Monday, November 15, 2010

Camping! part 2

I'm back to continue the story, and before I leave the whole boy vs. girl in scouting thing entirely, I wanted to elaborate on the reasons why the girl scouts are more exclusive. The goal of girl scouts is to build young women of courage, confidence and character. Those are the three C's (NOT cookies, crafts and camping) that are most important, and the way to achieve that end is by allowing the girls to discover themselves, use their strengths, and cooperate with each other to reach their goals. So they learn by doing, their activities are supposed to be girl-lead (so they get to experience leadership), and they help each other. Study after study has shown that in mixed boy/girl learning environments, girls hold back, don't lead, don't volunteer, don't participate, and don't get valuable hands-on experience. So when the girl scouts camp, it is all about the girls learning and doing - hands on, and it gets sacrificed if boys are invited along, because you can't get boys to hang back and let someone else do it! In the same way, I could not get that father to quit "helping them" with the campfire, that is, taking the project over, and so the Brownie girls completely missed out on fire care learning. Smart Daisy leader that we had, the Daisies ended up with their own fire and marshmallow roasting, and maybe some learning happened at that end.
Interestingly, this was a source of some friction between the leaders of the Brownies and the leaders of the Daisies. Although only a few years separate the groups, they are surprisingly different in ability and tolerance, and what I heard, when they came back from panning for clam shells (no teeth found), was that the Brownies left them behind and the Daisies couldn't keep up, so therefore, the Daisies wanted to do their own hike and not combine that activity. Later, it was the Daisies who wanted to have their own (Smaller!) campfire and didn't want to continue at our Brownie bonfire. There were some hurt feelings on the part of the Brownie leader because as a Daisy leader the previous year, she felt excluded because her girls were young, and took pains to open the brownie arms of fellowship to include the daisies. However, I could see that the Daisy leader was correct in doing some things separately, mostly because it was easier to manage. There was no intention to hurt anyone's feelings.
The next activity was the hike, and my daughter foolishly went hiking without socks on her feet. Fortunately, she wanted me to go along, and I enjoyed it, even though I had to piggy-back her part of the way due to a growing blister on her heel. I hate having to be a mom/nag, but honestly, must all my prior hard-earned experience go to waste because she is too stubborn to listen to me and follow directions? Why is that?
We got directions for the hike from a friendly g.s. senior who lead us past a camp with other friendly cadettes and seniors and hiked about a mile before turning around and hiking back. After stopping by a bath house for a quick potty break, my daughter and I met up with another senior who piggy-backed Brianna the rest of the way to the tent so that I could patch her up. The Girl Scout spirit was alive and well in the welcoming faces and voices we met on the hike. It gave me hope that despite our misfit gaggle of girls who are on the verge of cliques and snottiness all the time, that they would emerge as friendly helpful women that would 'make the world a better place.'
We had some down-time scheduled after a snack of string cheese, pretzels and grapes, and I got busy with my bracelet making supplies. It didn't take long for me to have a whole circle of girls trying to weave a bracelet out of embroidery floss using the foam-circle method my daughter and I perfected. Several of the girls started the project but gave up quickly, but a few stuck with the project enough to get an inch-long chain of candy-striped weaving before it was time to cook dinner.
When I got back to the 'kitchen' it was just in time to see that a disaster happened: the majority of the macaroni for the mac'n'cheese had turned into a paste by the high heat of the cookstove, and was inedible. The less-than-half that had been cooked in MY pot had turned out fine, fortunately, so we just had to be conservative in doling it out. So the rule is, if cooking for 50 people, use teflon cookware! The beans came out fine (in my pot, I must add), and then it was time to cook the hot dogs and hamburgers. The hot dogs went on the little weber grill (yes, Jo, your old one!) tended well by one of the moms. The original goal was to have the girls cook them over the fire upon a stick, but as the fire was too big and dangerous, that learn-by-doing-plan got changed. I fired up the coleman propane grill and took out the hamburger meat.
Now, I do realize we went shopping at SavALot, and one cannot expect too much, but that 'meat' was a dull gray in color, squishy "as a crabby-patty" according to one mom, and full of fat and probably soybeans, but labeled 'all beef' (yeah, right). Cooking it was an adventure, because on low heat, they merely melted and lost 30% of their mass to falling between the grates, and on high heat, they flamed up so bad they were nearly black even with constant flipping on my part, and of course, there was no middle setting between those two extremes on the grill. I didn't eat one, and my daughter only ate half of hers, but most of the thirty or so that I cooked were gone by the end of the night. I and my tent-mate ate plenty of beans, so you can imagine what it sounded like that night.
After dinner, it was time for s'mores, and I started the water for hot-chocolate. It takes a long time and a lot of propane to heat two gallons of water! So long that, after I cleaned up the dishes (not many because we had paper plates), the girls wanted to retire to their tents rather than wait any longer. The fire had died down to a nice glow, and I roasted the last two marshmallows for myself, and realized for the first time how cold it was getting to be. I had time to get my jacket when Beth asked if there was just one more tent anywhere. We hadn't even gotten mine out of the trunk, so I offered it. The big tent had collapsed for the second time, and rather than shuffle the girls, we decided to drag its corpse out of the way and erect mine over its ground cloth in the full dark. Truck headlights were lent and the tent was up within minutes, while those girls who were sleeping in it went to have hot chocolate. I had put my daughter to bed in her tent when the troublemakers' tent started shaking and shrieking. I took them to get some hot chocolate and tried to get them to settle down. They took malicious delight in imaging shadows coming to get them and spooking each other with, "Someone's coming!" and the like. There was an incident earlier of two brownies drinking from the spout of the water cooler rather than finding their own cup, and I, for the first time, pondered how you punish someone else's child for wrong-doing. It wasn't just that they did it, its that they knew they were doing wrong when they did it, didn't stop when I told them to, and back-talked me to boot. I am going to have to ask the council trainers how to deal with this behavior, because it just shocked me that they could be this awful.
Once in their tents it still took a while before they settled down, and no sooner did they all shut up, then one popped out to go to the bathroom. My tent-mate and the other leader did the honors all night long escorting girls to the bath house. I was awake quite a bit, listening to the hoot of the owls, the rapid soft snore of my tent-mate, the coughing of my daughter, the rasping of my sleeping bag as I changed positions often. When I finally slept soundly, it was off my pad and tucked into the corner of the tent, but its where I ended up feeling most comfortable and warm. It got down to 42 and my shoulders were feeling the chill. At 4:20 I was glad to know the night was almost over. At 5:00 I thought, "only one hour to go." and at 6:00 after the night-owls woke up, I got up and dressed, too.
I started the stove for breakfast, and we had the remains of the hot chocolate to give the girls upon waking. The grits cooked well in my teflon pot, but the oatmeal had that burned taste I associate with camp...probably because no matter how much I stirred, some still burned to the bottom of those cheap pots and flavored the rest to its detriment. I hadn't brought enough brown sugar (barely remembered it at all!), and so we added some marshmallows to the oatmeal to sweeten it. It tasted weird! I can't say that it was much improved, but it really wasn't worse, either. Many girls opted for ham-n-cheese on hamburger buns, but the cheese grits were wonderful, I thought. While we cooked other moms broke down all the tents, and right after the closing ceremony and breakfast, many Daisy scouts and moms went home. A few moms stayed until everything was cleaned up and hauled back to the cars. Then we took pictures in our dirty, gritty, unwashed, poorly-slept state and headed back.
The girls had a great time; the parents were exhausted. I wasn't the only one to have a nap Sunday afternoon! It was worth all the work and worry, and I can't wait to do it all over again.


