April 26, 1805, a Typical Friday Night

There is a fluidity in history that seems to go unnoticed. Unrecognized layers of time and physical space surround our lives and we tend not to see ourselves as contributors to the story.

Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the Corps of Discovery marked their achievement in reaching the Pacific Ocean, albeit without uncovering that elusive northwest passage, by spending a miserably wet winter (November 1805 – March 1806) at Ft. Clatsop, near Astoria, Oregon. Starting out from St. Louis in 1804, it would be two years before they would return, surprising many and hauling the tomes of their observations of North American flora, fauna, geography, and culture.

About a month ago, I started volunteering in the library at Ft. Clatsop at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Unfortunately, while the Park draws many visitors with its interpretive programs, comprehensive exhibits, and a replica of Ft. Clatsop on the exact site of that long winter, the research library is down a dark hall, behind closed doors, which is only to say that my volunteer time is usually quiet.

Each Saturday morning, I settle in with copies of famous journals of Lewis and Clark. I enjoy finding the exact date for each year the men kept journals. I can occasionally find a note for 1804, but always for 1805 on their initial trek west and, 1806, on their return. The comprehensive research library also allows access to the journals of other expedition members. Clark noted seven men kept journals on the journey and, although the identities of three are lost to time (or yet to be uncovered in a dusty attic or a government basement), Sergeants Patrick Gass and John Ordway both published their own journals shortly after returning with the Corps.

I intend on sharing a little of each day, as the Corps recorded it, on the day about two centuries later.

(Note: In April 1804, they are yet to leave St. Louis.)

(Note: The appalling spelling and grammar in the direct journal quotes is all unchanged. <cringe>)

Thursday, April 26, 1804

Thursday 26. Mr. Hay arrived, river falls. (Clark)

Mr. Hay refers to fur trader, merchant and postmaster of Cahokia (Illinois) who hailed from Detroit. It seems he was helping with the final compilation of goods and tools in preparation for the departure.

Friday. April 26, 1805

The Corps reached the convergence of the Yellowstone (Rochejhone) and Missouri Rivers. Most of both Lewis and Clark’s journals are full of scientific observations and measurements about the rivers themselves, and the surrounding flora and fauna. It’s hard not to feel slight pangs of jealousy when reading of the abundance of animals (all mentioned on the 26th). The:

“…Antelope, Buffaloe Elk and deer…the growse, the porcupine, hare and rabbit…the bighorned animals, Magpie Goose duck and Eagle…white bears and wolves.”

It’s a safe assumption that the white bear is simply a blonde or light brown colored grizzly (in comparison to the darker black bears they would have been used to in the Eastern US), and not a wayward brother of the polar persuasion. It is noted they killed their first bear of the expedition just three days later.

While the detailed observations of Lewis and Clark were important contemporaneously and historically, I prefer the brevity of Gass, who on this day simply settles for describing the convergence area as “…the most beautiful rich plains, I ever beheld.” He is focused more on a “flock” of swimming goats. Yep.

“…this morning…Capt. Lewises dog Seamon took after them caught one in the River.”

This encampment marked a geographically important region for the journey and what is there left to do but celebrate:

“…after I had completed my observations…I walked down a joined the party…found them…much pleased at having arrived at this long wished for spot, and in order to add in some measure which seemed to pervade our little community, we ordered a dram to be issued to each person.” 

A little drink in the wilds of North America 200 years ago seems to have much the same effect as a little drink in the sprawl of our current situation.

“…this soon produced the fiddle, and they spent the evening with much hilarity, singing & dancing, and seemed as perfectly to forget their past toils as they appeared regardless of those to come.”

Friday nights seem to have changed very little.

Saturday, April 26, 1806

At this point, the Corps is returning east and, although, there is no confirmation on the exact encampment site for this date, it’s thought they were near Plymouth, WA. Their travels took the majority of the written thoughts for the day, as they were:

“…overtaken today by several families of the natives who were traveling up river with a number of horses; they continued with us much to our annoyance as the day was worm the roads dusty and we could not prevent their horses from crouding in and breaking our order of mach without using some acts of severity which we did not want to commit.”

I imagine this is akin to an encounter with those drivers who refuse to use the left passing lane as intended, complete with a road rage threat.

While camped, “…a little Indian boy caught several chubbs with a bone in this form.”

