This post is graciously sponsored by Venturelab: Entrpreneurship Education for Kids.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twinsies Swag Shop
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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?).
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.
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.
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.
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.
This summer I’m partnering with VentureLab to bring you information about their awesome summer camp programs. VentureLab is holding a free Open House on Sunday, June 5, from 4 – 5:30 p.m., where you can learn more about the VentureLab experience. Visit the VentureLab website for more information, and read on to find out how you can get a sweet discount on one of VentureLab’s amazing summer camps.
You may remember that on Mother’s Day we went to Maker Faire Austin, where we did crafts, learned about robotics and electricity, and built all the LEGOs fit to build. These types of events and activities are sneaky, because they have tricked my children into learning when they think they are just having fun. Reminds me of that time I tried to sneak spinach into their smoothies, only that wasn’t met with nearly as much enthusiasm.
There are few things (coffee) (and probably Reese’s PB cups) I love more than seeing my children learn while playing. By allowing Claire to dig through and tear apart most of my craft supplies, I know she’s learning problem-solving skills in planning and execution. By allowing Zoe to cut out 387 paper snowflakes (in May alone) or make homemade envelopes for her “letters,” she’s learning design and execution. And when Rachel walks me through her LEGO creations, I am blown away by her creativity and her innovation.
After Maker Faire, the good people from VentureLab contacted me to tell me a little about their programs and see if I would be interested in partnering with them to help spread the word about their upcoming summer camps. With my girls’ interest in making, gaming, and creating, I knew VentureLab’s approach was something I could get behind.
From their site:
Our programs are fun, hands-on, experiential learning courses that focus on strengthening kids’ entrepreneurial thinking, ingenuity and creativity. Our programs encourage young people to be independent thinkers—to venture outside the box and create unique, norm-defying solutions.
VentureLab’s founder, Cristel Glangchai, PhD, is a scientist and professor (learn more about her brilliance here) who got the idea for VentureLab after realizing that she wasn’t getting as many girls into her classes as she would have liked. Why didn’t girls have the confidence in their abilities when it came to engineering?
This June, VentureLab will be offering their STEM-based entrepreneurship camps to kids ages 5-13 at the Magellan International School in Austin or in the VentureLab Headquarters in San Antonio. Each camp is one week and will introduce students to entrepreneurship skills through specific technology topics including video game design, maker skills, product design, and more. Students learn how to bring their ideas to life as they solve real-world problems.
If you’re in Austin, you can join VentureLab for their free Open House on Sunday, June 5, from 4 – 5:30 p.m., where you’ll get a taste of the VentureLab experience, meet the camp director and teachers, and try out some of the STEM and game-based activities. With snacks and beverages! VentureLab will also be giving away a FREE week of camp to several lucky families who attend the Open House.
In the meantime, Genie in a Blog readers can take advantage of a sweet 25% discount on any camp offered during the week of June 20. Just enter discount code GENIE at checkout. Find all camp options here.
So to sum it all up, awesome
I’m not a good busy person. It may sound like a cop out, but I am a low-energy introvert who can really only handle about one activity every few days. So being busy every day? Not my jam. But I will sacrifice myself for Mother’s Day and a good Austin event like the Austin Maker Faire.
I’ve wanted to go to the Austin Maker Faire for years, but we just haven’t been able to make it happen with our schedules. So I was thrilled to find out that it was Mother’s Day weekend this year, even if it was the day after our Listen to Your Mother show. Because Mother’s Day = I can do whatever I want!
Austin Maker Faire had everything my nerdy little family loves: technology, LEGO, drones, 3-D printing, bathrooms. When your kids study the hanging signs and scream they want to go to ROBOTICS!, you know you’ve done something right. Or at least my husband has, because I don’t know squat about robotics. But I was ready to learn.
Here’s one thing I loved: I have sensory kiddos. Sensory kiddos love to touch things more than the average kiddo. And at Maker Faire, there were LOTS of things to touch. And they pretty much had permission to touch ALL of it. Except the Tesla coils. More on those in a minute.
When we’re in these situations, I become the mom who hovers, always on the lookout for a finger I need to remove from something important or the object I need to take from someone’s hand. I remind them to “listen to instructions!” before diving into an experiment. I am the worst.
But the makers at Maker Faire are NOT the worst, and they explained their project and crafts with the patience of saints. Before I could say “Don’t touch!” as my kids reached for something enticing, they were already saying, “You can touch it!” Bless you, kind makers.
Rachel’s and Christian’s Favorite: LEGOs LEGOs LEGOs.
