FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Mariachi

Written By: Scot Butwell - Sep• 04•17

I had just finished reading about Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez’s “mariachi style” of movie making of using only the props, actors, locations and resources available to him to make a movie.

Also, i listened to an interview where Rodriguez talked about “doing just one thing well” to be successful in any creative endeavor–my English class was reading his book x–and I was inspired by his example of “doing everything creatively.”

And I was inspired by Rodriguez and wondered if his “mariachi style” of filmmaking and “doing everything creatively” principle could apply to my helping D to get the last four pages of his monthly homework completed.

I could do it the usual way the wife’s way–by having D sit at the kitchen table and have him do it himself, fighting the urge to help him overcome  his resistance to the task or risk L getting upset by helping him.

Those were my options, and I chose to try Rodriguez’s do-whatever-takes-as-cheap-as-possible way to getting his homework done. I thought she was going to get him started on the homework, but he’d chosen to interrupt my lesson planning

 

 

 

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Meet the flock

Written By: Scot Butwell - Aug• 11•17

angry birds

Terence , blue ,chuck ,Hal, bomb ,mighty eagle, red and bubbles are D ‘s wild flock  egg stealing pigs , general – frank ,dopey ,ross , general Fred , Steve , grandpa pig and king pig . we will eat the eggs before the pigs do ! Now its birdie time !

 

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The Worst Two Sons

Written By: Scot Butwell - Aug• 11•17

I took my mom to her ear doctor appointment, a couple days ago, and the septuagenarian doctor told us a story about his nephews at the end of her appointment.

His sister had two sons. She got a divorce and remarried. As a twelve-year-old boy, the older brother liked jumping off the roof onto a mattress in the backyard to practice World Wrestling Entertaining (WWE) moves.

“His mom didn’t really know what to do with him,” he said.

The younger brother was occasionally rude to his father-in-law, calling his toupee a rug. The dad got a toupee to help make himself look younger when he got laid off from his accounting job.

“Ageism is still alive,” the doctor said.

The rude younger brother loved to draw. Both brothers went to college and graduated. The older brother now travels the world as a WWF wrestler under a pseudonym. He also does stand up comedy and voice over work.

The younger brother worked his way up to become an animation director for the Family Guy show. “That’s a big deal,” the doctor said, saying it again one word at a time and looking me in the eye.  “That’s a very  big deal.”

“My brother-in-law used to pick at the younger son all the time, and even now that he has become a successful director for Family Guy, he watches his son’s show and tells me, “I don’t get it. I don’t get it all the time, either.”

I have no idea why the doctor told us this story, of an accountant dad who doesn’t get his creative son, but I’m glad he told the story. My mom is 83, and her sons are grown up. I am 48, and my son is nine. So, maybe, the story was meant for me.

I thought of D, and how I want to encourage him to follow whatever vocational path he chooses, and how I want to support him in his current passions like drawing angry birds.

He loves to draw angry birds, as well as characters from Veggie Tales and Five Nights at Freddies, and talks a lot about them, making up little stories about these animated characters.

“Who is your favorite Five Nights at Freddy character?” he likes to ask me. “Freddy or Nightmare Freddy.”

“I like Freddy because of his cool hat,” I say. “It reminds me of a hat I used to have.”

“You like Nightmare Freddy better, right?”

“No, I like regular Freddy because Nightmare Freddy is creepy.”

I think the angry birds or Freddy characters may foreshadow D’s future vocation like the older brother’s jumping off the roof or the younger brother’s rude behavior foreshadowed their future career paths.

I take away two points the story: 1) the father-in-law never learned how to embrace his sons for who there are, and 2) the sons vocations were wired into their DNA by their natural proclivities.

I tell the doctor’s story to L, hoping it will help her to better understand our son, that he is a boy and sometimes boys will tend to be more rowdy and leave ther clothes strewn all over their bedroom floor.

 

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Things About Myself

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jun• 29•17
  1. I am a sugar addict
  2. My favorite is chocolate hostess cupcakes with the cream filling.
  3. I wait until the last minute to tell the wife about stuff.
  4. I rarely go to see the doctor.
  5. I never floss.
  6. I lost my left cornerstone tooth while eating pizza.
  7. I need time by myself to refuel.
  8. My stomach protrudes out from too much pizza, hamburgers and soda.
  9. I don’t drink alcohol or smoke.
  10. I like to wear t-shirts to work: anything with the name of my school.
  11. I loved playing basketball as a kid.
  12. My favorite drink is coffee, preferably from McDonald’s.
  13. I like to watch Netflix in bed on my phone.
  14. I am a Capricorn (not that I believe in that stuff).
  15. I have one brother.
  16. I once was the director of a crisis hotline.
  17. My wife would likes to say I used to be a good listener.
  18. I like to faint when she gives me a compliment.
  19. I like to eat D’s noise reduction headphones.
  20. My wife thinks I have autism.
  21. I like to lose myself in art.

 

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Malibu Wine Safari

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 26•17

stanley_kimberlylucas

Last year, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, D and I boarded a former World War II navy vessel (USS Iowa), walking around to burn off excess calories from eating too much food during the holidays.

