Update on the Stoneham Greenway!

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Last night Grey and I got to join a lot of other families in town on our local tv station talking about what the Greenway means to me. Those fresh, young faces really helped remind me what this project is about: doing something awesome to make our town an even better place to live. Check out the video!

For those of you who are dying for more details on exactly where the project stands, what it does (and exactly how much of Rec park would be impacted), the Greenway Site has an excellent update you should review!

I’m excited to work with so many great, excited people to make this happen!

Brenda Flynn

Get the Greenway Going!

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Friends, I had the opportunity to attend a Town Meeting last night. This is my letter to the editor about the topic. If you don’t live in Stoneham, feel free to ignore. If you do live here, please – in addition to reading my note – contact your Selectmen to let them know you expect their enthusiastic support of the bikeway!

Fellow Residents of Stoneham,

I’m a mother to two young boys: six and nine. In just a few years, my oldest son will get to go to the great new Middle School we’ve built. In order to get there, though, he’s going to have to cross Montvale and Main Streets. Right now those crossings make me nervous. When the Bikeway becomes a reality, my kids – along with many of others in town – will have a much safer way to walk or bike to school. The bikeway will give us a safe place to teach our kids to ride, connect our community and bring biking enthusiasts to spend time and money in Stoneham!

Recently I attended a session on the future of Main Street. One of the points that was made was that Stoneham needs to attract young families to stay vibrant. Our population is aging. To support them at the level they deserve, we need to promote growth and vibrancy in this town. Our Main Street lacks the foot traffic it needs to attract new companies like Starbucks, and to support local businesses like Angelo’s or Cleveland Fence. In an amazing coincidence, Stoneham has a nearly finished plan for a Greenway (multi-use trail and park) with $5.5 million dollars of outside funding to make more foot traffic happen. Construction could begin as early as next year. By the time my 3rd grader is headed to Middle School, he could take the Greenway!

At the Town Meeting last night, there was a lot of impassioned discussion, and the Board of Selectmen was not authorized to begin negotiations on the temporary construction space needed build the Greenway. (Funny note: John DePinto and Robert Sweeney both voted against giving themselves the authority to help move the Greenway forward!) I worry that MassDOT, who’s giving us the $5.5 million, may think Stoneham doesn’t want or support the investment in public space and resources. They might pass us over in favor of another town that speaks with a more unanimous voice about wanting that investment. The no voters on article 10 last night said they needed more time and more clarity, but we don’t have an infinite amount of time to make this happen before we might need to look at funding this ourselves. Delaying the support of this project could risk our funding.

Not a single person at the meeting last night said they DON’T want the Greenway for Stoneham, but I’m afraid that might be the unintended outcome of delay. So I’m asking all of you: local businesses, Selectmen, football parents, voters, leaders and visionaries in Stoneham. Ask your questions. Get your answers. Find your clarity. Do it fast, and once you understand, throw your whole-hearted, active and vocal support behind this phenomenal opportunity to make Stoneham an amazing place to live.

Brenda Flynn

Camera Obscura

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My backpacking trip this summer to Mt. Rainier was fabulous. Fantabulous. Fantabuloustic. Really, really good. There were really only two things I’d change about it: give me 2 hours at Spray Park before the clouds rolled in, and give me a better camera. The first one is obvious. I had a sinking feeling as I raced up the face of the mountain ahead of a roiling ocean of clouds that I would be thwarted, and I was right. It just means I need to go back.

Data prefers catnip to mountains, thanks.

But my camera? I was in one of the most scenic places in the world. Some of the places I planted my feet can’t be gotten to without either real labor or a helicopter. Some of the things I saw are beyond beautiful. I still walk those paths in my mind when I can’t sleep. But my camera. Well. Let’s just say that Thane’s baby pictures were taken on this camera. He’s in Kindergarten. He’s an OLD Kindergartner. There are baby monitors with more megapixels than that thing. It struggled mightily trying to capture the nasty, back-lit conditions that are the mountain at sunrise. Or sunset. Many of the pictures I took just weren’t as good as they could have been. And the video? So 2007!

