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a special name indeed

 

What gets written on the form:

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How was your name chosen?

“My mom and dad saw a movie with a girl named Zoe in it.”

Why is this name perfect for you?

“It is a fun name.”

 

How it really happened:

How was your name chosen?

“Mom was pregnant, and she and Dad were running out of time. See, the names for the other two were easy – family names. But by the time they got to me, the third kid, they’d exhausted all of the meaningful names and just had to run with whatever they didn’t hate, taking care to avoid any unfortunate alliteration (Theresa Torres) or rhyming (Lourdes Torres).

[Coincidentally, someone names Lourdes Torres is behind on her Team BeachBody payments. I know this because I get all of her emails. See? Lourdes Torres doesn’t pay her bills OR even know her own email address. I can’t burden my baby with that stigma.]

After bedtime, Mom and Dad popped in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, an old, feel-good flick about a scar-faced former stuntman, Mike, who stalks women and uses his “death proof” car to carry out his murderous plans. It’s a very uplifting film that was shot partly in Austin, so those of us who live here can call shenanigans when we notice the characters have been driving “continuously” across the Congress Avenue bridge – a quarter mile at best – for over 10 minutes while having one of those classic, never-ending Tarantino conversations.

Anyway.

In the second half of the film, Stuntman Mike follows four women, including professional stuntwoman Zoe Bell. He attempts to kill them by ramming their car while Zoe’s performing ridiculously reckless stunts with a 1971 Dodge Challenger, and they turn the tables on him and beat his ass.

And Mom said, “Huh. Zoe. I kinda like that name.”

And by the end of the violent beating scene, it was decided.

So I wouldn’t say I was exactly named after this lady in a movie called Death Proof, but had Mom and Dad never watched it, I’d probably be named Harvest or Ricochet, or maybe even Corn Dog, if we’re going off of my mom’s pregnancy cravings.

Why is this name perfect for you?

“I’m not saying I’d do anything like this, but I’m not exactly saying I wouldn’t.”

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4
nerves

For days now Claire has been randomly telling me how nervous she is about school starting. Sometimes it’s a chipper, “I’m really nervous about school!” And sometimes her mood changes in an instant from smiles to slumped shoulders, her face collapses, and she sighs, “I’m so nervous about school.”

In a perfect world, I would take her in my arms and we would have a meaningful conversation about her fears and her worries, about how amazing she is, and everyone would leave with that warm, fuzzy, after-school special feeling.

It just doesn’t happen like that around here all that often. Conversations are stop-and-go, mostly stop. Today she literally interrupted me mid-sentence to ask if she could watch television. I’m trying to create a Hallmark moment over here, and she’s thinking about Netflix. I mean, I get it. I’m knee-deep in a Game of Thrones binge, and your dad is already dialing up the next episode before you’ve climbed all the way into your bunk bed in the evening. But at least wait until I finish my sentence before you start thinking about PowerPuff Girls?

Anyway.

At bedtime I climbed into her bed and we talked about how we’re sad that summer is over, but there is so much fun stuff coming up still, like the ACL Festival (for which they get to skip school this year), Halloween, the holidays. School starting doesn’t mean fun ending.

“I’m nervous,” she said again. And then I did something terribly corny, and we spoke all of her worries out loud and put them on her shelf.

“Just because they’re out here on the shelf doesn’t mean they’re gone,” I said. “It just means that we’ve said them, we can acknowledge them, and we can come back tomorrow to see if they’re still here.”

The after-school special is practically writing itself at this point.

I told her that I used to get nervous too before the first day of school. I told her that I still get nervous when I’m in a new situation involving people I don’t know well, or when I’m traveling to an event and don’t know what to expect. The unknown is not exciting for me. The unknown is a bit terrifying.

So I know exactly where she’s coming from. I hear her.

It’s easy to think of a new school year as shoving them out the door in favor of hours (and hours!) of a quiet house in which no one is asking if they can eat something every 5 minutes and I don’t have to referee whose turn it is to play a song on “the music phone.” But it’s also about new beginnings, for them and for me. I tell myself that without the constant chatter in the background, I will suddenly be more organized, more efficient, more inspired, and more productive.

