Saturday, March 27, 2010

Unicoi State Park Day Four

Breakfast burritos for breakfast! Yum! With real bacon…which I can’t cook. Oh, well, they were good anyway.

Papa took BroBear and BooBoo to the camp store to pick out Audubon plush birds (they make bird calls appropriate to the species when you squeeze them). T-Bear had picked out one the day before, and I guess that meant all of us had to have one. It was decided (I’m not sure by whom) that the bird best suited to me was the Loon. No comment necessary. Really. The guys also picked up some local patches and a sticker which BroBear affixed to Popper.

After breakfast we cleaned up and broke camp. Papa and I working together (with his bum hand) managed to have us completely packed up and ready to pull out within about 2 hours. Not bad. During pack-up the kids pretty much ran around and played, and BroBear (again) helped out by watching Baby Man (he earned $10 for services rendered during the trip). BooBoo kept our heart rates elevated by racing a scooter down the hill at break-neck speeds.

Once home, it only took about 30 minutes for us to unload Popper, clean her up (including the fridge), and closer her up.

Lessons from Day Four:
  • If you bruise easily (as I do), you will be covered in bruises after camping.
  • If you have a weak lower back, you will need a back brace. Bending, stooping, lifting, etc. takes its toll pretty quickly.
  • Have a permanent kitchen table set up near the stove with all your cooking stuff set out. Getting it in and out of the camper, especially if it’s stowed, is a pain. Same as above.
  • Keep the pantry in the back of the truck in plastic bins, not stowed in the camper. Same as above.
  • Dish soap can get weird when its cold.
  • Don’t take a guitar camping (BroBear’s idea). It’s a pain to keep it protected from the elements, and find a permanent space to keep it protected in general.
  • The little hook thingies on the roof of the camper are great for hanging the bathroom bag on. It only took me three days to figure that out, standing there thinking “I wonder what those hooks are for?” at the same time I’m holding the bathroom bag thinking “Where the hell can I put this thing so it’s accessible and out of the way?”
  • No matter how much laundry you do in preparation for camping, there’s always much, much more to do when you get back. Even if you only allow minimal clothing for each family member. And Sol-U-Mel works great to get the smoke smell out of everyone’s clothing.
  • Camping poops out dogs. This is a good thing, especially if you have a spastic ADHD dog like we do. (There’s a reason why Jenny’s nickname is Dory Dork-Fish Dog).

So, that was the Maiden Voyage of Popper. Everyone had a ball, and we're rarin’ to go again soon. You can check out Kit’s blog for a far more eloquent and lovely wrap-up of events. Be sure to check out the tent video…it’s priceless!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Unicoi State Park Day Three

After a cold and windy night, I got up early enough to grab a shower at the comfort station (fancy word for bathroom), just after noticing raccoons had gotten into the trash we forgot to secure the night before. Thanks, my dear, spoiled dogs, for alerting us to the critters rustling round under the camper in the middle of the night.

Jenny: "I'm just not sure about this lying down in the dirt thing. Where's my orthopedic dog bed? I think I'll just sit here for a while."

Jasmin: "I did not hear raccoons in the night. I have absolutely no responsibility whatsoever in this matter. And, laying in the dirt isn't really all that bad."

After breakfast we packed up a lunch and drove to the trailhead for a hike up to Anna Ruby Falls.

BooBoo at the trail head.

T-Bear demonstrating the Water Cycle and Mountain Stream Ecology.

The Whole Crew at Anna Ruby Falls (courtesy of a very nice gentleman who volunteered to take our collective picture).

It was a perfect length for the kids, beautiful scenery, and the falls were spectacular.

Anna Ruby Falls in all Her glory.

After a bit of a lunch/snack, Kit, Billy, Papa, BroBear and Jenny all continued on the long way back to the camp (another 4 miles).

