Tag Archives: Ethan

Portal Gun – Electronics

The circuitry of the gun was by far the hard part and most complicated. However, it doesn’t need anything more complicated than a basic knowledge of secondary/high school electronics/physics. Trust me, YOU CAN DO THIS.

Let’s get the important theory out of the way first – using LEDs with batteries you need resistors. A good resistor calculator is available here. You’re after the calculated resistance value. You’ll find that resistors aren’t always available in the exact value you need, so round UP. You get slightly more resistance and you don’t risk burning out the LED.

but if you like knowing the maths, read this instructable about how it’s calculated. I like knowing, and did my own calculations (on paper no less!) before buying my resistors. If you’re buying more than one value, learn which are which before you start so you don’t confuse them, they have colour coded rings to show you.

I added my LEDs and resistors in parallel with a resistor for each LED, hoping that if one failed I wouldn’t lose all my lights.

Ok, let’s talk supplies. For your wiring you will need:

LEDs in Blue and Orange. I bought 20 of each as they were cheap.
Resistors for your LEDs
Cat 5 cable – this has 5 pairs of colour coded cable so you know what you’re wiring, it’s fab stuff.
A switch (more on that later)
Battery case and attachment
Soldering Iron (ebay, £7 for mine) and solder
Electrical tape in black and white
Wire strippers.

Here’s my box of bits and pieces, I am quite proud of it!

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You want to wire up each LED in parallel, otherwise all your calculations are for nothing! I’ve read you can wire them up in series, but you then need to compensate with a much higher input voltage from the batteries, which will take up space inside the gun. You do then only need one resistor, but if you break it, the whole circuit can burnout. I was also connecting three different numbers of LEDs to one power source, so by connecting in parallel the values are all the same and it doesn’t go squiffy. I started with the operational end of the device, and started by wiring individual LEDs. You want a positive wire, then the resistor, then the positive leg of the LED. this is indicated by it being the longer lead. then to the shorter leg you want to attach your negative wire. for this part you can leave the negative wire off for now as it will get in the way in this piece. 5mm LEDs fit almost perfectly into a normal office hole punch hole, which is handy for placement. I cut a circle of card to fit the lid end of the black tube (operational end), and tried to evenly space a circle of 16 holes, as I decided 8 LEDs made a good circle of light, and you need orange and blue in there.

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In the second picture you can see the positive wires (branching out, they’re orange but the joins are covered with electrical tape to prevent short circuits, so you can’t see much orange this close up!), the tiny blue resistors, the back of the LEDs, and the negative wires joining in the centre to be soldered to one negative wire to go back up the gun.

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Here you can see the mess of the blue LEDs (the resistors got covered on these too) with the blue positive wires and blue/white striped negative wires. Then there’s the neat(ish) end plate with the LEDs in place. They wouldn’t sit nice and flat, which is part of the reason I decided to cover the end with a plastic cover, to make it look a bit more finished. Once you’ve connected all the positive wires together and negative wires together for each colour you have to cover all the wiring in the back, without leaving any bare wires that might touch each other. In the end I did a layer of electrical tape over the orange wiring before putting the blue in, and then an extra layer of card on to help hold things in, and more tape.

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Here you can see the + and – wires for blue and orange. Make sure you leave it long enough to reach back to your batteries.

Next, the core. I was going to try to make some kind of diagram to show you the parallel connections for this one but good old google to the rescue:

ledparaYou can add as many LEDs as you like this way. I went for 7 of each colour in separate circuits, and then I used a glue gun to put them in the recesses on the plunger handle. Again, lots of electrical tape to insulate.

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Excuse the awful lap shot, it was daytime and that was the only darkish place to see the light. You can see the battery case and wires there too, which at the end cal simply be connected.

IMG_4738These pairs of LEDs are for the indicator light. They were the easiest bit, just connect in parallel again (don’t forget your resistors) and connect in. Because it’s all in parallel and calculated for the same battery power, I was able to run it off one source, using one switch for simplicity. The switch I used was a on-off-on, double pole double throw switch. If you’re lost, don’t worry! It’s much easier to use than it seems. You can see it in the pictures below, it’s quite small! technically you don’t need double pole (the poles are where you connect the wires underneath) but there was so much getting connected it was nice to have extra bits. You can connect the wires to each other first and then to the switch, so it’s all neat and tidy.