There was a gigantic LEGO city (definitely no touching) and several building stations (all the touching!) including an entire section devoted strictly to Minecraft and a floor full of Duplos for the little LEGO fans.
She hung out there for QUITE a while.
Claire’s Favorite(s): homemade nail polish and making a felt wallet in the craft lab.
We came across Feto Soap, where you could make your own soap or nail polish. Both Claire and Zoe chose the nail polish (shocker!). What I loved was how easy they made it for them. Two tiny scoops of any color/glitter combination you can think of, then they add the gooey stuff, and we shook it all up and gave our new colors names.
“Can we paint them now?” (In this crowded space, so I can run off and smudge them on everything I touch?)
After nail polish Claire and I tried our hand at potholders. Holy crap how did I do so many of those as a kid? They were not quite as easy as I remember, and for a little girl with dexterity issues, it was very frustrating. BUT while I finished her potholder (because of course I did), she wandered to another table, and I watched from a distance as the volunteer showed her how to sew together her own felt wallet. I wondered if I should go over and help/monitor/HOVER, but I didn’t. She was fine on her own. Actually, she was probably better on her own without me hovering. It’s a lesson I’m learning slowly.
Zoe’s favorite(s): making her own nail polish and also GIANT POTHOLDER.
Zoe loves everything. She picks things up very quickly with little to no instruction. After she made her nail polish, she found the table in the craft lab with what was probably a 5 x 5 homemade loom for making a gigantic potholder – basically a larger version of the one I was making with/for Claire. She wove and threaded the fabric and showed me how to do it. Learning new things like this really excites her, and she completely lights up.
My Favorite(s): ArcAttack and everything in the Craft Lab
We wandered back into the Dark Room (part of the faire with special light attractions) just in time to see ArcAttack‘s performance with their homemade, high tech instruments, including “two custom built singing Tesla coils, which have been modified to play musical notes by modulating their spark output.” It was one of the raddest things I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something, since electricity and I have a bit of a bad history.
And then someone actually went into a special suit and volunteers in a special cage, with the sparks shooting all around them, and NO THANK YOU. I will watch from afar.
No lie – I was completely spent from our LTYM show the evening before. I don’t know, I guess wearing Spanx and heels makes me tired? But I pushed through. For technology. For crafts. For learning!
By late afternoon I thought my legs were going to collapse and I would be destined to live the rest of my days in the Palmer Events Center. But every time I turned a corner, there was one more booth I wanted to visit. Screen printing! Make your own bookmarks! Ooooh, embroidery! Obviously the arts and crafts section was my jam, and Claire and Zoe loved it too. But all three of them are also science-loving girls who love to learn and discover new things. Maker Faire was the perfect activity for all of us to get in touch with learning, and I came away with a lot of good things we can try at home this summer (except not the Tesla coils).
All in all, we WILL be back, and also you should know that when we left we drove straight to Churro Co, because Mother’s Day.
The good people at Maker Faire Austin provided my family with complimentary passes in exchange for this post.
A few weeks ago we joined the early 2000s and purchased an HD antenna.
When we cancelled our cable years ago, we just never made a point to getting one, mainly because the whole reason behind canceling cable was because we weren’t watching TV. Like ever.
But I did want to watch some things, like breaking news, Presidential debates (not too excited about that this year tho), the Olympics, or Hoda and Kathy Lee getting drunk on Today. I am easy to please.
Well it’s finally happened. We are the proud owners of two smart televisions (does it sound less dorky if I say smart TVs?) with Roku or something like that (one courtesy of Netflix, one courtesy of…ourselves for Christmas 2014).
Honestly, Christian got the Roku and the HD antenna on the living room TV so he could watch the NBA playoffs. That’s what it took, folks. My begging and pleading to educate myself on current events? No. The chance to watch the Spurs get killed by Oklahoma? Absolutely.
Anyway. The kids had experienced live TV in hotels and at my parents’ house, but in their own home, it was a game changer.
Basically, I had to explain what a commercial was.
First they assumed something was terribly amiss.
“Mom, something’s wrong with the showwwwwwwww!”
Then they expressed their first world problems.
“How do I pause this?” (Because no, we still don’t have cable, therefore no DVR.)
Then they got smart.
“Dad, we have to get this candy! I saw it on TV!” (Dad let them get the candy.) (Dad = sucker.)
And they started catching up on current events too.
“Mom, the Angry Birds movie comes out on May 19!”
And my favorite…
“Mom. I saw this on TV. Bounty cleans up more spills. You should get that.”
Live TV = magic = brainwashing = solidifying Mom’s role in life = good job, Don Draper!
