Monday, June 26, 2017

Why I love Girl Scout camp for my boys

If my boys wanted to join Boy Scouts, I wouldn't have a problem with it, but my sons have no interest whatsoever.

But Girl Scout camp is another story.

As a volunteer, my boys can attend camp in a unit of all boys that has men as their adult leaders and a couple of teenage girls as their aides.

Mr. Bob, the head dude of the boy unit, is an all-in guy whose entire family (wife, daughter and son) come to camp.

This year was their second one at Girl Scout camp, and they ADORED it all over again.

The boys with Miss Sarah

The boys with Miss Shelby

Of course, they love swimming and fishing and playing gaga ball, but I also think they enjoy being in an all-girl environment. 

I suspect some of this has to do with having an older, nurturing sister (who in the bottom photo below is putting her brother's hair in a man-bun). 

My boys do wrestle with each other and talk about poop like other boys, but they aren't super macho, athletic dudes. I think sometimes they are overwhelmed by the "boyness" of other boys. 

I don't know if this is due to having an older sister or being the sons of a mom who stresses sensitivity or being the sons of a quiet, sensitive father, but we just don't go all in for what might be considered "caveman-boy behavior." Grunting and beating of the chests and all that junk. 

Being a man can mean lots of things, just like being a woman can mean lots of things, and I think for my sons this is one of the BEST things about them attending Girl Scout camp. 

They get to be in an environment that IS girl-focused. They get to see that girls can do all of the things they do. Girls can make fires and cook outside just like they do,

and fish just like they do,

and hike just like they do,

and use tools just like they do,

and touch (or kiss) snakes just like they do.

I hope it helps them appreciate what girls are. 
They will be better men and husbands and fathers for it. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

My girl is a Girl Scout

Last year, I wrote this about Girl Scout camp.

This year I am writing with as much abandon as I can muster following a week of camp about how proud I am of my girl who served as an aide with a unit of girls for the first time.

The two of us during one of the random occasions when our units met up.

Now anyone who knows me even just a little bit knows that I am NOT a sentimental person. I'm not syrupy-sweet. I'm not the type who lavishes praise on my kids. I'm not the person who thinks everyone thinks my kids are all that and a bag of chips. Probably 80% of the time, I think my kids are turds. 

But for some reason, this summer with N taking on this role feels big. It feels like a significant step for her.

Every year I ask if she wants to continue Girl Scouts, and she says yes.

Last year she wasn't really thrilled to be an AIT at camp (aide-in-training), but she did it and had fun. This year she said she'd try being an aide but wasn't going into it enthusiastically. Today, the final day of camp following "aide night" where only the teens get to sleepover, she said she had a blast, made a ton of friends and plans to do it next year.

"Sweetheart" (her camp name) has gone to day camp for 15 years and is now an adult. 
These girls are her "aide babies," the girls who she was an aide for who 
have now become aides themselves. 
This is pretty freaking fantastic if you ask me. 

I spent time this week at camp thinking about the types of teen girls I see at camp who are aides. Most of them aren't the typical "beauty" queen girls, the girls who want to look like and act like every other girl. The teens I see who stick with it are the quirky ones. The ones who really are nice girls to be around and who don't put on airs.

And that is the whole point of Girl Scouts---to be yourself, whatever yourself happens to be, and build friendships with people who like you for whoever that self is.

On the car ride home, she jabbered nonstop about wanting to hang out with some of the teen girls she got closer to this week and learned more about. She talked about the little girls in her unit who hugged her and wrote her notes. She talked about the aide sleepover and how they had a whole table of food for them to eat. She talked about the skit that all of the aides created for the finale of camp.

Twiggy with one of her unit girls.

I'm proud of N for many reasons, but I probably don't tell her as often as I should.
I made sure to tell her today. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Complaining about car repairs and not being poor

Yesterday I got the estimate for minivan repairs to the tune of $3500.

This isn't a repair for just one thing. We have a leak in our evaporator, which requires getting to it from inside the car. And they recommend replacing the heater core, too. My front brakes need replacing. The rack and pinion needs replacing.

