So you want to build a Mega Bloks helicopter with your kids: FAQ

Q. What are Mega Bloks Call of Duty sets?

A. Mega Bloks, if you are not steeped in the world of expensive plastic squares, are a competitor to LEGO. Call of Duty is the paramilitary wing of Mega Bloks.

Q. What’s the difference between Mega Bloks and LEGOs?

A. Mega Bloks are cheaper than LEGOs in proportion to how much harder their instructions are to follow.

Q. Is there anything else people should know about Mega Bloks?

A. Yes. Although the pieces are segregated into about a dozen different plastic bags, in order to complete Step 1 of construction, you will need exactly one piece from each of the dozen bags, necessitating that you dump all 324,943 pieces out into one omnibus pile.

Q. What is the best time to build a Mega Bloks Call of Duty helicopter?

A. When Daddy is home alone with a six-year-old, a two-year-old, and an eight-month old. Preferably late afternoon of a frigid day when you have been cooped up in the house for hours together already.

Q. Where is the best place to build your set?

A. The dining room table. No other surface will hold the 324,943 pieces.

Q. Isn’t it too close to dinner to spread that all out over the dining room table?

A. Work fast or eat on the floor.

chopper from hell

As with all of our greatest family accomplishments, this one was built on the placemat of US Presidents.

Q. Why can’t Big Brother (6) build this set by himself?

A. He could have, if Daddy had been smart enough to shell out the extra cash for LEGOs, with their at least partially-discernable instructions.

Q. What did Big Brother do to help?

A. Big Brother snapped together pieces at random so that whenever Daddy looked for a specific piece it was sure to be cleverly disguised within some abstract sculpture.

Q. What did Buster (2) do to help?

A. Buster loaded some crucial pieces into the back of his toy truck and quietly drove them to a different room.

Q. What did New Baby (<1) do to help?

A. New Baby crawled around the perimeter of the table, patrolling for any fallen pieces that might look good to eat. He also sneaked away at one point to the kitchen where he pulled a used bag of microwave popcorn from the garbage, spilling unpopped kernels all over the floor. These also looked good to eat, which provided Daddy with a nice break from his work as he sprinted from the dining room to the kitchen. You shouldn’t sit in one place for too long.

Q. Did the children do anything else helpful?

A. Lots. Big Brother and Buster got into a fight every 10 minutes over the helicopter pilots and their tiny guns and equipment so that Daddy could have something to break up the monotony of searching for missing pieces.

Q. Is Daddy supposed to yell so much when playing with the kids?

A. Everyone has a different method of family fun.

Q. Will this become a regular activity?

A. Only after Daddy has died and gone to Hell.


They don’t make it easy on Santa

Our six-year-old had to be prodded into starting his Christmas list. Having to write down words and ideas is so far below the dignity of a First Grade scholar. It’s much easier to watch toy commercials and say “I want that!” at the conclusion of each.

Once begun, he threw himself into the spirit of his list. He learned he could be more specific in his desires when they were the fruits of his own mind rather than the mass market spit balls of the Toy Industrial Complex.

xmass list_Page_1 xmass list_Page_2

Those who haven’t been following along may find it odd that four lines on the list call specifically for German items. The rest of us are relieved that it is only four items. This leaves several items that Santa could plausibly supply to a child in the United States.

I’ve contacted Santa. Following is his assessment of the likelihood of supplying each listed item:

A German Subway SetSanta’s Response: “WTF?”

What makes a toy subway German? And what makes a train set into a subway? Are you planning to set this up in a crawl space under the floor? How would the kid even play with that?

A Police Car with Sirens that can light upSanta’s Response: “At least this makes sense.”

But doesn’t this kid already have police cars, some with sirens that light up. And aren’t most of them neglected or broken?

A German Army Truck and HelicopterSanta’s Response: “Kids in Germany don’t even ask for that.”

An army truck and/or helicopter I could probably do, but now I’ve got to have flags painted on them? The elves aren’t good with flags.

An iPadSanta’s Response: “Yeah . . . No.”

