Traveling with kids is too easy these days. Our recent spring break trip to New York with the kids is Exhibit A. Does anyone else remember the god-awful trips we took as kids in the 70s/80s? There were valuable grit-building lessons on the miles of road in a hot, sticky, boring van. Is all the technology really helping or hurting us?Read More
Want to create a beautiful flower arrangement? Here's how in 18 simple steps (with wine!) Whether you're looking to build a new skill or for something fun to do with the kids, flower arranging is easy, fun, and has the immediate benefit of a beautiful decoration for your home.Read More
Procurement, manufacturing, pricing, marketing, sales, and customer service are all part of any simple lemonade stand. It’s an enduring, practical, and charming way to introduce kids to the basic concepts of business- if your business is backed by an angel investor who can drive to Giant and reach the sink.
When I pitched the idea as one of the Summer “Learn to Try” challenges, the kids enthusiastically agreed. Looking back, I realize they had no idea what they were signing up for. They heard lemonade (and because I’m ultra-stingy with juice) reflexively shouted “YES!”
Part of the deal was to donate the money raised to A is for Africa. They wanted to do this piece because they hear Grandma and Opa talk about Africa and the school there. The kids were especially interested in funding school lunch because…all kids like lunch.
So, that was the goal with this week’s Summer “Learn to Try” Challenge:
• learn a bit about business and
• fund raise for a good cause.
To start, we reserved the space in front of the Falls Church Community Center. The Center staff offer this fantastic opportunity to any kid with a homemade product raising money for a nonprofit. This space is strategically important because it’s close to the Farmer’s Market. There’s way more foot traffic than we’d get in front of our house.
We then made a trip to Giant for the ingredients and came back home to make a sign.
There was a little social media marketing on Facebook, and our friends in the neighborhood helped spread the word. Our neighbor Nate even offered to help. Yippee! Set up on Saturday morning was simple. Then, we hit the first roadblock.
The kids wanted nothing to do with the actual selling. Drinking the lemonade, playing with the cups, and dumping out the straws took precedence. They hung-out behind the pillars- partly out of shyness and partly out of distraction from the Farmer’s Market activity.
Then, two things happened to change their outlook.
They got their first customers- a family of five. These weren't just any old customer. They were super fun, enthusiastic, and encouraging. When the dad handed over the $5, Marin looked at it for a second before stuffing it into our Ziplock “register.” I actually think a saw something click. Marin later told me that the best part of the day was making the customers happy and getting the money. A win!
Then, their friend Nate arrived, and it became less of chore and more of a game. All of the kids moved out in front of the stand shouting, “Good morning. $1 lemonade!” Baya told me she was scared to speak up the first time but it got easier throughout the morning. Another win! Marketing and selling are most difficult in the beginning. Then, you realize that some people will buy, some won’t, and nothing bad will happen either way.
Nate also immediately improved our process and started pre-pouring cups so there’d be no delay for our next customers. Unfortunately, Linc drank these before anyone else arrived but it was a good idea.
Over the next hour and a half, we had a steady stream of totally awesome people come by- including many friends and neighbors. Each person was there for the kids (ours or theirs), not so much the lemonade. They were upbeat, encouraging, and genuinely interested in hearing about A is for Africa. It made me love our Little City that much more.
They also pretended not to notice the chaos that ensued after simply saying, “one lemonade, please.” There was sloshing and spilling. Some of the shortest members of the staff might have even been screaming and crying, “It’s my turn!” Every. Single. Time.
In retrospect, I should have worked out our order fulfillment process to avoid the confusion about who’s turn it was to pour, dole out stickers, and take the money. I would have also mentioned that most people don’t care to have ice handled directly by the server's grubby, bare hands.
So, I’d say this was another successful week of our Summer “Learn to Try” challenge. The kids raised $86 and got dad to make it an even $100. That’s enough to fund lunch for 900 kids for a day—pretty incredible! I also believe some entrepreneurial seeds were planted, as well as, a small lesson in overcoming your fears.
What’s up next? Come back next week to find out!
There are some things I think I’ve never done but can’t say for sure. It’s one of the nice things about having a crappy memory. Riding in the front car of a roller coaster was one. Either way, I knew the girls hadn’t because their roller coaster riding experience is much more recent and I’ve been there for every click, click, click along the way.
So, that’s why we picked this as one of our summer “learn to try” challenges. And, I’m happy to report- SUCCESS- at least for 2 of us.
Here’s what happened.
Dutch Wonderland was the second stop on our week-long family driving vacation, “Tour of Kid-Friendly Spots in the Mid-Atlantic.” (The Travel Channel will probably be covering this exotic locale in an upcoming show very soon.)
2017 is our fourth year going, and we’ve progressively tried more challenging rides each visit. If you’ve ever been there, you might be scratching your head. It’s a tiny, totally adorable, and retro park geared towards little, little kids. There isn’t much there anyone would consider really daring.
However, there is one roller coaster, and we were determined to sit in the front row. Marin, Baya, and I headed over while Brian and Linc tackled the toddler bulldozers.
Unfortunately, Baya was too short—even with her hair puffed up. The teenage ride operator was stern and said “no exceptions to the rule.” Bummer. So, we quickly worked out a scheme for Baya to stay behind on the other side of the gate. (Sugar-filled promises were made.)
One of the great things about Dutch Wonderland is that there are never any lines. So, getting the top spot only required waiting for one spin around the track. Then, we were in!
Little did we know we’d be “in” for a while.
Boarding the car, two Boy Scouts in tie-die got a little jumpy, and one dropped his water bottle on the track. Our rule-following operator wouldn’t reach down and just grab it. Instead, she radioed maintenance per the standard procedure outlined in the manual she’d apparently memorized.