But let’s face it, I know myself pretty well, so I can tell you it will probably look more like the exact opposite of that. Because when you have limited hours to work and run errands, dishes and laundry wait until afternoon, then they wait until evening, and then they wait until someone asks if they can please have a clean pair of underwear because the drawer is empty.

And I’m not going to lie, I will probably go get a pedicure this week, and if you know me, you know that I am not a pedicure person or a “stranger touching me in general” person. But I have a gift card burning a hole in my pocket and toes that could use a fresh coat of paint.

We have a lot to look forward to.

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7
my take on LA: #blogher16

I like to write recaps two weeks or more after events happen. It gives me time to process. I am also a lazy procrastinator who watches a lot of Game of Thrones instead of writing.

I was in LA for the 2016 BlogHer conference earlier this month, an event or which I have always felt I came in too late in the game, but one in which I always feel at home. LA is a weird town. More about that in a bit.

BlogHer holds a lot of my people. There are so many women I have known online for years who are connected to this conference (and I worked for BlogHer for a while, before I started working for Hand to Hold), I almost cannot walk ten feet on arrival day without seeing someone I have to hug.

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The ultimate hug. Photo by Melisa of the BlogHer team. Clockwise from left: me, Arnebya, Kristin, and Angela.

This year was particularly special because one of my posts, Twin Life, was selected as a Voices of the Year Honoree in the Eye Candy category. While not a piece of my writing (because honestly, I haven’t been really writing that much lately), this post is one of the closest to my heart. The intricacies of my girls’ relationship are much more impactful in photos than in any words I could string together. I was immensely proud to see them up on the big screen during the ceremony.

blogher16, voty, twins

It’s also worth noting that I am dangerously close to becoming one of those people who attends the conference and hardly goes to any sessions. I attended a special breakfast sponsored by Merck for Mothers and #EndMaternalMortality, and I sat in on most of a session on podcasting (no podcasting for me, but the org I work for is starting one).

But I also skipped sessions to meet an old high school classmate for lunch, hung out in my room to squeeze in a deadline, and opted to stand outside the ballroom and nosh on tiny desserts and coffee while everyone else craned their necks to get a peek of Kim Kardashian. That lunch, those desserts, and the conversation I had with two other keynote-skippers was well worth it.

blogher 16, Los Angeles

This man wins Best Life After High School. That handkerchief! Those shoes! So stylish. And my bra strap is like, “I’m here too!”

blogher 16

Tiny salted caramel blondies and something involving peanut butter and jelly because BlogHer gets me.

Every time I visit a new city, I’m fascinated by who lives there and why. I think of LA as the town in which a lot of people live, but everyone’s from somewhere else. “You really have to get outside of downtown to see the real LA,” said my friend Doug (lives in Hollywood, grew up in Dallas) when we had lunch. He had tons of recommendations, but unfortunately my schedule didn’t allow any of them. I may always regret not getting on that TMZ bus.

The good and bad of LA, based on the 3 days I was there, taking into account I only left my hotel to go to lunch at a sushi place and to Sprinkles for some bomb-ass cupcakes:

Good: THE WEATHER. I was warm for sure, but until you’ve lived in the blast furnace that is Texas in August, you will not understand my enthusiasm for California weather.

Bad: The smog. I noticed it as soon as we drove away from the airport.

blogher 16, Los Angeles

Smoggity smog smog, Hollywood sign waaaaayyyyyy back there somewhere.

Good: The views! I love having mountain views outside my hotel window, even if they are covered in smog and we can barely make out the Hollywood sign. Austin has hills, but so much more of Texas is flat flat flat. And I hear the beach was close? I saw it on the flight out.

Bad: The homeless population. We passed by a camp on our way into downtown that looked like a miniature city. Tents, shopping carts, and boxes. It was pretty jarring.

Good: Beautiful people. I kept wondering if all of the wait staff we encountered at restaurants were actors (I’m looking at you, Man Bun).

