Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shick, Shick, BOOM! and an Eagle Court of Honor

When last we spoke, dear reader, we were in the midst of a very busy weekend. I shall recap. Hope you have a bowl of popcorn and are ready for the long and winding road.

Saturday we had our Eagle Court of Honor.

Usually at Courts of Honor in Boy Scouts, all the boys who have achieved excellence in the fields of achievement and excellence get their excellent recognitions of achievement. Rank advancement, merit badges, yadda yadda yadda.

For an Eagle Court of Honor, it's all about the Eagle. And if you're interested in the photos, you can go straight to the Flickr Set.

Our boy Jason passed his Board of Review (where a bunch of people review his dates of rank advancement, his merit badges, and his community service project and deem him worthy) back in February. He wanted to have his Court of Honor at the summer camp where he has worked for the past several years, and of course one must wait for decent weather to do such things, so he picked this weekend. And he planned a blow out... a party like he's never had. Eat your heart out Super Sweet 16ers on MTV, this was a very good time.

Jason's Eagle Court of HonorPlans went into effect, and he put together a really nice ceremony of people to speak, and things he wanted done.

Things were also done that normally we've never done before. Jason was "escorted" to the council circle by all the Eagles in the audience. And by "escorted" I mean they lifted him up and carried him down the hill. As he passed, our Troop saluted him, which made it even funnier to me.

I learned something that I did not know about Jason that day, for as well as I thought I knew him. Jason was never in Cub Scouts. He joined Boy Scouts when he was in sixth grade, when our Scoutmaster's son invited him to a meeting. Most boys go into Boy Scouts from the Cub Scouting program. not a lot join once they're in Middle School. But he was invited, came into the troop, and started his rank advancement very slowly, taking two years to advance his first rank (for the record, Geoff went to Scout and Tenderfoot in less than a year, and in June will advance to Second Class).

The Scoutmaster's son didn't stick with the scouting program, but the Scoutmaster stayed with the boys who were there, because he loved the program and the kids in it and wanted to see them through.

Jason is his first Eagle, out of six kids that were there when he started. His first and only. Our troop has 30 kids in it now... and a lot of that credit goes to the fact we have so many older scouts still sticking with the program, working hard and teaching the younger ones. I've talked to other troops and committee members and found they have five or ten boys, they don't camp, they don't do anything, they haven't had an Eagle in 15 years. We haven't had one since 2003, simply because we didn't have older boys in the troop. A lot came in during Jason's year, and of them two are left, and one will probably get his Eagle before the end of the year.

An Eagle gets a pin, not a badge.

His mom got to pin his shirt, which was very sweet and I could see the joy on her face as she was standing there with him. I know her well, and have worked a lot with her. She does an awful lot for the troop and in some ways I think of her as my mentor. After getting his pin, he was given pins for his mother, father and his grandmother, who did not expect one, and she was just giddy because of it.

Finally, the Eagle is asked to pick someone to be his "Eagle Mentor" to make sure he stays on the right trail going forward in life, and he picked our Scoutmaster, which surprised our Scoutmaster very pleasantly.

Jason's Eagle Court of Honor

Everyone said 'aaaaawwwwwww!' a lot, there were lots of hugs, and it was very touching.

Then, the Eagle is "roasted."

His friends and those who know him best come forward and tell stories about his silliness, and make fun of him. Jason has a lot of "material" that one can make fun of him for, so his closer friends went to town with that and really had a field day. The summer camp director told a story about pranks Jason has played on him in the past, and Jason sat there sheepishly, denying all the accusations laid out against him.

Our State Representative Bruce Tarr was on hand to give Jason a commendation from the Massachusetts State Senate, and tell tales of silliness and boyscouttery himself. He is active in the District Council, so it was nice to have him there.

Jason's Eagle Court of HonorThe best part, aside from the humor and the pinning of his grandmother where I thought her head was going to explode, was when his two younger brothers presented him with a flag that was flown in his honor over the US Capitol Building and sent to him with a letter of commendation from Senator Kennedy's office.

He didn't expect that. He knew pretty much everything else that was coming, but this was not on the radar.

All told, it was a wonderful and very meaningful ceremony.

