Category Archives: Legos

The Couch (Or Blame) (Or Hands)

I fell asleep on the couch on Wednesday night.  I love falling asleep on the couch while watching television.  It’s as comforting to me as the scent of my mom’s perfume or the taste of her matzo ball soup.  Of course, I missed the last ten minutes of “Franklin and Bash,” which drives Mike crazy, because I always wake up when a show is over and ask him how it ended.  He doesn’t understand how I can stay awake until the last scene of a show and then fall asleep.  He doesn’t understand how much I love falling asleep on the couch!  On Wednesday night, when he tried to wake me and send me to bed, I kept saying in my sleep, “It’s not my fault.”  He thought it was strange.  I didn’t.

After my molar pregnancy, I blamed myself (and my body) for not being able to make a baby properly.  Eventually, with the passage of time (and a lot of therapy), I figured out that it wasn’t my fault, but that early and tragic brush with motherhood was where I learned the art of blame.

On Wednesday afternoon, I sat at my kitchen table with a $158 per hour behavioral therapist who spent the better part of two hours convincing Dylan to consume a piece of turkey the size of an ant, and I thought, How did we get here?

Of course I blame myself for his sensory processing disorder.  He is made up of half of my DNA.  Maybe it’s from the chemotherapy I had after the molar pregnancy or the preeclampsia that forced me to deliver him early at 37 weeks.  Maybe it was the c-section.  Maybe it was the store bought baby food or the bottles riddled with BPA.  Maybe it’s because I had no idea what I was doing as a first time mom that his habits and behaviors, especially with food, got so bad.

What’s worse is that sometimes I blame him.  Why can’t he listen, eat, dress, or behave like his peers?  Ugh.  Those are the really bad, regrettable thoughts. (The strike-through makes me feel a little bit less hideous.)  Then the blame shifts and I wonder what evil part of my soul is capable of being so selfish, impatient, and incapable of accepting my son for the perfectly imperfect person he is.   And then It shifts again and I wonder if he blames me for not understanding, for doing too much, for not doing enough, or for doing it all too late.

At times like this, I look for a lesson and a truth.  The truth is that it’s not my fault.  Deep down I know this, but blame has remarkable power.  The lesson is that I have power, too.  When my children’s flaws are exposed, so are mine.  It’s what I do with the vulnerability that counts.  Every day I spend as Dylan and Riley’s Mama makes me a better parent and person.  All of the self-doubt, mistakes (perceived or real), questioning, crying, and couch sleeping makes me stronger and smarter.  I can’t wait to look back at this chapter in our lives someday and be insanely proud of how we conquered this beast of a problem as a family.  Until then, we keep on our journey.

Today, Grandma Barbara and I took the boys to an art exhibit, Nathan Sawaya: The Art of the Brick, at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood.  (Local readers: The exhibit is here until August 19th, so it’s not too late to check it out.)  This guy builds the most beautiful and thought-provoking sculptures with Legos.  It was just what I needed to get out of my head…


…and into his.

This was Dylan’s favorite:

This was Riley’s:

These were mine:

“The Writer”




This one was my absolute favorite:


I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.  He wanted to grasp something, but he was incapable.  He wanted to repair something, but the task was overwhelming. There were so many broken pieces.  Where would he begin?  How would he ever take hold of it if he couldn’t reach it?  I thought, How did he get there? 

It made me lose my breath, but it also gave me great comfort.

What brings you comfort during challenging times?  Have you been to any good art exhibits recently?



Filed under blame, food issues, Legos, molar pregnancy, motherhood, sensory processing disorder

The Lion

A lion sleeps in the heart of every brave man.

This nugget of wisdom is a Turkish Proverb I found on the Internet.  I looked it up because of an incident that took place at Legoland involving Riley and Mean Boy.

Sometimes Riley acts exactly the way a three-year-old should act – stubborn, silly, irrational, and selfish with his emotions.  Like yesterday morning when he absolutely refused to wear a shirt to camp no matter how much I pleaded, and, in the end, went to camp with no shirt on.  (A Smart Mama knows when she’s fighting a losing battle with a toddler.)  Other times, Riley displays emotional maturity and wisdom far beyond his three years.