Bad: TOO MANY FLAT BRIMMED CAPS. I am a Texas girl whose formative teen years were the 90s. I wanted to grab every single cap I passed and give it a good squeeze. Give me a good old broken-in baseball cap any day over this flat-brimmed, duck-billed nonsense. By far the most irritating part of my trip. Also lots of spandex and heels. I can’t hang with that.

Good: Can I say the weather again? Because MY GOD.

Bad: The traffic. According to Doug (he’s my unofficial LA guide now), everything is about a 25-minute Uber ride away. I wiled away minutes in my hotel room thanking the lord I was not sitting in that LA traffic down below.

blogher 16, sushi

So this was amazing.

blogher 16, Los Angeles

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My friend Aisha Tyler made me a drink. I’m a beer girl.

blogher 16, Sprinkles Cupcakes

BOMB-ASS CUPCAKES

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Girls.

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4
ukulele girl

ukulele girl

If there’s something you should know about Rachel, it’s that she’s wee bit obsessive. Just ask my browser history, which is filled with various inquiries into Sonic the Hedgehog, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and Pokemon. She falls deep into these worlds, learning intricate details about characters and back stories, and then talks about it all incessantly until I have to lovingly say, “I CAN’T LISTEN TO THIS ANYMORE. But I’m sure your dad would love to hear more about it.”

In June Rachel started ukulele lessons. She’d come across the instrument when we were at a family-friendly concert during SXSW. One of the sponsor tables, a local music company, had ukuleles for kids to try out.

Thus began the ukulele obsession.

Activities with Rachel and Claire have been…challenging.

Ballet (Claire): “Um, this ISN’T ballet.”

Tae Kwon Do (Rachel): What do you mean I’m not automatically a ninja?

Gymnastics (both): A valiant effort. We know when to say when (i.e. tears before every class).

Soccer: LOL at the coach putting them both in at the same time. Sideline entertainment! That’s cute.

ukulele girl

So starting new things makes me nervous. Music lessons are a commitment. Doing anything well is, I suppose.

When we signed her up for lessons, I picked up a “Letter to Parents” that described how learning an instrument is a commitment, and how kids often want to quit things after a few months, but DON’T LET THEM, or you will pretty much destroy their lives and work ethics and they’ll never be able to hold down a job or a relationship, which is fine if you want to spend your golden years with your grown children, because they will never move out due to the fact that you let them quit ukulele lessons.

I don’t know, I kinda stopped reading because it freaked me out, and now I am wondering if I am up for this kind of commitment? Do I have what it takes to endure the [inevitable] whining and resistance we’ve encountered in the past? It’s all very stressful, and I appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

(Also, I took piano lessons for nine years, so I am no stranger to this game called “I don’t want to practice” and also the game of “speed-practice 15 minutes before your lesson.”)

 

Before her first lesson, she hung out by the front door, ukulele strapped to her back, asking every 36 seconds if it was time to go.

ukulele girl

Several lessons in, and we’ve had some whining and some complaining. Rachel likes to learn things at her own pace, her own way, and sometimes that means that the monotony of a weekly lesson – or more the fact that I say it’s time to go – makes her stabby. But until our teacher offers “ukulele on demand,” we’re just going to deal. We’ve had a busy summer, and that Monday lesson comes up more quickly than I would like.

Sometimes I’ll pick up the ukulele and start strumming it myself, and that encourages her to practice. All we need is 5-10 minutes a day, then she can have her coveted free strumming time. She’s been learning Ode to Joy (“Mommy’s wedding song!” she has to tell everyone) and her teacher just gave her some of the notes to Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know.

Whenever people hear she’s taking ukulele, they exclaim how cool they think that is. So I’m just going to be over here, content in the knowledge that I am raising one cool little girl.

(Meanwhile I’m totally piggybacking on her lessons, because I want to be cool too.)

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2
for the love of Texas – #FromHereForHere

This post is graciously sponsored by Ozarka Brand Natural Spring Water. Ozarka Water comes from three Texas springs, and is uniquely #FromHereForHere. Find a bottle at your local store or sign up for convenient Ozarka delivery. All words and opinions are my own.

