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LARK Toys!

I asked my three kids – two are college age and one is almost fourteen years old – if they could choose anywhere to visit one last time before we move to Ireland, what would it be? They were unanimous. They could have chosen Mall of America, any of the numerous museums they’ve enjoyed, either of the two zoos, or anywhere else… I left the question entirely open ended. They chose Lark Toys.

I love Lark Toys, so this made me happy! I selected it as our “final destination” for my Little Free Library Book Tour.  Before I share our special day with you, I want to take a trip down memory lane. Here’s my family at Lark Toys in 2004. Sorry for the strange gray blobs in the photo – this picture was taken when we were standing with a field trip group. I removed all but my own family, as it would have been confusing otherwise. From left to right: Brent holding baby Savannah, Cassie, little Nicholas wearing a pirate hat for some reason (I don’t remember this at all!), and me on the end.

LARK Toys field trip 2004

Nicholas on carouselThis was taken on the same day. Nicholas is having a blast on the carousel. Remember this little face – you’ll see him on this same carousel further down this page, now that he’s 18 and ready for college!

100_4629Here we are a few years later… This is Savannah on the carousel.

100_4640This is later that same day. Cassie and Savannah are dancing after putting a couple of coins into the jukebox.

I could keep going with this old family photos – we’ve been to Lark Toys many times throughout the years. We have truly loved it! It is a magical and special place that we’ll always treasure in our hearts. It was a bittersweet experience, visiting Lark Toys one last time before we leave the United States for Ireland in December. But we had a wonderful time and I even got to meet the owner of Lark Toys, Ron Gray. I was able to tell him how much his place has meant to our family.

100_3136Natalie Buske Thomas and Ron Gray, owner of Lark Toys in Kellogg, Minnesota

Of course I gave him some books from my Little Free Library Book Tour!

Here’s how our wonderful day was at Lark Toys. Try to visit Lark Toys in Kellogg, Minnesota. It truly is a special place!

100_3108Nicholas is signing us into the big book

100_3110It’ll be hard to get pictures today, everyone’s on the move!

100_3109I got a kick out of seeing Nicholas run like this! Is he the little boy in the pirate hat again?

100_3112Here’s the map of Lark Toys visitors. I was delighted to find this… (scroll down to the next photo)

100_3111There’s a pin directly on Cork, Ireland! Somehow it feels better knowing that someone in Cork has been to Lark Toys. We’ll be among friends. 🙂

20151115_160936OH WOW! They have a new attraction! This was definitely not at Lark Toys the last time we were there. I guess it landed while we were busy with our own TARDIS adventure. Well, if you’ve been following our family, you’ll know that we were excited to find a Doctor Who presence at Lark Toys! This was must unexpected!

Natalie Buske Thomas at TARDIS at LARK Toys 2015Does the Doctor need a companion? I have experience!

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100_3132These are DALEKS from Doctor Who, but speaking of robots, my son Nicholas used to have this white and black contemporary robot toy (on the far right in the photo below). It had a “dancing” mode that was hilarious.

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Cassie pointed out the pregnant Barbie doll. I noticed the vintage Sesame Street characters. I so love Sesame Street! I had a View Master. I never liked those. They were always disappointing. I guess I wanted it to do something more. It was hard to click through the slides without the card getting stuck. Or maybe that’s just me…

100_3122Who from Gen X didn’t have Lincoln Logs? In my opinion, those were another disappointing toy. We could only build log cabins with them.  Nonetheless, I wish I had a set now! I’d make a cabin. They weren’t much good at anything else. Remember the red plastic triangle roof pieces? Memories! LEGOs changed everything… that was my son’s world (and still is!).

100_3123Ah, the old erector set. Brent had one and he thought Nicholas might like it, but like I said before… LEGOs were invented.

100_3124I love looking at these strange vintage metal toys. I’m sorry for so many blurry photos. My awesome camera DIED right before we got to Lark Toys, ugh! We think it might just be the lens – I hope! Some shots are better than others. I also copied some that the kids took.

100_3125I remember that Bambi book! I loved it because it was shaped like Bambi’s head. The pages were surprisingly fragile and soft, which fascinated me. I also remember playing with that Fisher Price school house but I don’t think it was mine. It may have belonged to my dear cousin Jennifer. Jennifer passed away in her sleep from diabetic complications when she was thirty years old. Oh how I miss her! I have fond memories of playing together when we were kids. See what I mean? Lark Toys is a magical place. It brings us back to when we were young, we see toys that our parents and grandparents had, and those of us with children relive the happy memories of when our own kids were little. We think about those we miss, we remember days gone by… and by taking the journey backward, we have renewed strength to go forward.

100_3126I had the wooden blocks and the magnetic letters – did you? I think the wooden doll was before my time.

100_3127I had Bobbsey Twins books

100_3155Savannah and Nicholas want to go on the carousel. I remember that (then Governor of Minnesota) Jesse Ventura rode the carousel – he sat on the bench, not on one of the animals.

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LARK Toys carousel tokenSavannah has her carousel token!

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100_3156The carousel is fabulous – the animals are original handcrafted works of art! I tried to capture all of them, but I was using my inferior camera since my good one died while I was taking pictures of Lake Pepin on the way up.

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100_3164100_3163And here are two of my kids on the carousel… let’s compare… Nicholas then (in pirate hat)

Nicholas on carouselAnd Nicholas now, age 18 (I didn’t tell him to wave, LOL)

100_3180 100_3178 Instead of the bunny he chose the gnome & dragon. Instead of a black pirate hat he’s wearing a black guitar shirt. But, it’s the same kid – same smile, same wave to Mommy. Aww, see why we love Lark Toys?

