How My Love Affair with Legos Ended as the Christmas Season Began

November 30th, 2009

I’ve been meaning to post about my intense admiration for Legos’ marketing for nearly a year now, ever since my then six-year-old discovered the joy of assembling hundreds of tiny plastic pieces into intricate Star Wars ships.

legoboyphoto1

No, they’re  not the “greenest” of toys, and though sometimes I shudder when I think of the plastic involved, I must say Legos are the ultimate in “Re-use.” Have you seen the re-sale market for these toys? Many of them actually INCREASE in value.

But that’s not what caused me to fall in love with Legos.  First, there’s the fun factor. Building Legos is  a great activity for both parents and kids. Legos stretch your imagination – as well as your patience!  You can never do anything “wrong.” If a little brother crashes a Lego Starship, why, you can just build something else!  And after you “get into” Legos, you discover that kids bond over building Legos. It’s as if they have a Secret Boy Society of Awesome Lego Builders.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a Lego Store, like the one in Tysons Corner, shopping for them is a huge adventure. Our local store sponsored a huge “Build a Yoda” contest, where kids gathered to watch a team of “Master Lego Builders” craft a giant Yoda – and even got a chance to help out!

legoboysphoto

Your child can  join the “Lego Club” or “Lego Club Junior,” to receive well written, imaginative magazines full of Lego pictures, of course, but also with stories written to grade-level, word puzzles, Lego building contests, photos of kids with their prize-winning Lego creations, and more.   And once you’ve been to a Lego-Brick Fest, like the one held this summer in D.C. – well, by then you’re a goner (like my dear friend who flew from California to DC to attend!)

legotrainbrickfestdcphoto

LegoLand? It was on our wish list of “must -dos.”

And did you know there are even REAL Lego cars, like this one driven by the Lego Lady?

legoladyphoto

So I knew it would be a Lego-heavy Christmas this year. Last year Santa brought our son an MTT Troop Carrier Lego ship,  which would cost you about $100, if you had to purchase it instead of getting it via reindeer express.  That’s another unique thing about Legos – the first ones we bought were about $10, and as our son grew more skilled at building them, he would save his allowance for a really “big” one, that might cost $30 or even $60. There are even Legos for as few as a couple of bucks, and of course, for the adult builders, even more expensive items. Adult builders, you say? Who knew?

I suspect this is the last year that my 7-year-old will likely still “believe.” I’m sure he probably has a few doubts, as I did when I was a 7-year-old.  But for now, I humored him with the traditional, “What are you going to ask Santa for Christmas?” question.

Normally we “get off easy” at Christmas time. Back when Big Boy was just 3 1/2, he decided that Santa brought just three presents. Maybe it’s because the Wise Men brought 3 presents?  I don’t know, but we never disagreed, and he never questioned why his Aunt spoiled him with even more presents than Santa.

But this CyberMonday, when I set out to google the best prices for my son’s three favored Legos, I was shocked. The total price tag? $850  (And these were the ‘best buys” I could find. I’m sure you could spend close to $1,000 on the same items).

We’re not spending that kind of money on Christmas gifts from Santa.

But I never expected my son to learn that there is no such thing as Santa Claus because he didn’t get the three gifts he asked Santa for under the tree.

Yes, as a kid I didn’t get all the things I asked for either, but heck, I remember making long lists – with way more than three items!

I realize that through this “love” of all things Lego, I fell hook, line and sinker into the ridiculous Kid Marketing Juggernaut.  But what really makes me angry is the prices that Lego is charging for these much sought after toys that are the “in thing” with the elementary school crowd.

Now, I understand that there have always been high priced kids toys. I recall laughing at $400 kids’ BMW cars in the Neiman Marcus catalogue. But that’s to be expected, after all. Neiman Marcus – aka Needless Markup – is a luxury department store, squarely targeted at the elite. You expect to – want to – spend dearly for unique items when you shop at Neiman’s.

But Lego? Selling $200, $300, $400 and dare I say, even more expensive toys that they’ve marketed as the all-American boy “must have” toy seems somehow twisted, especially in this recessionary year. I’d love to know what the mark-up is on these items.

And that my friends, is my story of how I fell out of love with Legos on CyberMonday, 2009.

Now…anyone got a Jango Fett Slave 1 Lego, Imperial Star Destroyer Lego, or Death Star, you want to re-sell…cheap?