That’s basically my kids, every time they come in contact with fluids.
Before I entered motherhood, I never in a million years would have guessed I would have twins. Having one baby was hard enough to envision.
Right out of the gate, my situation was different from many. At the first sonogram I learned two things: 1) I was suddenly considered high risk, and 2) there was no way it would be worth continuing to work at my job just to pay double day care. Thanks to my pregnancy bed rest and their 9-week-early delivery, going back to work wasn’t an option even if I’d wanted to. (I didn’t really want to.)
Once we got past the logistics of carrying and taking care of two babies, then two toddlers, and now two little girls, it became more and more clear just how different our parenting life is from those of our friends.
In short, these girls are fascinating.
They’re almost always touching when they’re together, and they’re almost always together.
They can be best friends and worst enemies, the roles changing from minute to minute. But when they’re not getting along, the strain is palpable. It’s unnatural for them to be so distant, physically and emotionally.
They are each other’s person, the first face they look for in a crowd and first one they call out for when they walk in the front door after a solo outing.
As they grow in age, their social lives are changing. In second grade, kids aren’t friends with everyone like they are in kindergarten. Closer friendships start to form. And while they have friends at school, they seem to keep everyone at an arm’s length. No one gets them like their twin.
Part of me is discouraged by this. When they were babies, I read way too many books on raising twins.
Give them their own space! (We don’t have the space.)
Throw them separate birthday parties! (That’s not happening; it pains me to throw even one birthday party.)
Encourage – better yet, force – them to lead separate lives! They are different people, after all!
We take them on individual outings, sometimes essential grocery runs, sometimes nonessential fun trips tailored just for them. We are privy to their specific tastes and likes. We don’t dress them alike and rarely buy them the same gifts anymore. In a nutshell, we do what we can.
Look, parenting books. I get it. They each need to be their own person. I’d hate for one of them to sabotage a relationship because she’ll clearly never be as close to anyone as she will her twin. I’d never want one of them to give up on her goals and dreams because her sister wanted to follow a different path.
But everyone needs their own person. It takes many of us years to find that person.
Would it really be so bad if their person was built in?
As a part of the Netflix Stream Team, each month I talk about what I’ve been streaming online. What should I watch next?
A couple of weeks ago the Queen turned 90, to much fanfare and celebration. Then a wee Prince George in a wee bathrobe met President and Mrs. Obama. Then we read an A – Z Mysteries book called The Castle Crime, which was the most unbelievable work of fiction. I’ll believe that the Queen wanders around Windsor Castle without security – amongst the tourists – the same day I’ll believe that kids named “Dink” and “Ruth Rose” consistently solve crimes every time they set foot outside the house, and the police are like, “Yeah, damn, you cracked the case before our detectives, and we are totally okay with that!”
Anyway. Speaking of Royals.
I watch Netflix most when I’m folding laundry, and I’m almost folding laundry. This past couple of weeks I pulled up a series I’d seen popping up here and there, The Royals.
It all fascinates me – the history, the opulence, the traditions. Each episode covered a different aspect of life in the Royal Family, from weddings and funerals to scandals and babies. There was some repetition and a touch of TMZ-ness about it, with most of the interviewees acting like they were the family’s BFFs, but all in all, it gave interesting facts about the world’s most fascinating family.
I found myself home alone one rare weekend day, and after I took a nap (requirement when home alone on a rare weekend day), I felt too lazy to do anything else but pull up some Netflix. My profile had a category of 90s movies, including The Shawshank Redemption. I don’t know about you, but back when we had cable, I could never NOT watch The Shawshank Redemption. Turns out that’s still true.
Other movies included in the 90s category included Rounders, Forrest Gump, A League of Their Own, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (so good at the time; so bad now) (RIP Alan Rickman), Cruel Intentions, The DaVinci Code….so many options.
For quirky/funny, pull up Documentary Now. I’ve only watched a few episodes, but as far as satire goes, it’s very well done.
What are you watching?
Camping with friends seemed like a good idea at the time.
Christian and I are what you would call “mediocre outdoorsy.” We like to hike and frolic outside on a nice day, but we don’t live for it. Spending time indoors being lazy has just as much appeal. I do love a good nap.
About 10 years ago we planned a camping trip with some couple friends of ours at Enchanted Rock, a popular destination with tons of available hiking and exploring and outdoor space for two couples who didn’t have kids and liked to drink a lot.
Only Enchanted Rock walk-in camp sites book up approximately 5 lifetimes in advance.
So my husband, always with an ill-researched backup plan, booked one of their “primitive campsites.”
