I Should Have Known It Was Bad When He Couldn’t Open the Legos: How Do You Know When A Child Is Seriously Ill?

October 11th, 2010

I started this post earlier today at Suburban Hospital. Blogging to relieve stress…

My eight-year-old son is a Lego fanatic, as I’ve blogged here, here, and here.


When he returned home from a Saturday morning Cub Scout hike, nauseous and exhausted, I figured it was a stomach bug and encouraged him to sleep. He slept most of the day. And when he was too tired to open a much anticipated Lego box that arrived in the mail, I suspected a bad fever.

By 2 a.m. Sunday, when he was up and playing with the Legos, I thought he was on the mend.  By end of day Sunday, none of us, to my great surprise, had caught his bug, and that’s when I began to worry.  After all, aren’t viruses contagious?

When my husband told me he had to carry him upstairs to bed, I replied, “We’re calling the doctor in the morning.” But by morning time, my son couldn’t even get out of bed, so we headed over to Suburban Hospital, where they put him on IVs, took blood samples and a sonogram, and told us they suspected a perforated appendix.

After four hours, he was transferred to Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Big Boy went by ambulance with his father, and I by car after dropping off Boo at his best friend’s house.

And here I sit, now, blogging, waiting to find out if he has a burst appendix or not.

I feel:

  • Grateful to live in a place that has such wonderful medical care nearby;
  • Remorseful that I didn’t take him in as soon as I realized he was too sick to open a Lego box.
  • Amazed by how helpful technology has been through all of this. From my iPhone, I was able to quickly update my FaceBook status, read comforting messages from friends; check in on Foursquare and Twitter (my semblance of normality); look up appenditicitis on the Internet, and get directions to Children’s Hospital from Suburban Hospital.

From the Internet I learned that he’d likely need surgery and that if he had an abscess it would not be a good thing. I realized he’d need to stay overnight, and might be laid up as long as a week.

I had just accepted that when all of  a sudden things changed. They didn’t know what it was after all…symptoms inconsistent with appendicitis…could be his intestine? Another four hour wait as he prepped for a CT scan before we’d know whether it would be surgery tonight, surgery in a few days, or some other “medical treatment.”

I know in the scheme of things this is a very minor childhood incident, but it’s never easy to see your child suffer or hooked up to IVs is it? Again, I thought of the kids in other parts of the world who suffer without access to the incredible medical resources we have right at our fingertips.

Thanks to all of you who checked in with me today.

– Lynn

Postscript: Unfortunately he does have a ruptured appendix with abscess. They’re draining it tomorrow, and we’ll know more about surgery. One nurse predicted a five day stay in the hospital, and the Internet sites I’m now cruising say two to three weeks to recover. We’ll see.  My husband is cancelling his business trip to London, and we’re hunkering down.  Fortunately we both have pretty flexible schedules, so we will be trading off on hospital duty and doing a lot of typing in the hospital room too!

The Green Moms Carnival on 10-10-10

October 10th, 2010

What are you doing today? Well, if you’re sitting behind your computer, head on over and check out the Green Moms Carnival on Climate Change, hosted by ClimateMama.

As for me, I’m home with a sicko – I knew it was bad when he was too weak to open a new Lego set that arrived in the mail. Of course, by 2 a.m. he was ready to play Legos again!

I’ve taken two long walks today, and sadly I don’t see any evidence of fewer cars on the road. It’s a gorgeous day, but it seems like just about any other day.

And you?

— Lynn

Teaching Financial Literacy & Values or NO, The Lego Company is NOT a Charity!

March 10th, 2010

tweet yesterday about teaching financial literacy through allowances caught my attention, mainly because I’m expecting to start work shortly on a new client project that will engage kids with financial issues (in a green way, of course!… More to come on that when it’s finalized).

As @johnlanza said, allowances are a great idea.

BUT there’s so much more involved than simply handing over $x a week to spend on stuff…Especially if your values are trying to teach kids that we don’t need so much of the stuff that consumes our environmental resources.

A few years ago, when Big Boy was 5, I took a class in allowances at a wonderful local non-profit parenting organization, The Parent Encouragement Program.  Their philosophy is simple:  start allowances at age 5 to teach saving, spending, and charity, and adjust the allowance over time as your child grows.

We started at age 5 with $3 for spending, $1 for a charity of my son’s choosing, and $1 for savings.  Very early on he grasped the concept of “saving” up for large purchases (you guessed it – Legos). It would take him 10 weeks or more to save up for a decent-sized Lego, but he did it.  His first charitable donation was to the local Bethesda library.

Two years on, he’s getting $7 a week, with $4.50 for spending, $1.50 for saving, and $1 for charity.

Judging by the number of Lego pieces I trip over in our house, I think he’s got too much spending money.  He’s deposited $272 in the bank, and he loves reading the bank statements when they arrive. (I miss the days of the old passbook savings accounts – which made the money somehow seem so much more tangible.)

