Archive | legos

Twelve? twelve? … TWELVE

If you’re a person who writes a blog and if that blog should talk about your children if you have them (or your pets if you don’t, although really it’s about the same thing, isn’t it?), then the occasion of a birthday – theirs or yours – might call to mind a blog post.

And if you’re going to write a blog post about a birthday, you might find yourself wandering in the thicket of photos on your computer, and it might be that these photos, which were going to be organized last year five years ago weekend but then there was that thing that happened so you couldn’t get to it and then – well, anyway, the thicket of photos might prove to be an endless forest in which you would wander for hours, lost in thinking about that tiny baby, who is now…



And you would emerge blinking from your dreamy visit in the digitally preserved past, like so much pixelated amber, and say to yourself, that teeny burrito-sized baby, twelve? 

Because twelve — well, to be twelve, you might as well already be thirteen. Twelve is but the pause, the deep inhaled breath before the exhaled hormonal hurricanes begin.  But what’s that, you say, boys are easier? Less tumultuous, fewer emotional high-wire acts?

Hmm. I’m skeptical. Liam has never in his life, as near as I can tell, followed the conventional path anywhere:

He sets his alarm for 5:49 every morning, gets out of bed, showers, gets dressed in his school uniform, and is already playing his computer game before I’ve stumbled out of my room ten minutes later. He’s been reading Isaac Asimov’s book Atom for fun; he came to a book talk we had on campus a few weeks ago about Yann Martel’s Life of Pi — of his own volition.

At twelve, this boy is torn between being a physicist, a professional soccer football player, a chef who specializes in chocolate desserts, and an inventor – and who is happiest building intricate, self-designed Lego creations. At twelve, he can’t find the “off” switch on his competitive engines, even to play a “friendly” game of Monopoly. He’ll gut you over Boardwalk without batting an eyelash, will wheedle for you to do a trade with him until you give in…and then slam you with rents so high you’re bankrupted.

At twelve, this boy–who lives for football, and finds fart jokes vastly amusing, wanted two things for his birthday: a fuzzy bathrobe and bath products.  It’s as if he’s channeling Hugh Hefner, but he has no idea who Hugh Hefner is.

At twelve, he wants to be a good big brother…if only his younger brother would leave him alone. Except when Younger Brother does leave him alone, Older Brother suddenly feels lonely, suddenly aware that having an in-house companion is a pretty spectacular plus.  And mostly eight and now-twelve have found an equilibrium, realized that in our expat lives, where transience is a fact of life, they’ve mostly got each other – so killing one another is probably not in either of their best interest. A few years ago, Caleb’s joke present to Liam – a rock, ala Charlie Brown’s Halloween – would’ve given Liam apoplexy. Now, in his mature twelve-ness? He laughed.

Twelve. Old enough to be left alone for a bit if I have to run to the store; old enough to be interested in things like nice-smelling shampoo and having his hair look just so in the morning. But young enough to still sit on my lap, to ask for a hug, to want me to tuck him in at night and “say good-nights.”  And as I whisper our good-night ritual, I trace the outline of his face with my finger. In the dark, it’s twelve years ago, eleven years ago…it’s all the years, and I’m rocking a baby to sleep.



psst, guess what? (yes, I’m whispering; the baby is asleep) there’s a challenge grid going on in the yeahwrite world for those of us stupid brave enough to tackle NaBloPoMo. Yes. A post a day. Might not keep the doctor away but it may bring on tendonitis. And a lot of good writing. So click on the badge and look around the grid: you might find some new favorite writers to keep you company through Thanksgiving, US football, rainstorms, and whatever else is coming down on you these days.

Continue Reading · on November 18, 2012 in growing up, Kids, legos, Parenting, preemies

beyond the bricks to the beauty shop: lego goes girlie

A friend circulated this ad on facebook. Maybe you saw it as it made the rounds?

The ad is from 1981, not a year particularly celebrated for female achievement (although it was the year Britney Spears was born, so I suppose that counts for something).

I love legos and this ad only stoked my lego-love. My kids are lego freaks and over the years, my only consolation for finding those sharp-edged pieces in the couch, on the floor, embedded in rugs–on pretty much any flat surface–has been to feel all smug that my kids play with such a gender-neutral toy, a toy that is endlessly creative, blah blah blah.

Then I saw this ad on the lego page site:

If Polly Pocket mated with a Star Wars mini-fig, or if hookers gave away bobble-head doll versions of themselves…here’s what would result: chicks hangin’ at the Friends cafe.  When you click on the live screen, these figures sway back and forth, hugging each other and kissing each other on the cheeks. Maybe they’re whispering sweet nothings to one another–maybe it’s the lego version of “The L Word.”

