Monthly Archives: February 2014

Because We’re Both Mothers

It doesn’t matter if you’re a mother or a father. It doesn’t matter if you are straight or gay. Unmarried, married, divorced, widowed. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, or any other shade. Rich or poor. It doesn’t matter if you adopted your children or if they are biologically yours. And so on. None of it matters because parenthood is difficult for everybody, and levels us all out when it comes to raising our children.

This is why, in my opinion, we parents should support solidarity among our peers, never belittling or passing judgement on another mom or dad due to a major life decision, such as choosing to be a stay-at-home-parent versus a working parent. Every one of us either made the choice that we have because it was not only best for us, but also for our families, for our children. Likewise, for those not having a choice due to finances or lack of support, are in turn doing their best, too.

Of course, there is always someone who does incidentally have an opinion regarding which status we fall under. We can’t allow their thoughts — which tend to be negative — to make us feel badly, to second-guess ourselves. The worst  of it though, is when it is another parent whose child is around the same age as yours that is shaming you for doing the opposite of what they are.

I experienced this about two years ago, when after having a falling out over the most trivial thing with a female who is not only also a mother, but a working one, as well as someone that I went to school with and had known since sixth grade, caused me to feel so very small and worthless when she decided to not only smear my name on her social media page, but bring into it the fact that I am not employed. “She doesn’t even work,” were part of her exact words. That made it sound like I was a lazy layabout, doing nothing at all with her life. A loser. And it made me feel horribly that way. Until I reminded myself that she didn’t understand my journey because she wasn’t meant to, and realizing years way too late, she is and always was a really rotten, heartless human being.

Why did this particular female want to cut me down to size? See above. Why did she neglect to tell all her minions and sheep (everyone on this person’s list always agrees heartily with her, either because they do think exactly like her, or are too petrified to stand up to her and tell her that she is an awful human being) that I choose to be home in order to care for and raise my daughter? That I wasn’t just adrift? I don’t have definitive answers, just my theory — manipulation, jealousy, and a heart full of hate — and a blog post written by another mother, a working one, but one with compassion who sees both sides.

The reason why Carolyn, the fellow momma and blogger I just mentioned, has duel sympathy is that the medical doctor and researcher just returned to full-time work this month, according to her page, http://carolynee.net. Her blog focuses on health and her personal attempts at balancing work and family. I think she and I would get along famously if we ever had the occasion to meet as one of her two children is the same age as my child, she has the same kind of spare time that I do — the kind that has quotes on either side of it (“spare time”), and she enjoys exercise as well as cupcakes.

I most likely would not have known about Carolyn or her blog had my good friend Kathleen — also a mother — not shared Carolyn’s post from February 8,  “A Letter from a Working Mother to a Stay-At-Home Mother, and vice versa” on Facebook. The post is raw, yet beautiful, and provides insight for and about both the working mom and the stay-at-home mom, as well as for anyone that is not a parent. It provides solidarity and comfort, as well, as it never cuts down either type of mother. Not once. I immediately loved the post for this, and for the confirmation that there are other mothers out there willing to treat their counterparts like sisters, not enemies.

“Dear Stay-At-Home Mum

Some people have been questioning what you do at home all day. I know what you do. I know because I’m a mum and for a while I did it too.

I know you do unpaid work, often thankless work, which starts the moment you wake up, and doesn’t even end when you go to sleep. I know you work weekends and nights, with no discernible end to your day or working week. I know the rewards are joyous but few.

I know that you seldom have a hot cup of coffee or tea. I know that your attention is always divided, often diverted from a moment to moment basis, and you cannot ever count on completing a task in the one go. I know that you probably don’t get any down time when you’re on your own at home, unless you have a single child who still naps in the daytime.

I know the challenges you deal with daily, usually with no peer support or backup. The toddler tantrums, the toilet training accidents, the food battles, the food on the floor, the crayons on the wall, the sibling rivalry, the baby that never seems to stop crying. I know how the work seems incessant, like an endless cycle – you shop for food, prepare it, cook it, attempt to feed it to your children, clean it off the floor, wash the dishes, and repeat in three hours.

I know you fantasise about having an hour to yourself to eat your lunch in peace, or about having an afternoon nap. I know you sometimes wonder if it’s all worth it, and feel envious of your friends who are having coffee breaks at work. I know that sometimes when your partner gets home in the evening after his work is done, he wants to put his feet up exactly when you need a break the most, and this can bring you to tears.