Even if I said don't do the two cheapest things on the list of like six things that are part of this repair, it would shave off maybe $200.

And when the temperature is 90 degrees with humidity making it feel like 105, AND I have 3 kids in the vehicle, I really don't have the option of not fixing the AC.
Somehow not fixing the brakes seems irresponsible, too, as does allowing my steering to go out.

We have the money in the bank to fix it.
I hate to spend that money on fixing the car because I rather like to just have money sitting in the bank doing nothing, but it is there and as my mother likes to remind me, the reason a person saves money is to pay for such unexpected things like six minivan repairs that all happen at once.

Since getting this estimate, however, what I have been thinking a lot about are the people who don't have the money sitting in the bank.
All those who have jobs and don't have an emergency fund because it takes 98% of their pay to cover rent, food, utilities, and prescriptions or doctor visits.
All the people who are regularly subjected to unexpected things who have to worry that in paying for a repair, they have to figure out how to feed their children.

I don't have that worry.
My family will be fed even with this huge-ass expense.
We can pay our utilities even with this huge-ass expense.
We can pay for N's field hockey team fee in July even with this expense.
We can still go on our beach vacation even with this expense.

So it angers me to spend money on the money-pit of vehicle ownership, but it also depresses me because I think about those who don't have, and I worry what could be for us.
I think to myself, "What would it take to bring us to that point?"

I cannot live in the illusion that that could never happen to us.
While it might not be likely, it is possible.
I don't know if this is anxiety or the realistic view that a devastating medical condition could potentially financially cripple us.

I think because my brain "goes there" whenever an unexpected happens that I cannot always just live in my little bubble of upper middle classness.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Kinky Boots as church

I am not a fan of "go every week" church.

I go when I want to go and when I feel the desire to go which, for me, means I am going there with the right intentions and with an open mind.

In my many, many years of going to church at least two times a week, I can only recall one time in which I felt truly moved.

It was the Good Friday service when I was in eighth grade, and my class re-enacted the Passion. I remember hearing the sound of the mallet hit the wooden cross. It echoed through the rafters and pushed against my chest. It brought me to tears, a moment I still remember vividly. I felt for a brief moment the horror of what being nailed to a cross might be like.

Church has made me angry and it has made me think, but only once has it made me feel deeply.

Last night, my friend and I went to see Kinky Boots, and it felt to me like what I would want church to be....the overwhelming feeling of God's grace.

I am not a sentimental, syrupy-sweet person by any stretch of the imagination, but I couldn't help but see what is truly the best of Jesus in that performance

---the stripping away of the "shoulds" to find simple people who just want to follow their hearts.
---the acceptance of others.....not in what they do or how they dress...but in who they are as fellow human beings.
---the ways in which asking people to fit into your system of life that works for you can render them miserable.

I realize that there are some people for whom cross-dressing or homosexuality or anything that is not a cut-and-dried version of boy/girl is anathema.

I get it, and I don't believe there is any point in trying to change their minds. There are many people who have a worldview that is very "this-or-that" with little understanding of complexity and gray. That is their mindset and where they feel most comfortable.

For I think an increasing majority of people, however, there is an understanding that life on every level, from the microscopic to the outer reaches of space, is highly complex in ways in which we cannot even begin to fathom.

Life is not simple and never has been. Humans have put restrictions on our world to simplify it, to manage it, to make it comprehensible, to make it feel like something we can handle.

I don't think you can be a parent of multiple children and not see every second of the day how complex and unruly life is, how little there is that fits into a black-and-white schema.

How is it that three children born of the same two parents brought up in the same un-fractured household can have different mindsets, habits, interests, personalities, physical traits, desires, beliefs, and goals?

How is it that attendance at a musical can make me feel a sense of grace, a washed over sense of love and acceptance and brotherhood amongst strangers that I have not ever felt at church?

