June 2001


This has been a lonely week around our house; Evan has been gone for a full seven days to Tom Hale Scout Reservation which is where the Boy Scouts hold their big summer camp out every summer. The weather has been pretty good; not too hot and little rain which has made for a more enjoyable campout (for the boys and scoutmasters, that is).

He got back Saturday. Erin had been missing him pretty badly and was trying to engage him in conversations about video games – which he enthusiastically engaged in. Meanwhile, Melissa and I kept trying to get him to talk about camp. Finally, we compromised in the way that only parents can: we threatened Erin with banishment to her room if she didn’t stop talking. Evan actually sat down to write a letter some time right after they set up camp. He never mailed it although he did send us a postcard later. You can get an idea for yourself what camp was like; read it for yourself (I left in the misspellings and what not):

First day

We got there it was very hot!!! I am sweating. I am bunking with Mat. I think it will be fun our tent is very hot. It is so hot I can’t describe it. lets just say its hot outside and its hotter in here. We went on a tour and we got ice cream we learned where everything was. there is a new bathroom that looks nice. We opened the flap on our tent and now its a lot cooler. I had $1 and ?cents after getting chedr bites and a small root beer at sonic on the way here. I am kinda having fun. our tent has a lot of patches and there are 3 old glw sticks hanging on the top. My pillow is hot. Mat looks bored Some other kids in our troop are talking loudly but we are quite except for me speaking while I write this and Mat is saying OOPSIES. I wonder what he did. I feel good I think I’m going to have a good time. I bought some extra very minty mints at Flying J on the way. I forgot the lock combination but I looked under my case and it was there. You had a great idea. I laid down on my cot. the front legs fell in and I slid down. it was kinda fun. P.S. The cot isn’t broken.

In case you weren’t counting, the word “hot” appears 6 times. Apparently, he felt it was a little hot. Regarding “Mat”, his tentmate, he had only to say that “by the end of the week, I was getting pretty sick of him.”

He did an amazing variety of things but the coolest was metalworking. He was actually allowed to use a blowtorch; by golly, you won’t find those Girl Scouts doing anything like that. They keep advertising Boy Scouts in the schools as a place to build character and other “moral high road” sorts of things when what they should do is go straight to the boys and tell them: “Hey you get to shoot BB guns, play with fire, use blowtorches, and all that real guy stuff.”

He made several things out of metal. The official scout badge book makes some strange specifications: “Make something out of at least 20 gauge steel.” I suppose that’s so some kid doesn’t try to make something out of aluminum foil and call it good. He also made a couple of things out of soup cans. That’s what I like about the BSA: they can teach a skill effectively by using trash. Unlike Martha Stewart, they usually don’t turn the trash into something that looks nice. It still pretty much looks like an old soup can when the scouts are done but it’s functional and, as I said earlier, they got to use a blowtorch. We can’t underestimate the importance of that. Now he knows how to solder, what solder is, what “acid-core” means, and when to use it.

They kept’em busy down there. Every kid who attended was kept busy working on advancement. Evan took several classes that were geared towards advancing him in rank such as first-aid. The “fun” stuff was all geared towards some merit badge or another.

I’m always amazed at the things you can learn with the Boy Scouts on the cheap. This year, Evan signed up for snow sports (!!!). That one is apparently made possible by some sort of space-age carpeting on a hillside. He also did some mountain biking. He was kept so busy that he never got around to doing any shooting or swimming (which are two things he really likes doing.

While Evan was doing all this, Erin was at the Girl Scout day camp. Boy what a difference! Among the many differences, the one that stands out is the presence of the “singing tree”. They gather under it every morning to sing. I went to help them set up and was promptly set upon by three moms who wanted help setting up their tents. I should have made some comments about how shattering the “glass ceiling” also implies you get to set up your own tents but I kept my mouth shut. I helped set up the tents. They frequently got their tents set up with parts left over. This is generally a Bad Thing since the most frequently found “extra” is the rain fly. This oversight tends not to manifest itself until too late.

Throughout all this, Melissa was at home busy painting the walls. I convinced her that a paint roller was actually fun to use and she made pretty good use of it; leaving the trim work to me. The place is looking better.

