Tag Archives: boy scouts

Proud Mom of an Eagle Scout

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I remember the first time he donned the blue uniform of a cub scout.

He was eight years old and strutted into the church building proudly wearing the uniform of the Boy Scouts of America. The next ten years were filled with campouts, high adventure, summer scout camp and weekly gatherings, as Rusty worked to fill his sash with merit badges.

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Scouting became a source of growth and place of friendships as hours were poured into this “extracurricular activity” that was so much more than an extracurricular activity. Unlike the many good activities there are for our children to be a part of, this activity was more than a babysitting service or a social outlet. Under the leadership of great men, Rusty grew into a great man. He learned skills far more valuable than fire building or rafting. It was while he was fire building and rafting he learned how to lift others, problem solve, be a team player, lead, stand for what is right, honor his country, and be a man of character.

Scouting grew my boy into a man that any mother would be proud of. He has learned valuable life skills and developed the character strengths spoken of in the Boy Scout law as he lives the Boy Scout oath:

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It was his goal to earn his Eagle. This is an achievement only earned by 4% of Boy Scouts worldwide. It is an honor that requires a high level of commitment, dedication, time, effort and drive.

“Periodically, we read about a young man becoming an Eagle Scout and we know we should be impressed – but why?

If you have never journeyed through the life of a BSA Boy Scout you most likely only have a general idea of what is required to earn the coveted Eagle Scout Award. Furthermore, you are not versed in the detailed intricacies, and at times, the all-consuming day-to-day Boy Scout experience. A young man does not become an Eagle Scout within a few months; it takes years.

Advancement through the seven required ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle is not something one can teach in a short amount of time.

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Each rank is broken down into increments requiring the scout to master the skills of personal care and safety for one’s self, indoor sustainability, outdoor survival, and the ability to work with others; whether as a team or as their leader. Until the scout displays proficiency for what is required within each rank he is not able to advance.

The 21 required merit badges – 13 Eagle specific – are also challenging. Have you ever hiked 20 miles, listed the six functions of government as noted in the Preamble to the Constitution, or made a timeline of the history of environmental science in America? The Eagle Scout has. He had to accomplish tasks and learn large amounts of information to complete his Eagle required merit badges. These badges cover the spectrum of physical fitness – within the individual’s capabilities – to knowledge necessary for any college bound student.

Extensive service hours and service projects, along with living by the Scout Law: Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent….

And hungry!

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This is the life of a Boy Scout.

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So, the next time you read of a boy who has just received their Eagle Scout Award – be impressed. This award was not handed to him, he earned it. It will not be one of those items packed away with the other trophies of his youth, but instead will be displayed in his daily actions and its quintessence will forever live in his heart.”

Chicago Tribune

While it is an elusive honor overall, Rusty has been blessed to have the example of many Eagle Scouts in his life, including his father, which only increased his drive to work to earn this rank himself.

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That desire, coupled with fantastic Scout leaders who have been a driving force in helping many young men earn this honor, led to the big day when Rusty and two of his fellow troop members received their Eagles.

This occurred the Saturday before Christmas. Despite being fully immersed in Christmas mode, the mothers of the other two Eagle Scouts (Bobby and Nate) and I met at the church to decorate for the ceremony.

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We collaborated our efforts, gathered our scouting decor, and transformed the gym into a venue reflective of the Scouting program,

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And one that honored these three boys and all their hard work!

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That evening we returned to the church to watch as the boys in the troop received dozens and dozens of merit badges earned over the course of the previous six months. It was hugely impressive and a testament to some amazing scout leaders and some hard working young men!

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When all the merit badges had been handed out it was time for the three boys receiving their Eagle to step forward and take center stage.

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Each boy shared with the room the details of their personal Eagle Scout project.

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One of the final steps in earning the rank of Eagle comes when the scout develops and executes a plan to lead a service project that will benefit  the community. This large project is the culmination of a lot of behind-the-scenes planning, prepping and presenting the planned project to gain approval for their proposed Eagle Scout project.

Rusty’s Eagle Scout project was to build an outdoor riding area for Ready Yourself Youth Ranch, a non profit organization that pairs recued horses with special needs children through a therapeutic riding program. His project took the troop two long days of back breaking work but was a great blessing to that non-profit organization that could now increase the amount of sessions that could be offered each week.

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This project was completed a year ago but Rusty still had two Eagle-required merit badges that had to be earned for him to meet all his requirements. Rusty earned those with his troop this fall and was able to stand before family and friends on December 22nd to receive his award.

