Is Everything REALLY Awesome? A Lego Movie Review

I have mixed feelings about my kids’ addictions to Lego bricks. I do love their educational value. The Padawan saves his money to buy sets that he likes, the more complicated, the better. He learned the value of following directions, and also not to pour all thousand pieces out on the table at once. Those who accuse sets of stifling a child’s creativity have never seen a ten year old redesign a space ship to give it more playability and durability. We have loose bricks, too. Very loose, under foot, even. I don’t mind. The boys love them, and they’ll spend hours building and creating. And we’re all hooked on the Mystery Mini Figures.

I hate the rampant commercialism. We went to a Lego Discovery Center a couple of summers ago. We’ll never go back. I looked into purchasing the Minecraft sets at Christmas. 469 micro bricks for a mere $35. Micro bricks. For $35, I can purchase a Lego set that is all of 3x3x3. Inches. $35 and Squish could hold the whole thing in his hand. No. Thanks.

When the Lego Movie was first advertised, I knew I would be dragged to see it. It’s PG, and ever since “Horton Hears a Who” introduced Squish to some fabulous new words, I’ve had a strict policy of prescreening anything rated higher than G. Last Sunday, I got up a wild hair to treat the Padawan to a movie, sans little brother.

I didn’t tell him where we were going, just that we had an appointment at 1:30. My secret scheme was almost blown at lunch when he said “I want to go see the new Lego movie.” I played it off by asking him if the movie was even out yet. Clever me. He had no clue about our destination until we stepped up to the ticket window. Apparently, he thought I had found him a therapist (I don’t even…), or maybe we had an appointment for a massage. Yes, that sounds like me.

We went full works. Popcorn, sodas so big we’d be peeing Pepsi for a week, enough candy to guarantee illness. It was a perfect set up.

Long story short, I knew I would hate it. I was wrong. I left the theater thinking that Lego Group deserves every penny they make on this film. It was delightful. The cast is star-studded. George Takei, anyone? There’s action, there are celebrities bringing back beloved roles (no spoilers here, folks), there’s earworm that I am still singing.

There’s plot, there’s silliness, and best of all, the Padawan and I both loved it, but neither of us felt compelled to go out and purchase any of the affiliated items. The sets they’ve come out with to go with the movie tend to be a mish-mash of bricks with limited use, and even some pink Duplo style blocks. They’re in keeping with the plot of the movie, but they all look like something a kid could make themselves. We will collect some of the mini figures, but we do that anyway.

I recommend the movie for ages 7 and up. There’s (surprisingly) nothing inappropriate that I could see (and you’d better believe I was looking). There are no snarky kids, no graphic anything,although a few characters are mistreated, and an important plot point is the main character’s friendlessness. The one thing that would make me hesitant to show it to Squish is the plethora of “butt” jokes. I don’t like that word. But that was the only thing. The only thing.

The reason I don’t recommend the movie for younger children is because it is plot-driven, not so much action-driven. There is action, to be sure, but without understanding some intricacies of plot and dialog, there are not enough explosions and car chases to keep many younger children engaged. I know. The theater was full of them, and they got kind of wiggly. My suggestion for those whose little ones are dying to see it is to wait for the DVD. Then buy it. And watch it until your ears fall off. Because they will. Everything is awesome.

The Padawan hasn't had the best luck with Mystery figures. Most of the ones he got at Christmas were girls. But I covet that chihuahua, don't you?

The Padawan hasn’t had the best luck with Mystery figures. Most of the ones he got at Christmas were girls. But I covet that chihuahua, don’t you?

Attitude of Gratitude

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Life gets completely crazy busy, and I lose sight of what’s good in my world. I’ve been teaching middle school literature classes for the last couple of weeks. I love what I’m doing, but I’m so tired at night that I’m unconscious by 9pm. I’m treading water. Tears have been shed, most of them mine. But it will be okay. Today, I will be grateful.

Our pipes froze and burst, soaking a lot of stuff in our garage. But it was all good. The repair was in the most accessible place possible and took only 20 minutes for the plumber to fix, and the bill was very affordable. The really good part is that this incident alerted us to potential problems that we should be able to prevent going forward. And the boxes of ruined things I carted to the curb were things we really didn’t need anyway.

