FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

A Sweet Time

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jul• 02•16

cookies pic

Here’s what happens when L leaves the house for a few hours:

D pours in the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, spoons in two sticks of butter and cracks his first egg on a measuring cup. We start to stir the ingredients and his fingers go straight for the cookie dough. Again and again. Despite me saying that’s enough.

“You’re going to get sick and not be able to eat the cookies,” I tell him.

But I was okay with it. We’d found an activity to be a common focus, and the cookie dough had most assuredly become his main focus. And I sped up the mixing and made sure he helped out, so there would be dough to actually make the cookies.

cookie

And a batch made it into the oven.

It was D’s idea to bake cookies. I think he remembered the last time we made cookies and how I had been lax on him eating the cookie dough. I stuck my hands in the bowl to mix the dough–since the dough was very dry–and his hands followed mine into the bowl.

You could say I introduced him to cookie dough, there were no salmonella warnings and, two days after our latest batch of cookies, they were gone–and we’re doing just fine.

 

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His Plan

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jul• 01•16

volcanos (more…)

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Fantastic Patrick

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jun• 30•16

Fantastic p

This mom kicked up her feet

on the chair at the donut shop

and listened to her daughter:

“My donut laid two big eggs,

my donut likes laying eggs,

I don’t know why my donut

likes laying eggs, it never told

me why it likes laying eggs.”

 

I want the girl to keep talking,

but her mom tells her to hurry

up and eat her donut. They

have places to go. So I listen

to a church lady, “The elderly

go crazy over the maple bars.

Woe be it to us if we don’t have

the maple bars. Woe be it…”

 

L calls to say she wants

to see Fantastic Patrick

at the library except it

turns out to be the next

day, so we end up eating

ice-cream and watching

a movie and I like how

the day starts one way

and ended up another.

 

“Mistakes happen,” I say.

“You have to let thing go.”

She takes everything serious.

It turns out to be a fantastic day,

watching a movie in the middle

of the day, the ice-cream truck

jingling down the street and kids

running like elderly ladies

craving maple bars and we chased

the jinging bells down the street.

 

We see Fantastic Patrick the next

day, juggling balls and bowling pins,

balancing a baseball cap on his nose

chasing a mom on a unicycle with

a fake sword, telling a woman not

to post his picture on Facebook

because his mom still thinks he

is a lawyer. I laugh when one of his

balls nearly knocks down a ceiling

light pane. Everyone gasped. Moms.

Kids. Dads. Especially the librarian.

 

Here’s what else I remember: I felt

my melancholy–I don’t know where it

came from–probably a mix of fatigue

and unprocessed feelings, slip away

with each new trick or joke. I was

smiling and clapping like a trained

seal, letting go and thinking how

cool it was that he was doing what

he loved and making others laugh.

 

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Happy Father’s Day!

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jun• 30•16

Fath day

I got three Hallmark cards: One from the Wife, another from D, and a third from my brother-in-law (thanks, Terrance). I appreciate the sentiment, but the cards usually end up the same place.

My mom usually sends me a Hallmark card, but she must have forgot (no worries, mom, if read this. Keep on sending the Hallmark cards).

The day after Father’s day, I sat down at the dinner table and saw one of D’s drawings. Amid the clutter. It was a guy with glasses, orange skin and a skinny neck.

The top of the drawing said, “Happy Father’s Day,” and as I picked up D’s drawing, he flipped it over so I could read what he’d written on the back.

It said, “Top 5 Reasons Why I Love My Dad:”

1. He is nice to me.

2. He likes to take me to the beach.

3. He likes to take me to the park.

4. He is good.

5. He likes to take me to the Griffith Observatory (caps by me).

The card made my day!

 

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Bringing Down the House

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jun• 29•16

monologueHe scratched the top of his head, pulled his arms down close to his body, hands clasped together, and looked at the audience with a bashful smile.

His head was bowed slightly down. He was wearing a grey sweatshirt with a penguin on it. Charcoal black jeans and black slip on shoes.

It was his turn to say his first and last name, his age, and tell something he liked. Like the beginning of a monologue for an audition to get a part in a movie.

“My name is D.B., I am eight years old and…I like ice cream and to have lots and lots of money,” he said with a mischievous smile.

He killed it. D got the entire audience to laugh, just as he had his first time on stage, a year ago, when he paused for several seconds before delivering his line:

drama-dance

“Where are you trying to get to Sweet Thing,” he’d said in a country twang.

I wonder how he does it. The accent and funny comment. Where does it come from? These comic touches that make his audience laugh?

The other kids said their favorite color or flavor of ice cream, but instead he went with a more nuanced and, I thought, abstract response.

