Thursday, January 19, 2012

The pinewood derby Bling-Mobile

Published on (click HERE for the link)

My son brought his pinewood derby flier home from Cub Scouts exactly two weeks before the race. My first instinct was to throw it away and cross my fingers that my husband would never find out. Having lived through previous derbies, I wasn't sure I was prepared for another one.

Weighing our marriage in the balance, however, I decided to disclose the race information. My husband furrowed his brow, grumbled something about short notice and got right to work.

With some trepidation, I will divulge what happened next.

The following instructions and warnings could either be used as pinewood derby navigation tools for families or simply as a pinewood derby cautionary tale. 

Either way, I hope they prove helpful.

The design

Your Cub Scout is free to choose any design he wants. That is, providing the design he wants has been pre-screened for outstanding aerodynamic qualities by Dad. Dad must then spend a minimum of one entire Saturday in the garage cutting, sanding, painting and spinning wheels.

Both his and the car’s.

The Cub is welcome to help but may also disappear for long periods of time to ride his Ripstick, play with friends or get a snack — all without Dad necessarily noticing his absence.

Painting and accessorizing

A trip to the craft store is essential. Since the aesthetic fate of the car hinges on this trip, Dad should think twice before inviting Teenage Sister along. Should this error in judgment occur, however, keep in mind that the final product may well be a race car with a startling amount of bling. It could even end up ornamented with sparkly silver weights, a dozen or so gems (the tiara kind) and an ever-so-swirly letter “S.” 

Blinded by Teenage Sister’s zeal for the car’s breathtaking design, your Cub might temporarily forget that a pinewood derby car festooned by sparkly stuff isn’t necessarily manly. 

The weigh-in

On the eve of the race, Dad will be unavailable, so Mom must accompany her son to have his car weighed. Once the car is found to exceed the maximum 5 ounce limit — which Dad had sworn would not happen — Mom should use the provided drill to make holes in the bottom of the car in an attempt to remove the surplus weight.

After several holes fail to do the trick, Mom will need to get more aggressive with the drill. This is a risky strategy, of course, because she might drill all the way through to the top of the car.

Should this unfortunate event occur, Mom can simply remove a gem from another area of the car and place it over the offending hole. In doing so, she will find that removal of gems doesn’t damage paint, which will give her another idea for shedding weight: taking off more gems.

If the scale still refuses to budge, Mom is allowed to mumble mild curses (under her breath only, kids will be present) while she drills more and more and more holes with the miniscule drill bit.

When approximately half of the car's wood has been removed and its underside appears to have been caught in a crossfire of tiny bullets, the car will finally weigh in at precisely 5 ounces.

Later that evening, upon describing the problematic weigh-in ordeal to Dad, Mom should be prepared for the look of alarm on his face as he asks, "Did you drill the holes symmetrically? The car has to be balanced!"

Mom is permitted to react with passion, and not the kind Dad dreams about.

The race

Mom will drag all her kids to the derby without Dad, who will be running late. It is imperative that she disguise her reaction upon seeing her son's blindingly sparkly vehicle in the lineup alongside red, black and yellow cars boasting serious stripes and fire bursts of the traditional race car variety.

Just as the announcing begins and while Mom is trying to keep her 3-year-old from dismantling the track, she should expect her cellphone to ring and hear Dad's panicked voice hollering, "Have you put graphite on the axles? You have to graphite the axles before the race!"

Moderate cursing from Mom is expected at this point, although she should try to keep it under wraps as much as possible.

Mom must speedily fish the graphite from her purse, toss it to Teenage Sister, yell across the gym for her to help graphite the wheels, continue to restrain her 3-year-old, and finally breathe as her son's car comes in second place in the first heat.

At which point Dad will sprint in to take charge for the balance of the evening.

The results

Despite the aforementioned stellar efforts of so many, the car will not place. It will, however, receive the distinction of being named “Weirdest Car” at the derby. As parents, try not to hold a grudge against members of the award title-writing committee. They certainly wouldn’t have seen this one coming.

