Friday, December 20, 2013

The Land of Snow and Ice

First it Snowed

Then it iced

Nala dragged me out of the house before breakfast to collect icicles to save in the freezer for summer time.

Then it snowed some more

The view from the front of our house

a nearby lake at sunset

When a girl in a red and white dress plays with a gigantic candy cane, you take a picture

and she knows that you think she's beautiful

and when a ninja comes at you?

The heat goes out, when it's below 30 outside, and it's an opportunity for a family slumber party.  We should do this every night to cut down on heating bills.

Love my new wide angle camera lens (google made the picture sparkly somehow):

Our excitement about prepping for a trip to Europe for Christmas and New Years had the tire popped.  Mariano caught the Chicken Pox on Monday.  Chicken Pox as an adult sucks more than as a kid.  I feel so bad for him.

So we thought we weren't going, since the kids are not vaccinated and therefore will probably come down with it after the 10-20day incubation period.  But then we thought deeply about the implications: train tickets, already forgone work income, and the reality that we wont get the opportunity to reschedule until next winter.  I decided that I'd rather need to extend the trip in Europe and wait in a hotel or family member's house for the kids to complete the virus, than miss out on the trip with only a possibility that they might come down with it.

So now we are going.  Hopefully Mariano is up to the trip tomorrow.  He's not contagious anymore, which was a major concern.  I'm so nervous about getting sick out there that I don't feel excited about the trip anymore.  Just hoping things work out. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

November and December

November and December need to have about 7 more days added to them.  

I remember six years ago, Kaio was one year old and we had just moved into our house (which was a townhouse, actually).  I think we celebrated his birthday at Dave and Buster's with some friends, (who didn't have kids).  I missed giving my step mom a birthday present for her December birthday and that brought a disproving talking-to from my dad.  I barely understood what the big deal was.  At that point presents seemed so trivial, like formalities of a world ticking around us.   I was so distracted by the moment at hand; working, cooking, keeping alive this little being, that I didn't see the days passing outside of my inbox and diaper bag.  "What?  It's Christmas?"

The next year things didn't get any better.  Leading up to Christmas I was pregnant with Nala.  I didn't even want to think about presents because I just wanted to be done being huge.  Kaio's birthday passed in November.  I don't remember what we did.  I think we went to Chuck e Cheese, maybe?  I managed to get a present for my step mom's birthday, I think.  We didn't have a Christmas tree because Kaio would have climbed up it, but I decorated the doorway of our townhome with  multi-colored lights.   I sent Christmas packages to my college friends by mid March.  

2009, this was the first year we had our own Christmas tree.  A potted one from Giant, that we strung a set of blue snowflake lights on and decorated with only two ornaments (a painted tree and a popsicle stick reindeer that Kaio made at daycare).  I loved having days off of work to spend with the family.  It's amazing to me how much our Christmas time tradition has evolved since that little tree.  But that feels like the natural cycle of life with a family, and I know they will continue to evolve, and the number of ornaments on the tree will continue to grow with the years.  I wish I could say the tree was still alive, but it didn't make it through the winter.  It would have been a sweet gesture.  I really wasn't very good at keeping plants alive back then.  I remember a friend gave me a Japanese maple tree to plant when Kaio was born, and that didn't make it either.  man.  I wish I had been more conscientious.  

With all the birthdays, holidays and events in November and December, the only reason I even have time to catch up on this blog today is because Nala's school is cancelled this morning due to a 2 hour county delay.   I wanted to write.  I love going back and reading, so I wanted to write.  

We held our first yard sale and made over 100 bucks.  

Kaio's 7 now, which I think was the hardest birthday for me.  I baked a cake for breakfast on the day, sobbing and trying not to tear up into the batter.  How did this baby get so big?

 He puts together these 1000 piece lego sets.  We signed up for a monthly lego subscription program so we can build them and send them back.
 Nala turns 5 in a couple days.

