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Entries in Legos (6)


Just another day at the office


{Field trip} Lego Architecture Exhibit at The Henry Ford

We've known about the Lego Architecture exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum for more than three months now, but first the holiday season and then a variety of other things conspired to keep us away. That, and we kept forgetting. But sometimes procrastination can work in our favor, and after putting it off until the very last weekend, we ended up seeing the exhibit on the only day that the designer himself was actually there to lead tours, answer questions, and give autographs. The designer was fascinating, and we learned a lot about his process, and Lego's process as well. Plus he took the time to chat a bit with Calvin, as we were the last people in line for autographs. It wasn't as busy as I thought it might be, and the exhibit was inspiring. Plus, for all of the times that Calvin and I have been there over the past couple of years, Jon had never been to the museumeven once, so this was our chance to show him around.



Play means many different things to many different people. You can play pretend, you can play a game, you can play at learning, you can play on stage, you can play with things, or play music. I think play changes as we get older, too. When I was young there was nothing I loved so much as to play at being a teacher with the chalkboard in our basement, or to play house in the tunnel of foliage on the berm in our backyard, while now my play is focused more on hobbies.

As an adult, and wife and mother, when we moved into our new home we did not have enough furniture for it, so our front room, ostensibly a sitting room, remained empty except for the piano and a few bookshelves of toys. We took to calling it our play room. It has changed a bit since then—the bookshelves grew like weeds (they now reach to the ceiling!), and we added a dress-up chest, a shelf doubling as a window seat, and now a dog crate—but really we've left it open so that it could continue to be our play room.

There is an etiquette book somewhere that says we shouldn't have the front room, the very first room visitor's see upon entering the house, filled with the things that make the most mess. But in the dead of winter, when the house is chilly and the outside uninviting, the afternoon sun streams through the front window and warms the play room floor. It calls all of us to spread out and bask, so we do. On any given day the floor is strewn with books, art pieces, Legos, or felt sets, and likely a young boy and a couple of dogs, too. That's where we sit to discuss history, run science experiments, read favorite books, or just simply play, with the piano, with dogs, with toys, with each other.

Today it was a building spree—the construction of a pool on a riverside, to be visited by all the fairy tale creatures Calvin could divine, or rummage from various sets, before their return to the castles...and parking garage. And, while Jon was off teaching lessons, for me it was playing with the camera, experimenting with that beautiful afternoon light and falling in love with my hobby all over again. I am still considerably under the weather, so it was nice to lay on the floor in the sporadic sun and just watch the boy play, listening to things those characters said and watching the things they did, and possibly I fell asleep for a few minutes, because I think I was awakened by a spotted pink tongue and a giggling little boy. 


The great Lego project

I'm living in Lego Land. A sudden burst of organizing energy has us building, rebuilding, and cataloging all the Lego sets we have. It wouldn't be so many except that in addition to Calvin's, we have sets from Jon's childhood, my childhood, and others, like Curtis's and Gretchen's, so that our oldest set is from over forty years ago, and our newest from just one. And what began as a search for a single piece that was missing from a single set, or at least a replacement for it, became a exercise that closely resembled an archeological dig.

Calvin's sets, the newest of the bunch, were identifiable and accompanied by instructions and piece inventories, but the blocks from earlier childhoods had long been combined and tossed about, all memory of their original form having been lost to the ages. Tapping nostalgia and the internet we were able to identify certain parts and locate images, brick lists, and instructions.

It's been a whole family project, including grandparents. It's been a trip down memory lane. We printed, we sorted, we assembled. We disassembled and reassembled. Several times, just for fun. In the end we'd compiled a list of sets we have, inventoried the pieces and made a list of those that were missing, and put all the instructions in a binder for easy access. We labeled zip lock bags for the keeping of sets when not in use, although right now there isn't even one in storage, they're all decorating surfaces throughout the house.

There was a time, probably even just months ago, when an immersion of this kind would have left me uneasy. We'd been traipsing through ancient Egypt, with other ancient civilizations on the horizon, and I would have seen the Lego project as just a small break in a days activity, never been willing to spend whole days on it. But Calvin was keen on diving into it with every ounce of energy, eager to catalog, inventory, research, build, play, un-build, rebuild. I couldn't possibly curb that kind of energy, and in what was probably my first true unschooling act, I easily found the lessons in the one activity Calvin desired to do, in the identifying, the categorizing, the labeling, the building, and especially in the playing. Especially in the playing.

And as with all life lessons this one let us know when its course had been run. So we've come to the end of the project, but Calvin, and the rest of us by extension, is still living in Lego Land. We'll reap the benefits of our researching and organizing for many years to come.

Three childhoods worth of Legos.


Monday—Ziggurat meets Mayan temple

Over the weekend Calvin attended a program at the library about healthy eating and living. It was presented by UofM's Natural History Museum, but had been poorly advertised and only one other kid showed up. The truth is, if we hadn't already been at the library for the book sale, we wouldn't have known about it either. As it turned out, Calvin had a great time at the program while I worked the book sale, and he came home with four different starter plants that he planted himself.

So Monday started with a little watering.

In addition to chocolate cherry tomatoes, ladybug tomatoes, green beans, and carrots, Calvin came home with a stuffed red blood cell that he won in a game of Bingo. He named him Mr. Red Blood Cell, of course. I had no idea such a toy existed, but apparently there is a whole line of these things, from brain cells to the black plague, so after breakfast this morning we did a little jogging around the Giant Microbes site (just watch out for the venereals).

Then a little Lego play with Mr. Red Blood Cell and the Ziggurat he and his dad built yesterday.

Ziggurat, meet Mayan temple.

Mayan temple, meet Ziggurat.

There was some nomadic hunter gatherer play, obviously set in the time before farming but after domestication of wild animals. Either that or this nomadic hunter is in serious danger.

Calvin did some cut paper art, and we read all our library books over again—lots of great story books about the evolution of farming, technology, and eventually civilizations. While I was on the treadmill he read The Enormous Egg, and while I was showering he watched a few Schoolhouse Rock videos.

I had a dentist appointment this afternoon (possibly my least favorite thing) while Calvin got some Gram and Grampa time. Then the store, a walk with Iris, tea with tangrams.

And a piano lesson for everyone.