Tag Archives | legos

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

Monday Listicle: Animals (real & otherwise)

Abu Dhabi in late August doesn’t have much in the way of wildlife. Everything that breathes, it seems, is hiding in the shade waiting for sundown, or, in the case of human animals, vacationing in cooler climes, like Bali. But Stasha has asked us to think about animals for the Monday Listicle (inspired in part by her giveaway to the Woodfield Zoo, so if you’re around her neck of the woods, click over to her site and enter her contest!)

Stasha also asked me to come up with the topic for next Monday’s list and I swear, the responsibility has been weighing on me all week. I considered any number of topics and then realized that, given the back-to-school season and my own family’s huge transitions this summer, that I should let David Bowie call the shots on this one. So the topic for next Monday’s list is Ch-ch-ch-changes…Changes. You could list back-to-school sales, or sharpened pencils, or those pesky roots that say “time for a touchup!” (Wait, sorry, maybe that’s just me). Or just a list of Bowie songs…or let his lyrics be your guide.  That’s the great thing about a listicle: anything goes!

And speaking of anything goes, here’s my list of animals. Given my circumstances–and the relative dearth of animals in my life, the exhibits here are quite rare, not often found in the zoo (or, for that matter, in the wild):

1.  Ursus stuffus souvenirus:

That’s Caleb, napping under his bears (and giraffe), all of which have been collected from one or another sporting events. He loves these bears way more than the fancy Steiff animals he was given. And much to the chagrin of his Mets-loving father, Caleb’s favorite is Bearsy Bonds, pre-steroid scandal, from a San Fran Giants game about eight years ago.

2. Rare Arabian Pachyderm:

3. Cattus Nolongerdomesticus Parkus:

We went to a big park at twilight last week and Liam and I thought all the grounds were covered with seagrape leaves and palm fronds. You can imagine our surprise when those leaves suddenly began to scamper around. The entire park was filled with cats. I don’t know if they’re all the products of abandoned animals–expats dumping their pets and leaving town–or what, but it was amazing (and a little sad).  This is as close as I could get to any of them.

4. Gazelleus mosaicus:

Many of the pedestrian underpasses that go under the busy waterfront road up to the Corniche  are decorated inside with mosaics showing scenes from Arab history and culture.

5. Falconus mosaicus:

Falconing has a long tradition in Arabic culture and in fact on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi is a Falcon Hospital, which we want to visit (when it’s not so hot). I bet you didn’t even know that falcons got sick, did you? See what you can learn from a list about animals?

6 & 7.  Abu Dhabi has also experienced sightings recently of mythic creatures, previously only seen in storybooks:

8.  Finally, no trip to the zoo would be complete without a trip to see the monkeys:


Continue Reading · on September 5, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Monday Listicle, urban nature

Abu Dhabi Birthday Boy

Dear Caleb

Today you turn seven. You’re the first person in our family to have a birthday in our new Abu Dhabi life and it seems appropriate that it should be you, because after your father, you were the one most excited about coming here.  I’m sorry there haven’t been any camels yet, but we’re working on it.

This year will be quite remarkable, I know, and not just because we’re living in this fascinating place but also because your curiosity and imagination are going to make it more interesting.

You remind us that we’re a family and not just a bunch of people living under one roof: you’re the one who asks for family dinner and family game night.  And because I love that you want us to play together, I swallow my dislike of Risk (your new favorite game) and pretend to care about world domination.  Much to your older brother’s displeasure, you sometimes end up ruling the world (and although I don’t show it, I’m delighted when you beat him).

Your endlessly unspooling Lego stories, about conquest, espionage, battles and skirmishes, which you tell to yourself for hours and hours reminds Liam that there is more to life than computers and soccer.  I see Liam watching you sometimes, as you’re crouched, engrossed, over a floor full of complex battle scenes and he looks almost envious: he wants back into that world of seamless, unselfconscious story-telling, but he can’t quite get there.