I know that you are misunderstood by so many who do not appreciate the difficulties of caring for small children on your own, all day, and refer to you as joining the “latte set”. They imagine you spend your day sipping coffee while your children play quietly. I know you miss your financial independence. I know you feel amused and sometimes annoyed when others proclaim “TGIF!” because to you every day is the same – there is no Friday, no break from your job. I know that many people do not understand that you work – you simply work an unpaid job at home.

SAHM, I don’t know how you do it. I admire your infinite patience, your ability to face each day cheerfully and bring joy into your children’s lives even when they wear you down. I admire your dedication to being a constant presence in your children’s lives even if it isn’t always easy. I admire the way you work without expecting any reward – no promotions, no fame, no salary. I know you want your children to feel important and loved, and SAHM, you do this the best.

I just wanted you to know that I understand. We’re both mothers. And I know.

Love from the trenches

Working Mum

Dear Working Mum

I know you sometimes get judged by others for leaving your children in the care of others to work. Some people imply that you don’t love your children as much as us SAHMs do, and that it’s best for children to be at home with their mothers.

How can they say this about you? I know you love your children just as much as any other mother. I know that going back to work was no easy decision. You weighed up the pros and cons, long before you conceived a baby. It has always been one of the most important decisions of your life. You thought about this even while you were in high school and were choosing subjects for Grade 11.

I see you everywhere. You are the doctor I take my children to when they are sick. You’re my child’s allergist, the one who diagnosed her peanut allergy. You’re the physiotherapist who treated my husband’s back. You’re the accountant who does our tax returns. My son’s primary school teacher. The director of our childcare centre. My daughter’s gymnastics teacher. The real estate agent who sold our house. What sort of world would it be if you hadn’t been there for us? If you had succumbed to the pressures of those who insisted a mother’s place had to be in the home?

I know you weigh up every job to see if it will suit your family. I know you wake up an hour before everyone else does, just so you can get some exercise done or some quiet time. I know that you have attended meetings after being up all night with your toddler. I know that when you come home in the evening, your “second shift” begins. The nay-sayers don’t understand that you run a household AND hold a job. You come home, cook dinner, bath your children and read them stories. You tuck them in and kiss them goodnight. You pay the bills, do the grocery shopping, the laundry, the dishes, just like every other mother does.

I know that you often feel guilty about having any more time away from your children so you sacrifice your leisure time. I know you can’t bring yourself to take a “day off” for yourself when your children are at daycare. I know you accept that work is your “time off” for now. I know that when you are at work you don’t waste a single minute. I know you eat your lunch at your desk, you don’t go out for coffee, and you show complete dedication and concentration to your job. You chose to be there after all. You want to be there.

I know how discerning you are about who is looking after your children, and that many long daycare centres offer excellent care. I know you only leave your children in a place where you confident they are loved and well looked after. I know that you spend many days caring for your children at home when they are sick, and sacrifice your pay. I know that you secretly enjoy these days, and revel in being able to be with your children.

I know that sometimes you feel guilty about not being there all the time. But WM, I know this. You are setting a wonderful example to your children. You are showing them that a woman can have a career, contribute in some way outside the home, and still be a loving mother. You are showing your daughters that they can do anything they want to do in life. You are displaying strength, endurance, dedication, tenacity, and you do it with so much joy and love.

I just wanted you to know I understand. Because we’re both mothers.

Love from the trenches

Stay-At-Home Mum”

Dr. Carolyn, you’ve said it all here. You took the words right out of my mouth, explained it all in a way that I wish I had. In a way that plenty of other mothers (and in general, other parents) might not have been able to find the words, but I think might feel grateful to you for doing so were they to have the chance to read your post, too.

We’re all in the same endless cycle, trying to be our best for our children so that they can become their best. Let’s not fall into shaming each other. After all, do any of us really have the time or energy for that?

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What My Child is Teaching Me

Whether we are naturally apt or not, as parents we are also our children’s first teachers. Either you’ve heard this yourself, or have come to realize this and its importance over the course of your offspring’s informative years. It’s nothing short of amazing to see your babies grow into little kids, observing the people, things, world around them, followed by their curiosity at and for virtually everything, followed by gaining knowledge of as much as they can, and sometimes very quickly.

Equally amazing — and often more surprising, enlightening — are the lessons our children put to us, in their innocence and learning process what we end up getting taught, too or instead.

