Monthly Archives: August 2013

Life & Age: Navigating My Birthday and General Thoughts About Birthdays

3 and 3
Side by side
Forgive me
As I run and hide

3 + 3
Equals 9
Hey, ok
That’s just fine

The above is a dumb little poem I made up in simultaneous honor and gallows humor for my recent birthday.

Numbers mess with me. They and their relative, Math were huge stumbling blocks throughout most of my schooling. I have always regarded numbers with measured scrutiny, like a dog sniffing out the other, while circling round the opponent. I’ve always put too much credence in numerals. Always allow them to be heavy, to weigh more than they really have to. This truth holds for many of life’s occasions that we tack digits on to, as well as when I move from one age to the next. I get anxious about the numbers on the scale; about how far into the month we already are; how far into the year; the day of the week; the time of day; and yes, my new age; what it means; what I’m “expected” to do with it.

I’ve never known how to deal with getting older. Some people seem to give none of this any thought at all, and walk right into their next chapter of life seemingly feeling no affronts. I want to be better, to envision myself likened to a fine bottle of wine. Aging with maturity, grace, and class. With all that life contains, why do I even worry myself about it?

Birthdays should immediately remind me of all that I’m grateful for, instead of pointing out to me, like an accusation, all that I’m not that I wish I were, all that I want to be, but can’t seem to find a way to make happen. I want to instead be a version of Julia that embraces her birthday, not dreads it, or ignores its pending arrival. I’m trying to reverse my thinking, and feel that I actually did a decent job viewing it this way this time.

I remember as a small child having parties that my mother planned and organized for me: my first birthday party was in the living room of our house. I, in my Sesame Street paper hat, sat surrounded by cousins with the cake smack in front of me, looking dazed. The memory has been so clearly reinforced due to the photo my mother still has that I’ve come across many times over the years, superimposing it across some randomly selected part of my brainwaves. When I was turning 5 (I think), I remember going to a local McDonald’s with my mother to talk with an employee about renting space there for my party, followed by the actual party a short amount of time later. I remember being enthused about the entire idea. I believe I had recently started school, as I feel that some of the guests were schoolmates.

But that’s the rub of it all — at least, for not knowing much about psychology, I think it is; the cousins and I lost touch and didn’t grow up together. The classmates were brief fellow fellows. The parties stopped, as they do for most people. I realize that other adults don’t normally have birthday celebrations of any sort (isn’t that sad for us?). Nevertheless, my birthday just makes me think of all that isn’t. All that was, but now is not. All that could be, but not quite yet. It makes me think of the circle of close, best friends that I always imagined I would have by now. That would celebrate my next year with me over dinner and drinks and some raucous, but clean-fun laughter. And every year, that is not the case.

Of course, the people in my life who care about me, whether family or friends, make it a point to drop a “Happy Birthday” text, email or quick Facebook message. A few even still send cards by post. And that’s great. I feel my heart warm for those things. I just wish that there were more of them. I just wish that I was the type of girl who made and kept great friends with supreme ease. In high school, my birthdays would have been tons of fun. College, epic and awesome. Post-college and on into the expanse of adulthood (the most lasting portion of our lives — I never thought about how out of balance the phases of life are until I hit my 30’s a few years ago) would have been, could be amazing and unforgettable.

A columnist I follow, who writes for Parade, Connie Schultz, penned an article that was run toward the end of July called, Life in the Middle Ages. In the piece, she relays an experience at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, where a young man breathlessly catches up with her, mistaking her for a younger woman with a different name. Schultz, who has over the course of her life and the experiences that have gone with it, acquired an ability to laugh about her age and about the situation. She admits that were it five years earlier, she “might have spent the entire flight slumped in” her seat, “clutching a compact mirror and weeding chin hairs.” Schultz is 55. While I admire her learned humor about life and aging, and just owning whatever number you are, I don’t want it to take me another 22 years to arrive there myself.

Schultz went on to site a passage from a novel that I haven’t read, but now want to, The Finishing School by Gail Godwin:

“There are two kinds of people…One kind, you can tell just by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final selves. It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it. Whereas, the other kind keeps moving, changing. With these people, you can never say “X stops here,” or “Now I know all there is to know about Y.” That doesn’t mean they’re unstable. Ah, no, far from it. They are fluid. They keep moving forward and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young. In my opinion, they are the only people who are still alive.”

Congealing is NOT an option. Ew, by the way. Fluidity…I want to be so fluid I make the ocean jealous. I see nothing wrong though with combining these two ideas and being a nice fluid. Being that alive. It happens that this — always moving, always changing. Reinvention. — was already an ongoing life goal before I read this particular piece or the inclusion of Godwin’s writing.

So why then did my mental record player throw this song on? (First several lines from Unhappy Birthday by The Smiths, one of my absolute favorite bands):

I’ve come to wish you an unhappy birthday
I’ve come to wish you an unhappy birthday
‘Cause you’re evil
And you lie
And if you should die
I may feel slightly sad
(But I won’t cry)

I guess Morrissey and the other members of the band hold (or at least at one time, held) a broad-brush distaste for birthdays, too.