Squish has no ability to sleep in. I’m tired, my husband is tired. On weekends, we’d like nothing more than to just sleep until we can’t sleep any more. Currently, Squish’s feet hit the ground at 6am, school or no school. There is no rest for the weary. But the kid is a total morning person, and he really is a delight. He’s at his most entertaining before the sun comes up.

I can wake up to this face. Couldn't you?

I can wake up to this face. Couldn’t you?

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I am too tired to write. But it’s times like this I know how much my husband loves and supports me. When my half-day at school turned into a full day, he took off work a little early to bring me lunch. And the next morning, he got up with Squish so I could sleep. After I took a shower, I came back to my room and found he had set up my writing station, complete with my cup of coffee. And he sent me out of the house to write today. Forget Valentine’s day. My whole life is Valentine’s Day right now.

I am frustrated at having no time to write. Which means I still enjoy it and need writing in my life. It would be sad if I didn’t care. I have so many opportunities that are presenting themselves. I’ve been invited to contribute to a site in my own city, which is exciting and may open some new doors, and I’m trying my hand at short stories for the first time since this one. Go ahead and click over, if not for my story then for the Severus Snape gif that makes me a little teary-eyed. Snape loves me, he really loves me. I’m going to have this new story whipped into shape by February 15.

I’m ready for winter to be over. I hate driving in the snow. My road is off-the-beaten path and is oft neglected by snowplow and salt truck. When school was dismissed early a couple of weeks ago due to unexpected snow, we almost didn’t make it home. Our neighborhood is hilly any way I go. I chose the most likely path, and it was the wrong one. I couldn’t get up the hill, and when I tried to back up, I lost control of my van on a narrow road with deep drop-offs on either side. I prayed harder than I’ve prayed in a long time. When I finally let up on the steering wheel, the skid righted itself and I eased in to a driveway so I could turn around. I felt God telling me “You’re holding on too tight.” And He was right. My whole life of late has consisted of fighting to control things that just aren’t meant for me. I’m letting go of the things I’m not the boss of. The Serenity Prayer is my mantra. And I feel free.

Besides, if Squish slept late, and if it were summer, would I have ever seen this?

Besides, if Squish slept late, and if it were summer, would I have ever seen this?

What are you grateful for this day?

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Ten Things I Don’t Want to Hear Two Days Before Christmas

1) I have a Christmas lunch at work/school/preschool tomorrow. What would you like to make?

2) I need to start my Christmas shopping. Can you take me to the mall?

3) How about that! The guaranteed Christmas delivery wasn’t actually guaranteed.

4) The turkey’s going to take three more days to thaw.

5) We’re out of tape.

6) Can you wrap this? And this? Oh, and this?

7) I should have opened the shipping carton when it came two weeks ago. Instead of Star Wars Legos, they sent a beer pong table. We can’t give that to the kid, can we?

8) Did I forget to tell you my second cousin, twice removed, will be at Christmas dinner? We have a gift for him, right? I’ve met him once, but I’m sure you could pick out something he’d love.

9) The cat just threw up on your Christmas sweater. Is the dry cleaner open today?

10  ) Were we exchanging gifts this year, or just giving them to the kids?

Squish

Merry Christmas!

Take That, Pinterest!

You may remember that I’m not on Pinterest. I have my reasons, and the rest of civilized society has theirs for not wanting me there. I’m about to give you another one.

Recently, I flew the friendly skies. “Friendly” is a bit of a stretch; more like a-little-TOO-friendly-and-with-very-poor-personal-boundaries skies. Other than a quick pat-down and an agent freak-out over the rice sock I brought to soothe my sore knee, my travels were uneventful. I even managed to fit a souvenir for the kids into my carry-on.

Imagine their delight when they were each presented with their very own airsickness bag. The Padawan was so overcome with emotion that he had to leave the room. Or maybe he went to play the Wii. He was gone for a long time. I’m pretty sure it was emotion, though.