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Continue Reading · on January 8, 2012 in Children, Education, Feminism, Gender, Kids, legos, Politics, pop culture, ranting

Ikea, i just can’t kwitya

We left New York in July with 12–TWELVE–suitcases in tow.  For a variety of reasons we decided not to ship any personal items and instead we took full advantage of our business class tickets, which allowed us each 3 checked bags, at 26 kilos each. If you’re flying business class, each suitcase can go up to 32 kilos, however, and they don’t charge you an overweight bag fee. It’s not fair but we were in no position to argue ethics with the flight crew: we needed every kilo of baggage we could get, and if that meant the people in steerage coach had to jettison their carefully considered gifts for folks back home, so be it. Dump ’em, baby, I’ve got fifteen pairs of shoes that must come to Abu Dhabi.

Of course, we got our comeuppance at the check-in desk, when two of our bags hit the “danger” weight of more than 32 kilos, and we had to scramble around to re-pack things, in front of all the real business class travelers, in their Chanel cashmere wraps and slim titanium rolling bags.  Nothing like having to re-pack, in public, on the floor of the airport, at 5 in the morning after being up most of the night to really start a trip off on the right foot.

Whatever. We got here. Bought ourselves a little suitcase-weighing gadget and before we left London for Abu Dhabi, we weighed each bag with the kind of attention drug dealers give to parceling out cocaine.

And what, you ask, was in all those bags? Well, clothes. Tablecloths. Vitamins. Shoes. Stuffed animals. Soccer cleats. Deflated soccer balls. A beautiful set of measuring spoons that someone gave us for our wedding. A blu-ray player. A wii. Books. Markers. Shampoo. Pure maple syrup (which is impossible expensive here).

And this:

Yes. That is in fact an entire duffel bag full of legos. And not a small duffel bag, I might add.

When we got to Abu Dhabi, that duffel bag translated to this:

Piles of ziploc bags, each containing fistful after fistful of lego, have been piled along the far wall in the boys’ bedroom for two months, ever since that duffel bag got upended the day after we arrived.

Last week we went to Mecca Ikea. Say what you will about that place, in Abu Dhabi, if you aren’t Emiratirich, it’s pretty much the only show in town. We visit friends in this building or elsewhere and it’s “Oh, you got the Expedit in brown. We have it in white.” Or “we looked for that table, but it was out of stock.” We’re all on a first-name basis with the innards of the Swedish flat-box store. (There’s a very funny article about Ikea in the New Yorker last week, or maybe it was two weeks ago. Or maybe last month, who can be sure).

We ordered enough stuff that we got delivery and assembly minions included (alas, you have to give the minions back). They came today and in addition to a sleeper sofa (now we can have overnight guests! If you ever find yourself in the neighborhood of Arabia, stop on by!), we got various shelves and boxes, and this:

I think it’s actually called Trofast, but I prefer “lego wrangler.” Put one of those little circles over the “o” in lego and you’re all set. See? Tidy, color-coded (because god forbid Liam’s pieces should mix with Caleb’s pieces), and not on the floor.  Anyone who has ever stepped on a lego knows that the “not on the floor” part is key.

And that is why I keep going back to Ikea. It’s not great furniture, but I need the bins.

Continue Reading · on October 8, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, legos, moving, shopping

Jealousy is the brother of invention

The other night Liam built a lego ship that looked like this: IMG_0001IMG_0002

What prompted him to create this all-black gunship, piloted by a man dressed in black, right down to his black slouchy hat? ?

Rage, pure and simple. He’d come home from soccer camp to discover that his brother went to the Lego store and got a cool new set and built the set himself and we’d publicy praised that accomplishment. (Let’s see. His brother got a 45$ toy for his school achievements, Liam got a week of soccer camp. Yeah, I can totally see how Liam feels ripped off.)

Liam looked around, got all Caleb Caleb Caleb and stomped into his room insisting that NOTHING WAS WRONG.

Thunderbrow emerged for dinner, slunk back into his cave, and re-emerged about 45 minutes later with his jet-black creation.

Curiously, we didn’t applaud his creation, perhaps because as he was showing it to us, he managed simultaneously to disparage his brother’s achievement.  Anybody can follow the directions, but I did this myself, he said, in a voice dripping with disdain (both my kids do disdain with a skill that Oscar Wilde would envy).

Ah sibling rivalry. A poisonous little snake that oozes out and coils around both boys, more frequently than I’d like to admit. It wasn’t the toy that pissed Liam off the other night; he says he’s really beyond mere sets. What made him angry (aside from losing a soccer match earlier that afternoon) was the fact that Caleb had been able to build something pretty damn good without Liam’s help — and that means that in Liam’s mind, there is suddenly competition for the household title of Best Builder.