Some might say I attend the wrong church, but I do not.
I like my church.
It is quiet and peaceful.
I have been to louder, bigger, MORE churches, and I felt fake. I didn't feel comfortable, and I didn't feel like I belonged.
I do not find God in songs about God. I do not find God in wordy praise of God.
Most of the time I find God in observing the quiet power of nature, or the sharing of time with my children, or the moments of deepest gratitude for the ways in which my life has been quietly blessed beyond anything I could ever possibly deserve.
Last night, I found God in a Broadway show about cross-dressers.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Deets on the Quebec trip

I could take a zillion pictures on the trips we take, and I would regret not taking more.

I think it is that I want the photos to capture the essence of the place we visit, and they simply cannot. Nothing can replace being there.

Still, I tried on our trip to Quebec to take photos of the little things I noticed. Sure, we took plenty of pictures of the big things---the basilicas, the huge statues and the big hotels--but sometimes what makes a place unique are those small things that you notice.

When we arrived in Montreal, it was around 7 pm so all we had time for was to grab a bite to eat and wander around briefly. The city is celebrating its 375th anniversary this year. 
There were images flashed onto the sides of buildings that told a story about the history. 

This was the view of the street from our hotel the first night in Montreal. 
Definitely old word feel (except for the car).

We grabbed some dinner at the bar at this restaurant.

The VIA Rail station in Montreal had these on the walls. It was a rather large station or large in comparison to the one in QC. 

Our hotel in Quebec City. 
Loved the unique window-boxes, not just here but at other places as well.

La Grande Dame aux bleuets by Rose-Aimee Belanger in Chateau Frontenac. 

A stop sign in QC.

An actual phone booth. 

What can I say? I thought the mailboxes were cool.

This winter, QC got 12 feet of snow. 
Signs abound about the danger of falling snow/ice. 
There are guard rails at the tops of many buildings to keep people from having snow dumped on them.

When we left via the back door of our auberge, we walked past this. 
It was weird.
I liked it.

 Our auberge in QC connected to Hotel 71. 
At the entrance were two sculptures. 
This is one.

 The license plates in Quebec read "Je me souviens," which means "I remember." 
I can't help but like this.

During our walking tour in QC, the guide pointed out a church that has been
converted to a library. As a book lover, I can't help but
adore a place called "House of the books."

When D and I wandered through QC on our way through the nouveau section (with breweries and more modern stuff), I saw this.

This is a small fountain outside Auberge Sainte-Antoine, 
right now the block from where we stayed.

There are three passable gates surrounding QC--Kent, Louis, and Jean. 
Architecturally beautiful, in my opinion.

A water sculpture in a small park right outside the VIA Rail station in QC.

The FAO (Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN) sculpture which is right now the block from our hotel. I artistically loved and vestibularly disliked the wavy pattern on the sidewalk and road.

Taking Flight sculpture in the City Hall gardens.

A smooth whiskey/maple syrup concoction that D and I tried 
while cruising on the St. Lawrence.

Back in Montreal, the place we ate lunch. Just lovely.
So lovely that we bought a photo of the outside 
of the cafe from a local artist to commemorate our Montreal visit.

At a corner near Rue Saint Paul in Montreal, another
Rose-Aimee Belanger sculpture.

Macarons at Marche de la Vieux Port in QC.

Back in Montreal, D noticed that John the Baptist looks like he's taking a selfie.

A small chocolate shop right around the way from our hotel in Montreal.

We laughed every time we walked by this place because in our heads we pronounced it, "Couch-tard," a derogatory statement for couch potatoes.
In French, it is pronounced "kush-tar" and means "night owl."
It is a convenience store for those late night needs.

A piece of the Berlin Wall on the site where Montreal's boundary wall once stood. 
Now in the World Trade Centre of Montreal.

Critter summer

We are only a few weeks into summer break, but I am dubbing it "Summer of Critters."

First, we discovered a nest of baby robins in our smoke tree.

Then, my MIL's neighbor and my friend let me watch her tend her beehive.

There was the day at the creek, watching butterflies, catching minnows and crayfish, and seeing  a snake (EEK!).

There was the evening I donned the special suit and got to see and hear the hive up close.

There was the zoo with lorikeets and butterflies....

The nature center, where the kids saw a captive turtle....

AND a hike in the woods resulted in this...

The critter-fest continues with a whole slew of rabbits in our backyard.

The cats have even gotten in on the action...