Have you ever had a series of events happen that left you wondering how much was coincidence and how much was a little help from the man upstairs? That’s what happened to me on Saturday morning. My 10 year old son, Jalen, is in the STEM club at his school. Some of the students and parents volunteered to get together Saturday morning to build a trebuchet to use for chunking pumpkins! I like to think of a trebuchet as an old school cannon ball launcher. Now let me start by saying I don’t ever really remember volunteering for this project. What I do remember is a comment from CA (my wife) on Thursday evening that pretty much sealed my fate. She casually says to me, “You are planning to go with Jalen Saturday morning right?” In that one “quest-ment” (a phrase spoken by your wife that should be a question but you know it’s really a statement) I knew she did NOT plan on going and unless I had the PERFECT excuse, Saturday morning was going to be daddy and son bonding time! Luckily I had already planned on going but I thought CA and Big Chris (our 7 year old son) could come too and we could make it a fun family outing. However, on Friday night things started to spin a different direction.
I get a call at about 4:30pm on Friday. A courtesy call from CA, making sure I am ok with her brother and his family coming to stay over. I tell her I don’t have any big plans so it’s all good. So about an hour later I pack up my things and slide by the office café to grab some water before heading home. However, on this day I am feeling a bit hungry so I decide to grab some Greek yogurt and I also decide to try the dehydrated kiwi fruit. Now that all is good, I hop in the car, sip on my water and munch on my snacks. When I get home, I am a little surprised because CA’s sister’s car is in the driveway but when I had spoken to CA on the phone, she had only mentioned her brother coming over. No big deal though. It happens from time to time. So I go inside, say hello to folks, and take a seat in the recliner. As I am sitting there playing on my phone, I hear CA and her sis chatting. In my happenstance eavesdropping I come to find out that in addition to hosting CA’s bro’s fam, we will also be babysitting for CA’s sis (@leslieraybooks). She tells CA her and her man candy are going out to dinner but she was probably really going to hustle her new book Run To Me! Got to watch the in-laws… sneaky they can be! 😉 It’s probably just coincidence but it wasn’t long after finding out I was going to be stuck in an overnight scene from “In-Law Children Daycare” that my stomach became highly upset with me. Seriously, I do think it was just coincidence. Really, I do. I don’t mind having the kiddos at the house… most of the time! In all seriousness, my stomach had started feeling a little unsettled on my drive home. I am thinking it was the dehydrated kiwi! Won’t be having those again! So I quickly stroll upstairs for an exclusive leave of absence from the house guests. From that point on my stomach was iffy at best and that had me stressing a little bit. It was getting late and I didn’t feel up to getting stuff packed for trebuchet day the next morning. I decided to chill the rest of the night and hope I felt better in the morning.
My stomach did feel a little better on Saturday morning. I was still hesitant to eat though. I had no idea what the facilities situation would be like at the school. My man Jalen doesn’t like to sleep, so he was downstairs waiting for me when I got up. We loaded up the car with our tools. As we are finishing up loading the car, Jalen hits me with “Oh yeah daddy. You need to take your lunch. They are providing lunch for the kids but not the parents.” Well great! Of course, time is not on our side and I need something for lunch quick like! So I turn to my golf grub. Almond butter and honey between a folded soft taco shell… times 3. Hey, I didn’t know how long I was going to be out there! Toss in a few Gatorades and waters… off we go! I am starting to feel a little better because we are set to head out and we are only few minutes late. Also, I had devised a plan to ease into the building activities so I could see how my stomach was going to hold up. The plan was to drop Jalen off, unload our tools, then slide up the road to get a green tea and bagel. Then come back to join in on the fun or sit on the sidelines if things didn’t settle well in tummy land. Great plan right! Well, it never saw the light of day. As I approach the end of our street, I realize I had forgotten the lunch box! Geesh! So back to the house we go! At this point I am still feeling ok because I think there is still time to execute my plan. So I grab the lunch box, jump back in the ride, and off we go again! However we don’t make it any further than the first time! Why? I forgot my phone! Geesh on swole! Back home we go again! By the time I find my phone, I realize I no longer have time for the plan. So I just grab some nuts, crackers, and granola bar and get my mind right to wing it. In the back of my mind I am hoping I can still slip away but even still it would probably be later than originally planned. Off we go again and this time we make it the entire way to the school. Mission accomplished!
