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Lego Friends Review

I was excited when Lego announced the Lego Friends line. And couldn’t wait to take my two girls shopping after Christmas. Why would I do such a thing? Wasn’t I reinforcing gender stereotypes? You can see my thoughts on it and why I bought pink Legos on a recent post here.

Last Friday, my husband had off and my three kids, L, the 8-year-old girl, M, the 5-year-old boy, and B, the 4-year-old girl, had a day off of school. So we went to Target. I had heard that the Lego Friends line was in stores and I wanted to see it. The kids had Christmas cash burning holes in their pockets and were eager to feast their eyes on toys. How quickly do the toys received on Christmas morning lose their luster!

We headed straight to the Lego aisle. I was disappointed by the lack of pink. There was a cute Duplo set that looked like cupcakes, but no Lego Friends. But then we found them on the endcap. Hooray! The girls looked over the sets. L was calculating the differences between the sets she could afford. (This one had a cat and a bird but THIS one had two dogs. However, this one had RABBITS!) This took a while but we finally walked out of Target with two bags full of Legos. M, had quickly decided on the Star Wars Ewok Attack set. Little B had not wavered from her choice of Butterfly Beauty Shop. And L had finally settled on the Fashion Design Studio and Puppy house sets. We also bought a few sets for parties we were attending the next day.

Alan and I thought it would be fun to go see a movie on our day off, but once the kids had their Lego sets in their hands, we had a mutiny on our hands. We went back home, had a quick lunch and started building.

Because B’s tiny hands still have a hard time with snapping bricks into place, I helped her build the beauty shop. Can I just say, it was SO much fun.

The pieces used in building the beauty shop are all standard pieces. It was fun to see blocks that I’ve used to help build a Star Wars craft, used in the building. The way the fountain is constructed is simple and ingenious. And the park bench is made using standard pieces. There were a few stickers to affix, but I was very impressed with how one piece turned into a computer screen. Another was to be the arms of a chair.

One of the critiques of the Lego Friends sets is that they didn’t seem “inspired.” I’m rolling my eyes at someone actually SAYING that in earnest, but I will say that this set was creatively designed. Tried and true pieces are used in innovative ways. It was a delight to see how it all came together.

L is old enough that she set about building with no help at all. The desk lamp she made is very clever. And the “fabric” drawers add a wonderfully fun detail. I also love the apple tree she constructed, and the tiny sandwich.

Yes, I questioned the amount of bows included in the beauty shop set and the tiny silicon/rubber lipsticks, but overall, I love the sets and our afternoon of play made me want to run back to the store to buy more Lego Friends.

Did I mention the afternoon of play? I’m not talking an hour or two. The entire afternoon was spent playing with new Lego sets. And then we got out the loose bricks and poured them out and started creating more. L constructed a giant letter “E” and then made it into a sort of bunk bed for her friends. The girls played and played. Pulled up stools to the coffee table and stayed there.

I am not overstating it when I say that this toy has been one of the most played with toys we’ve ever come across. I’m not sure of the psychology of it all. Perhaps it has something to do with the satisfaction of actually building the structure before you play with it. Perhaps the girls appreciate it more when they had to “work” at it. Whatever the reason, I can’t wait for Valentine’s Day to come around so I have a reason to buy a little goodie for my girls. It’s gonna be Legos.

Why I Bought Pink Legos

So if you don’t know, I’m a stay at home mom, married to a web developer who works at the startup Treehouse. We’ve been married for nine years and have three kids. L is an eight-year -old girl in second grade, M is a 5-year-old boy in kindergarten, and B is a four-year-old girl in K3 preschool.

As you might guess, my house is FILLED with toys. Some we buy from stores, some we are given, and others we stumble across at yard sales and the like. I love toys. They can be such a wonderful catalyst for pretend play. They can help build spatial and fine motor skills.

I also happen to HATE toys. They find the furthest corners and apparently fling themselves there. Although they are not considered living things, they seem capable of reproduction.

