Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dump Queen

Some have the happy appellation of "dancing queen," "prom queen," or "fairy queen." Me, I have been graced with the more humble title of "dump queen."

And I wear it with pride. I *love* our local town dump.  From the empowered, kind, tough, tattoo-ladden, all-women crew, to the requirement of processing your own garbage (and thus being more responsible and aware), I love every bit of it.

What I love the most, however, is the end of the rainbow experience at the dump, where, by the "hopper" where you finally dump your trash after expunging your recyclables, you can paw through other's cast-off items that are worthy of review.  Yes, there is a lot of junk there, but I have found some beauties.  

What truly is someone else's junk has become my treasures. From vintage skis, ice-skates, a full playground in my barn, complete with slides, bikes, a basketball hoop, swings, and a mini roller-coaster, to items around my house and clothes in my closet, I have found treasures at my local dump, and I display them with pride.  Here are just a few items:

These curtains. I washed out the stains and had a friend cut two larger panels down into eight little panels for cafe curtains in our dinning room.  Currently in love.

This brand-new pink lamp shade (found with its wrapping on) is the perfect shape for the lamp I purchased at Brimfield last go-round. A neighbor who knows me well saw it and snatched it.

This antique mirror is the perfect shape for our 18th century (non-square) entry-way.

hand carved wooden candlesticks, anyone?  Found at our dump's swap shop, where others' cast-offs are organized and made available for free.

cast iron pan. Use it daily, often multiple times.

Mail basket.

picnic basket where I hide my boombox and a few CDs.

Vintage tin where I keep batteries.

Vintage hat box.
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Antique bucket - I have a pair, and use them as trash cans.

Flower boxes from Holland I keep litter and shavings for our bunny - don't mind the surrounds of plastic trucks my son lined up around it!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Five Reasons Why You Should Take the Kids (or the Grandkids) to Brimfield

When I told people I was taking my tiny children with me to Brimfield, the world's largest outdoor antique flea market, most people responded the same way: amazement, consternation, and disbelief--all with a healthy undercurrent of "you're crazy." 

But I tend to take my children to things most others don't. (For instance, I almost took my four-year-old to a political dinner the other night, and didn't only because I was running late.) 

True, it is much more work to take my children to these things rather than getting a babysitter. But I believe it is all worth it. Here are my five top reasons why I think taking children, even those younger than 5, to Brimfield is actually a good idea: 

1) It's educational. Touching, seeing, and learning to respect antiques teaches children to appreciate beauty. 

Because I want my children to learn to love the outdoors, I take them on hikes. It's not always the safest thing to do, and sometimes they can't touch everything or even walk in certain places. But they can touch some things, and they can look and see and touch the beauty of the great outdoors. 

Manmade beauty, especially field upon field of antique booths, has similar qualities. Sometimes you can't touch everything, it can be a little unsafe--to the child and to the item--and you certainly can't walk everywhere.  But you can touch some things, and walk some places. Being there and seeing item after item, and discerning what is appropriate to touch, appropriate for our home, and generally beautiful, is an education for them. One I can't easily replicate with books about furniture and other items. The education of knowing how to respect things is definitely not one I can replicate with books. 

2) Free stuff. Before Saturday, children, especially those outside of strollers, are in low supply, and vendors love them. In the course of one morning, the amount of things given to my children was staggering - a guitar, pink styrofoam clogs, vintage cars, a doll, and my personal favorite, vintage noisemakers (useful for both entertainment and locating straying children). 

3) The bounty. Brimfield is brimming (pun intended) with child and baby items. These don't just include the classic antique rocking horse. Dolls, vintage cars, play items, clothes, shoes, sleds, and goat carts converted into bicycle carts. Because few bring their children or are looking for these items, they are often available at great prices. For instance, I purchased this full vintage suit and winter coat for $25.  

converted goat cart

See the pink clogs? We also got this trike for $30.
Didn't buy this kitchen set because of rust and rot, but that color!

4) No one is a stranger. I had all three children for one morning, none during the afternoon (they were with a sitter at the hotel for naps), and just my baby the second day all day in my 1954 Silvercross pram. The difference in my experience all three mini-trips was startling. Children definitely made the difference in making friends and acquaintances easily.  Everyone, it seemed, wanted to stop and chat, talk to the kids or coo at the baby. Although answering the question of whether there was a real baby in the pram for the 29th time got a tad old, I definitely had more fun that second day or the previous morning with all three than I did on my afternoon trip sans kids. 

