The Simpsons Lego House

The front of the box

The front of the box

To most, this is going to seem like a silly, purposeless post, and it really kind of is.  The only reason I’m taking the time and energy to produce this is because, upon telling a friend of the recent gift I received, she told me she needed a detailed description and pictures of development.  The pictures are actually kind of crappy because they were taken at night in my dark-except-for-one-light bedroom with my iPad.  It will give you the general idea though.

On Sunday I was given the new Lego Simpsons house.  I know, I know, what kind of gift is that for a 34 year old mother?  Well, I’ll tell you what kind of gift that is: IT’S AN AWESOME ONE!  It’s a limited edition set, and if I had any sort of self control and kept it in the box, it would have been worth some serious coin in the future!  Thankfully for you, I don’t.

The back of the box

The back of the box

 

 

There were 7 sets of bags, with 2-4 bags per set.

There were 7 sets of bags, with 2-4 bags per set

The 2,523  pieces are divided up in numbered bags, which makes it all the more enjoyable, as this set has hundreds of unique tiny pieces, and searching for that one of a kind piece needed for a particular part in this huge set would have been nearly impossible.  Okay, so not impossible, but for me it would have detracted from my enjoyment of building it!  Altogether this took me around six hours to build-maybe a little more.  I had a lot of help from my almost six year old son, and while that may have slowed me down a little, it was a tremendously fun family activity!  (I don’t allow him to watch this show, so he had no idea who the characters are, so to him they were just a funny-looking family in a cool house. )  The instruction were so long, that they are divided into 3 thick booklets, each one chronicling a section of the house.

The included characters are: Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, and Ned Flanders.  I believe other characters are going to be produced at some point, which of course I will have to own.  HAVE. TO.

The first things we built were Bart, Homer, the grill, lounge chairs, and Bart’s skateboard ramp.  Rowan happily amused himself with those long enough for me to put together the Simpson family car.

Bart's skateboard ramp, complete with "El Barto" graffiti.

Bart’s skateboard ramp, complete with “El Barto” graffiti.

 

The Simpson’s car was a fun one to build, and it stays true to their car on the show with the dented front end.  I wish they had somehow figured out a way to make the whole set slightly bigger so they could have included a few more details, such as Maggie’s car-seat in this case.  It does have some fun features, though.  There’s the moving gear shift, car stereo, and trunk that opens and closes.

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Next, we tackled the garage and it’s many intricate details.  It wasn’t a technically hard piece to build-none of set is, really-but still was challenging enough to keep me engaged, and my son riveted!  He worked on putting cupboard doors on, and window panes in their frames while I assembled the walls.  The door goes up and down, as one would expect it to do, and this pleased my son to no end, and backed that car in and out, in and out. In the garage there is a work bench with a cute little red toolbox on it that sadly does NOT open.  There are about ten different tools in the garage including a paint sprayer, wrench, hammer, screwdriver, and power drill.  These all fit into a container that is attached to a cupboard, with a shelf over it holding cans of paint.

This doesn't show a lot of the tools and the broom, shovel, and rake.

This doesn’t show a lot of the tools and the broom, shovel, and rake.

 

The cool thing about this set is that the house and attached garage have roofs for that finished, polished look, but they aren’t attached (just resting on the frame, but are kept from sliding off by pieces at the edge), so you can see and play inside easily.  The house also opens up on hinges, and the top floor can be easily removed (it is attached to prevent slippage, but only by a few pieces).

 

 

Without the roof on....there is a door leading from the garage into the house that you can't see in this photo.

Without the roof on….there is a door leading from the garage into the house that you can’t see in this photo.

 

Completed garage with roof

Completed garage with roof

 

Next up was the bottom floor, front of the house, with the two bay windows and front door.  A cute little detail they added in was a mailbox with a couple of letters sticking out of it and functioning flag.  What amazed me about this set was how many details they managed to cram into the space allotted.  Like I said earlier, I wish they could have made it a little bigger overall, but I suppose the smaller size kept costs down.  It also makes it a little more manageable for moving around and storing on a shelf.  (I knew that I would be moving in from room to room as my son played with it, and for making our coffee table and desk more usable, so I built it on a large wooden cutting board.)

 

Front of the house, without garage attached yet

Front of the house, without garage attached yet

 

I loved building the furniture in the house and was constantly in awe of how they used so many pieces that I have seen time and time again and would have NEVER thought to use in that manner.   The rooms on the two floors are built in halves, because the house opens up on hinges.  They look so of awkward while the house is open, but if you look down on the rooms when the house is closed, it appears normal and cozy.