Jenny: "Why you sittin' down?!?"
Papa: "Cause I'm tired!"
(Photo courtesy of Kit)

BroBear takin' the lead.
(Photo courtesy of Kit)

Meanwhile, I went back down the short way with the rest of the kids (that’d be four boys) and Jasmin. Back at camp, T-Bear needed a little carb stoking - one of those times when a snack just won’t do – so I whipped up some Mac & Cheese. The rest of the crew showed up a couple of hours later, tired but satisfied. BroBear did great, took lead for part of the hike, and didn’t complain during the tough parts. As he said, “I was whining on the inside.”

By the time dinner rolled around, the campground was filling up fast. I was kind of assuming there wouldn’t be many campers out at this time of year, but they were arriving frequently enough I kept the kids at our campsite. Some of the RV’s arriving were monsterously big, and I wasn’t entirely certain all of the drivers knew exactly what they were doing.

Some time around dinner came Injury Number Two. Papa Bear sliced a good chunk of skin off the pad of this thumb with a hatchet, pretty much down to the muscle. He was cutting off kindling, it was kind of dark, and he couldn’t see properly. He insisted it wasn’t bad enough to go to the clinic, so after dinner I cleaned and dressed it as best I could.

Lessons from Day Three:

  • Dogs who are comfortably sleeping inside the camper will not alert you to the raccoon(s) digging through the trash less than a foot away. They know you’ll make them go outside and chase the critter away if they wake you up, so “mum’s the word” as far as the dogs are concerned.
  • Trim finger and toe nails before you head off to camp. Long-ish finger nails get sore when you’re using your hands so much for grabbing, pulling, etc., especially in the cold. And, you don’t want long toenails in hiking boots. Especially with an ingrown toenail. Ouch.
  • Don’t wear TIVAs while hiking (courtesy of Papa Bear). Good boots are worth the price.
  • A good, well-made backpack is also worth the price. Mine is less than a year old, the inner lining has torn, and it doesn’t hold the weight close enough to my body to keep from killing my shoulders (as I’m walking down a steep path holding a dog/leash in one hand and a small child’s hand in the other). Investing in a GOOD backpack with appropriate weight balancing is no longer an option at my age.
  • Type 1 doesn’t have to take the front seat on any outings. Plan ahead, allow for unforeseen events, be flexible, and keep an eye BS. And always take snacks.
  • Never underestimate the power of Mac & Cheese as comfort food. And, Kirkland (Costco) brand Mac & Cheese doesn't have The Forbidden Three Ingredients.
  • Fire starter bricks are probably safer than trying to make kindling in the dark.
  • We need a better First Aid kit, and don’t count on the little camp store having anything more than Band Aids and peroxide.

And, on to Day Four!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unicoi State Park Day Two

We all slept well (even me), got up to a chilly morning, and Brother Bear took charge of cooking up a pancake breakfast for everyone. Shortly after breakfast came Injury Number One. While building a dam with rocks in the stream, there was an incident involving a rock slipping out of someone’s hand onto someone else’s hand and deeply cutting a finger. The latter someone was taken to the emergency room (about ½ hour away) for eight stitches and some goofy juice. But, I’ll let Kit tell you all about that.

In the meantime, back at camp, it rained. Kit and Billy, being the expert campers they are, had brought along and set up appropriate coverage over the picnic table areas. It was a nice excuse to hang out at camp and relax. Also, Papa Bear took the Cubs down to the camp store and got them hiking sticks.

For dinner we combined forces for a Low Country Boil. It was a first time for us. Yummy and fun food.

Lessons from Day Two:
• We need a better First Aid kit, and don’t count on the little camp store having anything more than Band Aids and peroxide.
• Try using pearl onions for the Low Country Boil.

Stay tuned for Day Three...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Unicoi State Park Day One

Overall, our first campout with Popper was a complete success. A great big Thank You to Kit and Billy for laying the groundwork and helping us make our first big camping adventure so great. I would have been WAAAAAAY stressed out if you had not been there.

