilarious, or just bizarre.

The Pok has started school this year and it has been an experience for both him and his teacher. His teacher has been formally introducing both him and his classmates to words and letters. Each week there is a ‘letter of the week’ in which the children are asked to come up with words that start with the designated letter. The letter of the week is the only piece of learning that he is keen to share with us after school at home.

A few weeks in, it was with great joy at the dinner table that The Pok blurted out,

“Guess what this week’s letter is?”

I responded with “C” (I always say “C” – what’s in a name?).

He shouted, “Nooooo! It’s ‘F’ silly.”

My wife asked, “Did any of the kids say some ‘F’ words?”

The Pok recalled, “Somebody said ‘fish’ and someone else said ‘four’, but the class didn’t guess too many.”

I then asked, “Did you come up with an ‘F’ word?” Hoping to the heavens that our son did was not the kid to drop the “F” bomb in kindergarten.

The Pok pondered…

“Daddy, I said ‘fart’ and the whole class started giggling”.

Phew – at least he reached for flatulence and not profanity.

Pok_School_0416pxl

Our boy, AKA ‘The Pok’, says some really funny things with the reasoning of a 5-year-old behind his musings. Some of it is hilarious, or just bizarre.

Last night, after our first Friday dinner at the beach for the season (we are lucky us Sydneysiders), we drove back home via Oxford Street. If anybody is familiar with what goes on at Oxford Street you will of course know that it is the centre of nightlife for the Gay and Lesbian community. Anything goes after dark down that stretch of town. And I mean anything.

As we came to a stop at one of the many sets of traffic lights, The Pok got an eyeful of a drag queen dressed in a ballooning frock with a light blue bouffant as a wig – the whole shebang! My wife and I were both hoping that the Pok didn’t notice.

But the Pok was half stunned and half bemused, and had to know more.

“Dad, why is that woman wearing a funny dress and has blue hair?”

Searching for an answer I replied…

“um, [Pok], that is not a woman.”

Pausing to contemplate my response, he came back with one word,

“Why?”

I was speechless.

Pok_Kiki-Bronte_Beach

Given the fact that I am an adult born in the 70s and with a technical inclination, it would come as no surprise that I am a Star Wars geek. It has always very much been a private obsession since my childhood, but how could I not fall in love with X-Wings, lightsabers and Star Destroyers. In large part, the imagination of George Lucas pushed me onto my professional path – and I bet there are many other engineers of my vintage who would probably say the same. My childhood play was always trying to recreate the fantastical world of “a galaxy far, far, away.”

So when ‘The Pok’ (AKA my son) started to describe the Clone Wars in his adventures and play at daycare, I knew the time was right to indoctrinate him in the ways of the force. Particularly given that he was playing out these adventures without having seen any of the films or TV shows.

It got me thinking, “how should I do this?”

So on one of our Dad-Son Friday movie nights, I unleashed the ultimate weapon in the arsenal…

Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back!

Or at least the first third of it.

Let’s pause for a moment and contemplate the psychological assault that I was about to unleash as a parent on the mind of my four year old son. Here is the context of reality of his world.

  1. He lives in Australia, and has never seen snow. Deep morning frost, yes, snow and ice, never.
  2. The only things that he knows that fly are planes and helicopters (and his Mickey Mouse when he throws the rodent down the stairs – not really flying).
  3. What is an energy shield or power generator?
  4. As for armoured vehicles, they are pretty low to the ground and run on caterpillar tracks.
  5. The only things he know that cut are knives and blades, from the kitchen or my toolbox.
  6. Kangaroos bound around in the outback on two hind legs and have a tail.
  7. Robots in our world are a bit crap, and don’t levitate.
  8. The International Space Station is big, kinda… well not really. And it looks flimsy too.
  9. The only way you get better is by resting at home, visiting the doctor, or if really sick going to the hospital.
  10. If you make a mistake, you don’t get one more chance before you die.

So with these 10 items as my base of reference here is what left him speechless and stunned, forever changing his mind like a jedi mind trick.

The Opening Scene

Immediately proceeding the scroll, which as I read it out made no sense to him whatsoever, he sees a big spaceship (an Imperial Star Destroyer) shooting out rocket powered vehicles (which we soon find out to be Imperial Probe Droids) in different trajectories. The vehicle we follow is shoots off to a planet covered in ice – completely covered in ice (the ice planet of Hoth)!

So there goes reality number 1, number 2, and number 8 (with the last two properly getting sorted out later on).