One half of the living room with the piano, and one bay window.  The door in this room leads out to the front yard.

One half of the living room with the piano, and one bay window. The door in this room leads out to the front yard.

 

This is one half of the kitchen, which connects to the living room.  You can see the other bay window and the front door.  There are many kitchen accessories such as cutlery, bowls, plates, and pots and pans that are not shown here.  The drawers and cabinets all open.

This is one half of the kitchen, which connects to the living room. You can see the other bay window and the front door. There are many kitchen accessories such as cutlery, bowls, plates, and pots and pans that are not shown here. The drawers and cabinets all open.

 

Half of the bottom floor of the house

Half of the bottom floor of the house

 

The next section was the second half of the living room that holds the couch, iconic painting of the sailboat above the couch, the television, and the stairs that actually lead to the second floor.  The T.V. is playing “Itchy and Scratchy”, of course.

The item next to the staircase is a vacuum cleaner.

The item next to the staircase is a vacuum cleaner.

 

The second half of the kitchen with stove, sink, table and chairs, and the door that leads to the backyard.

The second half of the kitchen with stove, sink, table and chairs, and the door that leads to the backyard.

 

Here is the entirety of the second half of the bottom floor:

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We set the bottom floor aside, and started to assemble the upstairs separately.  Interestingly, they have you start from the center and work your way out.  The first room was the bathroom, which was super fun!  My five year old got a kick out of building the toilet. :)  The bathroom includes said toilet, sink, toilet paper(again with the being amazed at the details: the paper is just one of the small car doors turned sideways.  Those of you who are Lego builders from way back will know what I’m talking about!), and shower stall.  There is also a door that leads to the hallway.

Closeup of the bathroom without the shower stall door

Closeup of the bathroom without the shower stall door

 

Completed bathroom without the house roof on.

Completed bathroom without the house roof on.

 

Next up was Marge and Homer’s room on one side of the bathroom.  In the effort to save valuable space, Maggie’s crib is in their room, too.

The pink item on Marge's side of the bed is a basket of some sort.

The pink item on Marge’s side of the bed is a basket of some sort.

 

Homer and Marge's room with Maggie's crib, windows, and door leading into the hall

Homer and Marge’s room with Maggie’s crib, windows, and door leading into the hall

Lisa’s room is on the other side of the bathroom, and is divided in two, with her bed, bookshelf, and Jazz poster on one side, and camera and desk with mirror over it on the other side.

One half of Lisa's room

One half of Lisa’s room

 

Lisa's bookshelf with magnifying glass, books, a jar

Lisa’s bookshelf with magnifying glass, books, a jar

 

The second half of Lisa's room with desk and camera and backpack

The second half of Lisa’s room with desk and camera and backpack

 

The last room in the house was Bart’s bedroom, which is the only room in the house, besides the small bathroom, which is not divided in two where the house opens.  A whole lot is crammed into a little room, but it works!

Bart's desk with bulletin board over it, chair, and bookshelf with books, red cap, and radio...His Krusty the Clown poster is on the wall

Bart’s desk with bulletin board over it, Radioactive Man comic book on the desk, chair, and bookshelf with books, red cap, and radio…His Krusty the Clown poster is on the wall

 

Bart's entire room, with lamp on bedside table

Bart’s entire room, with lamp on bedside table

 

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After completing the upstairs, the only things left to do were to build the roof, and attach the two floors and the garage.

Aerial view of the completed house, closed

Aerial view of the completed house, closed

 

Open on its hinges

Open on its hinges

 

One half of cross section

One half of cross section

 

Second half of cross section

Second half of cross section

 

Aerial view of house with roof on...the little while box sticking out of the side right above the garage roof is an air conditioner, with "property of Ned Flanders" on the side, naturally.

Aerial view of house with roof on…the little while box sticking out of the side right above the garage roof is an air conditioner, with “property of Ned Flanders” on the side, naturally.

 

This is the back yard with lounge chairs, and grill (also with "property of Ned Flanders" on it)

This is the back yard with lounge chairs, and grill (also with “property of Ned Flanders” on it)

 

…And the pièce de résistance:

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Mike, this was the COOLEST surprise ever!  Thanks for knowing me so well. ;)

On Why I let my Son Play with Toy Guns

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I understand that this is an extremely touchy subject, and people usually take the extreme side for or against guns. I believe strongly that there is a responsible middle ground, and I ask that whatever your feelings are about this topic, that you express them kindly, without attacking anyone else. It’s okay if you disagree with me, and I certainly respect families who choose not to allow toy guns in their homes.