I thought this an uninspired drawing by Clark:

until I found this one in Lewis’s:

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An interesting note, as many times their journal entries are exact duplicates, as they exchanged and copied each other’s journals as a back up in case of loss. On this day Lewis notes they camped, “…about a mile below three lodges of the Wollah wollah nation…” Clark includes a nearly identical passage save a striking verb inclusion, “…the fritened band of the Wallah Wallah nation.” There is no indication of any interaction on that day or a possible reason as to why he would consider them frightened.

Tomorrow marks the end of National Park Week for 2014. If you can, visit and support your local national park.

 

 

 

 

 

Two-thousand Miles I Roam

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How was it possible that Marilyn Monroe was satiated for seven years before being incited by that infamous itch? As an adult, two years is the longest I’ve managed to find myself without the nagging need for something new.

New ideas.

New experiences.

New influences.

New views.

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted and, although, it strikes some odd that I turned from writing in these stressful, move-consumed weeks, I found that it coincided nicely with an impassable writer’s block.

After a surprise visit to my hometown in July, I returned to my small Midwest town and found myself distanced from the feelings of quaint easiness that I thought had drawn me there. As it turns out, those feelings and the comfort in simplicity that I had always associated with my time in Wisconsin was, in fact, not confined to the mitten-shaped border of my beloved Badger-land. It was actually, country song cliché be damned, a state of mind that I had grown into.

For the first time in my thirty years, I started considering a move by choice, rather than out of necessity. I did have the two-year restlessness, but in the past my moves have been precipitated by a better job, a shorter commute, cheaper rent. In a matter of weeks, I broke the news, started filling boxes, and relocated my job hunt to the North Oregon Coast.

I’ve always maintained that if I ever moved back to the Pacific Northwest, I would only ever call Astoria home. I spent many spring breaks just 20 miles beyond the cove-d hamlet, but was forever drawn to the jarring colors of the crumbling Victorians and the deep history that could be felt seeping from their weathered siding.

So it happened. I did it. And here I am.

Many applications, a few interviews, but no job yet.

A cozy (double meaning intended: securely comfortable and small in real estate lingo) apartment with a view only possible in one place in the world.

And the knowledge that although it appears that I’m starting over yet again, in reality this life has always been here.

Sitting on the dock, in the rain, waiting for me to call it home.

Harried Poppins: Free Bowling and Racing…Worms?

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Two days of talk about all the details that go along with being the responsible adult.

Now for the good stuff.

If you haven’t heard about www.kidsbowlfree.com, you’ve been ignoring your junk inbox. It looks very spammy, but it’s a legit program that is exactly what it says it is. Kids get 2 FREE games of bowling A DAY for the whole summer. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. We don’t go that much, but we tried it out this week.

It’s an easy sign-up, just a bit of information and then pick your closest participating bowling alley. You’ll receive an e-mail every Sunday for the week.. We go to Ten Pin Alley in Fitchburg, but there’s a large list of centers in Wisconsin (and everywhere else). When you go into bowl, use your smart phone to follow the link in the e-mail and the employee will input the necessary code right on your phone. Adults can sign-up for a separate program, but it costs about $25 and we don’t bowl enough for it to be worth it.

You do have to pay for shoe rental ($2 at Ten Pin), and since I bowled 2 games I also had to pay for those, but for the 5 of us to bowl 2 games, including shoes, it was $14 total compared to the $38.50 we would have paid without signing up.

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One of our first stops after I had picked everyone up was our local library to sign-up for the summer reading program. This summer the theme in our library system, the South Central Library System, is Dig Into Reading. They each received reading logs, where they track their time in 15 minute increments and turn in levels at every 2 hours for great prizes (passes to Cave of the Mounds, the Milwaukee Museum and the Dane County Fair, dinosaur gliders, sticky lizards, etc). This was M’s first year getting to sign-up and she also got her very own library card. A paramount day in any young girl’s life, if you ask me.

In addition to the reading logs, the library hosts the occasional program relating to the theme. We are lucky to be in close proximity to about 8 other library branches, so we take advantage of the free activities when we can. Some of the same programs are featured at different libraries throughout the summer, which is nice because we have more flexibility in our schedule on when and where we can see it.

Later in the week we wound our way to Mt. Horeb for their Zoozorts program. This is the first time we’ve attended an event at the Mt. Horeb library, and as a bit of an unintentional, but overtly sassy library critic, I must say their facility, program, and, most importantly, librarian where impressive. They reserved a big space in the middle of the library for the program. I don’t know the layout of the library, but generally children’s programs are given the unused meeting room or slightly smelly conference area, so it was a nice change. The librarian was enthusiastic, which seems hard to come by in the children’s librarians I’ve encountered lately.