Star_Wars_epV_Hoth

The vehicle properly crashes in the ice planet and what emerges from the wreckage is an insect like robot (our starring Imperial Probe Droid), which… levitates! And it looks like it means business, nasty business with its sinister humming sounds.

Star_Wars_epV_Probe_Droid

There goes reality number 7.

Enter our Heroes

Immediately proceeding the sinister opening that pretty much sets the tone for where the film will go, we see a zooming aerial shot of the ice planet honing in on an animal with rider (none other than Luke Skywalker, farmboy, death star assassin, last Jedi knight, sister kisser, etc.). The animal is a horse size kangaroo with horns like a ram (a Taun taun, the trusty frozen planet steed of the Rebel Alliance). Time to throw away reality number 6. Not only that but these furry horned kangaroos are rideable, which contrary to popular belief we Australians do not have the pleasure of doing with ours.

Star_Wars_epV_Tauntaun

Of course the big ice monster (Wampa – possibly one of my brothers in costume) emerges to whack Luke and his steed, and then try to go all carnivorous on them. And don’t forget that the other hero, Han Solo, rides the furry kangaroos too. Upon Han Solo’s return to the rebel military installation there is much talk discussion about the fact that Luke is missing. So Han goes out on his furry horned kangaroo to rescue him. Meanwhile Luke uses his blue glowing light sword (lightsaber) to cut himself from the hanging upside down from the ceiling, cut off a wampa arm, and then when Han finally does rescue him the sword is used to cut open his furry horned kangaroo belly. Scratch reality number 5 and begin eternal fascination with the most elegant weapon ever invented. Also cue the question that has been plaguing me since my childhood, “did Han shove in Luke headfirst? And if so, how did he breathe surround by all those guts?”

Star_Wars_epV_lightsaber

Rescue and Recovery

Our heroes are found again the next morning, by a team of pilots commandeering a bunch of flying, hovering, air speeder things (Rebel Alliance Snowspeeders). After all these years I still think that this is one of the best vehicle designs invented, though how aerodynamic they are leaves me wondering. The way the snowspeeders fly by hugging the terrain is just beautiful. Further reinforcement of new reality number 2.

Star_Wars_epV_Snowspeeder

When Luke is brought back to the medical bay, his recovery and recuperation is nothing short of otherworldly. He is hooked up to a breathing apparatus completely submerged in a tank of blue fluid (bacta tank) with robots monitoring and tending to him (2-1B medical droid and FX-7 medical droid), all while wearing the a pair of whities that would make Bridget Jones proud. How is it possible that one is fixed like this when sick or injured. Knock reality number 9 on the head. From now on, the Pok will cite the need to be tended by a medical droid when he needs fixing.

Star_Wars_epV_Bacta_Tank

Discovery by the Galactic Empire

The master plot in the first third of the film is the pursuit of the Rebel Alliance by the Galactic Empire, and true to script they are discovered by that nasty levitating robot. This is where the sense of awestruck truly begins for my little guy, the introduction of the biggest spaceship he has ever seen. One so big that it casts shadows as it passes over the other smaller ones (which are themselves five times the length of a USN aircraft carrier).

Star_Wars_epV_Executor_shadow

Enter the Super Star Destroyer – the Executor. Flagship of the fleet, darker grey than the rest and no white space engines for this bad boy – all flaming orange. Soooo bad and truly beautiful!

Star_Wars_epV_Exexcutor

Somebody recently tried to communicate the scale of this fictional space vehicle by overlaying it on the island of Manhattan. Now that is what I would call big! The bar has now been properly set for the new reality number 8.

manhattanssd

Enter the Dark Lord Vader too, and he is a tough boss. His chief lieutenant overlooks the clue to finding the Rebel Alliance’s base, and he goes over the top of him to order his fleet to attack the enemy residing on the ice planet. There is a whole bunch of military gobbledygook that is spoken while the tension mounts for what is to be the big battle piece. In my boy’s world, no-one talks like that, and he now has a new set of phrases and terms added to his vocabulary. Then the poor Imperial officer, named Admiral Nozzle (or was it Ozzel – who knows…) makes mistake number two! When will people ever learn to not come out of hyperspace too close to a system? Cue the first addition to the body count in this film, with Darth Vader choking his officer… via Skype! WTF? Lesson to the unwise, don’t be clumsy and stupid and if some guy in a big black helmet / mask combo calls don’t answer. Reality number 10 – gone!

