Categories
The Youth Cartel

Running an Online Store: A Family Business

The Fiscal Cliff Sale

We’ve got a little sale going at The Youth Cartel store, having fun with this fiscal cliff silliness in the news. If you’ve seen stuff that we’re doing and wanted to check it out, this is a great time to do that while saving a little money. Discounts start when you buy $20 in stuff. And the discounts get better with the more you spend. Pretty simple and fun. 

Running an Online Store

I started the Cartel store a little over a year ago and it’s steadily grown. At first we had spurts of orders, like when a new product released or something like that. We’d have 20 in one day and then none for several days. Now we get 5-15 orders per day during the week and 1-2 on weekends. It’s not a lot but it is a part of every day. With our publishing line growing in 2013 I expect we’ll see that double again.

Literally, when you place an order, the McLane family takes it from there. (It doesn’t go to some third-party company to get packed up by people in a warehouse. We’re a family business.)

I print the order, one of the kids goes to the hallway closet, finds the books, and packs the order. They bring it back, I weigh it, and print out the postage label. Each day I either schedule a USPS pick-up or I drive the days orders over to the post office. Sometimes I make a morning and afternoon run to the post office.

On top of that, we keep the books on the store, manage the inventory, purchase shipping supplies, and we’ve develop relationships with our various suppliers.

The Kids are Learning

My goal is always that the kids will eventually fully run the store. It’s well within their capabilities to pack and ship orders. (And at $.50 per box it’s a nice steady stream of income.)

This week, I added to Megan’s duties as she’s now in charge of keeping inventory, updating a Google Docs spreadsheet, and alerting me of things which are low so I can re-order them. She gets it. Supply & demand. She pointed out that we need this sale to work well because we have too much of some books.

Next, they will learn how to weigh packages and print shipping labels. And after that I will teach them how to re-order shipping stuff themselves.

Here’s the thing: They do a great job. I consistently get good feedback on our orders. And people love getting the little toys/treats Megan and Paul stuff in the boxes. And they really like contributing to the family business. It’s fun for them.

It cracks me up a little when people quip about child labor laws and all that stuff. (We’re totally legal, by the way.) To me? It’s the other kids that are missing out. We’re having a blast with it and I love seeing the business grow with their capabilities. Heck, I’m looking forward to one of them coming up with our next great idea!

Categories
family Photo Travel

Back From the Brink

I just turned on my computer for the first time in 7 days. 

It still feels a bit funky. My fingers are stretching to familiar places but typing feels totally odd. Yesterday, I woke up to cuddle a freezing Jackson back to sleep. Today, he woke up in his crib to a warm bowl of oatmeal and a morning full of Curious George & Elmo.

The McLane Family is 500 miles from our little June Lake camp site, 8,600 feet above sea level and a million miles from yesterday.

I spent a week intentionally disconnected from my day-to-day life. I turned off my email, signed out of Facebook, never opened Wunderlist or even had the thought, “I should write that down.” For the first time I can remember I even let the blog go fallow for a week.

It felt good to rest.

When I wrote my last post I was on the brink. I was past tired. I was exhausted. I don’t know what comes after exhaustion but I was pretty much there. It’s not so much that the exhaustion was hurting my work as it was that it was hurting to work. Day-by-day the grind was like a bruise that kept getting punched. Even embracing a more regular Sabbath wasn’t helping. I needed real rest.

After a week of hiking, exploring, playing, laughing, star-gazing, and fishing… I feel better and found rest for the first time in a long time.

It had been a few years since I really shut it down for 6 consecutive days. I don’t know if it’s my insecurity, the desperate feeling we had to turn it around at my old gig, or what… but I do know shutting it down was the right thing and something I need to do more often. (I have 3 weeks of vacation planned for the remainder of 2012.)

Rush-free Play

As we drove home yesterday, Kristen and I kept joking about the fact that we all still liked one another. Camping brought us closer together. As we left June Lake we were all a bit sad it had ended. I think all of us had embraced a little fantasy that it didn’t have to end… that we could just head to the grocery store and restock for another week. (And hit the showers to clean up!)

