Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

This year, our family celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday rather than the government-designated day since this was the only day we could all get together. And it was totally worth the wait.

When I was seven, my family moved from Massachusetts to California. (Please forgive the seeming non sequitur, but please bear with me.) From that moment on, my family has been celebrating at a minimum Thanksgiving and Christmas every year with my mother's sister's family. That my aunt's family for those easily confused.

As we have grown up and grown older, it is easy to forget how blessed we are to have such a big, loving family. It is easy to forget because they are always there. Maybe not in person but in my mind - knowing that their support and love is always with me. Why wouldn't it be? That's all I've ever known, and it has shaped me for the better.

Coming together again with all of our families just reinforces that bond... but it also makes the absence of those who couldn't join us more poinent (like All Things BD). However, life goes on, and you appreciate what you have rather than what you are missing.

Yes, Thanksgiving was an amazing celebration. Not because of the delicious food or beautiful decorations but because we were all together giving thanks for having each other. My grandmother, Jane, passed several years ago, but her legacy of family lives on. And her family is reaping the fruits of her labor. Thank God!

Yeah... you can say that I have a LOT to give thanks for.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Free-Enterprise Friday

(Continuing the sharing of my failed and successful experiences at getting a new product created.)

Once I received feedback from the Innovation Institute that my product idea in their opinion had a Mixed Feasibility score, I had to seriously consider their advice and decide if I was going to pursue this product or scrap it.

One of the concerns mentioned in my review was that I was selling the product for too much. After all, removable labels with an educational graphic can be home-made. They wouldn't be as nice or durable, but I had to find a price that would be "worth it" to these crafty-type moms too. Crafty-type moms are part of the demographic I am selling to, so I have to consider how to make my product appealing to them. The fact that mine were done by professionals would not be enough to get parents or teachers to plunk down $25 for 30 labels when they could make shoddy ones for 1/4 of that. So, I had to go back to the financial drawing board.

First, I looked to where I could cut costs. My cost sheet had items like Advertising, Storage, Packaging, Manufacturing, Internet, Legal, Office Supplies, and other miscellaneous costs. The greatest expense is manufacturing, so I began there.

NOTE = The manufacturer of my product also handles the packaging.

Was there a way I could decrease the per unit cost without sacrificing quality? Yes! I could increase the number of labels I ordered from the manufacturer. If I asked the manufacturer to make 5,000 labels instead of 1,000, I could reduce my manufacturing per unit cost significantly since the company I deal with decreases the per unit price the more I order. If your manufacturer is unwilling to offer discounted prices based on quantity, then you need to find another manufacturer.

Now, 5,000 of any product is a lot. You will not sell all 5,000 any time soon unless you get very, very lucky. You should plan on most of them sitting around for a while. With that in mind, depending on the nature of your product, you may not be able to store that many without added costs. However, in this case, labels don't wear down or take up much space, so I can easily store a large number without fear of damaging the quality of my product. I won't have to pay extra for storage or maintenance. Increase number of product manufactured = check!

Another significant savings would be to offer fewer labels per pack. Originally, I had designed 30 different labels. I reduced that number to 20 to further decrease the per unit price. Now, I had 20 labels per pack. Decrease number of labels per pack = check!

My wholesale price went from $12.00 per pack to $4.50 per pack.

Next week I'll explain wholesale versus retail prices and how I calculated profit.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Dog Is A Genius

My dog is a genius. You are just going to have to take my word for it since I don't have an operational digital camera. (It's on my Christmas list under the heading "Yeah RIGHT!")

About twice a day we give our 7-year old puppy, Travis, a treat. The reason we still call him (and all dogs) a puppy is because I got him when he was 2 months old, and he was only 4 months old when I first introduced him to my niece who was 1 year old at the time. And, as everyone knows, the universal rule is that you have to refer to your dog as a puppy FOR. EVER. to children that young. That is why our neighbor's dog who is 14 and limping is still called a puppy by our children. Look, it isn't technically correct, but it is cute - so quit your TSK-ing!

Ahem.

As I was saying, Travis gets a steady supply of treats during the day. We have two different varieties of treats for our spoiled prince loving dog. One is the ever so healthy Begging Strips made of bacon-substitute and other questionable materials. These don't get chewed. I don't know how he manages to swallow something that big whole. The other treat is called Meat Bones. Travis is about 45 pounds which puts him at the high end of MEDIUM-sized and the very low end of LARGE-sized.

