Sleepaway Camp

The Boy Scouts of America were a big part of my life when I was young. The uniforms were kind of dorky and I don’t remember any of the knots, but I think the lessons in civic responsibility and leadership were important ones. Spending a weekend every month in the woods also taught me independence and self-reliance at a pretty young age.

In the summers this meant an entire week away from my parents, kind of a big deal at eight or nine years old. I look back fondly at nights around the fire, shooting the shit with good buddies, hours away from home.

 

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These camps were all male, of course. Only in the movies is there a Girl Scout camp a short swim across the lake. If given the option, would I have rather gone to co-ed camp, especially once I got to my early teens? Of course. Would I have gone completely on my own, without any wingmen? Probably not.

That’s exactly what Kayla did though, not once, but twice this summer.  She’s been attending the Windham-Tolland 4-H camp every year for a while now, often with no idea ahead of time if she will know anybody there. The camp actually goes out of it’s way to segregate people from prior friends to promote socialization with new people. She shares a small cottage with three other girls for a whole week, strangers from all over the county. I give her a lot of credit for this.

 

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I give myself a lot of credit for not stressing out more about the co-ed nature of the camp. It didn’t bother me much in past years, but now that she is fifteen and looks eighteen, things are a little different.  Last summer she returned home with a new Facebook friend, an eighteen year old counselor that she eventually un-friended when he began to get creepy.

Ironically, it was the fact that she has a semi-serious boyfriend now that made me feel better. I knew that any wannabe huntsmen trying to talk her into  late night nature walks would be quickly rebuked.

The amount and variety of activities available to the kids is impressive. There is horseback riding on certain weeks, archery, kayaking, sewing, swimming, arts and crafts, cooking, and a host of others. The dance and music campers put on a variety show on the last night of the week.

 

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It’s a very good experience for her, and one that she really seems to enjoy. The first week she won a “helping hand” award for her willingness to volunteer for after meal cleanup, something she was very proud of that we are hopeful will lead to similar behaviors at home.  I’m thinking of printing off some certificates as encouragement.

 

 

48 Hrs of Pilgrims and Pickles

 

Plymouth Welcome

 

In Dec of 1620, 102 settlers disembarked from their two month journey across the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower, a three masted merchant ship. With the assistance of the Wampanoag tribe they established the Colony of Plymouth, the first permanent settlement in what would eventually be known as New England. Forty of those settlers were members of a radical Puritan religious sect known as the English Seperatist Church,  ancestors of mine among them. Three other ships landed soon after, The Fortune, the Anne, and the Little James, all seeking religious freedom and economic opportunity.

History repeated itself in July of 2015, when Plymouth, Massachusetts found itself once more beset by those escaping tyranny and persecution. My wife and I, child free for 48 glorious hours.

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As the “birthplace on America”, Plymouth is home to many museums, historical landmarks, and educational opportunities.  It is also home to over thirty pubs and restaurants, many of them overlooking the ocean.  Despite our best efforts to distribute out business equally, we also managed to learn a few things over the weekend.

 

1. Those boats were small. There is a full scale model of the Mayflower available for touring in Plymouth Harbor. It’s only 100 feet long and 25 feet wide. Besides the main deck there was a cargo hold and the gun deck, where the passengers resided. With a crew of thirty besides the 102 passengers, that 50×25 foot area must have gotten very crowded over a two month voyage.

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2. Whales are big. One of the highlights of our weekend was a four hour whale watching cruise. Stellwagon Bank in Cape Cod Bay is a marine sanctuary and feeding grounds for humpback whales. My wife was much more excited about this excursion than I initially was, but seeing these gigantic creatures in their natural habitat is something that everyone should do at least once. It was worth the time, and not overly expensive if using a Groupon, such as this one from Provincetown.  I would recommend bringing a sweatshirt, no matter how hot it is on the mainland. It gets cold out on the ocean.

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3. There are still alcoholic concoctions I’m unaware of. This weekend we were introduced to two new ways to shoot Jameson Irish Whiskey. The first, out of a hollowed out pickle that you then eat, I would only recommend to those that enjoy the taste of Jameson and pickles. The second, a shooter backed up with a glass of orange juice and a slice of bacon, creates such a taste explosion of breakfast yumminess that I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it before.