$o many reasons; $o little time.

A German Army Suit with a Beret (Side note: I wondered why he asked how to spell beret) – Santa’s Response: “This request has been filed with German Subway Set.”

Such a shame. We have tons of children’s French Army uniforms with berets, but fresh out of German.

A Call of Duty KREO SetSanta’s Response: “Well, KREO are cheaper than LEGOs.”

So if there is such a thing as a Call of Duty KREO set, well, maybe.

A Nintendo 3DSSanta’s Response: “Is that a real thing?”

I lost track when the elves were still making the original DS? We’re up to 3 now? Can it be Japanese, or does that have to be German too?

An MSU Football CostumeSanta’s Response: “Great choice of team, but how about we start out with a sweatshirt or some pajamas?”

He’ll get a full uniform when he makes the team. Go Green!

A Star Wars LEGO SetSanta’s Response: “Didn’t he just get a bunch of those for his birthday?”

Maybe if they have a good sale.

A Boom Co BlasterSanta’s Response: “Isn’t this just a poorer quality Nerf gun?”

And aren’t there already tons of lost Nerf gun darts hiding behind all the furniture in your house?

A World War I German Army HelmetSanta’s Response: “Cool. I’d like one of those, myself.”

But has he checked prices online? Are his parents willing to give up their first-born child in exchange? Does he realize who their first-born child is?


I’m not sure what happened to the last entry. He probably wants something he has no hope of spelling. Maybe I’ll just get him something that starts with B. Or maybe I’ll fill it in with A Big Lump of Coal – German Coal.


Grown-ups don’t play with toys; they have hobbies

We attended a Model Train Show. It was a huge pavilion filled with overgrown kids and their toy trains. It may offend some hobbyists to have their train sets called toys, but I’d feel dishonest calling them anything else. I had toy trains as a kid, and the trains I saw at the show look suspiciously familiar.

The show has a lot of people selling bits and pieces of train sets and associated toys, and a few people displaying the working sets they built. These sets are indeed impressive, with multiple tracks and detailed landscapes. They are far more elaborate than anything I dreamt of creating as a kid, because I was a kid and lacked the treasure and years necessary to amass such collections.

train watching

Imagine all the fights we could avoid at home if all his big brother’s play sets were enclosed in Plexiglas.

These kids, having invested many dollars and one lifetime, are seniors now. To be fair, some still cling to the edge of middle age. But there is a child left in all of them. They still get a joyful gleam in their eyes talking about trains. They are boys, owning the knowledge of age, surrounded by a toy store of their own making.

And who could be the mortal enemy of these men so innocent and childlike? Who could be the bane of these happy purveyors of toys?


Actual children – the ones not yet corrupted with knowledge of antiquity or the concern for monetary value – the ones inspired by the instinct that God endowed in them to reach out and touch a toy because it’s a toy.

“Don’t touch that!” I heard this shouted by more than one raspy voice at the train show. It made me sad, and not because it was yelled at my children. It was only said quietly to my children, by me, every 10 seconds. I wasn’t planning on buying a train, let alone a broken one.

But I wasn’t sad for the children who got yelled at. I was sad for the yellers. It made them seem less childlike and more childish.

It made me realize that, in this Little Boy Heaven, little boys weren’t welcome. The big boys were in charge, their love of trains tainted by a fondness for valuable objects.

watching the fire

Trains and fire trucks – the perfect storm of toys you are not allowed to play with.

My son wanted to buy a die-cast airplane for $140. One of the few financial joys of parenthood is opening your wallet wide, tipping it over, and letting your child see exactly zero dollars fall out.

“Ask the guy if he takes credit cards,” my boy suggested.

The boy didn’t understand that if I paid $140 for the plane, he’d never lay a finger on it. The only time he might see it is when we’d use it for our centerpiece at Thanksgiving dinner. It’d be one of our family’s most valued possessions. Valued possession aren’t for fun; they’re to worry about.

That is the difference between big children and little children. Little children don’t worry. They play. And toys get broken. And the future is still long and bright ahead. And life goes on.