FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Malibu Wine Safari

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jan• 05•17

stanley_kimberlylucas

Last year, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, D and I boarded a naval war ship (USS Iowa), walking around to burn off excess calories from eating too much food during the holidays.

This year, on a picturesque ranch in Malibu with rolling hills, we hopped aboard an open-air jeep with tiered seats to see and feed exotic animals like yaks, llamsas, alpacas, zebras, bulls, bison, and more.

Between the USS Iowa and Malibu Wine Safari, it was interesting walking aboard history on the USS Iowa, but we loved the animals and peaceful serenity of Saddleback Ranch much better.

We discovered the yaks, alpacas and llamas were the friendliest and hungriest, jockeying for position to eat lettuce from our hands. The bulls and zebras, at least the day we visited, were not hungry.

malibu-wine

The llamas had funny names like Dali Lama and Michelle O’Lama, and two Tibetan Yaks went by Yakkity Yak and Don’t Talk Back, and the most famous of all, Stanley the giraffe, was in the movie The Hangover III.

A few days after our visit, D and I were reading the story of Daniel and the lions den in the bible and D suddenly started talking about the animals from the safari.

“Have you ever seen Stanley on tv?” D asked me. “The giraffe with the giant neck. He’s seven years old, but he’s pretty big.”

“No, I haven’t seen him on tv. Did you like him?”

“He’s nice.”

“The bull snorted and made grunting noises,” D went on. “I was like ‘oh, my gosh’….he was scary. I was trying not to be afraid, but I lost my grip.”

“I was a little scared myself.”

“There was a zebra [actually two]. JC said to be careful because they might bite… You remember JC?”

“Yeah, he was our tour guide.”

“Mike was our driver. Yaks are sort of like alpacas. They spit.”

alpaca

JC told us about tv shows (The Bachelor and The Biggest Loser) that have shot episodes on the ranch, celebrity visitors (Kobe Bryant, Kim Kardashian), and the history of the ranch and winery.

The short version: the patriarch of the Semler family, Ron, purchased exotic animals to educate his three oldest children on wildlife, and in 2013, his son, Dakota, gave his dad’s idea of a wine safari a go.

Based on the steady stream of information from D, it was clear he loved seeing the animals, and he absorbed most of what the tour guide was saying.

zebraphoto

Sometimes, it can be like prying information from a criminal when I ask about his day at school. So our conversation about the safari was like lava spewing from a volcano.

I loved it!

For two city guys, we both enjoyed riding through hillsides with rows of grapevines and stunning views of majestic mountains.

The tour ended in a grassy area for a wine tasting (lemonade for kids), coupled with crackers and cheese, with a beautiful view of the Conejo Valley.

Our tour group didn’t talk much to each other. One family was from Korea, and another from Massachusetts, but I think we were all blown away by the beauty of the pastoral setting.

Afterwards, D and I drove up Mullholland Highway to Malibu Creek Park, for a short hike and lunch. It was a beautiful continuation of our trip to Malibu Wines Safari.

malibu

MALIBU WINE SAFARI:

Family Safari- Available weekdays–$55 per person, includes two different wines for adults 21+ and lemonade for little ones, who must be at least 7 years old.

Explorer Safari-Offered 7 days a week–$65 per person, includes 6 different wines on scenic spots on the ranch and feeding and interacting with exotic animals.

Giraffe Lunch Safari-Available by appointment, exclusively on weekdays. $155 per person, includes 6 different wines and a catered lunch.  Feeding and interacting with exotic animals and Stanley the Giraffe.

hike

 

 

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Ninja Shepherd

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 23•16

ninja-shepherd

D was a shepherd in the Christmas program at our church.

But I swear he looked more like a ninja warrior. The cane was much a much-needed accessory against his fellow choir members.

The children’s choir performed with the adult choir, and as many times as he listened to the songs, it immersed him in the true meaning of Christmas.

It was his first time in a Christmas program, and after singing in the first two services, he was ready to go home rather than sing in the third service.

Call time had been at 7 a.m.

So the Wife and I agreed he needed a little vegging out time to regain his mental focus for the hour and an half performance later that night.

It turned out to be a great show. The Wife and I were surprised it even had a little dancing to compliment the singing, which was unexpected.

Already, I am looking forward to this becoming an annual tradition in our family.

 

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A Random Thought

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 05•16

chick-fite

One of my high school students wrote an essay on how he thought people are too sensitive and too thin-skinned to every hurtful comment made by others.

He argued his point very well, but I, politely, have to disagree with him.

“Let’s be honest, the world is a racist, sexist, and just judgmental place,” he wrote, “but it does not mean that we should get so angry or offended by it, because we all do it.”

“I’m not saying,” he went on, “that we are all racist or bad people, it’s just how we are. We all judge people by the way they look, speak or even walk.”

I have to disagree with him, not about the fact we all have a tendency to judge (that’s definitely true), but about his viewpoint that we’re all too sensitive.

I still fundamentally believe it’s wrong when one person hurts another person’s feelings. We’re human and, like it or not, our feelings get hurt.