5) The surrounding cultural and historical child-friendly experiences. Although I was technically only at Brimfield two full days, I widened the experience and fun for my children by building in an extra day of cultural and historical activities. On my way to Brimfield, I stopped by Old Sturbridge Village for a few hours. I definitely could have spent a full day (or two!), as my four and two-year-old were completely captivated by the village, animals, architecture, and living historians acting out New England rural life in the 1830s. 

We then stayed at the Trainmasters Inn and ate at the associated restaurant, Steaming Tenders, in Palmer, Mass, also within 20 minutes of Brimfield (even with traffic). For a little boy enamored with all things that go, he was in a train-filled heaven to eat and sleep (though it did not disturb us behind the thick historical walls) within the vibrations of passing trains. The Trainmaster's Inn advertises themselves as not child-friendly, but if they will rent out the suite recently occupied by their daughter as they did to us, it is perfect for children, complete with roll-away bed, a full kitchen, and train face cards to boot. Steaming Tenders, built out of a renovated train station, could not have been more accommodating or charming. Free dessert was on the house each night, the restaurant featured a full child's menu, they didn't seem to mind the mess, and the children got to blow their bellows "train whistle," not to mention be thrilled by every passing train.   

Trainmaster's Inn

Complete with carriage house and antique carriage.

Steaming Tenders - wish I got more pictures!

Before you take your littles to Brimfield in July or September, be prepared with realistic expectations: I had given myself ample time to shop, knowing that my attention would usually be focused on the children. I wanted them to have a good time, so I had to slow down and allow my son to look for the toys in every single tent or keep walking while my baby was sleeping in the pram. 

It would also be helpful to be prepared, generally, and not just with the usual snacks and diapers. I had planned to have the pram with me both days, as it has a toddler seat.  But it needed repairs the first day (Dave's auto body shop next to Steaming Tenders fixed it for free!), so I arrived at Brimfield without a stroller hoping to rent a wagon, which was readily available. It turned out to be a good strategy, and left more room in the car for booty. I also had my daughter's (antique) potty in the back of the car, and would have been helped had I taken it along. I also went with friends, which proved invaluable in keeping children occupied. Finally, I trained him on how to use them and then tucked a walk talky into my four-year-old's pocket in case he wandered too far.  

Armed with realistic expectations and appropriate preparation, taking children to Brimfield can be a wonderful, educational experience for all involved, and you might just walk away with much more than you bargained - and paid - for.

My other Brimfield Finds:
Antique Swedish Rag Rugs, $40

Cracked Antique Jadette lamp, $15 

Vintage White Bedspread, $20

1860's farmhouse table, $750

Furkin lamp, $23
Things I was tempted to buy:
OK, not really...

1920s step saver

Thai tuk-tuk

Glenwood Range

French shabby-chiced dressing table.

Oldhome 1950s Canoe, $1,500

Small Wonders:

* Gideon (4): 

-"You need to entertain me!"
-"Mom, this is unforgivable"
-[After going to Brimfield] "I'm impressed that you brought all of these new things. Thank you thank you thank you. They are so beautiful."
-[To Esther] "You didn't go to music class because mom was struggling."
-"But will you forgive me?" 
-His Primary teacher moved recently - a very sad moment for all of us. In saying goodbye, Gideon said, "I liked your class. Do you know my dad? His name is Lance Toler." 
-He has learned how to prep asparagus for roasting recently-breaking stems off at the right point, lining them up on a tray. The other morning while prepping them, he said, "There's a lot of asparagus going on"
-He's started writing notes to people who are meaningful to him - he sent an email and spelled out "Hi!" and then "Gideon" with maybe 20 emoticons to his cousin, Truman, and left his daddy a note by copying a magazine article, then writing his name on it. While operating the copier, he said, "I'm mating these."
-Gideon missed us while we were away in NYC for a conference this last weekend. He told his babysitter, "My parents need to come home and love me!"
- About Ingy, with whom he has the sweetest relationship: "She's a gorgeous baby."
- He's started to be particular about what he wears recently. Instead of fighting with him, I'll let him pick.  The other day he brought down 6 different shirts on their hangers and announced he wanted to wear all of them (and was super upset he couldn't do it all at one time.)

Esther (2 1/2):

-She's into jumping recently, to dance, off curbs and down a few stairs if I'm there to catch her. The other day she said,  "I jumped with all my might!"
- "I want popcorn popping on the apricot tree." Someone is paying attention in Nursery. 
- will insist that certain people do certain things for her and is very particular about how things are done and where they are put away. Starting to not like being dirty and needs particular things washed.
- Very goal-oriented, and needs to finish whatever task she's on before moving on to the next. If I can focus this, she's extreme helpful - putting grocery items on the conveyer belt, wiping up Ingy's high chair, setting and clearing the table.

