Happy Easter! We are just back from a camping trip with our scout group. We dyed eggs with onion peels and cabbage, and we hiked in the hills of Garin Regional Park. The weather was excellent and so was the company.
Sol had a birthday last Thursday—now he’s a three year old, still up to all the same things as when he was two, except that he’s discovered a new interest in letters and numbers. He’s got the alphabet down and he can count up to twenty. He still, however, has absolutely nothing in the way of common sense, social propriety, or a respect for others’ belongings. So, uh, growth opportunities remain.
He did get to spend two hours this morning romping in a muddy creek. He was sodden and filthy when we finally dragged him away, and absolutely delighted with himself. Happy birthday, little buddy! You are a handful and a half but I am very much looking forward to seeing what you come up with next.
The 23rd Oaklanders went on a mushroom hunt yesterday, led by an East Bay Parks naturalist. We learned how to recognize some of the fungus among us–including the most poisonous of our local shrooms–and we got to explore one of the area’s more hidden/overlooked parks, Sobrante Ridge. There’s a very rare species of manzanita, the “pallid manzanita,” that only grows in two sites in the whole world, and Sobrante Ridge is one of them.
This picture of Sam toting along a napping Sol was snapped by John Granger, a fellow Rover (adult scout) in our group. I thought it was a wonderful photo and had to share!
This weekend our scout group hosted a campout for fifty people, including campers from three different regional BPSA groups: the 23rd Oaklanders, the 31st River Valley out of Sacramento, and the 4th Surf City up from Santa Cruz. It was the first time our kids had gotten to see BPSA scouts from other groups—wearing the same uniform, but with different-colored neckers. The big highlight of the weekend for me was watching how quickly the kids from different groups gelled and made friendships. Sam told me once that his best memories from his Boy Scout days were from the big Jamborees, and I feel pretty good about giving the kids in our group that same experience.
We had a great campfire with marshmallows and songs and skits. We had really fun hikes, amazing views, and delicious food—the Timberwolves made us fresh donuts in the morning and they were the best I’ve ever had.
I’m not blogging any of the big group shots because different families have different levels of sensitivity around photo sharing, but it was really awesome to watch three girls studiously building a big campfire or a bunch of older kids taking over the dinner prep jobs. I was also super proud because the dad of one of our families had never been camping before. And he’s African American, so from one of the demographics that’s really under-represented in national parks and outdoor groups (for reasons that become very obvious once you start looking at the shameful history of discrimination on public lands and in the scouting movement). He said it was “much more fun than I expected” and by the end of the weekend he was talking about shopping for a bigger tent! So, that felt pretty good.
We started the Oaklanders just because we wanted our sons to have a traditional scouting experience in an inclusive environment, but after running this group for a year I have realized that the potential impact is actually much greater than just a nice extracurricular for some middle class kids. There are other outdoor-focused youth groups that do great work, but because we are all-volunteer we are able to keep our costs much lower. BPSA scouting really is uniquely accessible, and because of that I think it has the potential to affect whole communities in a broader way. I have started to think that our little group can really contribute something to Oakland. This is not just for my own kids anymore—it feels like it could truly be something bigger.
Sam took this picture, and captioned it “His and Hers”:
So I guess this is, like, our thing now? I married a Boy Scout. Sam married a Girl Scout. Now we are both Rover Scouts in the BPSA and so help me, I truly mean it when I hold up those three fingers and promise (on my honor, to do my best) to render service to my country, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Scout Law.
Today our Scout troop took a hike in Knowland Park, and Robin (and the other Otter Scouts) were totally thrilled to find a bunch of lizards basking on this rock.
Robin’s face just cracks me up. Click for bigger version! (Photo by Sam.)
Yesterday our Scout group participated in an MLK Day of Service event organized by the East Bay Regional Park District—the 23rd Oaklanders, along with lots of other volunteers, helped spread mulch and pick up trash at the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline Park here in Oakland. Here’s a pic I snapped of Robin and Davy attacking the mulch pile:
Two hours later we had that whole pile spread out, along with two others just like it, and the kids got to walk around a bit and enjoy the shoreline. Several of the Scouts were disappointed that there wasn’t enough trash for them to find!
I just got back yesterday from a “Brownsea” training camp for Scout leaders. It was pretty cool! The idea was to immerse us adults in the same sort of program and environment that the Pathfinder Scouts (ages 11 to 17) will experience, so that we can successfully recreate that for our own troops. Our Oakland group doesn’t have a Pathfinder section yet–our kids are younger–but I’m actively planning for getting that part of the program up and running.
A couple pictures:
Oh my gosh, things have been busy since school started. It turns out that having two kids in two different schools, plus a baby at home, plus the time we put into our Scout troop, adds up to a very busy schedule? Who could have predicted!
Bullet points! I will give you bullet points.
- Robin is doing great in first grade. He has settled right in and comes home saying his days are “awesome.” Plus he’s burbling about volcanos and the Big Bang and hissing Madagascar cockroaches, so I think they’re even teaching him some stuff.
- Davy is one of the big kids at our co-op preschool now. I like my work days there: it’s such a happy, good place that even if I show up totally harried and stressed, I’ll end the day feeling serene.
- Sol the Wrecking Ball continues his rampage of terror. If he’s not transferring the dog’s kibble into her water dish by the fistful, then he’s in the bathroom, unspooling all the toilet paper. Or he’s climbing up the piano, or the bookshelves, or onto the dining room table. Or he’s digging around in the potted plants. The only reasonable thing to do with him is take him to a park, but working around his nap schedule AND the two daily school pick-ups is a challenge. He’s a challenge. I just keep telling myself it will get easier soon. Soon. Surely soon.
- Our Scout group is rocking along! We’ve had two meetings plus a group hike, and next Sunday we’re doing a “kid’s bike rodeo” as part of the Oaklavia Love Our Lake Day. Look at these cuties (click to embiggen):
And that is all the bullet points I have!
Did I mention I started a new Scout troop? I think maybe I didn’t mention that.
I had a really good experience as a Girl Scout when I was a kid, and Sam has very fond memories of his days in the Boy Scouts—Troop 420, I kid you not. (I understand their number has since been retired, but he’s still got the t-shirt.)
Unfortunately, due to the discriminatory policies of the Boy Scouts of America, I refuse to support that organization. But I still really want my boys to have that traditional Scouting experience, sooooo…we started a new chapter of the Baden Powell Service Association! The BPSA is co-ed and does not discriminate on any basis, but the program goes back to the original principles and practices established by Lord Baden-Powell in 1907. It’s very old-school, wilderness-focused Scouting, with badges and neckerchiefs and the whole nine yards. Kids 5-7 get to be Otter Scouts, kids 8-10 are Timberwolves, and kids 11-17 are Pathfinders; adults are Rovers.
Our new troop is the 23rd Oaklanders BPSA Scout Group, and we had our first meeting today! It went really well—the kids were great, and they seemed to get into the program pretty easily. We had them tying knots and singing Scout songs, and we took them on a walk through Joaquin Miller park up to Lookout Point. They looked adorable in their little uniforms. So far we’ve got an Otter Raft and a Timberwolf Pack: Sam is leading the Otters and I’m leading the Timberwolves, with lots of help from other parents. There seems to be a ton of interest locally in the BPSA program.
Our next meeting will be on August 17th in Tilden Park—we’re going to walk around Jewel Lake and talk about otters and their habitats. Did you know otters are making a big comeback locally? I did not, until I started planning activities for a group of Otter Scouts!