With four boys lined up behind Jason on the Eagle Trail, I think that they're inspired to do it and will stick with the program and do their community service projects and finish their required merit badges. Geoff tells me he wants to be an Eagle Scout, and I think watching Jason over the last year has really inspired him. He loves the Scouting program that he's in, and I'm glad of it.

And I know some of you may scoff, or say derisive things about Boy Scouts or the Jason's Eagle Court of HonorScouting Program itself.

I know that a lot of people have issues with some of the National program philosophies. I understand that. I disagree with some of the things that have been laid out in the past. But it is kind of like being "Catholic" and not agreeing with the Pope. As long as our boys are able to run their program, and we're doing what we're supposed to be doing, I'm very happy on the troop level.

I see kids who are nerdy and uncomfortable coming into a skillset that they can use that gives them confidence, and being shown the way by other kids who a few years ago were nerdy and uncomfortable. I see boys learning how to be effective leaders.

Yeah, some of you may make fun of the green kneesocks, but I see a mensch here. And I love this kid.

Congrats Jason. You've done well.

We had a big party after, with tons of food and happiness. Jess came too, even though she calls this Nerd Scouts, because she's friends with Jason. And because I knew she'd get along with a bunch of the other guys closer to her age that were there and boy did she ever have fun. Mostly she regaled them with stories of Geoff, and the laughed, and Geoff laughed, and all told I think that it made them like Geoff a little more knowing that he terrorizes his big sister. When Geoff gets excited or thinks something is awesome, he yells "Yahtzeeeeeee!" I told him that meant "Horray!" in Russian. What does he know.

So Jess told them stories of how Geoff drives her nuts with "Yahtzeeeeee!" and now they are ALL YELLING YAHTZEE! all the time. And she thinks it is funny. I told her "You think it is funny when Chris and Stevie and those guys yell Yahtzee but when Geoff does it you want to KILL him."

Who knows, maybe she does think he's funny and someday she won't hate his guts as much as she seems to now. Perhaps he'll let her sleep past 7am on a Saturday morning some one of these fine days by not yelling Yahtzeee! in his bedroom.

It was a good time.

Sunday I overslept church, bad person that I am... ha!

Justification: we didn't get home until late and I was up until 2am messing with the photos so I could upload them to the troop website. I got up and got ready and went out to the Range with my friend Jay.

Funny story for those who do not recall. Two years ago I stumbled across him by accident when Universal Hub linked to a blog entry he did about our cub scout troop and some, shall we say, poor behavior by some of the male parental units on an overnight camping trip. My husband was on that trip, so I emailed him and let him know that Doug was there, and shared some of Doug's thoughts about the experience with him. I also realized at that moment that his cover was blown. Someone from his hometown knew who he was. Mwaaah ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. And I fully respected that and him, and a friendship through blogging and scouting was forged.

Anywho, Jay is a gun owner in addition to being a cubmaster. Getting to know him over the past couple of years, he offered to take me to the Range if ever I was interested.

And yeah, I was.

Range DayI wanted to go shoot guns since I was in high school. Not all Dirty Harry or Gangsta Gangsta or anything, but just go, shoot a gun, and say I'd done it.

I also wanted to do it so I had knowledge (and you know knowledge is power) as Geoff was becoming interested in the skills involved with rifle shooting through the Boy Scouts. I figured, what the heck... my son and my husband got to shoot guns at Boy Scout Camp and I didn't even get a lousy T-shirt.

So we picked this weekend and went out on Sunday afternoon. The first half hour or so was Safety Time. Jay had me learn Coopers 4 rules of gun safety. We went over the two stances, Weaver and Isosceles, and I felt the Weaver was more comfortable because it was like archery, which I actually was good at back in the day.

He then taught me how to load a gun with fake bullets called "snap caps." Another one of Jay's friends was there with us. B described himself as a "relative n00b" to shooting, but he had some mad skill and was very helpful. Jay was on right side and Brad was on my left when I picked up the first of the guns, and Brad taught me quickly that I as holding it so incorrectly that if the gun were loaded and went off I would probably blow my index finger off. Thanks B! Jay didn't see where I had my fingers, as he was on the other se of me, so it was good to have that second set of eyes on my n00bness.

Jay started me out with plain paper plates for a "non-competitive" feel. He's had people who go out on their first shoot and get upset or angry when they don't hit the bullseye. I assured him that I didn't think I'd feel that way, but he wanted to start out with a nice big target, and a non-competitive feel. You can tell he works with little kids. heh.