“So what does that mean, exactly?” I asked.
“No big deal,” he answered. It’s just a little bit farther of a hike.”
“Like how ‘little bit farther?'”
“Eh…like two miles.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
Now I am not a sedentary person (note I’m typing this on my couch with a blanket and my coffee and have no plans to move for the reminder of the day, but that is neither here nor there). I can run long distances. I can definitely walk two miles. But do I want to walk two miles, carrying a shitton of camping gear?
No I do not.
Because we all know a good wife never lets anything go, I occasionally brought up the impending Death March as the trip grew closer.
And that’s when he started to backpedal.
First it was, “Oh, it’s not really two miles. More like a mile and a half.”
And then the next time it was, “Meh, I’m pretty sure it’s more like a mile. Not too bad. It’ll be fine.”
So maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad. But that was ten years ago, and I can tell you that ten years wiser Leigh Ann has learned to Google the hell out of anything that comes out of her husband’s mouth. If I had done that in the first place, I wouldn’t have had to endure such suffering. But ten years younger Leigh Ann was more trusting and also not the Googling master that she is now.
It’ll be fine, he said.
So one mid-October day, we drove out to Enchanted Rock with our friends Reba and Troy. We had everything we needed: camping stove, sleeping bags, 6-man tent, board games, groceries, and a cooler full of Lone Star. A piddly one mile hike wasn’t going to dampen our spirits.
And when we pulled into the parking lot, there it was: a wooden sign with etched words that said it all.
There was no going back. We loaded ourselves up with our duffel bags, sleeping bags, and grocery bags. Troy hefted the cooler full of beer up onto his shoulder, and we headed off in search of our campsite.
October in Texas is still hot, and those two miles were so, so long.
To give an example of the kind of crazy people who book primitive camping sites, everyone we passed along the trail was carrying the following:
- a backpack – most likely a legit hiking version with 897 pockets for knives and ropes and shit
- a tiny tent – shoved perfectly in the space between their back and the backpack
- absolutely nothing else.
I still carry the shame from the looks of pity and general “WTF are you doing?” on their faces. It’s my life’s burden.
“You’re doing it wrong!” one guy said as he passed, taking in our grocery bags of eggs and meat and circus animal cookies (because one never goes camping with out circus animal cookies). Glamping wasn’t a thing back then, but that’s exactly what it looked like we were prepared to do.
If this had happened today, he’d have snapped a photo and camping-shame us all over the Internet.
What seemed like 5 hours later, we reached our destination. We were exhausted, and Troy’s ear was bleeding from an unfortunate cooler injury. His main goal the next 24 hours was to drink as much Lone Star as possible so he wouldn’t have to carry it back.
But our site was the perfect picture of Texas wilderness: wildflowers, cacti, cedar trees, and tall grassy stuff that probably has a name, but I’m not a botanist. Where we were used to designated sleeping spots and a metal-ringed fire pit, we found a flattish space to sleep and a reminder that no fires were allowed in primitive spots. No bathrooms either, unless you count the outhouse that was about a quarter mile away, which is way too far to walk in the pitch dark after you’ve had 3 beers and really have to pee.
All in all, we had a great time. We hiked, we explored, we bonded, and we slept like babies that night, if babies slept on beds of rocks and sticks in a 6-man tent after a night of drinking and laughter around a battery-powered lantern because remember! No fires!
But we made it, and best of all we made memories. Reba and Troy remain some of our closest friends to this day. We’ve vacationed together, our kids have grown up together, and believe it or not, we still camp together.
We just make sure we don’t have to walk two miles to do it.
Now go visit these other funny and amazing bloggers and read what they thought was a good idea at the time!
Last Friday was Kite Day for the kindergarteners. Parents welcome! Please come help your 5 and 6-year-olds fly kites! Because we damn well know they can’t do it on their own! A festival of tangled tails and flying failures!
Something you should know about me: I hate flying kites. Mainly because I just plain don’t know how to do it. Kind of like how I don’t know how to drive a stick, but they make automatic cars, so why don’t they make automatic kites? A question to ponder for another day.
I attended Kite Day two years ago when Rachel and Claire were in kindergarten. I was late, having just picked up Zoe from preschool. Each kindergartener who didn’t have a parent present had been paired with a 5th grader who was likely just as enthusiastic to be there as I was (outside: awesome; helping little kids fly kites: probably not so much).
It was a disaster of epic proportions.
