Pinewood Derby: Don’t Touch Mama Beth!

At times, Antonio has every right to place sticky’s with “Don’t Touch Mom!” around the house. He has long known that I can be an impediment to his goals.

The reason THIS sticky ended up on THIS cardboard box is because Antonio found me laying prone on the floor taking a photo of his pinewood derby car. Pack 384 is having their Pinewood Derby race on February 26 at Woodlake Lutheran Church in Richfield.

Antonio was steaming. “I don’t want the WHEELS to touch the floor!” Picking up his car, he said sternly, “Don’t touch it, Mom Beth!”

“Antonio, really, I just gently set it down. I didn’t bump the wheels at all.”

He was not dissuaded. The next time I looked at the car it had a sticky note.

I wasn’t trying to sneak a picture of his car. Heck, I could have just waited until he wasn’t home if I thought it was going to be an ISSUE. I wasn’t thinking of THOSE WHEELS and anyone worth their pinewood moxie knows that you don’t mess with the wheels.

Antonio made his first pinewood derby car when he was seven years old. Even though I was a den leader the most I could do for him was take him to a PWD racing workshop and have him use their tools to make his car. I am totally inept about making things but I am good at asking for help. So that is why his Uncle Marty and Crystel came along: for support and to make a car for themselves.

Artistically, I’m a wash, too. So, it helps that this is supposed to be the Cub Scout’s project because I will not be painting any car. It is out of the question.

Pinewood derby 014When you are seven years old, Chuck E. Cheese is a pretty big deal. Antonio had just been to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and thought it would be pretty cool to glue extra Chuck E. Cheese tickets onto his car. I was doubtful. I squinted at him. I screwed up my face. But, I didn’t say a word. Then he found a puke green color and painted his car.

I didn’t have any hopes for that car. I tried to tell him that not everyone wins. As winners kept being announced, I told him that it was okay, maybe, next year. He ended up placing fifth which meant that he was able to go to the Metro Lakes District competition with his Chuck E. Cheese car. Uncle Marty, Crystel, and Antonio would have more bonding time.

Pinewood derby trophy 003After the race they came home with Antonio carrying a trophy bigger than I have ever won in my life. He had placed FIRST at the District. “How did that happen?” I asked Marty. “I don’t know,” he said. “It just happened.”

His next race would be the Northern Star Council race held at the Mall of Amercia. It was weeks away and I put the date on the calendar. The Sunday of the meet I looked up where to find the competition at the Mall of America. I couldn’t find it listed. Slowly, scanning websites, I started to comprehend that we had missed the event. The race had been the day before on Saturday.

Antonio has raced a pinewood derby car the last three years and has placed and won a trophy each time.

Cub Scout PineWood derby 025Last year Antonio, Marty, and Crystel all placed with Crystel winning fastest sibling. This has become a family event with Mama Beth continuing to thwart Antonio’s chances at the big win.

In 2012, having placed 2nd at the pack level, Antonio again was competing at Metro Lakes District. Shortly before the match, I told Antonio, that I noticed one of his wheels wasn’t touching the floor and we bent it down until it did.

Four wheels on the ground make a car go faster, right?

Immediately before we were to hand the car in for the race I learned from another den leader that only three wheels were supposed to be touching. Antonio and I hurridly made adjustments. But I was left to wonder, How fast would that car have gone if I hadn’t touched it? It ended up being tenth overall. Oh, Uncle Marty, where were you?

Pinewood derby 015This year I want to tell Antonio that maybe they won’t let him keep Red and King Pig as drivers in his car, and that the drag might slow his car down. But really, what do I know?

I feel fortunate that even though I can’t make things, can’t paint, and don’t understand anything about wheels, and that we missed the biggest race of all at the Mall of America when he was seven, 003I still got top billing on the bottom of his Chuck E. Cheese winning pinewood derby car.


A Foreign Country

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI visited a foreign country last night while in my own vehicle, a country where I will never be granted citizenship.

Antonio was up front with me, and five boys of varying personalities sat, sprawled, and perched behind us. Before leaving Richfield for Minneapolis, I looked to make sure all the Cub Scouts were buckled in. For some children, escaping the safety rules undetected can be a badge of honor. And, Cub Scouts is all about badges.

Within five minutes, we were headed north on 35W to tour the foundry where I work as a Human Resource Manager. The tour would complete the Geologist pin for the Scouts.