It took some doing to get Popper loaded up, mostly because I was still fretting over exactly where everything must be perfectly placed, despite two weeks (or more) of intensive planning. But, we did get her loaded up, and Brother Bear and I got her collapsed and ready to roll while Papa finished up some work stuff. I’m pretty sure our next packing effort will be much smoother.

After about a 1.5 hour drive (not counting a quick trip through the drive-through for carb loading), we made it to Unicoi State Park near Helen, GA. If you’ve never been to (or through) Helen, it’s worth a look-see. One of the cutest little contrived Alpine villages I’ve been to in the U.S., and I’ve been to a few. It actually reminded me of Big Bear Village in CA, sort of blended with Solvang up near Lompoc, CA. Cute. Very, very touristy, but with enough artisan shops you’d be able to find some real treasures if you looked around a bit.

Anyway, we met up with Kit and family at our “buddy” site (accommodates two families at one site). They’d been there a bit and had already unpacked and set up camp. We backed Popper into our side of the RV space, and had Popper and our camp set up within about 30 minutes. Not bad for a first run. And, there was power and water, so we were sittin’ pretty. There were also bugs (ain’t they all supposed to be DEAD at this time of year?!?). But, it was the remains of a lovely, warm (not too warm) day, just enough for me to question whether I should have packed more shorts for everyone. But, the temperature dropped with the sun, and it was definitely jacket weather by the time we gathered around the campfire.

Lessons From Day One:

  • There are always bugs, no matter when or where you are camping. As a former neighbor of ours used to say, “Here in Georgia, we’re all about the bugs.” Take heed and pack accordingly.
  • Tiki oil works really well for starting fires when you don’t have enough kindling. Don’t ask why we brought Tiki oil even though we had no tiki torches. But it worked out pretty good, so who am I to question the Fire Gods.
  • Unicoi State Park has cell service, but no internet connection, even with an air card. This is a good thing.
  • You have to open the gas valve on the propane tank for the heater to work.
  • If you have a precocious child (or two) you will be told that Unicoi means "one Oriental fish." No, I can't keep up with them, either.

Stay tuned for Day Two.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Garden Log 3

Another perfect day for gardening...

BooBoo planting more stuff in his garden.

Papa Bear got the rest of the tomatoes planted, and cleared out, leveled and mulched the bed. Since he was running to Ace for a tomato cage and mulch, I asked Papa Bear to pick up some flower seeds. He brought back two more strawberries, packs of lettuces, spinach, cabbage, and red onion, and flower seeds. And mulch and a tomato cage. Gotta love him. So, I had a little more planting than I had planned to do today. But, whatever.

The expanded (again) strawberry patc.
Not sure why we have to have the crane in there...
I got everything in except the cabbage, ‘cause I gotta check my book (which is with Em) about where the cabbages need to go. I’m pretty sure I remember not to put them with the tomatoes, so I didn’t put them there. All that’s left now is to add flower seeds to complete the herb and tomato gardens. I’ve got marigold, three colors of alyssum and two of nasturtium. Those, plus a few more onion and basil, and everybody should be happy.

BTW, the reason I plant flowers in with my herbs and tomatoes is to provide the beneficial insects with shelter and food. They lay in wait under the alyssum until a pesky insect comes along, then they jump out and eat ‘em. Don’t need pesticides that way, and you can have a lovely little miniature eco-system right in your garden. Cool, huh?

The tomato garden, with lettuce, spinach and red onion.

I also planted the topsy turvey’s. Yep, Papa Bear bought four of “those things” last year. The plants didn’t fare too well, mostly, I think, due to lack of water. They were hung too high for the kids or I to water them, so they were dependent on Papa Bear’s reach for survival. This year, he got extension chains, so they’re hanging low enough I can reach them. Two tomatoes and two peppers.

Looks like rain tomorrow. Just in time to water our gardens. Perfect.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Garden Log 2

Finally, back into the garden today. A beautiful day, almost too beautiful to do anything other than lay under a tree and dream all day (I actually napped in Popper for a couple of hours this afternoon, listening to the birds, before hitting the garden). Planted two more strawberries in our little “patch”, mulched everything left needing mulching, fed Little Tree, and trimmed and fed My Poor Roses. I had 11 absolutely beautiful roses at our house in CA; here I have three poor, pathetic little bunches of twigs sticking out of the ground that occasionally toss out a bloom here or there. (sigh) Very sad.