So, when I see the Meat Bone treats for large dogs, I figure it is better to have too much than too little. (This is why I can never shop at Costco, by the way.) I buy the 4000000-pound box of treats and heave it home.

Now, you may be falling asleep asking yourself what does this have to do with the intelligence level of my pooch. The answer is simple. Not a whole lot, but I like stories.

Anyway, my kids love giving Travis treats, so I leave this honor to them. I never really paid too much attention to my dog after he receives the treat. As far as I'm concerned, once a successful transfer of treat to no-limbs-coming-off has occurred, my job is done. But this time, I paid a little more attention to the dog after he received his Meat Bone treat for LARGE-sized dogs.

This treat is a little bigger than the width of his face, so it is good sized.  And, Travis has a tendency to gobble treats down, so I was curious to see how he manages to contain himself with this bone. Turns out, he has figured a way to wolf it down without risking too much injury to himself. He bites it in half.

I'm not talking about biting in half vertically, but he nibbles on it until the whole bone has split completely in half horizontally or length-wise. Seriously.

So, why can't a dog, that can perform such intricate work in order to wolf down half a bone, do something more constructive - like babysit my children or do laundry?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Whatever works

I love tennis.

I love playing tennis.  I love watching tennis. I love talking about tennis. It is my sport. My husband doesn't watch any sports. I know - I'm lucky to have found a man not obsessed with sports. But, it is funny to be the athletic teacher in our family.

I played baseball, softball and soccer growing up, so I'm able to handle some of the basic sport education for my kids. However, I'm completely clueless about basketball, hockey, or football. Fortunately, my husband is part Sicilian, so our children are on the smallish side.  I don't think these sports will be a factor in their lives. I could be wrong, of course. DOUBTFUL!!

Anyway, back to my tennis obsession.

I find myself looking online for tennis news, and I run across some fascinating stories about tennis. Here is something I ran across from February 2005.

If you look closely at the top of the white building, you will see a green circle on it. That is a helipad the Dubai Hotel converted into a grass tennis court to promote the upcoming Dubai Open.
Andre Agassi and Roger Federer were invited to try out the court for some friendly tennis play. Both Agassi and Federer were in awe over the height and view, but as soon as a serve was in the air, all thoughts of sight-seeing went out the window, and the men got down to tennis business. Personally, I can't imagine that the wind swirling at that height made play very easy.

Then, I found this recent story on the news feed.

This is Dann and Brian Battistone - brothers who have taken professional tennis by storm. Not because of their decent record (they are the 206th & 207th ranked double players in the world), and not because Brian Battistone serves in tennis like a volleyball jump serve (click here to see - it is incredible to behold). No, they are taking the tennis world by storm because of their unique racket design. Approved by the International Tennis Federation or ITF, the brothers claim that "The Natural" allows them to hit two-handed open stance forehands on either side therefore reducing the strain hitting on one side puts on your back.

I say whatever. If it minimizes injury and is legal, then who cares the reason. Plus, the dual handle just looks really cool.

Now that I think about it, I need a second racket. Do you think I should buy one? It costs a mere $250 bucks! Honestly, if I had that kind of money to throw away on a tennis racket, I really should use it to improve my game.

And, I don't think any kind of racket will help THAT.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Southern Hospitality - L.A. Style

Los Angeles drivers get a bad rap. For good reason. The traffic is atrocious, and everyone is in a bigger hurry than you.  A friend of mine once told me a quote by George Carlin, "Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?" This mentality is exactly how Los Angeles drivers act. I thought I had them all figured out until these two occurrences happened:

Occurrence 1
---------------
Rush hour traffic on a 4 lane street (2 lanes in each direction). Stop light turns green, and maybe 2 or 3 of the cars in line make it through before the light turns red again. (Thank you, construction workers!) I'm the second car back in the left lane. I notice that a pedestrian is crossing the street in front of us - legally - but he is moving slow... very, very slow.

I immediately have sympathy for this man. He looks to be in his early 70's, thin, hunched over, and is able to walk at a shuffle pace. Just as I had expected, the man was only 1/2 across the street when the light turns green for us. I panic! The cars were going to start honking at each other to go, the cars in the front may be in too big a hurry to notice that someone was still crossing the street, or worse, the man was going to obey the light and stop moving.

I hold my breath.

Nothing.