There’s no rest for the weary though. The very next day – Sunday – Evan had to show up for a fund-raiser. This week was the weekend for the Green Country Quilter’s Guild show at the convention center and somebody got word that the boy scouts could go help the vendors take down their stalls and load their vehicles for tips. I guess they can pay $100 for professional movers and packers or pay the scouts a $20 “tip”. Cha-Ching! It was pretty hard work but we made it through. We learned that even though cloth doesn’t seem to weight much, when folded and crammed into big RubberMaid tubs, it gets pretty heavy.

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The kids’ first trip to summer church camp was a success. Both of them went, had fun, and weren’t plagued by homesickness.

That left Melissa and me at home by ourselves on our anniversary week. How’s that for good timing? We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. After about 20 seconds, we figured out something. We went to the hardware store to look at paint. 🙂

Upon returning, both kids were pretty withdrawn from lack of television so they had to lay in front of the TV for quite a while to get back into the saddle, so to speak. After a TV fix, they were able to provide some commentary. It was pretty much the usual stuff with some exceptions. We asked Evan if he learned to do anything new and fun. His face brightened. His eyes lit up and his face reflected pure delight at the remembrance of his recent experiences. It was like Christmas morning. He composed his thoughts and said:

“Well, we learned to play this cool trick on the little kids…”

Oh boy…

He then related the details:

“One of the older kids showed us how to put shaving cream in somebody’s hands while they’re asleep and then tickle his nose with a piece of grass. When he tries to wipe his face, he smears shaving cream all over his face.”

Yeah, I’m familiar with that one too. Thankfully, it turns out they weren’t torturing the younger ones all week long. Evidently, one of the counselors was playing this trick on another counselor.

Erin apparently had a bit of a fracas with one of her friends but she had very little to say about it. What I have is third hand from her friend’s mother. It seems there was some disagreement over the possession of a rock. I have no idea how this came to be but apparently, one of their spiritual activities involved rocks. Both wanted the same rock. Words were exchanged. More heated words were exchanged, culminating in Erin’s yelling. I’ve seen the rock in question and it was not worth fighting over.

The friend’s mom said:

“Did you tell her that was bad manners?”

“No, I kicked her!”

But, there were no bruises on either of them so that came and went with no further ado.

They made something called “prayer sticks”. I asked what a prayer stick was for.

Neither of them had any idea.

It seems that the United Methodist Church might want to turn its attention to the thoroughness of its curriculum or the training of its counselors. Anyway, they made it back home in the backpacks. Erin’s was festooned with beads and yarn.

Evan’s had….A CLAW!…from a dead crawdad!

It’s a guy thing.

Both kids are bruise-free, cut-free, and tick-free so I can’t complain that much.

That reminds me of a story.

My Dad (a former rural mail man) used to tell the story of a guy on his mail route who operated one of those small country stores. This was back before the big chains of convenience stores; it was one of those you used to see in the country with two gas pumps and a sign that said “Gas, Gro.” underneath the “RC Cola” logo. This place was called “Harvey’s”. One day, during the height of deer season, Harvey found a baby deer.

Apparently, the deer was an unfortunate deer-season orphan and Harvey took him in, fed him by hand, and named him “Rudolf”. Rudolf was quite endearing (so to speak) to hear Dad tell it. He lived behind the store and wore a collar with his leash attached to a clothesline so he could move around quite a bit. He became quite the little socialite with people bringing their kids to come pet him and feed him. People would go out of their way to come see Rudolf. Rudolf grew into a handsome young buck and never lost his social skills; always willing to take a bit of food or to lick a hand. Dad would stop regularly to pet Rudolf and check up on him. He was after all, somewhat more endearing the the average dog and didn’t bark. For a mailman, that’s quite an advantage for a pet to have.

Then one day, he was gone.

Dad stopped right away to inquire; thinking that perhaps there had been an accident or that Rudolf had gotten away. He asked Harvey what happened to Rudolf.

“Aw, we et him!”

WARNING! Shameless bragging alert!

