I Didn’t Come This Far

My eye’s widened when the rich black velvety coffin box was opened. Inside was a sterling silver Eagle medal, an Eagle Scout embroidered emblem, an oval pin for the Eagle’s mother and one for the dad. The Boy Scout Eagle Presentation kit was impressive.

I was silent, contemplating the honor of being an Eagle Scout and the work it involved: 21 merit badges, camping requirements, an Eagle project, paperwork filled out and verified.

Everything about this presentation box was great, except one thing.

“Juan Jose’ has two moms,” I said. “Can I exchange the dad pin for another mom pin?”

“I don’t think that’s a problem,” the female receptionist agreed. “Let me check.”

I didn’t come this far in scouts with Juan Jose’ to get a dad pin.

Juan Jose’ and Beth

I reflected to first grade when he joined his Tiger den. I thought that I’d be able to drop him off at the meeting, run an errand, return and pick him up. I soon found out that dens were as strong as their parent volunteers. It was also clear that our Tiger den leader needed help with our group of boys. The male den leader and I became a team. I organized the projects and the field trips, and he used his booming voice to bring the boys to attention. When he couldn’t make the meetings, I’d surprise the boys with my wolf whistle when I needed them to listen.

Juan asked me why he had to be in cub scouts. Because you have two moms, I told him. You need to know how to navigate in a group of boys. There are things I can’t teach you. He responded saying he liked his life and I could be his dad. It doesn’t work that way, I said, though his words made me feel good.

Our den at a field trip to city hall.

I was proud of the fact that our den of ten boys stayed intact for five years, with many of the cub scouts receiving their Arrow of Light and going on to join boy scouts.

I had agreed with Juan that once he reached this point, he could make the decision to go on for his Eagle or to stop scouts. I thought for sure he’d quit. Especially, after the camping trip that was supposed to show how fun it was to be in Boy Scouts which seemed more like an evening of hazing. That night, the worst of nights, when it was darker than dark, we were both crying. I reminded him that he didn’t have to do this anymore. He could be done.

During troop visits, he found one he liked, and he stayed. I told him that I’d support him, be right at his side, but since this was his decision, quitting scouts wouldn’t be an option until he earned his Eagle.

Arrow of Light

I touched the softness of the presentation kit. I could hear a woman telling the receptionist that I could swap the dad pin for a mom pin in the Scout Shop downstairs.

In the Scout store, I opened the kit and asked to swap the dad pin for a mom pin. “My son has two moms.”

“Oh no, we don’t do that,” the man said. He was my age, greying at the temple.

“That’s not what they said upstairs,” I told him.

“Who said that?” he countered.

My voice raised, “The only two women up there. The receptionist and the woman she asked.” I was ready to go to battle. He didn’t understand that I didn’t spend all this time in scouts to get a dad pin. The fact that I had to argue about this was ridiculous. Two moms in Juan Jose’s life had been normal for him since he was eight months old.

“I’ll take it up with them,” he said. “Just a moment.”

When he came back with the mom pin, I smiled. I watched as he undid the dad pin, replacing it with the mom pin.

I couldn’t help it, my smile grew. “Maybe two dads will come in and you will have another dad pin,” I said.

He grunted. I laughed, knowing I had spoken his worst fear and that it could happen.

 

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Two Moms, A Sister, and a Boy Scout

Taking the dental supplies to the clinic through the streets of Anitqua, Guatemala

Taking the dental supplies to the clinic through the streets of Antiqua

When Juan Jose was ten, he was dumped in the Brule River not once, but twice when I was at the helm of our canoe. Without help from strangers, we would not have made it to the landing.

He’s almost 14, and he recently completed a comprehensive water-based safety course that involved practicing self-rescue and rescuing other kayakers with his Boy Scout troop in Lake Superior. These are necessary skills for the wilderness cold water kayaking that he’ll be doing in Alaska with the Scouts this August.

Juan didn’t join Scouts to learn how to navigate water. He joined Scouts to learn what his two moms and sister couldn’t teach him.

I became a Cub Scout leader by default. He wouldn’t let me drop him off while I ran errands for an hour.

Dentist Hugo, Juan Jose, Hygenist

Dentist Hugo, Juan Jose, Hygienist

When it was time for him to cross over to Boy Scouts, he decided to stay in scouting. This surprised me. I was preparing myself for a free evening. Instead, I trained to be an assistant Boy Scout leader. He still wasn’t ready for a parent to drop and run.

Juan was pulling away from me though. I no longer went to all of his campouts. When I did go, he was caught up in the flow of scouts running from one event to another.

Today, he completed his Eagle Scout project in Guatemala. He raised funds for children to receive dental care, and he collected over 130 lbs. of toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and dental supplies .

Juan gave the children sunglasses so they wouldn't be blinded by the light. That's how it is done at his dentist in Richfield.

Juan gave the children sunglasses so they wouldn’t be blinded by the light. That’s how it is done at his dentist in Richfield.