Not a peep from any of the previously-overly anxious drivers surrounding me.  Not a honk.  Not a beep.  Nothing. Every one of them just patiently wait for the elderly gentleman to make it all the way across before we are free to move.  By the time he reaches the sidewalk at the other side, the light had already turned red. We had to wait through another cycle. I then realize that not a single car had made it through the previous light. Not a one. And no one was honking. Unbelievable.

Occurrence 2
---------------
There was a homeless guy moving his three trash bags full of questionable stuff across the street. He could only carry two at a time. It was clear to me that the guy would have to carry two trash bags, wait for the WALK light again, cross, wait for the WALK light AGAIN, and then carry the last bag across. How many lights this guy had already crossed this way so far, I don't know. But, I was saddened that I couldn't do anything to help him. My 4-year old BoopaLoop and I watched as the light turned to WALK for him.

The next thing I know a man hops out of his car next to me. He was the driver of this car! He runs up, has a few words with the homeless guy, runs over to the trash bags, picks up two, and hurries across the walkway to deposit the bags for him while homeless guy carried the other one

Several cars honked at him in applause.

-----------------

These two moments remind me that sometimes a few rotten, spoiled, loud, obnoxious apples make the rest of the beautiful bunch look bad.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oh what a beautiful morning - buh, buh, buh, buh...

There are some days that you get excited about, plan for, and jump in with both feet. There are other days that pass you by without a second thought. Then there are days like today that would under normal circumstances be taken for granted except you have a blog to document and appreciate the surprises that came.

That is one of the primary reasons I blog - to remember that which I don't want to forget about the day. My day is sometimes filled with silliness or frustration, but there are always those beautiful moments that keep me sane.

So, here are some of the beautiful moments I want to remember from today:

LittleMan sympathetically informing me that BoopaLoop tinkled in her bed, BoopaLoop allowing me to change her waredrobe without a peep, playing "Crazy Pretend Teacher" with my children, watching my children play "Crazy Pretent Teacher" alone, enjoying the replay of the morning events as told by my children over breakfast, seeing my children give the remains of their breakfast to the dog, reconnecting with friends over e-mail and blogs, listening to my kids laughing at each other's silliness, My Mukor quietly gathering beach necessities without my micromanaging, LittleMan's final soccer game, partying with 6-year old soccer players for the season ender gathering, watching the 35 (yup we counted them) sailboats in the ocean, watching the children squeal as the freezing ocean water touched their toes, listening to my children repeat verbatim the DVD movie playing in the van, snuggling with My Mukor, the dog licking the children's faces, watching BoopaLoop dunk herself in the bathtub, and ending the day with a delicious dinner at Olive Garden!

Yup, sometimes I just need a little beauty to remind me of how blessed I am.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Free-Enterprise Friday

(Continuing the sharing of my failed and successful experiences at getting a new product created.)

After you have narrowed down who may manufacture your idea into reality, you have to take the next step: spend a little money.  Not to develop your idea or to hire a lawyer. No, not yet. You want to find out if your invention has merit.

By this stage, you have already bounced your idea off of your trusted friends who are willing to tell you like it is, and you have found a manufacturer who gave you an estimate you can live with. But you don't want to spend thousands of dollars making a product just to discover no one wants to buy it, right?

I highly recommend you check out Innovation Institute for what they call a "Preliminary Innovation Evaluation Systems Report" or PIES.  For ~$200, their experts will review your idea and provide a break down of 45 criteria to determine the feasibility of your idea.  These criteria range from "Societal Criteria" - safety, environmental impact, to "Business Risk Criteria" - functional feasibility, investment costs, to "Demand Analysis Criteria" - potential market, potential sales.

I have no affiliation with Innovation institute. I just know it was the best $260 I ever spent. All you have to do is fill out their online form, and mail it in with the check. Within 4-6 weeks you will receive a personalized and detailed assessment of your idea. To give you some background, this company has been using variations on PIES since 1979.

According to their vast experience, 80-85% of all ideas submitted receive a Not Feasible rating.  10% receive a Mixed rating, and the other 5% are Feasible.  For those 5%, they will offer to connect you to the right channels. My idea fell into the Mixed rating range, and they still gave me contact information if I should decide to pursue this idea anyway.

There are questions they ask that forced me to dig deeper into my intentions and projections than I would have otherwise. How much did I project to sell in a year? I dunno! How much will I spend on marketing? I dunno! What will my return policy be? I DUNNO! But I should have an approximate idea, and this process helped me to get my head out of the clouds and look at this idea realistically.