The survivor chives have shot up, and I haven’t lost anything I planted previously. Which is good. Most of the mystery bulbs are blooming, or beginning to bloom, so I can ID them pretty soon. Can’t wait for the daylilies and irises to show.

Blue Tootheses

BroBear got his front braces today. Kinda hard to tell from the picture, but the thingies that hold the wires in place are actually blue (I was given a glossary of othodontic terms today, but have not yet memorized it). You get to pick the color you want. Cool. I think I'd want alternating purple, blue and red. But, I digress...

New installation. Yeah, he's as anxious as he looks.

Possibly even cooler, Dr. W himself called this afternoon to see how BroBear was doing. Not his "office", not his "nurse", but actually him. I didn't even recognize the number he was calling from, because it wasn't his office number. I really like Dr. W.

So, BroBear is having some discomfort, and is taking Advil to stave off the worst of it. It should get better soon. And, he's going to have a really nice smile in a couple of years. I don't know whether or not he's going to appreciate that, but I certainly will. When he asked me today why I never had my teeth straightened, I replied "Because my family couldn't afford it." I think it gave him something to think about, and certainly gave me one more reason to acknowledge the abundant blessings of our collective family life. We're doing better than our parents did, and isn't that the American Dream?

Oh, and BroBear lost a baby tooth in the car on the way to his appointment. Literally. It popped out as he was munching on an orange, and fell somewhere under the front passenger seat. He couldn't find it when we got home, and he's concerned the Tooth Fairie won't find it and know who to pay. As Dr. W said, "Well, that's another Dollar down the drain." He should know :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Garden Log 1

"I must confess, I quite like a tidy, organized garden." - Me

A long days work.

It was a perfect day for gardening. Sunny in the morning, warm but not too hot, and overcast all afternoon.

After about three hours of prep work yesterday in my kitchen garden (primarily herbs), I had uncovered several surviving herbs and had space to plant the bucketloads of plants Papa Bear brought home from Ace Hardware. I had requested he bring back some garden markers and one basil plant. I got quite a bit more.

Surviving from last year were two patches of chives, two parsley, an oregano, and possibly one sage. Today I added three cilantro (I haven’t been able to find cilantro in previous years, and need lots for my Fresh Avocado Salsa), an oregano, variegated thyme, rosemary, sage, basil seeds, and sixteen little lettuces. I fed the survivors with compost, and tucked the whole bunch in with about an inch or more of cypress mulch to deter weeds, keep the soil moist, and further feed the soil.

Garden Fairie flaunting for the new herbs and lettuces.

We’ve got a start on a strawberry patch. Three plants for now, also deeply mulched with cypress. I think they prefer straw, but I just used what I had on hand.

The new strawberry patch.

I also popped the mint into a pot. Planting mint directly in the ground is bad juju unless all you want in your garden is mint. Last night I made a very nice middle eastern salad that included mint, and I really liked the unique taste. I’ll be adding mint to more salads in the future.

We’ve also got bulbs pushing up. I cleared the soil around them, composted, and mulched, and will wait to see what they turn out to be. This year I SWEAR I’m going to identify and mark all of them, so I’ll know where to expect what next spring.

Mystery bulbs.

Oh, and I fenced off a small section for BooBoo so he has his own garden. The emphasis being on HIS garden, in direct contrast to MY garden. I’ve know it for years, but I’m really not the mellow, sharing everything, whatever grows grows sort of garden mom. I need my space. MY space. And, I’m probably over-invested in having my garden look like I want it to look, and produce what I want it to produce. Maybe someday I’ll get over that, but probably not this season. In the meantime, I’m not very generous about sharing space, soil, materials or tools. Bad Mommy.