Star_Wars_epV_Ozzel_choked

The Great Ice Battle

The preparations for the big attack in the snow begin. Pilots are briefed, troops rush to their stations. The key piece on the board is declared as the main power generator. Hmmmm… what could that possibly be. Evacuating ships launch off into space by opening shields, supported by a huge bulbous gun firing big energy bolts into thousands of kilometers into enemy ships. Zapping them into submission. He still has not said a word at this stage.

Then, the troops positioned in the trenches spot awestruck moment number two. “Echo Station 3T8, we’ve spotted Imperial Walkers.” Ginormous armoured dogs that walk like elephants and are bristling with laser guns (Imperial All Terrain – Armoured Transports, or AT-AT for short) are coming to get you.

Star_Wars_epV_AT-AT_binoculars

You betcha, and a can of whip@ss is about to be unleashed. Reality number 4 is smashed out of the park and with the lumbering beasts becoming the true star of the movie for the next 10 minutes of movie magic.

Star_Wars_epV_AT-AT

In the ensuing battle, we bare witness to the second coolest aerial maneuver executed in movie history (some would argue that Maverick and Goose giving their Soviet counterparts the bird is the number one maneuver). Can you repeat after me, “Good shot Jansen.”? More importantly, who would have thought that this bit of flying was executed by a pilot named after a chunk of potato and a with all these laser guns they used a harpoon.

Star_Wars_epV-Harpoon

A bit more carnage and chaos occurs, followed by the lead walker reaching the main power generator and blowing it up with “Maximum Firepower”. You obviously need this amount of ordinance to blow up a main power generator – so that explains the new reality number 3. This makes the little holographic Dark Lord of the Sith happy, and the officer who scored the hit (General Maximillian Veers – the coolest name in the Star Wars universe) makes no mistake and doesn’t get choked to death by Skype.

Star_Wars_epV_generator_explosion

And our Dark Lord gets to play in the ice cave base with his white hooded and kilted troops. A couple of them get whacked by the secret gun of the Millennium Falcon, but our heroes retreat to fight another day off into space (albeit with a great deal of misfortune to come in the final two thirds).  That is where I stopped the film, and where he finally came up for air and spoke for the first time by asking a several of incoherent questions simultaneously. My wife took over at that point and took him to his bed to hit the sack, where he proceeded to replay what he just witnessed in a two minute babble. He crashed and my wife asked me what did you just watch.

My Boy is now a Star Wars Geek

Some would call me a bad parent for indoctrinating him into the world of Star Wars, and yes there is some stylized violence in this film. But this is a fight between good and evil, where the good guys are good and the bad guys are so bad that they are cool. As for the psychological manipulation, guilty as charged. I have held back on showing him the more violent parts of the other movies, like the whole of Episode III, because he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to comprehend. That will come in time, when he gets a little bit older. He can figure out the sister kissing bit on his own.

He now plays Star Wars every day with his friends at pre-school and wants to watch the films and TV shows with his Dad. I don’t mind, as it sure beats watching Thomas the Tank Engine. Of course he has also asked that his fifth birthday party be a Star Wars party.

In his new reality he talks about hyperspace, shield generators, wants a lightsaber, and thinks that we should build an R2-D2. Maybe he makes some of these things a reality in our world in the future. But for the moment, he is still a preschooler and there is still a bit of silliness to be found in this Star Wars stuff thanks to Robot Chicken.

Closing note – all the images are the copyright of Disney – Lucasfilm. I could be forgiven for including the film screenshots in my blog post given the amount of money I have contributed to George Lucas through merchandising. If you want to copy the images, buy the films.

After a torrential downpour and thunderstorms the night before, my planned morning Saturday ride was put on the back burner. To be honest, since my biggest ride down in Melbourne a few weeks back for Around the Bay I have backed off the cycling a bit to have a bit of a rest for both my body and head. But Summer is only a couple of weeks away now and I have got the itch to first complete my new MTB build and get back in the saddle and ride. Funny thing was this morning as I was about to add the next bit of my new MTB construct, the forks, my boy (AKA “The Pok”) turned around and said “Can we go for a bike ride?” He had a grip on the left side of his handlebars with one hand and his helmet in the other hand. But he didn’t just want to go for a spin with me walking (more like running to keep up) behind him, he wanted me to ride my bike with him. I thought about it for a split second, then told him “put your shoes on and let’s get ready to roll!” I was going to take my MTB steed with some road / urban shoes on it and take him for a ride.