My report was the expert constructive criticism I needed. According to their findings, I would need to reduce my cost significantly if I was going to appeal to my target customer.  If I couldn't find a way to reduce costs without sacrificing quality, then I didn't have a feasible invention.

And all I had to spend to get that critical information was $260.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spatial Awareness

I must have been insane today because I chose to take the children with me to the grocery store. It wasn't even a last minute decision! I actively planned our day so they would end up coming with me. If I had to include them in a shopping trip, you'd think I was smart enough to make it a quick trip, right? WRONG! This was our semi-monthly shopping day which usually takes about 45 minutes (especially since the stores keep messing with my mind remodelling).

Now, my children are pretty well behaved. I don't know why that is... I'm going to chalk that one up to God and his sense of humor. Anyway, they were still pretty well behaved when we went to the grocery store together. The part that frustrates me to no end is my children's complete lack of spatial awareness.  Do you see the lady with the cart filled to the brim with groceries coming your way? Do you see the width of the aisle? How can you not see what is coming? Oops, nope - they didn't move in time and an elbow or head got ripped by the oncoming traffic.

I know what you are probably thinking - they are just children and adults should watch out for them. In defense of the adults, they DO! I kid you not. I will grab my child by the collar after the 40th barrage of "MOVE!"s has gone unheeded, and the adult will begin to press forward thinking that my child will stay put. Most children do. My children don't. As soon as I let go, BAM! Right into the cart. What is wrong with you?

Seriously, how do you not understand cause and effect yet? Am I asking too much of my children? They are 4 and 6, and I think they understand perfectly, but they are too stubborn to take MY advice. If they didn't think to move on their own, they will go back to their spot and move back to me of their own accord.

So, after the third BAM into a grocery cart, I had two sobbing children while I was trying to shop. I'm a genius.

I'm laughing when I should be crying because I'm pretty certain my children get their stubborness from me. Those are MY genes at work.

I told you God has a sense of humor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

HELLO HELlo Hello hello

Again with the School House Rock songs. This conversation happened after the "2 song".

LittleMan: "Mom, is fifteen times two 28?"
Me: "No. That is fourteen times two. Fifteen times two is 30."
LittleMan: "What's 20 times two?"
Me: [Holding up four fingers - two on each hand.] "How many is twenty plus twenty?"
LittleMan: "Four... forty!"
Me: "Right!"

[About 3 minutes pass in silence.]

LittleMan: "Mom, is 28 fifteen times two?"

I know he is too young to really understand multiplication, but how long do I have to feign patience every time he does this? Is two days too short?

Does anyone know the address to the complaint department for School House Rock?!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fire Hazard Dining

Before I explain the title of this blog, I wanted to clarify for the two those that asked - I did not stay at La Costa by myself. I shared one room with a roommate, and the other 10 girls on my tennis team (ranging in age from 38 - 60) helped with the cost of the rooms too. We had 6 2-queen sized beds rooms and 2 of these living room / dining room / kitchens. It came out to about $390 per person for the whole weekend. Not bad considering the Marriot charges ~$200 per night for a standard hotel room.

Now, about tonight...

My son's elementary school coordinated with California Pizza Kitchen to host a fund raiser for this school. From the hours of 5 PM - 7 PM, droves of elementary school students (and their families) would desend upon this restaurant in order to support the fund raiser.  20% of the total bill went towards the school's Booster Club.

I dragged Mama DB's family with us to this glorious event, but I failed to prepare her family for the mad house restaurants become when hosting school fund raisers. It is complete chaos. Children everywhere. Parents wondering how long it will take to get food jammed into their children's mouths. Because you know nearly every family showed up at the same time, and every child is whining about hunger... or boredom from waiting.

We had 7 people in our party, and I was told it would take 30 minutes to seat us. I should have known that THAT was a completely lie. It usually takes about that long to seat 7 people in any restaurant here. Added to that the fact that children are climbing the windows of the restaurant I think would only add to the wait time. I should have said as much to the hostess who is barely keeping her composure in the face of chaos. But I didn't have the heart to shatter her "happy place".

After 45 minutes, we were finally seated. The wonderful thing about this particular restaurant for this event was that one of the waitresses came outside to offer some kid pizza slices to all of the ravenous children wailing outside. This was a brilliant move, in my opinion. I don't know why more restaurants don't do this! My children were occupied for another 15 minutes eating their pizza slices, and peace reined outside.