I love that even though your energy could fuel a small city, you’re also very happy to curl up with a book or to sit with your markers and write a story (usually about battles, conquest, espionage, and world domination—yes, there’s a theme).

When we go to the park, or playground, or beach—wherever there are other kids—I know that you’ll end up playing happily with kids you don’t know.  You are good at making friends: every morning last year, when we walked into the courtyard of your school, a gang of kids would run to you, shrieking “Caleb’s here, Caleb’s here!” I know you’re nervous about starting a new school next month, but I know you’re going to be fine.

I love that your first action on coming home is to take off your pants: you wander the house in your underwear and socks like an old man from Queens. All you need is the remote control and a beer to complete the picture.  I love that you’d rather eat vanilla ice cream than chocolate and that you want to be a mad scientist, not a regular scientist.  And I love that you’ve never met a costume you didn’t immediately want to wear:

cousin mathilda’s cat tail and cat ears

This last week in Abu Dhabi, you’ve been learning to dive. You climb out of the pool, get your arms stretched up, your head tucked down, knees bent, push off…and slam! belly flop into the pool.  You come up out of the water smiling: “better this time, right?” Again and again and again. Stretch, tuck, push, SLAM.  Any day, though, it’s going to click. I can tell you’re getting close.

From the moment you learned to walk—at a ridiculously early nine months—you’ve embraced the world, not always sure you can handle it but always willing to try.

Happy Birthday my sweet Caleb.

Continue Reading · on August 23, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, growing up

The Nature of Their Toys

The other day I wrote about how Husband and the boys all play “together” in an online virtual world. They’re talking to one another as they play–“do you have the paradox coins?” “no but I found more imagination points,” “how do you get to the maelstrom?”– it’s as if my apartment has suddenly become the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, which I think may make me a white Uhura, but without the great haircut.

(And yes, Husband, I realize that you’re playing Lego Universe and it’s totally not Star Trek, but just allow me some blogetic license here, okay? I’m making a point.)

The boys love it–and by “boys” here, I include Husband, too. Poor thing seems to have married a woman who finds computer games…well, dull. My time-wasting mechanisms involve flipping through the tabloids, scrolling Perez Hilton, trolling the blog czarinas, or compulsively checking my twitter feed, so it’s not like I want everyone to Be Productive All The Time. But this picture, of each of them staring into a screen and not at each other bothers me. I know they’re interacting–they’re talking to one another, they’re frequently on missions or excursions or battles together, out there in the virtual universe–but it’s not quite the same as  flinging the dice at someone during a game of Risk.  That’s how you play a family game, people.

How do you learn, while you’re gazing into a screen, that functioning in the world requires compromise and negotiation and the ability to put up with people who are idiots?  In the game world you can eventually just blow up people you disagree with (the Quaddafi method, we might call it).

Caleb loves Lego Universe and another game, called Age of Empires, which is a game based on actual historic figures–you have to decide when and where to attack, how to build a fortress, gather supplies, protect your townspeople. Tonight Caleb was playing with an army being led by “some guy, Nah Plee Own, who is that?”

Napoleon, that would be. Famous French general, now a character in a computer game. Vive la France.

Caleb can play this game now, ironically, because he can read–all the commands and options and various strategies come up on the screen in little blurbs, so if you can’t read fast enough, you can’t figure out who the hell Nah Plee Own is going to attack next, or who is going to attack him.

So bravo for the reading skills, right? And of course, Liam used to play Age of Empire all the time, so Caleb feels very grown up, hunched in front of his screen like his brother and father (and yeah, okay, like his mother, who writes this post sitting on the couch with her laptop perched on her lap).  Screens are inevitable in his life, just as they are inevitable in the lives of all the kids growing up in this day and age and demographic.

Caleb’s legos–actual legos, not virtual legos–come out less frequently now. And even though my desk resides in lego central, I realized the other day that I miss that hellacious pile of nubbly plastic bits.  I’d rather have this:

or even this:

But I think as Caleb gets older, I’m going to see more and more of this:

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Continue Reading · on March 7, 2011 in Children, family, growing up, tech life

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