Our First Ride Together

Living in the city, it is a bit dangerous for a little man to be riding, but fortunately we live within walking distance to one of the many parts of Sydney Harbour where there are walking paths along the shoreline. So as soon as we got down there we jumped in the saddle and off we went. There were puddles everywhere which was like waving a bit of candy in front of The Pok. Every puddle was a target to ride through, which meant for him wet shoes and socks (he is on a balance bike) … and a huge grin from ear to ear. Our destination was the corner store at one of the wharves around the corner from Darling Harbour in Sydney, and the reward was ice cream. I didn’t realise that this was going to be 2.5km riding away, but he didn’t balk at it for a second. The Pok was even foxing a bit with me in the set of mini races that we had, where he would slow down and lag behind waiting for me to back off a bit before he would shoot off and ride ahead of me yelling back “Daddy, I am winning and you are the slowest in the world”. This bit of trash talking was muttered several times, and I had to hold back my competitive rebukes (I will smash him in a few years when we are in a proper race so he understands the pecking order while I am ahead – hehehe – Dad’s rights). When we hit the propellers, we turned around and I couldn’t let this moment not get caught on film. Here is the video I took riding alongside him.

By the time we got back home we had knocked up 5km, pretty impressive for a recently turned 3 year old boy. The Pok came up to just as we reached our street and said to me in a contrite tone “Sorry for teasing you Daddy.” I didn’t get it and replied, “What were you teasing me about?”

He said “Sorry for teasing you about being slow.” Then he burst out giggling to run back and tell his Mum about our ride together. In recounting our little adventure he told his Mum, “When I get bigger and get a bigger bike, me and Daddy are going to go on a long ride together.” I am looking forward to that (and in kicking his butt in our next “race”

When I started writing this blog last year, I decided to name it in honour of my son – affectionately known as the Pok. Well this last week he turned three. And what a whirlwind three years it has been for us. We are so happy to have a healthy, cheeky boy who is full of energy and cunning (though he hasn’t figured out how not to get caught). The terrible twos were not really terrible, and now we are challenged with a little member of the family who is smarter than we give him credit for and he knows what he wants.

Regardless, we didn’t have have the opportunity to celebrate his birthday with family and friends last year so this year we decided to put on a ‘do’. His birthday proper was a few days before the party, and this was the first time he realised that it was a special day. When he woke up he was greeted to presents. One of the presents was ‘requested’ by him – “Daddy, for my birthday I want overhead railway tracks”. These are the wooden rails for the toy trains from Thomas the Tank Engine and Chuggington. Easily pleased. We threw in a few other ‘vehicles’ – some toy planes from the new Disney movie “Planes”. To say he was overwhelmed and happy would be an understatement.

Pok 0100

When he finally came downstairs to eat breakfast he got the chance to open up other presents flown in from the UK from his Grandparents. Happier boy… and for the record it was a special delivery of more trains

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To rev him up for his party, as he was still figuring out what this would all mean, the Mother of the Pok (my wife) got him involved in the food preparation exercise. One of the things he loves doing with his Mum is cooking and it gives me great joy watching him share one of my wife’s passions. He got to assist in making the cake, and it was not a bad effort on my wife’s part.

Pok Cake 0624

We held his party at the hall next to the children’s bike riding venue that I have blogged about previously. We didn’t have any games planned other than “Kids bring your bikes and scooters!” And the kids (via their parents) obliged. They zoomed off in all directions and generally caused chaos. It was great! And a couple of his friends (who had just turned three themselves) brought their new bikes to get rolling too.

Cutting the cake was the topping off of a great kid’s party. We haven’t seen too many times where the Pok was happy and humbled at the same time. This was the first time that he realised that the one day of the year that was all about him was his birthday.

Pok 1793

We are blessed to have a happy and healthy boy who brings us so much happiness. Now it is our job as parent’s to raise him with the understanding of how fortunate he is and that he doesn’t squander the opportunity that he has, and a lot of other children don’t.

No, we have not been blessed with a second child.

But we now have a fish! This last week I celebrated my birthday and my son, The Pok, decided that I needed a pet as my present. He tried to convince my wife that his Daddy needed a dog. Fortunately my wife does not think impractically like a 2 year old, and proceeded to convince him that it may be easier to take care of a fish.

Please welcome “Marlin” the Siamese Fighting Fish!

Marlin_the_Fish

He is only small at no more than 5cm in length (including his tail fins), but he is a beautiful shimmering orange with deep vibrant red fins. They are quite elegant when he spreads them to look like multiple fans of red spikes. The little guy has quite a personality too, and he kicks up a bit when we go to say hello to him. The Pok now has another daily task to add to his morning routine of feeding our fish. When I asked The Pok what his name was, he thought carefully and after a brief few seconds he shouted “Marlin!”

