FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Fantastic Patrick

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jun• 30•16

Fantastic p

This mom has het feet kicked up

on the chair at the donut shop

as she listens to her daughter:

“My donut laid two eggs,

my donut likes laying eggs,

I don’t know why my donut

likes laying eggs, it never told

me why it likes laying eggs.”

 

I want to tell her to keep talking,

but her mom tells her to eat

hurry up and eat her donut.

Then, I hear a church lady say,

“The elderly go crazy over

The maple bars. Woe be it to us

If we don’t have the maple bars.”

And I like the image of elderly

men and women going crazy

over a maple frosted donut.

 

Later, in the day, the Wife

wants to see Fantastic Patrick

except it turns out to be

the next day. So we end up

eating ice cream and watching

a movie (and she asks me if

she’s going crazy) and I like

the circuitous nature of how

the day started one way and

ended up going another way.

 

A day later, we saw Fantastic Patrick

juggling balls and bowling pins,

balancing a baseball cap on

his nose, chasing a mom

on a unicycle with a sword,

telling a woman in the front row

not to post his picture on Facebook

because his mom still thinks

he is a lawyer. What I remember

the most is when one of his balls

nearly knocked down a ceiling

light pane — that was unplanned

and funny.

 

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Happy Father’s Day!

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jun• 30•16

Fath day

I’ve never been a fan of Hallmark cards. Never have, never will. The words rarely fit the situation. Yet, for Father’s day, I got one from the Wife, another from D, and one from my brother-in-law (thanks, Terrance).

I appreciate the sentiment, but the cards end up in same place.

But the day after Father’s day, sitting down for dinner, I saw one of D’s drawings on the table. It was of a guy with glasses, orange skin, squiggly hair, big smile, and skinny neck.

It looked kind of like me. The top of the drawing said, “Happy Father’s Day.”

D flipped the laminated drawing over and it read, “Top 5 Reasons Why I Love My Dad:”

  1. He is nice to me.
  2. He likes to take me to the beach.
  3. He likes to take me to the park.
  4. He is good.
  5. He likes to take me to the Griffith Observatory (caps by me).

The card made my day!

 

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Bringing Down the House

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jun• 29•16

monologue

He scratched the top of his head, pulled his arms down close to his body, his hands clasped together, and looked at the audience with a bashful smile. His head bowed slightly down.

He was wearing a grey sweatshirt with a penguin on it, light black jeans and black-slip on shoes.

It was his turn to speak: to say his first and last name, his age, and tell something he liked. Sort of like the beginning of a monologue audition, to get a part in a movie.

“My name is D.B., I am eight years old and…I like to have… lots and lots of money,” he said with a glorious smile.

He killed it, as they say. He got the entire audience to laugh, just as he had his first time on stage, a year ago, when he paused at the microphone, before delivering his line:

“What …………..” he’d said in a country twang.

I wonder how he does it. The accent and funny comment on wanting money. Where does it come from? These comic choices? That touch a nerve in his audience.

The other kids said their favorite color or flavor of ice cream (and he could have done that), but instead he went with a more nuanced and abstract response, reflective of our culture.

I wonder if he was channeling Mr. krabs from the movie Sponge Bob or, I wonder, if his response was an original line of his own.

Either way, it elicited laughter from the house, probably helped by his bashful smile. As parents, they understood the whirlwind of emotions he was feeling.

You wonder, as a parent, during these moments, if your child is up to the task. Are they too nervous? Will they be overcome by fear? Can they handle the challenge?

As a parent, I get nervous in these moments. I hold my breath. Unconsciously. The air in my esophagus momentarily constricted, as I await the outcome.

And then, even though it was only a few lines, D brought down the house. He killed it. And I smiled and wondered about this unique person: my son. And then I wondered some more.

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“God’s Country”

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jun• 28•16

choir

Two months ago, a fellow cub scout dad suggested D join the kid’s choir at church since it met right after our Monday night den meeting.