Texas is the only state I’ve ever lived in. And I say that with pride. I’ve traveled to several: North Carolina, Iowa, California, New York, and merely passed through several others. Right this very moment, I’m headed to BlogHer in Los Angeles, my third trip to California in 2 years. I have yet to get to do too much sight-seeing.

I usually get a reaction when I say I’m from Austin. Sometimes people clutch their chests and say, “Oh, I love Austin!” We chat about Texas and cowboy stereotypes and live music and the city’s growth. We ponder whether or not people from other states have the pride that Texans have. As a native Texan, I take that for granted.

texas coast corpus christi ozarka water

The coast, baby.

When I asked my girls why they loved living in Texas, their answers were simple.

“It’s where we were born!”

“We’ve never lived anywhere else!”

“Texas has the best houses!”

The have no idea the different between Texas or New York or Alaska, for that matter, or that Austin is in a category all its own, an island of good music, great food, and fantastic community where buying local is a way of life, even if for my kids that means visiting the local candy shop for outrageous amounts of sugar. (For me it definitely means coffee!)

texas austin big top candy shop ozarka water

Our favorite place to get our sugar on, Big Top Candy Shop

How do you describe your love for a place you’ve always lived? How do you describe the pride you feel when you see the unique shape of your beloved state, the five letters spelling out TEXAS, catch sight of the University of Texas Tower while driving down I-35 (which we avoid at all costs, by the way), or the sea of burnt orange flashing the longhorn sign with their fingers?

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Picnicking at Zilker Park.

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Getting our swim on – a must for a Texas summer.

I can only explain it like this: I’ve lived here all my life, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. But if the day comes when I do, Texas will always have my heart. We may complain day in and day out about our lack of seasons and the oppressive summer heat, but I will never ever complain about being able to wear flip flops in December.

And I always wear a Texas shirt when I’m traveling in other states.

texas austin Texas forever ozarka water

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4
what I’m watching: fitness edition

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As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, each month I get to tell you about what I’m streaming online. What should I watch next?

 

Well, this is embarrassing. I haven’t published anything here since my last Netflix post. I’ve written, but haven’t published. Summer life, y’all.

Anyway.

A couple of months ago I started a new fitness plan. I hate saying “fitness plan,” because it insinuates that I’m jumping on a bandwagon or entering a fad. But the truth of the matter is that I love to work out, and I have always worked out in some form, either through sports or running or semi-regular gym-going. My problem is I haven’t been consistent. And this new plan I’m following provides me with consistency by giving me perfectly planned workouts, telling me how to calculate my macros (the amount of protein, fat, and carbs – yes I am eating carbs again!) I should eat to properly fuel my body for these workouts, and providing me with an extremely supportive community of fellow women.

Basically, I need someone to tell me what to do and take all of the guess work out of it, and that’s what I’m getting.

A few weeks ago, to pass the time during my ab workout, I pulled up Netflix and started watching Fittest on Earth, a documentary covering the 2015 Crossfit Games. I’ll tell you right now, this doc has some good eye candy. Fit, muscular people.

fittest on earth documentary netflix Crossfit

I mean, seriously. The women are ripped too.

I have never had an interest in Crossfit. Hats off to those of you who do it and love it, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. What I did love about this doc though was the intensity of these athletes. The film started off by profiling several athletes, and each one talked about their inherent desire to push themselves to the limit and their unwillingness to give up. As we followed each of them throughout the Games, I wanted them all to win! But only one man and one woman can be the Fittest on Earth.

While I’m committed to my fitness plan and push hard during my workouts (really? Three sets of 50 burpees? Is that necessary on a Tuesday?), I do not have that built-in desire to WIN WIN WIN. Working out 5-6 times a week has become a big part of my life, but it isn’t my WHOLE life.

And maybe that’s why this and other documentaries I’m listing below are so fascinating to me. I can’t fathom the commitment it takes to train for and compete in the Crossfit Games (they say even to make it to the regionals puts you in elite athlete status) or to complete a 100-mile trail race. I’m okay with being just okay.