Motion discomfort bags (or as Squish calls them, “barf bags”) are the perfect gift for any child, prompting hours of dramatic play. Squish walked around all afternoon pretending to throw up in his. Think of how well-prepared he will be for a life of travel, and as an added bonus, when he moves to the top bunk, I can just hand him a bag and he’ll already have his aim down pat. Or he could learn to pack his own lunch. Barf bags are waxed on the inside to prevent spillage. So many possibilities in one small bag.

Our favorite use, though, is for craft time. There’s something for everyone. Look what one small motion-discomfort bag can do for you and your family.  Click to embiggenate.

How do you put a price on creativity?

Airline ticket: $400

Barf bag: free

Quality time with family: $400 + $100 food costs + $20 gas to airport + $36 long-term parking

Taming the Mountain

We’ve talked about it for years. We both wanted to do it. We would do it. Someday we would pack our gear and get it done. On Saturday, someday arrived. We hiked to the peak of Mt LeConte.

For weeks prior, I was plagued by doubts. LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smoky Mountains. We’ve done the Alum Cave Bluff portion a year and a half ago, and I remember it being a real challenge. This time around, we would be in the company of the Padawan’s Webelos den. Would I be able to keep up with the kids? Would I be that mom who slowed the whole group down? I didn’t want to ruin it for my husband or my son, especially since our den leader had planned the whole trip so he could award the boys their Webelos rank at the top of the mountain. It was a big deal.

Husband and I had some disagreements prior to stepping off the trail. I let him win on both counts, but I still resent it a little. He talked me out of taking my “real” camera, and I had to settle for my daughter’s point-and-shoot. He also balked when I packed my book in my backpack. “You’re not going to have time to read, and you’ll be sorry for the extra weight.” Yeah. I did, and I wouldn’t have. But whatever.

On the way up, I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s not every day I get to cross something off The Dream List. The trail was so much easier than I remembered, maybe because I didn’t have a thirty pound preschooler dangling off my back this time. We got to Alum Cave much faster than I expected, and it was actually fun. It wasn’t a fear of heights that made our last trip so terrifying, it was a fear of Squish plummeting off the side of the mountain. No Squish, no worries.

Yes, it's as steep as it looks.

Yes, it’s as steep as it looks.

 

We tagged about 1/10th of a mile behind the Padawan’s group, well ahead of the middle-of-the-pack. My husband and I hiked essentially in solitude. We talked. We are at our most honest on the trail. Being in the moment brings the things that matter into clearer focus. We can solve the world’s problems at 6,000 feet. As the path grew more difficult, the talking stopped, and our thoughts turned inward.

We hit the top after just under three hours of hiking. Actually, we hit it sooner than that, but we missed the trail to the lodge and kept hiking another 1/4 mile before I realized our mistake and we got turned around. While we waited for the last group, we took a side trip to the actual peak.

Please ignore the cheesy grin. Please?

Please ignore the cheesy grin. Please?

I must have framed a thousand shots that I did not take. The breathtaking peaks and valleys; tiny deer mice scurrying across the trail; tangles of tree roots spilling downhill like so much water; my husband, rosy-cheeked and smiling, mist hanging over the hills; my son grinning with the triumph of 11 conquered miles.  I carry those images in my heart.

old_glory

Captain’s Log: Day 10

Captain’s Log

September 26: Internet mysteriously disappeared this evening. I can’t get the computer online at all. Coincidentally, our neighbors moved out this afternoon.  We’ll miss them.

September 27: Internet still down. We’re not one of those families who are so tied to their computers that they can’t live without it. We’re made of sterner stuff than that. Only spent an hour trying to connect to the internet. The rest of the time we played games. Our favorite was “What would you look up on the internet if you could?”

September 28: Made a completely impulsive and unplanned visit to Chic-fil-a. Since we were going anyway, I took along the laptop. Seems foolish not to avail myself of the wi-fi since the cost is built into the price of the milkshake, anyway. Interesting how the kids don’t have a word to say to me all week, but as soon as the laptop is booted up, they can’t stop talking to me. And watching me. And trying to push me out of the way.

September 29: Chic-fil-a is closed. It’s the Lord’s day, so it seems reasonable to take a day of from the internet. Go to library instead. What do you know? Free computers!

September 30: The Padawan has been without Minecraft for so long that he is now punching actual trees. He is vaguely surprised that no craft tables appear – only splinters.