So, yes, we’re too sensitive because a harsh word or tone hurts. Call me too sensitive or thin-skinned, but I’d rather be too sensitive than insensitive to others.

Sure, I’ve found developing thicker skin helps, but it’s human consideration to take into account how our words and actions affect another person.

chilis

D and I went out for breakfast the other day, and when we came home, he ran across the street to see two friends.

D picked up his friend C’s toy guitar without asking. So C yelled at him. Normally, D will yell back, but this time his friend’s harsh tone hurt.

And he shed some tears away from his friends.

So, as I read my student’s essay, I couldn’t help but wonder how simple human consideration would make the world a much kinder place.

I mean, it’s common sense. A kind word or action make someone feel good, and an unkind word or action can hurt someone’s feelings.

This is how I see it, and I hope D will see it this way, that we should strive to be kind to others, forgiving them even when they hurt us.

So, no, people in the world are not too sensitive, it’s actually the opposite—people are too insensitive to how their words and actions affect others.

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Wilderness Park

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 05•16

into-woods

I would have preferred to be hiking in Yosemite on a father-son trip, but escaping to a nearby nature preserve was a good enough second option, and D took a fondness to a couple of toddlers.

We followed them around for awhile, and then D and I found a fort made of logs piled horizontally against a massive tree and…shazaam..two boys and their dad appeared out of nowhere.

Laying on a nearby log, I overheard D told them it was a boys only clubhouse. One of the boys got the idea to survey the area for more logs and so we hauled several logs back to the fort.

I hammed it up by pretending the logs were extra heavy, but it was great fun in old school kind of way. It reminded me of the kind of thing kids did when I was growing up that they don’t do anymore.

It was a beautiful time to spend out in nature, and maybe not as awe-inspiring as Yosemite (so I’ve been told), but it was some good father-son time nevertheless.

And I didn’t have to worry that D would fall off a cliff (the Wife’s reason for not wanting to go to Yosemite), and we both made it home in one piece.

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The Ultimate Ecosystem

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 03•16

fish

Every now and then, D is in museum and he is just stopped.

Cold.

The fish aquarium at the California Science Center did it to him this time. We had just exited the new “The Science behind Pixar” exhibit, learning about the math and science behind movie making, and his mom asked D what he wanted to see next.

D’s favorite thing at the Science Center has always been the fish aquarium, so we made our way through a maze of people the day after Thanksgiving, and D stood and stared at the fish swimming by, being lulled into a calm zen-like serenity.

I believe every person has their own ecosystem in which they thrive best. Mine, for example, is quiet solitude, which as a parent and teacher I seldom get. D’s ecosystem is structure and order by having a clear routine to follow.

After a while, D laid down on his back on a concrete slab, captivated by the variety of fish and the school of fish circling the tank, leopard sharks and moray eels and the sheer beauty of it all seeming to overwhelm his senses.

news-desk

It was all pretty amazing, and it had a calming effect, even on the entire family. At least until his mom said it was time to go. My favorite part of the science center is always hamming it up at the news desk, which we visited on our way out.

“Pluto is now back to being classified as a planet…” D said, ignoring the news on the teleprompter.

“What, Pluto is too tiny to be planet,” I retorted.

And then we fake argued back and forth, “no, it’s not,” and “yes, it is” like the two dogs in a car accident from Dr. Seuss’ Go, Dog. Go! book, before starting an on-air, funniest noise contest.

Burp. Fart sound. Hey-you-wah. Mighty Eagle call the Angry Birds movie.

We giggled and laughed at our strange noises. The Wife turned her head and pretending she didn’t know us. Then we let two serious kids take over and read the news about a tsunami in Japan.

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Big Brother

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 03•16

big-brother

I got to see what D would be like if he had a brother when we discovered a play area at the mall, and D found a younger buddy to jump off a log over and over again while I chatted with the boy’s mom.

They were a perfect match. Two active boys who rarely stopped moving. Many eight-year-olds might grow tired of a three-year-old sidekick, but D loved playing with his new buddy for a long time.

Like he was a brother.

A few days later, his Sunday School class at church created a Hope Christmas Tree, a mix of prayers-wishes each child wrote on a paper ornament. His teacher showed me D’s wish, “I hope to get a younger brother.”

D’s Christmas list also had “baby brother” right below “bb gun” and “tnt.”  Fortunately, there were gifts we could buy, but I love these tiny, little glimpse his brain.

 

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Lumberjack

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 03•16

lumber-jack

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Finding His Voice

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 03•16

sing
I told D that I would be listening to hear him singing in his school’s annual Christmas program. It is a two-song affair that causes parents to arrive early and hastily scramble to get front-row seats.

Last year, as second-graders, they sang the classics “Frosty the Snowman” and “Jingle Bell Rock,” and this year as third-graders, D and his classmates belted out joyful renditions of “Home for the Holidays” and “Believe” by Josh Groban.

I was excited to see if D was actually going to sing. He loves to sing and dance to songs from movies (“Try Everything” from Zootopia is his favorite) and You Tube videos (anything related to the solar system) around the house and in the car.