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Double throw – this means you can have the switch on to one part of the circuit and not the other. This means you can connect the orange circuit to one side and blue to the other, so when the switch is in the centre, all is off. switch to one side and it’s orange on, switch to the other side and it’s blue on. Hence it’s on-off-on description. This meant it was easy for Ethan to operate without him having to faff about and look at it! It sounds more complicated than it is! I’m afraid I don’t have pictures of the next bit as I was so busy getting it actually done I forgot. But it’s easy! The positive wire from the power source connects to the central pole(s) of the switch. The positive blue wire for the blue circuits attaches to the pole(s) on one end, and orange positive wire on the other. The negative wires from both circuits simply connect back to the negative wire to the battery. Now you have one circuit, that can be switched on and off at one point. Ta-Da! The battery holder case I bought came with a connector so I can disconnect the batteries and replace if needed. Let’s see the innards:

IMG_4918Ok. You can see the red switch. The green wire is the positive lead to the batteries, with positive orange and blue wires on each side. If you look at the left you can see at the black electrical tape where the blue and orange wires split off for different things. Up at the top is the indicator light, in the centre of the black tube is the core/plunger handle, and at the bottom of the black tube right by my hand you can just see where the wires for the operational end. They go in there, and between the two black tubes down to the end unseen. On the right you can see where I’ve condensed the negative wires down to one orange/white striped wire going off to the batteries. Once everything was connected I could glue/tape it all in place and make a bodged housing for the battery from some foam so it wasn’t knocking about but still able to get the batteries out.

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You can also see the handle I put in there and that the switch is glue gunned into a place near his fingers so he can flick it easily. Handily, the glue also insulates the poles so the wires can’t create a short. With the batteries in you can also see the red positive wire from the battery connector, this connects to the green one mentioned above as they are only short ones. And that’s your lot, electronically. I had an absolute blast making it and learning new skills, I’m itching to try something else now! If you follow the Aperture Science or Portal tags on the bottom of this post, you can see the rest if you’ve not found it yet. Thanks for reading! Any questions I’d be happy to help with, comments below 🙂

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The Portal Gun

Or to give it it’s full name, the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. Here’s a reference picture of it:

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And here’s ours!

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Let me start by saying I would have got absolutely nowhere without these two instructables: Build your own Aperture Science Portal Gun and Budget Portal Gun from Recycled Materials. These were fantastic and I would definitely recommend checking them out before you start.

Obviously we took a little artistic license, but we’re both really pleased with how it turned out!

Let’s start with the tube-y part with the lights in. I’ll do a separate post on the electronics side of it, so if you want to make it with the lights, don’t glue it all together before you plan out your circuits. I used two of these tubes from Lush for the central black part. tubesI think these actually might have been the most expensive part. Anyway, the top and bottom pop off, and the tube opens up flat. I sketched out the shape of the hole I wanted and cut it out of both. I slid one inside the other to strengthen it, make it black both sides, and to leave a space to insert the ‘glass’ cover and run cables back to the hand end from the ‘operational end of the device’. To make one slide into the other, the inner one had to be opened out flat and trimmed down, with also meant I had to make new slots for the tabs to fit, but it worked. a bit of electrical tape over the tabs to secure the join and it was done. I also taped the join on the outer tube to give a clean finish on the outside. I had to trim the ends of the inner tube down too to get the lids back on, but the plastic was easy enough to cut with scissors

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For the glass I tried to find a similar width drinks bottle or something. I actually had one at home that I had in mind to use, but as soon as I wanted it, it disappeared! I couldn’t find a suitable replacement until I realised a cut down 2 litre pop bottle would do the job. It has a ridge in the middle, but I at least made it straight so it looked like it was supposed to be there! It was two wide so I cut a section out and wedged it between the two black tubes, for now. It can be glued in place later after you use it to hide the wiring.