But Daddy, Marlin doesn’t Talk

The day after we got him, I picked up The Pok from day care and the first thing we both wanted to do when we returned home was to say hello to Marlin. As we gazed at his fish tank and spoke to him, Marlin stared back and opened his mouth. But it was confusing for The Pok that he didn’t talk back to us. He was moving his mouth, but no words were coming out.

Then it dawned on me that in my son’s world, everyone talks back. The trains talk in Thomas the Tank Engine and Chuggington, the cars talk in Disney’s Cars, the tools talk in Handy Manny, and the animals talk in Tinga Tinga Tales and Babar. Of course you have Mickey Mouse and his Clubhouse friends who are all chatterboxes too. Even when he plays with his toys, he emulates the conversations that he watches on the television shows and now makes up his own. When we go to a store and he sees a train or car without eyes The Pok says “Daddy, that car doesn’t have a face.”

Thomas_and_Lightning_McQueen

So you can imagine his disappointment when he turned around and said to me “Daddy, Marlin isn’t talking.” I provided some Daddy logic that only works on young minds and told him “That’s because Marlin lives underwater, and when you go swimming you can’t talk underwater.” The Pok was happy with that, for now, but no doubt he won’t be fooled for long.

Regardless, both The Pok and his Daddy love very much the new addition to our house. And it is never a dull moment figuring out the machinations of my son’s mind.

 

My son (the Pok) has been infatuated with Mickey Mouse since before the age of one. I am very much to blame for this as I fed his nascent interest one day by going to K-Mart and purchasing a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse DVD. This was further fueled on a trip we took to North America where we purchased him a Mickey Mouse stuffed toy from the Disney Store in Times Square, New York. Needless to say ‘Mouse’, as he is affectionately known, has not left his side and is now the mandatory travel companion – should one be required. But now as he is getting older, his fascination with the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse TV show has increased, and I find myself the viewing companion more times than not.

Mickey Mouse and Pok

I can see his fascination with the show. In each episode there is a problem, an adventure, some ingenious solutions to the problem, and some funny characters. Don’t forget the obligatory “hot dog” dance at the end of the show – which every guest to our house has to perform with him should the show be on the tube. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

But it got me thinking the other morning at 6am on the couch with my son jumping around and squealing at ‘Tootles’ (if you don’t know who ‘Tootles’ is, then you are either not a parent or your child has not yet been exposed to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse). There is no running plot with the Clubhouse, just a situation with random incidents… just like a show about nothing – Seinfeld! After examining the character personas, I came to a bizarre conclusion that the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is just Seinfeld for infants. Take a look at the characters in comparison.

Mickey Mouse – Jerry Seinfeld

MMC-MickeySeinfeld_Seinfeld

Both Mickey and Jerry are the stars of their shows. Both shows have revolve around their relationship with their friends, and in a more striking coincidence the key locale for both shows happens to be their place of abode. Both characters usually open and close their shows with an address to the audience (Mickey to the viewer and Jerry to his standup audience). Both shows also adorn their names in the titles.

Minnie Mouse – Elaine Benes

MMC-MinnieSeinfeld_Elaine

No I did not Photoshop a bow on top of Elaine’s head – those are her shoes. Both characters are the main female protagonists of their shows. Minnie and Elaine are both “love interests” of the star of the star of their respective shows (at one point or another). They both have similar conservative fashion sense.

Donald Duck – George Costanza

MMC-DonaldSeinfeld_George

Both Donald and George are the “angry” characters of their shows. They are both the best and oldest of friends for their show’s star. Invariably, the schemes that both characters hatch during the episodes fail. This is the second most obvious character similarity between the shows.

Goofy – Cosmo Kramer

MMC-GoofySeinfeld_Kramer

For me this is the most obvious character similarity between the show. Both characters are physically clumsy and amusing in their shenanigans. They are both taller than the rest of their cast ensembles. Their fashion sense is eerily similar, with the only thing missing from Goofy being Kramer’s trademark cigar. They also attain the most laughs in both of their shows.

Pete – Newman

MMC-PeteSeinfeld_Newman

Both characters the primary antagonists in their shows. They both sport the same rotund torsos. And (apologies Wayne Knight) they both have the same head.

A couple of the Clubhouse main characters don’t have direct counterparts in Seinfeld but do represent elements of the Seinfeld show.

Daisy Duck

MMC-Daisy

Like all of George’s glamorous love interests, Daisy Duck is the object of Donald’s affections.

