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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Camp Marshfield Goes Mobile, Part II

So today was supposed to be another trip to the Growing Home urban farm at 58th and Wood, but between the drizzle and a last-minute meeting, I ended up having West Town Bikes deliver again. Instead, I took five girls with me to Merceria Maria on 47th Street near Wood. It's a sewing/craft store with a lot of decorations for weddings and baby showers. The girls like to do craft projects, so I figured I could invest $20-$25 in their efforts and they would be less bored now that the summer community arts program at Chavez is over.

"So here's your challenge," I told them. "You have about 20 dollars total to spend, and you want to figure out how to get the most out of it." At first they were pretty set on dividing that into four dollars apiece and each picking out stuff they wanted for their own projects. Before we left, Youngest Brady Girl was saying, "Wait. I could go back to my house and ask my dad for some money."

"No, honey, that's not the point," I told her. "Your mom and dad have enough things to spend money on--food, gas, the house."

"Yeah, the house is expensive," said her older sister. I gather the family is thinking about trying to refinance their mortgage. Her mom has taken a part time job--night shift at a laundry on weekends, Thursday through Sunday. She works 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. I think it sounds killer hard just because it's night shift and she has five kids in the house (granted some of them are teens and working this summer). One of the girls said her mom likes it because it's not hard work and the money is good--$890 a month. The girls all have to be very quiet in the house on the days their mom sleeps in before she goes to work.

So we walked over to the craft store and talked about snakes on the way there. We went past the hole in the viaduct where the garden snake lives, which sparked the discussion. Ines said she was taking a shortcut to McKinley Park (if I weren't pregnant I'd walk with her one day to see how she gets there) when she saw a really big, fat garden snake and she got scared and ran. We were all laughing about how the guys at the farm told us there were lots of snakes on the viaduct at 58th Street last week, but they didn't tell us that until after we came down, so the girls got a little scared after the fact.

When we got to the sewing/craft store the girls took a long time checking out the inventory and admiring the pretty shower decorations. They eventually began to understand what I was saying about pooling their money--for example, if they bought larger bags of beads and shared them, it might be cheaper than buying individual bags. But I don't think they could all agree on a color scheme, so it ended up being a mix of larger and smaller bags. Sarah got very interested in the felt squares and foam boards. Ines' little sister had her own project in mind that required a single piece of something that was part of a larger shower object (they sell it in pieces and the owner was OK with just selling her the one part). Ines and her two cousins were pretty set on making bead bracelets, I think.

But they kept having these secret conferences and giggling in the corner of the store. I knew they were talking about making baby-related things for me--not actual stuff for the baby, but little showery-type things. Once they had their items picked out, we took a minute before going to the counter to estimate how much everything would cost. Each girl had an armful of items she had picked out and we estimated their costs. Most of the girls had it figured out before I even asked, but when we got to Youngest Brady Girl, her face was a blank and she shrugged. Her sister, with a slightly exasperated air of 'do I have to do this for you again?' grabbed the beads out of her hands, looked at the price, rounded it up and started calculating. (By the way, youngest Brady Girl's mom is no dummy-she voluntarily put her youngest in academic summer school this summer. Hopefully our trip was a little nudge in the direction of the idea that math actually helps you in real life.) When we added everyone's items together, we thought it would come in between 20 and 25 dollars. (We didn't figure the sales tax--since I guess it's still an easy, and outrageous, 10 percent, we could have.)

Anyway, we went to the counter and it came out to be something like $22.60. The owner gave us a couple of discounts and threw in a freebie, probably because he's nice and could see I was treating the girls, and maybe also because it was a fairly large order of small, random items. (I"m sure he and his wife make their real money on the shower goodies.)

"I was afraid it was going to be like 30 or 40 dollars," Ines said as we left the store.

"If it had been that high I would have made you put some stuff back," I said. "But you came in right where I thought you would. Good work shopping and estimating!"

"It's hard deciding when there are so many choices," she said later.

"Yeah, sometimes that's the hardest part about shopping," I replied.

When we got home, the girls had a craft fest out on my back porch. They brought over stuff from home so they could make flowers out of tissue paper and pipe cleaners. They also made cards out of construction paper as well as some of the felt. And yes, the cards were in shades of blue and said "It's a boy." Ines made me one with blue and purple felt hearts that said, "I'm always here when you need help." I'll take her up on that. She's 13 and the oldest of six; I was her age when I had my first babysitting gig (with a toddler, not a newborn, but I had learned baby stuff on my youngest sister). I wouldn't leave her alone with the baby until he's older, but she's definitely top of my list of candidates for mother's helper this fall.

Meanwhile, Peter Pan's youngest sister, Youngest Brady Boy and Angel were running around in the yard chasing each other. So we had about 10 kids out back, including the bun in the oven. As the crafts wound down, a couple of Brady Girls wanted to feed the composter. So I looked in the fridge and found some bagged broccoli florets that had seen better days. They dumped them in, then they wanted to mix and water everything. Oldest Brady Boy had stopped by at this point, and he had the longest reach, so he got in there with a trowel and mixed everything up. Then they watered it with the hose.

Around that time we also got a very special guest--the first appearance in my back yard of Baby D, Sarah's five-or-six-month-old niece. Tia Sarah, who's nine, and Baby D's four-year-old big sister brought her over in a stroller. Baby D was very quiet and watched everybody with her big eyes. She was very patient with all the attention from the girls. Youngest Brady brought over a toy accordion and Tia Sarah tried playing it for Baby D. "Sometimes she turns around suddenly if you make noise," Sarah said.

They also tried getting her attention by calling her name. Sometimes she responds and sometimes she doesn't, Sarah and Baby D's big sister told me. Then Baby D's big sister tried waving one of the little rattles from the craft store at her. She wanted to hold it. "Don't let her put it in her mouth," I said. "It's too little-she could choke on it."

Of course, once in Baby D's hand, it went to her mouth in an instant. One of the Brady girls swiped it and handed it back to D's sister. Since she's only four, she started to show it to her again, and Baby D started to cry in frustration.

"Don't let her see it," I said. "Watch, she'll forget about it." One of the girls hid it, and I started playing a different game with Baby D, just waving my fingers at her or something. She stopped crying within seconds. "Right now she thinks it just disappeared for good," I told them. "When she gets older she will realize it still exists, and then she won't stop crying for something she wants right away if you take it from her." I got a kick out of explaining object permanence in pretty basic terms to the girls.

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