LEGO® Juniors® Review

Having been much impressed by tales of teen and pre-teen girls inventing all sorts of life-improving doo-dads, my family is very much on board with getting Halle and Zanna interested in S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math).

There were several numbered bags of blocks in each set – so that the contents of the bags could be assembled one by one, without having to deal with a huge, confusing pile of mixed blocks!IMG_8668IMG_8670

First of all, we looked at the step-by-step instructions.  These are so great – they show exactly which parts you need for whichever step you’re at, and how many, and then lead you through the construction process.

 

For the most part, I left the girls to it.  This was an excellent skill-building opportunity: reading directions, following an order of operations, observation and troubleshooting as well as fine motor skills, collaborating and cooperation.

 

Whenever they had a problem, they’d ask for help and I’d tell them to go back a couple steps in the directions and observe the picture and their own project.  Compare the two – are there any differences?

They could find where things went wrong with no trouble, and soon things were once again moving along smoothly – well, mostly smoothly. :)

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Both of the girls were so excited to work on these sets that they started fighting over who would get to do what step, so I made them take turns.  Halle would do one step and Zanna would do the next, and so on.IMG_8687IMG_8684

 

When they had finally completed their projects, the girls played with them, creating little stories and having such a good time that they barely even knew I existed (freeing me up to get other things done).IMG_8714IMG_8710

By bedtime, they still wanted to play on with their new Lego sets, Halle even wanted to have some in bed with her (no!), and the very next morning, we were almost late for school, because I couldn’t get the girls to stop playing with them!

And as soon as school was done – they were eager to get home and play some more!  So I leveraged – get ALL your homework done first, and THEN you can play with the Legos again.

Worked like a charm!IMG_8729

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Introduce your child to the fun of building with LEGO Juniors – our new range of Easy to Build sets for children ages 4-7. These quick and easy builds will give your child a feeling of accomplishment and provide hours of imaginative fun.

LEGO® Juniors® Digger

Hit the streets and repair the burst water pipe with the Easy to Build LEGO Juniors Digger. Use the bucket to dig down and the crane to lower the pipe into position! This iconic and Easy to Build set makes a great gift item as it is packed with cool details like the water pipes, valve and of course the Digger and its driver. It’s lots of fun and makes a great way to grow your child’s building skills. Includes a workman minifigure.

 

LEGO® Juniors® Police – The Big Escape

There’s been a breakout down at the town prison. One of the crooks has been able to escape and now he’s on the run! Give chase with the motorbike and police car then return him to the police station and back behind bars where he belongs! The fantastic Police – The Big Escape set is a great way to introduce your young builder to LEGO brick building. It makes a great gift set, too. Includes 3 minifigures with assorted accessories: 2 policemen and a crook.

*I received the products mentioned above from House Party’s Chatterbox program to facilitate this review.  All opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of House Party or Lego.

**Text in italics was provided by Lego and House Party

Mazel Tov! (Congratulations, I’m happy for you!)

art-supplues-offered

 

One of the last lingering effects of a former relative’s playing favorites with my twins, is that Halle can’t stand to see Zanna win or excel in anything or receive any kind of praise.

It doesn’t matter that Halle herself is equally praised, complimented and congratulated on her accomplishments, she just can’t stand it.  If Zanna is praised, Halle wants to be praised more, if Zanna looks as though she’s going to win a game, Halle’ll give up and throw a tantrum at the “unfairness” of it.

And for Zanna , she’d become afraid to compete against her sister, afraid to do anything well in the presence of her sister, and though she had great talent and love for art, she’d all but given that up, because getting complimented for it meant gaining the ire of her sister.

We’ve been wracking our brains on what to do here.  Both of the girls are victims in a way.

So after the last bout of tantrums because Zanna got praised for cleaning up her messy toys (while Halle had refused to pick up anything), I announced:

“You know what we need around here?  We need a special holiday!  We need a Mazel Tov Day!”

Both the girls were very curious about this.  “What is Mazel Tov?” they asked.

Well, Mazel Tov is Hebrew for “Congratulations, I’m happy for you!”

I told them that it’s important to be happy for other people and not begrudge them or get sore if they do well.  We can either choose to be a sore sport and get mad when anyone else does well, or we can congratulate them and feel happy that someone we know has done well!

In fact, instead of just a day of Mazel Tov, I think we need a week or a month, maybe!

