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it's not fun, it's LexFun!

This weekend was the LexFun sale. If the phrase LexFun doesn't immediately start you salivating then I will provide you some context. Okay, I'm actually going to provide A LOT of context. The LexFun sale is a very big deal.

Let me start by saying that Dan and I are not rich, but we grew up in a rich town. Lexington Massachusetts, the birthplace of American liberty, is the sort of town where any tiny house sells for half a million dollars because the public school system is so good. It's so good that the math team is depressed if it's only ranked second in the nation. It's so good that the student jazz combo tours internationally. It's so good that the running question every year is HOW MANY high school seniors are accepted to Harvard. In my year it was six.

This is the sort of town that attracts a certain kind of family, the kind of family that is SECURE in their finances. The kind of family where the mother may have had a high-powered career for the past ten years, but now she is EXTREMELY FOCUSED ON HER CHILDREN.

This town has a very active mothers group. Once a year they run a consignment sale.

Man, do they ever run a consignment sale.

Imagine all the half-million-dollar homes populated by intense mothers researching THE BEST PRODUCTS for their Harvard-bound children. Imagine how many Lexington babies every year grow out of their ergonomic high chairs, how many 5-year-olds grow out of their bikes, how many kids of all sizes grow out of their JCrew polos and jackets... Every year in a rich town there is A LOT of shit to get rid of. And thanks to the amazing organizational skills of women with masters degrees who are now EXTREMELY FOCUSED on their children, all this merchandise gets dumped on the LexFun sale.

Two-hundred-dollar strollers selling for $20. High chairs going for practically nothing. You need a pack-and-play? Take a swim in an ocean of pack-and-plays. Melissa and Doug dollhouses, American Girl dolls, car seats oh the car seats, and I haven't even gotten to the clothes. Miles of brand-name clothes priced at a few dollars a piece. BabyGap is almost the bottom of the barrel for this town.

Are you starting to get the picture? The LexFun sale is a BIG DEAL.

The first year we went, Harvey was a baby and we scored clothes. A mega load of clothes. JCrew and Gap and soooo many pairs of shorts for his big baby bum. The second year he was walking and we made out like bandits with rain boots and shoes. The third year we didn't come early enough and escaped with only a few wooden toys.

Then someone told me about the "presale."

Are you ready for this?

The LexFun sale requires a mega amount of setup: sorting and displaying some thousands of donated items. The highly capable LexFun board can't do it all themselves. So they ask for volunteers. And if you volunteer to help set up for the sale you get to shop the presale. The presale is a two-hour window of time BEFORE the sale is opened to the public. This is how poor mortals get the best shot at the best of the best rich-person gear. The best stroller before anyone else grabs it. New rain boots in your child's size. A wheelbarrow filled with clothes for a family of five.

This was the second year I volunteered in order to shop the presale. You might ask: is it really worth it arranging childcare and donating three hours of your afternoon for a slightly better deal on kids' crap? This is how worth it it was for me. On Friday afternoon I dropped Harvey and Zion off at Grandpa's. Then I held Elijah in the front-pack for two hours while I moved tables across the floor of the Lexington High School field house. Then Dan met me and took Elijah and the car, while I spent an additional hour rolling concrete posts into place for signage. Then Dan picked up the other two boys and I RAN 5 MILES HOME because I didn't have the car anymore. I got there just as we were about to host Small Group, for which I had set the table and laid out snacks first thing in the morning before I left the house. All that to shop the LexFun presale.

Does that sound insane? Because it wasn't nearly as insane as the following morning, two hours before the main sale was set to open, when I queued up along the edge of the field house with 60 other volunteers all with our game faces on. We passed the time chatting with each other tensely. "What are you trying to get this morning?" I'm not sure if we were being cheerful, or just scoping out the competition, seeing who we might need to elbow out of the way if she happens to lunge at OUR child's bike.

Why was I doing this? Two words: Thomas trains.

My kids play trains a lot. Train tracks are expensive. So every time Harvey or Zion mentioned a piece they wanted I uttered this cop-out: "Maybe we'll find it at the LexFun sale."

"We need a roundhouse," Harvey would say.
"Maybe we'll find it at the LexFun sale."
"I wish we had Cranky the Crain."
"He's forty dollars. Maybe we'll find one at the LexFun sale."
"More bridges?"
"LexFun Sale."