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The central core was a clear plastic handle from a plunger. I really lucked out actually on this as it was cheap from ebay and had two brilliant recesses where I was able to stuff the LEDs rather than trying to light it up from the ends as I saw on instructables, which looked way harder! I sanded the plastic so the lights would be diffused better. It also just happened to be almost the perfect length. For the operational end, I cut through the lid of the tube and used cardboard and craft foam to hold the LEDs in place. The lids are very thick plastic so I had to use a heated needle to punch lots of holes and then sand off the mess. for the back end of the tube I just put a small hole in the lid to fee the wires through, and a hole in the middle to hold the handle/lightstick.

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To bulk up the end I found some guttering parts at B&Q (hardware shop). I think they were kind of brackets. I removed the fixtures and seals and they just about fit right. I decided to cover the LEDs with a thin piece of plastic and foam so it’d look a bit neater.

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The front white piece is the side of a large conditioner bottle, cut down to size and shape. The bottom edge should really have been curved but again we went for time and money saved. The claws I cut from the plastic left over from the black tubes, and glued together with a small piece of craft foam to cover the join and look like a bracket, two on the white part, and one on the top of the black end. I did the same when gluing on the cables, as they’re not functional. In fact I actually glued them into the same bits of craft foam on the claws.

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The back end was two large bleach bottles. I could only find ones with handles so I had to cut those out and overlap the two (hence the big hole!), and cut the top off to fit the black tube in. After it’s all been glued in place, you can use black and white electrical tape to give really nice clean edges. As you can see there’s a whole mess of wiring to figure out too! I put a length of pvc pipe in for a handle so Ethan could easily hold it and still flip the switch.  You can see on the top of the inside of the bottle where the wires lead to the indicator light (the second picture). The indicator was just a small circle cut into the bottle, and I found a curved piece of plastic to cover it, that I stuck in from the inside for neatness. I think it was from a vending machine pod, with a little toy in. I put the tape on for a stripe and then covered the extra glow through the plastic with an aperture logo. This is a visual change I didn’t love to be honest, but it had to be covered or as you can see the glow looked ridiculous. We consoled ourselves by deciding that Ethan was a test subject from before the big GLaDOS meltdown, so the gun was a slightly earlier model than Chell’s!

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You can also see where I used black tape between the bottle and the black tube to neaten it up.

I used the bottom of one of the bottles to give the end a cleaner look, so it wasn’t just the cut off end of the bottle, and cut a hand hole into the bottom for access. A bit of white electrical tape around the edge stopped it being scratchy and looking messy. I also used white tape to cover the joins of the two bottles and neaten it all up.

And there you have it for the physical build! Check out the second post for information about the wiring side of it. Any questions are more than welcome, if I seem to have skipped any steps or you want clarity, comments would be great 🙂

 

 

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Aperture Science: We do what we must, because we can.

 

In November, Ethan went to his first Convention. He was really excited and decided he wanted to cosplay, and chose to be an Aperture Science Test Subject from Portal. So I started to look at how to make him a costume and gun, and drumroll please…..

Ta-Da!

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For reference, here’s the main character from the game, Chell.

chellVia the half-life wikia

We made it all, bar actually sewing the jumpsuit. I tried looking for an orange one to buy, but while there are plenty of American prison-style ones for adults, there aren’t many for kids. In the end I found a white one online (Amazon have it) and dyed it. Fun tip – check your fabric content. That suit is a poly/cotton mix, which need two different kinds of dye. I ended up having to do it twice. I’d try to get one that’s full cotton if you can find it, as polyester needs to be boil dyed too, and it stinks!

After that we used this site to print the aperture logo as an iron on transfer to add a little detail to the suit:

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We also did the same for the full Aperture Science logo to go on the T-shirt he wore underneath.

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With it being November, he couldn’t be barefoot like in the original Portal, so we also made him some ‘Long-fall boots’. With him being 6 I didn’t know if he’d have the patience to walk with some kind of bent bar of whatever I could come up with behind his leg, so we simplified. I bought him some white sneakers (super bargain, only £6.50 in the sale from Sports Direct):IMG_5049and made the back of the boot like a kind of reverse shin pad:

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I did these the night before the con so they could absolutely be neater! It’s craft foam cut to shape and size, with elastic cuffs on the front. The stripe on the back is electrical tape for a nice neat line. The ‘bolts’ holding in the straps are just craft brads I had in my mending box. I continued the line on the back of the sneakers with another strip of tape, bonus, it peeled off really easily after and left no marks. IMG_5050

And that’s the outfit really. He kept the top half of the suit up most of the time as it was freezing, but he loves his T-shirt and wore it to school for non-uniform day this week. We also made the Portal Gun, but that is going to be picture heavy so I’ll stick it in a new post.