I told the girls that I wanted them both to be Mazel Tov girls that I could be proud of!

I could see the wheels turning in Halle’s brain.  So I left things alone for awhile to percolate.

Later that day, I presented Halle with some art supplies she’d been begging for, and for Zanna, I pulled out a new sketchbook.  I could see Halle looking at us, so I did my best Mommy-Telepathy and projected: “Don’t you dare!”  She turned away and proceeded to start using her new art stuff and left her sister alone.

Zanna was overjoyed with her new sketchbook.  I asked her if she wanted anything special to use with it – liner markers, pencils, etc., but she said that she wanted to use the colored pencils we already had.  She happily scooted off to her room to get to work.

Soon Zanna came back showing the pictures she drew. (It was pretty obvious she’d become out of practice from the long hiatus.)  I complimented her art and suggested that she find a place on the wall to tape it up.

Then Halle asked, “What about me?”  So I asked her if she’d drawn anything yet.  “No,” she replied, so I told her to get busy and then we’ll see.  About half an hour later, Halle came up to me with a lovely picture of a monster that she’d drawn from an advertisement for something and I told her it was very well done!  I suggested that she also find a nice spot on the wall to tape it up.

So we’ll see.  I’m not kidding myself that we’ve managed to stamp out the problem completely, but at least we’ve found the language to effectively communicate what we expect from the girls, rather than a vague and general “Don’t do that!”

Dealing With Death

Fallan-angel-castiel-21776942-984-813

 

I’ve been struggling to help the twins get comfortable with the concept of Death (as much as anyone could get comfortable with that), ever since a few years ago when a  well-intentioned relative told them that everyone else in her family was dead.

“What is ‘dead’?” Halle & Zanna wondered.

When they became more informed on the subject, they were aghast and terrified.

They thought that they were in immediate danger of suddenly dropping dead, or that mommy & daddy would.

There have been many tears shed over this.

Holidays like Passover (Hello Angel of Death and dead babies!), Easter (Hello tortured and crucified Jesus!), school fundraisers for juvenile congenital heart defects (Hello nice video shown in school about dying children!) and one elderly pet goldfish (Thank you for your hunger strike!) have done nothing to help me keep my kids’ minds off of this morbid subject.

Yes, I’m aware of the Circle Of Life, the food chain and all that jazz, thank you very much!  But that doesn’t do much to comfort my kids.

I’m Jewish but teetering between agnostic and atheist, so it basically amounts to me telling them fairy tales about how there is a benevolent God out there who loves them, Jesus their distant cousin (a very nice Jewish boy from Galilee, don’t ya know!) and angels and Heaven.

Apparently I did too good of a job describing (potentially mythical) Heaven, because Halle was all for joining our dearly departed goldfish post haste.  So I told her that she has to wait her turn for when God decides she needs to go, and line-cutters need not apply.  Those go to the other place.  The Hot Place (where homophobes, terrorists and cult leaders go).  So she’s ok to wait her turn now.

But every so often the girls still ask about dying.  Am I SURE there’s really a Heaven and that there’s eternal life?  “Sure!” I reply, lying through my teeth.  I’ve explained that their body is a meatsuit (Thank you Supernatural!) that their soul wears until it’s learned all that God wants it to before going to Heaven.  And as long as we keep our meatsuits healthy and stay safe (by listening to mommy & daddy) we’ll live a long, long time.

But then, last week, we had a Passover celebration at Shabbat school.  A presentation was made by the teachers about the Angel of Death killing all the Egyptian babies (Gee, thank you SO much!) and my kids came home traumatized.

Angel of Death.  Killing babies.  What’s not to like?

Sigh…

So I explained that the Egyptians in those days (and I apologize profusely to anyone who may be offended by this) didn’t feed their babies healthy food because they were rich and spoiled, so the babies got sick, whereas the Hebrews were slaves and couldn’t afford junk food and they fed their kids healthy stuff, so those babies didn’t get sick.

And the Angel of Death certainly did NOT kill any babies at all, whatsoever!  He just collected the souls of the ones who died so he could take them straight to the nursery in Heaven where the babies could play and be happy and meet their ancestors.

Otherwise, there would be babies crawling all over the place, crying, pooping, getting stepped on by everyone else, Oy! What chaos that would be!  So the Angel of Death is merely being helpful!

