Rules to live by: Pinewood derby version

As the mother of two sons and sister to four brothers, I have had to endure the pleasure of participating in countless Pinewood Derby races thus far in my relatively young life.

(Yet another thing I am really hoping guarantees my admittance through those blasted pearly gates. I definitely need all the help I can get.)

I have learned quite a lot in observing these races, and I thought I'd impart some of my wisdom for you here, hoping to help any first-time derby moms about to embark on this most memorable of adventures.

Rule one: You must start nagging your husband about building the car at least two months in advance. Husbands really like that. Better yet, recruit your cub scout for the job. Nothing lights a fire under a man like his child asking every three minutes, "Can we build it yet? Can we build it yet?" It will still not be started until the Saturday before the race, but can you imagine what would happen if you didn't nag? The thing might still be sitting in the box come race day.

Rule two: You must be a backseat builder during the actual process. It's a special treat for your husband to have you second-guessing the design, cutting, sanding, and use of tools. Especially when you don't actually know the names of most of the tools. He will look at you periodically with what you can only assume is extreme love, and you will know your work there is done.

Rule three: Before race day, prepare your cub scout for the possibility of losing every single race. Add to this by reminding him how badly the other boys (who are his friends) want to win. That way, if he does happen to win a few races, he's so surprised and thrilled that he will promise to never ask you for anything ever again in his whole life. Video tape this, if possible, and show it to him Christmas morning when he stares at his empty stocking with dismay.

Rule four: When your son's car is going down the track for the first time, pray like you've never prayed before. Pray that he doesn't come in first, and pray that he doesn't come in last. For, if you win first, second, or third place? You get to spend another extra Saturday racing against other boys at the district level. NO ONE wants to do more than one Pinewood Derby race in a year. No one. (Except your son. But we're not counting his vote here)

Rule five: Try not to laugh at your now-too-old-to-compete son when he sits back ever so coolly with his friends and adds commentary on the cars. Remind him that he's only been a man now for about a month.

Rule six: Wake your husband up periodically or take away his Crackberry so he can be sure that he's part of the fun.

Rule seven: Send the little sister of the family off to play with the other little sisters in the nursery. It's really what's best for everyone. Little sisters like to hang upside down on their chair, as they whine and moan, asking every three seconds, "HOW MUCH LONGER?"

Rule eight: Bring enough treats to feed an army for after the race. Cub scouts have stomachs the size of large SUVs and somehow never get full. You can feel good knowing that other people's kids are eating your cookies instead of yourself. Just be sure to police your own children. Otherwise, you have to ride home with them all hopped up on brownies and sugar cookies. That's never a pleasant ride.

Rule nine: Congratulate your son on his good sportsmanship, be secretly thankful he didn't win, and pat your husband on the back for a job well done.

Rule ten: Celebrate that you now have 364 days before you have to do this all over again.