I think that’s a sign of a good vacation, that you leave wanting a little bit more and having fully entertained the option of never going home.

Each day was filled with a slowventure where we made breakfast together, cleaned up camp, and went somewhere to explore. We had a simple lunch of PB&J or fruit, cheese, and crackers. Somehow we managed to make it home in time to make dinner and have a camp fire before bed. (Did you know marshmallows are a food group while camping? I think each of the kids ate their weight in marshmallow!)

Together, we saw some of Earth’s greatest treasures. Yosemite denies description. Photos cannot capture awe. The giant sequoias, the Valley, the Tunnel View, the Merced River, Tuolumne Meadows, the Tioga Road, even The Mobile… all are happy places.

We spent 2 days not catching a single fish but smiling the whole time. We went up and down mountains. And we played in lots and lots of streams.

I loved watching Megan and Paul get lost in ancient forms of play. They made bow & arrows and pretended to hunt chipmunks. They wandered in the woods collecting stuff. They stared deeply into the starry abyss. They played with fire.

And they were rarely bored.

It’ll probably take me a few weeks to really unpack my vacation. But all I know is that I need more of that more often!

 

Categories
San Diego State

Huge Win for San Diego State!

This is our families first year as season ticket holders for men’s basketball. Yesterday was, by far, the highlight of that experience so far.

We made it to Viejas about 12:05 PM for a 1:00 PM tipoff. And there were already lines to get in, the student section was 90% full, and about 50% of the stands were full 45 minutes before the game. Where else does that happen? 

The student section "The Show" unveils their new massive banner

There were 6,000 plus people booing UNLV during a pre-game shoot around. That’s when you know it’s going to be a wild game.

The game lived up to the hype. 

Megan and I have our game face on to face the UNLV Runnin' Rebels

It was loud and crazy from 45 minutes before the game until the last second when Jamaal Franklin’s lay-up sent the stadium into a frenzy. The stadium roared for about 90 seconds after the game winner. Deservedly so. It was so loud that you couldn’t hear that the announcer was trying to tell the fans that the game wasn’t actually over.

What I loved about this win is that it was a team effort. Leading scorer Chase Tapley struggled to get open and never really got to go off like he normally does. But the added attention on Chase gave James Rahon and Jamaal Franklin opportunities to make significant buckets, which they did with more than 20 points each.

A lot has been said about this being a rebuilding year for SDSU. They lost Billy White, D.J. Gay, Kawhi Leonard, and Malcom Thomas after last years epic season. (2 of them to the NBA) And, truth be told, they don’t have the standout talent they had last season. But they are consistently outplaying and out coaching their opponents. That’s the power of great coaching and recruiting. (Next  year’s team, based on recruits and transfers, will be one for the ages.)

The Aztecs beat the #12 team in the country because they had a better strategy than UNLV, were slightly more disciplined, and had a huge home court advantage.

I’m loving bringing my kids to these games. The Show continues to live up to the hype. Yesterday, they unveiled a massive “The Show” logo right before tip-off that covered nearly the entire student section. Teams are completely intimidated to come into Viejas and our players are completely empowered.

With our throats and hands tired from screaming and clapping, Megan invented the High 1. It'll take over the nation. Notice the grumpy (silent) UNLV fans behind us. They all look like that, like they were just released from a cheap casino holding cell for the game.

If you’re ever in town when there’s an SDSU game . Let me know, I’ll score you a ticket to The Show. 

Categories
parenting

Let them roar(ish)

We need to allow our kids to learn to roar.

At eight and ten years old our oldest are flourishing in the elementary years. Half of their existence is in the pretend world of video games, fantasy books, and made-up games in the backyard. The other half is the real world where they help with the baby, dominate academically at school, and run the shipping department for The Youth Cartel store.