She makes things, like she made this monkey into a super hero, with mask, cape and badge.  No help from me whatsoever.  Just comes up with it.

She plays in a deep world, textured with layers of imagination.  I love stumbling upon the scenes she leaves around, like this clay birthday party with a clay bed and clay stuffed bunny toy.  

 If I ask her about it, she knows what each little clay piece is, "These are some candies, these are some peanuts, and this is a dress."

Mariano became a citizen in an emotional ceremony of 500 new Americans.

The kids found it a little boring, but I know they will remember it and they realize something important happened.

When you ask a kid to take your picture:

We're leaving for Europe in less than two weeks and I'm trying so hard to keep on top of everything like a project manager.  So far so good, but it took much planning and organizing.  Everyday has a to-do/must-do list.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cookie Stand School

Mari and I walked in the door 10pm, a little tipsy from the bottle of Norton enjoyed at the Melting Pot for my bday.  As soon as we crack the door, there's an excited, "Mom! Mom!  We're making pumpkin cookies!"

It's 10pm, and the kids are up making cookies.  My mom huffs with frantic defeat, "They made a huge mess!"

Hmm, most of the ingredients were right:

Tipsy me thought this was a great time for all and a successful experiment.  "Guys! Wow, that's really cool!"

They started naming off all the things they put in: bread, butter, sugar, chocolate powder, sprinkles, etc.

I'm having a blast with their excited vibe, "You know what would help?"

Nala pauses from sprinkling the pumpkin and looks up, "What?"

"A recipe."  I respond.  "How about if we make cookies together tomorrow and I'll find a recipe for us to use?"

And we happily went off to bed.

That was the beginning of the cookie talk.  The following led to the most educational and exciting homeschooling experience we've had so far this year.  With implications on so many different levels: math, science, chemistry, units, reading, writing, planning, business, sociology, commerce, government.

Once when I was doubting I'd have sufficient evidence of progress with our unschooling approach, a mom said, "You need to find someone with an educational degree to give you all the buzz words that put what you are doing into school speak."  This activity was an example of that, exactly the type of interdisciplinary cross-subject learning that public schools are trying to move towards.  Schools are hot to integrate subjects this term because it promotes deeper learning.  For example, mixing science and math, or history and literature.  That's the big curriculum push going on right now.  Because in life, subjects are not isolated the way they are in school.  Schools are trying to act more like life.

Since we're not in school we have the luxury to just live, which is a lot like life too :).

Back to the cookies!

We sat down to draw out a plan of what the cookie stand would look like.  The picture included a table, chairs, sign, and three balloons.  I found easy recipes for pumpkin cookies and chocolate cut out cookies, and drew them out in pictures so that they could "read" them.  Feel free to use this and modify.

I sent out an email to the neighborhood email list letting them know that we'd be outside on Friday afternoon: Please drive slow and stop for a homemade cookie.  Marketing part 1 accomplished.  Plus we had a deadline, no turning back, now we really needed to make the cookie stand happen.  We talked about pricing and made a big sign to put out front of the stand.  We went through the kitchen and made a list of what ingredients we lacked, including balloons, dixie cups (for milk), napkins, and little to-go baggies.

The list looked like this:

Only Nala could read it.

The night before, Nala and I cooked the pumpkin cookies.  She followed the recipe by herself, with just a bit of guidance from me.  Kaio came over at the end to help with the mixing, tasting and decorating.

I stayed out of the creative process and let them control the decorating.  Pretty much the only thing I did was scoop the dough onto the sheet.  They talked about patterns even though I couldn't understand the pattern.  Each cookie seemed to represent yin and yang.

The next day while Nala was at preschool, Kaio made the dough for the cut-out cookies.  This time he followed the recipe by himself, and I just gave affirmation.


We picked up Nala from preschool, bought the balloons, and went home to decorate the cut outs.  The kids did whatever design they wanted, but I did suggest that they make the cookies look appetizing so people would want to buy them.