Some toys are brought into our home and are quickly forgotten (I’m looking at you, Zoobles). Some are played with constantly. In our family, one of our constant toys is Legos. Quick aside: There seems to be a debate about what the plural form of Lego is. Maybe it is simply Lego. But I can’t bring myself to type it. Maybe it’s not proper, but in South Carolina, we say “Legos.” For our purposes, when I mention more than one Lego brick, I will call them Legos.

M has a huge bucket of Legos and received his first BIG Lego set for Christmas. My husband, Alan, got Legos for Christmas as well (the midi Star Destroyer, if you must know). Little B saw how much joy Legos can bring and specifically asked me for “girl Legos” for Christmas. This was in November, so I thought to myself, “No problem! We’ll just stop at the Lego store on the way back from Thanksgiving.”

PROBLEM. After battling the hordes at the mega MEGA mall the weekend after Thanksgiving, we straggled into the Lego store. I figured I could just pick up a little bucket and fill it with purple pieces since it’s B’s favorite color. And that’s when I discovered that our Lego store didn’t carry purple bricks. There were only a few flowers that were pink. Seriously? But maybe, I thought, the reason is that our Lego store is just too small. I thought that I might be able to order purple bricks from Lego’s online store. SURELY, I thought, they would have purple bricks. I mean, come on, it’s part of the spectrum of light. ROY G BIV and all of that stuff. It turns out that I could only get purple bricks if I bought the girls brick set in the bright pink bin. So later on, I did. I picked it up for less than the MSRP at Target in December. Because that’s what a mother will do for happy Christmas mornings.

After all that, imagine my delight when I found out from npr.org that Lego was trying again with a line marketed toward girls. It was like Lego had read my mind! There was too little out there that appealed to girls. I couldn’t wait to see them in January.

And then I was brought back down to earth when I started reading the comments about the new Lego Friends line. Some people were really riled up that Lego would make the Friends have careers like hairdresser, veterinarian, or fashion designer, not to mention that the Friends looked closer to Polly Pocket than the traditional mini-figs. They were irked because it put girls in a box. And questioned what was wrong with the other Lego sets that were obviously gender neutral.

Whoa. What?

Gender neutral? You’ve GOT to be kidding me. What is gender neutral about having red, orange, yellow, green, and blue but not purple? What is gender neutral about houses that come with one little solitary male mini-fig? What is gender neutral about basic Duplo sets that come with a little boy in a baseball cap? Face it. Traditional Lego sets are geared toward boys. And it’s noticeable enough that when a four year old sees her big brother playing with them, she asks for girl Legos.

Yes, B is a girly girl. But if boys can have their own macho men sets, why can’t she have the female equivalent? M’s Lego sets include weapons like light sabers, pistols, cannons, and booby traps. Why shouldn’t B be able to play with four shades of lipstick, a hand mirror, and a tiny blow dryer if she wants to?

Go ahead and say that Lego Friends promote female stereotypes. They do. Just don’t call the existing sets gender neutral. They are far from neutral. And I for one, am happy to see Lego move to balance the equation.

Down the Rabbit Hole

You might not guess from the frequency I write blogposts, but I really love the web and finding wonderful ideas and sharing them with people. Lately, I’ve been sharing via Twitter and Facebook. So how do I find all these great projects and crafts? It’s simple and I think it’s high time you learn to do it for yourself. Here are a few tips to get you started with your new hobby–surfing the web. You already have what you need to get started. A computer. Apparently, you also have time to kill.

1. Learn computer shortcuts. It’s worth it. It may take some time to get used to but you’ll be much more efficient. Learn how to cut, copy, and paste with a touch of a key. Find shortcuts on the right side of the dropdown menu in programs. Here’s a handy little chart to help you get started.

2. Learn how to Google. Or Duck Duck Go. Be specific in your search. Don’t just search for “crafts.” Search for “kids crafts tutorial Valentine’s Day cards easy blog.” You’ll get better results. Promise.

3. Once you find a blog that you like, explore. And what I mean by that is CLICK ON LINKS! If you start with http://www.skiptomylou.org, scroll down the side of the blog. Look at all those links! Go ahead, click on one! Do you see the button that says “Today’s Creative Blog?” Click on it! Once you’re at todayscreativeblog.com, scroll down to see their link party. Do ya see that? Tons of people have posted their ideas! Fabulous!! Click on those links. And then find more links on those pages, and click on them. And then find some more links and click on those. Go down the rabbit hole.