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Among those there to celebrate his achievement were his fellow Eagle Scouts, leaders, troop members and their families, Grace and Molly and Mimi Joy.

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The parents of the Eagle Scouts were then called to the front.

As part of the ceremony each Eagle Scout is given three pins, in addition to the medallion that is placed on their breast pocket and handkerchief that is tied around their shoulders.

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These three pins are pinned by the Eagle Scout on the lapel of the mother, the father and a person they consider a mentor,

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As a way of acknowledging the loving support that assisted them as they worked toward the goal of Eagle.

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Rusty chose to gift his mentor pin to Pete Grundberg, a man who has had an incredible influence on Rusty, both as a scout and as a young man. Pete’s dedication to troop 558, and his never ceasing effort to mold these young men, has led to many scouts earning the rank of Eagle. His influence has been great and it was a joy watching Rusty honor Pete as his mentor.

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He definitely deserves the recognition!

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Pete is one of many men who have been influential in Rusty’s scouting journey. It takes a tribe to raise a scout and how grateful I am for this amazing tribe of leaders and young men that are troop 558.

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It has been an amazing ride with an epic conclusion!

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Congratulations to our newest Eagle Scouts! We are so proud of your achievement!

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One Step Closer to the Eagle

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It has been 9 years since Rusty first donned the blue and gold uniform of the Cub Scouts. Since then he has spent endless hours learning skills, earning merit badges, camping, hiking, building fires, attending Scout Camp, and participating in service projects, all with the end goal of earning his Eagle.

Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America. The designation “Eagle Scout” was founded over one hundred years ago. Only four percent of Boy Scouts are granted this rank after a lengthy review process. The requirements necessary to achieve this rank take years to fulfill.

And we are proud to say that Rusty is one step closer to joining the 4 % who have earned that rank.

One of the final steps in earning the rank of Eagle comes when the scout develops and executes a plan to lead a service project that will benefit  the community. This large project is the culmination of a lot of behind-the-scenes planning, prepping and presenting the planned project to gain approval for their proposed Eagle Scout project.

As Rusty considered possible projects he decided to approach the good people at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch, a non-profit organization that he and his sisters volunteer at two mornings a week to see if they had any possible work projects on their wish list that he and his scout troop could bless them with.

Our family was introduced to Ready Yourself Youth Ranch a year ago as a possible resource for the older kids as we navigated the challenging/explosive behaviors that Ozzie was presenting at the time. Our family based therapy team thought the ranch could be a place of refuge that the older kids could escape to on hard days and allow them to benefit from the therapeutic affects of serving and blessing others.

My kiddos fell in love with the ranch and since that day have committed themselves to waking up early two mornings a week and driving to the ranch to care for the horses from 7:00- 9:00 am. Their responsibilities include feeding/watering  the horses, moving them to the pastures, grooming horses, and mucking stalls.

It not the most glamorous work, but my kids love it. They have found a place of refuge and peace among the dusty stalls of Ready Yourself Youth Ranch…

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And they aren’t the only ones.

“Ready Yourselves Youth Ranch is a non-profit, Christian ministry that connects horses in need of rescue with children dealing with challenges and difficulties who need to learn about the hope and healing found in Jesus Christ. In 2010, the founders and directors, Micheline and Mathew Barkley desired to combine her broken childhood and his equestrian experience to rescue horses and mentor children facing conflicts and challenges of their own.  When God blessed them with fifty acres of land, in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, they gathered a dedicated group of volunteers and mentors to bring their faith, time and talents to make RYYR a place where God’s love and grace enables horses and children to trust and love again.

Ready Yourselves Youth Ranch is for children, ages 6 through 18, who are dealing with challenges and difficulties. We connect one child, one horse, and one mentor for ninety minutes of interactive experience, free of charge. Learning to care for and ride rescue horses, many who have come from environments of abuse or neglect, increases a child’s trust, faith and love. The overall aim of our session program is to love and encourage children which in turn will foster hope and joy.”

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When Rusty approached Micheline (the owner and visionary of the ranch) about projects on her wish list she quickly produced a list of possible projects Rusty could undertake for his Eagle Scout project. He decided that he would present the plan of constructing an outdoor riding arena for the ranch to the board to get approval. Once he received approval the dates were set for his Eagle Scout project.

The project took two Saturdays.

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The support of many made lighter work of what would have been a very arduous task!

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Dozens of fellow scouts, leaders, siblings, and friends from church answered the call and showed up ready to work.