Two majorly important components of life that my daughter has been (re)teaching me since her conception (but definitely not the only lessons that she has given me!) are love and patience. Certainly, to love your child is a much different love — and a much more firmly bonded love — than any other affection ever shared with another human. To have that particular love reciprocated, for me, is like being over the moon. There are days that end with me feeling like I wasn’t a good enough mother to her in those hours, that I could have done more or better. But then I remember how she greets me in the a.m. (Good morning, Momma!!) and the bounty of kisses and hugs that I receive from her throughout each day. I recall how she sometimes smiles at me for no obvious reason. Among so many other little but deep things. Funny, when she was a baby, I was concerned that she didn’t love me and never would. In any case, aside from the love between parent and child residing in its own class, my little lady reminds me over and over again just by her very existence how love is vital and essential. Re-learning love has made me not only have more appreciation for those that I love who also love me, but also for instances that I might have otherwise taken for granted, might have instead suffered seeing their flight after they were already gone.

Unfortunately, I didn’t come into this world with very much patience. Worse yet, it took me a long time to admit it and try to address it. Nothing like becoming a mother to amend that. You either learn to have it — which is extremely helpful and healthy for everyone in your home — or you don’t. Not only has Motherhood itself put me through my paces on this, but my daughter herself has enlightened me whenever I’ve been in need of a reality check. The most recent noteworthy anecdote happened on January 28 (I wrote it down to share with you because it was humorous, and because my three-year-old has a knack for respectfully putting me in my place). When her bedtime rolls around, I normally help her through her routine. Sometimes, I am eager to get to the activities that I want to do, but didn’t get to do earlier that day, week, whatever. This particular night, I was eager to the point of impatience. She decided while brushing her teeth that she had had enough of me. She said, “I know Mommy!”  (Short pause). “Mommy, I’m almost done.” (Then bending at the knees and pointing with much deliberateness) “You need to sit on the toilet (to wait for her)!” Well, now. I was struck. By the hilarity of a seriously pissed off three-year-old, but more by the blindness that my impatience causes me. So, I shut up. I sat there for a second. Then I said to her, “Honey, I’m really sorry. I was being impatient. I’m here if you need help.” And we were fine from there.

We are growing together, and I hope that we continue. Not only she and I, but also our family unit that includes her dad as well, and her close relationship with him. After all, I am not sure what her school years will be like — and am even fairly terrified about it — so certainly it will take some individual growth on my part in order to guide her through. I know that the person that I am now has no clue on how to even start dealing with all that. Obviously, I need to become whichever version of me that it will take. In the same vein, I sometimes feel excited about the possibilities, the experiences we could share, the friendship that we could have when she reaches her adulthood.

In the meantime, I keep putting the focus on trying to be the best mother — and teacher — that I can for her, while keeping an open mind for the flashes of wisdom that my little daughter already possesses and bestows upon me.

“Perhaps children are in this world because we as grown-ups have so much left to relearn.” – Joshua Becker from his book, Clutterfree with Kids

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All You Need Is Love

I believe that The Beatles were spot on. Love is all you need. Not jewelry. Not chocolates. Not any of the superficial, short-lived gratifications that we all have either bought into in the past, or still do.

Ok, maybe we can make a few exceptions. Like flowers. I think Mother Nature wants us to have flowers. They are her constant valentine to us. Pure, simple beauty.

And music. Food for the soul.

But most else is extraneous, and though correlate with love, even loosely, are not love itself. So, why then, on a day meant to be completely centered around and totally about love do we feel the need to incorporate so much else? Why do we need a day for love anyhow? What I mean is, are we that busy, or self-possessed, or whatever else that we need a reminder to not only express our deepest feelings for those who mean the most to us, but to actually love them as well, while ensuring that they are aware?

I’m all for true affection, but not ever on an assigned day. Rather, exhibited on any day and every day, through actions mostly; gifts occasionally. Like the kisses and hugs shared in my household. Those little actions and moments hold so much meaning because they are organic. Bottom line: consistency is born of bona fide emotions and feelings, not the unavailable detachment of spottiness spurred on by a holiday. Pfft. Holiday. Sorry excuse for a holiday, really, considering what it is, though I do wonder if in its infancy it held more meaning.