Yesterday was awards day at the elementary school. I took off half a day to go see the ceremony. I’ve never done this before but I was formally requested to come: “Daddy, are you coming?” In addition though, the principal himself had mentioned to Melissa that we both might want to be present. I thought this was unusual since I’ve never seen fit to go see kids get certificates for having perfect attendance but this time I went. Good thing too.

To put it mildly, Evan kicked butt.

And took names.

Let’s see, let me count the awards – Mr. College Admissions Guy, I believe that’s THIRTEEN, count ’em, 13, awards! HA! Stick that in your hat and smoke it! Maybe Evan will attend your sorry university and maybe he won’t! Show me the money!

Before I get struck by lightning for losing track of my modesty, I will repeat something Evan said to me last night and that is that most of these were just certificates for being members of this or that club but two of them stand out.

The first is the Art Award. This one is basically an award for being the best artist. The art teacher was really excited; she’s young and enthusiastic and can still get excited. The music teacher had a similar award and tried to look excited but even though the voice was “excited”, the face said “get the heck out of my sight”. Too bad; the music teacher is young too. She shouldn’t be so uptight. The award consisted of a certificate and a nice wall plaque. There is also a little brass plate with his name on it that goes on a bigger plaque in the hallway. Evan really doesn’t like such attention but we’re working on him to teach him to wallow in it every so often. He’s not a little monster yet but we’re working on him.

And then…a drum roll please… the President’s Award. As in: president of the United States. This one is for good grades. It came with a certificate, a tiny pin, and a letter from George W. himself. No it didn’t say “Greetings from the President of the United States, etc.” Nothing about reporting for duty or anything. The text is as follows:


THE WHITE HOUSE

Washington

February 13, 2001

Congratulations on receiving the President’s Education Award. Mrs. Bush and I are delighted to join with your family, friends, and teachers in recognizing this wonderful achievement.

I believe that we, as a nation, must turn the hearts of our children toward knowledge and character. In earning this honor, you have used your talents and shown your personal commitment to educational excellence. You are a shining example for other young people throughout our country.

I commend you for working hard in school and for meeting the highest academic standards. I am confident that you will build on your success and continue to strive for even highter goals in the future. God bless you.

Dubya


*sniff* I didn’t even vote for the guy. Thanks Dubya.

Here’s a rundown of some of the other awards categories and what they were for. Many of these were handed out.

Award What it was for
Computer Club Coming to school early every other tuesday and eating donuts in the computer lab
Wellness Award Not bothering the school nurse
Citizen Award Not bothering the teacher
Citizenship Award Not bothering the principal
Perfect Attendance Do I really need to explain it?
Completing fifth grade Sadly, this is a big deal for a few kids

There were others but I’m starting to feel guilty about bragging. Before you ask, no Erin was not left out. These awards ceremonies tend to run long so the first and second graders have their own abbreviated version a week before. There aren’t as many awards to hand out. Erin got one for reading the most books of any second grader. She was not too impressed with it; she seems hacked off that she hadn’t won some other award. I didn’t ask. She said that she won the “most books” award last year and wanted to sweep all the rest of them this year. Not a bad goal but we’re working on when not to be a perfectionist. To everything there is a season.

I scanned all these awards and was about to put the images out where they could be seen by all but then I thought “if I do this, I can hear the gagging already.” I’ll just leave things as they are. But, before you judge, consider this: I work with a guy who is childless and who has just spent $600 on a digital camera. It takes 3 megapixel pics and, to my knowledge, he has (after having this thing for two weeks) taken only one picture of his cat. Now, which is worse? Me scanning my kids’ awards or some poor childless geek taking 3 megapixel pictures of his cat? (this is a really cool camera by the way. if he doesn’t come up with a more worthy subject, I may have to kill him just to get his camera)

They say insanity is hereditary; you get it from your kids. But, I submit that if you have no kids, a different sort of insanity sets in. You eventually wind up buying a BMW and waxing it, detailing it every weekend, and generally doing anal retentive, self indulgent things like that. One of our single, middle-aged neighbors actually mows his yard in his dress clothes – suspenders and all. What’s that all about? The answer: We’re all crazy – some just get caught. With that in mind, I think maybe I’ll just scan a few more of my son’s awards.