posts tagged with 'fair'

blowing our entertainment budget

On Saturday evening the bigger boys and I accepted a friend's invitation to check out a West Virginia-themed event at a local church. Mountain music! Unhealthy food! How could we resist?! The reason for the theming was that the the church is sending a mission crew down that way and needed to raise funds, so naturally I expected to have to pay a couple dollars. But even with the best will in the world I wasn't ready to manage the $20 suggested donation just to get in the door. Isn't the cost of living a lot lower down there? 10$ should be fine. Once inside, we enjoyed some educational material about Appalachian poverty, kids crafts and coloring pages, a free cupcake from an everyone's-a-winner cakewalk (Zion didn't even participate and he still got a cupcake). And some good music, as pictured somewhere below.

Of course, just the cupcakes weren't enough food for the boys—never mind that they'd already eaten what I had presumed to be supper—so I splurged on a $6 kids dinner plate split between the three of us: a little pulled pork sandwich and a giant brownie. I also helped myself to some coleslaw, which was out on the table to go on top of the West Virgina-style hot dogs, but I think that was ok because we were meant to have a side anyway. Maybe? The young person manning the table was perhaps not entirely clear on the procedures. He also forgot to charge us—really, to record the charge on the piece of paper all the festival-goers had to carry around to record their purchases—so we could have eaten for free, but I'm an honest type (at least when there's no coleslaw on a table in front of me) so when the time came to "check out" I told them about the dinner and handed over my $6.

So $16 dollars for all the thrills of a fair at a suburban New England church. It may sound like I'm making fun—OK, I probably am, a little bit—but really, we love church fairs. And the money goes to a good cause, and it's probably not all that much compared to other entertainment options available these days. We just don't usually pay for entertainment, so it stings a bit when we have to. (At least we went in this time...)

And we had to again yesterday, when (different) friends invited us out to free play time at an indoor sports place in Tyngsboro. All three boys had a great time running around with lots of other kids and balls, sticks, riding toys, tunnels, and parachutes (and me—I did lots of running around too). It turns out Zion is pretty good at floor hockey!

Zion posing with a hockey stick on an indoor turf field

sportive

It was all lovely, except that we had to pay $13 for two hours of fun. And then we had to clean up all the balls and toys so the soccer kids could come in and use the field! Any bad taste that detail might have left, though, was totally obviated when the woman who was running the place offered a packet of fruit snacks to all the kids who helped clean up. So the only issue was that I don't feel like I can be handing out that kind of money every day. Especially not two days in a row! Is that a crazy expectation these days?

It may be, but at least this morning the weather was fine so we got in a lovely long adventure in, totally free—well, besides the ice cream we bought. But that feels more worthwhile! Expect more of that story tomorrow.

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another midsummer

The solstice is a grand thing, and we did it right this year, but it's hard to really celebrate properly when most everyone else is going about their everyday business. But no worries, because we have a big national celebration of summer to share just a couple weeks later. We tend to head over to Concord for their charming festival—it has lots to recommend it, not least the fact that it's in the middle of the day. This year the bigger boys and I biked there; good thing we have a bicycle that can carry plenty of supplies.

Zion in the back of the blue bike with lots of gear around him

all packed up

And, just as important, a seven-year-old who can confidently ride the five-and-a-half miles there and another back, with plenty of energy left over for enjoying the entertainment on offer.

Harvey riding down a country road

Harvey's independence

Like the bounce house, which the boys jumped right into as soon as we arrived. I worked on setting up our tent, which I brought along to liberate us from the narrow band of shade at the side of the field, where most folks listening to the bands have to squeeze together. We really appreciated it on a warm day with blazingly hot sun; we also appreciated our packed food, including peas and raspberries fresh from the garden.

picnic in the tent: Zion with our nice array of food

our picnic in the park

I was a little worried about the tent being in people's way, and made sure to set it up at the far back of the field, but it turns out concern wasn't necessary: about twenty minutes after we arrived a large group showed up and put up this considerable edifice right in front of us.

tents set up in front of us

rival encampment

But that was fine because there was plenty to do all over the place. We played in the spray from a fire hose.

the boys ducking the stream from a fire hose

spray park

And explored a ladder truck.

the boys in the crowded cab of a ladder truck

how many firefighters go in there?

The boys rode a "train" all around the field—all by themselves, without making me squish into one of those little seats to go with them (like lots of other parents had to do—or maybe they really enjoy it..).

Harvey and Zion waiting for the

they don't need me

I was impressed by that, but even more when they decided they wanted to go through the interactive theater / obstacle course experience by themselves. They learned what it was like to be an early immigrant to Massachusetts.

Harvey entering the

entering into the experience

The immigrants had all kinds of adventures, including having to carry swine out of the maize fields.