We ended up finishing everything way early, and got our booth in front of the house and hour before the target of school bus drop off.

That made for a very slow first hour.

I found myself secretly cursing every car that drove by without stopping.  The kids were getting bummed out.  It was cold, and as cars drove by and by, I was beginning to feel kind of silly.  The highschoolers got off the bus and walked by with diverted gazes.  After they went by, I suggested that the kids smile a little more when people pass, since smiles are helpful to make people feel welcome.  - BAM. a valuable lesson in public relations.

Kaio turned to me and suggested that we start giving the cookies away for free to kids and just charge adults.  Such a sweet notion; he'd rather give the product away and make people feel happy, than sit on excess stock.  It also sounded like a good way to get things moving.  

About 10 minutes later some of the neighborhood highschoolers doubled back to get some cookies.  Kaio said they could have them for free, but they had money in hand and insisted on paying.  They each bought at least two!  The kids became so excited to be serving big kids and this offered a major boost of encouragement.

Everything was so hard at first.  So many things to do:
1. Ask them what kind of cookie the want (pumpkin or chocolate?) and how many of each kind?!
2. Grab the cookie with a tong so that you don't touch it with your hands and transfer germs
3. Place the cookie on a napkin or in a bag to serve it
4. Take the money and offer change if needed

Being an adult you forget how hard these tasks are to do!  So much self control on my part not to step in and just speed it up.  But the customers waited so patiently, understanding that it might take 10 tries to grab that cookie with the tong.  They talked the kids through the number and type of cookie they wanted, and the kids helped each other out to get the order right.  The first cookie that Kaio handed to the boy slipped off the napkin and fell on the pavement.  That's how life goes though, I've screwed up so many of my first tries at something!

Once the Elementary School bus let out, customers flocked.  People came back for seconds and we ended up selling out of all 40 cookies.  We even had to turn some late arrivers away.

The learning was phenomenal.  In just an hour the kids had mastered the process.  When a new customer would come, they asked what kind of cookie and how many.  One of them would take the money and the other would start serving.  They knew to grab them with the tongs, place them on a napkin, and hand them off without dropping.  If there were lots of cookies, they would serve them in a bag.

Even on this cold fall day, kids were playing outside in joyous air.

No one ended up buying milk.  Two lessons learned: 1. Offer hot chocolate instead of milk on cold days 2. Make more cookies!

They kids made $17.  They would have made more if they hadn't eaten so much of the product.  But that's another lesson right?

They decided to divide the money in a way that didn't seem fair to me, but made total sense to them.  Kaio would get all the bills and Nala would get the change.  This added up to around $14 for Kaio and $3 for Nala.

They were so excited!  I mean beyond any other level of excitement I've seen!  Jumping around the house, talking talking talking about what happened.  Literally bouncing off the walls with happiness.

The next day we drove to Toys R Us to spend the money.  Mari and I decided to match their contribution in order to help them get the toy they wanted.  Just a little bit of deliberation, but Kaio ended up getting an Angry Bird Go Hotwheels Track.  Nala got a Lego Barbie toy.

We could have made them stick within the amount of money they'd taken in.  We could have deducted for the supplies (like balloons and cups).  But I think those will be lessons down the line.  As a yoga teacher I know that learning takes gradual exploration.  We introduce new steps safely and gently so as not to overwhelm.

The kids got a taste of what it means to be an entrepreneur.  What it means to create a product for the world and put yourself out there.  What it means to merge joy with business and translate ideas to further to attain your passions in life.  They learned about planning and execution, about reaching out to your network for support, and about the life cycle of a vision to cash.

When I shared the pics with Mari, he said he teared up with pride.  He shared the picks with friends and got a kick out of our lack of a business permit for the operation.  It amazes me that sometimes police actually shut down lemonade stands!  Kids should be allowed to earn money if they want to.  It was such a great experience for us.


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