FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

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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Mambo Dance

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 17•17

mambo dance

The mambo dance is an annual tradition of Pack 658…and the kids love it.

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Bird Experts

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 17•17

angry birds

I came home from visiting my mom in the hospital, and after scarfing down a five-minute dinner, I was looking forward to spending time with D.

But it had to wait—since he had to serve a time out for breaking a house rule—and it took him fifteen minutes between stalling and taking a pee, before he made it to the time out area.

I sat on the sofa and talked with before lying down on the kitchen floor and entering into the ornithological world of angry birds and pigs with D—his new favorite animated characters.

There is: Big Brother Terrance, Chuck, a speedy triangular-shaped bird, Bomb named after his explosive anger, Red the protagonist in the Angry Bird movie, Matilda, an female anger management teacher, Hal, the Boomerang Bird, Bubbles, an expanding bird, the blue birds, three birds who emerge from one bird, and the Mighty Eagle, and I am probably leaving out one of two lesser fowl.

And, of course, there is the arch enemies of the birds: the pigs. Leonard the King Pig, Corporal Pig, who has the steel army helmet, and Foreman Pig, known for his mustache which curls at the ends, and Dopey and Roz, the two Minion Pigs; and a herd of pigs who constantly try to steal the birds’ eggs.

bird expert

So on the kitchen floor, we took turns assembling and knocking down towers, pulling back the slingshot with an angry bird inserted and sending it flying towards the pigs in towers. I whooped and cheered and commented on the action like a sports broadcaster.

“That flash or streak of yellow…it must have been Chuck. But it was hard to tell because it was going so fast.”

“Next up until sling shot is Bomb, a black bird with a fuse at the top of his head which goes off whenever he’s angry…uh-oh, his eye brows are slanted down. That means he must not be psssing his Anger Management class. Matilda is not going to be very happy about this…there he goes.”

Kaboom! The towers collapsed, and D and I celebrated, and it was the most fun part of my day (teaching can be a grind some days); that is, until I became a rodeo bull and D  limbed on on back, snorting as I tried to buck him off while he giggled wildly.

D will turn nine tomorrow, and I hope he doesn’t grow up too fast because I will miss times like these being silly and ridiculous. I hope he always had a a goofy streak in him, and I am thankful for the last rest of his animated interest, these birds who have given me a way a sure fire way to connect and have fun with my son.

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Star Eco Station

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 15•17

blue bird

This was different than the Pet Store.

Instead of seeing dogs, cats, fish, turtles, crickets, hamsters and guinea pigs, we saw an alligator, two foxes, a 100-pound boa constrictor, and an assortment of reptiles and birds rescued by the U.S. Fish and Game Department from human traffickers.

My hope was that our visit to Star Eco Station, a rescue statiiin for over 200 exotic animals and science center, might generate some compassion for illegally trafficked animals in D…or at least to be an interesting place to visit.

Hey Boss,” D said, beckoning me to follow him in the middle of our tour. He had wandered one room ahead, and I was torn between staying with the tour or responding to his overture.

It was the Bubble Room scene from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Grandpa Joe and Charlie drink a “Fizzy Lifting” soda and float up toward a giant steel fan before burping their way back down.

I had a choice to make of staying with the tour and listening to our guide or checking out what D had discovered that was so exciting: a frisky grey and brown fox running around in its cage.

eco 2

I knew what D was probably thinking about Nick Wilde, the fox character from  Zootopia, one of his favorite movies. A black fox with a frightened countenance was in another cage.

We found out every animal had a back story. I was missed the names of the foxes (Zeus and Sunny, D told me later), and how they endec up at the rescue station. However, these are a few of the animal stories I did hear:

Someone in Texas shipped ten baby alligators in a Fed Ex box to Los Angeles by plane.

eco 3

The 100-pound boa constrictor lived in 20 pounds of his own feces because the owner was too scared of his own pet snake to wash or clean it.

A blue parrot plucked out all of its chest feathers due to stress from working on a Hollywood movie.

An enormous two-foot turtle was found in a trash can at the airport.

***

We learned Star Echo Station exists because smuggling exotic animals into the US is a multi-billion dollar business, and animals snuck into the US are crammed in suitcases, stuffed in cardboard tubes, taped to human bodies, and stashed in Fed Ex boxes.

turtle

Our tour guide informed us many of the exotic animals found by custom officials arrive dead on arrival or are so traumatized or injured that officials have no choice but to put them down.

