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And we camped!

Evan and I just returned from our first camping trip to the Cosby Campground in the GSMNP. Greenbrier used to be my hideaway in the Smokies and is still one of my favorite spots. Cosby is on the Greenbrier side of the mountains and was a wonderful experience! Our scouts, their parents, their support, our pack, its support, the attitudes, the adventures and the weather were all great…better…they were perfect! This is one of those father/son bonding experiences that had so many precious moments that this trip will always hold a special place in my heart.

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Which camera for a week in the canyons? Olypmus Tough or GoPro?

Five adults are planning on accompanying five boys scouts into the wilderness of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. We will be cut off from the rest of the world for nine days; that is no Internet, no cell phone. In preparation, I have to decide what gear is essential. I love photography and I love timelapse video. My inclination is to make a video documentary of our trip which has me leaning toward the GoPro2 Outdoor Edition The GoPro would give me the ability to take some photography (but not with the composition of a point and shoot or dslr), film video, and film timelapse. Naturally, power and storage space become issues. A more practical solution may be the Olympus TG-810 Tough 14 MP, 5x Wide Optical Zoom (28mm), 3″ 920K LCD (Black). The built-in GPS drains the batteries; however, it would be very nice to be able to map our trip in photographs upon our return. I could also film video and technically could do timelapse also. See specs at DPReview.

How would you decide between these two cameras?

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Parenting – Giving the World to our Children Just Isn’t in the Budget

As a parent, I maintain an uncomfortable level of stress over family finances. I constantly think about my family’s health and the related expenses (forecasting braces, emergencies, regular checkups, etc.), education (saving for college, extracurriculars, making sure there are funds for participation in activities and providing necessary supplies – n.b. public education is far from free!, home schooling to supplement school teaching, family field trips, etc.), our bills (housing, utilities, etc), entertainment (for a balanced life, vacations – a rarity, toys, etc), food, maintenance, transportation….the list goes on and turns my stomach to think about the gross amount of money it takes to maintain a healthy and well-balanced family. I remember the very first time I held a $100 bill; it was so much money and seemed so unreal. Now, it feels like I regularly burn Ben Franklins.

One of the painful aspects of being a parent is realizing the opportunities presented to your children which they have to forego due to financial reasons. I regret not flying to Germany to watch The Wall being torn down during a Pink Floyd performance but I knew the sacrifices I would have made to make that trip and as a young adult I could accept those. A young child gets their hopes and dreams set on something like a camping trip and simply does not have the means to understand why we have to say no. Teenagers better understand but it still pains me to shoot them down.

So I stare at my calendar. An imaginary glow illuminates the critical dates where income appears in the bank and the due dates where bills suck the accounts dry. I see the dates of an 11 day hiking trip I scheduled with my son and his scout troop and ask myself, "will the family understand eating Ramen noodles for a month to make this trip happen?" Then the phone rings, "There’s an opening on this year’s Philmont trip. It’s the last time our district will send a contingent making this a once in a lifetime opportunity for your son. The cost is $2000 plus personal expenses." My heart sinks to my toes.

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Wife Ill – SuperDad to the rescue!

Wife ill. I have sent her to bed. Afternoon activities: program (finish a database audit trail system ie. track who makes all changes to the data, and finish a search engine), cook brownies for tonight’s Boy Scout Christmas party, pickup high school girls from school, buy ornament hooks from AC Moore so we can finish our advent calendar and let the children begin the Christmas countdown (aka this year daddy has his stroke). Maybe feed the children (which may involve a trip to the grocery) – there is some debate as to whether or not tonight’s Christmas party has real food (figure that out). Clean and prepare the children for tonight’s activity. And be kind to the wife and check on her to make her comfortable. That’s it.

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My child walks the road where dogs go to die

Thank you strangers, whoever you were, for delivering my child from harms way. See, I just washed the dog, was shirtless, and looking fairly unpresentable having just returned from leading 17 boys on a rock climbing camping trip. By the time I grabbed a shirt you were gone. I suppose I should have just gone to your car. It would have completed the picture of an irresponsible white trash parent for you. My almost 6 year old daughter was trying to find the neighbor’s dog after it ran away and the neighbor, thinking the children wouldn’t wander far, told the children they could not come back into the house until the dog was found. My daughter knows she cannot go past a certain marking on the street but apparently did not know she could not cross the creek. That creek is thick with mud and still has water from our recent deluges. She found her way to Northshore Drive which is one of those roads riddled with crosses on the shoulder and enough road kill to create an A to Z picture book of dead animals. This is the same road I fought for three years to convince the school that our elementary school bus stop should not be on that road.

I have to say this event has created conflict in so many ways. The wife and I are bitterly angry at each other because I grew furious that she wouldn’t go greet you. She did not understand what I was asking, did not see you pull up, and also considered herself unpresentable. Instead you met my oldest son. He has an issue with social situations and does not understand things like asking for your name so that I have some semblance of a clue about whether or not you were friends or just plain good Samaritans. You also met my dog who is a very friendly and safe German Shepherd but has taken to running toward strangers at the house with a fear inducing bark but really she just wants to say hi and let us know you are here. I got mad because I just soaked myself and made my back ache giving her a bath on the porch but apparently I am the only person in our family capable of opening the front door without letting the dog outside. I am upset with my daughter for straying so far from home, for being on such a dangerous road, and for getting in a car with someone she did not recognize, "because she told [her] to get in and [she] didn’t want to be rude." At the same time, I am thrilled that she got in the car with you! I will have to re-think this whole brainwashing our children to not trust strangers bit. After all, aren’t most people good? Shouldn’t we trust each other? Thanks again for keeping my child safe!

Update: Later the neighbor did drive out and find their dog safe and sound.

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Should my feelings be hurt?

Should I celebrate my son’s confidence in himself or should my feelings be hurt? Every time a Boy Scout outing comes around, I ask my son, "do you want me to go on the outing?" You know.. maybe having dad around is uncool then again maybe having dad around is fun. His response? Flatly, "I don’t care." And he really means it. I’ve read about helicopter parenting and I don’t be that. I know as parent you can’t be the best friend either but I’d like us to have fun together. Don’t get me wrong, I think we have good times. I get excited about spending time with my children. I just wish they’d share some of the enthusiasm.