Thane dropped that same camera that had recorded his borning cry. (Or actually didn’t. As Adam said at the time, “I don’t want anyone seeing *this* mess!”) It doesn’t turn on. Awwwww, shucks.

Not a baby anymore.

So with my birthday coming up, I asked for a camera. I did some research and went to a camera shop, and the guy wrote down what I looked at. I passed off the card to my husband, and looked forward to a Mega-Pixel future. The camera came. I pulled it out with glee and started taking pictures. They, um, didn’t look so hot. And there were no manual functions. I’ve invested a lot of time and love into learning how to really use my camera. I want something that *can* hold my hand, but doesn’t necessarily do so.

I returned the camera.

My last attempt to like camera #2

My last attempt to like camera #2

I went to Hunts Camera in Melrose, the grownup version of a toy store. (With an extra 0 or two added to the end of the price, the way grownup toys are.) The helpful salesman walked through my desires: fits in my pocket (the horror was writ large on his face), manual controls. I’m not too picky. I got my new camera and brought it home and gave it a run.

I really wanted to like it. I really, really, really did! It had a 20x zoom! It was, um, fancy! It has all the controls of my DSLR but in a camera that can fit in my coat pocket, if not so easily my jeans pocket. Yay! I brought it to the soccer field. I brought it to Cape Code. I took pictures hiking.I took pictures apple picking. I took pictures at home. And you know? It drove me nuts. It was hard to focus and slow to turn on. It kept on accidentally turning on when I put it in the case. My kids usually had at least one blurry part of their body. Not only did I not dig it, I didn’t like it. I spent WAY TOO MUCH on it not to like it. With great reluctance, I went back today.

Fractious fractals of romanesco

Truthfully, I was kind of expecting a hassle. I took a few hundred pictures on the camera attempting to like it. I even brought my kids with me to the swap – my prior failure before had been that I hadn’t attempted any photography with vibrating subjects who like to perform photobombs. I asked my assistants to be as obnoxious as possible while I attempted to capture their hijinks on camera. They were naturals.

Many props to Hunts – they swapped out my camera without demur or delay. When the camera I wanted was (of course) out of stock, they sent me home with the floor model and a promise to call me when the new one comes in so I can immediately swap it out.

And guys, I love it. Phew. Third time’s the charm!

Here are the last pictures I took on the second camera and my “trying it out” pictures I took on the new one!

Mr. Puppy in very low light

Mr. Puppy in very low light

PS – one of my daydreams is to turn the attic bedroom into a camera obscura. Someday…..

Like a hole in his head

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I sent a perfectly intact child to school this morning. The kid I came home to has a hole in his head!

He’s flawed! Flawed I tell you!

As if I don’t have enough angsty change to deal with, with one of my sweet little babies turning nine, one of my sweet little babies starting Kindergarten, and now a missing tooth! It’s like the universe is trying to tell me that I don’t have any babies, I have boys!

Thane swallowed his tooth. (Rookie move.) I tried to convince him that the tooth fairy would just operate on him in his sleep (he still clearly totally buys the whole tooth fairy thing), but he insisted that his stomach acid would dissolve the tooth. How can a kid be so smart and yet so gullible?

He wrote a note to the tooth fairy, in lieu of the tooth. Being that he’s in his third week in Kindergarten, it’s pretty unreadable. As far as I can tell it says, Dear Tooth Fairy, I lost my too-th. It fell out and I don’t know where my lost tooth is.” He said he wrote it in bands like a rainbow, only this was three bands and rainbows have seven. I think the green thing is a picture of the tooth. I promise that the actual tooth was not green at the time of loss.

Accepted as legal tender by tooth fairies everywhere.

Grey Turns Nine

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Grey has 7 teeth (seven!) and is doing very well eating solids. His parents are perhaps doing less well in figuring out what solids are kid-friendly, nutritious and easy to make. Grey can now hold his own sippy cup to drink water.