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September – We’re not weirdos.

I’m sorry, I’ve had a terrible case of writer’s block recently, along with getting back to school and routine, and a couple of real doozy tantrums from Sam, and I was NOT in the mood to write about them. To be honest I’m not particularly in the mood to share them now, but I’ll get to them at the end, along with a couple of things I did to cope.

First I took the children down to mum’s for a few days during which Henry and I went to Nanny’s funeral. For something with the word ‘fun’ in it, it sure does suck. We did however get to have some fun before and after, including the mega 4 hour drives there and back as I took Amy and her two with me to share petrol costs, so I got to learn about traumatic eye injuries and stuff. By the way, Amy is an A&E nurse Sister (I keep forgetting the promotion!) and also teaches lectures on the subject every now and then, we’re not just weirdos. I also got to see my sister Sheri over from New Zealand which is of course rare.

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Also not weirdos. Maybe.

We had the return to school, which both boys were excited for, though not especially photogenic!

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That’s better! They’ve settled in nicely and Ethan is enjoying being on school dinners this year. He’s enjoying seeing his friends again and as far as I can tell, enjoying lessons. The Headteacher took a lesson with him and mentioned to his uncle (who works at school) that he was very bright so that’s lovely to hear. Sam loves nursery, he’s got some new little friends already and we’ve even had two over for a play already. I was terrified it would be manic but they all played very nicely!

Then two days later, Ethan had his Orange Belt Grading at Tae Kwon Do. Unfortunately I had a brain fart and we were 20 minutes late as I thought it started at ten thirty, when in fact, it did not. They were very kind though and let him in anyway and he did brilliantly.

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For some reason I didn’t take a picture of him actually breaking the board, but he did it first time! That’s Tony with him, who he thinks is the bees knees. As an aside, the school is absolutely fantastic. All the teachers are great with the kids and they have such fun, but without too much messing about. It’s Ossett Martial Arts and though it feels expensive as you pay monthly, you can go up to 12 times a month and so it works out at less that £5 a session. You do pay extra for grading but that happens at the most every 3 months. It’s a family run business, Brian and Tony are a father-son team and Brian’s wife Jan runs the office. We love it, so if anyone nearby is interested, tell them we sent you 😉

Slightly deer-in-the-headlights here, but he was so excited. The belt is of course massive.

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That same afternoon (understanding my slight exhaustion yet?) Sam had a birthday party at Ponderosa in Heckmondwike. It was fab! We got the reptile talk party and Sam loved it.

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He was mesmerised by the snakes and bearded dragon, and had a lot of fun playing with his friends and riding a pony.

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He decided the party hat was a unicorn horn. Also not a weirdo.

The next week we headed over to Accrington to see my brother-in-law Matt, his wife Mel and their new baby Caleb, who was being blessed (just remembered, I still need to transcribe that!) at church.

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Isn’t he gorgeous?! I was sat behind them too so I got to steal him for many lovely snuggles. The boys were totally in love with him. Sam kept stroking his head and even Henry was ooh-ing at him. We’ll get to see them again in a couple of weeks which will be lovely, and I hear he is packing on the pounds, sounds familiar!

Then we headed back down to my parents again to bid them farewell on their mission. As there were lots of people we were in a hotel overnight and the boys found it very exciting.

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I was impressed actually, it was only a Travelodge, but we had a kingsize bed, two full size pull out single beds, and a cotbed for Henry, and still had enough room to walk around them. The bath was ridiculously small, but the shower was fine. We took our own breakfast snacks and all was fine, except for the people in the room above us clomping about at all hours. You can’t have everything I guess! I also managed to forget my favourite facial scrub and shower gel, along with a jug we’d borrowed from mum but c’est la vie.