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It was quite the undertaking but the arrival of many helpers was inspiring.

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Rusty couldn’t have done it without the generous support of so many helping hands.

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Here are photos of the many happy helpers and the project they tackled over the course of two Saturdays:

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In Rusty’s attempt to bless others, he too was blessed.

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We are so proud of this young man we call “son.”

A BIG “thank you” to all who have helped mold Rusty into the man he is today.

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He is who he is thanks in part to leaders (both current and past) who have taught Rusty scouting survival skills and basic life skills that will benefit him as a man. We are grateful for the wonderful troop of boys who have grown up with Rusty, and the many friends and families who have cheered Rusty on as he has blossomed from a silent and timid little boy into a confident and caring young man.

It truly does take a village to raise a son…or at least an incredible Boy Scout troop.

How thankful I am for troop 558!

Axes and Arrows and Knives…Oh My!

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This year has been a year of growth for my youngest son. I have watched him blossom in magnificent ways as he has slowly grown toward the man he will one day be. This year has provided Tyler with opportunities to gain a level of security, confidence and connection with others that has come as a result of extra learning support, Ozzie’s increased healing, a lot of one on one time as the two of us spend hours in the car driving to various daily appointments, and an awesome group of friends at church. He really is in his renaissance and my heart overflows with gratitude for the many ways God is working in his life.

Last Saturday was the 11 year old scout activity put on by members of the stake primary. As soon as Tyler received the invitation and found out his group of friends from church would all be attending he began counting the days until its arrival. This is an activity offered each June for the boys who will be turning 12 in the upcoming year. It is a special event put on by the stake to celebrate the boys’ time in primary coming to an end as they move into the young men program.

The agenda for this event varies year to year depending on the group of adults who are planning it, so Tyler lucked out because this year’s 11-year-old scout activity was AWESOME!

Tyler rode up to the activity with his friend, Carter. Carter’s mom was one of the chaperones for the day and she graciously offered to save me a trip to Butler since she was going anyway. She also kindly captured the fun of the day through photos so all of us moms who weren’t able to attend could enjoy a peek into the boys’ fun.

Their day consisted of a lesson in first aid, shooting with bows and arrows, a lesson on knife and ax safety, knot tying, and foil dinners for lunch. Tyler had a blast and hated that he had to leave 30 minutes early so we could get him to his equine therapy session. When he left he was given a gift to take home…

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His own personal pocket knife!

Which he put to good use immediately, whittling the hour away as Ozzie had his horse lesson and Tyler waited for his turn in the arena.

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My baby boy is growing into a pretty awesome young man!

 

A Scout is…

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Our Boy Scout troop’s Court of Honor ceremonies take place a few times a year and provide an opportunity for the young men of the troop to receive their earned merit badges and be recognized for their advancements.

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It is always a day of celebration as we gather with other families to celebrate to journey we are all on as we help our boys grow into men.

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During these ceremonies we also get a peek into the behind-the-scenes of life for the Boy Scout leaders as they prep, plan, prepare and praise these young men from immature boys into men of honor. We are blessed with exceptional leadership in our scout troop and I have no doubt the God brought together this mix of boys, leaders, and families at this time because they all needed each other to become who God is molding them to be.

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Two of my favorite Boy Scouts.

 This particular Court of Honor ceremony was extra special as it was also Nate’s Eagle Recognition ceremony. Earning the rank of Eagle Scout is a notable achievement that only 4% of Boy Scouts ever achieve.

 

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“Periodically, we read about a young man becoming an Eagle Scout and we know we should be impressed – but why?

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If you have never journeyed through the life of a BSA Boy Scout you most likely only have a general idea of what is required to earn the coveted Eagle Scout Award. Furthermore, you are not versed in the detailed intricacies, and at times, the all-consuming day-to-day Boy Scout experience. A young man does not become an Eagle Scout within a few months; it takes years.

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Advancement through the seven required ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle is not something one can teach in a short amount of time. Each rank is broken down into increments requiring the scout to master the skills of personal care and safety for one’s self, indoor sustainability, outdoor survival, and the ability to work with others; whether as a team or as their leader. Until the scout displays proficiency for what is required within each rank he is not able to advance.

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The 21 required merit badges – 13 Eagle specific – are also challenging. Have you ever hiked 20 miles, listed the six functions of government as noted in the Preamble to the Constitution, or made a timeline of the history of environmental science in America? The Eagle Scout has. He had to accomplish tasks and learn large amounts of information to complete his Eagle required merit badges. These badges cover the spectrum of physical fitness – within the individual’s capabilities – to knowledge necessary for any college bound student.