On our second afternoon at Legoland, we settled into a restaurant for some much needed lunch, water, and air conditioning.  The facility had a huge Lego play zone visible from almost every table so kids could play while parents ate in peace.

This feature is one of the things I liked the best about Legoland.  (That and the nice service and spotless bathrooms.)

So here’s what happened.  A young boy, probably about five or six years old, started pilfering Legos from Riley’s bucket.  Mean Boy alert!  I saw it happen but didn’t intervene right away.  This is partly because I was hot and exhausted, but mostly because I wanted to see how Riley and Dylan, who was playing next to Riley, would handle the situation on their own.  I saw Mean Boy’s mother walk over and yell, “Hey, don’t take Legos away from little kids!”

A few seconds later, Riley came running over to me with tears in his eyes and said, “Mommy, that boy called me a liar.  I…I…I didn’t lie.  I…I…I…I…I’m not a liar.”  (Sometimes Riley stutters when he has a lot to say.)

According to Dylan, the conversation went something like this:

Mean Boy’s Mama: “Don’t take Legos away from little kids!”

Mean Boy: “I didn’t!”

Riley: “Yes, you did.”

Mean Boy: “You’re a liar!”

Mean Boy called Riley a liar.

“Of course you’re not a liar,” I told Riley.  Then I got up and went back over to the play zone with both kids.  At that point, Mean Boy’s mother was gone and Mean Boy was quietly building with the Legos he stole from Riley.  “What’s going on here?” I asked.  No answer.  He ignored me.  I wanted to throw a Lego at Mean Boy’s head, but instead I put some distance between him and my kids.  I set the kids up to play at the opposite side of the play zone.

“Just play here,” I told them, but Riley had other righteous plans. He wanted Mean Boy to say he was sorry for calling him a liar.  I followed him.  Riley said, “I’m…I’m…I’m not a liar,” to which Mean Boy responded, “What are you talking about?  I didn’t call you a liar.  I called you a lion.”

Warning: Remainder of Post Contains Explicit Language

Editor’s Note A:  That Little Shit!  How dare he steal, lie, call Riley a liar, and think he could get away with suggesting it was a misunderstanding!  I kept my mouth shut, but I also wished for him to get a nasty case of pinkeye and a painful sunburn before the day was through.

After the lion comment, I took a deep breath and flat out told Dylan and Riley to stay away from Little Shit Mean Boy, but Riley wouldn’t have it.  He wasn’t a liar, Little Shit Mean Boy didn’t call him a lion, and Riley wanted justice.  I told Riley I knew he wasn’t a liar and that he was right and Little Shit Mean Boy was wrong, but as much as he deserved an apology, he wouldn’t get the response he wanted.  I asked him again to stay away from Little Shit Mean Boy.

What a hard lesson to have to teach a three year old child – that no matter how fair, moral, and honest you strive to be, there are people in this world who are not fair, moral, and honest and who will only ever strive to serve themselves.  What happened next made me a Proud Mama.  Riley pointed to our table and said, “Go back over there, Mommy, okay?  Go back to the table.”   He wanted me to leave so I couldn’t stop him from trying again (and again and again) to defend his honor.  By the time I finally gave in (I’m still working on picking my battles), Little Shit Mean Boy was gone.  Good riddance.

Riley is a lion.  A fearless, courageous lion with a big, beautiful, brave lion heart.


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Filed under Legoland, Legos, Proud Mama, Smart Mama, toddlers

Legoland: The Good, The Great, and The Well…

The Good

The “good” category is for things that, depending on your viewpoint, are either “great” or “well…” (i.e. not so great).  Riley often says, “Well…” just before confessing to peeing on the bathroom floor or smacking Dylan in the face.

Behavior modification via wine.  On our first night in Winter Haven, we tried to have a leisurely dinner at the Outback Steakhouse, but the kids had other plans.  I told them I’d take them back to the hotel if they let me finish one glass of wine.  Then I told them if they were good, I’d finish my wine quickly, but if they misbehaved I would drink it very slowly.  (Judge me if you must, but it worked.)