The hard thing for Kristen and I is that they are growing up a little bit faster than we feel prepared to adapt our parenting. A year ago we woke up to the reality that we’d never left them home alone for even 5 minutes… or allowed them out of our sight on their own. So we started taking short trips to the grocery store without them or allowing them to go on walks in our neighborhood alone.

“It happens so fast.” People have told us this since the moment we found out we were pregnant with Megan. We’ve taken lots of pictures, we’ve enjoyed every step and stage. And yet it feels like it is still going so fast that we just want to hold on to each stage!

At the same time, it’s that little tendency… the desire to hold on… that we know is the difference between our kids roaring and our kids delaying maturation.

O! That we would be parents who don’t take video while our kids learn to roar, but stand behind them and encourage: Louder, you can do it!

Categories
family

Like Father, Like Daughter

Kristen found this in Megan’s room the other day. Megan loves to draw and create things. Her origami creations are worthy of an Etsy shop.

When we turned over the last page and saw her marketing twist about going to MeganMcLane.com… we just roared with laughter. She truly is her father’s child.

Categories
family

Daddy Days

This weekend, Kristen is off to Chicago with Erin for a girls getaway. Since I’m traveling a little over 1/5th of 2010, she certainly earned some time to herself.

Kristen’s definition of a girls weekend is Thursday afternoon to midnight on Monday. I like her style.

As we compared notes leading up to this trip we determined that this is the first time Kristen has ever done anything like this. It’s been fun to hear her talk about the trip for the last month or so, all the places she wants to visit, and of course– all of our favorite food places she wants to enjoy. (We lived there for 8 years. She is busy satisfying cravings for Johnnie’s Italian beef and Oatmeal shakes from Irazu. I’m totally jealous.)

The flipside is that I’ve earned some solo time with Megan and Paul!

So far, so good.

I’m not going to lie. I love that I get this time to be with them like this.

Last night, over a healthy dinner of tacos, rice and beans, and chips… we talked about all sorts of drama at school. Apparently, Foursquare provides endless playground theater that I was previously unaware of. There are some kids who like to steal the ball and throw it over the fence. Yeah, straight thugging.

We don’t have overly adventurous plans for the rest of the weekend. Which leaves plenty of time to do what they love to do most. Relax and be kids.

  • Thursday night I was impressed that I could make a healthy, well-balanced meal that they actually ate. Roasted fish, roasted apples, and whole grain rice.
  • Friday was a marathon of driving as we went from school to the San Diego State ticket office back to the YS offices to the house then to dinner at Rubios. I felt like a soccer mom with all of that carting!
  • Today we plan on going to the nursery so we can start seedlings of our winter garden, doing some weeding and cutting of grass, relaxing in the afternoon, then going to the Aztec game a bit early to enjoy some of the tailgate festivities before SDSU plays Colorado State tonight.
  • Sunday, I hope to keep it simple. Church in the morning and then finish painting the dining room while the NFL games are on. At some point, Paul needs to do his homework.
  • Monday, I’m just happy to get them to school. We will spend some time in the early evening making sure the kids rooms are clean(ish) before mom gets home.

Goals:

  1. Quantity time.
  2. No trips to the ER.
  3. Keep the house clean.
  4. Convince the animals to sleep in tomorrow for daylight savings time.
  5. Create some memories.
Categories
Christian Living

3 Reasons to Embrace Halloween

Photo by Patrick Giblin via Flickr (Creative Commons)

3 reasons why I think every Christian should embrace Halloween as a cultural phenomenon beyond personal convictions that you are endorsing evil.