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Extensive service hours and service projects, along with living by the Scout Law: Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent….

And hungry!

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This is the life of a Boy Scout.

So the next time you read of a boy who has just received their Eagle Scout Award – be impressed. This award was not handed to him, he earned it. It will not be one of those items packed away with the other trophies of his youth, but instead will be displayed in his daily actions and its quintessence will forever live in his heart.”-Chicago Tribune

The truthfulness of this statement has been proven time and time again in the character and actions of many notable Eagle Scouts:

“As a prisoner of war in Vietnam, Eagle Scout George Coker refused to write a statement denouncing America. And so he was forced to stand against a wall, arms over his head, for 13-hour stretches, day after day after day.

Coker tried everything to survive those long hours: praying, counting to himself, thinking about his family. By the end of two months, however, he could barely remember his own name.

But he remembered the Scout Oath. “The very last thing I could consciously hold onto was the Scout Oath,” he said. “By the end, I could only get out the first verse: ‘On my honor I will do my best.’ That forced my brain to function and say, ‘I will do this again. I will not do what they want me to do.’ ” – Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influences of America’s Eagle Scouts.”

And this day we celebrated as another good scout earned the rank of Eagle.

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The sheer number of Eagle Scouts in the room, who stood to repeat the Eagle Scout pledge, was humbling. I was proud to have Toby stand among them.

They say it takes a village to raise a child…

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I would argue that it takes a troop to raise a man.

 

 

 

The final Chili Cook-off

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The annual chili cook-off is a tradition our scouts have participated in for years. When we moved in 10 years ago it was already a long-standing tradition and something our congregation anticipated every March. This annual event served as the fundraiser for the year so that our scout troop could raise money for Boy Scout camp. After a long run this tradition has come to a close. Last Wednesday it was announced that this would be the final chili cook-off.

It was with a mix of emotions that we absorbed the news. While there was a part of me that felt relief at being freed from the huge task of helping multiple kids prepare dishes and baked goods for the auction, another part of me was saddened by the news as I reminisced on the many years we had been coming.

Despite the mix of emotions the night couldn’t have gone any better. Talk about going out with a bang!!

The turn out was incredible and as a result of many hands donating food items and many generous families supporting the troop, our scouts raised over $2000 that evening!

The night began with judging.

We arrived early, as Rusty had to help set up for the event. As crock pots of chili and pans of cornbread poured in, the missionaries were assigned the task of tasting and judging each dish, picking a first, second, and third place winner for chili and for cornbread.

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Once the judging was completed tabled were called to the front to help themselves to dinner.

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The hardest part of the night is always choosing which of the yummy looking chili’s to try. A few creative families came up with the awesome idea of bringing muffin pans to use for their dinner plate, allowing them to scoop a little of each flavor in each tin and try them all.

At the end of the meal the winners were announced. This year Rusty decided to enter the judging with his own pan of cornbread. The secret to his delicious bread was mixing yellow cake mix with corn bread mix to create a sweet fluffy corn bread that was amazing. His efforts earned him third place.

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Following dinner was the dessert auction. While the dinner part of the night is a free-for-all, if you want to end your meal with a sweet treat you have to battle for it.

The scouts and ward families all bake desserts to contribute to the auction.

This year Rusty made Mickey Mouse Rice Krispy treats dipped in chocolate:

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And Molly made cups of “Dirt”:

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The dessert table was filled to capacity…

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Families took their time perusing and whispering their top choices to each other, making a game plan of what desserts they wanted to battle for.

There were so many delicious looking treats it was hard to choose!

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The second half of the evening was the auction where friends went up against friends  for the sake of a sugar high and gloating rights.

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The auction was a smashing success with some cakes and desserts being sold for $50-75 dollars.

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Our scout troop was certainly blessed by the generosity of their ward family and the financial end of this event will allow a lot of young boys a week of learning, skill-building, and man-producing experiences that they will carry with them for life.

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It is the end of an era…

But what a way to go out!