Legos? You’ve been warned.

Lynn

Postscript: After re-reading this, I looked more closely at the toys in questions. Two are marketed for boys 8 -12 and 9 -14, but the Death Star is for age 16 and up. So I can foresee Santa writing Big Boy a note explaining he’s too young for the Death Star (which incidentally would set Santa back a cool $400).  As for the others….I’m sure I’ll think of something. Now I’m wondering…was this post just a cranky, late Cybernight Monday rant, or do I have a point? What do you think? Meanwhile, gotta prepare that non-commercialization of the holidays post! :)

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

A New Thanksgiving Tradition

November 27th, 2009

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. No gifts to buy, no religious differences to divide us.  Simplicity reigns. A delicious meal, a gathering of family and friends,  and an aura of gratitude for all we’ve been given  — that’s Thanksgiving.

This year I did something almost as an after thought, but it turned out to be such a moving experience that I hope to make it part of my Thanksgiving tradition for years to come.

csa-thanks-photo

My CSA has a requirement that members take on various  chores throughout the year. When I signed up to help with the set-up the day before Thanksgiving,  I did so figuring it would be a slow time at work, not too cold to stand outside moving boxes,  would find it hard to break away from Thanksgiving preparations  to volunteer.

csasetupphoto

I  didn’t know what a beautiful experience it would be to move bushels and baskets of just-picked food from truck to table.  It was a cold, rainy morning,  and as I shivered and wished I had some hot tea on hand, I thought about the workers who had been out in the fields that morning, picking the crops and packing them up for us to receive.

I remembered how at the launch of the Farmers Market by the White House FRESHFARM Markets co-founder Ann Yonkers stated that farmers were the most under appreciated group of workers in the US.

Suddenly I wondered if we could turn Thanksgiving into a National Day of Thanks for Farmers. Perhaps I’d contact the American Farmland Trust and suggest a new program. My mind raced with all I could do, suddenly in full marketing consultant mode, instead of in the “here and now” of the muddy, raining morning with tot soi, muddy carrots, kale, and more all around me.

moving-potatoes-at-csa-photo

It was then that I realized that we don’t need MORE to do on Thanksgiving. We need to preserve its simplicity. But from now on, part of my Thanksgiving tradition will be volunteering at the CSA on Thanksgiving week as a way of giving thanks to the farmers who feed us year round.

What were you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Any new traditions in your family?  Please leave a comment and share!

Saving Money Through Green Means (My Top 20 Tips!)

November 18th, 2009

There was a time when I thought going green meant expensive, frou-frou organic and eco-chic “stuff.” Sure, that can be part of the picture, but for most people, going green actually saves money. I’ve been posting about how to find deals on green and organic items for the past few years now, so for this “Saving through Green Means” edition of the Green Moms Carnival, hosted by Condo Blues,  I’m sharing a round-up of my favorite tips for saving money while going green. I’ve linked to 10 posts below, and together they cover more than 20 tips for saving money! Now what are you going to do with all that money you save? Leave a comment and share!

cart

1.  One of my favorite “savings posts”  – and honestly, not just for “green means” either. Here are the things to AVOID doing – My Top 10 Don’ts.   Follow these rules and I swear you’ll save money!

2.   Hate spending money on kids’ stickers? So do I! So much packaging waste and they’re a total rip-off! Here’s a post about what you can do instead.

3. Buying in Bulk and Watch Those Labels! You don’t have to trek to a big box store to buy in bulk. You can save by stocking up on discounted items at your regular grocer. Read this post for more info.

apple-juice-apple-eve14.  Bigger Isn’t Always Better – the “bulk savings bin” or “special deals” aren’t always the cheapest way to go. See this post for details – but check what you need and read labels and per ounce/per serving pricing carefully. If you waste something, you’re not really saving anything – and it’s not very green, is it?

5.  CSAs are a great way to save money on organic, local, farm-fresh and even biodynamic foods. Did you know you can save even more money by sampling a CSA? Read this post to learn how.

6. Disappointed by in-store expired coupons? Don’t be – take a few minutes to go to customer service to get the money you’re owed! Here’s my experience at Whole Foods.

7. Not finding what you want? Look up, look down, look all around. Did you know that most stores put the most expensive items at eye-level? That means you have to crane your neck to look up, look down, look all around and find what you want, as this post demonstrates!

romaine3

8. Late Night Specials at Whole Foods: Perfect for tomorrow’s lunch or a late night snack, did you know you can grab the day’s freshly made gourmet sandwiches for half-off in the evening?  Read more here.