As a new parent, and maybe even before my son was born, I resolved to never let him play with toy guns. I kept that promise to myself, too! Well, for the first four years of his life anyway.  I couldn’t understand why any parent would allow their kids to play with toy guns!  I was appalled even!  I was wrong to think that way. I normally consider myself to be a fairly open-minded and tolerant parent, but sometimes things like this smack me upside the head and knock me down a peg or two. I have *so* much to learn. SO MUCH! There are many times when I think I know what’s up, but I don’t. I was a victim of this particular popular idea in the United States: Toy guns turn kids into murderers.

What I didn’t realize before was how predispositioned little boys are to play with guns. They’re just hardwired that way. All one has to do is observe the little guys around them to see that. It’s probably a combination of genetics and environment, and I’m convinced boys are programmed to have a need to provide and protect. It’s in their genes. Even with this knowledge, it’s hard to simply accept that they’re that way. It’s impossible to look at all the school shootings, all the murders, and all the accidental deaths caused by children finding improperly stored handguns, and not wonder if toy guns in childhood are at least partially to blame. Violence is EVERYWHERE. Kids are bombarded with it from every source: school, neighbors, television, video games, siblings, and even music. Guarding your child’s heart and mind from as many of these is probably your best bet in helping to not normalize that type of violence. It’s the reason I homeschool, the reason I don’t allow video games without VERY close supervision, and only an hour a week. It’s the reason we don’t listen to the radio, or watch any TV shows that I haven’t seen first. It’s the reason I say no to playdates with families we don’t have a close relationship with, and it’s the reason I choose to be involved with every aspect of my five year old’s life. Call it hovering, call it helicopter parenting, call it whatever you’d like, I am charged with keeping my son’s heart and mind as pure and gentle as I possibly can, and I take that call seriously.

Of course, as many parents know, if a toy gun is not as their disposal, kids will turn ANYTHING and EVERYTHING into a gun. Any old stick will be picked up and pointed at a tree, given a “BANG BANG” sound effect, and the tree will be declared dead. Legos will be fashioned into a rifle, pistols will be cut out of construction paper, and every item that looks remotely like a gun will be used as such. My son was not immune to this phenomenon. I tried to shelter him from the whole gun thing, but we live in an area where hunting is prevalent, and guns are pretty commonplace. I HATED that about this place when we moved here a few years ago. I still don’t particularly like it, but I think I understand it more. People here still hunt for food. Without the deer they get every year, some of their freezers would be empty, and their families would go hungry. Guns are sometimes still used for violence here, as they are everywhere, but it’s rare. Kids are taught from a very early age how to handle a gun safely, and responsibly. There isn’t as much curiosity surrounding them, because they know what they are, and how they work. That makes total sense to me, as the more I tried to steer my son away from guns, the more he became obsessed with them.

Four year old Rowan, and the holster that started it all.

Four year old Rowan, and the holster that started it all.

It all started with a holster. My mom found an old holster at an antique shop, and bought it for my then four year old son. She knew my anti-weapon stance, but still pushed me to let him have one. While I wish she had respected my desire to keep guns out of my home, I understand now where she was coming from. She and my dad were both children of the 1950′s, where shows like “The Lone Ranger” and toy soldiers, and cowboy costumes all featured gun-toting heros, and gun violence outside of war was at a minimum.   Parents taught their kids respect and self-control, and it wasn’t an issue.  It wasn’t until the 1990′s that panic over toy guns arose with the mass school shootings. People began to fear that toy guns were desensitizing kids, and that shooting people was OK. I too, believed that myth. Yet, research has proven that most little boys(I know little girls like to play with guns too, but for the sake of this post, and due to the fact that I only have a boy, I’ll stick to what I’ve researched: boys and guns.) who play with guns as children do NOT grow up to commit violent crimes.