 

Smooth Sailing- Headed Home

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It has been an interesting project recording the adventures of Rusty’s scout troop and their Sea Base adventure. This blog series has led to lively discussion as everyone’s perception of events varied just a bit, affected all the more by my attempt to share memories of experiences that I wasn’t actually privy to. While the trip was shared by 8 individuals each person’s experiences varied slightly based on where they were and what they were doing at any given moment. Some saw wildlife others didn’t and had experiences their sea mates missed because of where they were at and what they were doing moment to moment. The result is 8 slightly different recollections of the same stories. I would love to have each of them pen their own synopsis for the sake of comparison and to get each scout’s point of view but know the likelihood of getting these guys to sit and journal for me is a long shot. 😊 I did, however, have Keith reach out and share with me his personal journal entries of the week, something that was a real treat to read as it gave me a more comprehensive peek into the time Rusty and Toby enjoyed in Florida. With his permission I thought I’d wrap up this blog series with his first-person synopsis of their last two days in Florida rather than struggling to piece together the stories from what I heard secondhand.

Thanks, Keith, for sharing your memories of the last two days of this once in a lifetime adventure!

 

“On Thursday we got up early and were packed before breakfast.  We had an 11:30 airboat appointment and had plenty of time to get there.  After breakfast, we said goodbye to Sea Base and started our journey home.  While still on Islamorada, we stopped at a souvenir place because they had a huge lobster out front.

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  After quick pictures, we continued on until we got to the Krispy Kreme shop – which had their hot donut sign on.  This time the donuts were hot and soft and sweet and good!  Two dozen donuts disappeared in 3 minutes.  Traffic on this morning was awful.  The GPS, when we started out, said we would arrive about a ½ hour before our appointment.  The traffic was bad because of construction.  We missed our appointment by 10 minutes.  Our spot was given to others.  However, the next time we could get a boat was at 1:00PM.

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 Now we had over an hour to kill with the boys.  There was Miccosukee tourist village up the road about 10 miles and so we went there for a few minutes to hang out in air conditioning in their souvenir shop. 

The Miccosukee are a branch of the Seminole Indians. 

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The airboat ride would take place on their reservation in the Everglades.  Our boat driver was named Fabian.  He was dressed in a bright yellow shirt and had a long braid down his back.  The ride was scheduled to take 45 minutes.

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 We all put earplugs in to muffle the noise of the motor.

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 We stopped at four spots where alligators were spotted, one of them being a small island where a few families used to live.  Dry land is hard to come by in the swamp.   

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At one point in the tour, we saw a big male alligator, about 8 to 9 feet in length. 

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Fabian stopped the boat and climbed to the front.  He started making noises that got the interest of the gator, which then came over to the boat.

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 The gator kept rising up out of the water as if to jump in the boat, but Fabian kept pushing the gator back down into the water with his hands. 

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All the time he was lecturing us on the habits of alligators in the Everglades.  It was fun to watch.

After the boat ride, we piled into the car.  Toby continued driving until we gassed up, when I took over.  We got off the interstate just after dark and stopped at the Metro Diner in St. Augustine for dinner.  They had some huge burgers and sandwiches.  The food was excellent and then we drove on to a Days Inn where we all crammed into one room to spend the night.  The trip down taught us it was almost impossible to get any rest while driving in the van. 

On Friday morning we ate breakfast at the Village Inn and then we went to the Visitor’s Center. 

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From there we walked past some of the old buildings of St. Augustine and a cemetery, seeing the sites along the way.

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 We spent most of our time at the Castillo de San Marcos.

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 This is the old fort that protected the city through the ages.

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They had cannons from the 1700s on display.

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 The workers there had a re-enactment of firing a cannon.

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   Rusty, Nate G. and Thomas all earned a certificate and patch associated with the Historical Site by filling out an educational workbook.

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A little after noon, we returned to the van where Toby, Pete and finally Nate A. completed the drive home.  Again, Nate had to use the cruise control as we traveled through West Virginia, making it an exciting ride.  We arrived home at 1:45 AM Saturday morning to Pete’s house.  Toby was kind enough to drop everyone off.  I was happy to sleep in my bed again.”

 

Smooth Sailing- Back on Land

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On Wednesday Rusty and his Boy Scout troop headed in from the open sea back to Sea Base, marking the end of their adventure on the water…

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 But not the end of their Florida fun.

They still had a few days left of their Scouting high adventure and there was much fun to still be had. It was just going to take place on solid ground for the next 3 days, instead of the high seas.

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On Wednesday morning the scouts were up early and began cooking breakfast as the sailboat made its way toward land. They arrived at port and proceeded to get their assignments from the captain. Some headed onto shore to get the carts needed for transporting their personal belongings and other gear from the boat to the Sea Base dorm.