I wonder if he was channeling Mr. krabs from the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie or, I wonder, if his response was an original line of his own.

Either way, the audience went wild, probably helped by his bashful smile. As parents, they understood the whirlwind of emotions he was experiencing.

You wonder, as a parent, during these moments, if your child is up to the task. Are they too nervous? Will they be overcome by fear? Can they handle the challenge?

As a parent, I get nervous in these moments. I hold my breath. Unconsciously. The air in my throat momentarily constricted, as I wait for the outcome.

And then, even though it was only a few lines, D brought down the house. He killed it. And I smiled and wondered about this unique person: my son.

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“God’s Country”

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jun• 28•16

choir

Two months ago, a fellow cub scout dad suggested D join the kid’s choir at church since it met right after our Monday night den meeting.

They were just beginning to practice for a summer patriotic performance, and D has loved learning about the states since he was four years old.

He also likes learning about the U.S. presidents, so I thought it would be a great combination–singing in a choir and increasing his love for his country.

Like the cub scouts, it would also be an opportunity to make new friends and to develop a sense of belonging through being part of the kid’s choir.

First, I had to pitch the idea to the Wife—she liked it—and then overcome D’s resistance to new ideas to get him to agree to go on the first night.

I popped the idea to him in the fifteen minute interval between the cub scout den meeting and the choir rehearsal, and he instantly nixed the idea.

“Nah, I don’t want to go,” he said flippantly.

But I was prepared for this response by telling him a story when I was his age and my dad dropped me off at a week-long summer basketball camp.

It was an overnight camp and I didn’t want to go. It would be my first time away from my parents, and I cried when my dad got ready to leave.

(Sidebar: My dad didn’t really know what to do when I started crying and relied on a basketball coach to guide me through my tears and fears.)

I shared with D how the basketball camp ended up being one of the favorite parts of my childhood, and D agreed to try it out at least once.

He told me after the third or fourth practice, “I want to go in by myself.” And I took this as a sign that he enjoyed being part of the choir.

I think he enjoyed seeing the variety of kids’ personalities. And he likes that the director doesn’t mind if kids run around before they rehearsal time.

My favorite part is seeing D engage in small talk with between song. The boy next to him did more of the talking, but D kept up the conversation.

D became squirmy near the end of their summer performance. It was clear he needed to pee and I thought he could make it to the end.

However, the Wife judged correctly that he needed to go right now and after he made it to the restroom, she gave him an option: stay in the audience or go back on stage.

This was how I knew he felt a sense of belonging: he ran back on stage to rejoin the choir for their final bow rather than stay in the audience.

I don’t know if singing patriotic songs increased his love of his country, but I know he gained something more important: a “tribe” to belong to.

Thank you, Miss Linda, for finding the right balance between rehearsing and letting kids be themselves.

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On Being Eight

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jun• 27•16

wildness park

No women allowed in the club,

he says with a tone of defiance

looking up at his mom’s face.

I stand between them

on the sidewalk and he says it again,

no women allowed in the club.

 

He repeats these lines to his mom

whenever he is frustrated and wishes

to declare his independence from

her commands and corrections

She frowns at the Little Rascal lines.

 

Eight is a continual war, trying

to defeat his mom and sentences

written on a white marker board

and emotional negotiations,

like a defense lawyer in court,

to reduce the number of sentences.

 

Eight is closed bedroom door,

to have a moment to himself,

to  delay putting on his clothes,

to ignore his mom’s latest command

to make sure he has clean underwear

scientist

Eight is a scientist in awhite lab coat

plastic pieces clacking and snapping

together, first stimming and then

building a robot, wanting a moment

to create, a moment to be free from

getting dressed and brushing teeth.

 

I try to honor his creative space,

his closed door a sign he needs time.

Three minutes, I tell him.

I understand.

I need the same time and space

to see the straw of my everyday

experiences

and to weave them into gold.

planet-in-mouth

This is what I say to L when she says

he needs one minute and not three:

This gives us a few minutes for us.

She laughs. Three minutes? Wow.

I explain how I teach students all day

and come home to be a parent

leaving me exhausted.

I tell her to be grateful for these

three minutes; it’s only three minutes,

I know, but we should be thankful.

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When I Said the “SH” word

Written By: Scot Butwell - May• 29•16

dog park

We have a weekend ritual:

eggs and hash browns

for you and chicken biscuit

for me from Chic-Fil-a.

We read a few bible verses

im the park parking lot

and then we pray except

when I opened my eyes

the car door was open

and you were gone.

 

It takes time to know God,

and if I could say anything

to you it would be this:

to know that you can talk

to God about anything

and He will always listen.