  1. Don’t punish your kids for your convictions. We don’t let our kids dress up as demons or witches… but we do allow them to wear costumes because it’s fun. But to keep them at home, locked in the basement while you watch some cheesy Christian movie instead of getting bucket loads of candy tonight… that’s just mean. We are called to bring light into darkness not hide from darkness. (Ephesians 5:8-14) You can take your kids to your neighbors houses, keep them safe, and show them that being a Christian isn’t about hiding from the world.
  2. Be hospitable. I know plenty of people live in rural areas and don’t get trick-or-treaters. So you folks are exempt… for a night. But if you are like me and hundreds of kids will be walking by your house looking for a few pieces of yummy candy don’t be the jerk on your block. Head out to the store right now and get yourself a couple bags of candy. Titus 1:8 pretty much makes it clear that anyone in leadership at their church must be hospitable. Turn your light on, answer the door, and be hospitable. Even if you can’t be home tonight, leave out a bowl and turn the light on. People know what to do! (Yes, just let people steal your candy!)
  3. Don’t be afraid! I think a lot of this anti-Halloween stuff is based on terrible theology. The Bible tells us to resist the devil. Peter tells us to “resist him” which indicates a struggle. (1 Peter 5:8-9) But the Bible doesn’t tell Christians to hide from evil. Look at the example of Paul as he went to various towns. He encountered evil in all its forms and chose to bring Christ there.

My kids are excited about Halloween. Megan is dressing up like a tiger and Paul is dressing up like a mad scientist. This year, I will be handing out candy and pleasantries with neighbors while Kristen (Baby Tres is in the belly, he is wearing a placenta costume, kind of gross but that’s what he wanted. Weirdo.) take the kids around the neighborhood.

Maybe I’ll get in trouble for saying this? But I think Halloween is my favorite holiday.

ht to Todd and my original post from 2007.

Categories
family Film

Date night with the kids

Kristen hosted a girls night for the ladies of our community group. So Paul, Megan, and I disappeared and went to see Toy Story 3.

One thing I haven’t adjusted to about Southern California living is how expensive the movies are. I still grimace at paying $11.50 for an adult and $8.50 for a child when in Michigan it was a whole lot less. And a lot of the major theaters don’t even have matinees! Seriously, what is up with that?

To express my inner-cheapskate, we went to Rite-Aid in our neighborhood and bought movie snacks to eat on the way to Fashion Valley Mall. By the time we got to the movies we were hopped up on sugar and ready for the flick.

As for the movie– it was great. I don’t know how they managed to keep both the Toy Story (and Shrek) franchises going so strong. The plots and the quality of animation just keeps getting better.

I don’t think the movie was the point of the night any more than loading everyone up on sugar. It was just nice to get a few hours to relax and laugh with my kids.

I relish that.

In other news. A new round of college guys are moving in across the street. With school at SDSU about to kick off another year, people watching is back!

Categories
family

9 Things I Love About Megan

Megan, last Saturday in a tide pool at dog beach
Megan, last Saturday in a tide pool at dog beach

Today Megan, my oldest child, turns nine. To celebrate I thought it would be appropriate to share nine things that are awesome about Megan.

  1. She is beautiful but not in a girly, make-up, gotta have the best of everything kind of way.
  2. She has a crazy fun friendship with her cat, Lovely Gorgeous. She is the only one in the family who can run and grab Lovely at any time. For some reason the cat will even hold still as Megan tries to teach her tricks.
  3. Imagination flows out of every pour of her body. Megan creates elaborate story lines and transforms her bedroom into all sorts of things. Right now her bedroom is a magic wand shop. Complete with homemade wands for $.05, used wands for $.02, and wand repairs for $.01.
  4. Speaking of money, she is crazy entrepreneurial. She is constantly creating ways to create businesses.
  5. She loves origami. Her ability to make the most complex things with paper astounds me.
  6. Like her mom, she is a reader. We have every gadget a kid could want– and yet a trip to the library is the best adventure we can offer.
  7. She is brave. Megan might not be the most outgoing kid on the block, but she is eager to try hard things and to explore. Living near the ocean has really brought this out.
  8. She is nice to her little brother. I don’t know how she does it as Paul does his best to bug her. She will be the first to volunteer for time away from him, but she has found a way to love and include him that I adore.
  9. Her face is hilariously expressive. Her mom is the queen of dirty looks. I am pretty good at making funny faces. But Megan is insanely good at making all sorts of faces and expressions.
Categories
family

McLane Kid Update

In Fall 2000, when we found out Kristen was pregnant with Megan, we both kind of rolled our eyes when people would say “Enjoy it, it goes by too fast.