Grey at nine

Grey at nine

Wait, what’s that you say? My son is not nine months old, but nine years?! Impossible! Irrational! Unbelievable! Why, nine years old is practically a grownup! A real person! I was in Mr. White’s class when I was nine, learning about the Civil War and charting weather patterns based on newspapers. My son can’t be nine, can he?

He can be, and he is.

Writing about Grey has gotten harder. He dislikes it when I’ve posted some cute picture or story on Facebook, and he hears about it Sunday from the wonderful, caring grownups there. He’s asked – fairly – that I get his permission before I post stories or pictures about him. The editing makes perfect sense from his point of view, but I miss getting to tell you everything. He’ll read, and approve, this story before I publish it. (This is my excuse for why it’s late.) Only he and I know which lines got crossed out. He would like me to tell you, though, that he’s got his oft-neglected blog Wacky Wonder Comics.

My son and me

The most notable difference about Grey is his steadiness. He will always be a person who feels life deeply, with meteoric highs and abysmal lows. First grade, in particular, roiled for us, with far too much time spent in subterranean unhappiness. But second grade, with a beloved teacher, went much better. This summer was profoundly marked by his adventures in Camp Wilmot. He came back a bit more centered, confident, quieter and capable. Since then, there have been small but profound changes. For example, he now does his chores quickly and without delay or whining right when he gets home. He seems to rebound faster from disappointments. He is trying harder – he has picked himself up from the dirt of the soccer field and taken off running. I didn’t see that from him even this spring. His grit is catching up to his smarts.

Grey’s self-portrait (on iPad)

Grey only wanted one thing for his birthday: a Chromebook. He, like his parents, loves video games. Although we have taught him how to live in a world without screens, there’s no denying that given his druthers he be online and connected. His homework has gotten more serious about online work lately, with some great math, typing and science programs. So… for his birthday he got a Chromebook. I loaded the bookmarks with the best of the internet. I set him up with a Khan Academy account. I put algebra games into his app store.

He figured out where to find the best online games, changed the background, and commented on a G+ picture I posted.

The boy and his gear

For the first time, today, he and I had an email exchange that I had not had to choreograph. The internet has been a wonderful thing for me, but I still have trepidation on seeing his first steps onto the road of the larger digital world, where the best and the worst of humanity and human history lurk mere clicks away from each other.

Grey is growing in every way. He’s watching M*A*S*H with me at night. He’s arguing that he’s too big for his booster seat. He’s three inches away from being right, at four and a half feet. He has a sense of style and a clothing preference. When he draws comics, he includes guidelines so the boxes are square. He loves cats, my chili and comic books. When he and his friends play Minecraft together, every other word is “Dude”. He asked me the other day if he’d always be my baby. I told him that no doubt, he’d always be my baby. But with the quickly passing years, he is also now my boy, quickly growing to be my young man. I love him, and I’m proud of him.

Grey and his two best friends at his birthday celebration at the Lego Discovery Center, with their Minecraft Lego statues. (Two great tastes…)

Haikus and apple butter

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I don’t have much time for contemplation in my life. I’m a knowledge worker, so most of my tasks require the better parts of my brain, leaving little time when my hands are busy and my mind is free. But this last weekend we obtained a bushel of apples. A bushel of apples means apple butter time, which means peeling, coring and cutting 20 apples, followed by much stirring. One finds oneself thinking of the infinite variety of apple seeds (apple trees don’t grow true from seeds – varietals are made by grafting), or how rarely I’ve made apple butter with Joe and Don keeping me company during playoff season.

My mind wandered. The result was two appallingly bad haikus, which I of course share with you:

Peels and cores piled high
Throwing away apple seeds
Russets never known.

Playoff baseball sounds
Peeling six pounds of apples
My team sits at home.

The tools of the meditation

Oh, the Lord is good to me

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Can you spot Grey in this picture?

