Monday, September 26, 2011

Pirate Retreats and Girl Scouts

I went for a walk with a three ladies the other day, two of whom are in Girl Scouts.  One is a leader for a Brownie group and the other is my service unit manager.  A couple of delightful things happened during that time.  Other than the exercise that always makes a body feel better, the SUM brought out a copy of the NEW Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting for Juniors for me to peruse and explore.  The good news is that the books are arriving...the bad news is that the corporate powers significantly underestimated how many books they needed to print and have available.  Apparently, they estimated that only 7% of girls buy books each year, so they decided to only run that many (or perhaps I mis-heard and they ran a few more, but it wasn't a full run).  They didn't take into consideration that many of the books have been handed down from one sister to another or that leaders had a collection to use for all the girls so that they didn't have to buy any (especially for low-income areas).  Since these books haven't changed much in quite a few years, and there is virtually no writing to be done in them, there was no reason to buy new ones every year.  They didn't take into consideration that everyone would need to start from scratch.  Not surprisingly, they sold out within hours and it'll be several weeks before they have enough to meet the demand.

Also, while looking through the book, I discovered that the GSUSA has decided to maintain the "Make Your Own" badge.  We'll be doing a lot of those, starting with a needlework badge...since there are no fiber arts for the girls until they reach Seniors...which is 8th & 9th grades. 

In addition, Renee loaned me a copy of her 1972 edition of the Junior Girl Scout Handbook, which I have photocopied in its entirety and will be pulling ideas from to create our own badges.  It's amazing how much information was in those earlier books about traditions and history that is no longer in the handbooks.  I don't know what I'm going to do with this, but I want to make sure that each of my Girl Scouts get copies of this in some form or other.  I'm sure it's copywrited and totally illegal, though.  Sure, a few bits of it is really outdated, but most of it is still relavent and important to every girl today--even the modern feminists in a computerized world need to learn the lessons of the past. 

After our walk, we went blueberry picking at a local farm just down the hill from me--the last berries of the season.  I found this little guy on a leaf in one of the bushes.  Isn't he CUTE?  I carefully set him back at the base of a bush after I took a couple pictures.  I got about $6 worth of berries, which filled one gallon ice cream bucket--that's a pretty awesome price!  Kelly was a pretty happy guy to find out I was picking berries; those things just don't stay around our house for very long.  I think he ate 1/3 of the bucket in the next 24 hours, but the kids do their share, too.  I also think I paid about 10 cents for the spiders that rode along...I kicked out the two big ones.  You can't be an arachnophobe to pick berries.  Seriously.

Cammie's soccer team had a game on Saturday and they did pretty well. I think they lost by one goal, but it was still well done! Ben's team had a game on Sunday and two of the kids were not there--one due to sickness and one was on vacation with his family--which meant that all the kids had to play with no substitutions. Ben paid attention and participated for about half the game, and the other half he was watching his shadow or running in circles. Even so, the three other boys held their own and they lost by just a couple goals.

We had a quilting retreat last weekend.  Sharon & her daughter, and Michele came down and spent the weekend.  Miss O and Cammie played and played...we hardly saw them except at meal times.  I was able to get a quilt top finished for charity, another quilt top is nearly finished for charity (the one at left, which is about 45" square but still needs two seams to be sewn and a border), and a third quilt that just needs a bit more quilting was worked on as well.  I also made an underdress for Miss O for an All-Saints costume.  Michele and Sharon both got several small projects finished, too--a skirt, pillowcase, two table runners, and more. 

While we were quilting, the doorbell rang and the Fed Ex guy handed me a box.  Inside was this little beauty!  Kelly finally took pity on me and replaced my computer with a new Dell (he was also probably tired of listening to me cuss at the old one).  He wasn't expecting it to show up for another week, so it was a surprise for both of us...but mostly for me!

It's going to be great to be able to use a computer that doesn't continually overheat, shut down, and move slow as that snail up above. 


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Girl Scout Follow Up

The meeting went pretty well, especially for a first day back.  We almost didn't have a meeting because I didn't have a co-leader for the day.  I went ahead and started anyhow, figuring I could write a note to the other parents asking them for a little more support or it can't happen.  Fifteen minutes in, my co-leader came in with her daughter (who is homeschooling this year), and she promised to be there on time for the next meeting.  She just got my email a short while before and raced over to the meeting. 