Anywho, I mentioned that we were finally seated... next to a couple trying to have a romantic dinner. That's... not going to happen. First of all, we were about a butt width away from them (A "butt width" is the width of the tables to allow a person to squeeze themselves into their seat). We had 4 very vocal, hungry, restless children.  Now multiply our table by 40, and you get the idea of the noise level in this restaurant.

I leaned over and apologized for the noise we were certain to generate, and I could tell that my gesture was appreciated though ironic. The guy told me that he requested this table at the end to avoid the noise, but - YEAH RIGHT!

Then a napkin from some other table landed between our tables.

They left about 5 minutes later.

We had a lovely meal. Children behaved, parents ate delicious meals, and the waiter shared stories about how he missed Houston. All in all, a lovely dinner...

... that I didn't have to cook or clean!

Which is all I really care about.  The fund raiser was just an excuse.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Objects in mirror may have expensive Internet availability

I went away to a tennis retreat this weekend, and I packed my laptop with the intention to update my blog and check out your blogs. When we arrived in our villa (THAT'S right - a VILLA! More on that later...), I got myself all freshened up and unpacked my stuff. (Side note: My husband has turned me into one of those unpackers that actually unpacks everything. I used to vacation out of my suitcases. Not anymore. I had clothes hung up, in drawers, and toiletries in the bathroom. I discovered it was a nice way to introduce myself to all of the ammenities the room had to offer.)

Speaking of ammenities, one of them listed on the website of the La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, CA was high-speed Internet availability. When I called the front desk to get my laptop hooked up, I was told that the cost was $15 PER HOUR! Yikes!! So, no blog update last Friday and Saturday much to my dismay.

Now, let's talk about this lovely place. Boy oh boy, did I have fun! By pure coinsidence, our annual tennis retreat happened to coinside with the Brady Tennis Camp - a two day instruction on tennis. Let me just say that I left feeling like I could beat anyone... or at least enjoy being beaten by anyone.

No matter what you're learning, it is always most fun learning from a group of people who have been life-long friends and LOVE what they do. You know you are in for a good time when the experts are ribbing each other while one of them is trying to maintain a serious note during the introduction. Or trying to unbalance each other during the stretching portion of the camp. Fun times...

And the room or VILLA!  Wow...


We were in two 2-queen sized beds rooms with adjoining bathrooms that are spa quality. We are talking huge bathtubs, shower and sinks all in a space the size of a normal hotel room. Gigantic! In between these two rooms was a room which had a kitchen (with island, bar stools, fridge, oven, microwave and dishwasher), dining room (able to seat 8 comfortably), and living room (with a flat-screen television).

With a living space like this, I didn't need to spend extra on the massages, facials, shopping and other exciting things they offer there. I didn't need to! Not when I can actually watch television from the comfort of my bathtub.

It was a wonderfully relaxing and energizing weekend.

But, I'm glad to be home again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How Do You Spell N.E.V.E.R. T.A.K.I.N.G. P.I.C.T.U.R.E.S. A.G.A.I.N.

About 4 years ago, my mother-in-law bought us a digital camera. She was explaining to us (the folks with the TiVo, high-tech computers, surround sound, Palm Pilots and latest in video game technology) that the day of physical photos was long gone. Welcome to the digital age! I couldn't believe we didn't already possess one of these amazing devices, but... okay, I wasn't that surprised.

I had already invested my time and energy into my video camera, and I loved it. Sure, there were plenty of moments I wished I had captured as a still, but for the most part, I preferred remembering all of the details of the day rather than having only one key moment from that day.

As I mentioned before, my mother-in-law got us a digital camera. When it arrived all shiny and new, I looked at it suspiciously - like it was the enemy about to destroy my precious world. But, I HAD to use it. I mean, my mother-in-law got us one so we could take pictures of the grandbabies and e-mail them to her.


The first problem I ran into was the inability to edit my photos. "Oh, here is the photo where LittleMan is looking right at us! Oh, here is the one where he is looking at his sister! Oh, here is the one where they are looking at each other! Oh, and now they are looking... well, their eyes are closed, but aren't they the CUTEST THINGS!!"

[Slight side note, I remember going to a mom's night out where I had the opportunity to put all of my photos into a photo album, and my sister-in-law, AllThingsBD, pointed out that I had put about 15 photos of my son doing roughly the exact same thing in every shot. I didn't notice that until she pointed it out. Why I felt compelled to take that many photographs of my son at that time, I will never know. The fact that I didn't notice until she pointed it out should indicate the depth of this problem.]