Like I alluded earlier though, I did adopt, or in the least pretend at, a healthier perspective this time. The fake-it-til-you-make-it approach. Part of this was made easier by focusing on how as a grown-up, one’s birthday doesn’t feel much different from any other day. (And of course, immediately following, the age you now are feels no differently from the age that you just discarded.) I’m not being cynical; simply stating what I know is true in many minds.

Because it fell on the weekend, I also had our family’s weekly domestic tasks to ground me: grocery shopping, the stuff around our home that didn’t meet completion during the week, etc. But also, in trying to be positive, I didn’t allow myself to hate on my birthday; I realized that I did this in past years. Possibly a mark of further maturation?

When the normal family tasks were behind us, I knew that I had an enjoyable meal out planned with husband and daughter at one of our favorite restaurants, Eggspectation. The last time we had been there had also been for a birthday: my daughter’s third back toward the beginning of the year. The menu always has what I consider unique dishes, prepared  and presented really well. This visit I had lobster grits. I have impeccable taste. You know how when you try a dish that you haven’t before, while you’re waiting for it to arrive at your table, you imagine — based on the description in the menu and the level of quality that you’ve experienced previously — how delicious your entree will be? I was pleased that my lobster grits were about five levels higher of yum than I had played out in my head. An advisement though: Eggspectation’s lobster grits’ one downfall is that it won’t fill a fully hungry tummy. I could have had a second order of it.

Enough about food though. I know that does nothing to support my statement claiming that I dealt better with my birthday. One thing that really helped was focusing on what I love about myself and my life. For instance, while dining out with my husband and daughter, I found myself truly enjoying that moment, being completely present in it, not letting anything else matter. Throughout the day, I kept bringing it back to that: my little family. Without the two of them, my life would be much different. I don’t know in which way, but it’s not an alternative that I want.

This is when it clicked for me that I have to make myself inwardly turn away from the part of me that is inclined to say: Ok, now you’re this age. But, you still haven’t done X. You still are not Y.” I have to shut that voice off because it accomplishes nothing. Because as long as I’m alive, anything and everything is possible. Because why would I want to continue to allow myself to dislike my birthday? Because that former way of thinking is a remnant of how I used to think overall. And that does not fall in line with fluidity at all.

And honestly, how bad can any birthday possibly be when its spent with your loved ones over lobster grits at a favorite restaurant and ends with a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino and two cannoli at Starbucks?

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Stuffed!: Navigating My Child’s Obsession With Her Precious Plush Playthings

Soft, fuzzy, furry, cuddly, colorful, cute.

Suffocating, frustrating, underfoot, cluttering, clustering, claustrophobic.

Two sets of adjectives describing the same phenomena: my daughter’s plush animal collection, which seemingly multiplies over night. She’s a crafty little lady, who has her ways in acquiring further goods, and her thought-out rationale at the ready.

“I don’t have a fox…” This was the opening line to her debate presented to us during a car ride homeward just a few weeks back. No, we concurred, glancing at each other and almost rolling our eyes, you don’t have a fox. But, where did this obsessive love of all things plush derive from? Why does our child feel that owning one of everything is required?

I recognize that she is mostly just being a kid, identifying her own interest in something and communicating that to us because we are her parents, and she knows part of what we do for her is provide. But, because we live in an area where material possessions often are given too much importance — heck, a world where that is also true — I find myself concerned over whether in spite of our efforts to teach her otherwise, the wrong message is still getting into the cross hairs of her upbringing thus far, and how much of a real issue this will be once she hits the age where kids become fully aware of what others have, what they themselves have, what they don’t have, what they want to have.

Right around the time that she began to love giraffes, she found this fellow during a visit to Toys R Us.

Right around the time that she began to love giraffes, she found this fellow during a visit to Toys R Us.

Granted, as a child, I, too had several stuffed animals. As did my younger sister. So, it existed in my mother’s house, as it does in mine. But my feeling is that myself and my sister were content loving the same bunch of stuffed animals for an extended amount of time. Of course, my recollection is of us much older than my daughter currently is, with my sister being around age 8 and myself already in my teens. Even so, most girls respond strongly and favorably to cute things. And yet, my memory doesn’t include either of the two of us attempting to adopt every pretty plush in sight. Of course, I don’t think we had much opportunity to browse in toy shops in a one parent household — the spare income wasn’t there, and so my mother probably kept the temptations at bay by not taking us into those stores. Also, as a teen I was more into idolizing my idols, musing to music, writing poems and the like.

My Pound Puppy, Ronnie, passed down to our daughter simply because I spent too many of my early days with him in my arms.

My Pound Puppy, Ronnie, passed down to our daughter simply because I spent too many of my early days with him in my arms.

Another from my childhood, though I don't remember anything about this charming tiny yellow bunny. Besides being cute, there is something about it that strikes me as unique. Of small stature, it resides in her toy box in our basement's unofficial second living room.