The girls drew self-portraits and I talked about Catherine of Aragon, though I didn't mention her name, just to see if they could guess who it was.  They couldn't.  I gave lots of hints about the husband--they guessed Charles I, Edward II, and Harold.  Don't know who Harold is.  Unless she was thinking about the last Viking, Harold Hadrata...not likely.  Anyway, I said he had six wives and THEN they got it!  Fun to watch those light bulbs go off.  :)

I demonstrated the stitch, but we really ran out of time for them to practice enough, so they are having trouble working on it at home.  Maybe I'll have a refresher course for next meeting and they can keep on working while we talk about other things, brainstorming how to change the world and stuff.  I'm going to be meeting with Brownie leader and the Service Unit leader in a couple days to see if I can get more information about when the books are actually coming out and if there are any other online sources to consult to get a jump start on earning badges.  I'm really irritated that they left us hanging without much to work from for the first part of the school year.

One of the things I was looking into was the "artist" badge that each level can earn, and it appears that there are no needlework or fiber-related badges anymore.  Nothing.  No quilting, knitting, weaving, sewing, embroidery...nothing.  It's all drawing, painting, and that sort of thing.  I think there's also a digital photography badge.  OK...  And geo-caching.  Really?  I don't have a GPS.  I don't know how we're going to do this, but we're gonna wing it.

Anyway, I got a bit more done on my blackwork sampler.  I decided to make a few of the blocks different sizes.  I did a bit of research and it turns out these samplers were very common in the 1500s; this was a way to practice stitches and, I suppose, to use them as a reference later for when you want to do a big project or need a variety of patterns for a shirt, skirt, stomacher, or some other big garment.  I'd like to try to make a garment with blackwork on it, so I might go down and pick up some wash-away stitching stuff I saw at the store.  I think I'll need it to make a coif since I don't trust my linen to be even-weave.  I need to look up the how-to on making a coif.  When you start, they're just this rectangle with wavy edges (like these at left), then you sew one seam and it's a hat.  I made one once but it turned out a funny size.  Maybe I mis-measured or put it together wrong...I'll have to check that.  This will count as my A&S 50 project as well as a costumer's guild Journeyman item. 

Dad sent me some pictures of the fishing adventure he and Cammie had last month.  She had a blast hanging out with him and catching a few fish.  And she looks just adorable in these armpit waders and fins. 

What's really funny is that with the sunglasses and hat, she looks an awful lot like my Dad.  Without the cigar.  She's really looking forward to going out again soon.   

We've been running ragged this past week with soccer practices, games, Girl Scouts, karate, and school.  Today was picture day at school followed by picture day for soccer teams.  I ordered a group picture for each of Cammie's and Ben's teams, but I snuck this one while they were setting up.  These really are a terrific bunch of girls.  Not all of them are destined to be stars, but a couple of them may go on to play high school or college ball--they're good and passionate.  One of them is new to our team this year--last year, her coach was not very supportive and critical of her speed and grace.  Not a good experience for either of them.  Our team isn't about that, so Coach P (on the right) asked her to join our team and she's having FUN!  And that's the important part.

I'll have to keep that in mind for scouts, too.  Even if they don't earn badges, we can still have fun. 


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Busy week! (Like you're totally surprised)

I went out and bought the darn Journey books.  I have been looking through them and am convinced that these are meant to create activists out of these little girls.  The Agent of Change book is all about changing the world.  Not fixing stuff that's broken, improving community safety, or reverting back to old traditions, but changing the world.  I have no idea what these 4th graders can do to "change the world" or even make a small change to their community.  Heck, most of these girls don't live in the same zip code--they're spread out all over the county.  However, one of the items in there that they discuss are powerful women in history (although all the women they use as examples are non-caucasian).  That's up my alley, so my thought was to find a few women in history (of any color) who were powerful, influential, and respected, and I may just focus on religious women (since this is a Catholic school).  I'm starting with Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife.  She moved from Spain to England as a teenager to be wed to Arthur, Henry's older brother.  Arthur died, so she was then married to Henry.  She loved needlework, in particular a form of needlework that became known as Spanishwork.  After the divorce, it became known as "blackwork".

I started working on a blackwork sampler to use as an example for the Girl Scouts meeting we have planned for Monday.  This will also count towards an Arts & Sciences project, and is actually a precursor to another project that I have planned, which is an Elizabethan coif that is covered in blackwork.  I'm going to use linen, but I will have to see if the threads are even-weave, and if not, I can get some wash-away aida cloth stuff that I can iron on and then it'll dissolve in water when I'm done.

This is what I'll have the girls make for scouts--a bookmark!  It's also got the Celtic knotwork--the school is proud of its Irish Catholic heritage, so it's totally appropriate!  Although it looks complex, it's simple counting.  I'll have to work on the handout for it to make it simple.