I was really getting into this digital thing. I still took video footage, but I would take shots of interesting moments. It was great! Then, we moved to our current house about 6 months later, and the cord needed to download your photos into your computer was packed into one of the 16 boxes labeled "Den". It is still sitting in there... somewhere.

About a week ago, seeing how much more compelling blogs are with digital photos, I decided I need to go through those boxes to find the cord, FINALLY. Before I found the cord, I showed my digital camera to MamaDB, who along with AllThingBD are photographing goddesses in my opinion. She noticed that my camera wasn't charged, so we couldn't see what pictures were still in the camera. I opened the battery area and VOILA! Battery corrosion...

I was able to get three of the four batteries out. Anyone have any solutions to removing corroded batteries from a digital camera?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Don't You Forget About Me

Recognize the song title of this blog? It is the theme of the movie "The Breakfast Club", and from 1985 to 1989, I could not get this song out of my head. I would be listening to the boring History professor, and in my head all I could hear was this theme song. I would be waiting for my turn to hit the ball, and BOOM! There it is again!

I read somewhere that when you get a song stuck in your head, you need to mentally finish the song in order to stop the cycle. Well, I can't tell you how many times I FINISHED that song. I don't know what song these so called "experts" were listening to because that did NOT work for me. So, I tried a different approach: I started thinking of other songs. I know - brilliant, huh?

Fast forward to going to college, to getting married, and now to having children. These songs got gradually better in taste (according to My Mukor) until the children came. When I was pregnant with my LittleMan, I babysat my niece for a couple of weeks. AllThingsBD assured me that her daughter would love the music playing in her van. Sure enough, she loved those cute kid songs, but I found myself dreaming "When I build my house... I need some wood..."

That song lasted about 6 months in my head. Then I was on to Baby Einstein music when my LittleMan was born. Soon I wished for that day back in 1985 when Simple Minds started in my head, now I had cutsy classical. About 4 years pass, and I finally got back to current music. I loved having Imogen Heap, Sarah McLachlan, and Coldplay... then I bought a 2-cd set of School House Rock.

Ugh, can someone please tell me how to remove "Interjections!" from MY MIND? PLEASE?!

"Interjections! For excitement! And emotion! Halleluja! Halleluja! Halleluja-YAY! Darn! That's the end."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Day To Remember

One of the reasons I blog is to record events that I want to remember and be able to share with some clarity to my children.  Today was a day I want to remember...

Conversation with BoopaLoop:

[I gave the kids a water bottle to share.]
BoopaLoop: "[LittleMan] left his grossness on the drink. But I'm going to drink it anyway."
Me: "How about you not drink his grossness. That's gross."

Conversation LittleMan had with BoopaLoop:

[Rolling marbles on the wood-floor and watching them collide with a BANG!]
LittleMan: "Oh my gosh! Everyone's dead! Boy, it was a bad day."
[Hysterical laughter]

Amazing beginnings:

I received an amazing e-mail from the lady who is selling a product I designed. You can read about it at my business blog. But equally amazing is that the business My Mukor is a partner of received a huge boon today when they met with some very important people who are working at making things happen. I wish I didn't have to be so vague, but once every thing is finalized, I will be able to blog all of the specifics to the masses!! Just know that we both have been waiting for acknowledgement from the "experts" that what we have worked hard to create is in fact exciting to someone other than ourselves. What happens next is just icing on the cake.

These are moments that happened today that I wanted to record for our children.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Radiation, Lasagna and Astronauts

Every so often I am really proud of a dinner I put together for my family. Not just because it is good but because my kids will actually enjoy it. I made Lasagna with a secret family recipe for the cheese, a spring salad, garlic bread and peas. My kids actually ate the peas first. I don't watch them eat when they pick vegetables to eat first. I'm afraid any attention I give them will disrupt the molecules around them causing them to suddenly realize they are not behaving like normal children.

We were eating leftovers of this meal for dinner last night. After the first serving, My Mukor gave himself a second helping and put it into the microwave to heat.  He is one of those people who needs his food piping hot. Watching his father, LittleMan asked the following question:

LittleMan: "Why is Daddy doing that?"
Me: "He is heating it up to make it hot."
My Mukor: "How long should I put it in for, sweetie?"
Me: "I'd put it in 3 minutes."
My Mukor: "Really?  I did one."
Me: "Well, the outsides will get nice and hot, but the insides will still be cold. Or, you could smush it down."
My Mukor: "Yeah, I'll do that. I don't really mind it smushed down."
LittleMan: [Listening to the conversation with interest] "Why does smushing it down make it hotter?"
Me: "The thicker the food you are trying to heat, the longer it will take the microwave to heat the center. It has to go a lot further to get to the center than when it goes through a thin layer."
LittleMan: "So..."
My Mukor: "So if you are in a space ship, and the aliens are shooting at you with their radiation guns, make certain to surround yourself in a thick layer of lasagna."