But Fittest on Earth is definitely a good watch for when I’m being just okay.

 

More fascinating fitness/sports docs:

barkley marathons documentary netflix

The Barkley Marathons
Another film about people who just won’t quit, The Barkley Marathons tells the tale of a grueling race designed after the historic prison break of James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. Set in the Tennessee wilds, the Barkley is 100-ish miles of unrelenting wilderness. Hundreds apply to compete, a handful are actually selected, and the entrance fee is $1.60 and a license plate from your home state or country. Hardly anyone ever even finishes.

 

fastball documentary netflix

Fastball
Did you know I used to pitch fast-pitch softball? Yup. And like many other things, I did it well, but I wasn’t willing to make it my life. By the time I was in high school, I couldn’t compete with the other human arm cannons. Pitching is stressful.

In this doc, featuring Kevin Costner, who is honestly never as decent as he is in baseball-related films, scientists and baseball greats analyze what a batter faces when a pitcher hurls a fastball at him. You have less than a second to react. Do you swing or not?

 

pumping iron documentary netflix
Pumping Iron
Before he was The Terminator, before he was Kindergarten Cop, and before the was the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzeneggar was just a boy, standing in front of a panel of judges, asking them to crown him Mr. Olympia for the 6th time. Made in 1977, this doc follows 28-year-old Arnie through training and competition.

 

top spin documentary netflix

Top Spin
The more obscure, the better, right? I mean, how exactly does one get involved in competitive table tennis? What is involved in this “rigorous training?” I don’t know, but I intend to find out.

 

What are you watching?

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5
what I’m watching: catching up edition

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As a part of the Netflix Stream Team, each month I write about what I’m streaming. What should I watch next?

 

The other day I received this email from my husband:

netflix greys anatomy

I mean, if you ever are wondering if you married the right person, whether or not the alert you to the airing of your favorite shows is up there on the “desired traits” list. The person you love can’t just leave you to figure these things out on your own like a savage.

I started watching Grey’s Anatomy about 8 years ago when I had infant twins and lots of nursing time on my hands. Not only that, but I started watching the then current season, probably season 4, and catching up on the past seasons via Netflix DVDs (this was when Netflix streaming was still fairly new). It was confusing and exhilarating and so much ridiculous and fun drama. We took a break a few year ago when ABC.com started asking me to sign in with my provider to watch (I don’t have a provider! That’s why I’m watching on ABC.com!), but in a fit of boredom and curiosity, I started catching up once again on seasons 10 and 11.

And now season 12 is here! What has Meredith been up to since Derek’s death (over which I am STILL kinda like, “What were you doing there, Shonda?”)? Will April really go back overseas into military life? Will Jo stop being so annoying? Will Meredith ever smile? (Not just since her husband is dead. I mean I literally don’t think Ellen Pompeo can smile.)

Deep questions.

 

orange-is-the-new-black-s3-cast netflix stream team

Since we’re talking about playing catch up, I also dove back into Orange is the New Black. I abandoned season 3 about mid-way, for no other reason than I was bored with it. (Confession: I cannot STAND Piper. She is easily the least interesting part of the show.) But so many people completely lost their you-know-what over season 4, especially the finale, and I couldn’t read any of the articles or spoilers about it because I am a purist, so here I am. Catching up. Hoping for less Piper, or at least a more interesting Piper, because I would hope the writers would give her more substance than selling undies and having crushes on all the other prisoners and being completely self-absorbed.

 

Also, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but a little show called Gilmore Girls is coming back for a reunion? All 7 of the previous seasons are streaming on Netflix. I’ve been a Gilmore Girls holdout, but this is when I usually have to relent and jump on the bandwagon because I want to squeal and squee about Rory and Luke and Dean, and honestly, I have no idea who any of those people are. I just picked names out of the character list.

SO…should I watch it or no?

gilmore girls netflix stream team

These two are the Gilmore Girls. THIS MUCH I KNOW.