100_4628Savannah then…  and now:

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100_3189I had a love-hate relationship with this nerve wracking game!

100_3188I didn’t have this one… but it reminds me of something my friend Kelly said. Happy Days was playing in the background while she was cleaning and she heard that it was Howard Cunningham’s birthday. Howard was turning the same age as Kelly. Kelly shared the miserable knowledge that those of us who are Class of ’87 are now the same age as Richie Cunningham’s PARENTS.

Career Game for GirlsHa ha! This is a game called “The Exciting Game of Career Girls” from 1966. The choices were limited (stewardess, ballerina, etc.), and the bad luck cards included things like “You are overweight” or “You are clumsy”. The cards went on to helpfully point out which careers these unfortunate traits would be bad for. There were good cards to, that rewarded for learning how to apply make-up or for being pretty. Wow, Just wow. My girls were transfixed (and horrified!). Note: my college daughter is graduating with a Math degree, with honors. Take that, Career Girls!

20151115_161042He always reminded me of my grandfather…

20151115_161056Not only are the toy collections fascinating (from all eras), but there are creative original attractions sprinkled all over the place too. Some you have to look UP to see.

20151115_16172120151115_16172920151115_160839I had a record player similar to this one. My favorite song was “Puff the Magic Dragon”. Brent has the full sized album and Nicholas digitized the song for me. I want to frame the original vintage record cover and put it in my new work space in Ireland. The girl who longed to live near the sea (like the boy and his dragon) will be living near the sea!!! Funny – my brother’s favorite record was “Rhinestone Cowboy” and they were playing it while we were at Lark Toys. I can still hear him playing that song… over and over… and over

20151115_164522My son took this photo. He had die cast vehicles that he forgot to put in the shipment to Ireland. I think he plans to cram them inside his clothes in his luggage, a few of them anyway.

20151115_161739My grandpa used to make little wooden toys for the great grandkids. I was already too old by the time he started doing this. I was the first granddaughter. My grandparents still had kids living at home when I was born. I mostly got the coffee can full of broken crayons to play with. 🙂 There was an odds and ends box with strange little toys and animals. It was great fun digging through it to see if anything good was in there. I usually found a treasure if I had enough patience to keep digging…. but I had to get past the smell of crayons. To this day, I hate the smell of crayons.

20151115_161337Oh dear… my Savannah has changed.

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LARK Toys Santas

LARK Toys Santa 220151115_15554220151115_155607Oh… this reminds me of when I was wearing my beautiful white “fur” coat to school. Mom had given me red Kool Aid for breakfast. Or maybe it was Hi-C. I can’t stand either. Anyway, well. I was nauseous from the bus ride, or I was sick… doesn’t matter. The story ends with red vomit all over my favorite coat. I’ve never forgotten that pretty coat and I’ve never forgiven the red “juice” that ruined my coat!

20151115_155452See? You have to look UP and down and all around, or you’ll miss something. I’m sure I missed something…

20151115_160946100_3250 100_3249Ooh, there’s one of those creepy porcelain dolls with the cracked face. I used to play with those at my grandmother’s house. I was told to be very careful and I never quite understood why. The face was already cracked and broken – what difference did it make? But I was gentle. I didn’t play with dolls long. I preferred the Noah’s Ark set.

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100_3245Funny mirrors, always good for a laugh

Ooh, I like these butterflies!             100_3222    100_3218 100_3217  100_3215Someone found the LEGOs!

How appropriate for a book tour to end up at a beautiful book store! This area of Lark Toys has always been one of our favorite parts — the books and educational section. And this is usually where our kids found something to buy… This time it was Savannah who found something too exciting to resist.

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100_3212 100_3211 Savannah wants to be a midwife. She’s been studying biology, nursing and psychology. She thinks this visible woman is amazing…you have to build it yourself – even paint it – and it comes with a fetus to place inside the uterus. She’d learn the body parts and the organs. It’s educational… so you see.. well, here she is at the checkout counter with Daddy’s wallet open. 🙂

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Now get good grades, Savannah. We got you that “Visible Woman” from Lark Toys so you should be all set now. 🙂

100_3244Note: She opened it up as soon as we got home. She LOVES this kit! It is very involved so she’ll be able to enjoy it for weeks. VERY pleased! She’s going to take it apart so that it fits in a small bag so that she can bring it to Ireland in her suitcase.

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100_3199I love this book tree idea (below)

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100_3196I see “A Wrinkle in Time” is at the top – one of my all time favorite books!

The Doctor Who section

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Brent is razzing me about the ant farm. I did NOT enjoy that experience when Cassie wanted to do the ant farm. Let’s just say that I didn’t read the directions where is said that you should put the ants in the fridge first so that they are “inactive”. I dumped the vial and the ants marched right UP my arm, all over me… and well, I freaked and killed the ants. Cassie made a Dramatic Mom comic about it.

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Toys and candy go well together!

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100_3171Lark Toys is getting ready to close for the day… I guess it’s time to go…

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Leaving Lark Toys in Kellogg, MN…and when I get home, I’ll take a closer look at this –!

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Hmm… I saw Brent with this bag in one of the gift shops. I think I might know what he bought me. I’m not sure. He says he’ll save it for Christmas. But he really shouldn’t be leaving it around. Stay tuned – I’ll update this when I find out what it is!

Well, it was a beautiful, wonderful, magical day. I was sorry to see it end. But all good stories must come to an end. And today we lived “Happily Ever After”! Thank you, Lark Toys, for bringing your love and vision to this special place where families like mine can enjoy your fabulous things, and each other. We’ve watched our kids grow up at Lark. It was the perfect “last place” to visit. Thank you!