I will try to record our 28 hours of Girl Scout camping here while it is fresh in my memory and before I have to pick my daughter up from school. The total number of Brownies that went was fifteen and for the Daisies, thirteen which means we were outnumbered! We had twelve adults with the Daisies and eight with the Brownies, which meant that at least the ratio was favorable! Because of a few cancellations, we were not over-crowded, and despite my panic attacks the night before, we did have enough tents and blankets for all.
We met up at a church parking lot to do the final headcount, give everyone the gate code and directions, and headed off to S. Springs (abbreviated to protect the innocent...or guilty!), about an hour's drive. Some of the parents had started earlier, so I met them as the first of the leaders and directed them to our designated sites.
The Daisies are not allowed to camp primitively, and went to claim cots in platform tents. Their campground was cozy and there were four units each with four cots. Many moms chose to share their cots with their little girls which must have been crazy fun, but mostly sleepless for them! Otherwise, the mothers pitched their tents right next to the platforms to be close at hand. This wasn't strictly girl scout practice, but I knew we would not be under scrutiny, as long as we endeavored to keep the bath house clean and tidy...and bring toilet paper. So long as girls have enough TP, they can all get along!
The Brownies camp site had two picnic tables, a nice fire ring and a mostly flat open space for pitching tents. The Brownie moms and all the girls helped to build ten tents of various size for the first activity. The girls loved helping, and it was so gratifying to see how well they worked together and pitched in. They moved their packs and bags inside, and then the drama began... Who was in the same tent with whom? My own daughter wanted to be with her buddy and no one else, one tent-ful was fighting with each other which ended with one girl moving out and her sister moving in. One wanted her mom only, but finally accepted a friend (and enjoyed it!), and four others kept playing and keeping to themselves so much that their big borrowed tent was filthy and collapsing by the evening. One girl was wandering from leader to leader, anxious about where she would sleep, and the more her anxiety grew, the less welcoming the other groups of girls were toward her. Isn't that the way it always is? Leader Beth had to step in, give up her spot in a tent, insist that the other girls accept her, and once situated, the odd-girl-out was readily accepted and complained no more.
Tents built, moms gathered to make lunches (sandwiches, chips, fruit and brownies), and we had no sooner finished eating than a friendly leader from the lodge invited us for the tacos that a cadette group had made. We begged off, with many thanks, and later realized that she had no idea how many people we had brought! I stayed to clean up after lunch while all the girls and most the leaders went panning for sharks' teeth at a natural spring. I helped a late-coming mom to build her tent and we discussed the different natures of boy-scouts and girl scouts. Boy scouts are more inclusive, inviting full families (including girls) when camping. Girl scouts are fairly exclusive, and many were opposed to allowing one father to join our trip (as the mother was incarcerated). The father did come and helped out by bringing and storing food and cooking equipment. However, he also took over the fire preparation, stacking a huge amount of dried timber overhanging the fire ring, and when that sucker went up in flames, it was ... well, frightening. Lets just say that no woman anywhere would have built a fire like that...only a man would have done it!
Okay, I am posting this, and I will have to get back to more this afternoon.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kitten #1

