Today was my firstborn’s last day at work, and my lastborn’s first day of sixth grade. We’ll start with Beth, because that happened in the morning.

Beth's First Day of Sixth Grade

Beth’s First Day of Sixth Grade

And then we’ll move along to Jonathan’s going-away lunch at work today.

Jonathan

Jonathan

These two events happening on the same day caused some logistical difficulties. Jonathan now has an apartment near UNH, and is ready to move in. The apartment was originally a dormitory, but UNH sold it to a commercial interest some time ago, and now they call it an “apartment.” But it is a dorm as far as I’m concerned. Apartments don’t have common bathrooms for everyone on the floor – dorms do.

It was not furnished though, so in that regard it is a bit more apartment-like than I’d like it to be. We’ve been scrambling trying to get stuff together for him. He needs a bed for the next two years. I had been intending to build a bed for Beth, so when she outgrew her crib, we got her a cheapo particle board and contact paper bed until I’d have time to make a nice one. But I never found the time. Rather than buy a bed intended to last only two years, we decided to have Jonathan use her old cheap one. It’s not a girly bed or anything like that – just not a very high quality one.

So we bought Beth a nicer new one, and I put that together a couple of nights ago. We wanted to load it into my car (it fits if the back seat is folded down), but since it was the first day of school for Beth, we needed the back seat for her.

We ended up stuffing it in Va’s trunk. She came to Concord after lunch (Jonathan’s going away lunch), and we moved it to my car. We could have just had him drive her car to UNH, but… he can’t drive a manual transmission. I have failed my fatherly duty. 😦

He and David went to UNH to wait for the cable guy to come and install his new Internets and to shuffle stuff from the car to his room. They were not able to get the furniture together (the bed plus a desk). I will go there tomorrow evening and make that happen. Second failure.

It has been over a week since I have posted anything, and that’s because I have been utterly exhausted every night for the week and a half. Work has been mentally draining, and on top of that, we had our annual Honors Week last week.

Honors Week is how I kick off the Pathfinder year. We teach one honor per evening for five days. That way people can come and check out the club to see if it’s the kind of thing they think they might enjoy, and new members get the chance to earn five patches for their otherwise blank sashes.

This year we taught backpacking, chess, candle making, wool and spinning, and Bible marking. Chess and spinning are new honors that have not yet been submitted to the national organization. Honors have to be piloted by three clubs before they are submitted, so we piloted two of them. Unfortunately, that means any new kids could earn only three patches for their sashes this year. Oh well – them’s the breaks.

On Sunday I ran a backpacking stove building clinic. We made a dozen penny alcohol stoves. I’ve been using one of these for about five years, and I love mine. I used to use denatured alcohol for fuel, but it burns with a nearly invisible flame, especially in full daylight. We found that 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol works just as well (70% does not though), but it burns with a yellow flame that is easy to see even in full sunlight. That should be a lot more safe.

Penny Alcohol Stove with Isopropyl Alcohol for Fuel

Penny Alcohol Stove with Isopropyl Alcohol for Fuel

What I love about backpacking is that it is one of the few times when I can eat whatever I want without having to think about what other people like. Everyone will pack their own food. I will pack food for no one except myself. And I am going to have penne pasta with garlic, mushrooms, and broccoli cooked in olive oil. Mmmmm. I can’t wait.

Actually, I won’t wait either. I intend to make some at home before I go to try it out under low-risk conditions. If it fails, I can work out the problems or choose something else. Maybe tomorrow.

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Tonight was the final evening for our annual Honors Week, and for that, Cheryl taught the Peacemaker honor. This is a fairly new honor, and it’s one that no one in our club had (including me).

We had a light crowd tonight. On the one hand, that’s a little sad because I like for lots of kids to earn the honors we teach. But on the other hand, I’m pretty wiped out now, and a small crowd is easier to handle than a large one.