They were just beginning to practice for a patriotic performance, and D has loved learning about the 50 states since he was three or four years old.

He also likes learning about former U.S. presidents, so I thought it would be a great combination–singing in a choir and increasing his love for his country.

Like the cub scouts, it would be an opportunity to make new friends and develop a sense of belonging, by being part of the choir.

First, of course, I had to pitch the idea to the Wife—and she liked it—and then I had to overcome D’s resistance to new ideas, to get him to go the first night.

I sprang the idea to him in the fifteen minute interval between the cub scout meeting and the choir rehearsal, and he instantly rejected the idea.

“Nah, I don’t want to go,” I think was his flippant response.

But I was prepared for his response. I told him a story when I was his age and my dad dropped me off at a week-long basketball camp.

It was an overnight camp, and I didn’t want to go. It was my first time away from my parents, and I cried when my dad got ready to leave.

(Side note: My dad didn’t really know what to do when I started crying and relied on a basketball coach to guide me through my fears.)

I shared with D that the camp ended up being one of the favorite memories from my childhood, and I loved going to the camp every summer.

The story worked. D agreed to go at least once–I know I could have just demanded D join the choir–before deciding if he wanted to join the choir or not.

All of this is to say, D told me after the third or fourth practice, “I want to go in by myself.”

I think–judging from my observations–that he liked seeing the variety of kid’s personalities. Plus, the kids ran around before the rehearsals began.

And he liked that. Freedom.

He also liked playing hide-and-seek with the boys, and my favorite part, when I stayed to watch rehearsals, was seeing D and another boy make small talk.

The small talk occurred between sons, and the other boy did more of the talking. But D took care of his side of the conversation–he just wasn’t as chatty.

D definitely developed a sense of being part of the group. This was evident at the end of their performance in front of a large crowd of family and friends.

D became squirmy (it was clear he needed to pee) on stage. I thought he could make it to the end of the performance; there was maybe five minutes left.

However, the Wife judged correctly that he needed to go right now, and after he made it to the restroom, she gave him an option: stay in the audience or go back on stage.

This was how I knew he felt a sense of belonging: he chose to rejoin the choir for their final bow on stage.

I don’t know if singing patriotic songs increased his love of his country. But I know he gained something more important: a “tribe” he belonged to.

Thank you, Miss Linda, for finding the right balance between rehearsing and letting kids be themselves.

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On Being Eight

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jun• 27•16

wildness park

There are no women allowed in the club,

he says, with a tone of defiance, looking up

at his mom’s face. I stand between them

on the sidewalk and he says it again,

there are no women are allowed in the club.

They’re lines from the Little Rascals movie,

to which he likes to repeat to his mom

when he wishes to express his independence

from her commands and corrections

on his behavior.

 

She frowns.
Eight is a continual war, trying to defeat

his mom, sentences written on a marker

board and emotional negotiations to reduce

the number of sentences. He sounds like

a defense lawyer making a plea bargain;

his mom holds firmly to her position.

It is a closed bedroom door, to have a

moment to himself, to delay putting on

clothes, to ignore his mom’s command

for changing his underwear.
I knock on his door and listen.
Plastic pieces clack and snap together,

first stemming and then constructing.

He’s building a robot, wanting a moment

to create, time

to be free

from life’s demands, getting dressed

and brushing teeth. He’s an architect, a storyteller,

a scientist, giving life and limbs to his creation.

I honor his creative space, his closed door

a sign

he needs time (three minutes,

I tell him) before he must get dressed,

for his Saturday morning drama class.

 

I understand.
I need the same space and time ,

to make sense of things,

to gain perspective

to see the straw of my everyday experiences,

to weave them into gold,

to find some kind of meaningful pattern

amid the chaos,

to sit and be still, for a moment, or else none

of the strands of time have meaning.