We’ve now sent them off for 18 months to New Zealand to serve the Church, where they’ll be helping oversee the building of a new camp which will be opening fairly soon, so not a holiday by any means! That was pretty much the end of the busy weekends though, so now we’ve been tackling the weekdays.

Sam. Oh Sam. Why must we do this? So many tantrums. You’ll be four in less than a month, but we are still entrenched in toddlerhood, it would seem. I assume it’s escalated with the return to school and such, but they’ve turned extra mean. And at pick up time, where everyone is watching. I love you little oddball, but you really must stop punching me. and screeching. Please.

I am desperately trying to be kind about it. We can’t keep fighting each other, we’re too similar. I try not to shout, I promise I do. Now, please try to stop shouting no at me and running away, and hitting. Ta muchly.

I’ve found several posts over at HandsfreeMama helpful, particularly the one about yelling  and one about jumping to conclusions and blame, and most of all, the about page, where she talks about the distractions of life and trying to put them aside and be more in the moment with your children. It’s a little too saccharine for me sometimes, but the points she makes are all spot on.

So, I’m trying to be less distracted. I’m putting the phone, and the lists, and the computer, down more. It’s harder than I thought, but it’s worth it.

So we can be not-weirdos together.

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Summer 2014, part 1

Dear internets,

I’m sorry. I totally abandoned you over the summer (again). Let me make up for it with a bit of a post dump!

We had a fab summer. The big boys stayed at Grandma and Grandad’s caravan for almost a week and then we took Henry down to pick them up and had a lovely long weekend. Upon their reunion, silliness ensued.

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We took a day trip on the Friday to Barmouth, which was lovely. Lots of lovely little shops, including this:

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I loved this shop. more than a normal amount. We had the kids with us so I didn’t get long to look, but I could have got lost in there. Look at all those boooooks!

And this fab sign outside a sort of pick ‘n’ mix shop with allsorts in.

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Why thank you odd little welsh shop! I fear the scales disagree with you.

While there we took a little boat trip across the harbour to a miniature railway. The boys loved it. They had to walk a plank into and out of the boat, pirate style, and then of course Sam was very happy at the train situation.

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Look at that floppy hair! It’s so cute, I always regret cutting it.

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This one is just a bit mad. At the other end of the train ride there was a fab model railway, and a room full of toy trains. They were totally in their element and didn’t want to leave!

On Saturday we had a gorgeous day at the beach, with sand castles and swimming and ice creams and picnics and the lot. Henry enjoyed paddling with Grandad and smashing sandcastle, and the boys enjoyed going as deep as they dared with me. Ethan is a little more wary, Sam likes to charge in. More on that later. We had a wonderful time, and the weekend went far too quickly.

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They were not happy to finish their holiday and come home, and neither were we!

I snapped this one while the boys were playing –

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I love it when they randomly love each other 🙂 not long after we got back from Wales we got to meet Stella’s (my sister in law) new puppy Fitz.

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He’s a miniature Schnauzer and I think I love him. He, however, saves his love for Sam. He is rather aloof towards me. I don’t mind (much) though, because look at Sam in this picture.

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He ADORES Fitz. Also because of Fitz, Rich has come around to me getting a dog, now he knows I would be happy with a medium to small dog (I’ve always wanted a big one). So as soon as we move, that’s now on the table! Hurrah! I have wanted a dog since I was a child and never been able to have one, so the wheels are very tentatively in motion.

We also took a day trip to Pugney’s lake with Amy, Hayley and Austin.

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There were ducks, and duck faces.

The big ones ran into the water and had lots of fun.

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Then this happened.

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Sam wandered a little too far in. He was still above water but started to panic a little. Luckily I was prepared with empty pockets and a watchful eye as this is not the first time he’s charged into water. Last time my dad was the one to charge into the water and scoop him out, and that time was scarier, but he is obviously fine as he continues to love the water! Lesson learned though and Amy and I had actually joked about who would run in for him before it happened.

I drove home wrapped in a towel. I’m so glad I wasn’t in an accident that day!

And I’ll leave you with that flattering picture. You’re welcome! Next time – our official family holiday (back at the caravan) and all that entailed.