My girls thought that was a very good idea indeed!  Babies, after all, belong in nurseries being cared for, and not crawling around loose all over the place.

And then came the video at school about children dying of congenital heart defects.  I have a cousin who died as a child from a heart defect.

Zanna couldn’t sleep at night because she was afraid she’d die of a heart defect.  She was in tears about it.  I had to explain that A) she did not have a heart defect, and B) even if she or mommy & daddy did drop their meatsuits and go to Heaven, Heaven was a nice place full of nice people who love us, and we could still visit whomever we love, even if they can’t see us.

Halle is utterly convinced about how nice a place Heaven is, and keeps telling me how eager she is to go there. (Oy vey!)  So I have to keep reminding her about line-cutters and the Very Hot Place.

And while I’m spinning these lovely tales of the afterlife, I’ve got no idea if any of it’s true or not.  Maybe someday the girls will come to the conclusion that it’s all on the same level as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and part of the magic of childhood to believe in such things, or they might decide that religion makes sense for them.  Either way, I’m ok.  As long as it’s a good experience for them and hurts no one, then I see no harm in anyone’s belief about anything.

 

Crepes pour deux

It’s been awhile since the last time we did parent/child dates, and for some reason both the girls had their hearts set on crepes, so it was off to IHOP we went!

crepes

 

On Saturday, Halle and I went – she ordered the strawberry crepes (shown above) and since I didn’t think she’d manage to eat everything (which means mommy has to eat the leftovers) so I ordered a kiddie breakfast for myself.  It was a good thing I’d planned ahead, because I ended up eating about 25% of her breakfast!

We had originally wanted to play ‘Chutes & Ladders’ while we ate, but they only gave us a teensy table.  Since it was pretty busy at that time, we just ate and left.

Then I brought her, since she’s a geek like me, to a comic book shop and steered her toward the family-friendly rack.  Nope.  She wasn’t having any of that.  She wanted a ‘big girl’ comic and insisted I check over the less gory ones she wanted.  After finding nothing but gratuitous sex and gore, I convinced her that family-friendly was the way to go, and luckily we found a relatively tame Ultimate Spiderman and a nice Scooby-Doo Team-up with Batman & Robin!

Then it was a Star Trek comic for me (which Halle will probably commandeer at some point) and we picked up a Strawberry Shortcake and a Mickey Mouse for Zanna.

At the register we had a Teachable Moment.  There were plastic busts of Spiderman, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.  Halle asked which was my favorite.

superspiderbatmanwonder

I said Wonder Woman (of course) and she asked me why.  I told her that I didn’t think it was fair that the male figures got to wear nice warm clothes, but that Wonder Woman was forced to wear such skimpy clothes and it looked like she was so cold! “That’s what we call gender-based discrimination, honey.  Can you say that?”  “Gender-based disbriminator!”  “Good job, honey!”

And we walked out, heads held high past the bemused (female – they should KNOW better!) counter clerks.

Then it was off to home.

On Sunday, It was Zanna’s turn for crepes with mommy, so we went EXTRA early this time – sure enough, IHOP was half empty so I requested a larger table so we could spread out the ‘Chutes & Ladders’ game board.  Zanna ordered the blueberry crepes plate (just as big as Halle’s) and again I resigned myself to the kiddie plate, just in case.

chutes

We managed a good two games – she won once and I won once, but the real fun was in watching her eat her crepes.  (Halle’s style had been what I call “The Waterfall”.  She held the long dangling crepe high above her mouth and chomped from the bottom.)

Zanna.

Sigh…

Zanna’s technique is what I’d call “Python Eating Mouse”.  She’d meticulously cut a long strip of crepe, stick one end in her mouth and slowly, bite by bite, draw the crepe into her mouth, like a python eating a mouse bit by bit with the tail hanging out and slowly disappearing.  She even did cute little snake wiggles in her seat as she ate.

I was pretty glad I’d finished my food earlier, because it was quite off-putting to watch.  She looked SO happy doing it though!  She insisted on taking her time because “If it tastes really good, you should take your time so you can enjoy it longer!”

When she’d finally finished devouring her meal, we went to Trader Joe’s for the grocery shopping and HUZZAH!!! We clocked in at just under $85! (our goal is under $100, so ‘Yay us!’)

Then it was home again.

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