BooBoo's patch of soil.

Up next, Papa Bear’s got four very large tomatoes to plant. We’ve been told it’s too early, never to plant before Easter because we’ll have another freeze, but he’s eager. For my part, I’ve got a few more hours’ work to finish clearing out the front walk planter, uncover what’s there, and mulch. Then, on to the mailbox planter, which has bulbs set to bloom. For tonight, by back is sore, my body is worn out, and I desperately need a bath. But, I am content.

Dirty gardening Hobbits'z feet...and winter toes.

Foot freedom after a long winter totally rocks.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Surprise

It was a spectacularly beautiful day. One of those when I can’t stand not to throw all of the doors and windows open to let the air and sunshine in, and can’t stand to have study time in the family room but must bolt for the back deck swing. And, stepping out the front door, I noticed my quiet little garden, still all tucked into its fall blanket of leaves. Waiting. With little green bits poking from under the leaves here and there. Sweet. Just couldn’t bring myself to go back inside without investigating, pulling back a few leaves here and there, to see what I could see. I took pictures, grabbed the sunscreen, sunhat, gloves and hand tools, and went to work.

Parsley snuggled in her winter bed of fall leaves.

And also Chives....surprise!

Parsley revealed....

I’d noticed the parsley several weeks earlier, just before the last snow (and thought “I ought to take a picture of the parsley in the snow,” but never got around to it). I really didn’t think anything at all had survived the number of hard freezes we had this winter, plus the snows. But, there it was. Parsley. In my little neglected kitchen garden. Crazy, huh? But, I wasn’t really expecting anything else to have survived. And, I was wrong. Two bunches of parsley, two patches of chives, and a tangle of Greek oregano (though it was looking pretty coarse). I don’t think the marjoram made it, (though I cut it back along with the oregano and parsley just in case), but that wouldn’t be too dear a loss, since I never cook with it. Have no idea why I plant it every year. I guess I just keep thinking someday I’ll come across some use for marjoram. There’s no sign of the tomatoes and peppers except leaf-filled depressions in the soil where they used to be. Gave myself a bit of a start digging into one of those depressions that looked like it might be a critter hole, remembering the copper head snake that bit Papa Bear last year. But, the worst I found in there were a couple of snails lying in wait to slo-mo pounce on my surviving herbs. The snails are heading to the compost, along with all of the fall leaves which so faithfully served my kitchen garden through winter, and the weeds that have not yet had the opportunity to take over (but would if my laziness let them).

Kitchen Garden laid bare.

Kitchen Garden after last Spring planting.

Garden Fairie flaunting for Spring.

My friend, Em, is coming in a bit with her daughter. She called to say the day was so beautiful she couldn’t bear to stay home, she just had to get out and play outside with friends today. I’ll do a little more clearing up in the garden, share some suntea with Em, dump a few loads into the compost, and maybe even mulch a little here and there. Gotta get my companion flowers planted soon, before the weeds have a chance to take hold and take over. Won’t it be lovely? Cosmos and marigolds and nasturtiums all cuddled up among the herbs? Sigh.

And, to think, just this morning I was so terribly depressed I could scarce drag myself out of bed. It has evaporated in the sun and fresh air, leaving only hope and joy and loveliness. I adore Spring…..

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Good Night, Popper

Last night we all slept in Popper. We enjoyed a nice supper with friends, lovely conversation, and one of the best grizzly bear hugs I’ve had in a long time (thanks, J!). Then The Five Bears and two dogs (not two cats) settled in for the night. Or, at least, most of the night. T-Bear woke up around 5:00, said he was “uncomfortable”, and wanted to sleep inside the house. I joined him so he wouldn’t feel lonely, and brought the dogs in with us so they wouldn’t disturb the remaining Popper sleepers. Both 100 lb dogs had decided they would sleep on top of Brother Bear, and I figured he could use a wee bit more room.