The money he raised enabled 14 dental cleanings, 34 extractions, 31 fillings, and 28 sealants. Care that these children would not have received otherwise.

He gave one suitcase of dental supplies to the dentist and a suitcase of toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss to De Familia a Familia. This organization is a link between birth and adoptive families. They have over 260 families that they are currently working with.

Juan couldn’t have done this project without help from relatives, friends, neighbors, and strangers.

And, his two moms and sister.

Six teeth extracted and a dental cleaning.

Six teeth extracted and a dental cleaning.

Because of all of us, he’s learned to navigate waters and to pull himself back into his kayak.

Thank you.

“Been Doing It For 28 Years. They Can Plant Me Here”

Joe

Joe Glaccum

I’m talking with Joe Glaccum, Director of Services for Many Point Scout Camp. “Always been a food man,” he says. “This has been my calling.”

Antonio and I are at Many Point for a week- long adventure with Troop 110 from Minneapolis.

This calling of Joe’s is providing 128,000 meals each summer to over 250 troops from numerous councils across the United States and Canada.

Many Point provides all of the meals, but the preparation varies based on the subcamp that you choose.

Commissary and dining hall service is offered.

A combination of commissary and dining hall service, which is what Antonio’s troop chooses, means the camp provides all of the ingredients for breakfast and lunch and the patrol prepares it themselves. The evening meal is delivered cooked from the Dining Hall in a hot stack and ready to serve.

Joe pointing out the special diet shelf.

Gluten, nut, dairy, vegetarian, and religious needs cared for at Many Point

 

Substitutions can be made for gluten, nut and dairy allergies as well as vegetarian and religious observances.

In our group of 19 scouts and 3 adults there are three vegetarians.

Joe speaks in a deep gravelly voice. I rush to write what he’s saying. I’m in the presence of a sage.

“You must be college educated,” I say. Though I know it isn’t true. A person knows when they are sitting in the midst of experience.

“I’ve been hit on the head so many times that I listen,” he exclaims. “Each patrol will fill out a review at the end of the week. I read each and every one of them.”

He goes on to say that a key to his success is having a menu that is extremely liked by the boys and one that adults will accept.

I think back over the meals I’ve eaten. Eggs, sausages, pancakes, hamburgers, hotdogs, macaroni salad, grilled cheese, tomato soup, etc…. and I agree. No one in our troop has gone away hungry. There has also been an abundance of apples, oranges, cantaloupes, etc…..

For those Scouts who might be a bit more particular there is a milk crate of staples that each patrol receives at the beginning of the week and can be replenished. Inside the crate, packed in a specific way is a roll of paper towels, ketchup, mustard, peanut butter, jelly, ramen noodles, oatmeal, brown sugar, dish soap, salt and pepper, packet of sanitizer tablets, matches, garbage bags and a scrubby for washing dishes.

Joe has 12 people working for him.

Items are placed in each crate the same way. Crates are color coded for size of patrol.

Items are placed in each crate the same way. Crates are color coded for size of patrol.

In 28 years his most major improvement is that he systemized everything. I recognize it as the 5S pillars, Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.

“In the early days, the commissary was a huge store. The only trading post on the property. Each troop would come to the store once a week and put in their order.”

He chuckles. “Red Owl ran it for one year. Lost their shirts. Never came up again.”

Joe still remembers his busiest year. It was 2001. “I was business manager, trading post director, services directory, commissary director, and driver. I worked 16 hour days, 7 days a week. I loved it.”

His staff returns year after year. “It’s a very rewarding workplace. I hire good people. I let them do their job. I ask questions – that is all.”

July 16 2015 421He emphasizes, “I have a really great crew. As long as my brain functions I can do this job.”

He’s been on 5-year plan since 1987. “Next year I plan to renew it for 5 more years”, he says.

Our conversation is interrupted by a phone call. He needs to leave. He has 99 patrols to feed next week and he’s tweaking the menu for next year. The lettuce salad that we had last night wasn’t the home run he was looking for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signposts

Hemlock Trail

Hemlock Trail

I pointed my cross country skis toward the 3.2 km green striding trail. What’s that …. about 1 ½ miles? I could do that.

If only I wouldn’t have missed my turn. At each intersection you need to stop, look and think. I did but I still went straight on Memory Lane instead of turning left to stay on Hemlock Trail.

Hemlock Trail was certainly beautiful with the pines, their branches cradling snow.

Memory Lane was a straight path to the evening before.

Last night it was dark outside Indian Mountainhead Resort main lodge. A sharp cold. Not cold enough that I couldn’t stop, gaze at the brilliant stars and marvel at the wonder. I filled with gratitude for this great universe of ours and my life.

I have a good life.