 

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4
Venturelab Summer Camp: Youth Startup 101

This post is graciously sponsored by Venturelab: Entrpreneurship Education for Kids.

venture lab summer camps austin san antonio
 

I was not exactly on my game this year, so summer came up quickly, and I had no plans other than SURVIVE. Well, I’m technically still here, so yay!

Last week my girls had a fantastic opportunity to attend a new camp here in Austin presented by Venturelab. I wrote a little about Venturelab a few weeks ago, but now that I’ve had the chance to see the organization in action, I have even more to tell you.

In short, it was awesome, and I cannot say enough good things about it, and so now here you are to hear all of the good things.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

Pretending to melt away by the super hot sun. IDK, my kids are weird.

All three of my girls attended Venturelab’s Youth Startup 101, a week dedicated to teaching kids ages 5 – 10 all about the entrepreneurial process on a fun, kid-friendly level. They spent the week learning about what it means to be an entrepreneur and working with a team to take something from an idea to a finished product, complete with a prototype and commercial.

Prior to camp, I did my best to explain to the girls what the camp would be about, but they still weren’t quite sure what they were headed into. And given the limited information I got from them during the week, I was blown away when I attended Pitch Day on Friday and got to see all of the businesses and products the kids had been working on all week.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

Checking out the iPads and other activities available before camp starts for the day.

Throughout the week, the kids worked with their teams to come up with an idea based on a problem that needed to be solved. Then they brainstormed solutions to that problem. Those solutions became the beginning stages of their budding businesses or product development.

Each team was given $100 in Venture Bucks to spend on supplies in the Venturelab store to build their prototypes and create their materials.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

The Bug Stabber

Zoe was in the 5 – 7 age group. I’m telling you, the problems these kids solved were so simple, yet so imaginative, I was blown away by their creativity and the solutions they found.

For example, apparently during a break, someone found a roach in the bathroom (don’t judge – those things are everywhere). So with the help of their teacher, Scott, the kids started thinking about ways they could pick up the bug without having to touch it.

And the Bug Stabber was born.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

venture lab summer camps youth startup

Zoe would like to point out that although the presentation board says Bug Handler, her version is called the Bug STABBER. She was also the spokesmodel.

Basically, you stab the bug to pick it up and dispose of it, then you can use the toothbrush to “clean up the juices.” [pause for gagging, but also for a slow clap, because that’s pretty genius]

Zoe and her partner built a prototype using supplies from the Venturelab store, conducted market research from other camp staffers, wrote and created a commercial for their product, then presented their product on Pitch Day.

I’m not lying, we have used the Bug Stabber since bringing it home. Real life.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

A closeup of the Bug Stabber’s stabbing mechanism.

 

Twinsies Swag Shop

venture lab summer camps youth startup

Rachel and Claire created their business around their current obsessions: comic books, hedgehogs, and each other. While it may be difficult to envision exactly how someone could create a business model around these random things, their teacher, Theresa, encouraged them and steered them to something fruitful: Twinsies Swag Shop, where they will sell you the swag you need to promote your business.

They created prototypes of the products they could sell – comic books (Claire wrote an entire comic book during this week of camp!), tshirts, jewelry, and plush hedgehogs (that they also made themselves).

The outcome: kids love swag.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

The latest comic: The Missing Tape

venture lab summer camps youth startup

Making these stuffed hedgehogs was her favorite part of camp.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

All the goods for sale.

All in all, I was super impressed with all of the products and businesses that the kids came up with. Other inventions/businesses included:

  • The Smell Good Trash Can – the solution to all your stinky trash!
  • Shoe Steppers – for little ones whose feet don’t quite reach the ground when sitting on a chair or bench (or for me on my own couch).
  • Cool Kids Comics – I mean, the name says it all.
  • R.A.O – Rainforest Activist Organization – headbands, jewelry, and tshirts, all benefitting the rain forests. They even had monthly sustaining subscriptions!

The kids from the Gamer camp also presented the games they had worked on designing all week. Rachel has her eye on that camp for sure.