4. There’s no place like home. I know people that never go anywhere without their children and I give them a lot of credit. I love our kids, but it really is nice to occasionally have a whole day or two alone with my bride. After returning home and finally shipping them off to sleep, I lie in bed and was surprised to reflect on how much I had missed my own pillow.

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Outrage!

As of this writing, Amazon.com has a high profile sale going on called “Prime Day”, which they are advertising as “their biggest since Black Friday.” As a daddy blogger I’m supposed to encourage you to boycott Amazon due to their continued resistance to changing the name of their “Amazon Moms” promotions to “Amazon Family”, an outrageously disrespectful campaign that belittles my familial contributions.  For obvious reasons, that would be slightly hypocritical.

Sorry, fellow dad bloggers. I do find it slightly annoying and it seems like an easy thing for them to change. From a public relations perspective it seems an odd thing to be stubborn about. I just can’t find it in me to be as “outraged” as I apparently should. Every day there seems to be a new group of people outraged about something or other. I don’t consider myself apathetic to the causes of my fellow humanity, it just seems to me that too many people spend too much time being mad about stuff.

 

 

Also this week, a District Court judge upheld the US Patent and Trademark Offices’s decision to cancel the trademark of the NFL’s Washington Redskins,  a team name based on a term historically used to disparage Native Americans.  Many seem to feel that it is unfair to try and force the team to change a name that it has had for the past eighty years. Others are upset about team owner Dan Snyder’s stubborn refusal to do so and his vow to continue fighting to keep the name.

I personally do believe the name to be offensive, but am uneasy about telling private citizens how to run their business. I’ve added my name to a petition calling for a name change and have no problem not buying anything with the team logo on it. This is easy for me, as I’m not a fan of the team anyway. I think that if enough people that are were to stop attending games and buying merchandise, that would probably facilitate change in a hurry. I’m no business savant, but it seems to me that billions of dollars would be gained by changing the name to Washington Warriors, removing the feathers from the mascot, and encouraging people to run out and buy new stuff.

 

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People also seem pretty fired up over the South Carolina legislature’s decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state Capitol. It’s possible that I’ve missed something, spending most of my time watching cartoons and not news, but to my knowledge private citizens are still able to display it however they decide, providing they can still find someplace that will agree to manufacture it.  TV Land deciding to pull re-runs of The Dukes of Hazzard because the General Lee car has this flag across it’s top should be mocked as reactionary political correctness, but not cause for national outburst. The car’s name is the General Lee. Southern culture was a big part of the show. I watched it as a kid. Not a racist.

I do however feel that the flag should be taken down from government buildings. Not because 61% of South Carolina’s black population want it removed, though that would be a pretty fair reason, but because it’s un-American. The Confederacy was an open rebellion against the legitimate government of the United States of America and they lost. I don’t imagine Great Britain would allow the Stars and Stripes to fly if the colonies had lost the Revolutionary War.

 

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My daughter has been whining all day, to the point where I want to shove this pen into my eardrums. There is no escape anywhere. Facebook, CNN, even on ESPN, everybody seems to be mad about something.

When did we turn into a nation of four year olds?

 

 

 

Modern Celebrity

We all have our favorite “celebrities”, even if we aren’t always comfortable calling them that. “People of high public profile” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. I’ll go see any movie written and directed by Kevin Smith or anything starring Casey Affleck. He’s written a few clunkers over the years, but I’ve read every book written by Steven King.  If a new Metallica album comes out tomorrow I’ll buy it, and I’d like to see Jon Lester win another World Series, no matter what team he’s playing for. (Unless it’s the Yankees)

I’m assuming that at some point Ellen or Oprah will become aware of this blog and invite me onto their shows, but until then my celebrity encounter stories are pretty lame. I once played golf behind Jose Conseco’s group in Florida. I shook hands with Chuck Norris’s son but didn’t turn into a legendary badass by DNA osmosis. I once sang a duet with Willie Nelson’s daughter in front of thousands of people, but I was five and the song was “On Top of The World.” I winked at Kelly Ripa about twenty years ago, but her husband, Mark Consuelos, was with her. She didn’t wink back.

 

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“Celebrity” means something much different now than it used to. She couldn’t tell you who any of the above people are, but the teenager knew who Joey Salads was even before he pretended to steal children. She once freaked out because somebody that was “famous on Vine” was following her on Twitter. She didn’t agree with me that “famous on Vine” wasn’t the same as being “famous.”