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

Between the USS Iowa and Malibu Wine Safari, it was interesting walking aboard history on a retired war ship, but we loved seeing the exotic animals and being amid the peaceful serenity on the ranch much better.

We discovered the yaks, alpacas and llamas were the friendliest and hungriest. They jockeyed for position, stuck their long necks over a fence, and ate lettuce and carrots straight from our hand.

malibu-wine

The bulls and zebras, at least the day we visited, were not hungry. It was fun, but a bit nerve jostling, to be only two feet away from a large bull, even separated as D and I were by a white-picket fence.

The large bull, standing beside a smaller one who was likely his son or daughter, grunted when I offered him some lettuce. But, perhaps, this was animal talk: a goodwill grunt or his way to say “thanks, but no thanks.”

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 when I asked him a question, he suddenly started talking about the animals we’d seen from the safari.

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

bull

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

“He’s nice.”

D went on: “The bull snorted and made grunting noises. 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.”

“Bulls are strong…I wish I was a bull. 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

“Remember when the alpaca in Evan Almighty spit on Congressmen Long.”

“Yeah, that was so funny.”

Sometimes, it can feel like prying information from a crime suspect when I ask D about his day at school. I often get nothing. So our conversation about the safari was a unexpected downpour of rain during a drought.

I loved it!

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), as well as the history of the ranch and winery.

tour guide

Twenty years ago, the patriarch of Malibu Family Wines, Ron Semler, 74, toured South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe with his extended family–wife Lisa, nine children, five grandchildren, and their spouses, and their extended families.

He had already purchased several exotic animals to educate his children on wildlife, and inspired by safaris his family went on in Africa, it dawned on him that a safari could pair well with wine tastings.

His oldest daughter was skeptical of his idea, so Semler tabled it. But in 2013, his son, Dakota, then a 20-year-old college student, decided to give his dad’s wine safari idea a go, and he is now the CEO

Malibu Family Wines offers wine safari tours seven days a week. The family wine safari is available only on weekdays (kids must be seven), and you must book the Giraffe tour to meet Stanley.

For two city guys, D and I enjoyed the winding tour through picturesque hillsides covered with rows of grapevines, unusual rock formations, gorgeous look-outs, and funky art installations.

malibu

One rock formation is the shape of a horse saddle. Hence, the name Saddlerock Ranch and Vineyard for Malibu Family Wines’ 1,000 acre property which includes 800 acres of grape vines.

Our tour ended in a grassy area surrounded by vintage trailers for a wine tasting (two wines + lemonade for kids), coupled with crackers and cheese, with a beautiful view of the Conejo Valley.

wine

Our group didn’t talk much to each other. One family was from Korea, and another from Massachusetts, but I think we were blown away by the peaceful serenity of Saddlerock Ranch to want to talk.

Afterwards, D and I drove up Mullholland Highway to Malibu Creek Park. We went on a short hike and ate lunch by a stream. It was a beautiful extension of our trip to Malibu Wines Safari.

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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Teamwork

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 13•17

messy room

I was tasked with helping D to clean his room. I say that I believe in fostering his independence, but five minutes into the job, he asked if he could take a mid-afternoon bath.

I agreed, and even cleaned up his room for him, with this one caveat: he had to help me do the laundry. Call it teamwork.

 

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Pine Wood Derby

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 13•17

p derby 2

I listened to an interview with a mother on a Radiolab podcast (“The Ghosts of Football“) who said her eight-year-old son’s favorite part of playing football was the pizza party and trophy at the end of the season.

Thirteen members of the boy’s family played in the NFL, and despite his ability to make other players “eat dirt” from making aggressive tackles, he decided he no longer wanted play football.

“That kind of stuff is messing up the history in my life,” he said after making one boy cry.

And I thought of D and the Pine Wood Derby, and if I were to ask him his favorite part, he might say eating French Fries afterwards at the Habit Grill. (In fact, I did ask him after writing this post, and that’s exactly what he said.)

bear den

I know my son. Seriously, though, we pulled it off, a mechanically challenged dad and his son designed a functional car, and like a few other dads I talked to on race day, we weren’t the only ones to do it the day or night before.

Despite using a fan to dry his car, the paint on D’s car was still drying (no kidding) when we got to the race, and when we arrived at the check-in table, we had twelve minutes for his car to pass inspection.

This was D’s first Pine Wood Derby (I scheduled D’s birthday party on the day of the Pine Wood Derby last year), and I must have not been listening to announcements during pack meetings stating that each car must weigh six ounces to meet race regulations.

The regulations were also written on paper instructions that came in the box with his block of wood, wheels, four nails, and a sheet of sticker numbers. Apparently, I missed the weight requirement again when reading the instructions.

p derby 1

Hence, I began soliciting pennies, nickels and dimes from parents to glue to D’s car, so it could meet the weight requirement and we passed the inspection guidelines with about thirty seconds to spare.

D used a glue gun to weld most–okay, half–of the thirteen coins to the top and bottom on his car the Saturn V, and while it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing to the eye, I thought at least the coins might make his car go faster.

Ok, so.