The list of guns I shot, in order:

  • Smith & Wesson Model 17 .22LR (long rifle) revolver.
  • Smith & Wesson Model 422 .22LR semi-automatic (this is the one with the red dot sight).
  • Ruger Security Six .38 Special/.357 Magnum revolver (it is chambered for .357 Magnum but will accept .38 Special as well)
  • Browning Hi-Power 9mm semi-automatic
  • CZ-52 7.62X25mm semi-automatic (the Eastern European "Commie" gun with the "necked" ammunition).
  • And the rifle: Remington model 572 Fieldmaster .22LR pump-action rifle.(No compass in the stock or thing that tells time, though)...

We shot the pants off those suckers, and that was a lot of fun. He had me go through each of guns, and I moved back and forth between the ones I liked best. He moved us up to targets, and I laughed my ass off when i hit the bullseye dead on in the center with the rifle.

Range DayI shot guns, dudes.

I liked the Ruger and the Rifle best. The Commie gun was way too strong for me for a beginner. I think. But I shot it anyway. I had a hard time controlling it with the recoil, and felt a lot more comfortable with things shooting .22 or .38 special bullets.

I enjoyed the rifle, and discovered something about myself. I always knew my left eye was stronger than my right. I use it when I'm shooting with a camera that has just a viewfinder. And being right handed, sometimes this works out well. On a rifle, not so much. I couldn't see anything through the sights on the rifle when shooting righty.

So I switched to shooting left handed.

It was harder to shoot lefty, but I could see everything great. My accuracy improved when I put the rifle down on the shooting carol and used my elbow to balance. It also occurred to me that Geoff's problems with visual spatial relations makes a lot of sense to me now. After Boy Scout camp this summer, he had told me that he couldn't shoot the rifle and I couldn't figure out what the problem would possibly be. Well, I understand a lot more now about how the sights work, and the added layer of a target makes things difficult to see. I've had several friends say that this makes sense and he can learn to overcome this deficit and be able to do it. We shall see. But hey, now I totally understand what he's talking about.

Long and the short of it is, I will go back again and do it some more. I need to work on my upper body strength and control to reduce the recoil on some of the guns, like that Commie gun. Jay shoots it and it doesn't even move. I shoot it and it's all like "I'M CRAZY!!!!" heh.

Range DayWe were there for a good four hours.

It was a really good time. Toward the end I had just as much fun taking pictures, and y'all know I love to use the macro setting on my camera.

All the photos are here if you're interested.

I guess that about covers things. It was a busy weekend for sure. I usually don't get that much going on, where both days are 100% filled with awesome... but there you go.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Guster @ UNH!!!

Once April hit us here at the way out in, the doldrums and laziness of late winter were washed away and we hit the ground running. Sometimes in life, I don't update because I don't have much to say. Other times, it is because there is so much to say that I can't find the time or words. Right now I'm in the middle of one of those times.

Easter was cold but sunny, and church was nice. My kids are too old for the Easter bunny thing, so they (well, mostly Geoff because Jess played aloof and uncaring) helped hide eggs inside the sanctuary and then helped the little wee kids find them. I had my camera, and had an amazing time taking pictures of the 10 or so little ones who were there.

2 dozen easter eggs...We didn't go anywhere or do anything ... we stayed home, had a nice ham, and just relaxed together.

Since Doug has been working on Saturdays, I've felt like we've had no time together like that so it felt nice to just do nothing together. I dyed eggs with the kids, and it's something that I'm glad that it is something they have not gotten sick of doing, and we had a wonderful time.

The week went by pretty quickly. Thursday night I took Jess and another friend to see Guster at UNH.


It was a general admission show, and I was wary about doing that because GA shows are very out of control. We got there exceptionally early and scored some really great seats up off the floor where the band was easily seen. We were as close as we could get without going into the viper's den.

As I suspected, the floor indeed get insane. The college student ticket was 5 bucks so there were a lot of people who didn't know the band who were just there to be crazy. And I was also pleasantly surprised at how many people knew the songs, the big hits. the Fa Fas and the 4, 3, 2, 1, and ping pong balls were flying.

Then, the crowd surfing started.