Pluto

MMC-Pluto

Well he is a pet dog who doesn’t speak, so he really has no Seinfeld counterpart (Jerry never owns a dog in the show).

Both shows also have many other recurring characters to aid as plot devices. But where I find the most similarity is the ability that both shows have to make their target audience laugh.

Raising an infant is the most enjoyable fun that you can have. It makes you realise that their little world is just a smaller version of your own crazy adult world.

So I might be down a set of wheels, but that doesn’t mean others in our house are not keen to go for a spin. We bought the Pok (AKA our son) a balance bike a few months back and have been waiting for him to grow tall enough so that he can put his feet down on either side and push. He has recently gone through a mini growth spurt and we got him a new set of shoes that give him that little bit of extra height. Now he is ready to roll! After an abysmal weekend of weather, Sunday morning let the sun burst through the clouds. I could tell he was itching to get outside because he was riding the bike down the hallway. We had to take him to ride.

The location for his ride was the C.A.R.E.S Facility at Sydney Park in Alexandria. It is where they do motorcycle rider training for learner riders during the week. On the weekend it is where the children play on any combination of wheels. As soon as we parked the car up, the Pok was itching to take his bike for a spin – he wouldn’t even let me carry the bike to the track, he insisted on doing it. This facility is great! It has flashing signals (just like the proper ones on the road), speed bumps, marked pedestrian crossings, curbed road sides, marked lines – the works. And all of it is in a microcosm of traffic. For those parents half asleep walking through the complex you are going to get collected by a speeding child on a bike, scooter, or wheeled contraption of some kind. The look of joy on the kid’s faces is great, and this is the one of the safest complexes of its type that I have seen in Sydney where kids can just hoon around on wheels.

The Pok quickly got the hang of it, and it wasn’t long before he just took off and thought about looking for us as an afterthought. He was concentrating very hard, and what pleased me was his left hand prepared to grip the brake lever just like he has seen me many times doing before. Here he my little riding buddy hitting the track.

Pok Riding - #1Pok Riding - #2Pok Riding - #3Pok Riding - #4

What we weren’t expecting was half of the track being drowned in water from all the rain over the last couple of days. The drains must have been clogged, and this left a few dips in the road with big pools of water. Our son saw this and headed straight for that section of the road. He stopped as he reached the edge of the dry pavement and pondered his next move. After a very short period of pondering the words that came out of his mouth should not have surprised me, “Daddy, can I go in the water?” At first I responded “No, go the other way.” But then when he asked again I thought what would I have done if I was riding. Of course I would have gone through the water – again, and again, and again. There was no way I could stop him from riding through. So with shoes, socks, and shorts off he hit the trail again but this time Fred Flintstone style.

He Loved It!

Pok Riding - #5Pok Riding - #6Pok Riding - #7Pok Riding - #8

I would be lying if I said that there was not a hint of jealousy on my part. It looked like awesome fun! I think that this place will be frequented heavily until he goes exploring other trails. Especially if he gets to finish off his rides the way it finished today. He is too young to develop the cyclist’s post ride coffee addiction, so naturally he is picking a different poison.

Pok Riding - #9

Good times! If anyone wants to know where Sydney Park is, I have attached the Google Maps link below. The arrow marks the spot where the the riding track is. There is a car park adjacent to it with a set of lights to get into it, very easy to get to for anyone driving.

Sydney Park - Alexandria - Google Maps

 

OK – first thing to set straight – I LOVE LEGO!

Good that is out of the way. Even now as an adult, I achieve the same sense of wonderment from a simple set of plastic bricks. For me it is like building a puzzle, but with no set form and untold number of possibilities (and the most phenomenal statistic that I uncovered was that for 6 – 6-sided 8-stud bricks, the classic Lego brick, there are 915,103,765 possible 6-brick combinations – I have found that statistic out on How Stuff Works).Left to my own devices I could build and build and build, restricted only by the time commitments of being an adult and father.But I have not gone down the path of master builder as this would also probably be the path of divorce for me.

6 Lego BricksBut with the birth of the Pok, I have a new reason to play Lego! I probably pushed it a little too early, buying him way too much and constructing a lot of it for him when he couldn’t possibly interact. I do remember him sitting there in his first year watching me as I built him towers and cranes whose arms rotated above his head. We are not playing with Lego proper just yet, more Duplo, but it is great fun nonetheless. Below is our latest incarnation of a tower building, our Lego rendition of the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) – not quite the match that we would hope for, as we are stuck with the 90 degree angles that Duplo blocks push you towards. Obviously, the real thing is the one on the right.