My theory is this: Little boys do not feel powerful, because they are, well, little. With a toy gun they feel heroic and powerful. It’s about winning and losing, fighting the monsters, the good guy vs. the bad guy, and rescuing the victim. Sometimes there is aggression, yes, and with close supervision, this can and should be stopped. When my son plays with guys, we have a rule: No shooting at real people or real animals, even if it’s a gun that doesn’t actually have a projectile (unless it’s a Nerf war, and everyone around is a willing participant. I don’t think I’ve ever seen over-aggression during our Nerf battles. He’s usually in a giggle-fit on the floor, laughing too hard to show any aggression). He can shoot at trees, imaginary bad guys, or up in the air. Every couple of days we have a discussion that goes something like this:

Mom: When is the ONLY time you can shoot a real person with a real gun?
Rowan: When they are trying to hurt someone else.
Mom: Right. Do you ever play with a real gun?
Rowan: No. If I ever find a real gun, don’t touch it, and tell someone it’s there.
Mom: Very good. Are real guns toys?
Rowan: Nope. They can hurt people if you play with them.
Mom: Right. Very good.

Rowan's Arsenal

Rowan’s Arsenal

When young boys play with toy guns, I think it’s more about imagination and fantasy, not necessarily about death and killing. I think that if playing with guns is all little boys want to do, then taking away the guns, and talking about why all they want to do is play with guns, would be a good idea. As with most things, moderation is the key. If I notice my son getting too intense in his gun play, I encourage target practice, instead of the imaginative play. If I can refocus his mind, he calms down, and enjoys trying to knock over some stacked paper cups, or hitting a bullseye. I try to steer him away from realistic looking assault weapons, and stick to the Nerf guns, or laser-type guns. I’ve found that he prefers those anyway, because of the cool sound effects, and he tends to lean more towards imaginative play, such as hunting monsters or aliens, and not trying to shoot a bad guy. He does have one rifle-type gun, but I’ve never seen him use it for any play other than hunting animals for food.

I truly believe that if he learns now that guns are not for hurting or killing people, that he will have a much healthier view of guns as an adult. He’s beginning to grasp that guns are very powerful things, and that he needs to respect them, because they could hurt him, or someone else. It’s a wonderful way to teach self-control, and that your behavior and actions have consequences.

Toy guns are not the problem. Being exposed to violence on TV, in video games, in music, in the community, and even in the home is the issue. If little boys grow up seeing people being killed by guns, of course they’re going to think it’s OK to do that! My uncles were both in Vietnam, and one of my uncles just retired from a long career in the police force. Both of them have used guns, and both of them have taught my son how to treat every weapon as if it were loaded, even toys! They’ve showed him how to hold a gun so it doesn’t accidentally shoot him, or someone else. They’ve explained how weapons should be used to defend, not aggressively hurt someone else in anger. My son is growing up with a respect and knowledge of weapons, and I think that’s a good thing. I don’t think he’ll grow up to be a mass murderer, because I’m helping him remove aggression, anger, and violence from weapon use. He will see a gun as a tool to hunt and provide. He will see a gun as way to defend himself and his family.

We don’t own any real guns, and I hope we never live in a place where we need to. I feel that no matter how fiercely I shelter my son, he will be exposed to weapons at some point in his life. If I don’t educate him, he will be thrust into a situation that he won’t know how to handle, with potentially deadly results. Of course I’d rather have my son read a book, or climb a tree than play with guns, but shaming young children for the imaginary play that they are naturally drawn to isn’t going to fix the country’s gun problem. Their play is valuable. It goes beyond mere gun play, into long, drawn out scenarios that teach them how to read social cues, self-control, nobility, helps them figure out their place in a group, and how to adjust their behavior in social settings. Children don’t see guns through the same lense as adults do. To children gun play is just that-play. Boys are boisterous players, they need the time and the space to explore their boundaries. Of course they will cross the line sometimes, but if the adult in charge closely monitors that play, it’s an amazing teachable moment. Acknowledging how and what boys want to play helps engage them, and makes them receptive to your teaching. In the safety of your own home, with your rules, little boys can explore the world of weapons. With a lot of parents I’ve talked to, and in many articles I’ve read, most little guys who are given the opportunity to freely explore their interests in guns, grow out of them by their pre-teen years. Those who didn’t grow out of them, developed a more mature hobby, such as hunting or target shooting. None of them grew up to kill anyone, or handled a gun unsafely. Studies show that boys who are not permitted to act out their imaginative play with toy guns, or shown how to handle a real one were much more likely to show a curiosity for playing with guns found at a friend’s house, to be involved with an accidental shooting, or to commit a crime using a gun.

Based on my research, and my own experiences, the odds are in favor of allowing kids to play with toy guns. That is why I will continue to allow my son to use them, under my careful watch. I won’t promote gun play, or even encourage it, but I won’t ban it. I certainly won’t ignore it.  We will play together, and openly discuss the subject of guns.  It’s a natural phase for children to go through, and if my son wants to play a game where he needs a gun to protect his cousin from the monster trying to eat them, I will smile, remind him not to point the gun at real people, and feel proud that my little boy is growing up to be a hero.