Absentmindedly for months I had been building up in my children's minds this mythos of the LexFun sale that rivaled that of Christmas. And then the weekend was finally here, and if I didn't come home with some flipping train tracks I was going to have to stop at Toys R Us in order not to crush their spirits.

So while everyone else waited at the starting line, pointing their little mental arrows at the bikes and strollers, I had my eye on one particular toy table in the middle of the floor. The TRAIN table. And when the starting gun went off (okay so it wasn't really a gun but when the lady said it was okay to start shopping) I ran to that train table and grabbed everything I saw that was wooden Thomas. EVERYTHING wooden Thomas. Two sheds, two crains, two bridges. A round table that shoots trains in multiple directions. A clock tower with an elevator that I didn't understand how it worked. A box of assorted track pieces and wooden men. I grabbed ALL OF IT. $40 for what I later estimated is $120 worth of infrastructure.

Then I calmly moseyed to the baby section where no one was shopping and grabbed the best looking play-mat for Elijah. Skip Hop brand, with little dangling gender-neutral animals. Seventy Five dollars retail, and I got it in new condition for twelve.

Then I paid for that stuff and put it in the car and tried to take some deep breaths. "You did it, Leah, you got the trains. The stressful part is over," I told myself. Then I went back for the clothes.

Thirty dollars for the following items: a new swimsuit for each of my children (shorts and rash-guards, plus a swim diaper for Elijah), two pairs of pants for Elijah, several baby sleepers and onesies (I lost count), two t-shirts for each of the big boys and a collared shirt a piece.

On the way home I had to remind myself to drive slowly. "These are surface streets, Leah," I coaxed myself. "There might be runners out here. You need to calm down."

But I was ON FIRE.

Adrenaline was pulsing through my veins. I was like a mama bear coming back from the hunt. "I did it!" I thought. "I scored the Thomas! My children asked for Thomas and I delivered the Thomas. Nobody loves their children as much as I love my children. Do you hear me? Nobody fucking loves their children as much as I fucking love my children. I MOVED TABLES WHILE WEARING AN INFANT and then I RAN HOME IN THE RAIN and then I LINED UP BEFORE 8AM to bring home these Thomas trains. If loving my children is a contest, then today I am the mother fucking winner."

I burst into the door, at 8:45am, "I come to you like a conqueror returning from battle!" I announced.

The children dove into the boxes. They were amazed. They were elated. They grabbed out the toys and started playing and it was every bit as magical as Christmas.

the big score

I went back to the car and got the playmat. I tried not to look at Dan's face as he watched me bring this monstrously large thing into our household. Instead I laid it on the floor. I put Elijah under a hanging monkey. The baby grinned like a madman and batted at it.

Let me repeat that: he batted at the toy. He INTERACTED WITH AN OBJECT, the first time he'd done that in his ENTIRE LIFE SO FAR. Because clearly I'd been depriving my baby of the right kind of stimulation. Rich people know the right kind of objects to stimulate 2-month-old brains. I didn't up until today, but now thanks to LexFun, I am now loving my baby like a rich person.

so happy!

For five minutes I was on top of the flippin world.

Then my LexFun high wore off. It turned out I was STARVINGLY hungry. Harvey started screaming at Zion and Zion threw a train at his head. Dan started putting all the new toys away. I realized that two of the things I had bought make a noise, and one of those noises was exceptionally annoying.

And then I started to have bigger doubts about my life. Is this really the best high I've felt in months? BUYING TOYS? AT A TAG SALE??? What is the matter with me?

Some new track pieces, a better place to put the baby down, this is my whole entire life right now. If I get worked up to the point of profanity, it's because these things are IMPOSSIBLY IMPORTANT.

It's not that I don't like the life of a stay-at-home-mother. It's the extreme opposite. I LOVE my life TOO MUCH. I love my children so much that I don't know what to do with myself. I love them so big it practically bursts out the sides of my brain. So I focus on these random things, learning toys, wish fulfillment, because I don't know how to just sit and let the floodgates of love open. It scares the crap out of me.

Then once a year the Lexington mothers host an event the intensity of which matches the intensity of my feelings for my children. And "This is me," I think. "I AM an 8am toy runner."


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