Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, September 28, 2007

Building a Better Birdfeeder

by Kerry Blair

Today after school, half a pack of Cub Scouts will descend on my back porch, giddy with excitement over using power tools, sharp, pointed objects, and real iron hammers to build their very own birdfeeders. (Pray for me.) I suspect Scouts have been undertaking this project since Lord Baden-Powell saw his first hungry sparrow a century ago. Obviously, in all that time – and with the incredible advances of technology – there are now many ways to go about this project.

This is my problem exactly.

When I took over Cubs a few months ago, my sister-in-law gave me half a garage-full of books, files, flags, and left-over projects. I discovered the prototype for my feeder in her junk. It is, in my humble opinion, ingenious in that it’s functional, requires the use of almost every tool I can personally name and/or handle, and allows a lot of leeway for creative expression on the part of the boys.
Come to find out, there are people who appreciate none of these things.

First Case in Point
I was at my brother’s house in Mesa yesterday when I mentioned that we’d be making bird feeders. With obvious elation, he told me about the father/son make-and-takes they have in their troop. Seems the “guys” all get together one afternoon and the dads make the kits for the kids to assemble. Right. The birdfeeder hanging on the tree in his yard has my nephew’s name on it, sure, but looks like it should be stamped Ikea. Even if I wanted to aim for perfection like that, I couldn’t achieve it. Martha Stewart couldn’t do it. Of course, Martha Stewart wouldn’t try. Forget plywood, Martha’s all about gourds for fall.

Case in Point the Second
I came home the other day to a sack full of gourds left outside my front door by a helpful Cub mother. Stapled to the bag was a print-out from Martha Stewart’s web site, showing me step-by-step how to make absolutely adorable girly birdhouses. When I called her (the mom, not Martha) to explain that we were making manly birdfeeders – using power tools and sharp tacks and iron hammers – she said, “But gourds are so pretty. Remember, I’m the one who has to hang up whatever my kid brings home.” Tough luck for her, I say. She should have thought of that before she gave birth to a boy.

Third Case that Sort of Makes a Point
This morning another mother called to tell me that when she was a den leader she bought birdhouse kits from the Scout Shop. They were all the same and all you had to do was snap them together and slap on a little paint. Slapping paint is pretty fun, I guess, but using power tools to make whatever design you want is funner. (Besides, even if I wanted to take her suggestion, the nearest Scout Shop in more than a hundred miles away. As far as I know, they don’t deliver.)

Fourth Exhibit in My Ongoing Case-Point Making
About an hour ago . . . you know, I could go on (and on and on – I’m like that), but my four- and six-year-old nieces are here and have run out of patience with blogging in general and me in particular. More precisely, they ran out of patience around 7 AM and I’ve been writing one sentence – or word – at a sitting since then. Better people than me (Julie, Stephanie, Sariah, Jeff, Rob) would persevere, but I just don’t possess the multi-tasking gene they do. You’ll just have to believe that I was planning to liken building a better birdfeeder to writing a better book in an ironic, insightful, absolutely fascinating and probably profound sort of way. Instead, I’m going to abandon this blog mid-thought and go play “Spin for Spots” instead. This afternoon when my daughter comes home to babysit I’m going to let nine-year-olds build a better birdfeeder in the way they see best.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


At 9/28/2007 1:04 PM, Anonymous mean aunt said...

"She should have thought about that before she gave birth to a boy."

AMEN sister! Boys don't need cute. Boys need tools--and the more the better.

Would Tom Sawyer make a girly birdhouse? No! (Trick question, Tom would have shot the bird with a sling shot.)

Can I send my cub scout to your house?

At 9/28/2007 2:39 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

I couldn't be a better person than you in a million years, Mrs. Blair. But let me say I am totally behind power tools. When I write my Steve Covington mystery series, power tools will be for him as food is to Shandra.

Which is not to say that I can ever actually build anything right. I like the creative idea though.

"Honey, aren't the book shelves supposed to be straight?"

"Anyone can build straight old boring bookshelves. These are creative!"

Let me also say that I hate the snap-together school of scouting. Now-a-days people want to make everything easy for the leader instead of asking whether the boys are actually learning something.

You rock!

At 9/28/2007 2:49 PM, Blogger marcus said...

"using power tools to make whatever design you want is funner"

You can order stuff from the online scout shop,
and, if you have time, it might be a good idea to have a couple of kits on hand for kids that prefer coloring books to blank printer paper.

At 9/28/2007 3:06 PM, Blogger Jon said...

And maybe you can toss in a lesson on First Aid while you're at it!

I'm of two minds on this.

On the one hand, sure, it's great to get hands-on and learn how to (mis-) use power tools and other tools and stuff, but the fact is, when they get older, they're probably going to end up buying stuff at IKEA that they have to assemble, rather than building it in the garage. (Some will still do that, I suppose.)

Well, I guess in the end, it's good to get exposure to as many ways of doing something as you can, figure out which style suits you.

At 9/28/2007 3:23 PM, Anonymous marlene said...

Right on, Kerry! Those kits got me thinking. Anyone for a prefab book? All you'd need is an outline with blank spaces where the "author" could fill in names, adjectives and maybe an occasional preposition, and voila, they've got a masterpiece! With any luck there will be a paint-by-number set with a matching theme and they can also illustrate their own book!

Interesting that a mother would prefer a cutesy, copy-cat design to her own child's creative product. Wonder how comfortable she is with her own creative abilities.

Letting the boys be creative with tools (whoooo-eeee) may take a good bit of your patience and more endurance, but those boys will never forget it! (although you may want to!)

At 9/28/2007 3:50 PM, Anonymous said...

Jeff: Forget Steve. You'll never convince me that Shandra couldn't weild a mighty mean power tool in a pinch.

Jon: We covered first aid a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, we didn't get quite as far as severed fingers or drill holes through the skull. That's why you're supposed to be praying for me, remember? :-)

Marlene: That's exactly where I was going! (I've thought about it so much I might finish this blog someday.) In the meantime, I really do believe that we have more than our share of snap-together-kit books in LDS fiction. (This is undoubtedly because SO many people love them.)
But when somebody like Jeff comes along with something as creative and incredible as Monday's teaser, I can't help but pray that everybody in Zion sits up and takes notice. (Whether they love the genre or not.) Sure, it's a different kind of birdfeeder, but not everybody who shops at Seagull is a sparrow, right?

At 9/28/2007 3:57 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Marcus: Thanks for the site! And you're right, you know. I have one kid who looks at me like I'm crazy week after week. Making something from scratch today without any instructions at all might just push him over the edge. Wish I had one of those kits on hand for him!

At 9/28/2007 5:55 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Kerry, I like you.

At 9/28/2007 6:37 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Kerry, how many cub scouts do you have? I had ten and there was no way I would have let one of those boys in particular near a power tool. Just turning his creativity loose on a baking sheet of gingerbread, a dozen bags of candy, and a dishpan full of icing was enough for me. It took me until well after Christmas to clean up that mess, though I'll admit his house was orignal. By the way, that was a no kits deal too.

At 9/28/2007 6:51 PM, Blogger Cheri J. Crane said...

Kerry, my sons would have loved having you for a cub scout leader! Having raised all boys, I can attest to the fact that they do indeed love to play with power tools, and create manly things. I still have 3 miniature wishing wells on my piano that each boy made in the days of cub scout adventures. They are not perfect, but they are among my treasures, gifts I received for Mother's Day years ago.

In the words of Jeff, Kerry, you totally rock. (And I agree about the book analogy. Good point.)

At 9/29/2007 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I made a bird house once and it went um... well never mind.
I'll be praying for you, good luck Kerry.


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