Between teaching at two different schools, doing the hubbie/daddy thing, dissertating, and listening to countless Disney podcasts, another item has been thrown into the mix. Aaron has found scouting and really likes doing the items in the handbook. I had to teach the night of the information meeting, so I didn't get a chance to gauge his interest. It didn't take long to realize that he wanted to do it, and not just because he had friends that were also interested.
Aaron and I headed to the first "official" meeting the following week, and his interest grew even more as he found out what den he was in and who all was in his den. I think he was hoping to have only one den so all of his friends would be together, but they did split the first-graders up into 2 dens (definitely a good decision there...that would have been too many people). One of the first items of business was to select the leaders for the Den. A committee member of Pack 53 has a son in the den (Den 3) and is serving as the Den Leader. He asked for 2 Assistant Den Leaders in the event that he and his family moves out of the area (better potential employment opportunities). One volunteered, and I slowly raised my hand to offer my assistance.
The learning curve had begun. I was a Scout for a couple of years back when I lived in Hoopeston...I got the Bobcat badge, the Wolf badge, and was 75% of the way to the Bear badge before dropping out. I don't recall ever really attending a pack meeting...only going to Mrs. Montour's house, doing some stuff, and having her sign my book. Well, I do still remember two outings: the pinewood derby (I had a wheel fall off half-way down the track...was in therapy for a month) and a breakfast at the Hoopeston Conservation Club (I remember manning a fly swatter and accidentally hitting someone with it...made him cry...more therapy). I also remember reading Boy's Life magazine and loving it. I loved reading the White Mountains strip every month! Other than that, I don't remember too much, other than the ranks, the beads, and the arrowheads.
Regardless, things have changed just a bit in the 28 year-span between when I started and now. For example, WHAT THE HECK IS A TIGER CUB???!!! They used to be called Den Mothers...now it's Den Leaders (and, yes, Sheri occasionally calls me a Den Mother)? Advancement is by grade now?
First thing was a uniform . We searched around and found the Scouting Store in Bloomington. Aaron was about to burst as he picked out his shirt and saw the badges that were to go on it. While there, I picked up a handbook on helping plan den meetings (the Program Helps). His first pack meeting was a mere 5 days away, so we had to get those badges on the uniform. Being a Veteran coming from a military academy where perfection of the uniform is expected, I started searching for where to put all those badges (Badges? We don't need no steenking badges!).
Now, y'all are going to see how my warped mind works. The primary debate going on in my brain was tied around whether to sew on the badges or use "badge magic", which was an adhesive. I spent several hours researching blogs on that topic and even put up a status post on Facebook soliciting feedback. While not 100% unanimous, most agreed that sewing, while more difficult, was the way to go.
Next came the placement of the badges. Sheri was getting ready to head out for a conference for work, so I started working on my sewing skills (more research on starting/ending knots), which I haven't used for several years. I made the mistake of trying to do the largest patch first, which was also the oddest shape. After three tries, where I got 1/3 to 1/2 way around and then unthreading it (my index finger bleeding from trying to push the needle through the thick embroidery), I finally got it to where it was close to being where it was supposed to be. It wasn't perfect, but it was on, and the thread was pretty much invisible. I then switched tactics...how about putting badge magic on to get the patches in the right position (at least the permanent ones...I didn't use that stuff on the ones that were likely to change, such as the Den number) and then sewing around it? Perfect idea! It will take care of the edges curling, as is common with the badge magic, and we can dry clean the uniform if needed without losing the badges.
One problem...when you pushed a needle through the badge magic, the goop got on the needle and made it harder to push as well as really sticky. Still, they looked pretty good. Of course, it took a LOT longer (I was up until around 1-2 am several nights in a row working on this). In between classes, I researched the proper placement of the World Emblem Badge...I agonized over lots of conflicting information and, after several hours, decided on ignoring many of the pictures and going with the official placement instructions on the Scouting.org web site (which was higher than where most people placed it).
Like I said...you get feel for how my brain works here.
Okay, with Aaron's uniform done, I had my work cut out for me. Added to this was the notion that there is a chance of actually filling in as Den Leader, I went in full-bore trying to figure out what all there was to figure out. I started off by going to our Pack's web site to see what they had to help. Looks like there's some training required. Okay, on to the main scouting site, where I saw tons of training, most of what I did in one evening. When it got to the point where I was going to be considered "trained", I was told that I could probably receive my own badge noting the trained status. This, of course, led me to ask if they wanted the assistants in uniform, too.
It's only a day before the pack meeting, and I'm back in the Scout Store getting my shirt. We get all the stuff for my shirt, and I run home to wash it and start applying the badges (using badge magic, of course and then sewing). I didn't have time to get everything sewed, but at least I got the stuff on the shirt.
After my third night in a row of about 4 hours of sleep, we finally get to the day of Aaron's pack meeting. The school PTO is the chartered organization, and the scouts are encouraged to wear their uniforms to school the day of the pack meeting. Aaron was stoked...he was ready to wear it!
Of course, we had to check out the sewing outcomes:
Yeah, he was liking the uniform!
Sheri was still in the Chicago area for her conference, so I uploaded pics for her to see. This led to quite a few comments over on Facebook on how happy he looked.
I finished up my shirt about 45 minutes before picking up the boys from school. I didn't have any starch (it's the Academy in me...I can't help it), but I did iron the heck out of both of our shirts. As we're getting dressed for the meeting, I could see Eric taking a keen interest in all of this, which means we'll probably be doing this again in a couple of years. Aaron gets the neckerchief on, and I wasn't thrilled with the way it looked (I knotted the chief to avoid losing the slide...more on that in a later post). Back out to the porch for more pictures:
When it came to the salute (his idea, not mine), he got all serious and, despite my requests, refused to smile. You can't see it, but Eric is right next to me saluting back to him.
We head over to the meeting (a whole 2 blocks away), and the first thing the Tiger Cubs are tasked with doing is a little song:
Remember, I'm used to teaching college, so I'm not used to working with this level. I'm starting to wonder what I'm getting myself into around this point. The Tiger Cubs then go through a short ceremony where they get a little bit of face paint symbolizing whiskers:
Two things here...#1, I really need to lose weight (I've taken off 12 pounds in the three weeks since this picture was taken); and #2, Aaron wasn't big on the face paint...he rubbed it off after about ten minutes. BTW, there are more (and better) pictures at the Pack's photo link.
Then he got his first badge, which he thought was uber cool.
Well, it was cool for about ten minutes. Then, being a first grader, he was on to other things.
After the meeting and helping clean up a little, we headed home, where I asked Eric to take a picture of Aaron and me in our attire:
It's easy to forget that Eric is only 4 years old, and he framed up this picture...pretty darn good job by Eric!!!
Throughout the meeting, I noticed that the shirt that I was wearing was slightly different from all the other leaders. This, of course, led to several more hours of researching to see what was up (new "centennial" shirts just came out this summer, which, of course, means different rules on badge placement on the sleeves). I also found that the numerals I had for the pack, while allowed, didn't quite go with the rest of the patches. Since I had used badge magic on the numerals, I then had to research the proper way to remove them (a couple of hours...seriously, I need to cut down on the information-gathering). Sure enough, following the directions and using "Goof Off" worked perfectly! I got the green numerals as well as a Tiger Cub Den Leader badge (the Den Leader suggested that as the proper identification), and I finished up all the current sewing with my stuff as well as Aaron's newest rank.
In the next installment of the Scouting Saga, we'll talk popcorn, a "launch", and the first den meeting.