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The tasks for unloading, cleaning and prepping the boat for the next week’s crew were split between the members of the troop, with some cleaning and returning the snorkel gear, while others began the task of washing down the boat.

Using special soap that was environmentally safe they scrubbed the outside of the boat washing away the signs that eight scouts/leaders had occupied it for a week.

While engaged in this chore some local wildlife stopped by to say hello. A large sea cow arrived boat side, lured in by the activity occurring around the boat. Evidently manatees are drawn to the splash of fresh water, a treat that must be limited because of the negative affect it has on their buoyancy if they consume too much of it.

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The boys and leaders had a wonderful time meeting and greeting this large lady up close and snapping some awesome photos.

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After they were done cleaning up and clearing out everyone had some free time to shower, rest, and do a little shopping at the Sea Base store.

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After lunch there was paddle boarding and kayaking for the scouts and their leaders in the bay. After some instruction they headed out to a small mangrove island ¼ mile away from the beach.

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The wind was blowing hard which made the trip out to the island easy but the trip back extra tough. Fighting the wind and waves led some to abandon their standing positions and lay down on their bellies to paddle back in.

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At 5:00 pm they congregated at the flag pole with two other troops that had just arrived, where they went over announcements and recited the Sea Base Grace:

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Bless the creatures of the sea.

Bless this person I call me.

Bless the Keys, you make so grand.

Bless the sun that warms the land.

Bless the Fellowship we feel,

As we gather for this meal.

Amen

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The two other troops headed to dinner while our troop walked over to the volleyball court for some Sea Base planned activities.

They played volleyball,

Polynesian tug of war,

And Poison Barrel.

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A limbo competition opened the door to the luau themed dinner that was their final meal at Sea Base.

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This special luau dinner on the beach is the traditional conclusion to every Sea Base adventure and a perfect way to end a magical week.

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The setting was spectacular, and the meal was too.

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My boys raved about their feast of Mahi Mahi, rice, Hawaiian rolls, crab cakes, corn, chicken wings, and key lime pie.

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With stomachs full and eyelids heavy the troops headed back to the dorms for a good night sleep before the following day’s adventure with alligators.

Stay tuned!

Smooth Sailing- Part 2

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It has been a week now since the boys rolled back into town after their road trip/ sea trip adventure. As the days pass more and more stories of heroism, shenanigans, and the thrill of everyday chores when living on the high seas are shared. I continue to relish in the stories that are being revealed as time passes and have been jotting down notes so as to try and do a decent job retelling their story of adventure…a tough task when the writer wasn’t there to experience it herself.

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Their time on the high seas quickly settled into a routine of sorts. Their days typically began around 6 or 7 am, when everyone rolled from their sleeping bags to begin their day.

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Just like at home their day was filled with trivial tasks like teeth brushing:

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And food preparation:123_1519962637018

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Typical tasks that take on an atypical slant when done in the unusual confines of a sailboat.

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Breakfast varied day to day but was typically a hot meal of some sort, prepared by the scouts with the assistance of Keith who graciously pitched in as sous chef.

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Lunch occurred during the busier part of their day and as a result was usually a grab and go meal like sandwiches or snacks.

Dinner was another hot meal, prepared after the events of the day. As the sun set and the cabin darkened the addition of head lamps helped the scouts get dinner on the table.

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Their meals were largely built around the pantry items they stocked at the start of the trip with the addition of seafood caught through the day.

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Much fishing occurred each day and the troop was able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, feasting on meals of Jack Crevalle, Grunt, and lobster.

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Yes, you read that right.

While we were home eating spaghetti and grilled cheese the scouts were feasting on fresh lobster.

Their captain explained that scattered through the waters of the Florida Keys are hundreds of lobster traps, many of which are ghost traps. Ghost traps are lobster traps that  have lost their distinctive buoy that brands that trap as belonging to a particular fisherman. After the most recent hurricane many lobster traps lost their markers and are now considered ghost traps; unclaimed by any fisherman, sitting on the ocean floor, catching and not releasing the lobsters within. The boys found a few of these ghost traps during their sailing adventure.

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If ghost traps couldn’t be found in the waters nearby there was always the means of catching lobster with nets and a tickle stick. The boys would snorkel down to a hole in the rocks and prod the hole with a stick while positioning a net at the entrance of the hole. If it was the hiding place of a lobster they would come scuttling out, right into the net.

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The caught lobster then had to be measured to ensure its maturity and if it was big enough it would end up in the supper pot.

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Only on a Sea Base adventure do teenage boys add fresh lobster to their Kraft macaroni and cheese and call it dinner.