I’d forgotten how lovely and comforting it is to sleep in a mummy bag. I originally bought mine (mumble) years ago when my good friend, Kristi, and I embarked on the first of our shared annual summer excursions into the back country of Sequoia National Park, outfitted and guided by her neighbor, John. I learned how to weigh, balance, load, cover, and tie down packs on a mule (I’m pretty sure I’ve now forgotten how to tie down). How to saddle a pack animal and a mount, how to unload them and groom them, and how to feed them. I learned how to stay on a horse for five hours climbing steep trails, and I learned (the hard way) that a horse may want to roll in the sandy stream bed after a long haul up the mountain, and that you don’t want to remain on her back when she does so. (Neither of us were injured in the rolling incident, although I was good-naturedly laughed at). I learned that you can keep yourself cozier on cold nights by putting pack pads under the tent where you’re going to sleep (after you’ve let them air out a bit, otherwise they work up a mighty stink). And, I learned that there is just about nothing more comforting than slipping into a mummy bag after a long day of riding and setting up camp and an open-fire dinner and visiting with lovely people in the silence of the mountains.

At the trail head, Aug 1994. Still have the boots (which I still wear) and the hat (which Brother Bear wears) and the belt (which I'll be able to wear after I drop another lb or two).

When I bought my mummy bag, the sales guy asked whether I “slept warm” or “slept cold”, and the average low temperatures I thought I’d be camping in (to determine the temperature rating of the bag I needed). He also asked my height, and set me up with a bag that just perfectly fits me from head to toe. The bag is tapered toward the feet, so your feet aren’t wandering around in a big void where they’ll get cold. There’s a “hood” that comes up around your head, and a draw-string that allows you to tighten it down so there’s nothing sticking out but your face. Nary a therm of body heat is wasted in a mummy bag, so it keeps you much warmer on cold nights than a standard sleeping bag. It’s very light weight, and when you change position, rolling onto your side to curl up or onto your back to stretch out, the entire bag moves with you. You never roll over into a cold spot, because the whole bag is sort of an extension of your body. As long as you’re not claustrophobic, it’s a very sweet way to sleep.

So, that lovely comforting embrace is what I slipped into last night, the rest of The Bears snuggling into their bags, the dogs haurumphing down into a sleep repose on top of Brother Bear. The traffic on RR Pkwy almost sounded like a stream running next to our little suburban camp, as everyone drifted off to sleep. I didn’t sleep deeply, and I don’t expect I will when we camp. But, I look forward to our first real campout with Papa Bear and The Cubs. And I wonder what they will remember (mumble) years from now about camping in Popper…

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Raising Popper

The pop-up camp trailer has been christened “Popper” by the boys. Popper came home this afternoon after an hour-or-so long briefing by the guys at Lightnin’ RV. Papa Bear backed Popper into the driveway and we managed to get her all set up in about 30 minutes. Not bad for greenhorns, eh?

Popper backed into the driveway.

Brother and BooBoo unhitching.

The raising of Popper.
Yep, it's got a motor to raise and lower the roof.

Slide out and brace the front bed....

....and the rear bed.
Frame up the front and rear bed spaces, pop off the minidoor and slide the full door into place, raise up the kitchen unit, put the cushions on the benches, and viola!....

Basic living space, from front bed.

Kitchen (fridge is under).

Dining area (we put the table outside),
which doubles as a third bed.

Awning for a little shade outside.

So, we’ve got a stove, sink, fridge, RVque that attaches to the outside, portapotty, A/C, heat, and heated mattresses. There’s battery power, electric hookup, propane for the stove, RVque and furnace, water tank and hookup, electrical outlets inside and outside, and cable hookup (weird, huh?). We're planning a couple/few weekend trips between now and July so we can get the kinks worked out, figure out what other accessories and equipment we need, etc. We're all looking forward to venturing forth in our new coach...

I want to send a Great BIG “Thank You!” to Judi and everyone else at Lightnin’ RV. You folks are some of the friendliest we’ve met, and we truly appreciate your welcoming and entertaining the kids during our purchase experience. The kids will be talking about you guys and your fancy rigs for years to come, I am sure.

