FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

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

We started in an arts and crafts store to get styrofoam balls for a solar system project, spent time in a kids’ play area at the mall, and ended up in a used book, music and movie store.

The solar system project was inspired by a Chinese girl on You Tube who talks about the eight planets in her video. D knows more about the planets than any other eight-year-old boy.

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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Artsy Fartsy

Written By: Scot Butwell - Nov• 21•16

planet-model

D got the idea from a girl named Audrey on You Tube who posted a video of herself making a model of the solar system and so he wanted to make his own.

We went to a craft store together on a family outing, and his mom helped D decide on what supplies to buy with some minor negotiating by D.

He lobbied for a trip to a craft store to get the supplies, mostly different size Styrofoam balls, poster board, and sticks to keep the planets aloft.

He painted the balls, mostly faithful to the planets natural colors, and dealt with the frustration of my phone running out of video storage.

I complimented him on his painting. The gas planets had a splendid gassy appearance because the paint wasn’t a solid color. Then his project hit a snag.

The sticks we bought were pointy on only one end, so the planets wouldn’t stay in the air. Life became busy and the project went on a short hiatus.

Enter mom.

planzet

They bought some Pick-up sticks (remember that game?) and the eight planets were rotating around the sun. He even added smaller moons to orbit the planets.

It looked so fantastic that I started thinking of D and I doing a science experiment, testing the effect of gluten on his body by having him eat a gluten-free and regular Chocolate Lava Cake.

We’d have a research question, hypothesis, dependent and independent variables, collect data from his observations. It could be a great subject for a Science Fair project.

Then I started thinking how his solar system model could be turned into an experiment. The effect of the son on human skin? Does looking at the sun really make you go blind? 

Then the Wife brought me back to earth. Just let him enjoy his project, she said. Just let the project be what it is.  A fun project, nothing more.

 

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Quiet Time

Written By: Scot Butwell - Nov• 21•16

q-time

We were supposed to read a bible story,  as is our custom on the weekend. However, D was busy drawing movie characters in the backseat of the car.

Five minutes, I said, and waited until he was ready.

I knew it might be fifteen or twenty minutes and, eventually, he joined me in the passenger seat with his green leather bible with a gecko on the cover.

“I’m going to have a quiet time by myself,” he announced.

He turned to 1 Samuel chapter 16 and the story of David and Goliath, and he began reading it aloud with character voices and dramatic gestures

I listened.

siloA moment ago, he seemed far off from thinking about God. But now his voice rose in fervor as he told Goliath he was fighting in the name of the Lord:

“You come at me with a sword, but I come in the name of the Lord, whom you have defied…”

“Aaahhhhrrgggg.”

“Yeah, the giant is dead.”

“Hallelujah, the giant is dead.”

“That was the story of David and Goliath,” he said. “We did our quiet time. Now let’s go to the park.”

Ok, it was a rambunctious quiet time, but I loved his engagement, and I chimed in with a question since my only role had been as a spectator.

“Where was God in the story?” I asked.

“He was in David’s heart.”

“Is God in your heart?” I said, touching the right side of his chest.

“No,” he said, picking up my hand and putting it over his heart. “He is on the other side.”

“Right there,” he said. “God is in my heart right there.”

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Bird Watchin’

Written By: Scot Butwell - Nov• 07•16

bird-watchin

D and I stumbled upon some bird watchers during a hike at a nature preserve with their binoculars pointed at the top of a tree.

“There it is,” D and I heard one of the bird watchers say excitedly.

D stopped and looked up momentarily at the tree briefly. I know D well enough to know what he was thinking, nah, those are just some stupid birds 

 

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Halloween Night

Written By: Scot Butwell - Nov• 07•16

hall-1D went trick-or-treating with friends for the first time this Halloween. This relegated me to a supervisory role, but I was happy for D’s development.

He could have joined his friends a year ago if I’d been more savvy to set it up, so it was more a lag in my parenting than growth in his social development.

D and I have trick-or-treated together the past several years, but I knew the day was coming for him to bond with his peers more than with me.

So I was happy to see D basking in the Halloween spirit with his two friends while I remained in the background, a sign in my own parenting growth.

hall-3

Sure, I missed the comaraderie D and I shared on past Halloweens while we sprinted from house to house in the dark of night under street lights.

However, at age eight, I realize I needed to allow D to grow in his relationships with his peers, as the Wife has reminded me many times.

We still had our moments like wrestling while posing for pictures, Captain America (D) using his mighty strength to try to subdue a Zombie (me).