Between My Mukor and I our children will never get a reasonable explanation for anything.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Family Fun the Geek Way

Even though BoopaLoop and LittleMan are old enough to appreciate simple games, they are very different in temperment and personality. Finding a game that appeals to both is very hard. Usually I solve this problem by creating a game that is tailored and shaped to their specific curiosities. For example, if we are playing outside, we usually do imaginary play. BoopaLoop is a princess, LittleMan is a soldier, and I'm the evil monster bent on destroying the princess. Fortunately, the princess is a mighty fighter too and can run away at light speed.

But this weekend, we wanted to play a game we could do as a family. It is hard to do imaginary play with two people trying to control everything, so either myself or My Mukor use these opportunities when the other is entertaining the children to play our own game, read books, take a nap get stuff done. However, this Saturday we wanted to do something together.

My Mukor develops video games, but ironically, we don't have any video games that are fun for our children. We don't own a Wii, we don't have the Lego game, nothing. Maybe we are afraid to share video game time with our children. After all, that day will probably get here soon enough. So, we looked in our boardgame cabinet to find something the kids might like.

I wish we had Yatzee. That would be the perfect game. BoopaLoop could roll dice to her heart's content, LittleMan could practice his counting skills, and My Mukor and I would silently compete against each other. But we don't have that game. Then, I noticed a beat up, old box with Heroes Quest written on it.

This was a game my big brother gave me as a birthday present years ago to keep me from crashing his Dungeon & Dragon games with his friends. The part he forgot was that I needed people to play Heroes Quest, so he ended up having to play with me - but he did get alone time with his friends without his stinky sister butting in.

Deciding it might be a good substitute for Yatzee, the four of us sat around the dining room table and played this game of heroes, quests, treasures and not-so-scary monsters waiting to be struck down. BoopaLoop's favorite part was finding treasures, LittleMan's favorite part was fighting the bad guys, My Mukor's favorite part was trying to keep his team from venturing too far apart from each other, and I loved coming up with fun and creative areas for the mighty team to explore. We had a blast.

Then we had lunch, an hour of relaxing time, and watched the kids play outside.

It was a wonderful Saturday.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Free-Enterprise Friday

(Continuing the sharing of my failed and successful experiences at getting a new product created.)

I finally had an idea of a product I wanted to create. Now, I had to gather information. What products were similar to it on the market? Who manufactured those products? And the big question: How much will it cost to make it? There are other questions regarding materials, labor and quantity, but first I needed the basic figures to see if I could make my product and then sell it at a reasonable price.

Some of my earlier ideas were immediately shot down due to the fact that in order to make them I would have to sell them at outrageous prices. But, man oh man, when the cost of laser technology ever drops, BAM! - my ideas are gonna soar! Okay, not really, but you get the idea.

I used two tools to find a manufacturer for my creation: the Internet and the Better Business Bureau. I found a ton of businesses (either through the Internet or on packages of similar materials) that could potentially manufacture my product, so I narrowed it down to businesses that were in my time zone to avoid any complications with telephone tag. That narrowed the list to a manageable amount. I went to Better Business Bureau and found a few that had "satisfactory" ratings. I checked out their websites to see if their Internet presence was impressive or not. Those that looked professional, I called, and the second one answered the phone. Winner!

I gave the manufacturing company my specifications and asked if they could do what I needed and give me an estimate. Done and done! Most manufacturers will give you a discount based on quantity. The more I ordered - the smaller the per unit price. If the manufacturer doesn't offer this, then as the Miracles sang, "You better shop around".

I called two other places, and I had all three send me samples of their materials to see if they were up to snuff. Again, if the manufacturer isn't willing to work with you on these requests, then you need to check elsewhere. I put those samples through the ringer. I had to make certain it would pass all possible tortures our family would put it through. I found the right manufacturer at the right price, so I needed to go to the next stage... to see if this product would sell.

Next week I'll talk about what happens after you think you have found a potential manufacturer.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Children Complications

On Thursday nights, my husband has church obligations which leaves the children and I alone for dinner. To take advantage of the situation assuage our loneliness, we take turns picking which restaurant we will eat at in honor of his absence. Tonight, it was BoopaLoop's turn, and she picked Islands.