Zion carrying a pink pig ball

pig portage

And of course we listened to music!

boys lying on the ground in the shade, right up near the band

Southern Rail, as tradition dictates

Lijah napped and lunched at home, then he and Mama joined us in time for some of the fun—and all of the italian ice!

three boys, with mama, enjoying italian ice

note how they picked red, white, and blue

Then we went back home, where we totally meant to lie down in the dark house for the rest of the evening—but then our neighbors invited us over to play and eat pie, so we did that instead. They had red-white-and-blue glow bracelets to share too, which was perfect: we didn't get to see any fireworks this year, but staying up until after dark to throw the glow things around was a fine substitute, and a great end to a fine celebratory day.

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was I un-fair?

This past weekend I took the boys on an outing to East Lexington, drawn by the promise of a Holiday Fair at the Waldorf School. We love fairs, and we're reasonably positive on Waldorf education, so it seemed like a sure bet. But when we were already in the doors, I was stopped in my tracks by a table positioned across the hallway and a sign announcing a $4 per person cover charge.

Sure, there was also a $15 cap per family, which as Harvey pointed out meant we would save a dollar; but since I only had $24 in my pocket and things inside the fair would cost additional money, I suddenly had serious doubts about the wisdom of proceeding. Zion wanted to go in; Lijah didn't particularly care; and Harvey wanted to make the right decision. So did I: the right decision that didn't involve us possible wasting a lot of money. I took them across the street to Wilson Farm instead and bought them each a treat, and then we visited Grandma and Grandpa and walked through walls in their delightfully under-renovation house. So it all ended happily.

But I can't help but think my extreme hesitation in the face of that cover charge might be a sign of a weakness in my personality. A holiday fair full of beautiful homespun Waldorfy crafts and games: it could have been totally awesome! But I just couldn't do it. And it's part of a pattern: while we explore lots of exciting places, I'm regularly turned away by spending money to get in anywhere. In the last month we've not gone in to an art sale and Buckman Tavern in Lexington, and those are just the ones I remember.

On the other hand, I did pay lots for apples that one time, and I let them ride the 50¢ merry-go-round at Market Basket. And I heard from other folks that I made the right call, and this particular fair probably wasn't worth it. But I didn't know that at the time!

What do you think... am I unfairly depriving my family of the possibility of joyous experiences because of my cheapness? Should I just loosen up and live a little?!

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almost winter fall fair

I don't know how we missed it the last four years, but it's not since Harvey was one that we made it to the Fall Fair at the Congregational Church. If I'd been paying attention we would've made more of an effort to get there, because we went yesterday and I stand by my 2010 assessment: it's fantastic!

the main hall of the fair, sparkling with yellow and orange decorations

shining fair

Unlike that last time, we had no advance notice that the fair was happening; I didn't notice the signs for it—on congregants' lawns all over town—until we were biking up to the playground yesterday morning. As suddenly cold as it was, so the playgrounding didn't last long, and after the library we were glad to have somewhere else inside to go. In theory, anyways; in fact the outdoor attractions caught our attention for quite a while. I didn't manage to photograph the petting zoo, but there was plenty of time for pictures at the bouncy house and the bean bag toss.

Harvey and Zion on the slide of a giant bounce house

winter bouncing

the boys playing at the beanbag toss

try and try again

Inside we perused the white elephant sale, where Lijah charmed the old ladies at the check-out table with his careful examination of the merchandise. We only had two dollars, so it took a good half-hour to decide on our purchases: a little car, a box of dice, a sword, and a silicone pan for baking donut holes. Well worth it.

Elsewhere, there was food—which sadly we couldn't afford—and more free activities for kids. Harvey and Zion were delighted to find a Battleships game: not really life-size, but certainly quite a bit bigger than anything we've seen before. They were still happy about it even after I beat them, and I was happy that, with a board of only 49 squares instead of 81, the game was well quicker than we're used to!

my side of the giant battleship board, mid-game

two of mine sunk

Before we left we had to check out the Christmas wing, four rooms full of lights and beautiful handmade crafts and baked goods. Once again we wished we had more money: for a tiny sleigh, and a loaf of english-muffin bread, and...

Harvey and Zion amidst hundreds of lighted Christmas decorations

next month's sparkle

Next year's fair is on the calendar, and I've made a note to budget $20 dollars for it. Do you think that'll be enough?

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fair game

We went to our state fair this week, the first time I've ever been. I thought we should do some comparative literature as home school prep work, so I read accounts of state fairs in some of our favorite old-timey books: Charlotte's Web and Farmer Boy. Then I asked H&Z to wonder how our modern fair would be similar or different. If nothing else, the prep served to make them EXTREMELY EXCITED as we drove down to Topsfield on Friday morning. The excitement carried over as they navigated the petting zoo and saw a REAL LIVE ELEPHANT!, but it waned a bit as we fought against large school groups to sneak a peak at the prize winning vegetables. After an intense hour of trying to see things in the crowded barns we took a break between the fried food stands to eat our bagged lunch. I asked Harvey if this fair was at all similar to the books. He considered a moment while he munched his sandwich, then noting EB White's description he said, "Lot of food for rats here."