I am also working on these new Turkish socks.  I started these then had to rip them back to the toenails to add a few more stitches on the sides to accommodate the width of my feet.  My ingenious idea for the yarn is barely visible in this picture, but I took the two balls of yarn and tied them into a handkerchief to keep them from rolling around and unspooling or tangling.  So far it's working really well!

I also still have to do more work on the embroidery project for the 12th century tunics.  This is done with perl cotton, not embroidery floss.  I still have the wrists and hem of the dress, plus finishing all the seams.  Right now it's got rather ugly temporary hems done.

I got some good news from Donna about a quilt that I finished for her Mom--she got a 2nd place ribbon for "My First Quilt".  Her mom celebrated her 85th birthday recently and while she's done quite a lot of sewing, this is the first quilt she ever did.

I entered a quilt challenge for my guild--it said to make a quilt (with certain size parameters) with the theme "Celebrate!"  Mine is "Happy Birthday!"  It needed to have 20 of something in each quilt--mine had 20 different fabrics used in the quilt top, and the ribbons are 3-D.  Note that the hanging tabs are candles. :)  This is something we can pull out for each birthday party to hang with the rest of the decorations.

Emma is hosting her birthday this weekend, so we have three giggling girls joining her, who will likely stay up late, eat lots of pizza and junk food, and watch movies.  Thankfully she's outgrown the need for expensive themed parties with all her classmates in attendance.  I've never been good at doing those anyway...  Meanwhile, my DH has made a wise decision and has escaped the house to attend a man-fest at the Sounders game.  It's also a friend's birthday, so they went out for celebratory eats and will likely go out for celebratory beers after. 

They also had the raffle quilt on display at the quilt guild meeting--this is a stunning piece of work that won the Best of Show award at the fair this summer.  Just awesome!!  It's a "Baltimore Album" quilt using bright Kaffe Fassett fabrics that are all the rage.  This picture doesn't do the color justice--trust me, it's bright!
Gotta go order some pizza and get ready for a night of giggling.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Girl Scout Rant

A year ago, I became a Girl Scout leader.  I loved scouts as a kid, so it seemed logical that I would one day share the fun that I had growing up with the next generation.  They were also desperate because the previous leader was getting ready to have a new baby in October and wisely recognized her limitations with a newborn prior to the new school year starting. 

I began my scouting leadership journey by getting the books out of the file bin that had been used for the previous few years and all the Try-It badges and other paraphernalia that were stuffed in there.  With my crafty background, I made a list with the girls of a bunch of activities that we could do at the meeting location until I could get all the training I needed for field trips.  Nine hours of training later, I could finally take the girls out for a three hour field trip.  By then it was May.

We had a lot of fun, earned a bunch of badges and I was just starting to get my footing with leadership when it was announced that there were big changes coming set in motion by the CEO and other big-wigs of Girl Scouts.  They were doing away with most of the badges for Juniors, which my girls were bridging into.  While there used to be the traditional badges you could get for cooking, sewing, hiking, biking,  horsemanship, camping, games, and many, many other activities, now they're only able to earn 7 badges in two years in the very specific areas of artistry, Girl Scout ways, citizenship, cooking, first aid, athletics, and environmentalism.  They can earn two additional badges per year in cookie selling and financial management (selling cookies).  Clearly the focus is all about selling cookies and not so much about adventure and learning skills that make them a stronger, more independent girl.  Oh, also there are three "Journey" books for each age level that have 3 badges each that can be earned, but it's a very scripted book of exercises that take all the "girl led" aspects out of Girl Scouts.  It's more like Corporate Scouts.

Doing a little research, I found a web site that said that the Girl Scouts that I knew in the mid-1970s was based off the changes made in 1963.  The book included 47 badges that could be earned, including one "troop created" badge, so the girls could actually make their own badge!  Anything they wanted!  Wow!  A girl-led badge! 

The Vintage Girl Scout site reads:

  • Technically, they were called Proficiency  Badges.  Girl Scout Proficiency Badges have long been a mark of a Girl Scout who tested herself and passed. It was expected that a Girl Scout in uniform and wearing badges proudly on her sleeve, be able to answer any question or perform any skill that she learned in the effort to earn that badge at any time.

  • It included modern ideas like "Community Safety", "Active Citizen", and "World Neighbor"; arts such as "Dancer", "Musician" and "Writer"; and the outlandish idea of Traditional Women's Work, which the feminists despise, like "Sewing", "Cooking", "Needlecrafts" and "Hospitality".  All of these things make any PERSON a more rounded and remarkable individual, which is why Boy Scouts do it, too.  Their programs are virtually unchanged since its inception in 1910 or 1911--they recently celebrated their 100th anniversary--and haven't taken away almost 90% of the badges, but have added to them as they have become more prominent (computers, heritage), and phased out ones that are no longer useful in today's society.

