Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

A Fair Price For Memories.

Posted on | October 30, 2012 | 4 Comments

I am a big believer in the fact that you don’t need money to make memories.  Every time I see the Disney ad “Let the Memories Begin” paired with special rates of “only $2500.00 for a family of 4!”  I have to laugh.  We budget our annual vacation at $400.  For a family of 6.  And there better be a kitchen where we can cook our own food.

My kids have grown up enjoying all the free local festivals and turning their nose up at any that wanted to charge a gate fee.  They enjoy the local kids museum on the free Sundays or the city kids museum on $2 Tuesdays and explore the free exhibits at the planetarium without watching the $8 planetarium movie every time.  They go to the science center when it has free admission (on its anniversary each year) and get to visit the swimming pool with the water slides and special pool play areas on its annual Back to School Labor Day bash when all school age kids get in free.  Our credit union offers us a discounted family membership to the zoo (only $35 for an annual membership), so we spend 6 or 7 days a year meeting friends and family and visiting the animals, and it also gives us free admission to all the aquariums when we’re down at the beach.  That $35 is cheaper than the admission cost for the 6 of us on one visit.  God bless the credit unions.

So despite our proximity to the capitol city and all the hoopla surrounding the State Fair, we don’t go every year.  And when we do go, we pull the kids out of school and go on the Canned Food Day when you can get free admission in return for 2 cans of food per person.  Parking fees, ride tickets, and fair food for 6 are just too expensive for an annual adventure.  And the begging for more than we’ve allocated (Just one more ride?  Please, please, please,please,please,please!) is just too intolerable.

So the kids hit the jackpot this year.  Because I had planned to go without them to the fair on Canned Food Day.  Just so I could enjoy strolling through the garden displays in peace and quiet, making note of any flowers or blooming bushes I might want to add to the perennial bed.  And also to pick up a couple Silkie chickens to replace the splash we lost a few weeks ago.  Last year I saw all these lovelies for sale….

….and I was hoping to find a frizzle or patridge Silkie for for sale in the poultry tent.

Too bad the school had to step all over my plans.  As usual.  The public school has given up on closing on the predictable federal holidays like Columbus Day and Presidents’ Day.  I believe those holidays are now considered White Supremacist days and no self-respecting politically correct government institution would be caught dead recognizing them.  Except for the banks and the post office.  The banks can do it because they can get away with anything.  They’re holding our money, people.  And the post office gets away with it because no one wants those people going postal on us.  Obviously.

The bonus to federal holidays is that they never sneak up on you.  Even if you live without cable or satellite, like we do, you’ll know those holidays are approaching.  Because even the local mornings news programming and the local radio stations are inundated with ads for UNBELIEVABLE SALES NO CREDIT CHECKS FREE CREDIT AVAILABLE at area furniture stores and car dealerships.  Never mind the 30% OFF EVERYTHING IN THE STORE NOTHING HELD BACK EARLY BIRD SPECIALS FROM 9AM-NOON at the department stores and malls.  Eventually, I’ll think to myself, “That’s the 5th time I’ve heard that ad for Columbus Day specials.  I wonder if the schools are going to be closed.”  And I’ll remember to check the calendar and avoid any alarming unfortunate interesting mishaps that may trigger an uncomfortable phone call.

Like the call The Other Half and I got as we were pulling out of the movie theater one afternoon.

“Shift work is so great!”, I claimed as we left the parking lot.  “We get to have a lunch date and see a matinee movie without even paying a babysitter or being too tired to get up the next morning!  Plus, we still have 35 minutes before the kids get off the school bus!  And they’ll be thrilled when they see we refilled the popcorn bucket for them as an after school snack.”  It’s such a good feeling when you manage to combine something that works for you and also works for your kids.  It’s also a fleeting feeling.

Because then my cell phone rang.  It was our home number.  Calling us 35 minutes before the school bus normally gets there.

“Where are you?”  demanded Middle when I answered.

“We’re on our way home.  Is something wrong?  Why was the bus so early?”

“Mom.   We had an early release day.  We’ve been home for over 2 hours.  We’re hungry.”

“Yes, I know,”  I said, after a pause.  “But daddy and I drove all the way to the city just to get you some movie popcorn for a treat.  We got stuck in a little traffic and we’ll be home soon.  Jeez.  Show a little appreciation.”