After the presentations, parents had the opportunity to shop the Marketplace and purchase the products for sale and test out all of the video games from the Gamer camp. The kids got to see business in action as they collected cash from their sales. Partners split their profits and the kids were then free to spend their hard-earned cash on other products in the marketplace, if they wished, or take it home with them.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

Zoe proudly manning the shop.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

Kids love swag!

Life skills and entrepreneurial lessons learned

The kids learned some valuable lessons during their week at Venturelab’s Youth Startup:

  • The importance of working together as a team
  • Using real life situations to come up with a problem and brainstorming solutions to that problem
  • Trial and error of building prototypes
  • Using market research to come up with appropriate pricing
  • Creating advertisements and marketing materials for their business
  • Taking an idea and turning it into a business.

When I look at these valuable skills, it’s easy to assume that elementary-aged kids wouldn’t understand or be interested in the concept, but Venturelab’s instructors did a phenomenal job in guiding them through the process and making it fun.

venture lab summer camps youth startup

Shoe Steppers

venture lab summer camps youth startup

One of the video games from the Gamer camp.

On a side note, I want to mention that in the first couple of days, Rachel and Claire had some issues with teamwork, particularly with each other. As their mom, I wasn’t surprised to learn they were picking on each other, but I was disappointed that it caused stress for the other two members of their team. But I have to hand it to the Venturelab staff, who talked to them about working together as a team and about the choices they had the ability to make while at camp. Separating them into separate classes was a last resort. At home we followed up with a discussion about positive leadership and teamwork. All in all, it was just a bad day, and they came together to build a really cool presentation.

My favorite thing about the whole Venturelab concept is that it gives the kids such a feeling of accomplishment. During the week they would tell me here and there about what they were creating, but once we saw it all come together, I was so damn proud of them for seeing it through to the end. And they were proud of themselves for creating a successful business. We learned that ideas can come from anywhere, and it doesn’t have to be perfect to be successful. Each of the teams (and individual kids in the Gamer camp) came up with something so unique and creative, and I was blown away.

What started out as an unknown for us turned into a week of fun, educational activities that have certainly gotten my girls’ creative and entrepreneurial juices flowing. The pride they showed in all of their hard work, challenges and all, is well worth it, and we cannot wait to attend another Venturelab camp.

Programs at Venturelab

Along with Youth Startup, Ventreulab also offers the following camps:

  • High School Startup 101 (not available summer 2016)
  • Girl Startup 101
  • Maker
  • Gamer
  • Urban Farmer

More details can be found on each camp on the Venturelab site.

Venturelab also has a curriculum that can be integrated into schools to bring science and technology into the classroom. Find out more about their curriculum programs here, and definitely check out their videos on why entrepreneurial education is so important.

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6
lessons from a lemonade stand

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A couple of weeks ago Claire begged me to let her set up a lemonade stand. She’d also begged the week before that and the week before that.

There were a number of reasons I didn’t want to do this.

  1. We’d made zero preparations. I’m not exactly a spontaneous person. I felt we needed to have a good table, and decent signage and maybe go get some GOOD lemonade, not the crappy Crystal Light I usually make my own kids drink.
  2. I am lazy.

Okay, two reasons. Three if you count the fact that we didn’t have any disposable cups.

The cups were a problem, because although I applaud her outside-the-box thinking, I was not going to give away my drinking glasses, nor was I going to make them stand there and finish their lemonade so they could hand the glass back to us.

Claire has a lot of faces, and this day, she had her logical, girls gonna get sh*t done face on. I appreciate this face from time to time. It’s the face that is persistent and sticks to its guns. It’s the face that knows what it wants. It’s the face that calls me out when it knows I’m making excuses for no good reason.

“Well, I mean, we could go GET some cups….”

Dammit, she was right. We could literally drive to the Walgreens not two miles from our house and get some stupid cups. So I said okay. Because sometimes we just have to give in to our kids’  entrepreneurial spirits, even when you fear the results will be disastrous. Also, I knew she would pester me about this until I let her do it.

I dragged a tiny end table out to the sidewalk, and we taped signs she had made to the side, but it was windy and the table was round, so you couldn’t really read them. But she didn’t care. She sat back in her chair, cups at the ready, awaiting her first customers. “I hope people come,” she said.