This summer, he learned the “Lava” song, a Pixar short before the movie Inside Out, in six or, maybe, seven different languages, hitting pause and rewinding the songs until he learned them. It was truly amazing.

D also likes singing songs by the Jackson Five, and he has taken to calling them “his brothers,” so singing is definitely something he enjoys doing and it appears to be part of his wheel house of talents.

But I suppose it’s different singing in front of a packed auditorium. There are so many staring faces, and so many other distractions, besides just remembering the words to the songs.

fern

D barely moved his lips during the first song. This was basically what I did as a kid (I was the tall, skinny kid in the back row), so his lack of singing didn’t really bother me.

But during the second song, it happened. D began singing, just a little at first and then more consistently, clapping his hands to the beat. His shoulders even began to sway to the music.

He was feeling the music, finding his voice, and then the second song ended, and the parents rushed (myself included) to get closer to the stage and freeze the moment by taking pictures.

Last year, D joined two boys when their mom was taking a picture of them, and this year D gave bunny ears to the girls in front of him, and then I watched as he started talking to a girl next to him.

I loved seeing him in a social moment. It reminded me of a Peanuts movie. A red-faced Linus or Charlie Brown bashfully talking to Peppermint Patty or Marci, caught at the beautiful, wonderful, fantastic age of eight.

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Talking About Jonah

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 03•16

jonah

D and I have been reading through the book of Jonah during our quiet times on the weekends, and it’s amazing how much the story of Jonah relates to D’s life and to mine, too.

One of the commentaries I read called Jonah the world’s worst missionary ever because of his disobedience to God and his hate for the people God sent him to preach to the Ninevites.

I think most everyone knows the story of Jonah. But in case you are unfamiliar with the story, God tells Jonah to go to Ninevah, but he boards a ship in the opposite direction to Tarshish.

But Jonah’s plan fails. God sends a great storm, and Jonah tells the crew to throw him overboard to stop the storm, because he knows his disobedience has caused the raging storm.

So the crew tosses Jonah overboard, and the sea suddenly becomes calm (as Jonah begins to sink to the bottom of the ocean), and this is where God steps in to save Jonah’s life.

God sends a great fish to swallow him to preserve Jonah’s life, who spits him back onto dry land three days later, to give Jonah a second chance to deliver God’s message to the people of Ninevah.

As crazy as Jonah’s story is, and as preposterous as it sounds, it has a lot of parallels to D’s and to my life. First, as I mentioned, we both sometimes disobey God, just like Jonah and every single person.

It’s simple everyday stuff like being rude to his mother (we’re both guilty of this) or D harboring a grudge against a classmate, which we’ve discussed frequently during our quiet times.

We’ve also talked about how Jonah was angry that God forgave the Ninevites for their wickedness, even though God had just forgiven Jonah and spared his life. Ridiculous, right?

jonah-2

The thing is, Jonah wanted God to destroy the Ninevites all along, and as I listen to D talk about wrongs done to him by his peers, he frequently has the same fire-and-brimstone mentality.

I look for applications from bible stories to D’s life, so I asked him, “Do you ever feel hate toward anyone?” It was a leading question since D had just told me about a classmate he hated.

“Yes, I hate…” he said, rattling off how he hated a girl who told him not to put bunny ears behind her friend’s head.

So I asked him what he’d do if a classmate did something to him he didn’t like, and explained that the girl was just telling him what she didn’t like.

I think D got the point and, maybe, talking about Jonah’s hate for the Ninevites will teach him to show mercy to others, just as God does for us.

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Shooting Hoops

Written By: Scot Butwell - Nov• 27•16

hoops

The Wife told me she googled “how to shoot a basketball.” I played basketball almost every day during my childhood. Basketball was my passion, the thing I excelled at the most while growing up.

So you would think that I’d be the one teaching him basketball. But I have to admit, the Wife is a better teacher because she is more demanding and makes him holds the ball correctly.

D usually shoots by flinging the ball in a wild underhand style with me. He also resists shooting baskets with me by running off to the playground with me, but not with the Wife.

The Wife wants him to learn a skill–something he can do on the playground at school–and so I have been bringing a basketball with us every time we go to the park.

coach

D often gets mad when he sees me with the ball and wants me to leave it at home. Sometimes, I comply with his request (I don’t want him to hate basketball), but I often bring the ball with me.

I can tell that he doesn’t have a passion for basketball, and while a couple of dads have encouraged me by saying, “if you like it, they will like it,” this hasn’t been the case for D.

So I seek to join him in things he enjoys dong like acting and being silly and, maybe, if I don’t push sports on him, it’s possible he may take an interest in sports later. Or maybe not.

bball

D especially likes acting out scenes involving situations with his friend C. The acting was my idea. I thought it might be a way for D to develop some empathy for how C feels in certain situations.

So we created a storyboard after D tried to sell C’s toys at the park and then starting acting it out. Except we got so into reenacting what happened and having fun that I doubt D felt any empathy for C.

“Let’s do it again,” D said after each scene.

So we repeated each scene, and it reminded me of shooting hoops as a kid, when I would take shot after shot at the basket in our driveway for hours.

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