To say maintenance was slow getting there is an understatement. I’m not sure exactly how long it took, but I was bolted down with one nervous kid watching another on the other side of the gate with tears welling up (or looking like a little wacky.)
I should note that a super nice mom volunteered to stay with her until Brian arrived. (He did moments later and took her off to another ride.)
We then waited and waited and waited. It seemed like a long time.
The maintenance guy finally arrived and removed the bottle in less than a second. He then informed the teenager that she’d ruined his day and walked off. Now, I felt bad for her... but quickly got over it when she yelled at me to put my phone away.
Then, off we went! I only caught the first couple moments in this video so I'll just tell you. (Yes, I was afraid of getting in trouble with someone driving on a learner's permit.)
From the front car, the clicks are louder, the hills steeper, and the ride is faster. We screamed and laughed the whole way. Pulling back into the station, Marin said, “I think I left my stomach back there,”- precisely the feeling I was going for.
We’re doing a summer “learn to try” challenge with our family. In the ten weeks between me saying “I can’t believe it’s over” school-year edition and “I can’t believe it’s over” summertime edition, we have one new activity planned.
These mini-stretch goals are supposed to be fun. Brian and I want everyone in our house to learn a process for how to try new things. (The things themselves weren’t as important)
That simple process is:
- Prep- learn what you can via a book or video
- Plan- figure out the first couple of steps to take (OMG, I just wrote “determine your approach” as if I was writing one of my federal project proposals without even thinking-bleh), and
- Do- then, like Nike, just do it.
We’ve also done a little post-challenge analysis to talk about what worked and didn’t and what we’d do differently next time. My hope is that the kids get into the practice of seeing new things not as intimidating and impenetrable but just like everything else- something you can try by breaking it down into a couple of do-able steps.
This was a really long lead-in to the preview of what we’re doing this week. We’re eating whole foods for a week- nothing processed. Another way to think about it is, we’re eating like it’s 1947.
This time 70 years ago, all four of our kid’s great grandmothers had young families. By the time it was all said and done a couple years later, Connie, Frances, Emily, and Jesse would together have 27 children. Among them was MaryAnne, Ricky, Lynda, and Jimmie.
What were these little kids eating? Of course, a lot of whole, unprocessed foods. There are a couple of reasons for this: fewer processed foods existed, money was tight, and all four of them had strong beliefs about right and wrong. Food was just one.
Pretending it’s the summer of 1947, here’s our meal plan for the week.
The idea is to make everything from scratch. Okay, okay. Not everything. Instead, the question I'm asking myself is this: would the kids’ great grandmothers recognize this as food?
With that rule of thumb, here are the exceptions:
- Tortillas. Forgetting the regional differences, Connie in San Diego would have definitely seen these before. I'm buying 'em.
- Pasta. It might not have been popular at the time in Alabama or California, but Emily in New Jersey would have had boxes of dried pasta in her pantry. Jesse, being first generation from Italy, was still be making pasta by hand. We’re going with Emily on this one.
- Other exceptions to the no processed food rule include flour, sugar, peanut butter, jelly, and condiments, of course. Yes, that last one might be cheating, but I want my kids to enjoy this and not completely revolt. If a little hetchup helps me accomplish that goal, it’s in.
You’ll notice it’s just dinners. Luckily, the kids are all in camp or daycare serving breakfast and lunch each day. One of the reasons we love these programs is that they already provide whole foods for each meal. We’ll likely do this challenge again once school starts. Marin brought her lunch each day and what I packed gradually deteriorated into a lunchbox filled with little packages over the course of the year ☹
So, I’ll be thinking about Connie, Frances, Emily, and Jessie this week. From what I remember and what I’ve heard from our parents, these women had many things in common. Like so many of their peer group, they were resourceful, worked really, really hard, and made things special for their families every chance they got.
As we kick-off our Week 3 summer “learn to try” challenge, I’m imagining them sitting together- each with a new pair of these awesome shoes and a glass of iced tea- looking down laughing, critiquing, and cheering us on.
If the school year is all about learning reading, writing, and math, summer is supposed to be the opposite, right? Summer is messy, sticky, unstructured, unscheduled, made-up fun. At least, that’s how I remember the 80s. And since everything 80s is awesome, I don’t want to stray too far from that free-spirited approach to summer. But, I will, just a bit, with our 10-week summer “learn to try” challenge.
Here’s the scoop.
Our oldest, Marin, just finished kindergarten. So, for our family, this is our first summer on the school schedule. In previous years, the seasons blended together for our kids in the same way they do for adults. Nothing was really different about our routine except what kind of shoe they were told 487 times to put on so we could leave the house.
All of that changed when she got off the bus last Thursday. The last day of school meant the first day of summer, and I felt ready-ish (which means I made a spreadsheet.) Camps and a vacation were booked for each of the ten weeks. Sun-screen permission slips were signed, carpools arranged, dog-sitters reserved, and new flip flops ordered. We also planned to swim and grill and put a serious dent in the summer reading list.
So, what else? We came up with a weekly summer “learn to try” challenge aimed at learning about how to set a goal and try something new. We hope each will be fun and offer a chance to pick up some less-than-academic (but handy) life skills.
Here’s our family-sourced list:
- Do a cartwheel
- Ride a horse
- Cook and eat whole foods for one week
- Ride in the front car on a rollercoaster
- Host a mega dance party
- Spot constellations in the night sky
- Sleep outside in a tent
- Catch (and release) a firefly
- Pick and arrange a bouquet of flowers
- Have a lemonade stand to raise money for A is for Africa
Each week we’ll pick one. While none are particularly challenging in this "challenge," a few require a bit more planning and logistics, so we’re going to be flexible on what we tackle each week. I’ll document the process and take some pictures to share here on the blog.
Come back each week to check on our progress!