"Stand by the tree and look natural," I said to Axel as we prepared to meet his teacher and drop off school supplies this week.
This is the picture I got.
While preparing for another fall, another song-and-dance with a new teacher, a new set of co-conspirators (classmates) and an older/wiser? kid I'm feeling the need for sedatives.
Last year/kindergarten wasn't an all together "painful" experience, however, sending a kid into the world on their own is similar to wearing your dirtiest underwear on your face. YOU WILL BE JUDGED!
Teachers and school staff see everything – no doubt. They see naughty kids, curious kids, inappropriate kids, genius kids, messy kids, loud kids, clever kids, incredible kids and awkward kids EVERY SINGLE DAY. What's difficult for me (and perhaps you as well) is that my kid is a mixed bag of emotions. While most days he states "this is the best day of my life," the teacher may not always think that the rousing laughter he received on the carpet for a fake burp was quite as stellar as Axel perceived it – THEN – a phone call.
School for a parent is about two things: getting your kid back alive (not dreading the next school day) AND avoiding contact with the teacher. NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS from the school FOR SURE.
This last Wednesday we met Mrs. S – Axel's keeper for the next 10 months. If I were to make an early prediction I would say she is an excellent fit. She sent home a survey so I could share some of my feelings and goals for Axel this year. That's always tough. What do I reveal that might make her understand him more? Is there a danger in revealing too much – stuff he may just decide to spare her on?
While I certainly don't need her judging Axel before meeting his unique self I would hate for her to judge me! Should I have lofty goals like MENSA society acceptance or nomination for citizen of the year? Hmmm. My conclusions came in two goals: a LOVE of reading & confidence among his peers. Played it safe.
While I attempted to make light of the introductions on Wednesday and even after she recognized him upon entrance, "Axel, I've heard great things about you," which we all know to mean that she has indeed heard SOMETHING about him – on the outside I must have looked like Axel standing next to that tree. It's hard to act natural on command and as I take the baby steps towards next Tuesday – the official start of school – I plan to fake it all the way.
Husband dragging you to the sticks to help you "unplug"? While you and I agree that there's no real NEED to unplug and you have nothing to "get away" from, it seems that the occasional compliance with your otherwise agreeable husband is necessary.
Kicking and screaming I got drug on the most "non-vacation" vacation last week and lived to tell the tale. First we must define the difference between "nature" and "wilderness."
Nature – what you see out your windows: birdies, bugs, sporadic deer, groomed trees and parks.
Wilderness – expansive untamed space completely untouched by human hands.
To be clear – while I would consider myself a "nature lover," I see the "wilderness" as completely inconvenient and unnecessary. The wilderness didn't care about my opinions when she threw thigh-high mud and steep boulder hills in my face last weekend and I know she was laughing when the clouds opened up to soak our campsite. The wilderness mocks you!
While the Boundary Waters Canoe Area isn't exactly one of the "7 wonders of the world" it is still a place you should probably see. People drive from all over to experience the solitude and it all begins by picking up your pass at the ranger station. Below is my step-by-step guide to surviving your extended stay in the wilderness.
STEP 1 – Pack.
Shoes – You will be looking at those Keens in your closet (the ones you bought while posing as an outdoor enthusiast) thinking the BWCA is just the place to wear those. THINK AGAIN. Keens stay wet for a VERY LONG TIME! Not only did these shoes give me blisters while climbing, they took hours to dry by the fire.
Pack 2 pair of shoes – we found that Chaco and Teva wore the best and we were all wishing we had a pair of Crocs (no fabric to stay wet) for when we arrived at camp.
Clothes – The BWCA is colder than you think. Lake breeze and cold water. Pack more long sleeves than short for both the temps and the bugs.
Gear – Back something with a back rest. After canoeing all day you will have a log at best to sit on at your campsite. All you will want to do is recline. Forgo some weight in the "kitchen utensil" department and pack a camp chair instead. Bring at least a small tarp to hang up in case of a downpour. You'll want something over your head and your pack.