October 1: I wonder if the neighbors’ departure has something to do with our loss of internet. Maybe this means I have to get in touch with a cable company to have our own installed. Ironically, the only way to find their contact information is via internet. I take up basket weaving.

October 2: Without the interwebs to distract me,I am reading at a rate of a book a day. But I cannot get online to catalog and brag about my accomplishment.  What is the point?

October 3: Focusing more of my time on rewrites. It’s rather like spending time with an ex and wondering what you ever saw in them in the first place. This is normal, right? I think 20% is good, and maybe another 35% salvageable. No way I’m finishing this thing and getting beta readers by January.

October 4: Still no consistent internet. My Bitty Pet has starved to death. I might as well go to work.

October 6: Haul laptop to Starbucks. Strictly business, of course. I need to plan out my trip this weekend to see sj and Amy and do a blog post so that my readers don’t think I have died. Although I’m pretty sure I need them more than they need me. Husband is pressuring me to get finished and leave, but I am WORKING. Bitty Pet has not, in fact, starved to death, but the little blighter betrays me with a poorly-timed *ding* Husband says it’s time to go.

Tomorrow was supposed to be my day to write, but it turns out one kid has a checkup. It will likely take up the majority of my free time. Oh, well. It cannot be helped. I wonder if the doctor’s office has wi-fi…

Parenting Fail #324

I know what I’m supposed to do. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for a local parenting magazine reminding other people to do it. I didn’t take my own advice, and I won’t even pretend that I’m sorry.

All the experts advise getting kids on their school schedule a week or two before school actually starts – goodbye, late nights; hello, early mornings. Yeah. I didn’t do it. I did cut out the late nights. Everyone’s in bed nice and early. Because that’s a hardship for me. I did that part. It’s the waking up early I didn’t do. I have a good reason. Meet my reason:

I know. He looks like a baby Nosferatu. He was eating bing cherries.

I know. Squish looks like a baby Nosferatu. He was eating Bing cherries, not feasting on the flesh of villagers. I swear.

Rousing the Padawan early involves waking his little roommate, as well, something I’m not quite willing to do. Because the kid doesn’t sleep. Naps are for pansies, bedtime is for losers. If he deigns to sleep, I am loathe to wake him because once his tootsies hit the floor, he is all up in my bizness awake for the next fifteen hours, about four of which are pleasant. Apparently not wanting sleep and not needing i are two different things.

Logic would tell you that taking a kid out and letting him burn off all his energy would help said child to sleep like a dream. Logic would be a big, fat liar wrong. I took the Padawan and his buddy on an overnighter to another city recently, knowing that if Squish can fight sleep for two hours all alone in his room, sharing a hotel room with four other people would make bedtime extra fun. But I had a plan.

That plan started with swimming. I chose a hotel with a pool so we could do a little splishy-splash. If I let Squish go for a nice, long swim, I reasoned, he’d be more amenable to catching some Z’s. Right? You know how it ends.

We swam until 9pm, then we went upstairs. He was tired. Very tired. But tired is only a kissing cousin to sleepy, so the next part of my plan involved a little television. Give me fifteen minutes in front of the TV, and I’m snoring like an asthmatic bulldog. Like mother, like spawn, right? After two-and-a-half hours of House Hunters, Squish finally fell asleep

Sleep may be too strong a word, really. He’s a bit of a flopper. He never hit a deep sleep, alternating between  bludgeoning me about the head, and dragging his claws toenails up my shin.

I never studied physics in college, but I did not expect that a body with such little mass could displace so much space. He put down roots in prime mattress real estate – dead center – and I couldn’t budge him for love nor money. At about 2am, desperate for some sleep, I scooped him up and slid him eight inches west and tried to tie him in place tuck him in. My efforts backfired, and I suddenly had a Squish clinging to my head like a baby octopus. It would have been easier to sleep in the floor. With a tiger.

At 7am, the kid was awake. Perhaps you are thinking that eight hours is all Squish’s body requires to function at top capacity. Does this look like top capacity to you?

Yeah, I'm all set.

“Yeah, I’m all set.”