    The site goes on to say:

  •  Over 200 badge designs have been used since the beginning of Girl Scouting, always updating the skills to meet the needs of a Girl Scout in a changing world.

  • So clearly, the most important parts of the Girl Scout Legacy for Juniors is "Drawing", "Practice with Purpose" (whatever that means), "Flowers" (I have no green thumb--I don't know what to tell them about this), "Inside Government" (just what 10 year olds want to talk about is politics), "First Aid" (finally, something I know a little about!), and "Simple Meals".  Then there are the "Financial Literacy" and "Cookie Business" badges. 

    I found another web site that voices concerns from other leaders--some having been in scouting for decades--that are similar to mine.  That the focus of scouting is moving away from the old fun and friendship of Girl Scouts and moving more toward salesmanship and activism; cookies and the environment.Then they come out with the newsletter from late in the last school year saying that the new guide books for Girls and Leaders will be available in Sept. 2011.  I thought that was poor planning since I would not have the summer to plan for the new year.  Now they're saying November.  But they've already discontinued the "old" badges and won't have the teaching materials until NOVEMBER?  What are we supposed to do for three months?  These are now Juniors, I have no teaching materials except the Journey book that I might teach from to help them earn whatever badges are available.

    I'm so ticked off, I'm thinking about celebrating the 100th anniversary by going Retro with the GS program and finding a friend to machine embroider old badges for us.  We're also going to spend the year of "Forever Green" talking about conservation, clean water and air, and making our world a better place by "leaving no trace".

    2012 marks the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts.  The theme for this year is "Forever Green" which is all about reducing energy waste (caulking cracks, adding insulation to attics, turning thermostat down), using public transit or biking to school or *work*, and buying Energy Star appliances.  Remember, this is a group of young GIRLS who don't own homes, have jobs or cars, and are likely not allowed to ride public transit alone.  Who are they selling this program to?

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Set-Backs for Set-Ups

    There were a number of set-backs with the set-up of the yurts--the canvas walls needed grommets, the rafters needed to be cut to size & drilled, the drilled holes needed the leather lacing to be tied to the khana, the tono cover needed to be grommeted, and then there were cables and ropes to hold it all together.  Besides all the work that needed to be done, we hadn't set them up in the dark before--which proved difficult, especially trying to feed small metal sticks into 1/4" holes 10 feet in the air--and there were structural issues with the rafter lengths and angles that needed to be resolved.  We abandoned setting up ours just an hour or so after we started.  It was getting cold and I wanted to quit before I broke anything, and pick it up in the morning.

    A short while later, Avelyn and Michael arrived with their brood and we began setting up their tents.  It took all night (well, from the time they arrived at about 9:00 until we gave up around midnight) to get the frame of the yurt set up, with the help of one of our neighbors at the campsite, but it looked really wrong.  The tono was too high, which meant the rafters were too long.  We decided to get some sleep since it was getting VERY cold, their kids desperately needed sleep.  One had fallen asleep in my bed, but they scooped him up and they retired to the car to sleep with the three kids.  It was a long, cold, uncomfortable night, but we continued through most of Saturday with construction, and we finished enough of it for the yurt to be erected by dark (probably 10:00 or 11:00) and used for sleeping for Saturday and Sunday nights. 

    Saturday night we had the opportunity to teach a little Yurt 101 to our volunteer assistants in the late afternoon, who offered the help and were all fascinated and curious about how the structures went together.  I ended up teaching the impromptu class and about ten people were there to either help and/or watch. 

    Avelyn's yurt
    Here is the finished 18' yurt!  There are some minor modifications to be made--the canvas walls are too long around, and we should have started lacing them on over the door and then folded them back into the structure.  Their door had a very clever locking system that Michael designed that, unfortunately, was broken by the older children within a few hours (they opted for a solid door to keep their youngest, who is not yet 2, from escaping and wandering the neighborhood in the middle of the night).  We mocked up a rope alternative that is too high for the kids to unlock, which caused them to want to--literally--climb the walls.  We must have scolded them ten times each to stop or the walls would crack--they're cedar, so they're very brittle.  We already discussed that if they break, we'll replace them with hem-fir or pine, or if we have it available or can find it cheap, oak, maple or some other hardwood.  Also in need of replacement/repair, the roof.  Note that it doesn't quite reach the edge of the yurt when it should extend 10" or more down the side.  It created a bit of a peek-a-boo for anyone over 5' 4"...I couldn't see into it unless I was on tip-toe... You can't see it, but the hole cut for the tono is too big.  It's really not a structural issue, but it's supposed to be smaller than the tono, not larger.  It works just fine for now, so she may opt to just add a foot or so around the outside of the canvas and call it good.  The last thing that will be modified is possibly adding some kind of anchoring mechanism in the door frame to hold the khana in place.  I lashed mine on in such a way that it only went so far into the door, and they may consider using that method, or putting something like pegs or blocks into it.  I think the lashing will be easier, personally.