Christmas Day, 2013

My life isn’t perfect. In fact, I could list alphabetically, categorize, sub-categorize, and include an outline and works cited page for every single issue(most of which are my own fault, but I digress…), but every once in a while a day like Christmas comes along, and I’m with my family, my kid can’t stop smiling, and the love is palpable. How can I complain when I’ve got that kind of bliss just tossed into my lap? I’ve got a happiness hangover today, my kid is so overwhelmed with new toys that he’s developed a temporary case of attention deficit, and is unable to concentrate on one thing for more than a half hour. He’ll be happily amused with his Lego airport and plane, when SUDDENLY! Out of the corner of his eye he spots a gigantic remote control truck that’s calling his name! OH LOOK! A Playmobil bank! BUT WAIT! SKIS! (We don’t have any snow, but meh…) OHMYGOSH! OHMYGOSH! OHMYGOSH! NEW SOCKS! (Seriously, he played with socks for ten minutes this morning. He got a pack of brightly colored, striped, and playfully adorned socks for Christmas, and darn it if he didn’t try on every single pair.)

My son was spoiled rotten yesterday with many beautiful toys. The one he keeps returning to though is the MOST. OBNOXIOUS. TOY. EVER! Thanks so much to the guy who got my son the Despicable Me fart blaster. Great. Thanks so much. At least that same guy also got me a Wii U, so I can drown out the incessant farts ringing in my ear with familiar “boing” of Mario jumping up to collect a coin from a floating box. Also, what’s up with the millions of little stickers that come with Lego and Playmobil sets? I’m not trained well enough to get those suckers on straight. Without fail, my hand twitches right as I’m placing one. Every racing stripe, every flame decal, and every store sign are crooked, and bent over the corners of the piece. *sigh* Not that I’ve ever performed surgery, but I imagine(I know) it’s that kind of stress level. Not that getting sticky(insanely sticky! What are on those devilish tiny pieces of misery?!) little labels to line up perfectly on the first try is life threatening (it is), but come on, I’ve aged like five years since last night!

It’s 5:00, and we’re still in our pajamas, a mountain of new stuff is begging to be played with, and I’m faced with the herculean task of finding places for our new treasures. A measly 144 pictures were taken yesterday, but don’t worry, I won’t make you look at them all. You really don’t have to look at any, but I’m vain, and I think my kid is adorable, so I’ll put some up anyway. LOOK! Here they are now!

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Culture Corner plus BONUS STUFF!!

I thought that for sure that as soon as my semester ended, and I was able to let out the breath that I had been holding in since finals week started, that I’d be able to simply sit down and write. Foolish, I know. Plans usually have a way of staying just that-plans. Reality tends to sneak up on plans and knock them upside the head.

Intensity coupled with an overwhelming need to be perfect dominated my last two weeks of school. (I can hear all my psychologist friends, and my family therapist friends scrambling about for their notebooks, and a pen they can click incessantly as they ask things like, “Tell me about your childhood?” or “Why do you feel you have to be perfect?”) The truth is, I stress out really easily. The second I feel as if that rug is being pulled out from under my feet, I panic. I like knowing what to expect, so I can anticipate my next move. Things like not knowing what’s going to be on a test, or not understanding every aspect of a concept is enough to make me implode. I got through that difficult season, seven pounds lighter, with all A’s, and with a wee bit more confidence in myself.

Shortly after the chaos of a semester ending, we jumped right into the Christmas season.

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We did all the normal holiday stuff: We made cookies.

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We did arts and crafts.

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We participated in a Christmas Cantata again, where I was dubbed the “audio engineer” for being the AV nerd. (My dad had to complete how many years at MIT to be an engineer again….?)

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We performed the cantata at the nursing home my grandmother passed away at too. I literally cried on one of the resident’s (the lady in the front middle wearing blue) shoulders as we talked about my grammy. She was just so…wonderful.

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We chased cows out of the road.

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Rowan cut his foot and had to be bandaged up for a while.

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We played games, we shoveled snow, we built with Legos, and we shaved.

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A couple of days ago I went and picked up my niece so she could spend Christmas with us, something I’ve been doing for years now. In an effort to save time, here’s a photo recap of our visit so far…my children are delightfully crazy!

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Also, there’s this guy <3 <3:

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