FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

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 involved in 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 on the day after Thanksgiving through a maze of people, 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 having a schedule to follow, although he likes a free day to do as he pleases.

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

news-desk

It was all pretty amazing, and it had a calming effect, even on the entire family. My favorite part of the science center is always hamming it up at the news desk, which we visited on the 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.

“I am a scientist and have decided to make Pluto a planet again.”

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

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. The Mighty Eagle call from the Angry Birds movie.

We giggled and laughed. The Wife turned her head and pretended she didn’t know us. Then we let two serious kids take over the news desk and read 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 younger brother.

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

When D made his Christmas list, it had “baby brother” right below “bb gun” and “tnt.” The explosives came from the Angry Birds movie. I love these unexpected glimpses into his brain, and the unusual juxtaposition of his thoughts.

 

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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 in front of the tv and to sing about the planets from You Tube videos.

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.

That was truly amazing. D also likes singing songs by the Jackson Five, and he has taken to calling them “his brothers,” so singing is something he enjoys and iappears to be one of his 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 I wasn’t bothered by his not singing.

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 intervenes and steps in to save Jonah’s life.

God sends a great fish to swallow him and preserve his life. The fish spits him back onto dry land three days later, giving 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, we both sometimes disobey God, just like Jonah and every person on the planet.

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 spared his life despite his disobedience. Ridiculous, right?

jonah-2

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

I like to 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 and then mentioned a couple of boys.

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 instead of harboring hate and resentment.

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Shooting Hoops

Written By: Scot Butwell - Nov• 27•16

hoops

A basketball hoop was always in the driveway. We moved every three or four years in my childhood, and the hoop provided a sense of continuity.

I found solace in flicking a basketball hour after hour towards the rim, and the hoop made my new neighborhood  feel more like home.

Basketball was my passion. I played every day, and it was the one activity I excelled at the most growing up. My basketball was like my best friend.

So you’d think I’d be the one teaching D how to shoot a basketball. But I have to admit it, the Wife is a better teacher even though she had to google “how to shoot a basketball.”

She is more demanding and makes sure he holds the ball correctly while D flings the ball in a wild underhand style with me–despite me showing him how to shoot.

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 usually bring the ball with me.

I can tell that he has no 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 join him in fdoing things he likes and, maybe, if I don’t push sports on him, it’s possible he may take an interest in sports at a later date. Or maybe not. And that’s ok.

bball

D 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 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 acted it out…except we got so into Our acting 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 playing basketball as a kid, when I would take shot after shot at the hoop in our driveway. Basically, D was doing the same thing acting out scenes.

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Pixar Exhibit

Written By: Scot Butwell - Nov• 26•16

pixar-0D cued up Frosty the Snowman when we returned home from “The Science Behind Pixar” exhibit at the California Science Center, so my fear that it might ruin the magic of movies for him was, well, unwarranted.

But it’s true science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are responsible for the stuff you see in Pixar movies; thankfully, I don’t think it will change the way D watches a Pixar movie for quite some time.

After all, D bought a black hat for his first snowman when we went to the mountains last year, and he wanted me to invite Charlie Brown over to our home for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

At eight years old, movie characters have a strong grip on his imagination and his current math knowledge doesn’t extend past three-digit adding and subtracting problems yet.

mikey

D is still working at regrouping in subtracting problems, so the science and math concepts were light years ahead of him, and so Frosty will likely remain a magical figure for a few more years.

As it should be, in my opinion.

The same goes for his favorite Pixar characters like Anger and Fear from Inside Out, Sully and Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc., and Mr. Fredrickson and Russell the Boy Scout from my favorite animation movie, Up.

Right now, D is so captivated by the characters and stories that the next time he watches Toy Story, I doubt his experience changing Jesse’s facial expressions with a rig will break the grip the story has on his imagination.

Or the next time we watch Up, he may remember dimming the lights in Mr. Fredricksen’s house using a rig, but I seriously doubt he will reflect on the math, science or engineering concepts behind it.

I guess what I am trying to say is the Pixar exhibit was a brief glimpse behind the movie-making curtain, but one that will soon to be forgotten (I’m sure) when D is caught up in watching his next movie.

pixar-1My wife and I laughed to ourselves when we overheard a mother authoritatively telling her three-year-old son at one station, “This is what you are going to be doing for a job when you are an adult.”

For sure, the 40+ interactive stations at the Pixar exhibit are cool hands-on activities that reveal a behind-the-scenes glimpse at moving making and, um, future animation work possibilities.

However, as far as understanding the STEM subjects in the process, D is at least another three or four years away from seeing the connection between science, technology, and math and making movies.

D liked making different combinations of robots from wooden blocks with magnets like Wall-E more than listening to videos featuring Disney animators explain what they do at several of the stations.

He also liked seeing the adult-size models of Sully and Mike Wazowski and the miniature clay-size model of Russell which are used by animators to make digital movie characters.

pixar-robotD loves science. And technology and watching movies. Right now his greatest love is the solar system–it’s a daily conversation topic–and because of this, I could see him becoming an astronomer.

But, maybe, with his love of movies, he will want to be an animator, and I could see him becoming a computer scientist, creating characters and telling stories through the science of coding.

My favorite part of the exhibit was seeing D interact with other science-minded kids, collaborating together to make a digital character by touching different shapes on a screen.

pixar-ex

Before we exited the exhibit, D saw Joy from Inside Out on a computer screen in a production phase before her blue hair and clothing had been applied to her body, making her look bald and naked.