    This is my yurt!  It's a 12' diameter, which will be big enough to sleep 2-3 people (the kids).  It wasn't assembled the first night, as I said, but on Saturday we put rivets in the canvas walls, and put the thing together in the daylight with less fuss than the night before.  Part of the problem was that we needed to adjust the tension cable and we didn't have the tools to do that, but the next day we were able to borrow something from former shire members who were camped across the road from us.  It was great to see them again, and to see the little girl I used to nanny who is now all grown up and in college!  The tono cover wasn't done when the girls went to bed, but we were able to put it on before we went to bed.  We don't have a wooden door on this yurt; the walls overlap in the front forming a door. 

    Of course, this means that I'm going to have to design a class for credit on Yurt Construction.  Probably subtitled "What we did wrong and how to avoid our mistakes." 


    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Week long absence

    "So you're prob'ly sayin' to yerself, 'Why don't he write?'"
    Dances With Wolves

    We've been constantly on the go.

    A couple weeks ago, Ben fell at the park and got himself a big ol' cut on his head, which resulted in a trip to the ER and 7 stitches. 

    The doctor at the ER said that after six days, we could come back to have them removed for free, but we weren't really close to home when it happened, so the gas alone would not be worth it.  We could go to a local walk-in clinic and for a long wait and a co-pay, we could get it done locally.  I decided that with some basic first aid training, I could remove them myself.  I swabbed everything liberally with rubbing alcohol and snipped them out myself, then smeared the cut with Neosporin.  Done.  It looks fine.

    Last weekend, we went on a day trip to one of our Medieval outings, and I took the kids to a youth play area where Ben spent more than an hour fishing little plastic toys out of a wooden bucket.  I need to find one of these...  The event was small--apparently everyone else was invited to a wedding.

    This is another reason I've been too busy to write.  I've been building this little structure for camping.  It's nearly done--I just have a couple of finishing touches (grommets, ties), and to set it up with the canvas for the first time.  If it doesn't work, I have the pop up tent as the emergency back up.  Unfortunately, Avelyn's yurt is suffering dearly, apparently due to the weight of the top ring--the tono.  They're staying up late tonight building a bagaana, which is a lifting tool.

    I also finished the yellow socks, a commissioned pair for a friend.  She was so excited that she wrote the check in pencil...and the bank nearly refused to cash it, but said they'd do it "just this once" but I needed to tell her not to do that again.  Sure.  I'll get right on that.

    The kids started school yesterday for a half-day, then today for the full day.  While things are going swimmingly for the girls, Ben is still in a no-man's-land in regards to his acceptability.  He attended today, wearing uniform-type clothes so he'd blend in and we had long talks about what was acceptable behavior--particularly "friendly touching"--handshakes, high-fives, fist-bumps, etc.  He went to Mrs. P's class and at lunchtime when I stopped by to give him his meds, she said that he's "blending in nicely".  Miss H in the office had less friendly things to say; she's "concerned" about his behavior since his former teacher rated him low for "respect for other children" and "courtesy/cooperation".  I'm concerned that those marks are going to continue to hold him back.  I think the school is also setting a ridiculously high expection of 7 year old boys. I bet if some of Cammie's classmates had to go through this kind of scrutiny, they wouldn't have been able to attend. Hopefully the "committee" will reason with her and convince her that one more child helps their bottom line and will help keep two others enrolled.  Next year will be insanity on a stick if we end up with three kids attending three different schools (high school, public elementary school and private school).

    Emma's birthday is coming up and she's decided that she wants a bike, three PSP games and an iTunes gift card.  She really needs a new Kindle and some new clothes (maybe a Target gift card...for when the Target finally gets itself pulled back together--they decided to remodel just before back-to-school shopping started full swing, and have 75% of their store packed into containers in the parking lot.  Guess I'll go shop their competition).

    Off to sleep, then up at the crack of dawn.