OMG a laama!!!

After a heartening lunch at 10:30am (the crowds made us all want to stress eat) we enjoyed seeing the sheep sheering demonstration and a lazy parade of horses. Unfortunately, the general admission part of the fair was crowded as crowded could be, and the rest of the entertainment was designed to un-self-consciously strip us of as much cash as possible. I told the boys they could choose one ride and one game, because I am not a terrible moster of a mother. They chose the carousel (only if I rode with them, of course) and for $7.50 I hope they enjoyed the living shit out of that thing.

they seem to have inherited my fear of horses, even metal ones

Unfortunately we had a little family melt-down over the midway game choices. Overstimulation lead to poor communication, and it came out later that Harvey really wanted to play the water shooting game but he was afraid to ask how to shoot the gun. That might have been more fun for everyone, and cost $6 for both children to play. Instead Harvey threw a ball at a cup for $5 (!!!), there was a miscommunication with the Carney over how many balls he would get to throw, and the whole thing was over in a second in exchange for a 25 cent stuffed snake.

Neither mama or Harvey was very pleased with the fair at that moment.

Look, none of us want to throw away our money. There are so many useful things a mama could do with $5. But I share a dirty secret with those rare people whose love language is gift giving (all 8 of us in the world - hang in there sisters!) I actually LOVE spending money on my children. The more frivolous the better. I don't know why - it doesn't quite make sense. It's the easiness of saying yes, the rush of handing over my cash, the joy of looking at their smiling faces and thinking, "I love you more than financial reason."

Of course we're poor, and I'm trying to teach them values, so I don't do it as often as I'd like. Still, considering how much I adore those boys, I could fantasize about being MORE frivolous. My love for them is something that can never be budgeted. Symbolically speaking, a $5 ball throw does not even come close.

Still, this kind of spending is not fiscally responsible, and once we left the fair grounds I transformed that wasted $5 into a veritable homeschool unit. First we discussed the amount of enjoyment that came from playing the game and getting the prize (minimal, because as Harvey noted "it was over so quickly.") Then we stopped by our local real farm and noted the things you could buy for the same $5. TWO whole bottles of chocolate milk (not counting the glass bottle deposit because of trying to keep things simple.) Zion also noted that feeding the goats scraps there doesn't cost any money. And for good measure I took some pictures amidst the pumpkins - a free photo opp with precious lack of interlopers in the background.

our favorite place, ahhh calm sigh

I don't know what Harvey will internalize about money growing up in this family. I cannot present him with a unified theory, as I don't have one myself. I try to do a lot for free, but sometimes act like I've suddenly entered a duty free zone. I try not to stress about money, but truthfully I stress about it a lot. I don't know what Harvey will make of all of this. I'd like him to have both a sense of thrift and a feeling of abundance. Maybe the state fair is the wrong place to teach this. Or maybe it's the perfect place.

don't put all your eggs in one basket. The brownest take first prize.

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fair enough

Harvey and Zion on the back of a 1911 fire truck

helmeted and ready

Fall is fair season. The rhythms of the year demand it: folks are done with most of the hard work of growing our food and they want to kick back and have some fun, and maybe show off a little of the awesome stuff they've grown or made. Not that any of that applies to most of us anymore, of course, but it's sort of hard-wired into our emotional calendars. And I suppose it's fine, when we don't have prize hogs and giant pumpkins handy, to satisfy ourselves with old-timey fire trucks and modern tractors to ride on.

Harvey in the driver seat of a tractor, still wearing the fire hat

no line to drive this one

Actually, there was a fairly big pumpkin at the East Village Fair in Lexington, where spent a few hours this past Saturday, but it wasn't very big nor was it at all photogenic. There were also some great games run by young people, a wide variety of foodstuffs available at exorbitant prices, and some high-quality used items for sale. We picked up six good YA and/or Harvey read-aloud paperbacks for three dollars.

the boys looking at hand-made wooden toys

beautiful and expensive

Of course, besides the fire truck and the tractor the boys were most interested in two things that strictly speaking weren't part of the fair at all. The little store at the Lexington Waldorf school is full of wonderful toys and craft materials that they could have browsed for much longer than we allowed them—Leah and I agreed that it was wonderful except for the prices and the presence of the occasional questionable item like the "witch/wizard staff of power".

Then of course there was the playground, with its Noah's ark play structure; that was another good half an hour. But you know, as much as we would have enjoyed those two things any other day we happened by, there was something about the fair atmosphere that made them even more special. Just look at that smile:

Zion smiling through a porthole in a playground ark

hi there!

More fairs still to come; we'll keep loving the fall.

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