So I told you God loves you,

and then we skipped stones

in the pond and we learned

this too takes time to learn.

 

Finding a “just right” rock

and throwing it just right

at the surface so it skips

and skips and skips again.

This takes time to learn.

You threw a rock at a duck

and it swam away startled.

And I let you wear my sandals

to walk on the dirt trail.

 

You wandered off the trail

And when I tried to follow

I stepped on those tiny burrs

with sharp thorns piercing

into my feet and I screamed,

and I uttered the “sh” word.

I told you I needed your help,

so you tossed me my sandals

and I made it out with tiny cuts,

and a memory you or I will

probably never forget.

 

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A Winter Story

Written By: Scot Butwell - May• 29•16

snow

There was a light snow,

just a few snowflakes

barely enough to catch

a flake in your hand,

yet it was still snow.

 

This was a road trip:

We bought a black hat,

with a velvet red ribbon,

brought two lumps of coal

and two sticks for arms.

 

His ‘magical’ thinking imagined

building a dancing and singing,

jolly talking snowman: Frosty.

Just as a grieving widow will

imagine her spouse is still alive.

 

But there was not enough snow.

 

There were inflatable tubes

and long lanes for ice tubing

We went down a few times

separately in our own tubes.

An injection of adrenaline.

 

A moving ramp brought us

back to the top of the hill.

Where he became restless

standing in a long line,

so we went to the cabin.

 

To get warm near the fire.

 

We saw a fire pit outside.

The air had a nice chill.

Then D asked two guys,

grilling hamburgers:

“Is this where you vomit?”

 

Then his eyes fluttered

And he passed out.

 

L screamed for a doctor

and (I think) the yelling

caused him to regain

consciousness in

the first aid room.

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Acting Up

Written By: Scot Butwell - May• 24•16

slate

“Acting is telling a story with words and using your body.”

We stood in a circle, five adults and D, in a small room with light-blue paint, making motor boat sounds with our lips. First in low gear and then high gear, humming to warm up our voices.

We practiced articulating words clearly. Red leather, yellow leather. Good blood, bad blood. Unique New York.

“New Yeek, New York,” D said.

Everyone laughed, and we said woo, woah, wow. Woo, woah, wow. Specific Pacific. Mellow Yellow. Irish wrist watches.

D’s teacher asked him to say, “Irish wrist watches five times in a row.”

“Irish wrist watches, Irish wish washes…”

It was the first day of Drama class, but since the other kids were absent, L and I participated in the warm-up activities before making our way to the lobby.

We did stretching exercises and a sensory awareness activity where D moved his body to copy the movement of his partner in a college Acting 101 mirror activity.

drama sline

This was Shoreline Speech and Language Center, an eight-week program called “Act Up,” which uses drama activities to develop speech and language skills, and it was taught by a UCLA Drama Professor.

The teacher was the husband of the center director, and the acting involved “showing” one of the five characters from the film “Inside Out” (joy, sadness, fear, disgust, anger) by using different body parts.

This activity struck D’s sweet spot because “Inside Out” is one of his favorite movies, and it helped him practice reading the body language of other people–a common difficulty for kids on the spectrum.

His teacher turned his toes in and asked D what character his feet were “showing,” D answered “sadness” and they took turns acting out emotions, yelling out the names of characters and laughing.

D’s teacher commented on the acting, and they were having so much fun that I wanted to join in. L and I sat on sofa, and we listened through a short hallway, me peeking in to see what they were doing.

D became anger, joy, sadness and fear with his shoulder, arms, hands, and toes. “Notice how your hands show you’re angry but you’re smiling,” D’s teacher said.

The first class ended by doing a “scene” with a script. D hit his “mark” by standing on a taped “x,” and he took on the emotion his partner showed in her lines.

drama emo

There was a director’s slate with the title “Emo” to start the action. Multiple “takes” to shoot the scene, and they watched “dailies” of their scene, just like on a real movie set.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m ok.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“I get it.”

“Yeah.”

The emotion in the scene was sadness–though indirectly stated–and D reflected back the emotion in his voice. The dialogue felt like two friends at school talking on the playground.

I appreciated the verbal irony in the situation–D saying he was ok, but meaning the opposite–that is so common in everyday exchanges, where you must read social cues.

I liked that D had to read his partner’s tone of voice, body language and the subtext of their words, all while maintaining eye contact when speaking.

These are all essential to acting but, more important, to deciphering the everyday world of verbal and non-verbal social cues when talking to a friend at school or the park.

I loved that D was learning on several levels–social-emotional communication, creative expression, technical acting skills–and that his acting was critiqued.

But, most of all, I liked seeing D experience the fun and joy of drama, using his voice and body to become a character in telling a larger story.

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