We waited a month between the time a parent volunteer cut out his design from his wood block and getting started on his car (sanding it down and putting sealer paint coat on it the night before) and then adding a final coat on the morning of the race.

A confession. D drew his car design on paper, and I traced it onto the wood block, and if my memory serves me correct, I made a few slight alterations so it would be a more aerodynamic car.

But next year, I plan to take a more hands-off approach, discuss the design factors with him and let him do it all, and let the chips–literally and figuratively–fall where they may.

This year, admittedly, his car was more of a team effort, and that’s probably pretty normal. I was glad D took pride in his car, running up to me to tell me his car took first place in one heat.

pine derby 4

But the race was, how do I put this nicely, anti-climatic to watch. D’s car finished second in the seven other heats–and though I was relieved by the results–it got a little tedious watching the same outcome over and over.

At least, I thought, the wheels to D’s car didn’t come off or some other catastrophic result like I feared might happen. Or he didn’t finish in fourth place eight times in a row (which actually did happen to a few unfortunate kids).

D’s car clocked at a high of 181 mph and the difference between first, second, third and fourth was usually only fractions of a second, so the worst car was not that bad and the fastest not that great.

It probably didn’t seem that way to a typical 10-year-old after their car finished last over and over again. But I guess perspective comes with age to recognize the small difference fractions of a second can make.

 

 

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Beach Fun

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 01•17

beach fun

I need to have one of these days again…to just sit and look at the ocean. Haven’t had one of those days in a long time.

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First Audition

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 18•17

audition

I don’t know if he’ll get a part or not. But when I learned the children’s choir was having auditions for acting parts in the upcoming the Children’s Easter Pageant, I knew I had to encourage D to audition.

He has been part of five performances, though only once in an acting role as Heracles in a 20-minute version of Odysseus at a summer drama camp, and I told him that as he got older, he had to “challenge himself.”

I explained to him that an acting part was a great opportunity to do this. D was hesitant at first, but as I mentioned he was becoming more mature, he agreed to audition with only a little wrangling on my part.

I emphasized that he was “maturing” based on his mom’s decision to let him watch the Little Rascals movie. He’s been asking to watch it for over two years and she said he could watch when he was more mature.

So when the choir director asked the kids what part they wanted to try out for, D raised his hand and walked up on stage with three other kids to do a read through of part of the script.

audition 2

Ok, so.

I saw glimpses of potential in his audition, but also several areas he needs to improve to land a part. Aside from motivating him to audition, one thing I forgot is to actually prepare him for what to do in the audition.

First, though, the good: One of his strengths is inflecting the tone of his voice to sound like a character (he likes to be Stitch from Lilo and Stitch), and he did this well during the audition. And the not so good: he got distracted and lost his place in the script. That’s when I had a gnawing feeling I should have prepared him better.

He also could have projected his voice a few notches louder, and while I’d like to it was nerves, this too was probably another case of something I could have coached him to do better.

I am an English teacher, but have taught drama classes, and so I know the importance of projecting your voice, having had plenty of students have trouble with not being heard on stage.

So I think D’s audition gave me a baseline, for what he can and can’t do on his own, and it gave him an experience he can draw upon for his next audition.

Still, I know for his next audition, I plan to have him practice following along with the script and projecting his voice with me at home, so he will make a better impression.

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This Certifies That

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 18•17

soap carving

The switch blade may have lost some of its appeal from previous generations. But D still enjoyed earning a badge for demonstrating his knowledge and skill in the use of a personal pocketknife.

His Whittling Chip certificate said, “By completing these safety requirements and by promising to abide by the Knives Are Not Toys guidelines and the Pocketknife Pledge, he has the earned the right to carry a pocketknife to designated Cub Scout functions.”

The latter part–earning the right to carry a pocketknife–would never have passed the Wife’s approval if it wasn’t followed by the phrase, “to designated Cub Scout functions.”

D’s den leader meticulously went over the pocket knife pledge and guidelines on how to correctly use a pocketknife. Then D and his fellow bears went to separate tables and practiced making cuts with the help of their dads.

To get his Whittling certificate, D had to complete two soap carvings on his own. He decided to carve out his initials, and it was clear from the start, I was more concerned about how his soap carving would turn out than he was.

To be honest, he got distracted playing with the soap chips, and most of the time, I guided his hand to make the cuts, and at one point, I had a flashback of his mom letting him cut the cake on his birthday.

The cake cutting was a metaphor. His mom had her hand was over his hand, and I remember thinking it symbolized how D was getting older, yet it is still difficult for her to let him do things independently.

Well, the same thing happened with the soap carving. No matter how I thought he could cut the cake himself, I didn’t let him do his soap carving on his own, and it wasn’t so much a fear of D cutting himself, as it was me wanting his carving to look nice.

I wish I had this attitude, “So what if his soap carving gets messed up? He can start over and do another one.” But instead I was more concerned with trying to make his soap carving look good than letting him do it himself.

So in writing this, I recognize I have to offer him some guidance, but also to step back and let him do things on his own. It’s a realization I’ve had countless times, and with the Pine Wood Derby coming up, it will be a test of my commitment to foster his independence.

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