Lego Duplo Burj Khalifa - for PokBurj KhalifaLego Duplo Burj Khalifa - Helicopter ViewWhat is funny is that the civil engineers who design these buildings do so to account for huge wind loads. We have to contend with apocalyptic Godzilla like attacks from none other than the Pok. Which shouldn’t really be much of a surprise given that there are not many real play opportunities for a big tower made of plastic bricks after it has been built. Hmmm… maybe a Lego Duplo Godzilla may be next on the cards – Pok would love that.

Lego Duplo Burj Khalifa - CrashHmmm… notice how he looks innocent again?

As he has been growing, I have waited patiently for him to connect two bricks together. You can imagine my joy when I saw him for the first time connecting the bricks, and then over and over again as he discovered a new found dexterous ability. But now our plotting and scheming is lifting up a level in our creations. The Pok has become quite interested in all things mechanical, and Lego is a great avenue for this. We were watching Cars 2 the other day and saw Mater become a secret agent with all sorts of gadgets. That gave me an idea, how about we make a cannon! But not just any cannon, a proper cannon that can target anything in the room. Below is the creation we landed with.

Lego Duplo Turret CannonYou cannot believe that amount of cheeky giggles that we have got out of this contraption. First target of course was Mummy of Pok. We sat on one couch and shot at her on another – 100 times. The beauty of this little contraption is that it has a full 360 degree arc of fire in the horizontal axis and 90 degree arc of fire in the vertical axis.

Lego Duplo Turret Cannon - Trajectory arcs of fireNow he is probably too young to learn trajectory physics just like a little Napoleon.cannon_trajectoriesI will wait until he turns three years old before I teach him this. The creators of Lego Duplo would probably have a heart attack when they found out that one of their customers was building mini projectile weapons systems from the pieces of the Agent Mater set (the cannon), The Deluxe Train set (the blue struts), both the Play with Numbers and Play with Letters (the support bricks for the bridge), the Stone Quarry set (the turntable to support the base platform) the Car Wash (base platform), and the Big City Zoo (the tiger log bridge which rotates on its supports).

Some people would probably call me a bad parent, but I think that every boy (big and small) needs an outlet for these militaristic tendencies. Hopefully I am nurturing a young engineer, let’s hope he doesn’t turn into a fiendish weapons manufacturer – like Tony Stark.

Lego Duplo Turret Cannon - manned by the PokPlus, he has his mother to teach him about cooking, music, and all of that stuff. 😉

Sometimes, it is too much for the little man and he has to do his own thing. More creations another day.Lego Man pondering and Pok asleep

Ever since I was a boy I have had a bike on hand to go on adventures. I was lucky to grow up during the BMX revolution where every kid was out on their bikes riding around everywhere. At the time there was no such thing as Playstation or Xbox, and we had plenty of places to explore as the surrounding suburbs had plenty of vacant lots, parks, and tracks connecting them all. I hope that I can instill that same sense of adventure and exploration in my son because… it’s FUN!

I still to this day remember quite vividly my first ride where my Dad took off the training wheels. I can still see my Dad getting out the socket set and removing the bolts that held the training wheels onto the frame. Then he held the bike with one hand on my handlebars as I gripped on, and with his other hand just underneath the rear of the saddle. Dad released me down the gentle slope of our home’s driveway to make it easy to build up momentum, at which point I promptly veered left as I overcompensated for his released grip on the handlebar. So my Dad picked me and my bike up, and we did it all over again – back on the steed. My steed at the time was this metallic yellow Raleigh bike which was single speed and you pressed the brake by pedaling backwards on the crank – locking up the rear. This would allow me to build up speed on the driveway and then lock up the brakes to cause a skid on the concrete. Little did I know that all I was doing was creating flat spots on my tires  though I rarely got a puncture. It was plenty fast enough, for my age, but I longed to join the BMX club.

I can’t remember which birthday it was, but one year my parents bought me a brand spanking new chrome BMX machine. It was beautiful and had everything I wanted on it! It was quite big for me when I first got it, and I can remember it was quite highly geared. This made acceleration a fair bit harder than what I was used to, but once I got up to speed it hammered. It wasn’t light, but then again I wasn’t that strong at the time either. Like a lot of the BMX bikes at the time it had “pads” – which were coverings over the headset, top tube, and handlebar cross bar. I still have no idea what purpose these served, but all the kids thought they were cool. The frame was covered all over in highly reflective chrome alloy coating that gave it a lustrous look. And it had a cool set of grips on the bar ends, and I had for the first time a brake lever for my front brakes (cool!) but still had the rear pedal backward lock up. Sure I had bike envy back then – every kid wanted a Mongoose, and they were priced with that in mind. I can’t even remember what brand my bike was. I remember looking at the kids who had the fat plastic bladed spokes (usually between 3-6 spokes) and would think “will they help me go faster?”. And maybe I would have put a set of cobra grips on it, but that didn’t really matter. All I knew was that it was my bike and it gave me the opportunity to go adventuring – I was part of the BMX club.