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I was a tad jealous when I saw the pictures!

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It seemed their days revolved around meals and sailing. The task of sailing their 44-foot sailboat fell mainly on the Boy Scout’s shoulders. They had an experienced captain to teach them the ropes and guide them along, but aside from the guidance they received from the captain 90% of the tasks were performed by the boys while the men sat back and enjoyed the ride.

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As Crew Chief Rusty was given the responsibility of managing and assigning tasks, something far outside his comfort zone. He later confessed that he found himself often choosing to do the necessary tasks rather than assign jobs to others because it was more within his comfort zone. I see this is an area where we could use some work, but I can’t blame him. I am much the same way. I would rather be a hard-working Indian than a chief any day of the week.

Luckily, he was blessed with an awesome crew of guys who were more than willing to take on any task assigned to them. It was really a great group of boys and leaders.

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Following a predetermined route, troop 558 made their way from Sea Base out into the ocean and onto Marathon Keys, their stop halfway through the trip. To leave the bay they had to pass under a drawbridge. With a mast reaching 40 feet in the air their boat didn’t fit under the bridge, so they had to wait for the scheduled hourly draw that lifted the bridge up into the sky and allowed the tall sailboats to pass underneath.

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As they sailed they had the opportunity to stop and snorkel at reefs along the way. The experience was neat and they saw some awesome sea life. Their only regret was that they sailed during a week of high winds which resulted in big waves and silty water. Which made swimming and snorkeling a bit of a challenge.

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On Monday they arrived at Marathon Keys. They were scheduled to dock there for the night, fill the water tank, shower, restock supplies, and perform the service project that they were assigned by Sea Base, which was cleaning the restrooms and bath house.

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Tuesday morning, they were back on the water and on the second leg of the trip taking them back toward Sea Base.

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During the day, while they sailed from snorkel sight to snorkel sight,

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most of the troop congregated in the cockpit around the scout who was at the wheel. This became the “living room” of their home away from home as they sat and chatted while sailing along.

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Some would use the travel time to troll for fish.

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While on the water they were privy to many wondrous sights including dolphin, barracuda, eel, puffer fish, sea turtles, and one shark sighting…

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Not to mention the spectacular sunrises and sunsets that would bookend their days.

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 Each night the sun would start sinking beneath the horizon around 6:00 pm and by 8:00 pm these weary scouts and their leaders were tucked in sleeping bags and falling asleep to the rocking of the waves.

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Now that’s the life!

 

Smooth Sailing- Part 1

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FB_IMG_1519869021196Last Saturday Toby and Rusty returned home from a week of sailing the open seas with their fellow sea dogs. It was an adventure of a lifetime and I was so glad Rusty got to experience it with his Dad.

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Their crew was comprised of three other young men from Rusty’s scout troop and three other leaders, making it a solid crew of eight.

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This adventure came about as a result of an awesome Scoutmaster who time after time pulls out all the stops and goes far beyond the call of duty to offer these boys incredible, skill building, character developing, life changing challenges. This was, however, an opportunity that went beyond their normal adventures. This was a once in a lifetime experience offered through The Boy Scout’s Sea Base in southern Florida.

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A year ago they secured a spot for the season and Toby and Rusty signed up to go with the troop, giving Rusty a year to work and earn the money needed to fund this fun. Those twelve months flew by and before we knew it the time had arrived for them to pack their bags and hit the road.

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The troop decided to drive down to Sea Base in our 12 passenger van, a spacious and dependable vessel that they soon discovered was built for high capacity not high comfort. They left on their road trip early Thursday morning and drove for 22 hours straight, allowing a few quick stops along the way, including an emergency 2:30 am stop at a Krispy Kreme Donuts.

One of the passengers in the van who was not sleeping at the time spotted the “Hot Donuts Now” sign lit up like a beacon of refuge to weary travelers. With a shout of “STOP!” those sleeping were jolted awake and this van full of scouts pulled in to claim their hot donuts from the drive-thru window…Donuts which ended up being merely warm, much to their disappointment.

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By the time they pulled into the Sea Base parking lot everyone was worn and weary and ready to catch some ZZZZZs… wherever they could find them.

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They were informed that they could check into the dorms at noon, so while they waited they headed over to Robbie’s, a local dumpy but delicious dive on the water. There they enjoyed a yummy breakfast on the docks. Toby said it wasn’t much to look at inside with the exception the notable décor that papered the walls. Evidently the inside of the diner was wallpapered in dollar bills that had been stapled up onto the walls over the years. Toby estimated their was a few thousand dollars worth of Mr. Washington’s papering the walls, money that he thought would have been better put to use fixing up the place.