“Look,” he said, laughing. “Joy is nude.”

Then, outside the Pixar exhibit, D and I thrashed around in a hurricane simulating machine. I shook our bodies, and it must have looked convincing, because we fooled a mother and daughter who were watching us.

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Escape to the Bookstore

Written By: Scot Butwell - Nov• 26•16

bookoff

I hope D is learning from me the joy of escaping into a good book. Although I feel guilty when reading a book rather than playing with him, I figure I am modeling the pleasure of reading and, sometimes, he grabs a book of his own.

And we read together at the same time.

My favorite genre is memoir, and I have been reading country musician Jimmy Wayne’s Walk to Remember. It is a heart-wrenching story of his experience being neglected by his mom as a kid, homeless at times, and in and out foster care homes.

An elderly couple befriended Jimmy when he was a teenager and invited him to live with them, and he turned his love for music into becoming a country music star who is now an advocate for foster kids like himself.

I could barely hold myself together reading one passage about Jimmy being so hungry as a young kid that he stole food from his neighbors while they were still inside their house.

I think you will see what I mean (try not to be moved by this passage). It is too long to quote entirely, but it is worth quoting and paraphrasing:

book reading

Jimmy, him Mama and sister slept outside on a mattress because the roaches were so bad in their house. The roaches were crawling over Mama’s latest boyfriend-husband who didn’t notice because he was too hung over.

Jimmy had not eaten since Friday when he received a free lunch at school, and it was Sunday morning as he sat up on the mattress and sniffed the morning air and smelled…bacon.

It was drifting in his direction from the neighbor’s house, and as he breathed in the smell, he stood up like a zombie drawn to the cemetery and walked towards the neighbor’s back door.

He peeked through the screen door, and could see breakfast leftovers on the kitchen table, no one sitting on the table, and he slowly pulled open the back screen door.

He made sure the spring didn’t squeak and slipped into the kitchen, forming a pocket with the bottom of his t-shirt and shoving table scraps into his shirt.

man’s voice, coming from a room next to the kitchen, yelled, “Hey!” And Jimmie turned and ran out the door, trying not to lose his scraps of food.

I know. It’s outrageously long to even paraphrase, but it illustrates the food insecurity many people experience in our country (one in eight Americans currently faces food insecurity).

I imagine telling D about this moment when a lump formed in my throat and I could barely breath as we lay on the living room floor and D reads one of his favorite books The Wizard of Oz.

I think about telling him about Jimmy being so hungry he sneaked into his neighbor’s house, how my emotions nearly burst out of me and the food insecurity many people face daily.

But I choose to save talking about the lump for another day–when he experiences one. “Sometimes,” I will say. “You just never what part of a book is going to give you a lump.”

One that day, I will think of Jimmy and the smell of bacon, and I will tell him, this will happen, again and again, and learn to enjoy these beautiful, unexpected moments when reading suddenly reveals your humanness.

 

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A Swimming Story

Written By: Scot Butwell - Nov• 26•16

swim-jumpI don’t remember saying it like it was a big deal or thinking this would be the moment. We were in the swimming pool at my mom’s condo and I casually said to D, swim over to me.

I was standing in the middle of the pool, and D was at the steps of the pool. We were just goofing around, enjoying some father and son time.

I wasn’t focused on him learning how to swim. Okay, so I asked him to grab the side of the pool and kick his legs, but then I forgot about trying to get him to practice swimming.

I’d watched him practice swimming every day for four weeks and, frankly, I was a tired of monitoring his progress and waiting for “the moment.”

Frim putting his face in the water and staying under water to kicking his legs straight and using his “big arms,” he had made incremental progress.

But he was still not swimming yet, struggling with synchronizing his legs and arms while tilting his head to the side to breath.

In two words, he had trust issues.

In three words, executive planning issues.

I praised his progress and told him I could sense he was on the verge of swimming, and he loved the vending machine snacks after his lesson.

He liked telling his mom he knew how to swim. However, he knew he was close to putting it all together, but was not yet swimming like his peers.

I knew it would take time like when D learned to ride a bike and one day he looping around the basketball court in a slight drizzle with a huge grin.

And then he did it.

I casually said, swim to me. 

And he swam to me.

He swam about twelve feet with his arms down  by his side and his head fully submerged under the water and his legs kicking straight.

swim-2

I felt a surge of joy swell up in my chest and time slowed down a moment and I thought the sky suddenly looked more beautiful than a moment ago.

Then D leaped into the pool and when he came to the surface, he kept his arms to the side and head in the water, and he swam to the other side.

Just like it was no big deal. But I knew he knew it was a huge achievement.

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Uku

Written By: Scot Butwell - Nov• 21•16

ukoo

The Lava Song (from Pixar’s Inside Out)

A long, long time ago there was a volcano living all alone in the middle of the sea

He sat high above his bed watching all the couples play

And wishing that he had someone, too.

And from his lava came this song of hope that he sang out loud everyday for years and years.

Chorus

I have a dream I hope will come true

That you’re here with me and I’m here with you I wish that the earth, sea, the sky up above will send me someone to lava.

Years of singing all alone turned his lava into stone until he was on the brink of extinction

But little did he know that living in the sea below another volcano was listening to his song.

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