How right they were. Our kids are in a fun stage of growing up… but life moves so fast that we don’t pause enough to truly enjoy it.

Megan - Our crazy 8 year old

Megan is almost 9 year old. N-I-N-E! She is our sweetheart. Megan has a deep love for reading, animals, and origami. She never ceases to amaze me with the stories she weaves together or how perceptive she is. She is so quiet that you can sometimes forget that she is capable of outbursts of wild running around. She is in that stage where she plays hard and intense.

She also has an imagination that lives halfway between fiction and reality. She loves pretending to be a cat. She will crawl around her bedroom for hours, she’ll meow at you, and when she gets annoyed she’ll even hiss. (We have a no hissing rule in the house, that’s how common it is!)

Megan got a camera for Christmas and puts it to good use. Check out her photo blog, MeganMcLane.com. When she opened this present she carefully examined it. When she saw that it wasn’t a kid camera– it was a really nice adult camera– her face lit up and she instantly started making plans.

One of the highlights of my day is hearing Megan’s laugh. She has a normal giggle. But when she is really pleased she lets out this high pitched squeal that lights up the room.

Megan and I connect through exploration. She loves adventure and I love going on adventures with her. Whether its looking for shells at the beach or looking for the perfect toy at Target– we bound when we’re just checking things out and being quiet.

At school, Megan takes after her mom. She is a quiet achiever. She’s that student in class who doesn’t say much, takes the teacher literally, and is so competitive she has to be the best at everything or she won’t sleep at night.

Paul - 1000% boy at age 6

Paul is six. He is our complicated boy. We probably spend 25% of every day trying to figure him out. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. He is full of dichotomy. He loves to cuddle and be quiet. But he’s always ready to wrestle and try to kick some butt. He is fully engrossed in everything he does. But he is always listening to every noise in the house to see if there is something he can jump in on. Developmentally, his life is all about fairness. As soon as he perceives the slightest slight he pouts, “That’s not fair!”

Paul has a deep hunger. Since the day he was born he has been hungry. And  for as long as I can remember his first words every day are either “What can I eat?” or “What can I do?” Unlike his sister he likes all things spicy.

Paul has fully embraced life in his school. I’m pretty sure he likes spicy things because his latino classmates love spicy things too. “Can I get hot cheetos?” “Can we go to Mexico this weekend?” The kids school is representative of the diverse community we live in. And Paul seems to really enjoy that most of his classmates speak Spanish, Swahili, Vietnamese, or one of the multitude of other languages spoken by students at Darnall.

Like his sister, Paul stands out academically. But he’s also a lot like me in struggling to know how to ask to be challenged. He’d rather get his work done early and mess around than ask his teacher for the next challenge.

Paul’s life is dominated by his loves. He loves his Nintento DS. (It’s the first sound we hear nearly every day in our house. He wakes up about 5 to start playing.) He loves playing hard with dad. (Wrestling, boxing, etc) He loves playing games on the computer and watching Cartoon Network.

Paul and I connect best through quality time. Whether its going to Home Depot or playing a video game or planting tomatoes in the garden– Paul loves 1-1 time with dad and I love 1-1 time with Paul.

Paul is also our family elephant. He never forgets a detail. “Daddy, you promised two days ago to give us our allowance if we cleaned our rooms, we cleaned our rooms and you haven’t given us our allowance yet.” Or “Remember when you said we could go back to Legoland sometime? When? What day?

Our kids fascinate us. They challenge us. They force us to grow. They are the best accountability partners, ever. They are not our gods but we are thankful to God that we get to enjoy them and pour our hearts into them.

And as I look at them I’m left– over and over again– speechless.