Yeah, I know, completely counter-intuitive, but some are just nasty. Down right Agatha Trunchbull.

Finally, the featured program was Zoozort. A live, animal education program by Noelle Tarrant. She had an amazing energy that kept the audience enraptured for the full hour. She filled every minute with information on each animal and allowed the opportunity for every child to touch almost all the animals, which included a fennec fox, bearded dragon, giant marine toad, 6-banded armadillo, a wallaby and more. If you get a chance, try to track her down at one of her events throughout Wisconsin.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed them up, but the Oregon Public Library 4th Annual Worm Race is exactly what it sounds like. The boys were paired into teams, each received a worm-petitor to compete for the coveted trophies and, of course, the glory of being a worm race champion. It was a fairly large event and included worm EMT’s (nurses from a local veterinarian clinic) which was a great way to include local businesses.

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Unfortunately, neither of the boy’s teams made it beyond the first round but they received a certificate, a pass for the Dane County Fair, and, a small bag full of their worm’s gummy counterparts.

The initial idea for our “lunch around the world” idea started during the Olympics last year. As with everyone, we spent those few weeks consumed by the events and the culture of the London Olympics, including making a lunch of Shepard’s pie. This year I decided to expand on the idea as a means of introducing practical skills and global thought.

A fantastic(ally) theoretical idea. The kids seem to think because I live in a space without my parents and that I’m big enough to be an adult that it must translate to a natural cooking ability, like their mothers. But in reality, it doesn’t reach much beyond the same pb&j’s they are capable of making.

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So when in our first week, the random selection was Saudi Arabia, I panicked. Middle Eastern cuisine is not one that I’m familiar with, so after I sent the boys to the computer to find recipes, I stealthily pulled out my phone to do some research of my own. In the end, our menu of falafel, pita chips, hummus, and laban (plain yogurt mixed with water and poured over ice) was easy to make, but less so to consume. Of the 4 kids, only A enjoyed the falafel, he was joined by J in the crunchy consumption of pita chips and hummus, but I was the only one who finished their glass of laban.

We started our first week with behavior management contracts and ended with an unpopular meal. A week book ended with low points for the kids, but really an opportunity for a growth in knowledge and experience.

But, as the responsible adult, I have to say that.

Harried Poppins: School’s Out for the Summer…So Sign Here

Signed Contract

Schools out forev…um…77 days.

But before those 11 weeks can be filled with adventures, new experiences, and memories, we have to deal with the nitty-gritty.

This will be my third summer with A, C, and J, but first with Big M. The addition means a new dynamic for our group. That crew mentality is one that I will stress all summer. I am constantly reminding them that if compromises aren’t reached and tolerance gained, this will be a L-O-N-G summer for all of us (and by all of us, I mean me, of course). It also means that not all of our activities will be based around the interests of the boys. An important, but hard lesson.

Being an only child, A, doesn’t have the same patience and ability to ignore the bossy 4-year old as her older brothers do. This summer is a new experience, but he’s starting to realize that similar to large, seemingly vicious beasts in the woods, if you don’t bother them, they generally won’t bother you.

I decided that because of this new dynamic, and the slight maturity gain that the boys seem to have made since last summer, that I would create individual contracts for everyone to sign and follow throughout the summer. Including me. It’s similar to the contracts that classrooms set up in the first week of school to ensure that both the expectations for behavior and the consequences for poor choices are clear.

It’s a way to keep everyone accountable, as well as providing a safety net in behavior management. The “But-I-didn’t-know” whine doesn’t work when their name is on the line.

I had M sign one, as well, as a means of solidarity in the group and as another introduction to the idea of actions and consequences. At 4, there is less expectation that these rules will be remembered, but, as with any knowledge, each time a concept is introduced a little piece sticks. It can do nothing but help.

Each contract had 8 responsibilities that were the same. In talking to their parents and my previous experience with them, I then personalized the final 3 for each child. I then left spaces for them to add their own rules if they choose to. No one did and I’ve half played with the idea of creating some crazy rules and sneaking them in, but the trust I would lose would far outweigh the hilarity of trying to enforce Tiara Tuesday.

There was some hesitancy in signing the contracts when I first mentioned them, as they were convinced I was making them agree to horrid things, like toilet cleaning and tea parties. It’s amazing what a little ice cream can do to grease the pen. Here’s a link to one of the contracts that I used. I keep them in the back of the binder and gave a copy to the parents so that it can be reinforced, if necessary.