A lot of my memories from that point on were are of “stacks” (i.e. crashes) or “getting up to no good” on wheels. But the strongest memory I have is of a race against my brother that we held around Werrington Lake to settle a score. The score was an interesting one, because when my Bro got his BMX bike it was lighter, smaller, and a bit more lower geared. It felt more responsive in the steering, which was probably a reflection on the width of the bars. More importantly, it was easier to do jumps with over the dirt mounds in the bush behind the park. My Bro was my riding buddy, but we always wanted to know how was faster. So the challenge was set, and the competitive Yardin family had another trophy up for grabs.

The Race

The race was for 1 lap of Werrington Lake, and the winner was first past the post. Werrington Lake has a track that completely surrounds it with a bit of an incline  around a U-shaped bend (the big down arrow) and a bridge over a cascade with few stairs (that have now been removed) that required a dismount / remount a-la Cyclo style (the big left arrow). It isn’t a particularly long circuit, so in effect it was a sprint. The finish line was right before a bridge which crossed the point where Werrington Creek crossed joined the lake (the four pointed star).

Werrington Lake race trackMy Mum and Grand-mère were with us that day, and they walked with us to the lake. We notified them of the planned duel and as soon as we got there we were off. My Bro established an early lead by accelerating quicker than me, at which point I duly slotted in behind him. At this age I didn’t have a clue about drafting, but I remember that just to catch up with my Bro and had to pedal my ar$e off. We hammered along in a counter clockwise direction around the lake as he kept on looking back behind at me and my bike on his tail. As we rushed through the windy tree bit, we had to avoid a couple of pedestrians, which limited my opportunities to overtake. Approaching the bridge we were line astern as we dismounted. I tried to be cheeky and get out ahead of him by running into the remount. But he had my measure and quickly rode across my line to dash any chances of that. Riding on the long straight path approaching the U-shape path that went up the hill, I made an attempt to pass off the track on the dirt – quickly finding I had less grip and no advantage. So the last spot I had to make my move was on the descent from the hill in the final straight. I plotted my move and built up speed and momentum which my bro quickly matched. We hit the apex of the U and that is when I hammered it, passing him and building up plenty of speed. He tried his cut off move again (just like a certain Michael Schumacher – boo hiss boo), but I had already passed him. That was the last straw for him – but to his credit he put in all he had. The positions reversed, and with 100m to go, I kept up the momentum to cruise to the finish. We were line astern with me in front, set to take the palmares. But my Bro was not finished and in the last 20m he pulled out from behind me, put his head down for the final push. I didn’t know, what was going to happen next because I was to busy concentrating on avoiding the looming pylon, and finish line, splitting the path into left and right traffic. I crossed the line only to hear behind me a massive…

Crash!

My Bro had run straight into the pylon with his front wheel at full speed. The bike bounced off it like the ball in a pinball machine and he went flying over the bars ahead. When I retold the story as a kid I would say that he went flying past me, but truth was that he hit the ground pretty hard and the gravelly track decided to give him a bit of a massage. At that point my Mum and Grand-mère were waiting close to the finish line and watched it all in horror. I had mixed emotions. I was elated that I had tactically executed my move in the race, and won. On the other, my Bro had just wiped himself out before crossing the line. He was banged up, in pain, and in no mood for any post-race assessment. We walked him and his bike back home where the Tour Doctor fixed him up. My opportunity for gloating was gone, instead we both got a talking to from our Mum about the dangers of racing. My Dad, competitive as he is, of course provided no such counsel. My Bro stayed off his steed for a while, battered in both body and confidence – and we never had a rematch. But this ride was now forever burnt into my memory.

Thanks to another blogger “women.cyclists” who inspired this blog with her post about the “Best Ride of My Childhood“. Both her and her partner get up to some pretty good two wheel adventuring.

In writing this post, I was trying to find a photo of my old BMX bike and discovered this awesome site BMX Museum. It is a treasure trove of old bikes. I still could not find my bike in there – but a cool trip down memory lane nonetheless.

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