Ingy (5 months):

- a first tooth!
- will call out to me in very distinct ways to get my attention
- knows her name
- when screaming for something, will stop (usually) when I tell her to
- when asked to say "hi," she'll verbalize something very close
- started on real food by clearly letting me know she wanted some during dinner, and hasn't looked back. Another excellent eater: she's done when my arm is tired. Currently likes tomato sauce, avocados, green drink, and food pouches. Not the biggest fan of sweet potatoes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Work in Progress

G showing off his creation in the new kids' room - reveal coming soon!

I have been uber-focused on getting home projects done so that my babes can sleep a bit better in healthier environs and I can focus on more important, less urgent matters (yes, there are more important things than baby's sleep, but you can't get to them unless they are sleeping!).  Although I've done all I can do on the home front, or almost all I can, there is more that needs doing that is out of my hands.

This coupled with a type-A, goal-oriented personality, and being a doer rather than a reader (much to my chagrin!) has made me reflect a lot on accepting the process, or imperfection, rather than the goal. My house may never be "done" (yes, we are still settling after a year and a half!), but I am making continual progress - through my own best efforts and by working together with others.

And so it is with life. I don't know if I will ever be "done" making progress. Every time I turn around, there is some fault, newly seen (but always there!) that needs work.

For instance, recently I have begun to reflect on why I am perpetually late. Yes, I am bad at math, and getting to things on time with three littles requires a lot of complex calculus (and back-up plans!). But it is also a matter of prioritizing others over myself. If others and their goals and priorities are as important as my own, I would get up earlier in the morning and maybe leave my house a little more messy.  Yes, getting G to preschool on time may not be all that important in the grand scheme, but I am not teaching Gideon to respect his teachers, and I am not respecting the education of my 4 year old. I need to do better. A lot better.

And then there is being critical of myself. Turns out judging myself and not allowing some grace in the matter is as wrong as judging others. Also, the "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" commandment actually requires one to love one's self. As I point out in my book (written, it seems, another lifetime ago - I'm still learning the lessons...), my ability to love others is directly proportional to my ability to love myself. So if I am critical and judgmental of myself, I am more likely to do so with others. Guess I need some work...

In short, I need to allow grace for myself--and my house, as silly as that may seem. Without excusing my many shortcomings, I need to be gentle with myself and allow for (lots) of room for improvement. After all, doing so will make me more like God, the author of the most amazing grace of all.

Small Wonders
* "I can watch myself"
* Appetite improving (yeah!) - "I'm hungry already"
* Got Walkie talkies, called "Talkie talkie"
* After being in charge and bringing E up for the bath (I'll take whatever help I can get!), G asked "am I a serious kid, mom?"
* On her waking, Gideon asked Esther, "How are you doing? How is your God? How is your Jesus? How is your curious George?'
* His scripture reading: "One day the body was gone. Hey don't take my body away!." "Jesus didn't answer. Took him on to the cross." 
* "Chloe bit me, but it was all very friendly"
* Gideon will come down and cuddle with me in the early morning while I am reading my scriptures or feeding Ingy.  He came down the other day and said, "mom, a strange thing happened..."
* We flew out to Utah for my step-mom's funeral after a three-year battle with cancer.  We took two red eyes to save $800 but cost us dearly in sleep.  G started the trip optimistically: "It's going to be seriously cool to sleep on the plane tonight" and then, on waking and asked how he felt said, "I think I'm dying" before telling the flight from the back of the plane: "I need everyone to get off the plane!"
* G was quite sick before, and, much to our consternation, during our trip.  Beforehand, when asked how he felt, he said, "I want to go back to Heavenly Father!"
* Overheard explaining something to Esther: "I felt it in my heart"
* Something is getting through in Primary, where he offers prayers and sings with all his heart.  He told his cousin, "I'm trying to be a good boy and make good choices."
* When frustrated with me: "Please don't drive me crazy!"

* Holding G's face, "do you know Jesus?"
* We visited a farm where we purchased our bunny.  Esther demonstrated she inherited her father's way with animals, and watered them all like a pro. 
* Esther scripture reading: "Jesus is the King!" "Body was empty"
* She told me after buttering her toast that she really does understand why she can't eat certain things: "I can't have butter-it has dairy in it!"
* She'll tell Ingy when crying to, "Be patient!"
* She's learning something, as she tries to baptize G in the tub almost nightly.
* When frustrated with me: "I told you several times"

* my greatest joy at the moment, and inspires me to be kinder and more patient with the others.
* has a very special relationship with G.  Whenever he is within striking distance, will reach for him, coo, and laugh, often making him smile and laugh when he is sad or crying. 
* watched almost all of "Beauty and the Beast," completely rapt.

Easter pictures