Flying High

It’s done.

I have to be totally honest: there were a few moments during which Jim and I doubted we’d be able to say that. But here we are.

I’m talking about the Older Boy’s Boy Scout Eagle Project. It has been a little less than a year in the making; it’s been a year of pushing, pulling, nagging, complaining–some by us, some by him. It’s been a year of learning when to stop pushing and let him take the reins. It’s been the year of gentle reminders. It’s been the year of juggling and prioritizing. It’s been a year of a wee bit o’ negativity, but mostly positivity.

It’s been a Year, that’s for sure!

The idea of a boy “going for” the Eagle Rank–the highest rank in Boy Scouts and a rank that only 4-5% of all scouts ever achieve; also the only accomplishment pre-college that will stay on his resume’ for a lifetime–is that they show not only all of the attributes listed in the Boy Scout Law but also great leadership. One of the requirements of the Eagle Rank is to execute a community service project by leading a group of volunteers in some sort of task.

Eagle projects vary greatly; the young man is charged with finding a part of the community that needs a little help or improvement and working with the people of that community to get the job done. Many boys lead food drives, trail clean-ups, school improvements, and countless other things. One boy in our troop even led a project a couple of years ago to build bookshelves for a library that was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and I do believe he delivered them himself (with his family)!

The hard thing for these boys to remember is, as the leader, they really have to delegate in order to supervise the big picture properly. The hard part as the parent is that you can truly do only so much “pushing” (okay, nagging) before you cross a line into the Boy’s own leadership. We didn’t drag him through it to be sure; rather, we just applied light pressure when needed. (He IS a procrastinator, after all!) By the time it was all over, he was having a little trouble with the delegating of behind-the-scenes work because he’s a control freak just like his momma (Go Big or Go Home!).

When it came time for our son to figure out his project, he knew that he wanted to do something for our Jewish community. He really wanted to make an impact “at home” and he wanted to be able to leave a legacy of sorts that current and future generations would enjoy. We worked with the Landscaping Committee Chairperson (Mr. E) to develop some ideas. Finally, it was settled. The Boy would transform the front corner of the front yard from just grass to a gorgeous kidney-shaped area of planting. He would work closely with Mr. E on the temple end; his other project mentor would be a local Landscape Architect (Mr. H) with a special connection: he was actually this boy’s first Scoutmaster. I love the “full circle” idea and this was so great, to be able to share it with him.

Here’s the “before”, the empty canvas if you will:

epbefore Of course, before we could get to the “after”, lots of “red tape” was involved. On the temple end, he had to attend monthly board meetings to get his plans approved. This was an added bonus to his project, in my opinion. Through this project, he got to see the inner workings of our temple. Things don’t just “get done” magically, and sometimes there is more jumping through hoops than any person would enjoy, but the Board asked him tough questions and he learned that he really had to either know exactly what he was talking about or he had to figure out where he would find the answer for them. He learned that he couldn’t just waltz into one board meeting, announce what he planned to do, and then get started. On the contrary, he had to make a proposal, listen to discussion about it, make changes when necessary, answer the questions about how it would be paid for and really have all of his ducks in a row before any ground would be broken.

Over the last several months, the Older Boy has had meetings with Mr. E, Mr. H, and others. He helped with the blueprint design of the area.

Blueprint+Imageblank He sent letters soliciting donations to contractors. He made follow-up calls.

Obviously the preferred method of payment was by donations. Most companies are more than willing to help these young men who are aiming for Eagle. Unfortunately, with the economy the way it’s been, several of the contacts given to him by Mr. H couldn’t donate outright but instead offered him wholesale pricing, which was awesome. Unfortunately, the costs looked like they were going to be $1500 or a little higher. We were having some panic about it and he had to go to a board meeting and tell them that there was this shortage. Before he went to the meeting, we came up with some proposed solutions to present at the same time, so none of the board members would A)have a heart attack or B)shoot the entire project down. Our three proposed solutions were:

1. To ask the congregation for donations ($5 per family, though unrealistic to expect that everyone would donate, but we’d put it out there!)
2. Bake Sale (See Go Big or Go Home!)
3. Coordinate a restaurant fundraiser, during which the restaurant would agree to give a percentage of one day’s food sales to the landscaping fund

The Board liked it, and didn’t freak out about our shortage in the least (Whew!). I think they also were impressed that the Boy felt strongly about doing his best to try and cover most or all of his costs; he didn’t want to ask the temple for any money (though they agreed that they would cover some of the cost if necessary).

