Monday, September 29, 2014

The Dream Realized

Cross-posted to my other blog, The Compleatly Dressed Anachronist (because it's that important to me.)

Earlier this month, at Harvest Days in Flaming Gryphon (Dayton, OH area), we were having a bad day.

We took all four kids, which isn't something we do very often (I've spoken about this before), and even though we were all on deck, I had a class to teach, and Ulfr, as Regional Archery Marshal, had a huge amount of business to conduct. The boys in particular, just didn't care about rules and boundaries and staying away from the archery range. My daughter, who is only recently potty-trained, had some obsession with going to the bathroom (a long walk from the range) every five minutes. As far as events go, it ranked pretty high up there on the suck scale.

It's hard, in the midst of those types of events, to find the good. Stuck in your own headspace of worrying that things aren't going well, and wondering why you can't gain control, you tend to overlook that there are experiences and moments happening that truly matter. There are conversations that happen that you know mean a tremendous amount, and you wish you could perhaps be a little less distracted for them. You struggle to maintain your composure as you try to make it past a group of people as your child runs circles around you, refusing to listen. When you get help in that moment, it's hard to relate how grateful you are, and how relieved you are that someone recognized your need and wasn't judging your parenting abilities.

It's hard to recognize that good things are happening when you're focused on what's not working.

But, despite everything that was sucking that day, something tremendous happened. Something tremendously good.

In the weeks prior, we'd assembled some new items for my daughter, a kirtle, a 14th century hood, a smocked apron, even a huvet. Her outfit was adorable, and she loved it. She was full of confidence, and for the first time that I could tell, she really seemed to understand that what we were doing was something special and unique; that events weren't just parties, but were an important part of who we were and what we believed in. She wasn't just dressed in pretty, girly clothes. She was part of something

When I was teaching my class, my mom took my daughter for a walk. Unlike her brothers, she had been mostly behaving and was borderline cocky as a result. As they walked, she admired the armor of fighters leaving the field, and even told a few as much. Never before had she seemed to notice or care about what was happening on the list fields, but now she appeared to not only care, but to recognize when a person's armor was different or somehow special. She was seeing the event with new eyes.

Then this happened:

Photo by the amazing Marissa Wheatley Williams

This is everything perfect and wonderful and right.

This is happiness and joy and a moment to be treasured, not just for the people involved, but for all of us.

This is The Dream.

On a day when my 4-year-old daughter's eyes started to see the world of our events with more clarity and understanding, the King, just being himself, saw her, just being herself, and created something perfect. And thankfully, Marissa, just being her talented self, caught it.

My daughter didn't walk away from that experience unchanged. Her language changed. She felt new ownership of the event, and a deep understanding of how she fit into it. When I asked her where she'd gotten the bracelet, she said "I got it from my King."

At the next event, Coronation this past weekend, my mother (it was just the two of them that day) witnessed the results of this moment. My daughter took every opportunity to not just see the fighting, but to watch it and attempt to understand it. She was not a bystander, as so many of our youth often become. She was at the event to BE AT THE EVENT. Not because she was carried along, but because it was her event to go to.

She recognized those she'd seen at Harvest Day, and even conversed with a Duke for a 2nd time. Fearless and confident, and joyfully a part of the day. I value whatever wisdom His Grace imparted to my daughter. I hope whatever impression it made on her lasts. I also hope the impression it made on him lasts as well. For it's not enough for these moments to happen and impact just one side. These are moments that shape the young children among us, and direct them to either love the Society or dismiss its importance in their lives. We owe it to ourselves to care about the impressions we leave on those still too young to participate in full.

So because a man took the chance to be a King to a little girl, and because the people around my pre-schooler stopped looking at her as just a child for just a moment, and acknowledged that she too was there to experience the magic of our community, my daughter is today a SCAdian.

My SCAdian daughter the morning of Coronation

Do I have high hopes that my daughter may someday sit on the throne, remembering with clarity the day our crazy garbed adventures finally made sense to her? Of course. But for now it's enough for me to see that she just "gets it"; to see that The Dream is hers to realize too.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Getting Rid of the Day Camp

For the first time in several months, our schedules worked out in such a way that it was feasible to bring all four kids to the event this past weekend. Not entirely sure how that would work out, and even more unsure about the conditions of the event's new site, there was no small amount of trepidation about whether this was truly a good idea.

We'd gotten word that the event was intended to be held indoors and that there might not be much room for too many large day camps in the main area (a gym). Our day camp, with all four kids, doesn't tend to be small, so we made a conscious decision. We skipped the day camp.

Hand-in-hand with our previous discovery that spending the day tied to our chairs was just a bad idea, the idea of eliminating that option altogether sounded, oddly, appealing. Without a setup, a comfy rug, chairs, tables, and heck even without banners and tablecloths, we were free to explore, interact with our friends, let the kids wander and discover, and never feel obligated to use the space we carved out for ourselves.

We knew we couldn't do it cold-turkey (so to speak). Certain things just need to be conveniently on hand (like diapers), and with no certainty about the event site, it probably wasn't the best idea to not have at least one chair, just in case the need to sit down in one came on strong. So we settled on a "basecamp" concept.

A tiny rug (I have posters that are larger than that thing) and a single folding chair. The rug really just provided a spot for the kids to identify where "our space" was. We also had a single basket with games, mugs and other event odds and ends in it, the bag my class materials were in, an a small cooler with our lunch. We didn't bring 4 extra cups for the kids, we didn't bring plates/bowls/utensils for lunch. Instead, since we're all currently healthy, we just shared the three adult's mugs. We used large rolls and bread bowls for our ploughman's lunches (and decided that was the best way to do it). When lunch rolled around, we filled our mugs up at the water fountain and found a quite spot outside for a picnic.

We divided and conquered. We made the rule with each other: except for a few brief times throughout the day, at no time was one adult to be stuck with all four kids. In fact, for the most part, I never really had more than two at a time. Our friends caught on and gladly watched a child for us if the need arose. This gave us and the kids the freedom to attend classes, shop at the merchants, and join the bardic tea house, and best of all, happily chat with friends on the edge of the list without being distracted by the antics of four little hooligans.

The kids enjoyed it as well. O highly appreciated being able to explore without the constant reminders to stay inside an imaginary boundary. It was clear that they felt a sense of ownership of the site and even of the event. More than pure spectators, more than simple wanders, they were a part of it. Passing adults stopped and interacted with them- acknowledging their garb, or how nice it was that they opened a door.

Only my youngest got cranky enough to whine. He's still young enough to need naps during the day, so the short snooze he took when he had Daddy took advantage of the chair we brought was an extremely necessary break. And we all spent moments at the rug, hanging out there for a few minutes periodicly to re-group and assess everyone's condition before exchanging kids and moving on.

It was tiring. We spent very little time sitting, relaxing. That took its toll by the time court rolled around, and we ended up leaving earlier than we'd have liked. (Thank goodness, however, that their Majesties have created a children's time outside court for just such a reason. All four ended up out there in the end.) Yet, the exhaustion we felt on the trip home was well earned. Instead of being tired because we'd spent the day herding the kids trying to keep them under a shade or on a rug, we were tired because we, collectively, finally got to really play our favorite game.

Will the day camp be forever banished? Probably not. When the summer sun requires shade, and having a cool drink on hand is essential, we'll be thankful for our day camp. But I bet you won't find us there very often anymore.

Monday, March 10, 2014

modern medieval family : Wagons

Often, event locations are situated away from parking areas, and more often that not, cars are prohibited from driving directly up to where you want to set up.  While we could all certainly do with the exercise of hauling our stuff load after load several yards at the start and end of each event, add kids into the mix, and you quickly realize you could use a little assistance.

Oseberg Cart, 9th Century, from

Wagons are a great addition to any family's kit.  In addition to giving you a convenient way to pull your kids around with you, they can greatly reduce the effort you put forth in setting up and taking down. The real bonus is that wagons (in general) are period!  A wide variety of wagons and hand carts are available for purchase. The crafty family could even try making their own.

Before making your wagon choice, think about your needs.  Take into account the following:
  • How "authentic" do you want to be?  If modern wagons are OK, that greatly increases availability.
  • How many children do you have that you will likely use the wagon for?
  • Would you like to use the wagon for hauling more than just kids at events (like your armor)?
  • Do you have room in your vehicle for a wagon, considering how much you already bring?
  • Will you reserve the wagon only for use at events? If so, where will you store it when not in use?
For our purposes today, we'll look primarily at wagons suited for child-hauling, then I'll share what we're using.

At events in general, you'll probably end up piling light-weight items into any wagon you have, like garb, banners, rugs, etc. when you're setting up and taking down, but while you're at the event, the wagon won't get much use beyond toting your children.  The easiest child-haulers to get your hands on are also mundane wagons, working as a toy for your children at home. They are by far the easiest to shop for, as they are available from almost any big-box store.

Classic Radio Flyer wagon from Retro Peddle Cars

The most obvious wagon is the one most of us grew up with- a Radio Flyer wagon.  You can find both the regular wagon and the "traveler" type (pictured above) in various places for a reasonable cost.  The authenticity here is obviously compromised, but there's nothing that says you can't do a fancy paint job (though you'd have to be willing to lose that tell-tale red).  Remember that the size of your average metal wagon is on the small side, which is great for packing in the car, but may limit its use in the long run if you have more than one child.

Step2 wagon from Amazon

A completely modern option, and one that's very popular at large camping events, like Pennsic War, is one of the many inexpensive plastic wagons, like those available from Step2 or Little Tikes.  These types are big, though, and will require a good portion of space in your car.  Periodize it a little by adding a removable canvas canopy and maybe painting it to look like a wooden wagon.  Or how about going with a red and white striped canopy, Viking-style shields lined along both sides, and sliding a stuffed, brown, "carved" sea moster head over the handle?  Or maybe a cover that looks like a dragon? If you plan to make use of the wagon outside of events, these sorts of wagons offer modern convenience, like storage in the seats.

Handmade wooden wagon (plan) from uBuilder Plans

Go more authentic with an all-wood wagon (though I think I would compromise on including all-terrain wheels instead of wood).  The style options with wooden wagons is a pretty broad range, especially if you make it yourself.  Keep in mind that, depending on your choice of wood and finishing, you may be limited in how much you can use an all-wood wagon (rain, anyone?)  If wood working isn't for you, consider commissioning a wagon from someone who works with wood in your local group.  Also think about making a soft insert (or throwing in a sheepskin) to make the ride a bit more comfortable for your kids.

With any wagon choice, try looking for "break-down" options, or wagons that can easily be worked into your packing arrangements.

We've recently begun using a utility wagon meant for yard work. It is heavy duty- not strictly a child-only type of wagon, and is obviously modern, but all four kids fit, and it has proven to be extremely useful when hauling our day camp to and from to the car from the far-out archery range.

Available from Amazon

We put a padded mat in the bottom, and with the fold-down sides it can also double as a bench in a pinch (and it has!). The kids take ownership of it at the event, but its somewhat cumbersome size helps to keep it nearby. They don't take it too far away and end up getting into any "Calvin and Hobbes"-style trouble.

So, have you tried any wagons with your kids at events? If so, what are you using, and how has your experience been?