Beth’s friend Haylee came again tonight, but this time without her mom, brother, and sister. Her mom had something else to do, but she allowed Haylee to ride in with Va. We got home a few minutes ago, but her parents aren’t home yet, so she’s here with us for a bit. As soon as they come and collect her, Beth will have to take a shower and then get to bed.

All in all, I would say that it has been a very successful Honors Week.

Tonight Shaun, a new staff member, taught the Cats honor. Shaun did a great job, and he brought their cat with him. This was useful because the cat was very gentle and allowed the kids to examine his paws to see how many toes he had on the front vs the back. I like it when honors get tactile like that.

It was a light crowd again, but the really cool thing was that our next door neighbors showed up! Beth had invited her best friend Haylee to come, and she did. 🙂 Her mother brought Haylee’s younger brother and sister too.

Yesterday Beth gave Haylee a Bible. I asked how that came about because I was curious about it. Beth told me that she had copied down a Bible story (I don’t know which one) by hand, and gave it to Haylee. Beth loves to write stuff, even if it’s just copying things out of a book. She has filled literally dozens of spiral notebooks by doing this. When she gave the hand-written passage to Haylee, Haylee said she wished she had a Bible that she could read. Beth told Va, Va picked up a Bible from the church, and Beth gave it to Haylee (with her mother’s permission).

Now I have a decision to make. Haylee wants to join our Pathfinder club, but she’s not yet in the fifth grade (Beth will be when school starts up). The old curricula allowed kids to join when they were 10 years old or when they were in 5th grade, but the new curricula being introduced this year eliminates the age option and goes strictly by grade. Haylee is only two weeks younger than Beth, and I’m sure she’d do fine. She’d be eligible to join by last year’s rules.

Add to this the fact that her family will be moving out of our neighborhood soon (they don’t know when yet), and it complicates things. If I bend the rules, I set precedent. If I don’t then this girl and her family will likely lose interest in Pathfinders after they move.

I like the new rule in the general, because it removes the subjective judgments made by Pathfinder leaders and replaces them with the more objective measure of grade level (which is also somewhat subjective, but this judgment is made by professional educators).

But I don’t like the new rule in the specific, as it may stand in the way of introducing a family to our Pathfinder club and to my church.

This is something I will have to pray about.

Tonight was the first night of our annual Pathfinder Honors Week. This is how my club begins every Pathfinder year – we teach a complete honor each evening, Monday through Friday. This lets people try out our club to see if it’s the sort of thing that would interest them before they would have to pay registration fees and dues. It also lets new members earn up to five honors for their otherwise blank sash.

Tonight I taught the Electricity honor. That’s the only one I will have to teach this week (though my son David is teaching one on Thursday, and I will likely be on the hook to help gather some of the materials required for that).

The Electricity honor requires that the Pathfinder connect a battery, switch, and light bulb in a circuit. You can get a “science” kit that has all of that in it, ready for a kid to hook it all up, but those cost $10 a pop. Multiple that by the expected number of kids (10-12), and suddenly, it has eaten a significant portion of my annual budget. So I didn’t go that route. Instead, I went the far cheaper, but more labor intensive route – I made some kits.

The parts I’d need to make a kit would cost $10 at Radio Shack, so I didn’t opt for that either. That has the disadvantage of requiring a bunch of my labor, and still costs as much as a pre-made kit. But a flashlight has a bulb, bulb socket, battery holder (sorta), and switch (kinda, sorta), and Walmart sells some really cheesy models for $1.00 each. So I bought them out.

I couldn’t use the switch as half of it is the bulb holder, and the flashlight case in conjunction with the bulb holder serves as the battery older, so that was out too. So I got some aluminum flashing and some nuts and bolts and made battery holders and switches. One advantage of that (besides cost) is that the kids can see exactly how the switch works.

I haven’t added up the cost per kit yet, but it’s far less than $10 per copy. The downside is that I ran out of time, and was only able to get six of them put together. I figured I could double the kids up two (or three) to a kit if need be.