Froot Loops.  I don’t serve Froot Loops in my house, but I follow a “When in Rome…” food policy when we’re traveling.  On our last morning, the boys found the Froot Loops at the hotel’s breakfast buffet.  Six mini Froot Loop cereal boxes later, they transformed into actual Froot Loops.

“Close but no cigar” Crocs.  Riley insisted on wearing these mismatched Crocs the whole trip.  The boy beats to his own drum!  Or, he’s a stubborn pain in the butt!  I’ll let you decide.

The Great (in no special order)

Televisions with Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network at every table at the hotel restaurant.

Warm and friendly service.  Everyone we met at Legoland was wonderful, including the woman who gave the boys ponchos (for free) when it started pouring just as we were walking to the car.

Amazing Lego figures and models, like this wolf:

New York City:

And the White House:

Hello Obamas and Bo!

Clean bathrooms.  Nuff said.

Cool playgrounds:

Complimentary coffee in the lobby of our hotel starting at 6am.  (This is a must when your children are roosters and/or Froot Loops.)

Taking pictures of your napping child with signs written on napkins.

When your kid hugs Lego Dude and says to Lego Dude, “I love you.”

Lego play zones in restaurants.  Parents can sit and eat in peace and kids can play, except for when the mean little boy took Legos from Riley and then told his mom he didn’t and then called Riley a liar!  [Insert dramatic music.]  More on this in a future post.

Finding an owl for sale at Legoland…

…and exhibiting amazing impulse control by not buying it.  But then buying these Lego coasters a few minutes later:

No lines!  Hint: Go during the week.  We heard weekends are a lot busier.

The boys’ travel journals!  Crafty Mama success!

Lego Driving School.  The kids got to drive real Lego cars on a real raceway.  Fun!  (Dylan is actually a good driver.  Riley…not so much.)

And for $14.99 each, the kids got driver’s licenses.  Pricey – like the teeny-tiny bucket of popcorn that cost $4 but included unlimited $1.50 refills! – but adorable.

The “Well…”

The food.  Maintaining a low-carb/high-kale diet in the middle of nowhere (sorry Central Florida) at an amusement park isn’t easy.  For comparison sake, I found eating healthy far easier at Disney World.  Suffice it to say, a kale salad is on the menu for dinner tonight.

The Super Star Destroyer.  3152 pieces.  $399.99.  This should be illegal.  Even Dylan knew I would never allow that in my house.  It would be me or the destroyer.  (I wonder which he’d choose?)

The rides had age and height restrictions, which was mostly a good thing because the roller coasters were no joke.  Still, some height/age restrictions were confusing.  One ride said you had to be 36 inches tall and 4-12 years old.  Riley is easily 36 inches tall (and perfectly capable of sitting on a Lego horse with a seatbelt), but they wouldn’t let him ride because he was three.  Boo.  Thankfully, the carousel was for everyone.

Legoland has a water park attached to the amusement park.  There are water slides for all ages, a wave pool, and a lazy river.  It’s fun and the kids had a great time, but it required a lot of packing and schlepping to go from dry to wet and back to dry clothes.

THE VERDICT: Thumbs up from the whole family.

If you can get there by car (our drive was about 3 ½ hours), go for it.  Go during the week if you can and bring plenty of sunscreen.  The Holiday Inn Winter Haven was lovely (there are no resort style hotels nearby…yet).  There’s not much to do in Winter Haven besides Legoland, so if your trip requires air travel, I recommend adding Legoland as a side trip to an Orlando or Tampa vacation.  The park is about 45 minutes from both cities.  With small kids, two days was a perfect amount of time to spend there (considering weather, naps, meltdowns, etc.).  With older kids, you might be able to do it all in one day.

p.s. Legoland is an alcohol-free property (for now).  For this reason, Mike wanted to give it a “thumbs down” on principle, but I convinced him to turn his thumb around.

Next stop…San Francisco!

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Filed under Crafty Mama, Legoland, Legos, shopping, vacation