Another from my childhood, though I don’t remember anything about this charming tiny yellow bunny. Besides being cute, there is something about it that strikes me as unique. Of small stature, it resides in her toy box in our basement’s unofficial second living room.

The fact that my child has love for plush in general is not the surprise; it’s normal. I expected it. What I am overwhelmed by is the extent of her love for plush playthings, which grew exponentially over a minimized amount of time. OK, actually…it only seems that way. She’s always owned at least some plush, a few of which she had before exiting my womb, including two specifically that my husband and I bought for her: a very soft cinnamon-colored bear dressed in blue (see below), two adorable deep red curls springing from under its cap (for the red hair we hoped she’d have…and does…just a different shade). “Baby’s 1st Bear” is written across its tummy; I’m pretty sure that it was, or at least we were trying to make it so. As it is typical, when people have babies, one thing that is purchased for the child is at least one soft bear. So, recalling that time, I know there were other plush, including at least one other bear, right at the start.


The other…well, where my fellow 80s babies at? I had a Glowworm, and remember it fondly. Even if it did have a bizarre bulb inside the length of its body. I wanted my then-yet-to-be-born daughter to have one, too. Lo and behold, a trip to the local Toys R Us at that time yielded the Glowworm pictured below, who even though is a remodeled version of what I owned, was on a clearance price of only $5 back in 2010, as it was about to undergo another modification. The Glowworm gained further significance in our lives when our daughter was born three weeks early, sporting jaundice, requiring the use of a bilirubin blanket once home for several days (maybe even a few weeks — I blocked out that time as soon as it was over. I quickly learned how common jaundice is, but it didn’t make the experience less unnerving) for as many consecutive hours possible. If you’ve no personal experience with a bilirubin blanket, it emits a certain type of light that helps the yellowish hue of the skin (jaundice) to disappear. Wrapped in this lit contraption, all I could think of was a Glowworm. And so we called her — our little Glowworm — for at least a month. But, I digress.


Named 3B, this gift from a relative has been in our home since close to the beginning. At five months old -- when he was to baby as King Kong was to Empire State building -- our infant daughter wrestled him all around our living room! At the time, he even seemed bigger to me then he does now! This scrappy feature in her personality lives on in a video stored on our family computer. She still beats on him, but it now looks like two cubs playfully cuffing.

Named 3B, this gift from a relative has been in our home since close to the beginning. At five months old — when he was to baby as King Kong was to Empire State building — our infant daughter wrestled him all around our living room! At the time, he even seemed bigger to me then he does now! This scrappy feature in her personality lives on in a video stored on our family computer. She still beats on him, but it now looks like two cubs playfully cuffing.

What it really is, is that she just didn’t pay as much attention to all her fuzzy friends until the last roughly 8 months. They are now so much a part of her world, that she likes to bring one along in the car, if we allow her. Usually the negotiations that take place include the stipulation that she may only bring one plush friend AND it must stay in the car the entire time that we are out, so that it does not get dirty, or worse, lost. She’s been really good about that arrangement. The problem lies in her expecting us to remember to bring it, us thinking she’ll remember to bring it, and no one remembering to bring it. Several times now, this has happened. If we all forget the promised plush, she whines during the entire ride, thankfully but temporarily forgets about its absence in the car while we are out doing whatever, but then remembers all over again when we return to the car to head home.

Before marriage and motherhood, I allowed myself a mini second childhood. I was working for a toy store during my mid-twenties (which, as I mentioned before, has been defunct for quite a while now.) If I recall, the only responsibility I truly had at that time was getting my student loans paid off. My reward to myself for fulfilling that to the absolute fullest each paycheck was to obsessively buy any and all adorable items from the store. (For those of you that might be reading this that know me personally, this is when my love of Hello Kitty and all things San Rio truly began). This included but was not limited to: Hello Kitty/San Rio stationary sets, pens, pencils, stickers, plush. At some point, I’m certain I had a dozen different sizes of stuffed HK.

A handful of her smaller snugly pals, a few of which are finger puppets. Most of the gang here were from the job I had at a toy store. While weeding out which of my collection was headed for the front door, I hesitated over these, knowing my little girl would enjoy them.  They've been residents of her toy box ever since the day I second guessed departing from them.

A handful of her smaller snugly pals, a few of which are finger puppets. Most of the gang here were from the job I had at a toy store. While weeding out which of my collection was headed for the front door, I hesitated over these, knowing my little girl would enjoy them. They’ve been residents of her toy box ever since the day I second guessed departing from them.

My adoration for teddy bears — which was born in college when my husband bought me a white bear we named Sara and had it shipped to my mail box for Valentine’s Day in 1999 — had reached its lofty heights during my employment at the toy store. Many, many tributes to Theodore Roosevelt ended up in our house because of that job.

Both medium- and mini-sized Classic Pooh Bears are from my life as a toy store employee. These were actually meant for babies, as they were sold out of a infants boutique housed within the store.