But “need be” didn’t happen. None of the refugee girls made it tonight, and two of my most faithful Pathfinders are out of town this week. I only had five kids.

The advantage of that is that I was able to give them all plenty of one-to-one attention.

But now I am pretty wiped out. So wiped out that I will probably not take a picture of the thrown-together hack-job kits. The advantage there is that I do not have to post the less-than-stellar craftsmanship that went into them.

We also made electric motors. I will photograph those one of these days so that I can add them to the Answer Book. I was able to make mine work while I was developing it, but we were not able to get anyone’s to work during the honor tonight. Beth got hers to work for a few minutes when we got home though, and she was very excited about that. Actually, I was too – it showed that she was pretty interested in what we did tonight, and displayed a bit of persistence!

Tonight we worked on two honors – Food Freezing, and Bread Dough. Cheryl (the director who preceded me) taught Food Freezing, and her adult daughter taught Bread Dough. We split the kids into two groups – boys and girls, and attacked it that way.

Ken gave us half a basket of peaches for this. I stopped by his place after work to pick them. As Jonathan and I were driving to the church, we passed an unmanned vegetable stand on the side of the road. I bought four dozen ears of corn and eight squash for $20 (which I stuffed into the little lock-box). I might have bought less, except that I didn’t have change. So instead, I grabbed veggies until they added up to $20.

Cheryl picked up strawberries, zucchini, sugar (for freezer jam), lemon juice, pectin, and I can’t remember what else. Either she or her daughter also picked up several sacks of flour, a few boxes of salt, and some other stuff too for the Bread Dough honor.

The bread dough itself was about half salt and half flour – the intent being to sculpt things out of it rather than to eat it. I assume that since it consists of that much salt, not even insects would be tempted to eat it – but the kids sure were! I let them taste a smidgen to satisfy their curiosity. That was about all it took too.

After we were finished there was more than a little clean up to do. Somehow, the kitchen floor got a little sticky, so I mopped it. And somehow, we got flour on the carpet, so some of the kids vacuumed it.

Tomorrow we work on our raft.

Tonight for Pathfinder Honors Week, we worked on the Braiding honor. We had done this one a few years ago, but there are very few kids in the club now who earned it back then. So we gave it another go.

I did not earn it last go-round either, as I was so busy helping kids with their braids that I never finished mine. But this year I will finish it. I hope.

I got off work at 4:00, and the Honors don’t start until 5:30, so I had about 90 minutes to use for other purposes. I wasn’t hungry yet, so I went straight to the church and started pulling nails and screws from the lumber pile that used to be walls. I loaded two pine 1×10’s and eleven 2×4’s on my roof rack and brought them home. I plan to use them to build a bulletin board switcher contraption.

When I got home tonight, I finally remembered that I needed to deal with a yellow jacket nest at the foot of the deck steps. I handled them the way my grandmother used to deal with wasps (according to my Dad). She would boil up a pan of water and douse the nest. I figured that if it worked on wasp nests, it ought to be pretty effective on yellow jacket nests as well. Further, it should be a little easier, because yellow jackets build their nests underground instead of overhead.

I boiled up about two gallons of water and went out well past sunset. I had my hat-mounted flashlight so I could find their hole, and that wasn’t too tough. When I moved the grass back from it, I saw their sentry stir. I wasted no time pouring the recently-boiling water down the hole, and she never said “boo”.

I like this technique because it is both effective and non-toxic. It seems to have done the trick. Hooray!

Tonight was the first night of Pathfinder Honors Week. One of my younger Pathfinders asked to teach Origami, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity. She did a great job. I think there were 11 people there including myself.

Progress on the school continues. They are doing the wiring tonight. Normally I would have been right there with them, but I was busy running Honors Week. Another crew was spreading mulch on the playground (it has to be six inches deep). They were still at it when I left.