D and I drove with C and his dad to a neighborhood that had more houses giving out candy after D’s other friend decided to go home after an hour.

D and C came to the scariest house of the evening, and C decided to cross to the other side of the street. D hesitated a moment, but he kept walking towards the scary house.

capt-amer

“I’ll give you a dollar if you make it to the front door,” I said, remembering D skipped this house the past two years.

D stopped at the driveway as four silhouetted figures slid their hands down the front window, and he looked ready to beat a hasty retreat.

But hevtook a step toward the door, passing two skeletons inside a car, and with his hand covering his ears, he proceeded towards the front door.

A skeletonpopped out of a coffin on the porch, but it didn’t faze him, and he overcame his fear while adding to the bulge in his candy bag.

  1. D looked back at the silhouettes from the sidewalk. He had overcome his fear and, best of all, we had done it together.
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A Dream Fulfilled

Written By: Scot Butwell - Oct• 30•16

hoop4

D and I went camping this weekend with his cub scout Pack 658, and the morning after the first night in our tent, we were feeling in good spirits following D’s first time in a row boat.

N and C, brothers from his den, were bumping a volleyball back and forth on the beach, and D surprised me by clasping his hands together and hitting the ball when it came his way.

It must have been muscle memory from his My Gym All-Star Spirts class a few years back, and even though the ball careened ofv to the side of the twins, D hit it correctly like he cared.

The fact he joined in surprised me since he isn’t into sports. I thought he might do better at basketball since we’ve practiced dribbling, bounce passes and, occasionally, shooting.

So I asked the twins if they played basketball, and their dad pointed to a nearby court, and we all immediately ran in the direction of the court.

camp-out

I had a game in mind; in fact, I’ve had a game in mind for quite some time, but since D isn’t into sports, I have decided not to push sports on him.

D’s passions are more acting and science. He loves acting out movie scenes and, his idea of a good time is pouring vinegar and baking soda in a beaker to make a volcano explode.

We all took a few shots before D and I squared off against twins and their dad, and we were playing a game basketball. The game I have wanted to play with D was materializing like a mirage of water in the desert.

With the scored knotted, 3-3, D abandoned the game, and we made an adjustment to the teams. It was now Dads vs. Kids.

camping-3

Sure, I was disappointed when he ran off in the middle of the game. It was bad sportsmanship, but I was just happy he’d played as long as he had.

One of the twins had trouble adjusting to new teams and then D reappeared, and we were back to the original teams; I didn’t ask D where he’d gone.

The game was semi-serious. I was playing in flip flops, or one flip flop and a bare foot, as the clip for one of my flip flops kept coming off.

D was peer pressured into passing the ball to the twins a few times before he returned to passing the ball to me, and we fell into a rhythm on the court.

I rebounded the ball and passed it to D, and he zigzagged around with it while being chased by the twins before passing the ball back to me.

Once, he flipped the ball to me as I was cutting to the basket for a lay-up, and this showed the symmetry we’d quickly developed on the basketball court.

We were keeping score, but traveling with the ball was allowed. This is the barometer I would use to gauge how serious the game was.

knott

The point is, D was on a basketball court playing a game and remaining a part of the action except for his short departure for some reason.

He was laughing and having fun–this must be his basketball demeanor–and he was completely engaged with what was happening on the court.

Later, he played in the dirt and drew pictures of the solar system with a stick as the other kids from his den played a game nearby with a ball.

That’s the thing. D is particular, and he knows what he likes. And sports isn’t typically it. But today he chose to play in a game of basketball.

The 15 to 20 minutes we played basketball, he was as much into the game (almost) as I was, and it fulfilled a long-deferred dream of mine.

 

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Cricket in the House

Written By: Scot Butwell - Oct• 30•16

“Please come in and find the cricket…”

Jesus, I prayed, why does she have to worry about some dumb cricket.

Just let it be, wherever it might be, this was my first thought.

Honestly, does the whereabouts of a cricket in the house really matter?

If a cricket enters the house and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

No, it takes a human ear to hear it.

Am I going to be able to find a cricket hiding in a crevice of the house?

Yet, I prayed, not my will be done, Lord, but your will be done.

Let me see this from my wife’s perspective, and not just my own.

Let D and me find this cricket and restore peace back to our family.

(L and I had an argument in the morning over something I can’t remember: a typical argument.)

Let D and I enjoy this time, even searching the house for a cricket.

And, Lord, bring peace of mind to L.

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