Both medium- and mini-sized Classic Pooh Bears are from my life as a toy store employee. These were actually meant for babies, as they were sold out of a infants boutique housed within the store.

Fast forward to us constantly staggering under the amount of things that not only the two of us have accumulated, but also all that our three-year-old has managed to gain possession of as well. It is so incredible how very much a person can come to own in three short years!

Lulu, the Ladybug Girl. The main character in a series of books that we love. She was a birthday gift from a friend, along with a few of the series' titles.

Lulu, the Ladybug Girl. The main character in a series of books that we love. She was a birthday gift from a friend, along with a few of the series’ titles.

The obvious, on-going move to make was to begin sorting out what had lost its usefulness, meaning, purpose. I have to admit, my husband has done better with this then I have. Not that I am still holding on to things that I should have let go of; just that opportunity to weed comes around for him differently than for me. In any case, one major task we identified for me to handle was to pinpoint which of the plush from my collection was headed for the door. It took a few months to not only get to, but to make decisions on. Part of the time slog: our little lady shopping in her momma’s discards, even after much explanation that we were giving these teddy bears away to someone that doesn’t have any, that we don’t have enough space to continue loving them all.

Salvaged from a long life on the shelves by me, (seriously, the toy store had tons of this guy. There was no way all of them would ever sell. In fact, I believe this particular bear was put on clearance, which is when I bought him.) then later rescued from the Going Out boxes by my daughter.

Salvaged from a long life on the shelves by me, (seriously, the toy store had tons of this guy. There was no way all of them would ever sell. In fact, I believe this particular bear was put on clearance, which is when I bought him.) then later rescued from the Going Out boxes by my daughter.

And because I haven’t yet completed the extraction of the bye-bye bears from our house, just last week she was down visiting the boxes they are contained in, plucked out a small deep pink one holding a pale pink heart — one she previously failed to have my agreement on her keeping — and with bear in hand came up to me without hesitation: “Momma, this bear is small. Please, can I keep it?” I saw her coming. She knows how to wear me down. Before she could finish her question/logic, (notice she focused on size of bear, thusly picking up on me and daddy lamenting our small home…) I let defeat in, and said: “Ok, babe. Fine. But that is the last one. No more going in those boxes!” This particular moment of mommy putting her foot down still stands, but I can only hold my breath…and hope I find opportunity soon to finish dealing with my former cuddly critters.

For as much as we attempt to reign in the location and quantity of said plush, we live in a small town house, so they literally are in some part of each of the three levels of our home: on the top floor, she has a small selection in her bed, that, to keep from pushing her out of her own sleeping space, we have a deal with her that those populating her bed must be on rotation. Which leads to the two small netted canopies meant solely for displaying stuffed animals that occupy the two corners of her room situated on either side of her bed. Whenever she decides that someone from a canopy is to join the others in her bed, one that is already there must go up! So far, it hasn’t been much of a struggle.

On the middle level of our house, she keeps a bunch on the floor, close to one particular wall of the living room, since all three of us spend a lot of time in that room when we’re home. And kids just naturally end up playing in the living room anyhow. This is the section of her posse that annoys me the most, as they end up strewn across the floor (I can’t tolerate floor space that needs to be cleared), stepped on, on the table (read: where you’d like to put whatever you are working on, or your snack, or the laptop, or even just the remote!), on the couch (read: under your derriere, or uncomfortably squished next to where your arm would like to go), as well as in transitional spots, like either staircase or over the threshold to our main bathroom.

Ava, queued for a walk around the neighborhood, once belonged to my husband's paternal grandmother. The little red coat was an addition I made after some bear clothing went on clearance at the toy store I was employed by.

Ava, queued for a walk around the neighborhood, once belonged to my husband’s paternal grandmother. The little red coat was an addition I made after some bear clothing went on clearance at the toy store I was employed by.

In the basement lives her toy box, where I stash many of the other plush, in particular many of the smallest ones. I like them there, out of the way. Of course, when she plays in that room of the basement where her toy box resides (which is likened to a second living room) there is the fate of a comparable dishevelment gracing the rug. I don’t mind as much; I can pretend it’s not there, for at least awhile, by heading back upstairs.

Mr. Lion was a hand-me-down that was a constant companion before and during her tummy time days. He has a magnetic tail, and so we would attach him to her infant play mat, where she would lie on her back before she could walk, bat him around, coo at him, smile up in his general direction.

Mr. Lion was a hand-me-down that was a constant companion before and during her tummy time days. He has a magnetic tail, and so we would attach him to her infant play mat, where she would lie on her back before she could walk, bat him around, coo at him, smile up in his general direction.