As we walked into the restaurant, I was reminded of another time about 2 years ago I went to Islands with my kids alone. I hoped the same thing that happened then wouldn't happen tonight.

Two years ago, BoopaLoop wasn't yet potty trained, but LittleMan was. About 3/4 of the way through the meal, LittleMan told me that he had to go potty. I remember being irritated at the fact that he had gone potty before lunch, and now he had to go again. Sighing heavily, but trying to maintain calm, I told him okay. I took my purse, BoopaLoop and LittleMan.

Off we go to find the potty. This particular Islands was part of a hotel. So, in order to minimize the number of non-customer-potty-users (evidently), the restaurant in its infinite wisdom decided not to put any potties in their restaurant. Instead, you have to exit the restaurant through the double-doors that lead to the hotel lobby. Fine. We thanked the Islands employee for that information, and off we went.

For those of you familiar with children who are adept at potty usage but too young to understand the passage of time, will recall that it takes FOR. EVER. for a child this age to do... uh... number 2. I think we were in the bathroom a good 30 minutes before I asked LittleMan, "Are you sure you have to go poop?" The answer was a resounding yes. Sigh...

We returned to the restaurant, and as I approached our table I noticed the lack of mess. The seats were spotless. The floor under the table was spotless. That wasn't how we left the table. My moment of gratitude was immediately replaced with dawning dread: they bused our table. LittleMan had this expression on his face of controlled sadness. The rest of his precious hamburger was gone. My barely touched soft tacos were history. The busboy was very efficient - there was new tableware.

At that moment of realization, I happened to make eye contact with our waitress. She looked like a vindicated terror. She ran up to me and said, "I'm so, so sorry I told the busboy to stop cleaning the table I knew there was no way you would leave! You have two small children!!" She went on for about 30 seconds longer before BoopaLoop made her strongwill known by insisting I put her down.

The waitress asked me if there was anything she could do, and I said that I was so sorry they thought that I had "dined and ditched". I told her we were almost finished anyway, but that my son was disappointed at not having the rest of his hamburger. She offered to make us a new one; I said no since we had to get on the road, and cooking a new burger would take too much time for my 2-year old to sit for when she was done eating. So, the waitress brought out a Kona Pie on the house! This ice cream masterpiece was enough to shut down any further grumbling from me the children.

Fast-forward to tonight, and of course the same thing happened. This time BoopaLoop had to go potty. But, I was prepared thanks to our previous experience. I told the first server I saw that we were coming back and to please not clean our table.

When we returned, we found the table in exactly the same disaster we left it in with a beautiful little note on the edge of the table that said, "Don't clean me!"

Thanks to these two experiences I've learned a valuable lesson: always carry a pen so I can write the bloody sign myself!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Peter Pan STINKS!

Okay, Peter Pan doesn't completely stink, but it is really annoying. The Disney Store had this amazing sale some time ago, and Peter Pan was one of the movies that they'd only release every 40-thousand years (brilliant marketing strategy, by the way), so I decided to buy it. I figured it had pirates (but not scary ones like Pirates of the Caribbean), its main character was a boy (rather than a princess), and it had old fashioned values. What more could my 6-year old LittleMan and 4-year old BoopaLoop want?

Most of the movie is fairly benign, in my opinion. Three cute kids have an exciting adventure to the land they always dreamed to go. That part is fine. The part that I find completely annoying is that EVERY SINGLE female character (except the mother) exhibits intense jealousy over Peter Pan! Tinker Bell hates Wendy because of jealousy. The mermaids hate Wendy because of jealousy. Even Wendy hates Princess TigerLily because of jealousy! As I watch my daughter watch this movie, I wonder what she is gleaning from it.

The movie ends well enough with Wendy deciding that she wants to grow up after all, but I'm convinced that the only reason for that epiphany was due to Peter Pan's reaction to Wendy's jealousy. He didn't care. I think the moral of this story is that girls get jealous all the time, and we as women need to grow up and fend for ourselves. And, that boys will be boys, and you can't change them.

I agree that jealousy is something to avoid like the plague, but to have every female character act jealous was too much. So, once the movie was over, I decided next time to pick the movie. I picked Ratatouille.

No one gets jealous in that one.

Am I being unreasonable? Is there more to value in the movie Peter Pan that I'm being blind to?  Help me understand!