I need these three minutes to synchronize myself,

like a captain setting a ship’s coordinates

before setting sail.

 

This is what I want to say to the Wife,

who tells me our son needs one minute,

and not three minutes.  I tell her this

gives us a few minutes for ourselves

and she laughs. Three minutes? Wow.

I want to explain I teach students all

day and come home to be a parent

which leaves me tired and exhausted

and to be grateful for these three minutes.

I know it’s a measly amount of time,

but we should be grateful nonetheless.

 

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When I Said the “SH” word

Written By: Scot Butwell - May• 29•16

dog park

We have a weekend ritual:

eggs and hash browns

for you and chicken biscuit

for me from Chic-Fil-a.

We read a few bible verses

and then we pray except

when I opened my eyes today

the car door was wide open

and you were gone.

 

Spiritual disciplines take time:

It takes time to get to know God,

and if I could say anything to you

it would be this: to know that you

can talk to Him about anything

and that He will always listen.

And then we skipped stones

in the pond and we learned,

this too takes time to learn.

 

 

Finding the “just right” rock

and throwing it just right

at the surface so it skips

and skips and skips again.

This takes time to learn.

You threw a rock at a duck

and it swam away startled.

And I let you wear my sandals

to walk on the dirt trail.

 

You wandered off the trail

And when I tried to follow

I stepped on these tiny burrs

with sharp little thorns piercing

into my feet and I screamed,

which made you kind of afraid,

and I uttered the “sh” word.

I told you I needed your help,

so you tossed me my sandals

and I made it out alive.

 

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A Winter Story

Written By: Scot Butwell - May• 29•16

snow

There was a light snow,

just a few snowflakes

barely enough to catch

a few in your hand.

This was a road trip:

We’d bought a black hat,

with a velvet red ribbon,

brought two lumps of coal

and two sticks for arms,

to build a snowman.

 

But there was not enough snow.

Life animated can be more vivid

than ordinary life, this is what I

imagine you would articulate if

you could express what I see

in the way your view the world.

 

Still, there was ice tubing:

We went down a few times

separately in our own tubes.

A moving ramp brought us

back to the top of the hill.

Where there was a long wait

and you became restless.

So we went to the cabin

to get warm near the fire.

 

Then went back outside.

The air had a nice chill

The patio had a fire pit.

You walked over to two guys,

“Is this where you vomit?”

you said.

Then your eyes fluttered

and you passed out.

 

I carried your to the EMT’s.

Your mom yelled for a doctor

and (I think) the screaming

caused you to regain

consciousness

by the time we reached

the college-aged EMT’s

in the First Aid room.

 

 

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Acting Class

Written By: Scot Butwell - May• 24•16

slate

“Acting is telling a story with words and using your body,” Dennis, D’s teacher.

This is how D’s teacher introduced drama. We stood in a circle, five adults and D, in a small room with light-blue paint, making motor boat sounds with our lips.

First in low gear and then high gear.

We hummed to warm up our voices. We practiced articulating words. Red leather, yellow leather. Good blood, bad blood. Unique New York.

“New Yeek, New York,” D said.

Everyone laughed and we said woo, woah, wow. Woo, woah, wow. Specific Pacific. Mellow Yellow. Irish wrist watches.

D’s teacher told him, “say Irish wrist watches five times in a row.

“Irish wrist watches, Irish wish washes…”

It was the first day of Drama class (the other kids were absent), so the Wife and I participated in the warm-up activities, before making our way to the lobby.

After doing some stretching exercises and a sensory awareness activity, D moved his arms and legs to copy the movement of his partner in a mirror activity.

drama sline

This was Shoreline Speech and Language Center, an eight-week program called “Act Up,” using drama to develop speech and language skills.

The acting involved “showing” one of the five characters from the film “Inside Out” (joy, sadness, fear, disgust, anger) by using different body parts.

This was a perfect activity, not only because “Inside Out” is one of D’s favorite movies, but also it helped him practice reading the body language of other people.