Yes, these little creatures irritate me most days. They get in my way. I threaten to deposit them into the trash bin — both to them, as if they would plead with me, “No, please don’t toss us!” (and as if I am actually scary) and out loud to my daughter during my most intense I-can’t-take-tripping-on-these-anymore moments. Sometimes I even throw them across the room in frustration, which I try to reserve for when my child is not within eye sight. But let’s remember, they are full of fluff…so…

I’ve  even held back on purchases due to lacking space, and over concerns of her coming to believe that she is entitled (something I don’t want her to ever convince herself of about anything!) to any and all plush, leading to loss of appreciation for them.

I’m not a cold-hearted person. Quite the opposite. I feel a strong halt whenever I consider discarding any part of her plush collection, no matter how high the level of flustered puzzlement over what to do with them climbs. And it’s not only because it would break my daughter’s heart if I ever really did do away with her cushy companions, but also because I, too find them to be adorable and comforting, and some of these little guys hold value for the three of us as they are couched in sentiment. In addition, there is still a part of child-me, and most likely will remain, that once believed that because plush animals have faces, they also have feelings.

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The dog ate my blog: Why this week doesn’t really have a topic

Ok, I’m going to be honest; the dog didn’t really eat my blog. We don’t even have a dog. I have absolutely no idea what to write about this week. So, I am doing what I most abhor – brainstorming as late as Sunday, creating the post file on Monday, then doing all of the writing over just two days. In essence, seat-of-my-pants writing. Not my favorite thing. It doesn’t allow for much time to process what I want to say, so that it can come across clearly, making it palatable and digestible for you, my readers. (I’m certain though, that next week will be more regimented, as I’ve already decided to further develop one of my drafts that has been saved here for weeks.)

I even entertained the idea of not posting at all until next Tuesday. The pressure I normally put on myself for most things, I simply let go of, sometime late Sunday afternoon. But, when I woke up Monday morning, I thought, “No, I’ll still write something simply for the sheer practice of writing, for the sheer need to connect with anyone that is willing to connect with me.” Besides, I know myself too well. Sure, I calmed down the self-induced stress that I have gotten so good at yielding over the course of my nearly 33 years. BUT, I would certainly feel some level of regret at not giving it a go again. I would find myself ending Tuesday feeling like a quitter, like I gave up, like  I had taken an opportunity away from myself to put thoughtful meaning into words and words into thoughtful meaning.

My current hangup is not even that I don’t think I am capable of creating a piece worth writing or reading, but rather these four sub-thoughts: 1) how do I top last week’s Virginia Lego convention visit? Not only in uniqueness, but concerning all the visuals? 2) The last week has been comprised only of regular, mundane, run-of-the-mill days of parenting, and spousing, and housing, which is made even more ordinary by said Lego convention. I am certain that you don’t care to read about Friday at the mall; our weekly Saturday trips to BJ’s and Wegman’s; or what I thought about the first of the final episodes of Breaking Bad; or further lamentations on the stagnant status of my daughter’s potty training. Boring! Yawn!

And not only has the last week been plain Jane, but 3) there are currently no special, unique plans on the horizon. Just living life, being a mom and a wife, reading this really good (but really weepy) book I started a few days ago, and catching my shows.

The fourth part of this is that there is a large question in my mind, that has begun to morph into a looming one is: where am I going with this blog? what do I hope to accomplish for myself, and for anyone that reads it now, or will read it at some point down the line? Of course, I haven’t lost sight of why I began the blog in the first place: to have a creative outlet (something I feel everyone needs, especially parents); to get back to practicing being a writer, so that I may feel vindicated in calling myself a writer; and to hopefully reach the attention of some good souls in order to make positive connections. In general, just a cycle of positivity and light, while still being real, honest, and always coming from the heart.

The downside to this outlet is that it takes time, time that I previously used on something else (I couldn’t tell you what) but is now not available for the sweeping umbrella of taking care of the family abode, caring for and doing things with my daughter, and the part that gets listed last because it happens last, if at all, taking care of me/replenishing my soul. So, I find myself already at a crossroads.

It seems premature of me to already be assessing myself and this blog. But, I am not only a thinker; I’m an overthinker. I could be wrong but I’ve come to believe that time stretches out and shortens abruptly in different ways for me then it does for everyone else. Or maybe that is just my impatience with myself and with life’s undesirable effects.

A further truth is that in not having a cool event to write about, or some other interesting matter, I had originally decided to write a feelings post, which is the direction I was still going in as of yesterday. After a few hours of writing, I didn’t like the tone (negative, which I’d rather not put out into the world, no matter why I’m feeling it) or how much vulnerability was present. I felt like what I wrote for you yesterday was very whiny, and without even divulging why, I just thought, no one is going to care about this.

It’s almost wondrous how having a night to sleep on a subject helps you to figure out how completely you feel one way or another about something, followed by what to do about it, how to change direction. As much as I would rather post earlier on my press day then I have today, I think it is more important to experience comfort and confidence about the content of the writing. So, I thought just reading that I am human, maybe getting a little insight into my own creative process, would be more attractive than what I previously had on the page.