About five songs into the show I saw the first. At one point I counted 20 people up there flying around. Heads and torsos dropping and legs akimbo, girls, guys, arms flailing. Damn. This is a GUSTER concert, not Red Hot Chili Peppers or something.

Ryan asked the crowd if they were okay with the grope machine and the audience went nuts. They did a little impromptu song, which I think they picked up doing from Barenaked Ladies, about the University of New Hampshire Grope Machine and how everyone was taking a long ride on it. There was more crowd surfing, more chaos, and I sat in my seat watching from a safe distance, knowing that at 42 I'd made the right choice.

No grope machine for me. I did take a video of the song, and will post it to youtube a little later.

The band sounded awesome. This was their first headliner show in almost a year due. 3/4ths of them had babies last year. Adam Gardner said something about how he'd been changing diapers for 11 months and this felt good.

All told, it was probably the best Guster show I've seen ever (out of 5) and I cannot wait to see them again. The did three new songs, all were great, and I am looking forward to the new album with great joy. Long live my Gusters!

Today, I'm home after running some errands. I have to go out and get a big veggie platter for my scout's Eagle court of honor this afternoon. Geoff is already up there doing work and getting things ready. I just can't forget to bring a change of clothing for him.

I'm very excited for the kid getting his Eagle. He's a great guy, I love him, and I know how much he gives the troop and the other kids. He is sticking around to be an adult leader now that he is 18, and I appreciate all that he does for my son and the other boys. I know how hard he has worked, I'm really proud of what he's done. This party will be a great time. And I know Geoff is watching this and thinking of his future as possibly being an Eagle too.

In other Boy Scout News, I am now the troop chaplain. I suggested we needed one, because none of the boys are working on that "A Scout is reverent" part of their law. Everyone on the committee agreed and our Scoutmaster said that it was something that he wanted to have put into place over the last couple of years but wasn't sure who would be good for the role. I'm looking forward to it. The clincher for me when I was thinking about volunteering was when I asked my kids and husband none of them laughed at me. so that was a good vote of confidence.

Tomorrow, we're going shooting.

I have a friend who is a member of a rod and gun club and an avid shooter. I have always wanted to go shooting, and I knew he is willing to take new shooters out, so I asked him if he'd take me to the range. Doug and I are both going, and I'm looking forward to it. I will, of course, let you know how that goes. And then in the evening we're meeting some missionaries from Bolivia who are with the agency my sister in law and her husband work for. They are staying with my friends Gary and Missy, thank God for them having the space to host them... whew! So I'll let you know how that goes too.

Well, I've gotta get myself going up to the Eagle court area to help set up and what have you. More later.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


Today is the first day it has felt like Spring yet. We went out to do some gardening and discovered our island meadow area that we started last year (remember the island meadow?) is One Giant Huge Unbelievable Bee's Nest. Huge. Giant. Pulsating. Horrifying.

And they're on the opposite side of the driveway too, which means they're expanding their colony to the fenced in yard area where the dogs live and play. Nice.

So we quickly retreated to the house and have to devise a plan. The gardening will have to wait. Maybe gonna have to call Vexcon and get weird Billy to come up here and exterminate some bees. Or something.

I got ahold of one of the scouting families, who happen to be beekeepers. Dad and one of the sons came over to check out what was going on before we start torching the land and spraying chemicals and napalm and screaming at the top of our lungs around the yard..

He said they are solitary bees, but why we have 10,000 of them is beyond him.

His son gathered up a few bees so they can go and make an identification. He said most likely that we shouldn't obliterate them because they're good pollinators, and people kill too many bees when they aren't a threat to them. Unless they become a danger or hazard to us or our property, we should leave them go to do their thing.

They might be really good for the meadow. And perhaps, that's why they're there. We had a couple of them last year, but nothing to this scale. Seriously... there are millions of them out there. dude.

These don't seem to have stingers, and didn't try to kill us as we stood out there chatting for over a half hour, so they're not a danger to us. We'll see what happens. I'm less terrified than I was at 1pm this afternoon when we discovered them. Hopefully they're all planning on flying away to be solitary bees and won't continue to live as Beeopolis for much longer.

And on that note, I've been sick for the better part of a week and the housework has suffered. Jess has tried to keep up with the dishes, but nothing else has gotten done. So I'm going to get up on it. More later.