Nevertheless, I’ve never been one for Valentine’s Day. It’s a commercialized circus that takes the piss right out of the very thing that it represents. In school, it was always morphed into a popularity contest. If you weren’t one of the “cool” kids, you were trying to make a scheme strong enough to get you out of attending that day. At least I was. Though the worst year was me writing break-up poems on Valentine’s Day completely by coincidence. Then, several days later, a mutual male friend with whom I co-hosted a poetry club for a short while, saw said poems as well as the date, and seemed to pity me. How extremely mortifying!

As an adult, all of the advertisements, sales, and seasonal products elicit guilt: how much do you really love your (insert relationship here)? If you loved them that much, you’ll buy them this pretty blingy item, that while is by no means a solid stand-in for you or a real connection, is only eleventy billion dollars! Because, who can really put a price on love? (Imagine a smarmy smile tacked onto the end of television spot or printed offer.) Really Marketing People? You think you know all about each and every one of us enough to guilt us into thinking that we don’t love our family and friends enough to the point that we will waste our hard-earned funds on something that we know means zilch and the person wouldn’t derive much value from anyhow?

Ok, maybe some would. Not me. Let me put it this way: I love beautiful things, but if I had to choose between the most gorgeous neck candy gracing this space under my head OR just getting to have my husband, there is nothing to even consider there. Husband!

Certainly when a gift is from someone that means so much to you, you cherish it simply because it is from that person. But, it is still silly that the gifter would purchase this type of item for a particular giftee specifically for Valentine’s Day. Who is it that you think is judging you? The Gods of Love? Please. Ever hear that adage, “those that matter don’t mind; those that mind don’t matter”? It applies!

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t done absolutely nothing for my daughter and husband for Valentine’s Day. After all, it isn’t love itself that I take issue with, but instead this insane, made up, external, 24-hour farce clustered with a pink shape that misrepresents the form of the human heart. I make cards. A lot. For pretty much everyone that I can, for as many of life’s occasions as possible. Connect the dots. Doesn’t sound like much, but something like that not only takes time, patience, and creativity, but it also comes from my heart. The real one. Not the cutesy, all-over-everything one.

In my ranting, what I am trying to say — and hopefully not failing — is that somewhere in the process of humanity, we’ve convinced ourselves that we need more than what we actually do. We’ve misemployed the very definition of “need.” I think it’s sad, and debases those of us that are not fans of February 14.

Whatever you are doing for or have bought for your most loved and precious ones, or vice versa — whatever they have in store for you — I hope that it is everything that it should be: true, honest, economical, sweet, useful, enriching, meaningful, lasting.

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Sweet Repeat #1: Yes, Actually, My House IS Full of LEGO: Family Adventure at BRICKFAIR VIRGINIA

My friend and fellow blogger, Joe Johnson, of http://www.bigjoessoapbox.com, is always throwing useful, helpful tips my way for creating growth with my blog. For every one that I have utilized so far, I know for sure that he has not steered me wrong. With that in mind, I decided to heed his advice concerning one of his tips that I haven’t used yet: re-run your older posts. Admittedly, I didn’t initially see the point. What changed my mind? Timeliness. It can either be a writer’s friend, or foe.

In this case, it’s totally my pal. To honor today’s release of The LEGO Movie, starring Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, and many other wonderful actors, I give you my first ever Sweet Repeat, originally run on August 6, 2013 about BRICKFAIR VIRGINIA, which I attended that weekend with my LEGO-crazy husband and our equally LEGO-crazy three-year-old (whom I also went with today to see The LEGO Movie. Don’t worry, you need not be concerned over a spoiler-alert. Instead of plot details, I’ll tell you this: it is about a lot more than it looks like in the trailer. Many themes are covered including, but not limited to: social and political commentary; defining oneself instead of giving others the power to do so; believing in oneself; familial love; friend love; teamwork; creativity (of course); and original thought. “Everything (in this movie) is awesome.”)

So, for my fellow LEGO enthusiasts, whatever your level of interest, I hope you enjoy…

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.

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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.

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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.

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The official BRICKFAIR logo.

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

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

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

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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.

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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?

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.)

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Santa Yoda by TL6.

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

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Further homage to the famous Mr. Carroll. 🙂

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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!)

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

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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!

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Uniquely cool.

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

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Inside Hoffmann Academy by Jen Hoffmann.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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The race car my husband put together for our daughter.

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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.

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Yay! : D

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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.

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

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Three shots because I’m showing you the movement…

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..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! 😀

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

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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Invert Island by Sean Mayo of Maryland.