Cooking Supplies – THESE ARE HEAVY. Take the time in advance to pack just a section of tin foil and buy smaller containers for things like Olive Oil, Peanut Butter and Jelly. Packing the entire container adds unnecessary weight to your pack and will make you crabby. Pack a LONG ROPE for stashing your food in a tree.
STEP 2 – Picking up your pass / Planning your route.
In order to spend the night in the wilderness you have to plan ahead and pay for a pass. Yes, you have to PAY to see rocks and trees. When you pick up your pass you are forced to watch a video during which they break the news that you will be carrying out all of your garbage and that you should use your "INSIDE VOICES."
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? If you can't yell in the wilderness, where can you? IGNORE THAT RULE – follow the rest as best you can.
Plan a route that is manageable for you. We made about a 40 mile loop. That was TOO much for me. If I were to do it again I would choose a destination lake to camp for 2-4 nights and make day trips from there. Portaging is a BEAR – spend more time in your camp chair!
STEP 3 – Launch
No matter where you enter you're only a few paddles from your first portage. Don't expect this to be pleasant. There is never a good place to get out of your canoe so plan on stepping in the water. The portages in the BWCA are difficult, steep, rocky, overgrown and long. If you need to practice walking around your neighborhood with 100lbs of weight on you and a canoe over your head – I recommend you try it out on flat ground first.
There are TONS of beavers in the BWCA. They damn up everything. It might look like a stretch of water is portage-free but upon closer inspection you'll be hopping over a beaver damn. Expect the unexpected and don't forget to look down. There are lots of shallow waters and you'll get hung up on a rock you didn't see coming.
STEP 4 – Camp
Camp sights in the BWCA are not reserved. If you are paddling towards a destination, plan to arrive around lunch time. Although the passes into the BWCA are limited, the best campsites are usually taken. You DO NOT want to be stuck with 2-3 more portages to find an open site. Get to your site early and watch the tired faces of fellow paddlers when they found out that you have beat them. Woa-ha-ha-ha.
Stashing your food can be an adventure. I recommend you use a 100ft rope, tie something heavy onto the end (tent stakes are too light, hatchet is too dangerous) and toss it over a branch. While the forestry service would recommend you tie your pack between two trees, I would find a leaner with a strong branch and pull it up on that. Just so it's not against the trunk of the tree (animals can climb trees).
Pooping – All official campsites have latrines. This is a creepy, wide-open seat in the wilderness about 150 feet from camp. They are gross and you will never get used to it. Hover whenever possible.
STEP 5 – Exit Strategy
Whether you were over-anxious and completed your loop a day early or you're headed out of the BWCA with a new love of the wilderness not a minute too late, you'll be emerging back into civilization with super-stinky clothes and a face you haven't seen in a mirror since you parked your vehicle. Stay in a hotel, perhaps Duluth, and grab some good grub. We liked the Canal Park Lodge for it's free apps, great breakfast and lake-side rooms.
There you have the general idea of a BWCA trip. Stay tuned for future posts of camp recipes, our BWCA route – out of Sawbill Lake – and "what to look for" in a campsite.
If I can do it, you can do it. Portaging not recommended for children.
I've been in the wilderness. I know...it's somewhere you would never expect to find my urban self. Here's the video montage. Tomorrow I'll be posting my "Wilderness Guide for People who DON'T DO Wilderness."
Dear Mr. Trashman –
It's me, your favorite customer with the trash can so full you fear your compactor won't be able to handle it. I'm the one who mandates my husband to complete ridiculous household projects in record time and refuses to pay extra dump fees so we bust everything up and dispose of it through our regular trash service.
Except – it's not "regular" what you see every Tuesday morning – we've doubled the size of our trashcan by sticking boards down each side so we can balance things up to 4 feet above average container height.
Yes, I know our lid has never been used and the underside is just as sun-bleached as the rest. Perhaps you should ask the previous owners why they NEVER updated a thing since 1958? The fault really lies there.