I’m quick on my feet like that.  It s a parental job requirement.  Especially if you’re the kind of parent that can’t keep track of the school’s random system of days off.  Because now they schedule Teacher Work Days randomly throughout the calendar without rhyme or reason.  And if that wasn’t arbitrary enough, they are sometimes closed for an entire day and sometimes just an Early Release Day.  Oh, it’s not that they don’t give any notice for these days.  I get an annual school calendar at the beginning of the school year.  And I promptly transfer all the Teacher Work Days and Early Release Days to the family calendar.  And then I don’t think about them again until I stumble out of bed, make a cup of coffee, and check the daily calendar to see what’s up for the day.  That’s when I realize things have gone horribly unplanned and either I wasted one of the few mornings I could have slept in or my parents are about to get a frantic phone call asking them if they can keep the kids for the day so I can go to work.

I suppose I could check the calendar for a few days ahead.  If I didn’t go through 4 pregnancies that depleted most of my brain cells making me unable to remember things more than 1 day out.  Or if I didn’t live a life so full of children, animals, and property issues that a slow day only involves the pediatrician, the vet, OR the appliance repairman.  Instead of 2 or more of them together at the same time.

So I was surprised when the kids confronted me about my fair plans.

“Why can’t we just go with you to the fair on the 1/2 day?” they asked.

“What 1/2 day?  There’s a 1/2 day coming up?  You just finished a 3 week break and have only been back in class for 1 week.  How can there be a 1/2 day?????”

“Mom.  There was a note in the class newsletter.  And the principal mentioned it on the automated alert phone message.”

“There’s a MILLION notes in the newsletter.  And those notes are never prioritized.  The thank you to the mom who sent in markers is right there with the list of spelling words and information about cases of head lice.  And there are 4 class newsletters to be reviewed.  Shouldn’t the important stuff be in bold?  There are 2 separate principals and those jokers call here with an automated message 3 or 4 times a week about fund raisers and school board meetings and sports physicals.  Shouldn’t there at least be an alarm tone played before something important like an Early Release Day announcement?  Honestly, if I knew they were going to change the rules so much from when my mom had school age kids until you guys were born I would have rethought the whole thing!!!  No one thought teacher enrichment was necessary enough to close the schools back then!  Public school was just free day care and everybody was fine with that!”

“Right.  So why can’t we go to the fair with you on the 1/2 day?”

That’s the problem with complaining.  It just leaves you right back where you started.  With the addition of a couple of burst blood vessels in your eyes.

I sighed.

“All right.  Is the 1/2 day the same as Canned Food Day?”

“Nope.  The 1/2 day is the day before the Canned Food Day.”

Of freaking course. It would be way too convenient for the teachers to be enriched on the same day that you can get into the fair for a can of peas and carrots.

Sometimes there’s nothing to do but pretend you never had a quiet, cheap, and relaxing fair day planned, pull up your mommy panties, and start planning a child-filled, cooler-hauling, ride-ticket-buying fair adventure.

“I’m still buying some chickens,”  I muttered as I googled where to buy discounted fair admission and ride tickets.  “And you guys are walking through the garden center and taking turns carrying the cooler with drinks and snacks.  Plus, only 1 ride, 1 treat per kid, and no carnival games!”  I have found that it’s important to lower their expectations quickly.  Before they start concocting dreams of all-you-ride bracelets and Volkswagon-beetle-sized stuffed animals.

But if the fair prices are inflated, at least they deliver on their slogans.  It was “A Bumper Crop of Fun!”  I teamed up with a friend and her kids.  Because we figured it would be harder for the kids to wear us down if we held our ground on the one-ride-per-kid rule together.  And because she has a chicken-eating dog, too, and also needed to add to her flock from the poultry tent.  Sometimes it’s weird the things I have in common with my friends.  Comforting, but weird.

And even with our cheaper early bird tickets and her military discount, we did make a lot of memories.

We saw lots of animals, including those we have….

….and those we need.  “Need” being a relative term.

Some we admire but can’t possibly accommodate on our farm….

….and some with so many cute babies that you can’t help but feel sorry for them and want to whisk them away for a Calgon bath and a glass of wine.

There were magicians….

….and jugglers….

….and decorated archways….

….that turned into decorated people.

I forced the kids through the garden areas where we saw garden projects to copy….

….and fanciful landscapes to enjoy.

Although I’m not exactly sure why someone would construct a peaceful display like this one….

….right next to a large metal bell for kids to clang at will.  Which some of the kids did.  Endlessly.  Until I finally looked up and realized it was my kids and forced them away.

I did actually find a plant to add to my landscape.  It was nice bushy plant with interesting foliage and purple tipped blooms.  Oh, and those aren’t prison tattoos on the arm of Pretty’s friend.  My Lost Child At The Fair Plan involves placing my cell phone in permanent marker on all the kids’ forearms.  The kids are then instructed that if they get lost or separated they are to locate a mother with children and a stroller and ask her to call me so we can all get back together.  I figure that’s faster than the fair’s child relocation tent.  Also, doesn’t involve loud speakers or state and law enforcement officials wondering about my supervisory abilities.  Another mother knows better than to judge.

Of course, we eventually made it to the rides.  Where even more memories were made.

Big almost didn’t get to ride the Zipper, which he had talked about all the way to the fair.  No one would ride it with him and they don’t allow single riders.  He refused to pair up with another group of boys in line and, of course, he wasn’t going to ride with his mommy (who didn’t want to do it anyway).  Luckily, an attractive young woman in her early  twenties, as well as a halter top and skin tight jeans, overheard our conversation and approached us.  She asked Big if he would ride with her because she, too, had been wanting to ride the Zipper but didn’t have a partner to ride with.  He immediately agreed.  Ah, the first time your son does something just because a pretty girl asked him to.  You don’t get that moment back, people.

Middle and some of the girls took on the Sky Diver–a frightening ferris wheel with cars that turned upside down.

I believe Pretty is illustrating the concept of “holding on for dear life” in this picture.

The Cliff Hanger seemed a little more enjoyable.

Plus, the man running the ride noticed one of the girls’ Iraq shirt and asked if her father had served.  When she told him yes, he told her to thank her dad for his service and gave her rides tickets back to her.  The kids talked about that all the way home.  Because small kindnesses in life stand out in a big way.

The littlest ones among us both shed some tears when they were turned away by some of the rides.  Even with their baseball caps they weren’t quite tall enough for some of the rides they wanted to ride on.  But then they decided to ride The Pirate by themselves.  It was their first big kid ride, accomplished without a sibling or a parent to hold their hands.  They looked so tiny on that huge boat…

….with an entire bench to themselves.  Not an adult in sight.

And although they survived, it may have been more than Little bargained for.

As it turned out, we had enough tickets for all the kids to ride 2 rides each.  So, us moms came out looking like rock stars.  Which is rare enough to make it a memorable occasion.  Besides, it wouldn’t be the fair without a ride on the Bobsleds.

And Big got another chance to pursue the fast and furious on the Midway.

One of the kids even managed to snag an opportunity at one of the carnival games.  My friend finally gave in just to prove to him what a scam it was—-how his money would be wasted and he’d have nothing to show for it.  Of course, he promptly won a large stuffed animal.

Which made me laugh.  A lot.  Because, for once, it was someone else’s attempt to teach a lesson that failed instead of mine.  Like I said before, it’s comforting the things we have in common.

To end the day, we got some fair food favorites.  There were the fans of funnel cake….

….the cotton candy connoisseurs….

…and the enthusiasts of soft serve ice cream.

Who needs fried Twinkies when you’ve got the good ol’ favorites?

With all the photo ops during the day, those for boys….

….and girls….

….and friends, we’re going to need a scrapbook for all our fair memories.

Well done, State Fair, well done.  If you’d had some Silkies for sale in the poultry tent, I wouldn’t even have minded the $10 parking fee.  Too bad the chickens hadn’t been judged yet so no one was selling.  Although the fact that he didn’t have to walk next to his mom and her friend, both carrying chickens back to the car, may have been Big’s favorite part of the day.  Enjoy it, kiddo.  Next year, it’s chickenpalooza.


4 Responses to “A Fair Price For Memories.”

  1. Tina
    October 30th, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

    Love this Stevie…We had such a good 1/2 day…Hopefully the next time I try to teach a lesson, it actually works in my favor!! Ha

  2. lin
    October 30th, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

    You aren’t the only “bad” mom out there that limits the rides and the expensive outings. My 17-year old was crabbing at me this past weekend because I refused to buy them Happy Meals when they were kids. When they would crab about not getting one (or in all honesty, the TOY), I would just smile and tell them that “money can’t buy happiness, so McDonald’s is lying” and that scarred them for life. 🙂

    Looks like a GREAT day for you all !

  3. Andrew
    October 31st, 2012 @ 5:38 am

    So, the burning question: Did Big get her phone number?

  4. sherry
    October 31st, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

    First off let me say I love reading your blog. With that being said, a $10 parking fee, at the State Fair? Where did you park? It is free to park near the NCSU stadium. Second, I love the State Fair, but have you ever gone to the Dixie Classic Fair in Winston Salem? On certain days you can get in for $3 between 11-1, eat off the dollar menu at the Wendy’s near the fair and while you are there, pick up a coupon for $5 off per person for the all you can ride bracelets. I love discounts and coupons and actively seek them out whenever possible. I love silkies too. Did you get some?

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