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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.)

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

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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.

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Ahoy mateys! also by Zane Reichley.

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

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Gregory Lodge by Guy Hamilton of Massachusetts.

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The theme most anticipated by my husband.

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Pretty amazing, right?…

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

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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.)

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

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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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Pardon the Interruption: The Modern Nature of the News

Information overload. In this modern era of fingertip technology, the ease of accessing any type of information by any means quickly becomes a double-edged sword. Either by obsessive intention or by accidental saturation, many people find themselves “plugged in” too often, resulting in a barrage of information. Any information. All information. Simply too much information.

Ever since the availability of both technology and information picked up speed, and became a nearly level playing field for any average Joe or Jane, I’ve been of the opinion that it isn’t healthy for any of us to constantly be surrounded by so much information just because we can.

The news is no different, and over time, methinks, has become one of the biggest overly saturated sectors of the cross between information and technology. Part of the reason for this is due to all of the news outlets that exist now which did not 30+ years ago.

With all of the interruptions and disruptions that life naturally contains, it makes sense to me that when one becomes bigger than it was — the way news has with all of its many websites, networks created just for news, additional broadcasting time slots, apps, texts-to-phone  — that eventually it all just becomes an onslaught of negative white noise.

I tend to be the sort of person, who, when feeling hemmed in by anything from the outside, retreats behind the sanctity of my closed front door. Our current century and status makes it more difficult to attain this sense of shutting out the world when we find ourselves over stimulated, as, we all know, the news has its way of worming in even when we have our ears stopped up, our eyes shut tight, and our best “la-la-las!” throttling from our throats.

Maybe it’s just me but, doesn’t it seem like news is synonymous with negativity? I realize that if all journalists ever reported on were happy occurrences, not only would air time get real boring real fast, but the stories themselves would lose any value and not prove worth reporting on at all. Nevertheless, throw us a cheery bone a little more often, please!

A recent Facebook post by a friend of mine read: “I am so done with sad news. Listening to the Rodgers and Hammerstein station on Pandora. Feeling better already.”

“Turn the news off!!” replied a relative of hers.

“I barely watch/listen to the news because it is such a downer most of the time. And with all the ways that news is available in this age — compared to how it wasn’t years before — it’s easy to get overly saturated, and in turn get your fill very quickly. So, I am right there with you,” said I.

“Didn’t have to turn on TV. Texts informing me of 2013 RHS grads arrested for murder and a second about another teen suicide in the county also from RHS,” responded my friend, to which I said, “Gruesome. But that just underlines my point — so many ways that the news comes at us. Sometimes, it feels unavoidable/inescapable.”

Sometimes, it’s even practically at your door step. Saturday, January 25th was a prime example not only for myself, but everyone who lives in my town, and any nearby areas. I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now, maybe even several times, as many national news services picked up the story. So, I won’t recap all of the details. A young man opened fire on a young woman and her male co-worker at their place of employment at our local mall, killing them both. He followed this with turning his gun on himself, ending his life as well.

It was a cold, extremely hurtful action, affecting so many more people than the three no longer on this earth. Their families. Their friends. Of course. Yes. Even further, it rippled through the entire community, as well as those surrounding areas. I venture to bet it struck the hearts of people pretty much everywhere. I assume that this young man was in severe anguish over something. Pain is horrible to bear — I can sympathize with that —  but never a reason to unleash harm on others, which is where my commiseration ends. It was the sort of action that I can not relate to, connect with in any way, achieve any understanding on.

And I have had that thought over and over every time there has been an update on the Columbia Mall Shooting.

With the negative nature that I feel is embedded in news overall, no matter the platform, a person’s perspective can very easily become skewed. You begin to think that all of the awfulness you hear or read about is happening more frequently then it might actually occur. That’s not to say that there are not dark corners of our world with even darker individuals lurking, but when the press-worthy stories are regarding sadness, and tragedy, and trouble, one concern for all of us is becoming a people donning sunglasses of those colors.

Inevitably, the things that we are meant to hear about, we do. But we don’t have to learn of everything happening in the world, whether near or far, or by choice or force. I think what is pertinent sifts apart from what is not. The brain is mighty and vast; we have the capacity in terms of gray matter to hold all of that information. But the spirit becomes poisoned by it because it can not and should not have to process such a large amount of what are essentially toxic downers.

“I read the news today oh, boy…” ~ A Day in the Life by the Beatles

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