And look, I can’t promise that there won’t on some other week be blankness in my mind — in spite of all that I’d like to write about — and find us a second, or third time with a sort of stream of consciousness scenario again. Although, I want to do better than that for you and me. That being said, I’m looking for input: is there a topic that you’d like me to write about? a subject that for whatever reason you’re wondering what I’d have to say? If so, drop your feedback in the comment area. Doing so doesn’t promise that I will indeed tap away about it — depends on what it is — but I’m open to suggestion.

And I’ll try to not again hang blame on any canine, were we to have another week’s post like this one.


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Yes, Actually, My House IS Full of LEGO: Family Adventure at BRICKFAIR VIRGINIA LEGO FAN FESTIVAL

My husband and I, like most people, both have several hobbies and interests that to us, arn’t just hobbies, but important aspects of our personalities and who we are. One of my husband’s lifelong hobbies has been LEGO — collecting it; building with it, both directly following the kits, as well as coming up with MOC’s (my own creation); and much more recently, during the last few years, trading and selling it. He even has a few LEGO books, from dealing with step-by-step instructions on building the most basic projects to more involved builds, to titles that are more informational, containing listings of different parts of the LEGO catalog, such as the LEGO Minifigures Character Encyclopedia, published by DK, which helps LEGO enthusiasts check off which minifigures they’ve collected and which ones to to seek.

001 (3)

One of the LEGO books that make up my husband’s overall collection.

Before he and I got married, and had our daughter, in spite of possessing respect for his LEGO and love of it, I wasn’t much interested in it myself. Ten years back, the furthest appeal it held for me was of a vicarious variety; I worked for a then-well known toy store that has been out of business for most of the previous decade. Whenever I spotted sales on LEGO itself or clearance mark-downs on specific kits, both at my place of employment and at other stores, I’d alert him, understanding even then how very many LEGO enthusiasts there are and that discounted LEGO is only available for a limited time.

For anyone not at all into LEGO, you, the uninitiated probably do not realize how very large this community is, and because of that, even if you, the LEGO enthusiast is only one of a dozen in your county, that’s still eleven other people who might get to that last kit on the shelf at Target, a kit that just got listed as rare because the LEGO company stopped producing it last week. Also, LEGO enthusiasts are not too proud to dart for the car at any given moment and drive across counties, heck, drive into a different state, just to capitalize on any/all LEGO listed at clearance prices! I’ve lived it with the hubby. Gasoline gets used for these little plastic bricks. Believe it!

There are also occasions when we stop off at a store, say Wal-Mart, not to knock off a list of domestic items, but just to see if any LEGO being cleared out hasn’t hit the LEGO public yet, or hasn’t been updated into the store’s current sale listing.

That toy store job of mine also provided the opportunity for me to snag a few special LEGO goodies, two of which were both once display pieces — a LEGO man (no, I never got his name…and he’s been living in my house all this time!); and a long, blue LEGO brick, which I was going to include a shot of in this post, but the dang thing refused to have its image captured. (Further down in the post, look for a photo of a green one next to a build of a widely recognizable Star Wars character. Our blue one is just like that green one.)

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Our LEGO man.

Ever since our daughter was born, and we began to buy her DUPLO, my perspective on LEGO changed dramatically as I watched her figure it out and become a little builder in her own right. And now all three of us are majorly into it. I’m not sure why exactly it took me so many years to get into it myself. All I can imagine is that I didn’t think I had the skills and ability to build anything. That I didn’t think I was smart enough. That was a silly way to think, as it was degrading to myself and I was missing out on fun, a different form of creativity, and using at least part of my brain in a way that I probably normally don’t.


Two of my favorite pieces from my daughter’s DUPLO collection.

In addition to all the chain stores that carry LEGO products like Target, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us, we also feel very lucky to have an actual LEGO store near us, located in one of our two local malls. Our frequency in shopping there has increased tremendously over the last two years, following my husband initially discovering its existence probably close to eight years ago. Love brings us there, but so do the somewhat often coupons printed on the back of my husband’s LEGO magazine. (Yes, our daughter has her own subscription, too, for the LEGO Club Jr. magazine.)

Because of our increase in visiting the LEGO store, my husband came upon the knowledge a handful of months ago that plans had been put into motion to start Charm City LUGS, a chapter for our area of a widespread organization for LEGO users, ages 18+ with other chapters already in existence in various parts of the country, such as New York. My hubbs jumped on the opportunity at my urging. The LUGS have a meeting once a month, where they discuss different LEGO events to attend as a group; the possibilities for competitive building and exhibition with other LEGO groups; as well as share information, such as about LEGO festivals, much like the one that this family of three attended this weekend, that came to our attention through an info card he brought home following his last meeting in July.

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The info card that my husband brought home after his July LUGS meeting.

We both knew plenty of these LEGO festivals existed and wanted to go before, but felt like our daughter was too young then. Nearing three and a half, it finally feels like she has entered the beginning of us being able to make plans to attend these types of events. Excitement ensued for me immediately; The BRICKFAIR information met magnet and fridge post haste. And go we did, this passed Sunday, August 4, 2013, to the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, VA.