The take-away

Weighing his marriage in the balance, Dad must be careful to never say this out loud. 


But he will be inclined to blame the car's losing status on all those holes riddling its undercarriage.

They were simply not drilled symmetrically.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Parents - Win a scholarship to the For the Love of Reading Conference

The Utah Valley University For the Love of Reading Conference is an intimateinspirational event to help parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians discover the best ways to help children love reading.

If you are a parent or grandparent and would like to attend the special PARENT DAY on Saturday, February 18, submit the form below for a chance to receive a scholarship to the event.

UVU Love of Reading Scholarship Form

Application deadline has been extended, but please submit ASAP! Be sure to email your application to the address listed on the form.

For more info on the conference visit

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I'm not an octopus!

Published on (click HERE for the link)

While I was growing up, my mom sometimes said things that made me question her good sense. At particularly trying moments, for instance, she would throw her hands up in the air and declare, "I'm not an octopus!"

She had eight children, so technically the metaphor worked. I would merely roll my eyes and chalk her up to being melodramatic and just a little bit crazy.

The strange thing to me was that she never seemed to mind much if we thought she was crazy.

Starting at 3 p.m. on a recent school day, all I heard was a constant barrage of questions and demands and requests from my five kids. Here is the teeniest, tiniest sampling of the dozens — nay, hundreds — of them:

My 16-year-old daughter sighed dramatically and asked, “Mom, I counted and I have 45 ‘be’ verbs in my research paper. I have to take them all out and replace them with other verbs. I need your help. Oh, and could you help me edit the whole thing? It's due tomorrow.”

My 6-year-old-son yelled across the house while writing a letter to his kindergarten teacher, “Mom, how do you spell ‘Mrs. Edwards’?”

My 14-year-old son ambled up to me, leaned nonchalantly against the couch and said, “Mom, I need you to take me to a bookstore. I know exactly which book I want.”

He’s always low on cash, so I asked if he happened to have any.

“No, but it's beneficial for me. Come on, you should at least buy me stuff that's beneficial. Reading boosts brain power.”

The letter-writer yelled another request, “Mom, how do you spell ‘January’?”

My ultra-organized 9-year-old daughter walked up to me with markers, magazines, scissors and a notebook in hand. “Mom,” she demanded, “I want to make a catalog and put all my combined birthday and Christmas lists in it so you'll have to look in just one place when you're deciding what to get me. Can you help me? Oh, and when are we going to go shopping for the birthday treats I get to take to school on Friday and the rest of the things for my birthday party?

Request No. 3 from my letter-writer was, “Mom, how do you spell ‘Friday’?”

My 10-year-old son, after spending the first 30 full minutes of his homework time teasing two of his brothers and one of his sisters to the point of screams, a pounding and tears, “Mom, I just can't figure out this homework. It's too hard. What's a compound word again? Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom, what's a compound word?”

My kindergartner had just lost a tooth, so I was not at all surprised to hear his next question, “Mom, how do you spell ‘tooth fairy’?”

Most of the requests (as a reminder, this is just a small sampling) happened to be made simultaneously, the kids competing to be heard by turning up their volume as much as they felt necessary.

I thought it was over for the day until my oldest daughter ran out of her room right before going to bed and pleaded, “Mom, I forgot to wash my basketball uniform and I need it for my game tomorrow. If I throw in a load of laundry, could you put it in the dryer for me when it's done?”

Since she’s usually pretty responsible about such things, I agreed on the condition that she set the washing machine on the fast wash cycle.

So instead of sleeping, I stayed awake until her basketball uniform was properly de-stinkified.

Any day now, I'll catch myself throwing my hands in the air, emphatically declaring to my kids that I’m no octopus. Or pentapus, in my case.

Since they often question my good sense, I am quite certain that my kids will roll their eyes and chalk me up to being melodramatic and just a little bit crazy.

But I won’t mind much.

Because, aside from the occasional mommy breaks I give myself to prevent me from becoming completely (as opposed to just a little bit) crazy, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And that's the honest truth.