So what if you don’t know where to start? Here are a few of my “go-to” sites that I head to if I’m needing inspiration:

Make and Takes

Skip to My Lou

How About Orange

Living Locurto

Dollar Store Crafts

Little Birdie Secrets

Simple Mom

So what about you? What are your best tips and tricks? And what’s the site you love to peruse during those wonderful moments of quiet?

MOPS Excitement and the Devotion Devotion

Today was our pretty eventful MOPS meeting. The excitement included a small burner of Sterno tipping over onto the West Campus Fellowship Hall and burning the carpet, and a small child tripping and knocking out a tooth. (Those baby teeth are really scary looking when they come out too early!) On the more calm side of things, Vonda Skelton spoke about romancing your husband and I gave the devotion. Here is what I wrote for this morning:

I just love a good pun. My favorite birthday card was one with an anthropomorphized sweet potato on the front saying, “Aren’t you sick of birthday cards that rely on puns for their humor?” Do you know what the inside said? “I know I YAM!” So you can imagine my delight when I realized while I was preparing for this morning’s devotion, that devotion has two meanings. One of course, is a short thought provoking message that is spiritual in nature. The other means profound dedication or earnest attachment. It can also be used as a synonym for love. How perfect for this time of year! We can call this particular thought provoking message about love our “Devotion Devotion.” Loving it!

I know Valentine’s Day is controversial. Many of you coldhearted people out there would say that it’s a commercialized holiday aimed at the proliferation of singing stuffed animals and benefitting only the restaurant industry. There’s a part of me, though, that just LOVES Valentine’s Day. I love the red and pink color combo. I love the flowers. I love the chocolates. I love the syrupy sentiments on cards. I love the expectation of something a little special happening on that day.

This year, Alan and I are returning to a tradition we started in college but has been forgotten in more recent years due to the busyness and general craziness of parenting. We are making each other cards. Okay. Well I’m making him a card. And he’s writing me a love letter and getting me some chocolates per our negotiations. Most of our days are consumed with urgent things like taking care of the kids, going to work, fixing dinners. But when I receive my love letter on Saturday, I’ll know that my husband was thinking about just ME for a while. And he’ll know when he receives his cowboy themed card with lots of innuendo, that I was thinking about just HIM for a while. Isn’t that what the phrase, “It’s the thought that counts,” means?

Thinking about my card and Alan’s love letter reminded me of the expression that the Bible is God’s love letter to us. Usually, when people mention God’s love letter they seem to be referring to the frequency that God mentions his love for us throughout the Bible. That Love is a common theme. But what makes me awestruck is not just the wording and the final product. It’s all the preparation that went into creating this marvelous tale of how much God loves us. The craft that went into planning and waiting and ultimately giving the gift of Jesus. That while he was putting in so much thought and work, he was thinking about ME and YOU!

And then I stop to actually crack my Bible open and read John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And verse 14. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. . .
God didn’t just give us a 1000 page document of the history of the world, He gave us Himself. Just as there’s no separating God from His Love, there’s no separating Him from His Word. His love letter. His very essence. True to who He is.

On Saturday, the card and letter exchange in my house will be fun, amusing, loving. But the sentiments expressed will be only a shadow of what God has already written in his love letter to me. His gift of Himself. And my gift to him (lest the gift giving become one-sided)? To decide, once and for all, that it’s time to just stop hearing about that love letter, but to read and experience for myself “how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is” (Ephesians 3:18).

Get Pretty

I’ve really been enjoying the newest Beth Moore study on Esther. It’s made me think of an issue that I haven’t really delved into before. The uncharted water I’m referring to is the  issue of Beauty. More specifically beauty and how I relate to it. I’ve been processing something Beth said a week ago in the Week 1 video and still don’t know how to express my thoughts. How women relate to the standard of beauty is so complex. And personal.