And so, with that, his Eagle Project had a side project: Fundraising to pay for the Eagle Project. It’s a good thing that this kid’s mom is a marketing genius. As the leader of this project, he has to, as I mentioned before, delegate tasks. I became the Marketing Queen. I made sure that news of his project was all over the place. When Julesie and I prepared for the Bake Sale, word was OUT.

As the two Sunday project dates loomed closer (working on temple land meant that we couldn’t work on Saturdays because of the Sabbath: otherwise we surely would have completed it in one weekend!), he had to get volunteers to sign up. We asked for help from both our Boy Scout Troop AND the temple community. Normally it’s mainly boys from the troop who work on these projects for each other, but our family felt strongly that it would be a great opportunity for the community at the temple to come together on something that benefited everyone. There was no shortage of volunteers. We were very lucky!

The week before last was a busy one, tying up loose ends and getting ready for Sunday the 19th, the first work day (and the bake sale!). The weather forecast? Rain. Ugh. We were very concerned.

Did it rain? Hell yeah. All morning. But they persevered and got it done. Tasks for day one? Just to name a few: cutting the sod out of the area, moving 28 cubic feet of dirt from the parking lot to the site, building a retaining wall to keep the whole thing from falling into the nearby sewer grate, adding compost, and throwing in some outcropping.

They finished everything, two hours ahead of schedule.

This past week? Not as stressful. That first day was the hardest; all that was left for yesterday was planting. Once again though, the forecast was for scattered storms. We kept every body part that was possible to cross, crossed.

Did it rain? Hell yeah. Torrential downpours. I was teaching my first session religious school class and kept looking out the window at the site where the boy and his volunteers got soaked to the bone trying to get the job done. They even had to take breaks under the awning in front of the building because the rain (and occasional lightning) got so bad at times.

Did they finish? Hell yeah. In two hours. Here’s “after”:

Gorgeous, no?

Coincidentally, our temple’s annual meeting (during which they elect a new Board and go over reports from the past year) was in the afternoon. We wanted to go, so that the Older Boy could announce to the congregation that we were hoping they would go to the restaurant down the street afterwards for the fundraiser. When he was called up to make his announcement, he also brought a list of thank yous. His speech was totally smooth, hilarious at times, and very gracious. We were just bursting with pride. He got laughs when he wanted them (yay), and rousing applause when he was done. One lady even gave him a standing O. It was an amazing moment, and an important lesson about community at the same time. After the meeting, people came up and thanked him personally, and gave him all sorts of wonderful compliments (teens love that), all well-deserved.

At the restaurant? We had a great time. We sat with good friends of ours from the temple, and were pleasantly surprised when our old neighbors showed up to support our fundraiser, so we made room for them at the table. Also amazing? The restaurant was overwhelmed with the amount of temple people that showed up for dinner. The boy made the rounds to thank people for coming, and we had a great dinner.

Our family really couldn’t ask for more. The idea of the Eagle rank is huge; he’s got some paperwork to file, a Board of Review to participate in, and when he passes that we’ll schedule a ceremony. Just as huge though, has been the experience of a community pulling together for the greater good, an added bonus. I know our family won’t forget it, and I know that the Older Boy in particular has been impacted by it in a major way. It’s a great feeling!



  • Anonymous

    YAY for the Older Boy!! I had no idea that only 4 – 5% make Eagle Scout… When does he find out the results? Did you more than cover the $1500 through donations and the din din? Now I totally get why you couldn’t have rain last Sunday! xoxo
    wk in dc and on tv

  • Mayberry

    WOW, congratulations to your son! The final product is beautiful and all the hard work and lessons learned that went into it–so impressive.