For my birthday, I got a new point-and-shoot camera. My prior camera really annoyed me on my trip to Mt. Rainier. It just wasn’t as good, as clear, as sophisticated, as HD as I wanted my record of that trip to be. But it did fit in my pocket, which is a definite advantage. I believe I got that camera shortly after Grey was born. Certainly I had it before Thane was born, which puts it at the 6 year old range. That’s downright elderly for a digital camera.

The need for a new one was made inarguable when Thane dropped my old one. So for my birthday I got a sparkly new point and shoot camera. It has pretty much everything my big camera has except a hotfoot for a flash and the ability to switch lenses.

We went apple picking today – a very hot day for late September. We got a bushel of apples, a dozen apple cider donuts, three ice cream cones and a tour of the farm. I figured this was a great opportunity to give my camera for a spin. I’m definitely still learning how to use it most effectively. It did run out of battery halfway through, but I think that I didn’t charge it when I thought I did. So hopefully that’s indicative of nothing.

You can find all the pictures here.

The other pictures I’ve taken this month on my “big camera” are here, including some really cool pictures of our last beach day of the year, which was bookended by a crazy thunderstorm.

The very last set off my old point and shoot can be seen here.

Five key tips to travel like a pro

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The other day I went on a business trip with a young lady who didn’t – as part of her job – go on business trips all the time. She was super excited about the whole thing. The novelty of flying, the eating dinner with the client, the spending the night in a hotel all by herself. Her degree of enthusiasm shocked me regarding my degree of cynicism.

The author, in a random hotel room in…. Philadelphia I think.

Business travel has some similarities to backpacking. People who don’t do it are amazed by the concept. But when I’m actually on the trail (in the airport) I know that I’m still a rookie. Do I travel a lot for business? My “deal” with my husband is that I travel, on average, once a month. I’d say I might be traveling a little more than that these days. Once every three or four weeks I crawl on a plane and go somewhere for a day or two. When they posted a description for my job, it said 50% travel. I have worked with people, though, who spend 3 or more days a week, every week, on the road for work. (That might be listed as 80 – 100% travel – the folks who travel the most are project consultants who will spend ~5 days a week, every week, in a city which is not their own. That’s folks like Accenture & Deloitte. They also tend to work 90 hours in that week and have a massive burnout rate.)

I know I have a ton yet to learn about how travel best, but as I drove from the Richmond International Airport to the corporate business parks in Glen Allen, I thought that maybe you, dear reader, might benefit from what I have learned so far.

Rental Cars
This was probably my biggest rookie mistake. You might have rented a car at an airport once or twice. You take the shuttle to the rental car center, stand in line, answer mysterious questions about levels of insurance coverage and take a bet on whether you’ll have enough time between meeting and boarding to refill the tank. I once got into a situation in Los Angeles with Hertz where it took me almost 2 hours to finally get a car – and that was after a long transcontinental flight, with several hours of driving still in front of me.

But that’s how it works, right?

No. It is not. My dearest business partner, after he got done guffawing and making fun of me for such a rookie mistake, explained. Many rental car companies have a second method – a premier method. I now use National (I’m part of the Emerald Club). I make a reservation ahead of time. Then I walked directly out to a row of cars, decide which one I feel like today, climb in and drive off. I stop at the gate on my way out to give them my license. All the rest of that stuff: gas fillups, insurance etc… is just on record. It takes minutes.

The business partner who laughed at me has upped his game, though. Now he just takes Uber everywhere, and doesn’t bother with pickup or dropoff.