One of D’s teacher turned his toes in and asked D what character his feet were “showing.” D answered “sadness” and they took turns acting out emotions.

This is a better way to put it: they yelled out the names of characters, laughing and commenting on the acting, everyone having a great time.

I was envious. I wanted to be back in the room, to be a part of the fun and laughter, to experience learning about acting along with D.

However, the Wife and I sat on sofa and we listened (at least I did) through a short hallway–me peeking in every so often to see what they were doing.

D became anger, joy, sadness and fear with his shoulder, arms, hands, and toes. “Notice how your hands show you’re angry but you’re smiling,” D’s teacher said.

The first class ended by doing a “scene” with a script. D hit his “mark” by standing on a taped “x” and took on the emotion his partner showed in her lines.

drama emo

There was a slate with the title “Emo” to start the action. Multiple “takes” to shoot the scene and they watched “dailies” of their scene, just like on a real movie set.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m ok.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“I get it.”

“Yeah.”

The emotion in the scene was sadness and D reflected back the emotion in his voice. The dialogue felt like two friends at school talking on the playground.

I appreciated the verbal irony in the situation–D saying he was ok, but meaning the opposite–so common in everyday exchanges, where you must read social cues.

D had to read his partner’s tone of voice, their body language and the subtext of their words–all while making eye contact when speaking with them.

These are all essential to acting but, more important, to deciphering the byzantine world of verbal and non-verbal social cues when talking to a friend:

“How are you?”

“I’m fine.”

I loved the fact there was learning on several levels–social-emotional communication, creative expression, technical acting skills–and also that D’s acting was critiqued.

But, most of all, I liked seeing D experience the fun and joy of drama, using his voice and body to become a character in telling a larger story.

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“I Love LA”

Written By: Scot Butwell - May• 23•16

water shows

We spent some family time getting some chocolate and watching the water shows. The song playing was Randy Newman’s “I Love LA.”

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Humans vs. Zombie

Written By: Scot Butwell - May• 23•16

They saw me and waited with guns drawn. I crept up behind the parked cars on the sidewalk, hiding behind a maroon SUV, while they ran to the window.

“D, grab your gun and come outside.”

It was Humans vs. Zombie. D and his two friends versus me, so I ran into D’s room and grabbed my weapon, a red angry bird to throw as a grenade.

“Don’t take that outside,” the Wife said, “I just cleaned it.”

But I needed a weapon to defend myself, to activate my imagination and to incarnate myself into a seven to nine-year-old’s world, and to get into the game.

I followed them to the park, hiding behind massive oak trees, rejuvenated by a nap in the car. God’s strength being made perfect in my weakness.

I ducked and dodged bullets, falling whenever I was shot; whenever my grenade hit them, they didn’t fall down. So I explained how it needed to be equitable.

I didn’t use that word, but that was my point.

I pursued them across the park, from the pond to the playground, up and down hills, ambushing them and getting riffled with bullets.

God brought Philippians 4:11 -12 to mind:

“For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.

Philippians 4:13, too:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

There was a knife fight, hand to hand combat, D saying “deutsch, deutsch” while spraying me with bullets. Then D transformed into a Zombie, biting his friend C.

So I switched from being a zombie to a dad, trying to console his friend (“D got a little carried away,” I said) and to bring reconciliation between the two.

D didn’t want to be told to say he was sorry (he really hates when he is asked to apologize), but wanted to be able to say sorry on his own initiative.

“Ok, say you’re sorry on you own.”

“I don’t want to say I’m sorry.”

Eventually, D apologized and the game continued. There were more bullets fired at me, grenades launched, and an inequitable number of death scenes.

And then the game was over.

Later that night, before he went to bed, D told me he was creating a story with three Super Brothers: Chad-scapes, Gunman and Mr. Jellybean.

“Are the Super Brothers going to fight any Zombies?” I asked.

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