  • surprised mom

    WOW indeed! Everyone in your family should be congratulated for their hard work, especially Older Boy. This is a great story that involves family, church and community. Everyone needs to hear stories like this. Again, CONGRATULATIONS!

  • Mrs4444

    Hooray!!! What do you mean, “a little more than a year in the making”? This is the culmination of years and years of involvement; driving, selling, planning, camping, baking, etc. He couldn’t have done it without the love and support of you 🙂 So happy for you… Congrats to you all.

  • Sue

    Awesome! I will have to show the project to my brother who is graduating next month from Harvard with a landscaping design degree!
    Yay older boy and your whole family. Quite an accomplishment!!!!

  • Mom and Dad!

    As you know, your mother and I have always been, are now, and always will be proud of you and Julie..for the MANY things both of you have done with your lives.

    Now your son *insert name here* has made us even prouder for what he's always done, doing now, and always will do!

    What a fantastic job! An Eagle Scout! We're so wonderfully pleased and happy for him, you and Jim and..oh heck..ALL OF YOU!

    (Selfishly as I continue to age too fast, I take great pleasure in knowing that your Mother, who really spent much more time than I was able to do raising you and instilling the very positve values in you that taught you do the following: find the best son in law in the world, become the fantastic person you are, and have two very special sons, as we have daughters, who have the same values that were pased on to you. It's so good to know that your Mom and I really started all of this and you & Jim have improved on it and gave us two wonderful grandsons!

    Hurrah for *insert name here*!! This news really, really made us happy!!

    We truly love you all! Wow! I'm so psyched!

    Dad (and of course, the better part of me, Mom!)

  • Mags

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! What a wonderful story to follow and to see end in such a positive way. He really did an amazing job-but I don’t need to tell you that at all-but wow! I’m super impressed.

    Thank you for raising such a great person. If only our world had more “older boys” and “younger boys”…

  • Isabella

    I never knew how much went into getting the Eagle scout rank. What a great learning experience for him…and a big CONGRATS for finally being done. 🙂

  • NukeDad

    Wow. That turned out awesome! You guys must be so proud! As the father of a cub scout who just moved up from a bear, I can say that we’ll get through our first overnight camping trip before I use the “E” word in our house. 🙂

  • Debhanahan

    Hi there, I’ve been reading your blogs for a while now and really enjoy them. I too, have a son who is working on his Eagle Project so I know what you mean about walking that fine line between nagging and helping! My son just got his final signature on his workbook to begin his project- building 10 benches (5 of which are handicap accessible) for a local state park/ nature center. It took 4 months to get the plans in place and 4 meetings with the committee to iron out the details. Now the hard part- raising $1800 to purchase the materials. Your son’s work looks great and I can’t believe he had to do it in all the rain we had last weekend! Amazing. Congratulations! I hope my son has as good luck as yours did. (although he won’t be able to work in the rain with power tools!- Ha!) We are hoping after this year’s experience our younger son will want to take on the challenge too!

  • Melisa with one S

    Thanks everybody!

    And Debhanahan? Thanks for delurking yourself on this one! Your son’s project sounds AWESOME: did he try to get materials donated? Definitely do that if he hasn’t tried already…good luck with it! (It feels SO GOOD when it’s over! 🙂 )

  • mrsmouthy

    That’s awesome! I’m jealous because my son is only 3 and I’m already giving up hopes of him being a boy scout. We took him to the woods yesterday and he was PISSED there was no rollercoaster. (??) I just can’t get him outside much!

  • The Microblogologist

    This is wonderful, congrats to him and your whole family! I want to see pics of when it is grown out more and if he planted flowering plants I so want pics when they are blooming =)

  • Michelle

    Oh yay, how cool. I already had the scoop, but I hadn’t seen the pictures. Nice job by him. Any interest in him coming up to my place and helping out with some of that mulching and composting and weeding and such? 😉 He IS experienced now, after all!

    And most importantly — congrats to him! Is the younger going to go this route, too, do you think?