BRICKFAIR, which is not affiliated with the LEGO company, is held in four states — Alabama (which is where the next one happens, January 11th and 12th); New Hampshire; New Jersey; and of course, Virginia. For two days, Adult Fans Of LEGO (AFOL – pronounced ay-fole) share the convention just among themselves, the AFOL’s running it and the AFOL’s exhibiting. Then, for two more days, the convention is open to the public, including the larger LEGO community, as well as anyone that wants to check it out and be amazed, whether into LEGO or just into a fun afternoon.


The official BRICKFAIR logo.


Obligatory hand stamp, allowing attendees to come back in after a trip to the car, easily identifiable by BRICKFAIR employees posted at the entryways.


Easy set-up for cutesy photos — I took a few of our daughter standing inside next to the waving minifigure.


Another charming photo op (yes, put our little lady with these guys, too).


My attempt to provide you with a sense of how very large Dulles Expo Center is, on the chance that you’ve never been there. This was early on in the day — the population thickened exponentially within two short hours.

BRICKFAIR incorporates several different building themes, allotting something interesting for everyone. I’m a Steampunk lover and got very excited to see that theme was covered. My husband is very much into castles these days — there was an area for that. You’ll see photos of both of those themes, as well as most of the others there throughout the rest of this post.


Tramp River Steamer Genni- Anne by a resident of Falls Church, VA.

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I loved this Ancient Egypt scenario, and tried to show as much detail as I could in these photos, but there was really a lot going on here!

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Two interests merge: history and LEGO!

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I chuckled at the truth in this little sign, which is the inspiration for the title of this post. I came across it numerous times throughout BRICKFAIR.


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Great Wall of China by Tim Freshly of Cranberry Township, PA. Freshly posed this question: Can you find the six birds?


Here’s one..! (I only glanced again quickly…not sure where the other five were perched).


Mmm, Whitman’s by Todd Webb of Rockville, Maryland. Our daughter asked my husband, “Daddy, can I have one?” 🙂 We had to remind her — everything you see is LEGO.

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Rosebud by Maura Valis Lint of Annandale, VA. If you can’t make it out, Lint writes: My first (modest) attempt at a Modelux mosaic. Modulex is an old, discontinued line of LEGO, used by architects from 1963- 1980. Modulex scale = 1:1. Regular LEGO scale = 5:6.


Pharaoh’s Tomb by Molly W. of Bethleham, PA. Ms. W. writes: Check out Pharaoh’s dinner guests! Removable top and secret door!


Squares and Triangles by Caitlin Franzmeier of Lorton, VA. Franzmeier writes: I have toyed with this creation for years. I have always enjoyed the never ending pattern and the easy understanding of simple rules. Not to mention, it was fun.

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Cortana: A Holographic Mosaic by Steph Mayo, of Maryland. She and her husband wrote on their display card: We wanted to portray Cortana as a holographic translucent mechanic LEGO mosaic. (This photo does Cortana no justice; super cool in person!)

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NCS Galaxy Commander by Chris Giddens of Silver Creek, GA.







Routine Valor by Bobby Scotta-Lavine of Stone Ridge, VA. Scotta-Lavine writes on his display card: Based on the comic book Routine Valor and the Battle of Serrish. (The minifigures were set to self-propel along the outside of the MOC.)



Santa Yoda by TL6.






Inspired by the poem, Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll — one of my favorite pieces of writing.


Further homage to the famous Mr. Carroll. 🙂



Voodoo Donuts by Maddison Stapleton of Portland, OR. Stapleton writes: Good things come in pink boxes. (I don’t care what color the box is..just hand them here!)





Look closer — creepy, right? Weird, right? And not in a cool way. I didn’t like it, but it had to be photographed.


Alden Duquette of Ashburn, VA., hamming 😉 with his MOC, The LEGO of ZELDA 2.0. He willingly grinned big for this shot. I thought he was sweet. On his display card, he wrote: Last year I unveiled a giant statue of Link, the protagonist of The Legend of Zelda, in minifigure proportions. This year, I present him and princess Zelda herself!


Uniquely cool.


A young exhibiting builder, working even while showing at a convention. That’s commitment, people.


Inside Hoffmann Academy by Jen Hoffmann.



One of several vendors.


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Classic Plastic Bricks is owned by fellow Charm City LUGS member, Todd.


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BRICK CITY DEPOT had their own kits and packaging created.


One of the kits is of a Chili’s Restaurant! 🙂


Here are pictures of some of the BRICK CITY DEPOT kits when completed, with prices for the instructions.


A portion of BRICK CITY DEPOT’s kits completed. Look, there’s Chili’s!



The enclosed Stay & Play area — which had tables piled with LEGO for building and a racing ramp — was the only part of the convention where everything could be touched.


The racing ramp — all the kids, including our daughter, enjoyed building little race cars and playfully competed against each other to see whose car could go fastest. The other part of the fun was watching the cars smash at the bottom, sometimes needing repairs before the next race.