February 23, 2015 168I had just left my 12-year old son in the swimming pool without even saying goodbye. He was with other Boy Scouts. Generally, Antonio and I bob heads, nod in acknowledgement to each other, or say a few words before I leave him. This time I didn’t. Not because I couldn’t see him in the fog that rose above the swimming pool, but because it wasn’t needed.

This was a first.

There was no signpost saying RITE OF PASSAGE. No moment of THIS IS IT.

It just happened.

Memory Lane

Memory Lane

The entire weekend was like that. He was independent of his two moms and sister.

He chose to be with the group of boys even though we were an arm’s length away.

When I told a parent about this later, she mentioned that it was a bittersweet moment.

It didn’t feel bitter. There was no sadness. I used to be afraid Antonio would never leave my lap and that kids would make fun of him. Instead of pushing him off because that certainly didn’t feel right, I learned to enjoy his closeness.

When I reached the River House, I knew I was on the wrong trail. I turned around and went back to the intersection and took a right onto Hemlock.

February 23, 2015 200Jody was already waiting for me in the warming cabin. She had gone further and faster than me. That’s not unusual.

The next day, I planned to ski Hemlock Trail again. And this time, I would know the signposts.

Try And Make Me!

9781623364069_p0_v1_s260x420[1]I still have my book. It has di Grazia scrawled in black magic marker on the front cover.

It is my guidebook, rules to live by. I have no intention of ever purging the book or giving it away as I have many parenting books.

Today, I leaf through try and make me!, pages stiff from absorbing moisture in the bathroom. “I’ve seen that book,” Crystel says as I carry it upstairs to write this blog. Indeed she has. For kids from 2 to 12 it says on the front cover. Antonio has just turned 12 and she’ll be 12 in six weeks. She most likely saw me reading on the couch when she was little. I also recall many times when I slipped away from the two toddlers to read a chapter that was happening RIGHT NOW. That’s what I liked about the book. I could relate.

Crystel and Antonio on our visit to see Antonio at Boy Scout Camp

Crystel and Antonio on our visit to see Antonio at Boy Scout Camp

Defiant kids are born or made. Because Antonio and Crystel are adopted, I was constantly trying to determine where their behavior stemmed from. In the end it didn’t matter. It wasn’t a question that was on my mind when my three-year old was jumping up and down in Super Target yelling, “No, no, no.” Instead, I glanced around for a place to sit. Then said, “Let me know when you’re done.” (Thank you to the mothers who acknowledged me and asked if I needed help).

Once, I did ask for help. I asked a security guard at the Mall of America if he would escort me and my child out of the store. He looked like a policeman to the five-year old who immediately glommed on to my legs when he realized what was transpiring. “Do you see what is happening here?” I said. “I can’t walk you to the car alone.”

12-years old

12-years old

Page 6. Never, Ever Give Up. That was the child’s last fit. It took years of constantly disengaging from his behavior and letting his problem stay his problem.

Four characteristics of defiant children are: control-craving, socially exploitive, blind to their role in a problem, and able to tolerate a great deal of negativity. Beyond these characteristics there is another difficulty that can make a child seem defiant: inflexibility.

To combat these Jody and I keep to a schedule, have rules for the children, and when they don’t follow them there are consequences. Because we have been doing this since they were young, few words need to be spoken. “Dude, you just lost your electronics,” is sufficient. Sometimes, I just purse my lips (so I don’t respond in anger), shake my head back and forth, and say, “You can continue–but there will be a consequence.”

Crystel, Jody, Antonio, Beth

Crystel, Jody, Antonio, Beth

When the children were young I often looked for the root cause of a fit. In reviewing the Mall of America incident, I came to realize that I had broken my promise to my child to take him to the Lego Store. It had gotten late and I could see that he was over-tired (problem). I thought it was more important to eat than to go to the store because all of us were hungry (problem), which led to the broken promise (big problem).

If I had been proactive, I wouldn’t have been at MOA with a screaming flailing kid at my feet, concerned that I was going to be asked for identification. In the days to come, I apologized to my child and told him that we would go on a date to the Lego Store. “We won’t buy anything. We’ll spend up to 45 minutes looking at everything.” And that is what we did.

It was my child’s 12th birthday when I realized how far we’ve come. He was on his fifth day of a weeklong Boy Scout camping trip at Many Point. I promised him that we’d come see him on his birthday even though it was a 10-hour round trip.

Lots to be proud of.

Lots to be proud of.

He saw us drive into the parking lot, and ran hollering, “Mama Beth, Mama Jody, Crystel.” Before his long strides reached us I thought of the bugs, the night, and the uncertainty of tent camping and a group of boys cooking outdoors. All those ‘thing’s’ that bothered him as a child. When he was young, to reduce his anxiety we bought a tent trailer, cooked food HE liked (and didn’t let it touch other food on his plate), and I accompanied him on all Cub Scout camping trips. This time he was alone to manage for himself.

I started crying before he even reached me. This child had grown up and was doing just fine. I hugged him hard with the knowing of how far we both had come.