Those who survive the transport conditions often die from inadequate care or are abandoned on rural roads by their owners. Many others get placed at the gates of zoos–who are unable by law to take donated animals–or have difficulty surviving away from their natural habitats.

I wish I could say that D or I became more compassionate towards animals from our visit, but to be totally honest, I was more focused on taking pictures than letting the stories of animals’ abuse sink in to my consciousness.

And I not sure just how much of the information D managed to take in—or how the animals’ experienced could be classified as abuse—and is if he has a reference point for what abuse is.

However, as I was writing about our visit to Star Echo Station—especially the individual stories of the animals—I felt a desire to go back and listen better to their storied to develop compassion for animals in general.

eco 5

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Biker Pig

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 06•17

biker pig

This is a Google image of the biker pig motorcycle D and I assembled on his birthday because he smashed ours not long after we completed it.

That’s fine. Really. Okay, he could have let me take a picture of our collaborative efforts before shattering it to pieces.

His mom made a chocolate cake with white frosting and, two days later, a strawberry cake for my birthday. Both were delicious, and neither lasted long, since we all have a sweet tooth.

As for our collaboration, D ripping open the plastic bags, the tiny pieces nearly got mixed together, and a few pieces fell to the floor, and I got anxious, knowing the added difficulty we’d face with lost or missing pieces.

The truth is, D was more excited more to get to the angry bird figurines in the bags than construct the motorcycle, and unlike me, he wasn’t concerned at all about the difficulty of the task ahead.

“Hey, you knocked some pieces on the floor,” D told me a few times after he bumped more Legos on the floor.

It was one of those moments where I could feel myself starting to lose it, but I managed to hold it together. I realized it was only Legos, so we pressed forward on assembling the bike.

We followed the instructions step by step, snapping small pieces together and mostly working together, and 20 minutes later, we had finished and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

It was a Friday night, and following pictorial directions and handling teeny weeny Lego pieces was difficult after a long week of work, especially for someone like myself with limited mechanical skills.

Although I did probably 70 percent of the work, it was still a collaborative effort and I had fun working together with D, even if he shattered our biker pig motorcycle soon after we assembled it.

Afterwards, D and I joined his mom in the living room, and we all took an electronic break. The Wife and I fell asleep, and an hour later, D was still on his I-Pad, celebrating each tower knocked down by an angry bird.

 

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Quiet Time

Written By: Scot Butwell - Feb• 04•17

q times

We started by me reading one of Jesus’ parables from Luke’s gospel. It was about a fig tree and I explained how parables have two meanings, a literal and secret meaning, and I thought I had sold him on searching for the secret meaning like a treasure hunt.

But the symbolism of on a fig tree didn’t hold his attention, and D mentioned (thanks to being a huge Veggie Tales fan) Jesus’ parable on building your house on solid rock.

I read the parable of the fig tree to him. I reiterated the key point with a dramatic voice. How every time the owner inspected the fig tree for fruit…there was no fruit. I hoped he would think about the symbolism

He didn’t.

I planned to to talk about the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22– love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness, goodness and, my favorite, faithfulness—to discuss the good fruit that God wantx to see in our lives.

That was the plan. I wanted D to inspect the fruit in his life, to think if his actions have been loving and kind, to others, but he had no interest in a story on a fig tree bearing no fruit, even one with a secret meaning.

“I don’t care,” D said after I emphasized a second time that the fig tree had borne no fruit. He was thinking on a literal level, and I was wishing him to think symbolically.

But it wasn’t happenning—at all.

So I switched to a story with people. About a short man who was a rich tax collector and climbed up a tree to see Jesus. Although he knew this story, I hoped to plumb its meaning in depth.

***

Jesus came to a tree in Jericho, and he saw a little man. He looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today (emphasis mine) I must stay at your house.’

Jesus made eye contact, called him by by his name, and invited himself to be a guest at the man’s house. This must have been a surprise not only to Zacchaeus, but to the Jewish people.

Since Zaccheus was a tax collected who was despised by his own people

Nevertheless, as Luke tells it, Zacchaeus hurried down, received Jesus gladly, and when the people saw it, they grumbled and sneered, saying to one another, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’

Hearing what the people said, Zacchaeus stopped and said to Jesus, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.’