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The lemonade stand was a smashing success. Watching her in action as a little entrepreneur taught me a few lessons.

• It doesn’t have to be perfect to be successful. We had one tiny table, a pitcher of mediocre Crystal Light, and some janky signs. And my kids made bank. They collected over $17, which is over $17 more than I predicted they would make.

• This was a great learning opportunity. They had to figure out everything from how to get customers to details like where to put the money they collected. And to be honest, I gave very little input. They took their ideas and ran with them.

• Adults love kids with lemonade stands. I mean, our lemonade was not the best. It was probably pretty gross. Room temperature Crystal Light. But everyone pretended it was the best lemonade they’d ever had. And hardly anyone actually paid the measly $.25 asking price.

• There’s a balance between confidence and humility. Coach your kids to maybe not say, “Wow, look how much money we’ve made!” (That lesson’s for next time.)

• Kids deserve more credit than we give them. This is the big one. Despite my reservations, Claire had so much of this business figured out already, and she wasn’t going to let me keep her down. She had the idea. She made the lemonade. She made the signs. She provided prompt and cheerfu service to her customers. She did lemonade outreach, something I never would have done as a kid. She wasn’t shy about soliciting the neighbors, cars driving by, and even going to ask the burly, tattooed dudes who just finished their workout down the street (one of my neighbors trains boxers) (like the fighters, not the dogs) (we didn’t give lemonade to dogs). Those softies dug around their cars for change to come buy some crappy lemonade from a little girl.

And because of her efforts, she received 40% of the profits. Rachel and Zoe each got 30%. We went to the craft store a few days later to get a birthday gift, and she used some of her hard-earned money to buy one of those plastic Flash Charm necklaces and two plastic charms – the same ones that WE all had in the 80s (remember those?).

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I’d say it was well worth it.

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2
what I’m watching: survival of the fittest and funniest

You guys, the end of school is so, SO close. That means two things: 1) we’ve already said goodbye to the “get to bed on time!” hustle and bustle, so we’re staying up a little but later here and there, and 2) I’m pretty much behind on everything, including the laundry. Both of those mean we’re watching a lot of Netflix. It is my laundry-folding partner, after all.

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As a part of the Netflix Stream Team, each month I recap what I’ve been streaming online. What should I watch next?

 

In regards to staying up later, sometimes Christian and I get the crazy idea to watch something for ourselves while the kids are still up.

I know. We are rebels.

But we try to make it interesting, so a few nights ago we pulled up Remote Survival.

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Now I am not one for reality-type shows at all, but this one has an interesting premise: Two separate people are dropped off in the middle of nowhere with only the (extremely high tech) clothes on their back and a backpack containing some survival gear. Oh, and they are surrounded by strategically placed cameras and wired in to a survival expert who talks them through pretty much everything they need to know: what direction to head, how to get across rough terrain, whether or not the water may be safe to drink. It’s still a challenge to the competitors (who aren’t really competing, just trying to get to their end point), even if some of it seems a little staged (really, perfectly placed animal skeleton that would work great as a shovel?).

 

I finally gave in and watched the second half of the first season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I have no idea why I stopped watching it, other than maybe I have commitment problems (just ask any project I’ve ever started). But I’m so glad I finished it. Jon Hamm as The Reverend was the BEST (did you catch the “I’d like to teach the world to sing” line?). But Jane Krakowski’s Jacqueline is my favorite.

unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt netflix stream team

 

 

Christian started watching AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies a few weeks ago, and we’re both hooked. Netflix currently has the first two seasons of SPIES! TREACHERY! TREASON! PASTY BRITISH MEN WEARING PASTY WHITE WIGS! What more could you want?

Oh you want a good villain? Look no further than Captain John Simcoe. Such a jerk. If you are a history nerd like my husband and like to drag your spouse down with you, it’s definitely worth a watch.

netflix stream team turn washington's spies

FYI these people aren’t usually all hanging out together, unless there is shooting involved.

 

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