Security
When I travel overnight, I have four things that go into the bins in security: my laptop, my toiletries, my shoes and my wallet. Here are some keys I’ve found to never being slower than the person in front of me:

  • Always, always wear slipoff shoes. Wearing boots or even tennis shoes is a mistake. I prefer to wear slacks with socks so I don’t end up standing barefoot in the security line, but flats will do in a pinch.
  • Don’t keep your toiletries in your Dopp Kit (what my family calls that back you keep your toothbrush and hairbrush in). Keep them in a ziplock bag in the outer zippered pocket of your carryon, so you can just slide it in and out.
  • Don’t bury your laptop under anything else.
  • Pay attention to whether you’re Pre. Increasingly, they’re putting more people through the lines where you don’t have take anything out or off. This only helps you if you’ve noticed in time to skip the long line.
  • No sequins. I have this shirt I like to wear with a peacock feather done in sequins. (Saying that it sounds appalling. I swear it’s not that appalling.) But when I go through the body scan with it, I light it up like Christmas. Patdown time! You need to build a travel wardrobe of clothes that are comfortable, washable, professional, good looking – and don’t have metallic bits. This isn’t as impossible as it sounds. I like Dressbarn for helping me find qualifying outfits.

    Points & Perks
    I avoided signing up for frequent anything miles because I know myself well enough to know that I’ll never get around to figuring out how to use them. The few times, in the past, I’ve tried, my one or two trips a year were laughably short of earning me anything, and definitely not worth the aggravation. But now that I’m travelling all the time, I think it might start to add up to something meaningful. The best programs are the ones that have both points for tomorrow and perks for today.

    In terms of perks, business travels are notoriously not price sensitive. My company pays for my travel, and doesn’t really case as long as I keep it within approved ranges. So offering me $10 off a rental car doesn’t actually encourage me to do much. But offering to make something simple, fast or comfortable counts for a tremendous amount.

    Hotel Loyalty
    There are two kinds of enterprise sales people at my company: Marriott people and Hilton people. (OK, they’re actually all Marriott, and fanatically loyal.) These companies make things better & better for you the more you stay with them. I have both sets of rewards (diluting the value of both – conveniently…) As an example, if you’re a Marriott Gold member, you get invited to the Concierge room. There’s late night snack food there, and a free breakfast in the morning. The non member people are downstairs paying $18 for their omelets. Way faster to zip through the buffet and grab a water on your way out, without having to pay. If you’re a platinum member – a coveted status – the hotel may be full for other people, but not for you.

    Also, just so you know, business travelers never, ever, ever check out of a hotel. (I apparently get laughed at a lot when I travel – this was another moment.) Just leave your key (and your tip!) on the table on the way out. Your receipt was likely under your door in the morning.

    The loyalty programs work together, so you are going to want to see if you can’t line them up. For example, as a Hilton person, I’d have a combo of Jetblue – > National -> Hilton family of hotels. This allows me to earn more points for the travel I’m already doing than if I just mixed and matched.

    I’ll let you know how to claim the points as soon as I figure that part out.

    Consistency & GPS
    If you’ve ever been in an airport and watched a business traveler, they often look extremely confident. They’re walking fast, roller bag trailing behind like a patient puppy, eyes on the horizon. “Wow, they really know this airport well!” you think. Ha. They’ve never been here before. But there are two things that make this possible: consistency & GPS.

    Every airport:

  • Has a bathroom right after you get through security and in baggage claim (business travelers never ever ever ever ever check a bag unless they’ll be gone more than a week)
  • Has ground transport next to baggage claim
  • Has a rental car facility where all the rental companies are (this may either be in the airport, or accessed via shuttles).

    When you get off the plane, you immediately walk in the direction of the sign that says “Baggage Claim”, stopping at the first bathroom you see. When you get closer, you start looking for rental car center. It’s always clearly marked. When you get to the rental car center, you follow the signs for your particular company. The closer you get, the more information on what you need. If you watched me landing in Richmond yesterday, you would have thought I knew exactly where the car was I was going to drive and had been there a thousand times before. It was the first time – I just knew what signs to look for.

    Once in the car, the hard part is trying to figure out how to drive it. (I drove a Prius this time. To my great surprise, I hated it. It beeps when you’re in reverse!) Plug in your phone, pull up the appointment for your meeting, and launch your GPS. I had no idea where I was or where I was going, but I got there in good time.

    So, does it sound glamorous and fun? Is there anything here you’re glad to know? Is there anything here I’m completely missing?

  • John Turley, 91 and a half, gone to the Great Thanksgiving

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    John Turley, in his aging backwards period

    John Turley, in his aging backwards period

    Saturday morning, my grandfather-in-law did not wake up. He was 91 and a half years old. He’d be in hospice care for more than six months. Never a man to do things in half measures, he was there for both heart and lungs. In July I was lucky enough to see both my relatives of that generation. (My grandmother is still doing shockingly well in Merced – she just finally went into assisted living this summer.) I added a few hours to my schedule and detoured a couple miles on a business trip to go see John, knowing it might well be my last chance. I sat with him for an hour and held his hand. It’s always hard to know what questions to ask in those circumstances. You find yourself wondering what you’ll want to know, later, when you won’t be able to ask. For many of those questions, the right moment for asking has already passed.

    I asked John about his time as a submariner in WWII. I have, not three feet from me now, a carved wooden chest from China. His boat had gone up the Yellow River (I believe) and he’d bought the three nesting chests and enough white silk to make a wedding dress for his girl back home. He solved the storage space problem for such large purchases by storing them in a spent torpedo tube. By this I know that his submarine had seen action. He was a short man – well proportioned to a submarine. But I don’t know much more about his service than that, and that he was proud to have served.

    John and Mildred

    John and Mildred

    That white silk was for his girl back home; a pretty, dark-haired nurse with more than her fair share of pep. I asked him that afternoon how he’d met her. He talked about dancing, and how she could dance the dawn up. That wedding happened, and that marriage was blessed with two dark-haired, energy-rich daughters – one of whom became the mother of my husband. Their life in Long Island sounds like an idyll of satin bows, maiden aunts (I’ve never been clear who the unmarried sisters were affiliated with, but there’s a litany of maiden aunts), gardens and decent labor for decent pay. (He was an engineer with tools and telephony, and finished up his career at a hardware store.)

    John and his grandson

    John and his grandson

    Adam tells a lot of stories of the important role his grandfather and grandmother played in his life. There were trips home from Saudi, when he stayed with his maternal grandparents. In ninth grade, Adam went to boarding school in Long Island. The Saudi expat education stopped at high school. He’d wake up at five oh something in the morning to catch the train to see his grandparents. John would be waiting at the other end. I can almost see him in the imagination’s eye – wearing a too big wool sweater and a jaunty tam. John was marvelously patient. I doubt – although my husband can confirm – that he complained about being dragged out of bed in the dark of the morning on a Saturday to pick up his homesick grandson. He and Adam would go get breakfast sandwiches (which Adam speaks of longingly). Then he’d buy Adam a whole stack of hamburgers to fill that adolescent-boy-belly and take Adam back to a loving home. There were silver dollar pancakes and quiet places to read, or play video games.

    Easter dinner

    Easter dinner

    I first met great gramps on Thanksgiving, after Adam and I had been dating a whole year. I was nervous enough to spend my $5.45 an hour work-study wages on a new skirt and sweater for the occasion. I remember being greeted by turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and a stack of Sunday comics they’d been saving for Adam. I would have just turned 19, and they were as gracious and hospitable to me as they could possibly be. (Although I nearly had to break up with Adam over what constituted serving coffee after dinner – I still blanch at the very thought.)

    Thanksgiving was an apropos time to meet John. One of my favorite stories is about the time he was invited to three different Thanksgiving dinners. (See also: many sisters.) He went to the first and did a manful duty by the plate. Then he said his farewells and headed to the next sister’s house. They were just sitting down to dinner, and it would be rude not to join them, right? So of course he couldn’t be rude. His efforts at table – for a small man – were nothing short of Herculean. And best of all, he made it home in time to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with his family. Five foot two, and he could eat three full Thanksgiving dinners to the satisfaction of an Irish/Italian set of sisters and wives!

    John and Grey

    John and Grey

    When Grey was born, he brought great delight to both Millie and John. They LOVED to see him. More or less from the first trip I brought a baby with me, in all the pictures I have of John he’s playing with his great grandchildren. Although he was well north of 80, in many of the pictures I have of him with Grey, he’s on the floor playing! John had two daughters, two grandsons and three great-grandsons: a great wealth.

    Great Gramps and Thane

    Great Gramps and Thane

    John loved dominoes. He was a canny and shrewd investor who delighted in figuring out the best strategies. He was a patient man, with soulful blue eyes and a fondness for meals made of meat, potatoes and a veggie. He wore hats with panache. He took his duties as a Catholic extremely seriously, and towards the end devoted his life to prayer. He never once turned his face away from a person in need.

    He will be greatly missed.

    John and (great) grandsons

    John and (great) grandsons

    I’ve gathered some of my pictures of our time with John here

    Covered Bridge Campground

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    By my count, The Flynns have gone to White Lake State Park 20 times. The first time we went was when Thane was hardly 9 months old. We had been camping only a handful of times in our misspent non-parenthood. I suddenly had some sort of fit when I realized that this was actually my life, and if I didn’t go camping I would be a person who never camps. We put a pack and play and some miscellaneous junk into the car, picked a campground and random, and started a family tradition.

    My dearest husband has this great t-shirt from White Lake that says, “Extreme Outdoor Adventure”. Less true words have never been printed on a t-shirt. White Lake has an excellent lake with a sandy beach, two camp stores, coin-operated showers, playgrounds, perfect cell phone access and near immediate access to a Dunkin’ Donuts. You can get pizza delivered. It’s a pretty fantastic place to go with your three year old and six year old. If you read my last musing on Mt. Rainier, you’re likely to accurately guess that it doesn’t QUITE scratch my itch for wilderness.

    20140901-171632.jpg

    So this year, for our third and final camping trip of the year, I decided to get crazy and try (GASP) a new campground. On one of our prior visits, on our near-traditional “Car Walk” across the Kankamagus, we scoped out several of the National Forest campgrounds as possibilities for our “level up” camping trip. I settled on Covered Bridge. I liked how much more space there was between the sites – enough to feel like you weren’t actually in the pockets of your neighbors. I like the boulders for climbing and woods for exploring. It’s near the scenic Swift River, enticing with it’s clear running water and scrambly rocks.

    Climbing into the car on Friday noon, headed north, I wondered how much resistance I’d get when it dawned on my children that we were not going to White Lake. Would they wail? Would they spend the entire time talking about how much better White Lake is?

    I am, this very moment, sitting in a gracious beech forest at the foot of a granite mountain – which we climbed yesterday. Behind the camp site 15 feet, in the woods, is a six foot mound of granite that has made for a perfect castle for the laird and thane. There’s the slightest rain tapping on one of Adam’s exquisitely hung tarps, and a roaring fire in the firepit preparing to be excellent cooking coals in an hour. (It’s not a Flynn New Hampshire camping trip if it doesn’t rain. This one is mild – there have been no extreme weather alerts yet!) My sons and I spent a cheerful two hours in that rushing Swift River, pretending to be the lords and ladies of Michisle (Think Mike-Isle) and finding the magic stones that will grant us the power to protect our kingdom. (We liked the Heart Stone so much we brought it back.) Adam got in a first rate nap. It’s been excellent.

    I even got my level up on camping – the toilets are pit toilets and the water is a glorified rerouted creek. There’s even a rather creepy cemetery at the entrance with ominous 19th century inscriptions.

    I asked the boys (currently reading/playing Legos in the tent after a very active day’s play) what they thought of the campground. “We should definitely come back again!” We’ll still head to White Lake – I’ve already gotten our Memorial Day reservations. But I’m excited for a future where I can get my sons to join me on the slopes of mountain adventures!

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