When it comes to people that are actually well known for doing something, she always seems to know more about them than I think seems healthy. She knows more about the life and history of the cast members of the Hunger Games and Maze Runner  movies than I know about people that I’ve worked with for the past twenty years.

A few years ago she was a big fan of The Black Veil Brides, a glam metal band for people too young to remember The Used or Marilyn Manson. She watched enough online interviews and home videos of the band that I sometimes felt compelled to remind her that she didn’t actually know them.

I don’t think that having this kind of access is always a good thing. I watched some of these videos to see what all the fuss was about, and thought that they came across as a bunch of pricks. Another band that she liked around the same time, Asking Alexandria, are probably just the same, but I don’t know that and I’ve now seen them in concert twice.

The world was much simpler before TMZ and reality television. Michael Jordan was a gambling degenerate, but we didn’t know that and he was loved by millions. I still pull for Tiger Woods, but it’s much harder than it used to be. It’s still OK to like Bruce Willis, but I’d have skipped the new Mad Max movie if Mel Gibson was in it. It’s hard to keep up with who is still all right.

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Its a hard lesson to teach. Justin Beiber and Meghan Trainor were both discovered online. Many others have no talent whatsoever but have gotten famous online. For some reason, lectures about putting too much of her personal business on the internet come across as hypocritical to the teen.

I’m constantly cognizant of who may be reading. Friends, family, current and potential future employers.  We are all judged as much by our words as we are our actions, and the internet makes it easy for both to be disseminated quickly, no matter who you are.

 

 

 

Love of The Game

It’s been about a month since the 2015 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft, and of their top twenty-five selections, the Boston Red Sox have signed twenty-one as of this morning. Ten of these, including seventh overall pick outfielder Andrew Benintendi, will begin their professional baseball careers with the Class A Lowell Spinners, a short season team in the New York-Penn League.

Over the years the Spinners have been the first stop for dozens of future major league players, including current Red Sox players Jackie Bradley Jr, Clay Buckholtz, Justin Masterson, and Hanley Ramirez.  Other familiar names like Kevin Youkalis, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jonathan Papelbon started there.

There is obviously no guarantee that anybody on the current roster will ever make it that far, but if they do my four year old can say that she saw them before they were stars.

 

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Several times each summer I drag the teenager with me to our local minor league ballpark.  Now that she has a boyfriend that drives my partner has been much less available, so I decided it was time to start teaching Alaina the joy of a night at the game.

I had no idea what to expect. We’ve been to fairs and other activities with large crowds, so I didn’t think that would intimidate her, but wasn’t sure how she would do sitting still and watching.  We haven’t been to a movie theater yet, but I was encouraged by how well she did at her sister’s dance recital last month.

She loved it. She loved the crowds, the music, the lights, the food. We had so much fun that we ended up going back two nights later.

We took breaks in between innings to walk around and didn’t make it the entire nine innings before she got tired, but I was very impressed with how well she behaved both nights, taking just as much interest in the game itself as she did chit chatting with everybody in the vicinity.  On entering the second night she immediately pointed out the area that I was supposed to go to if I got separated from her.  Much like when I take her big sister, as long as there was a constant supply of different foods she was content.

 

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The stadium itself, Senator Thomas J Dodd Memorial in Norwich, Connecticut, is a beautiful place to watch a game. Its been around since 1995, and is currently home to the Connecticut Tigers, a Detroit Tigers affiliate. Prior to the Tigers it was home to two AA teams that left seeking higher attendance.  Last season the team set a franchise record with 78,118 fans, but that’s still pretty low compared to the other teams in the league.  They recently reached a deal to stay in Norwich through the 2018 season and hopefully will stay beyond that.

 

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That can only happen with the support of the community. I’m guilty myself of only going a few times a year, usually when the Red Sox affiliate is in town. Every time I leave saying that I should make more of an effort to go more often. Kayla now owes me a few bonding nights and Alaina is already asking when we can go back.  I’ve  circled several more games that I plan on attending, and hope to make this a regular family night road trip.

 

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I should note that this is not a sponsored post, and I’m not affiliated in any way with either of the teams mentioned here, or Dodd Stadium itself. I’m just a dad with a blog that really enjoys baseball and bonding with his daughters.

 

 

 

Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms