Thursday, May 19, 2011


Stella took this picture of me
in the foggy bathroom.
Stella has hundreds of toys, although many of them I hesitate to actually call "toys" because they're more like random things I thought she would find interesting. Let's say I'm walking home from the store I see that somebody has left the remains of a garage sale on the terrace, and the detritus includes a battered tea kettle with a broken handle. Great! It's a new "toy" for Stella! It's like FAO Schwartz around here!

So then we bring the battered tea kettle home and use it every minute of every day for exactly two days to play tea party, or flight attendant, or bartender who doesn't know when to cut off the angry drunk who is definitely driving home, dammit, where are my keys. Then we stuff the kettle into the toy box until, in a uncharacteristic fit of anti-clutter activity, I try to throw it away. Then it becomes Stella's most precious possession, something she will treasure until the end of her days or at least for another 15 minutes or so. She believes her toys are very valuable. I wouldn't put it past her to be one of those people who takes a completely useless piece of crap and lists it on Craigslist for $50 just to see if there's anyone foolish enough to try to bargain the price down to $35 and think they got a great deal.

I have to admit, that when I throw away things that belong to Stella, I shove them way, way down into the trash when she isn't looking, and then sort of fluff up the trash around it. I have had to fish out one too many things from the trash after she spied them in there. Then I have to lie about how her precious whatchamacallit must have fallen into the trash accidentally. Or -- and this is always good for fostering peace and understanding between siblings -- I blame the baby. If Stella notices that a particular battered toy is missing, I shrug and say that I'm sure it will turn up. (And it will. But at the Dane County dump.)

Speaking of Craigslist, we recently bought an elliptical trainer from there. Well, David bought it. I want nothing to do with the elliptical, in part because it seems so...nerdy. It just doesn't seem like real exercise. It seems like after you finish working out on the elliptical trainer, the next natural activity is to go dust your extensive collection of Star Wars action figurines. (Energy expended: 120 calories/hr, and gives great definition to your triceps.)

This is either Baby W in the
foggy bathroom
or some sort of glowing UFO.
Stella, on the other hand, loves the elliptical machine. We'll be in the living room reading books, and Stella will suddenly announce that she needs to "go exercise," and disappears into the basement. If she starts lecturing us about the lactic acid threshold, I'm cutting off her access.

Anyway, on Craigslist there are many, many people advertising elliptical trainers for sale. In fact, I would theorize that about 85% of Craigslist ads involve elliptical trainers. (The other 15% are ads for having sex on elliptical traners.) I found buying a piece of exercise equipment from Craiglist to be a fairly frustrating exercise (!). Here's a typical ad: "Selling elliptical. $75. Nice." The ad on Craigslist is free, you have all the space you want for describing the elliptical trainer, pictures are free too, and all you can come up with in a way of description is "Nice?" That's completely useless for someone who is looking to buy! I hope that person doesn't also list sexual services on Craigslist! I can just imagine how useless those ads would be. ("Call me. I'm a woman.")

Stella has fun with her half-functional tea kettles, but her favorite toy of all is a little house we made her from a big cardboard box, one that David's office chair came in. We cut a door, fashioned a chimney, and added a mailbox to her box. Stella has pretended that the box is a car wash, a store that sells fish, and a giraffe cage.  After two hears of hard wear and tear, the box is starting to crumple a little, and we're already planning for the day the big box bites the dust. David is lobbying for us to make a major purchase mostly for the purpose of getting a new box for Stella. He's thinking the packaging for a big screen television would be just about right.

Stella has gotten so much imaginative play out of her box, and it didn't cost us a cent. I’m sure there's a market for big cardboard boxes like this, if parents know their kids will play with the boxes for years. I' m thinking that if we take these boxes and slap a Swedish brand name on them, we could sell them for maybe $350. Probably even more if we sell them on Craigslist.


  1. When we moved I posted moving boxes and furniture boxes on Craigs List for FREE.....I didn't want to spend time breaking them down. Wish I would have read this first; I could have marketed them as "simplicity parenting" toys and sold them. Gotta say, I love the unique toys you get Stella. We just let Ian pick up various rocks and sticks from "nature walks" and he loves them.

  2. worse than throwing out the 'toy'? throwing out artwork. pllleeaaase don't tell julian this is done reguarly. DEFINITELY buried under the other trash. I ask you: how many cream-cheese-box-with-colored masking-tape-and-feathers sculptures can one house hold?

  3. I also often sneak the artwork into the outside trash, just to make double sure she won't see it. I have had to pull one too many 'masterpieces' out of the kitchen trash.