So the main question is this: How do you feel about beauty? Do you feel beautiful and by whose standards do you judge yourself?

What I’m starting to come to terms with is that I’m immature in this area. I’m stuck in an adolescent view of beauty. One of the homework questions asked us to recall our thoughts on the first day of high school. I don’t specifically remember the first day of high school. I’m pretty sure I was dropped off by my father in an ancient Mercedes. My stylish ride would be announced by the loud diesel engine. My classmates, standing in the courtyard would be sure to notice the smoke rising from the tail pipe. I don’t remember being nervous. But I’m sure I was. And I don’t remember feeling out of place. I was fortunate to have a large group of girlfriends to go and do things with. But even though I had a good group of friends and an ideal family life, I was suffering from some insecurity…

I wasn’t allowed to date when I was a 9th grader. That wasn’t a problem for me. It wasn’t a problem as a 10th or 11th grade either. No guy was interested. That lack of interest (I didn’t have a boyfriend until 12th grade!) left me feeling a little unwanted, a little unlikeable, a little defective, a little insecure. Although I was confident in most areas, I didn’t really feel like I measured up in the beauty department. Every girl wants to be beautiful and what better way to judge beauty than basing it on how boys perceive you.  At 5’0″ I guess I was “cute.” And maybe I could’ve aspired to cute nerdy chick. But I was definitely not pageant material. And so I covered up any desire to be wanted/loved/thought beautiful (not just cute) with nonchalance and apathy. Okay, and maybe a little disdain for those who did seem to be winners on the beauty front. I was above all of that superficiality. Or so I thought. When I’m completely honest, part of me still wants you to think I’m beautiful. And funny. And brilliant. Basically, I want you to assign me my self worth.

Back to the Week 1 video. Beth says there are four types of women. 1) A woman that wants everyone to think she’s beautiful. She’s miserable. 2) A woman that wants every man to think she’s beautiful. She’s dangerous. 3) A woman that wants no one to think she’s beautiful. She’s afraid. 4) A woman that wants a few to think she’s beautiful. She’s ____ (missed that essential part!). Maybe that lost word was something wonderful like “balanced.” Ha. I don’t think so. Although I can channel the misery, danger, and fear of the other women, I’m a #4. The list of people I want to think of me as beautiful is pretty short. (Although, if you do think I’m beautiful, I wouldn’t tell you you were stupid or anything and it would probably make me feel good inside.) Beth goes on to say that she’s a #4 as well, but after giving it some thought, doesn’t think that’s the righteous frame of mind. I’m with her on that.

As Christian women, we’re called to base our world view not on how we feel (or don’t feel) but rather on fact and faith. In the booklet The Four Spiritual Laws, there’s a picture of a train. The Bible’s inherent Truth or Fact is the engine. Our Faith is the next car and is made possible only by relying on the empowering Fact of the Bible. The Feeling caboose comes in last. Regardless of how we feel, the Truth of the Bible and our decision to believe that Truth stays the same. The Bible remains the same. As does the decision I made when I was 4. Feeling is pulled along by Fact and Faith and is subordinate to those preceding elements. Does that make sense? A lot of the time, I base my attitudes, actions and thoughts on how I feel (not too pretty, none too cute, downright ugly) instead of what the Bible clearly tells me. My next little project needs to be to take a page from Beth’s book. She says that she has three verses written on notecards at her table where she does Bible study. It would probably help me to have a few reminders that my REAL self worth comes from God, not from the approval of men. Or women. Here are Beth’s verses:

Colossians 2:10 And you are complete through your union with Christ. He is the Lord over every ruler and authority in the universe.

Song of Solomon 7:10 I am my beloveds and he is mine.

Psalm 90:17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us.

I personally like 1 Peter 3:3,4: Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

Or in the words of the timeless DC Talk–“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she ain’t playin’. Here’s what I’m sayin’ and I’m sayin’ it clearly, she’s the kinda girl I gots to have near me.” (I think that’s from Proverbs 31. LOL).

Bottom Line: Instead of wanting people to think I’m beautiful, I need to be concerned about meeting God’s beauty standards. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to get pretty on the inside.