When we pull up, I see everyone is huddled around Mr. Flack, the STEM teacher. Jalen and I hop out of the car and no sooner than we get to the group, I hear Mr. Flack closing his instructions speech… “Ok. That’s it. Are there any questions?” As confusion and panic begin to set in, I look at one of the other parents and say “Um. Yes. What are we doing?” Before she can answer, I see SEVERAL GROUPS of people quickly grabbing wood and taking off to different areas around the lot! I am beginning to realize my impression of what was going to happen is not the same as the reality of the situation! I THOUGHT there was going to be ONE large group working to build ONE trebuchet TOGETHER. I am QUICKY realizing that on THIS DAY, Jalen’s TEAM is going to build ITS OWN trebuchet! Ahh shigidy digidy shucksness!!! As I am looking around I notice ALL the other teams have 6 or 7 kids along with 4 or 5 adults. I turn to my man Jalen and ask “So who’s on your team?” As I am doing this, Mr. Flack rolls up and hears my question. Jalen starts naming off names and Flack is stuck on repeat… “Oh. He’s not coming. Oh. She’s not coming.” Then Jalen follows with “Oh. He was supposed to bring this. Oh. She was supposed to bring that.” When it’s all said and done we break the huddle realizing our team is only Jalen, 2 of his classmates, one older sister (middle school), and one kid’s mom! Yikes! Yikes! Yikes! I am not a building project expert. I don’t mind a project but I like to have a plan that includes THE MATERIALS NEEDED FOR THE PROJECT!!! All WE HAVE is four 12 foot 4x4s, a couple saws, a couple hammers, some nails, and a bunch of tools we don’t need! I find myself staring at the wood and asking the kids “How should we start?” It was their project so I wanted to get them involved but more importantly I needed a stall tactic. My next move was to get them to relocate the wood. Oddly enough, it still looked the same as I stared at it in a new location. Eventually, Flack comes over to our area and suggests we build a base. This gets the kids pumped. They measure. I cut. We lay out our base and I am back to stalling and staring at the wood, which does look a little better now at least. After several minutes of stare-stalling I realize I have to call in reinforcements!
This is where I feel like the man upstairs looked down on me and said “I got ya JP!” Normally I would be hesitant to bother folks on short notice BUT let’s not forget that one brother-in-law was staying over and we had JUST babysat for the other, so the way I see it, they owe me. Well that’s how I rationalized it in my head anyway. I place the call to the wife… “Tell him to bring this. Yep. Bring that too. Of course we need to pool net that goes to the pool we bought from the neighbor and never used!” CA then places a call to her sis to recruit the other brother-in-law. He’s in and he’s packing steel! You know it! He has a steel rod that we can use for the trebuchet axle! Now we are getting somewhere! In addition to my reinforcements, our team mom has taken off to get her husband and some miscellaneous item for counter weights. Things are headed in the right direction but I am still a little worried. I am not sure if we can pull this off with what we have. Plus the other teams are way ahead, so I am worried about the time as well. Even still, we keep grinding! I try to keep the kids focused until the reinforcements arrive. Oh what a battle that is!
When the reinforcements arrived it didn’t take long for us to make progress. Matter fact, we are straight trebuchet ballin’ son! Hours have passed though. Thank goodness I ate those snacks! When I kept forgetting stuff at home maybe that was God’s way of telling me “Nah son. You need to grab some grub. You have a long day ahead of you!” I know this is a somewhat trivial situation to talk about God’s work, but that’s part of the point. I think things like this probably happen to most of us and we may not think about it that way. Perception is a powerful thing, especially when it comes to our faith. How we look at things impacts how we feel about things and that impacts our motivations and inspirations. Things like this encourage me to try and slow down enough to appreciate as many of life’s experiences as I can. In this case, when it was all said and done, we ended up building quite the trebuchet. We had no choice but to stick to a very simple design and we ended up being one of the first teams finished! Not only that, we placed second in the contest for longest pumpkin chunking! We couldn’t get our launch angle quite right and ended up just 6 inches out of first place! The coolest thing was my man Jalen loved it! Honestly, I think we all had a blast. One brother-in-law left wanting to start STEM projects at his son’s school. The other started doing research on building a more proper trebuchet. I was left wondering how we could get a better release (that’s just what basketball guys worry about) and counter weight for more distance. It was a great reminder of how cool science and technology is going to be for my son and how fun it is going to be for me to be a part of it!
That was just the beginning of a busy Saturday. Jalen and I were out there from 8am to 2:30pm. Afterwards we were supposed to have lunch for my mother-in-law’s birthday then slide to a friend’s pumpkin carving contest. We ended up bailing on the pumpkin carving contest because we started the birthday lunch late. The cousins ended up spending more time together. I got to play some football with my boys, nephew, and niece. It was a full and exhausting day but I think it worked out at least close to the way it was intended. As the saying goes… as long as you owe me I will never be broke. Thank goodness my in-laws are good at owing me or at least that’s what I tell myself! 😉 -jp