The first of my new kitties I am blogging about is Tiger, the kitten that chose me. I named her as soon as I saw her fierce personality. She was the last kitten to be captured and the one who scratched Jason and got away the first time. She was the one who made an impressive "hiss/spit" combo that kept Jason away from her until I caught her, writhing and wailing and deposited her into the cat carrier. Tiger has always been more bold, more inclined to explore, the first one out of the cage, the room, the house (oops!). She was the first to claim a human and the first to really snuggle.

Jason kept confusing the kittens, so he coined the mnemonic, "Orange on the butt means Tiger in the head" to keep them sorted out. She also has a subtle ecru stripe down her nose. But the distinguishing feature for me now is her quintessential inscrutable cat look. You just can't read her expressions. She has none of the openness of the black cats. Her eyecolor is gray-hazel and she really doesn't even show contentment until she closes them.

Tiger has the most unmelodious voice I have ever heard in a kitten. It is scratchy, high-pitched and off-key, but fortunately she doesn't use it often. She has a nice breathing-purr and she was the first to purr for petting. Normally she gives me a little chirp to indicate she is looking for attention.
She was a little naughty at first, mistaking stinky clothes piles for litter boxes, but some care on our part stopped it from being a habit. She is the one who likes to walk across my keyboard, surfing me to some crazy site where I got a notice about a blocked virus (Thanks, Avira!)
Kittens are not very good sleepers, but she slept with me during a nap today. And Tiger is jealous! I have to take some pains not to pay too much attention to her sisters or she will sulk and give me stink-eye. She likes attention from Jason and our daughter, but its me she prefers. She has handled my absences well, and she is quick to forgive me when I return.
I couldn't be luckier with my little Tiger.