Through this whole half-hour process, I’m sure they thought I found this to be the highlight of the summer. They probably swore they heard me cackle, as I rubbed my hands together, and plotted to make this the most responsibility-filled, boring summer yet. If they only knew, I hate this stuff as much as they do! I don’t want to have to say, “You need to say kind things.” or “Critical comments won’t be tolerated.” But unfortunately, I have to.

This sounds like a it-hurts-me-more-than-it-hurts-you statement, that I always called b.s. on as a kid, but, well, it’s kind of what it is.

If I didn’t know that there was a potential for that behavior, it wouldn’t need to be said. It sounds terribly pessimistic, but think the worst sometimes. Don’t voice these thoughts to the children, but keep them in the back of your mind. You’ll be better prepared for a proactive solution when you see it coming than if you naïvely considered it impossible.

So with the contracts signed, any semblance of school is gone.

Except for the required reading…and math…

Only 77 more days until September.

Harried Poppins: A Nanny’s Summer Survival Guide

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As I venture outside of the comfort I’ve created for myself in 14 years working in childcare and education, there is one job they’ll have to pry from me. I spend my summer’s “off” from the school district herding a small pack of wild and imaginatively fun beasts around Southern Wisconsin (and occasionally Northern Illinois).

I try to fill our days, but not schedule them. Living just south of Madison affords the opportunities of city activities AND adventures on the beautiful lakes and prairies.

And, of course, the free-er, the better.

This series will give parents, grandparents, babysitters, and other summer caretakers ideas, resources, and a guide to plan a summer void of boredom (by everyone). A summer of exploration and expansion.

I’m working with a short crew of 4. A, C, and J are 10, 10 and 8, while Big M is 4 (going on 13 and the Big is solely indicative of her personality), so the activities are designed for a range of interests and abilities.

I’ve created a binder, our Bible, for the summer. Each day has a page, listing everything that I know is going on in an approximately 30 mile radius that day. It also includes brochures and a listing of activities that can be done anytime. Not only does it make it an easy one stop resource for me, but I’ve made it clear that, “I’m bored,” is not an option. They can use the binder as a resource, as well.

One important concept that has made my summers easier is to remember that as a caretaker of school age children, I am the facilitator not the entertainer. Provide the resources and then let them create their own adventure. You’re doing nothing for their critical thinking skills by being the cruise director.

We have a few activities that we do daily (or weekly) that will be our constants throughout the summer. Swim lessons and swim team happen every morning. My one short breather in the day is a half hour overlap by all 4. I generally take that time to get in a quick chapter or social media check.

As I’ve done in the previous two summers, I require 30 minutes of reading and math a day. Thankfully we are truly a pack of book nerds, so the 30 minutes is usually far exceeded. However, during that reading time, they must read a “challenge book.” A good fit book that they haven’t read before and that occasionally requires word deduction. Big M is pre-reader, so I will read to her and she’ll return the favor by doing a “picture walk” through the book.

I was lucky enough to find a math workbook and a multiplication facts dry erase workbook early in the summer at a garage sale. A, C, and J rotate 10 minute stations between the two workbooks and www.freerice.com. Each correctly solved problem on FreeRice is a donation of 10 grains of rice to support the United Nations World Food Programme. We’ve set a goal of reaching 50,000 grains by the end of the summer. The other easy aspect of FreeRice is the ability to quickly change between difficulty levels, which makes for smooth transitions between stations.

Finally, each week we are cooking a lunch of traditional foods found in different locations around the world. One person closes their eyes and points on a map. There is a trifecta in benefits from this experience. Most obvious is the practical knowledge of preparing and cooking food. So, you are welcome, future spouses. They are also responsible for the grocery shopping. They lead the way, Lewis and Clark-style, through the grocery store with list,cart, and calculator in hand. We try to keep our total under $10.

Beyond the prep work and (age appropriate) cooking tasks, they are responsible for researching the types of traditional foods for that area. As the two oldest move towards middle school (they will start 5th grade in the fall), reports and research papers will become commonplace in their homework. While researching we talk about what a good source is, how we can tell that a source is trustworthy, and the most efficient way to collect their information.

Now the real reason that we do this activity each week: I’m cultivating a mini-horde of future travel partners.

Not really, but I think that global awareness cannot be taught too early. More exposure to different cultures, even more exposure to maps, is an easy way to plant a seed towards community-mindedness.

Beyond these constants, we track down all the most fun museums, fairs, parks, fishing holes, swimming spots and other activities South Central Wisconsin can offer. I’ll play catch up this week and post about our first few weeks, but then look for the Harried Poppins series posts weekly for ideas on how to entertain your short crew this summer.