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Six-year-old Ethan

  While we were away Ethan turned six. Six! It’s been six years since I had no children. I wrote a little about the day it changed here, but I didn’t say how much I loved him, as soon as he was here. How immediate it was, and the bewilderment that I felt when I realised he is mine and I am his, and that they’d actually let me take him home and I was a Mother. Here is the story of how at 4 days old he slept all night on his Daddy, who was afraid to wake him.

It’s true what they say, they days are long but the years are short.

This year as we were in Wales he had a shop bought cake and chose this one:IMG_3701IMG_3703

As you can see he was very happy with it! We saw them on our first day in the supermarket but then they were gone again, and he was very anxious that we wouldn’t get one.

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That face is so grown up, and everyday he gets longer and leaner. One of his presents was a paperjamz guitar, and he loves it, and rocking out in his pyjamas. It’s best when paired with another of his presents, which was a proper spiderman suit, no padding, complete with hood. I’ll have to get a picture!

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He lost another tooth too, which makes three, and three more wobblers. They’re so tiny, they seemed big enough when he got them at 4 months!

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My first baby, as he likes to remind me. He’s so kind, and gentle. He loves his brothers with a fierceness that sometimes goes over to fighting, but he will always defend them. He shares well, and loves his friends. He’s a whizz at computer games, especially lego ones and minecraft, but also Portal. He loves Doctor Who, and he’s well on his way to becoming a geek like me, and I still love him as much as that first day, my beautiful first baby.

 

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We love Wales

Two weeks ago we headed off for our big family holiday, where we go with my Mum and Dad, my sisters Amy and Jess and their families. This year we went to Borth-y-Gest in North Wales, which is a teeny little village outside of Porthmadog. We stayed in two semi-detached 4 bed houses that were so lovely, though they were halfway up a huge hill with no driveway.

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The views were gorgeous though.  We were really lucky to get 3 full days on the beach, and the other days were mostly sunny, with one thunderstorm which unfortunately our little clan were caught out in. The first day on the beach we walked down without swimsuits and the boys in normal clothes. Of course that didn’t last…

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Sam and Ethan both loved the rock pools that they went exploring with daddy, and Sam waded right in and got soggy shorts. We improvised for a bit, giving him Ethan’s pants (little boxers), but apparently they were all that was holding his shorts up.

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Sam however was happy enough splashing around in his t-shirt.

On a slightly less sunny day, Mum, Dad, us and the kids went into Beddgelert. We had a nice stroll around the short main street, then Grandma helped the boys play pooh sticks over the stream, and we walked up to the Grave of Gelert the dog.

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The story goes that A prince came back from a hunt and his dog runs out to meet him covered in blood. He runs in and sees that his baby’s crib is overturned, blood everywhere. In a rage, he kills the dog. The dog’s dying yelp is answered by a baby’s cry, and on further searching, the prince finds his son, unharmed, next to the body of a huge wolf. The prince was said to never smile again.

As Ethan said, “It’s a very sad story, isn’t it.”

After that we went for ice cream at an award-winning shop (Glaslyns) which was delicious. Sam picked strawberry, and then decided he didn’t want it. I offered him a taste of mine and then mum said “Do you want to swap with mummy?” Yeah thanks mum! She bought me another to make up for it though. As she should have!

A few days later and we were back on the beach. Ethan enlisted Jonny’s help to build a volcano.

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Later it turned into a batcave. It was also Henry’s first time at the beach and in the sea.

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He wasn’t sure at first! Please excuse his scraped up face – he threw himself out of the pushchair one morning while I was strapping him in, straight into the gravel, poor sausage was a bit battered. He didn’t cry for long :/. It was mostly a graze and has now cleared totally. He liked the sand, and eventually the water too. He’s not too keen on any walking, so it was all slightly disdainful!

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I also got to swim in the sea twice. On the first beach day Amy and I swam across to a huge rock. as we got closer, the current started to push us sideways, but we pushed through the freezing water to make it. When we got there, there was a small sign on the rock that said… strong currents around the rock. That really would have been helpful on the beach! Then on the last beach day we swam out in the sea and just swam about for a while. It was fantastic, once you get past the cold. I was so glad I got to do it as I love swimming in the sea. There’s just something about it, it’s so calming and big and open and free.

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I think Sam agrees.

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