What I'm writing about today is that NEXT TUESDAY, when you make 3 noise-ordinance-surpassing drives past our curb-side bedroom windows between 6 and 6:30am, I will be sending my bed-headed children out to spend the day with you. As if it isn't rude enough that your shrieking brakes are in need of maintenance, you seem to lack aim on the "barrel grabber" as by the third pass I am watching you botch nearly every retrieval.
Do you think I care that your truck is powered by "bio diesel" or that you recycle 70% of your load? I loath the sound of you worse than a beeping alarm clock! Do you know that there are NO Holidays on Tuesdays so I don't get a break even ONCE? And on the oft occurrence of a Monday holiday you come even EARLIER on Tuesday because you have to squeeze 2 routes onto MY TRASH DAY. It was by no decision of my own that our neighborhood has ALL trash pick up on Tuesdays. Must have been decided by a childless man.
There must be a compromise because I feel this weekly hostility will eat a hole through our relationship. After all...I NEED you to pick up my loads of aged sheetrock, haunted light fixtures and vintage panelling.
A few suggestions I have are these: change your route to wake up someone else's children at the ass-crack of dawn, pay to replace my not-so-trendy "mid-century modern" windows with more sound-proof ones, strap in a couple of car seats and be ready for new co-workers.
The portrait I took of you this morning from my bathroom window doesn't do justice to the menace you are in my life. You look rather benign hiding behind that tree and driving off into the freshly sunlit sky. I do hope you realize there are sleep deprived persons behind the rubbish and we would appreciate some kind of change...unless that's up to your Fortune 500 central office and you have no control over your life because you "work for the man." Yeah...that's likely the case...I get that.
See you next Tuesday.
Spending time at "the lake" during a northern summer is almost as vital as breathing. If you haven't tasted lake water in a while or swam with your children in your underwear – I suggest you use one of the remaining August days to shed your inhibitions, thread a hook or jump off the dock.
Last weekend we traveled to Jahred's family cabin for 36 beautiful hours. When we weren't picking fresh raspberries or exploring a logging operation we were dockside.
If it's time you captured your family in a moment of bliss, give me a call. I'd be happy to film your family in a paradise of your choosing. 612-756-1404
++ I am honored to have this post sponsored by "Kids Academy Company." Their educational apps are not only age appropriate and cute, but are a moms best friend with their easily navigable menus and buttons. All opinions are my own. ++
The following is a review of three apps from Kids Academy Company. Are you constantly looking for new apps that your kids can play? Apps that have age-appropriate graphics and ease of use? Apps that are FREE? I stumbled upon these three about a week ago and have to say they are some of the only apps that both of my kids can play successfully at their ages.
See below for the details!
As a Montessori-style parent I love this app for it's responsiveness to touch. Tracing letters repeatedly is the only way to achieve legible handwriting from your child.
I feel this app has a respectable level of expectation and reasonable reward for success.
I like that the graphics aren't over the top and busy. This app held Axel's attention for quite a while and is one I would allow him to play in the car. At 6, he was able to master this app (which builds confidence. Oliver at 2 was able to find some success with it and given time it won't be difficult to master.
LOVE this app. LOVE that the kids can be independent with it!
Download it HERE.
Nursery Rhymes with Karaoke –
This is probably Oliver's favorite. He must have planted 3000 flowers while singing BINGO.
Sweet, simple graphics and something he can play all on his own.
Use your "controlled access" feature on the iPad to keep your kid in this app for an extended car ride.
Download it HERE.
ABC Alphabet Phonics –
Axel loves mazes. He found them within the app within seconds. This app help his attention the longest (which makes Mom happy). This app has become part of our everyday "educational app time." During the summer I've been allowing Axel to use the iPad during "rest time." What a great and simple app to enjoy a little R&R with.
Again...this one is FREE and is worth downloading if you have kids of different ages like me.
Download it HERE.
Thanks for stopping by for a little "tech review." Please feel free to leave a comment sharing any apps that keep your kids attention!
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