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He did say that despite the wear and tear of the building, the view was incredible.

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At noon they were allowed to check into the Sea Base dorms where they, as the first crew out for the season, found they had the dormitory of 50 beds all to themselves for the night.

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They were not scheduled to set sail until the following day so Friday was spent napping a little, exploring the Sea Base compound, doing their snorkeling test in the pool, and prepping their sailboat with supplies.

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After a restful night sleep in the dorms they set sail on Saturday morning. Their vessel for the week was a 44 foot sailboat that would become their home away from home.

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Below deck was the Captain’s sleeping quarters (which were off limits to the crew)

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Capt. Hajo

The galley where the boys prepared meals three times a day:

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The dining room table (which converted and became Keith’s bed at night):

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The head (bathroom), and a storage area for the single bag of gear each crew member was allotted:

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As well as a few beds:

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Toby’s bed for the week.

Some slept below deck while others spent the week sleeping out under the stars:

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Others caught Zzzzs whenever and wherever they could:

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Once on the boat they set sail for an adventure on the high seas.

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Under the leadership and guidance of their faithful captain, Hajo, they began their training to become proficiant sailors. As they headed out of the marina they caught their first glimpse of the magical sights that awaited them. It came in the form of a sunrise that set the tone for the week and gave this crew a preview of the awesome experiences that awaited them.

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Stay tuned as we look back on their week of adventure and I attempt to do justice to the stories they have shared and the pictures they captured as they sailed around the Florida Keys.

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Klondike Derby

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While Ozzie was home this past weekend, and we were enjoying some fun by the warmth of the fireplace, the other boys and Toby were braving the cold at the Klondike Derby.

“A Klondike derby is an annual event held by some Boy Scouts of America and Scouts Canada districts during the winter months and is based on the heritage of the Klondike Gold Rush. BSA units have been running Klondike derbies since 1949.

The event varies by district, but the typical Klondike derby consists of several stations where patrols/units must test their Scoutcraft skills and their leadership abilities, earning points towards a total score. Often, one or more races are included while the Scouts navigate between stations.

The unit must transport their gear on a homemade sled pulled by the Scouts.”

This winter camporee rolls around every February, and while it is a huge hit with the 11 and 12 years old’s I have found enthusiasm for camping in freezing temperatures seems to decrease incrementally with an increase in the age of the scout. By the time the campers reach their 40’s and 50’s there is nothing but sheer determination and a heavy helping of fatherly guilt driving them to forgo their warm beds and sleep outside in freezing February weather.

Toby goes each year and while he loves camping, winter camping is not his favorite way to camp. I think he would enjoy the Winter Camporee a bit more if it was held in April or October, but he is a good sport (and a great Dad) so he continues to show up for this frigid tradition year after year.

This year was Tyler’s first year to attend officially as an 11-year-old scout. He was very excited. On Friday he helped Rusty cross off the items on their packing list while I whipped up three foil dinners for them to cook over the campfire later that night.

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I was headed down to Pittsburgh to pick up Ozzie when Toby got home, and they headed out, so I didn’t have a chance to wish them well. They arrived at camp by 5:30 pm, set up, and started their fire.

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Friday night was spent getting settled, starting a fire to cook on, cooking foil dinners, and playing in the snow. The boys had snowball fights and built a snowman, only to light its “hair” on fire in an attempt to melt it…such a Boy Scout thing to do. 😊

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When night came Rusty slept in one shelter with the other boys in his scout troop while Tyler camped with Toby in the leader’s tent.

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Toby said Tyler did well and aside from waking up around 3:00 am because of the cold, he survived his first Winter Camporee with flying colors.

The real action happened on Saturday when the scouts met up with other troops to compete in a series of skill building challenges. Our troop did really well, as they always seem to at these activities.

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The challenges included the Klondike sled race,

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Fire building competitions,

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And two-man saw races.

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For their next big scouting adventure Toby and Rusty will be heading south. This Boy Scout adventure promises to be much warmer and a tad more thrilling than the Winter Camporee. They will be headed to the Florida Keys for a 7-day sailing adventure.

It sounds incredible and is the payoff of all the hours Toby has invested in the less glamourous scouting adventures he has helped with over the years.

It will be an adventure of a lifetime and I am thrilled Toby and Rusty get to embark on it together!