By the time I came across Claire, her kite – a recent gift from Nana and Grandpa – was in shambles. The string was tangled up with the 800 foot-long tail, and no amount of fussing and pulling and yanking – all whilst watching out for rogue kite strings – would fix the number the wind had done on her poor kite. Kite Day was done for her almost as soon as it had begun.
I dragged cranky Zoe, sad Claire, and the tangled kite around the field looking for Rachel. We finally found her with her 5th grade buddy, who actually succeeded in getting her kite to fly. But once I showed up, she hesitantly started to back away, looking hopefully to me for the okay to run off with her friend.
The four of us basically wandered around, Claire’s tangled kite in hand, periodically tossing Rachel’s kite in the air, only to watch it flop to the ground, all the while trying to keep Zoe from running off and getting clotheslined by a Pokemon kite string.
Fucking Kite Day.
So when the invitation came home this year, I begged and pleaded and basically told Christian “You will need take off work Friday afternoon and go fly kites with your daughter.”
Because Christian is Kite Flyer: Level Expert.
When he held his finger up to test the wind, I knew there was no going back.
He knows all the moves. Throw the kite up in the air, but the string can’t be too long, and try not to look like a ballet company reject who’s bitter about getting turned down for a backup part, just kind of toss it in the air a little. If you’re holding the kite, you run! No not that far. Just get it going, now let the line out! No, not like that. Flick your wrist! Flick it! Just. Flick. It! Okay, whoa, ease up a little on the line now.
After a few failed attempts, I noticed that our kite looked different from the others.
So I said, “Wait. I think this hook thingy is supposed to go on the other side.”
And he said, “It’s called a BRIDLE, and you’re right.”
Then he said, “Geez, Zoe, who put this kite together for you?”
That would be me. I put the kite together.
And Zoe said, “Mommy. Mommy put the kite together.”
My own child threw me under the bus. But to be fair, she said it so sweetly; she had no idea I had done it wrong. Zoe, always and forever on my side, except when she figures out I don’t know how to fly a fucking kite.
Anyway. Once the BRIDLE was in the correct position, everything was peachy and wonderful and the kite soared and flew super high and OMG kites are boring.
(Actually, he made me fly it for a few minutes – let out the line! No, not like that! Flick your wrist! Pull! Now stop! Yes! You’re doing it! – and it was rather exhilarating. And then 48 seconds later it was super boring.)
Ladies, few things are sexier than a man flying a Cinderella kite for his 6-year-old daughter.
Not sexy – the laceration he gets from getting clotheslined by a random kite.
Not long before it was time to wrap up the kites – pun fully intended – I came across a little girl struggling with her kite. Another mom was trying to help her, but I recognized something.
Her BRIDLE was on the wrong side of her kite. She was doomed.
So I thought, “I can fix this!”
But it wasn’t just the bridle. Her line was tangled, and we couldn’t get it undone.
And the tears just started streaming down her face. “But I didn’t get to fly my kite, and my mommy couldn’t come, and I really wanted to fly it……”
Oh, sweet baby Jesus.
By this time the 5th graders were headed back inside. Teachers were rounding kindergarteners up, while a few rogue kids and parents caught a few extra minutes flying. If this little girl didn’t get to fly a kite, I was going to start crying myself.
“What’s your name, sweetie?”
“Okay, Gemma, come over here.”
One thing you should know about Christian: kids LOVE him. And he loves kids. He’s always the guy at the birthday party with a crowd of kids around him, and not in a creepy way. He’s a huge kid at heart, something that came through big time as he managed to get his – I mean Zoe’s – Cinderella kite higher and higher.
Christian gave Gemma the kite and instructed her to throw it in the air – ballerina reject or not – while he got it flying. And then he handed the reins over to her.
And she flew that damn kite.
“Look at her,” he said. “Pure joy on her face.”
And THAT is why I am married to this man. Well, that and he makes me breakfast on the weekends.
Gemma backed up further and further to fly the kite. We were the only ones who remained on the field, watching Gemma’s kite soar, along with her spirits.
The kindergarten classes had formed on the sidelines. It was time to head back. The kite came down, and we all gave Gemma high fives for her mad kite flying skills. And then I walked her over to her class, where her teacher was looking for her, quickly explained that she just needed a few kite-flying minutes, and headed back to my girl and her class.
I’m fortunate that I have such a flexible schedule that I can attend school events. I’m equally fortunate that Christian has the freedom to take half the day when I beg him to come fly a kite with his daughter because I seriously suck at it. Maybe Gemma won’t remember much about Kite Day. All I care about is that moment – that exhilarating moment when it was just her and the kite and the joy on her face, and that it was time to go in before she realized kite flying was, in fact, super boring.