By the way, if anyone is in the market for an RV, this may be the time to snatch one up. Unfortunately, Lightnin’ RV's sales division is closing its doors on Friday. As of this afternoon, they had four rigs on the lot waiting for homes, all sporting discounted prices. Get ‘em while the gettin’s good.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Raising Freethinkers

Since the subject came up recently on FB, here's a re-post of something I posted on my "The Secular Side" group on the TJEdOnline Community over a year ago, just after attending Dale McGowan's seminar, "Parenting Beyond Belief". It was a fabulous gig, which I attended with S (who is now involved with establishing AIR), and which kicked off the launch of his book by the same title. In my humble opinion, Dale has got it all goin' on as a parent and as a human being. I follow his blog, I just love that he's local to the Greater Atlanta Area, and I fully support his efforts to "normalize" athiesm and agnosticism in the United States, particularly here in the Deep South (even though I'm neither athiest nor agnostic, but know several, whom I adore) :)

So, here's the original post:

This is from Dale McGowan's "Raising Freethinkers" seminar, and is passed on to you with his permission. Although he calls it "Nine Best Practices for Nonreligious Parents", I think it is equally applicable to raising Freethinkers and Statesmen whether you are religious or non-religious. If anyone disagrees, please let me know. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

1. Encourage ever-wider circles of empathy. Worldview, race, nationalism, and various other chauvinisms cut us off from empathy with others. Parents should encourage their children to reach beyond such artificial boundaries.
2. Encourage active moral development. Children can and should be encouraged to develop active moral reasoning by understanding the reasons to be and do good.
3. Promote ravenous curiosity. An active and insatiable curiosity is the key to learning and the engine of a productive and engaged life.
4. Teach engaged co-existence. Religion in some form will always be with us. Our job is to raise kids to co-exist with it while engaging and challenging its adherents to make its effects more humane – and inviting the same in return.
5. Encourage religious literacy. Kids must be knowledgeable about religion without being indoctrinated into religion.
6. Leave kids unlabeled. Calling a child a “Christian” or an “atheist” is counterproductive to genuine freethought. It is just as dishonest to label a child with a complex worldview as to call her a “Republican” or a “Marxist.”
7. Make death natural and familiar. By shielding our children too completely from the contemplation of death, we set them up for a much more difficult and dysfunctional adult relationship with mortality.
8. Invite the questioning of authority. At the heart of freethought is the rejection of the argument from authority. Encourage children to ask for the reasons behind rules and the reasoning behind answers.
9. Normalize disbelief. There is no greater contribution nonreligious parents can make to their children’s future as freethinkers than to make religious disbelief a normal, unexceptional option in our culture.

So, there you have it. Some pretty basic guidelines for raising kids who think. What else could you, as a parent, need?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ready For Camping

Now that we’ve taken the plunge and committed to meeting up with my family in Oregon in July, and now that Papa Bear has plotted out a panoramic tour of the National Parks, we’re now taking a look at the practicalities of this type of vacation. Papa Bear had been looking at various camping trailers and such to see if there is something suitable to rent for the three weeks, and has found a few options. But, they’re a little pricey for “just” a rental. Since we’re likely to be using a pull-behind rig frequently, we thought it might be worthwhile in the long run to just buy one, if we could find a good deal. Which my genius brother, JoBro, did. From California. Believe it or not, he located a nice little pop-trailer right here in town being sold by an RV dealer who is going out of business next Friday. They need to liquidate their remaining inventory. So, we went and took a look, and put down a deposit to hold it. A few hours later they called to say the financing came through, so we’re scheduled to pick it up on Saturday. After a 1 ½ hour orientation on how to work the thing. My other genius brother, C-Bro, has already sent us a list of accessories we should consider getting. Camping is in our family's blood, and my bros are pros.