The race car my husband put together for our daughter.


Not sure who at this table built this gravity-defying tower, but I was in awe of it. Because it reminded us of our daughter’s penchant for building towers in our living room, we pointed it out to her.


Yay! : D


One of the best explanations I’ve come across, and artfully done, too.

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Steampunk Desert with Steampunk Train, both by Evan Mulloy of Virginia.

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In case you can’t make out the display card: Clockpunk Workshop by Jasper Boers of Kensington, MD. Boers writes: Clockpunk is more of a inventor’s take on steampunk. It usually involves intricate machines with plenty of gears and moving parts. Think of the movie Hugo.


A little dramatic, but the no-touching policy was no joke.

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Three shots because I’m showing you the movement…


..And here’s the creator, who was happy to talk to us and show the inner workings of the controller.

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We played for a short while, but didn’t win anything.


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Brickee Awards — held here for the exhibitors and awarded to those chosen for their category.

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Yes, please! 😀


This art freak (me) thought the Art Museum was so cool, so clever, so cute.



Hard to make out (sorry!) but this is a replica of the Dulles Expo, where BRICKFAIR was held.

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Another positive nod — I can pair it with my Starbucks!



Orioles and Ravens trains.


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Farmers and Merchants Bank by Jason Spears of St. Joseph, MI. Spears writes: The Farmers and Merchants Bank was built in downtown Benton Harbor, MI in 1910.



Hilltop Keep; Hilltop Watch Tower; and Hilltop Gate Tower all by Robert Clarady of Chesapeake, VA.




A mirror facilitates the view of the side facing the exhibitor, which had lighting not easily seen from the public’s side of the table.

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I got a little giddy when I saw the maypole.



Both my husband and I thought it was cool that someone realized how neat and helpful it would be to create a display of all the LEGO minifigures released so far, organized by and within each series, with a blanked out row at the top for the upcoming series 11. Next to it is a copy of the same Character Encyclopedia my hubbs has.

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The Old Republic Attack and Droid Attack by Andres Garcia of Roselle, IL.


This shot and the next: DC: The Final Battle by Joe Jennings of Kansas City, MO. Jennings writes: Justice League Unite! We are in the City of Metropolis, and your favorite heroes are at the limits trying to defeat their villains in the Final Battle!



The vikings are coming! The vikings are coming! Medieval Studies, by Bill Anjo of Sympatico, Canada. (A monastic island where vikings are about to raid for booty).




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Mr. Anjo wasn’t present, but we got to talk with his wife — at length, too. Such a nice woman! — In this photo, she is explaining that the monks movement is due to magnets, controlled by gears, initiated in this red box. She told us they researched the project prior to embarking on building it.


The control gears — all LEGO, of course! I was absolutely fascinated by this project. Definitely one of my favorite highlights of the afternoon!


Invert Island by Sean Mayo of Maryland.


Mayo writes: This MOC was built with the intention to invert the colors on your computer screen. To see the full effect take a picture and invert the colors! (Kind of brilliant, if you ask me.)


Links Tree House, Zelda Twilight Princess by Joseph Zawada of Leonardtown, MD.


Persian Palace by Jennifer Barnes of Burke, VA.

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Not sure what a cheerleader is doing here, but I’ll roll with it.


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Castle by Zane Reichley of Lafayette Hill, PA.


Ahoy mateys! also by Zane Reichley.


The Tasting Room at Rattle Skull Distillery by Paul Freiling of Williamsburg, VA.


Gregory Lodge by Guy Hamilton of Massachusetts.


The theme most anticipated by my husband.


Pretty amazing, right?…


…Not to take away from the last MOC, but this…! This castle was truly amazing. The most impressive thing I saw that day.


Obsidian Cathedral by Todd Butler of Front Royal, VA. Butler writes: Over 60,000 LEGO pieces; 8 weeks/200 hours to build. An original design that uses various Gothic architectural styles of the Middle Ages.

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The detail on this thing just went on and on.

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I came, I saw, I was spellbound. Thanks for a great experience for me and my family, BRICKFAIR! Hope to see you again! My husband might even become an exhibiting AFOL. I’m encouraging it! (There are more photos than what I’ve posted; just too many to use them all.)


At home: free swag received at the door – minifig accessories (weaponry); and of course, some nice lanyards…


Paid-for swag: reusable shopping bag (for my growing collection); BRICKFAIR magnet (already has a spot on the fridge); and BRICKFAIR pin (that I will proudly wear).

The pictures — even ones I didn’t shoot so well — speak for themselves. BRICKFAIR isn’t just a fun day showing off a hobby. It’s a community and a world unto itself. It’s a somewhat extraordinary experience. It’s the melding of various and different subjects. It’s even more than all this. And I’m delighted that I had the chance to see it all for myself. Readers, even if LEGO isn’t your sort of bliss, maybe you gleaned some intangible, yet present, personally relatable element in my adventure.


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