But it’s the charity thing we’ve had the hardest time working on. Somehow, my complaints about Lego’s exorbitant prices have been misinterpreted. He became convinced that Lego must charge so much because they need the money. Therefore, in his mind, The Lego Company is  a charity. And for several weeks, he was bound and determined to donate his charitable savings to The Lego Company. But of course, I wouldn’t allow it!

He’s now finally got the concept of for-profit corporations down pat, and as the note below attests, his charitable contributions will be flowing to Haiti and Chile.

“Dear X,

I am donating  $X   to give to Haiti and Chile.  I hope this money will help the people in Haiti and Chile for food and water.



Do you give your kids an allowance? What’s worked for you?

— Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

Yes, Lynn, There is a Santa Claus!

December 29th, 2009

Yes, Virginia — I mean Lynn – there is a Santa Claus.  My post about the horrible expense of Legos struck a nerve, with scores of people either commiserating or offering alterate gift  suggestions.

I just  couldn’t justify the $250 expense of the Lego drop ship, even if it was number one on a short list of just three items on Big Boy’s Christmas list.  (Hey, there’s a reason I post so much about Green Savings Tips. Do you think I buy hundred dollar toys for my kids? No!)

So just as I was trying to figure out how Santa would graciously disappoint a true believer, a letter appeared in my mailbox.

“Dear Lynn,” it said. “Please use this for an extra-special Christmas.”

Inside was a $500 check.

Once again, my best friend, the guy who raised a toast to the bride at my wedding, the man I surely would have married had he been heterosexual, once again, Sam had done something absolutely unexpected and remarkable.

Twenty-six years of friendship and somehow he still keeps surprising me.

So what to do with this unexpected Christmas bounty?

Of course, there was no doubt that Santa would now bring a Lego Dropship for Big Boy.


It takes many painstaking hours of concentration to assemble a Lego Dropship. (1,758 Lego bricks).

legodropshipphotoBut the end result? Priceless. A sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and mastery.

And the other $250?

That’s for me. I’m hiring a trainer and recommitting to losing the extra pounds that have snuck onto my frame. More on that in my post on Greener Resolutions for the next Green Moms Carnival, hosted by Katy at  Non-Toxic Kids.

And how were your holidays?

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Greener Traditions: Ye Olde Advent Calendar & The Reading of the Christmas Books

December 1st, 2009

If the following post looks familiar to  you, it’s because it’s a lightly adapted version of post I ran almost exactly one year ago, to kick off the holiday season. I’ve updated it with photos taken this evening at home, and it’s my contribution to this week’s Green Moms Carnival on Greener Traditions, which will run Thursday over at Green Phone Booth.

With the holiday season now in full swing, it seems parents everywhere are asking, “How can I make our celebration of Christmas more meaningful? What can we do to enjoy the season and take the focus off the few minutes of gift giving on the 25th?”


Taking away the focus on crass materialism has never seemed more important, especially now when so many families are suffering in this continued deep recession.  (That’s one reason I fell out of love with Legos this year, as I blogged here).

Take Advent. Yes, Advent. Did you know we’re in the first week of Advent? Advent is a season of waiting. And in our house, the mantra is not “hurry up, rush, shop,” it’s “Slow down. Be quiet. It’s Advent.”

One of my favorite ways of marking Advent is through an Advent calendar. And yes, although we’re technically in the first week of Advent already, it’s not too late to start observing the season of Advent.

Advent calendars mark each day in December up through Christmas Day. They typically tell the story of the Nativity. Some are “permanent” calendars with little doors through which you can hide chocolates or other treats. Others are boxes with the chocolates already hidden inside. And guess what? With today being December 1, that means you get to open up the first little door today, as you see my son doing in the picture below.


This year, I decided to splurge and I actually bought one advent calendar for each of us, unlike last year, when I attempted to share one with my Darling Husband.  And yes – you can still find them. I picked this Divine Chocolate Advent Calendar up this evening  at the Whole Foods on River Road, Bethesda (although call first, they were selling fast, and there are none at Kentlands!) We love Divine Chocolate  – fair trade chocolate from Ghana. And it seems local too, since their corporate offices are right here in DC.

A few years ago, I established a family tradition of leaving the dinner table to read a Christmas story before enjoying a  piece of Advent chocolate.

And every year, I tell myself that we’ll continue the tradition of reading after dinner. Yet somehow by the time December rolls around, we’ve fallen out of the habit of reading after dinner. But it’s a great habit to pick up again each year. So join me – bring out the Christmas books, enjoy a piece of Advent chocolate (just 20 calories!) and Relax. Slow Down. It’s Advent.


Copyright OrganicMania 2009

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.


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!


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!)


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?


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.


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