In the meantime, BooBoo is ready to camp. He’s been hounding me for weeks to help him set up a tent in the front yard so he can camp out there. He doesn’t seem to be the least intimidated by the 20 degree nights we’ve been having, or even the slushy snow we had the other day (he was insisting we set up the tent in the snow). He finally got the better of me today, we located our small tent, I helped him set it up, and he’s determined to sleep in it tonight. And tomorrow night. The night after, he’ll be sleeping in the pop-up in the driveway. He’s got his sleeping bag and pad, PJ’s, a lamp, and two fresh baked biscuits he swiped off the cooling rack. He explained that he can’t survive two days without food, so he’s got one biscuit for each day he plans to be out there. Thinking ahead, that one.

The Tent

The Determined Occupant(s)

For my part, I took a stab at baking fresh bread in the electric roaster. It may be foolishly optimistic for me to even consider making fresh bread while camping, but we’ve got plenty of time to figure out whether or not it will be worthwhile. My baking stone had cracked in half last time I used it for pizza, so the two pieces set on the rack in the bottom just fit. I grabbed some dough from the fridge and made some biscuit-sized bits, popped them in, poured in the water, and they turned out just as fabulous as the oven variety. Maybe even better, if you can believe it.

My Cracked Stone in The Roaster. No comments, please.

I swear, I made more than two biscuits...

Ah, the missing the tent.

So, another day of homeschooling. I’ll have to figure out how to classify RV shopping and tent set-up on my attendance form. As with appliance dismantling and kitchen faucet installation, I’ll probably just put it down as “essential life skills.”

And, tomorrow is another day…

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We're Back!

We took a couple of weeks "off" to watch the Winter Olympics, and are getting back into routine this week. There were so many sports that we loved watching. The Winter Olympics seems to be full of sports with a high risk of crashes and injury, it really makes watching a compelling thing. Yeah, I have to be perfectly honest and say some of the crashes and wipeouts are part of what makes watching fun and interesting. "WHOA!!! DID YOU SEE THAT?!?" was frequently bellowed during our family viewing time. I think the short track speed skating had to be our overall family favorite. What a pile of chaos that sport is, and Apolo Ohno is a truly classy guy.

Not that it was all TV viewing. I read a great little youth novel called The Graveyard Book by Neil Gayman, recommended to me by Kit. I really enjoyed this book, nicely written, sort of quiet and unassuming, but tantalizing. I'm now reading it aloud to the boys, and they're loving it. And, Brother Bear listened to the audiobook of The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett for his Kids Book Club (which met today for discussion and activities). I never read it as a child (or as an adult for that matter), and have been pleasantly surprised at how much I am enjoying it. I've just about decided to give up reading adult classics for awhile, and just read youth classics.

It snowed AGAIN yesterday, the third time this winter. We keep telling the kids it doesn't snow very often in Georgia, but for some reason they don't seem to be believe us. It has snowed every winter since we moved here three years ago.

On Sunday, for the first time, we had to keep T-Bear home from an outing because of low BS. All three boys were invited to go to one of our local indoor aquatic centers (BooBoo calls it the "pool-o-rama") with a neighbor, and Brother and BooBoo went. But, T-Bear woke up very low, and it would have been very bad juju for him to go off with an untrained neighbor for a glucose-burning activity without taking time to stabalize him. Needless to say, there was great upset. But, I made a deal with him; if he did a good job of testing and dosing for the next three days, I would take him to the "pool-o-rama", just me and him. After book club today, we went, and he had a grand time.

We made a committment to join my family's camping reunion in Oregon in July, and Papa Bear dove head-first into plotting out and planning a grand tour of the U.S. National Parks, camping at numerous locales on the way out there and back. It's looking like about a three week excursion, including the time spent camping with my family, and stopping in to see more family on the way through California and Arizona. Everyone is very excited, and we've got great plans to study our National Parks system and other important sites we'll be visiting.

So, that's about all I can remember about the last couple of weeks. I'm sure if I download my camera, I'll remember a few more things. But, I don't feel like doing that right now. I wanna go to bed. Goodnight.