9.  Waste-free lunches are green, cheap and easy. Sure, you can buy some of the lovely waste-free lunch kits. But you don’t have to. You can make your own or brown-bag it. Here’s how.

10.    Green Household Cleansers: Make Your Own!  Vinegar, baking soda, castille soap, and maybe some lemon. That’s really all you need! Read more here, and check out The Smart Mama too. She’s a wealth of knowledge about green cleaning – she has some great “cleaning recipes” on her site to help you!

Hope you enjoyed all these “oldie but goodie” posts on saving through green means! Leave a comment and share your best tips!

Easy Green Weekend Project: National Recycling Day Events Saturday AND Sunday!

November 13th, 2009

Time to clean out the basement! This Sunday is National Recycling Day. What better time to clean up than right before the holidays hit?

All across the country there will be events designed to make recycling easy – especially for those “special items” that aren’t always picked up. However, the national list here has broken links to the Maryland events, so I’m summarizing those I’m aware of the four Montgomery County events -  in Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Germantown.

At each County Event, you can shred up to five small boxes of old bank statements and other personal documents for recycling. Donations of   clean clothing, household goods and small furniture will also be collected to benefit  The Arc of Montgomery County Thrift Store, Lupus Foundation of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, and National Children’s Center, Inc..  (And yes, you can get tax receipts for your donations!)

Saturday, November 14 from 10:00am to 2:00pm

Eastern Montgomery Regional Services Center
3300 Briggs Chaney Road
Silver Spring, Maryland 20904

Upcounty Regional Services Center
12900 Middlebrook Road
Germantown, MD  20874

Sunday, November 15 from 8:00am to 12:00pm

John F. Kennedy High School
1901 Randolph Road
Silver Spring, Maryland 20902

Sunday, November 15 from 1:00pm to 5:00pm

Walt Whitman High School
7100 Whittier Boulevard
Bethesda, Maryland 20817

The Bethesda event is co-hosted by  Bethesda Green and Montgomery County’s Division of Solid Waste Services.   If you’d like to volunteer, send an email to  volunteer@bethesdagreen.org.

I’d love to say I’d join you, but that Swine Flu I last blogged about? It ran through the house, and then the nasty germs turned into bronchitis and laryngitis, from which I’m still recovering. So unfortunately, I think I’ll miss National Recycling Day! But tell me how it goes!

This post is for the Green Moms Carnival on Recycling, to appear on Sunday the 15th  (On Recycling Day) at  Recycle Your Day.

Leslie (aka @LaMamaNaturale on Twitter) of Recycle Your Day is one of the newer members of the Green Moms Carnival – it’s her first time hosting, so be sure to check out her site and all the great submissions from the wonderful women of the Green Moms Carnival!

– Lynn

Copyright 2009

The Old 24-Hour-Rule? Not for Swine Flu!

November 4th, 2009

Every parent knows the rule. Fever-free without medication for 24 hours. That’s the period of time during which a parent is supposed to wait before sending Junior back to regularly scheduled activities after a bout with a fever. And the Centers for Disease Control reaffirmed that recommendation less than two weeks ago.

That’s the rule we followed. After running a temperature over the weekend,  Boo seemed fine by Tuesday. Heck, he had spent most of Monday fighting over Legos with his Big Brother, chasing him up and down the stairs…full of energy and spunk.

But then today, Wednesday,  – when of course, I was traveling back from a conference in Virginia -  – I got the call: a fever of 103.5 degrees.

DH was home fighting the flu too. And the traffic lights in all of Montgomery County were malfunctioning, putting the entire County in traffic gridlock – the worst I’ve seen in a decade here in the DC area.  Needless to say, it was quite an adventure making it up the clogged arteries to the pediatrician’s office.

By the time I made it to the pharmacy at 8:30 p.m., I picked up an email from my son’s child care center, asking parents to make sure their children were fever-free for 48 hours before returning to school.  Apparently my son was not the only child to have a sudden reoccurrence of high fever, more than a day after going fever-free for 24 hours without meds.  But actually, we would have needed a 72-hour rule in his case.

So that old 24-hour rule?  It doesn’t apply with swine flu. I didn’t know that. But now you do. Stay well.

– Lynn