Caleb, of course, only wants his brother’s approval — it just kills me, sometimes, to watch him trot after his brother, holding out his latest invention, hoping that Liam will toss him a few words of praise.  If praise isn’t forthcoming, however, Caleb spares no mercy: he has been known to hide key pieces in a fit of pique, or to jostle something fragile “on accident, really!”

It’s good, I guess, that Liam’s jealousy manifests itself in something creative (clutching at straws here); it beats the shit out of what Cain did to Abel.  God knows my siblings and I had our own share of arguments and rivalries (none of which ever resurface at holidays or family visits, of course), so probably I shouldn’t be surprised that as Caleb grows up and claims more of his own territory, Liam is starting to wonder if there’s going to be fraternal claim jumping.

There isn’t really a solution for sibling rivalry, as near as I can tell. All we can is show the boys that they can both be really good at lots of things, and that there is enough (love, admiration, legos) for everyone. It sounds cheezy, in an everybody-gets-a-trophy sort of way, but isn’t that the ultimate worry–that the other one is loved more?

So tomorrow I’ll praise Liam’s black ship of spite and Caleb’s spacecraft, and make room for both of them on my lap.  It ain’t much, but it’s the best solution I’ve got.

Continue Reading · on July 1, 2010 in Children, legos

Mecca, Now Open in Rockefeller Center


It began about a week ago.

“What’s the date, mommy?” Caleb would ask.

And then he would carefully count from whatever that date was, to the 29th.

Oh well, that makes sense, you say, because the 29th is the first official day of summer vacation for NYC public school students.

Nope. That’s not it at all. The 29th was the official opening of the Lego Store in Rockefeller Center.

The Lego Store, aka mecca, aka the shop of the holy grail, aka the no-you-don’t-have-enough-pieces-already emporium.

A trip to the store did not occur just out of the kindness of my heart, oh no. I’m the mean mommy, remember?  It happened because back in December, we had decided to… incentivize, let’s say, Caleb’s reading progress. At that point, he seemed reluctant to tackle anything other than the easiest books and—much more worrisome, he was gave up as soon as he encountered a difficult word. We wanted to help him find a reason to work through the harder words, and so we promised him that if he reached the end-of-year goal set by his teacher, he would get a Lego set of some magnitude.

Ever since the “incentive program” was put in place, Caleb pored over his Lego catalogs like a Talmudic scholar, weighing the merits of Space Police versus Pirates versus Atlantis.  (And worked at his reading, thirty minutes a night, making slow but steady progress towards where his teacher wanted him to be.  The lesson here, of course, is that greed can be a powerful pedagogical tool.)

What Caleb loves most of all are the mini-figures, the little people that populate lego-world. Caleb uses these figures to create elaborate narratives that he doesn’t realize put his entire subconscious on display–as well as his startling talent for making blowing-up sounds.

You can imagine, then, the joy with which the announcement of the Lego Store was received and why the 29th became such a shining day on Caleb’s personal calendar.

I’m on Caleb detail this entire week, actually, because Liam is in soccer camp, and Husband is finishing a book (so his ever-loving wife has offered to be the SAHM this week, and yes, dooce readers, that does translate to shit-ass-ho-motherfucker).

I told myself that I would travel on Caleb time and not do as I usually do with my second child, which is to hustle his ass hither and yon as we go from school to soccer to karate to errands…So he set our timetable today, which was to be at the Lego Store WHEN IT OPENED. Caleb customized a shirt for the big day:

IMG_1508I had visions of Apple Store-esque lines, but it was, by New York standards, a totally manageable crowd, all of whom roared approvingly when the doors to the shop opened on the dot of 8AM.

We were in the store for more than an hour, perusing the shelves, examining all the lego vignettes that were set up inside viewing windows in the store, asking ourselves how they built the dragon tail that undulated across the ceiling.IMG_1514

There were grownups there, cheerfully unaccompanied by kids, including two guys loading up what looked like plastic deli containers with lego pieces from the huge parts wall. They said they were architecture students but I think they were just there because they loved legos:


Caleb made his selections and we made our way home, where for the first time ever, Caleb put together an incredibly complex set, with only a little help from Mommy, who served primarily as piece finder.

Can I tell you that building those goddamn things is both utterly engrossing and as boring as watching paint dry? Somewhere in the second hour of building (we took a lunch break, don’t worry), both of us just wanted to be finished, but because I refused to build it without him, Caleb stuck to it.

The finished product, all three hundred and ninety one goddamn pieces of it:


I think it means he’s ready for first grade.

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Continue Reading · on June 29, 2010 in Kids, legos

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