Within ten minutes, I was chewing my fingernails.

iron being poured into a ladle from the melt deck

iron being poured into a ladle from the melt deck

I had no clue that I was entering unfamiliar territory when the boys tumbled into my vehicle. Very soon after I started driving, I realized that I had never experienced a van full of ten year old boys. Sure, I had ferried two or three of them from place to place, but never a van full. A group of boys alters chemistry.Immediately, I became invisible to them as a mom, a female, and an adult. Their conversation bounced from subject to subject like two very bad Ping-Pong players that just wouldn’t quit. It seemed like the fourth graders were jockeying for what would be acceptable conversation. One boy mentioned boobies; another boy said that was inappropriate. I looked at Antonio and raised my eyebrows. He looked back at me with wide eyes.

iron being poured from d

iron pourer taking iron from dinghy

Since I didn’t know all of the boys well, I couldn’t discern who was speaking. I really liked the kid who said, “That’s inappropriate.” But then again, like all kids, he might have been trying to be sarcastic.

Keeping my eyes on the road, I listened closely to the conversation and questioned whether or not I should speak up. After chewing my third fingernail, I decided that as long as there wasn’t any berating talk or more body part talk, I wouldn’t say anything and let the conversation jump from topic to topic.

The boys covered the gamut from Pokémon to Twin Towers, from the World Trade Center to Why are we talking about history—let’s talk about manly stuff, to a manly discussion of farts, to don’t distract the driver to singing a ditty about farts, to my dad’s friend made this Internet game, to that building is where my dad works, and so on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the foundry tour and the appropriate oohs, ahs, and that’s awesome, we were back in the van, and I was thrust back into foreign country. The bookends of an Indian chief the boys were given, made with molten iron at the foundry, were soon kissing in the back seat.  I’m sure that the foundry man who made those bookends didn’t expect that.

This experience has confirmed that Jody and I have been right to make sure Antonio is surrounded by boys so he will know how to navigate male culture. What makes me raise my eyebrows and bite my nails, he can handle –it’s a wild ride but he knows how to stay afloat.


January 18, 2013 140She’s the lady in the red sweater, and you, the den leader, are hoping, hoping that the Cub Scout sitting next to her, won’t turn his head and let out his humongous sneeze that you have been watching build for the past minute as he inhaled, inhaled again, and yet again. After he turns his head away from her, at least you hope he did, because at the very last moment you just couldn’t bear to look andJanuary 18, 2013 097 dropped your eyes, he exploded, after which you bring your eyes up to see the same Scout staring at the Mayor’s hair and you hope, really hope, that he doesn’t reach out and touch her head or her sweater or her arm or her hand, and you know he might do any of these or all of these. He likes to TOUCH, and he really looks like he’s going to do something even though at the moment he is busy palming his nose with both hands, and all you can think of is that he is a flu carrier and he is about to hand it to the Mayor.

Who is the Mayor?

She’s the one with the cheery personality who asks your 13 Cub Scouts the question, “Well, what do you think a mayor does?” which really, really makes you wish that you had remembered to discuss communicating with respect when a Scout responds with, January 18, 2013 102“She runs the city blabbly blab blab.”

Who is the Mayor?

She’s the one who is very articulate, but when she asks the Scouts what makes a good citizen, you want to take the jaws of life and extricate the memory chip from all the small electronics in the room. The meeting with the Mayor will only last for half an hour, but still that is too long for the parent who can’t look up from his smart phone for the entire time and the sibling of a Scout who has her face so close to her Nintendo DS screen that you are sure that she is suffering from partial blindness. I bet they can’t tell you that the Mayor’s sweater is a vibrant red, sharper than any cardinal that you have seen this winter.

Who is the Mayor?

She’s the one who uses her special badge to let the Scouts see the council chambers and sit in the overstuffed chairs that wheel around even though they immediately grab January 18, 2013 105for the skinny microphones that snake upwards. The first thing the Scouts learn is that the microphones are on and you are sure that they January 18, 2013 110are going to snap them in two as they yank them toward themselves. After you, the den leader, reign in chaos by yelling that ALL hands must IMMEDIATELY go into their own lap, only then do you dare take a breath.

Who is the Mayor?

January 18, 2013 201She is why you ask all the Scouts to remove their non-scouting headwear for the group picture. And you hope that the Scout who has his scouting cap tilted liked a gang member will straighten it for the picture in case it goes viral.

Ultimately, Richfield Mayor, Debbie Goettel, is the gracious woman who communicates citizenship to your Cub Scouts. You hope they will remember at least one thing that she says, even if the thing theyJanuary 18, 2013 203 remember is that she is the one who organized the awesome one-hour tour with the fire department.