Jesus declared, ‘Today (emphasis mine) salvation has come to this house because he, too, is a son of Abraham, for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

The meaning of the story was probably deeper than a six-year-old could grasp: What made Zacchaeus confess his sins and publicly vow to repay those he cheated? There is only one possible answer: he had a empty void in his heart and knew only Jesus could fill it.

Interestingly, I thought later, it was the same story as Jesus’ parable of the fruitless fig tree, a man who was bearing no fruit and had no way for his sins to be forgiven…except by Jesus.

I know we didn’t plumb the depth of this story. Sure, we tried. We discussed details, and what they meant. But I know we fell short of this simple truth: Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

 

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Still Smiling

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jan• 30•17

mom

She went through an emergency four-hour surgery to remove part of her colon and spent a week in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital.

She now has a colostomy bag instead of a regularly working digestive system.

Her calcium and potassium were dangerously low one day this week, and with all the iv tubes inserted into her body, she looked more like a Christmas tree.

Her blood pressure has been high most days, she has had trouble putting down liquid food and threw up in a bag several times during one of my visits this week.

During another visit, she vomited out green projectiles.

She had a Styrofoam-looking pad called a wound vac inserted into her open wound in her stomach and, a week later, the wound became infected.

Her body has been pumped with antibiotics and other medications, it is hard to keep track, while she has been lying in bed for the past two weeks.

She ate chicken and rice for lunch the other day. It was her first solid food in two weeks.

She was discouraged by her inability to sit up more than seven minutes, but the next day she sat up for 40 minutes during her physical therapy session.

She has a long road of recovery ahead to regain her strength and, at age 83, she will have to give it all she’s got to recover.

But she’s still smiling, and I’ve seen her do it before when she broke her hip, so I know that she can do it again.

I see her body is becoming more frail, and sometimes she sleeps most of the day, but she has a determined spirit and, yes, she is anxious and afraid at times.

Yet, she is still trusting God in her situation.

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Break Dancing

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jan• 23•17

break dancing

No, D is not break dancing.

Although it looks like it.

We took a night walk to the park on his birthday. The lights were on at the basketball court. So I asked D to “do the snake,” a reference a You Tube clip with a snake who flips around like crazy and kills itself.

The video always sends D into convulsive giggles. So after he flopped around the ground, I poked D to see if it were alive, but the next time, I plan to join the scene by pretending I am a paramedic and give him CRP.

Call it You Tube Improv theatre.

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Sharks vs. Minnows

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jan• 23•17

cub scout

D’s favorite part of a Cub Scout pack meeting is the game and snack time. Anything involving running and a little craziness suits his temperament.

I think it’s similar for most scouts. The game at the latest monthly pack meeting was Sharks vs. Minnows. Blind sharks, that is. And it got crazy.

There were about 30 scouts, all running in a 15 by 20-foot area, and as the blind sharks sought to tag the minnows, running with their eyes closed, there were some close calls.

No one got hurt, though, and as I watched kids run across the room and or crawl under a table to avoid being tagged, their joyful spirit was a reminder I need to have more fun.

“How to Be a Fun Parent” is the title I would choose if I wrote a book on parenting. But I often need to remember to have more fun with D–to get down on the floor and be silly.

And I think this is true for most parents. We’re always telling kids to do this or that when what they want the most is for us to stop all our giving directions and to play with them.

The pack meeting had a nice random feel because the assistant scoutmaster filled in for the Cub master, and I liked how he winged it by giving several scouts public speaking opportunities.

The Pine Wood Derby winner for the two years running, for example, gave a design recommendation on how to build a faster car: “You have to make it aerodynamic,” the ten-year-old said

“What does aerodynamic mean?” the assistant scoutmaster asked. “You know, just in case anyone here does not know what that word means.”

The boy supplied the definition which means D will be up against stiff competition, and so we better get startedworking to make his car as, um, aerodynamic as possible.

There was a skit and cheer, and then a scout talked about an upcoming camp, and then another scout from the oldest den (Weblos 2) explained the rules for the GameStop the end of the meeting.

And that’s when it got really fun–and I started to think how important it is to have fun, thanks to watching 30 so boys running wild all over the room.

There is a time for earning badges by learning how to use a pocket knife responsibly, for  learning outdoor etiquette on a hike–but there should also be time set aside for for fun.

That’s what I learned at D’s Cub Scout pack meeting

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