Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Building Blocks.

Little red, yellow, white and blue bricks.  Orange and green bricks too.  One stacked neatly on top of each other.  Each depending on the next.  All working together harmoniously to create one stunning masterpiece.  One missing piece or one misplaced block alters the perfect outcome.  Sequence is critical and the meticulous detail is a skill.

Sounds like a self-improvement workshop.  Or some show on National Geographic.

As we near Michael's 5th birthday, I become keenly aware of building blocks.  Especially since LEGOs have trickled all over our lives...  and my floor.  I mutter four-letter words every time I step on one for a middle-of-the-night bathroom run.  Or when I see them creeping around the baseboards.  Or in neat little piles on my breakfast bar.  We are fast approaching full-throttle addiction.  The minute Michael gets a new set of LEGOs he runs in the house and, PLUNK!, plops the box down ready to go to work.  We notice he is precise and laser-focused.

My brilliant brain decides that this LEGO obsession is a good thing.  We have moved away from action-packed heroes that induce aggressive chest-thumping boy behavior and, instead, moved on to something that is quiet, thoughtful and creative.  I watch as he hurriedly flips the pages of the manual of instructions.  Michael calls this a "menu".  His creation takes less time than if I built the same project.  When he is done, he holds up the re-engineered car, he cheerily exclaims, "Wook, Mommy!  Wook!" and holds up the spaceship or car with a sparkle in his bright eyes.

For his birthday, we celebrate with a few friends and all things LEGO.  There was the LEGO Cake and the LEGO cookies.

And don't forget the gifts including Michael's own personalized LEGO lab with color sorting bins and a LEGO table.  (Ideas pages noted at bottom with links.)  Let's be honest here, people, these were also partly for my own selfish, organizing self.  This LEGO lab is meant to avoid the 3 am scorpion LEGO attack and the orphaned LEGOs that have found a new home on the floor near the dog's water bowl.  This super cool new lab is just as much for me and Daddy as it is for him.

All the of the birthday excitement for Michael became two straight days of unapologetic LEGO science.  He was like a mad scientist seeking a new potion.  Concentration of a heart surgeon.   Detective work of a sleuth to locate the right brick even Sherlock himself would be proud of.

I watch him doing his treatments while creating something new and different.  He passes the long arduous treatments lost in these tiny building bricks.  They are simply his mental therapy.  I watch as the vest he is wearing that fills with air and pressure.  It rattles and shakes him as he works hard to find a tiny piece in his bin.  I watch intently as his mask steams.  The medication billowing out of the holes of his mask and occasionally getting in his eyes as he shifts around searching for the next brick.

This amazing little boy is not detoured with all the vibration, noise, and distraction.  He is more focused than ever.

Lately, bedtime books have been replaced by an extra few minutes of building.  Michael's intense eyes dilate and refocus as he draws a tiny brick to the project.  He fumbles to get the right angle and then, 'click', the brick secures into place.  I silently look on and understand those building blocks he is putting together support his own delightful creations.  Uncharted adventures of his imagination.  New games and ways he likes to play.  These LEGOS are enchanting, each brightly colored and individual, yet each contributing to a greater vision.  His vision.

It is the night after Michael's LEGOmania birthday and he decides to go on an organizing binge.  A discarded, hopeless LEGO project that has sat broken and scattered for months now has new life.  Ironically, Michael is completely excited to demolish and properly store the pathetic Star Wars LEGO set (that he has rebuilt twice already.)  Apparently, now this kid understands the benefit of placing each one in its proper bin so he can find it again when builds something new.  Even though it is two hours past his bedtime, Michael is determined to finish his clean up.  Who am I to argue?

I watch as Michael concentrates as he takes apart each section and ushers it in the correct bin.  I realize as I watch his little hands struggle to break some of the tiniest, most stubborn bricks apart that his LEGO hobby is developing tremendous coordination and strength in his little hands too.  In this observation, a realization lands on me.  He's five years old.  A willful, thoughtful individual.  And whose hands are not as little as they once used to be.

I am a crazy lady about details, organizing, and proper order.  Beyond the fact, so I am told, that he is an exact mini boy replica of me, the DNA personality link materializes right before my eyes.   I chuckle as I watch his determination to clean up and put all his LEGOs in their proper places.  He is just like me.  He must finish.  Stopping is not an option.  It is considerably past bedtime, and my own organization instincts are fully supportive.  But my mommy instincts tell me, "This kid's got to go to bed!"

Michael negotiates repeatedly for "just one more pile of bwocks".  And then he goes for more.  "One more, Mom"...  "No, wait, just one more"...  And "For weal.  For weal.  This time, Mom.  I mean it, this is it"...  He grabs a handful of white, black and grey bricks and holds them behind his back.  He looks me firmly in the eye from across the room to make his case.  I can't help but laugh at the seriousness in his expression.  As I laugh, I see him break a smile.  It's like the world is going to end if we don't clean up every LEGO in the world.  And he loves every minute of it.  His determination is that of an army general heading to battle who wants all his men in their precise place.  He expects no less.

I finally have to intervene and tell him it's time to brush teeth and get into bed.  "The LEGOs will be here tomorrow and you have school tomorrow and need rest," I direct his attention to the bathroom.  He begrudgingly goes, but not before his shifts his attention back to the half dismantled project.  Michael lowers his head in Charlie Brown style and goes to brush his teeth.

I head downstairs and after a short period of silence, I begin hear rattles and clunks of Lego bricks well past his bedtime. It only lasts a couple minutes.  It stops.  I am guessing that he must've needed to finish a few more to have the right stopping point.  I wait another half an hour and things are serene and quiet in my house.  I tip-toe upstairs to find him asleep in his LEGO dreamland.

The next morning, I awake from my groggy haze hearing clunk! rattle...  clunk! rattle...  clunk! rattle. I stumble into his room in my pre-coffee fog.  The kid is at his clean-up best.  "Wook, Mommy.  Ta DAAA!  All done!"  He is proud that he is caring for his LEGOs in such a grown-up way.  All neat.  All tidy.  This kid is good!  I am impressed and pretty certain that this is the first time in life he has shown interest in cleaning up...  anything, that is.

Those tiny blocks are also our life lessons.  Built brick upon brick, and then broken apart they can be recreated in a new and different way.  Each in a pile is no more than a mess on the floor of a family room.  But individual bricks in their perfect and thoughtful spots create the harmony of a larger masterpiece.  A miniature engineering project of life.

I add another brick atop my most recent creation in my life...  As I step back and take inventory of the project, I find the perfect spot to place it.  As I snap it into place, I feel my stomach drop and my heart stop just as it did five years ago in that one moment I saw Michael for the first time when we welcomed him into this world.  Pure adoration and complete awe.  He is five and now building his own path ahead.

As for my own building, it's another memory and another moment, I won't ever quite forget.

*   *   *   *   *

 *I was able to create these ideas courtesy of some pioneers before me (i.e. some pretty crafty fellow bloggers in cyberspace).  Check out these great stops if you are interested in creating similar things:

Cookies -- I didn't follow this tutorial, but it's a great one.

Cake --

DIY Lego Table -- Ikea Lack Side Table, 4 Lego baseplates, contact cement, and some patience.  You can do an online search for "DIY Lego Table" and you'll find a variety of different ways.

Lego Organizing for Our Lego Lab -- at