 

We had two melt-downs and a Come-to-Jesus meeting before we even left the hotel. Tired = wired. Isn’t that fun? But I’m not one to give up. Because of my plan and all.

My plan told me that a long day spent running around out of doors would lead to a quiet car ride and pleasant night. You see where this is going, right? We enjoyed six hours at a zoo, two of which were spent playing hard on the enormous playground. Then we popped in the car for the three-hour ride home. I waited for him to fall asleep. And waited. And waited. Yeah. He was awake the whole time, refusing to punch his ticket for the dreamland express until after 9pm, three hours after we got home, and two hours after I began to seriously consider selling him to the circus. I love plans.

So I hope the experts will excuse me for enjoying a few minutes of solitude. If they judge me, I hope they do so quietly. Squish is still asleep.

Lost in Translation: Preschooler Edition

I am the master of languages. Need an interpreter for your family? I’m your gal. Spouse speaking Greek? I am at your service. Confused about what your meteorologist is trying to tell you? Allow me. Unsure what those pesky labels mean? I can clear things up. Today, I’m here to help you better understand your preschooler.

At the table:

“I’m full.” - I have a more pressing engagement. Like sticking Legos up my nose.

“I don’t like this.” – It’s not a hot dog or peanut butter sandwich.

“I’m ready for dessert! I ate all my dinner.” I gave it to the dog when you weren’t looking. Ready for some cake?

Getting Dressed:

“This shirt is too small for me. You need to give it to a baby.” It doesn’t have Spiderman on it. It has Bob the Builder, and I will look like a dweeb.

“This shirt fits me just right!” Even though it’s three sizes too small and is compressing my rib cage so hard you can see my heart beat from across the room. It has Spiderman on it. Spiderman!

Out and about:

I want to walk myself. No stroller.”  - I have just enough energy to last until we are equidistant from any exit.”

“I’m ready to go home and take a nap, Mommy.”  – I just broke something.

“Sharing is fun!” – Ah, I see that you have ice cream.

At Home: 

“When is Daddy getting home?” I need to ask for something I know you won’t let me have.

“I’m your big helper!” - I just scrubbed the toilet with your toothbrush.

“I’m not doing anything.” I hope you have good insurance.

Bedtime:

“I need a drink of water!” I need to make sure everybody’s fun stopped when my light went out.

“Can I sleep in your bed?”  - I just peed in mine.

'nuff said.

’nuff said.

Guess what?!! Today is release day for The Big Reap!  Buy The Collector series now, thank me later.

Happy Holiday!

This year, a lot of holidays have passed unnoticed and uncelebrated.

Valentine’s Day: always a non-holiday. No candy hearts here. They taste like chalk. I don’t hate Valentine’s day, it has just never been earth-shattering. Like Arbor Day. I like trees every day, thanks.

Easter: We went to church and worshiped, and it was beautiful as always, and we went to my mom’s for a family lunch. But it rained the entire afternoon, thus no egg hunts. Mom put the kibosh on indoor egg hunts when I was ten and we lost an egg. It wasn’t lost forever, of course. We found it. When it exploded in the closet. Did I mention we used real eggs? No hunts.

Father’s Day: Husband took the kids to see his folks, and I was working and couldn’t go. I told him to pick a day to celebrate, and he hasn’t. So I save the cards for next year? I guess after he reads this, he’ll let me know.

Fourth of July: We did nothing. At all. It rained all day long. Husband took the big kids to fireworks in the drizzle. The kids weren’t in it for the fireworks, though. Turns out, there’s a tradition between the three of them that involves Slurpees.

After all those misses, I was not about to let another National celebration slip away. So on that note:

Happy Hostess Day!***

celebrate_good_times

 

That’s right! Hostess products are back on the market! I’ve checked the local papers, and I haven’t found a parade. I’m sure that was just an oversight. No day off from work, either, which was kind of a bummer for hundreds of millions of us. Next year, perhaps? They’ll still be fresh by then.

I feel the same way, little buddy...

I feel the same way, little buddy…

 

*** I had to call it Hostess Day. I know Twinkies are the real news-making snack cake, but even I can’t bring myself to eat a Twinkie. You celebrate your way, I’ll celebrate mine.