FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

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. Our family moved every three or four years in my childhood, and the hoop in the driveway always provided a sense of continuity.

I found solace in dribbling and shooting hoops, and I could spend hours taking shot after shot. I was Picasso with a paintbrush.

Basketball was my passion. I played every day, and it was the activity I excelled at the most growing up. And it was the one sport I played year round.

We used to switch from playing one sport to the next with the seasons. Baseball in spring, football in fall, amd basketball in winter. However, basketball was always my first love.

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

She demands D hold the ball with his hands in the correct position while D likes to flings the ball in a wild underhand style with me despite me showing him the right way.

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

coach

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

I can tell he does not 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 proven to be the case with D.

So I join him in the things he likes to do and, maybe, if I don’t forcibly push sports on him, it’s possible he may take an interest in sports at a later time. Or maybe not. And that’s ok.

bball

D likes acting out scenes involving situations with his friend C. I came up with this idea one day after D tried to sell C’s toys at the park, a rock was thrown, and we ended up back home.

So we storyboarded six scenes on a marker board–it felt like we were making a movie–and my hope was that acting it out might develop empathy in D for how C was feeling.

“Toys for sale,” D bellowed while running around the kitchen and living room as I chased after him wailing. “Who wants to buy Sheriff Woody? Batteries not included.”

We got so into acting it out that I doubt D felt any empathy for C. “Let’s do it again,” D said after each scene, and I would chase him yelling “You can’t sell my toys…those are my toys!”

So we repeated each scene three or four times, and it reminded me of playing basketball as a kid, when I would shoot hoops for hours in our driveway, until the sun went down.

 

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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

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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