It all started with a movie Mom's neighbor loaned us called Down and Derby. We saw the movie, then we saw the announcement about the Grand Prix in the church bulletin on Sunday, and then we took ourselves straight to the powers-that-be, who generously allowed our boys, who don't currently participate in Awana, to obtain two kits that looked like this:
Jeff spent Monday drawing designs on his computer:
On Tuesday, he found some scraps of lumber and turned two blocks of wood into this:
(The boys helped with this step by running around the table saw playing tag and saying, "Cool, Dad!" every few minutes.)
On Wednesday, Jeff took a Dremel tool to the cars and shaped them. Then he added a sanding primer:
On Wednesday night, Jeff and the boys headed over to the church to participate in a preliminary test run and weigh-in. Jeff had to shave 3/16" off one car, and 1/16" off the other.
On Thursday, he did the shaving, sanding, and additional weighting. He pounded lead pellets into the bottom of one car, and he embedded an empty Carmex container into the bottom of the other car. Then he put lead in the Carmex jar and screwed the lid on, upside down.
On Friday, James and Jonathan had their big moment. They painted their cars:
On Friday evening, Jeff drew a bunch of stickers on his computer:
On Saturday morning, I cut the stickers out and Jeff put them on, resulting in this:
Then we all headed to church for the big event, with hopeful hearts:
We got all measured and weighed and registered, and our cars were placed on the sacred table:
Then the races began.
Jonathan raced first, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand... he came in dead last.
Then James raced, aaaaaaaand... dead last again.
Disappointed, disappointed little boys. Thankfully, it was a double elimination competition. The second time around, both boys came in second, and both advanced. The third time, James came in last again, and he was out of the competition. It took about half an hour, both parents giving separate one-on-one pep talks outside on the lawn, and the promise of ice cream afterward to cheer him up. This is good. He's making great progress in learning to handle his emotions. I'm so proud of him.
Jonathan raced five times altogether, a solid second until his last round, in which he placed third and was out of the running. He bravely told Miss Stephanie that it's okay to lose on the outside as long as you win on the inside. Whew! He is listening to his parents after all!
Even though neither Lightning McQueen nor Batman felt the need for speed, we hung around to see if we might win anything in the design category. The judges informed Jeff they were going to try to lean toward kids who had actually worked on the cars themselves, so we weren't sure...
As the event leader prepared to announce the design winners, I pulled the boys aside and said, "Remember, we might win a trophy for design. But we also might not. Okay?"
Their races and losses already in the distant past, they assured me, "Don't worry, Mom. Dad says we get to have ice cream."
Ah. Well. Good.
But wonder of wonders, James's name was called! Third place for design. He cheered, hands raised above his head, bouncing and hopping all the way to the front of the room. He set his car next to his trophy at the head table and strutted happily back to us, informing Jonathan he'd received a green trophy -- his favorite color.
It wasn't until second and first place in our age group had been announced, and third and second in the next age group had been announced, that the announcer realized he'd been reading the chart wrong and giving trophies to the wrong kids.
Lordy, lordy. Could James handle another disappointment? I turned to Jeff and said, "Don't tell me they're going to take James's third place trophy away from him." Jeff replied, with a little too much reassuring bravado, that he was sure they would not.
But they did.
Third place actually went to:
Jeff and I held our breath as we watched James stand for a moment, solemn-faced. Would he crumble again?
He did not.
We let our breath out as we saw him shake it off, stride forward, and congratulate Jonathan. A real man and a great big brother.
We told the boys that since James had been the winner for a few minutes, we could call it a tie (amongst ourselves). They thought that was a grand arrangement. Then Jonathan was instructed to pose for a photo op with the official photographer, but he refused to do so until she promised to take a picture with his brother, too.
(This isn't the official photo, but you get the idea.)
As we headed out the door for home, one of the other competitors approached James and said, "I'm sorry your car didn't get the trophy. It's a really cool car."
James proudly placed his arm around Jonathan's shoulders and replied, "Hey, we're brothers. So we share the trophy." Jonathan nodded vigorously. Jeff grinned. And I burst with gratitude as I watched my sons share a moment of brotherly affection that made it all worthwhile.
I'm pretty sure Lightning and Batman would agree.