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

We laughed when you were born

In the book of Genesis there are a lot of footnotes about people’s names. Some names refer to a character attribute while others refer to a physical attribute.

If we were to name Paul by such an attribute, one name might be: We laughed when you were born.

9 years ago today, Kristen checked into a hospital in Mt. Clemens (MI) to give birth to our second child. Since Megan was a big baby and her pregnancy with Paul had tracked pretty large all the way along Paul’s delivery was scheduled for induction on his due date. As the day progressed everyone kept bringing up the fact that Paul was a big baby.

When I think back to my son being born I just remember the joy in the room. Obviously, Kristen was very uncomfortable. But thanks to the drugs her pain didn’t sour her mood. Kristen and I were excited to meet Paul and the nurses and doctor picked up on our sense of humor/willingness to laugh. As labor progressed there were a lot of jokes told and laughing. Just like on a middle school camping trip… the mood had become slap happy! At a key time, just moments before Paul was born, a tiny heart monitor slipped off of his scalp and whacked the doctor right between the eyes! It was so gross, weird, and unexpected that it just sent us all over the edge. The room echoed with laughter as we all giggled at what happened.

And then Paul was born. We smiled, we wiped tears from our eyes, and we all just stared at this beautiful baby. And at 9 pounds 2 ounces— a big baby, too!

Paul turns 9 today. I’m positive he doesn’t want me to dwell on the moment he was born. (“Um, that’s weird dad! And kind of gross if you think about it.“) Yet, that sense of joy and fun that brought Paul into the world continues. Paul loves to have fun. He loves to giggle. He loves to tell jokes. In every way his birth was a precursor to his personality.

The past year has been one of tremendous growth for Paul. He’s overcome a lot of fears and dealt with a lot of things holding him back. I know it’s the right thing to say… “I’m excited for Paul for the next year.” But I really mean it. The past year was one of such tremendous growth and he’s in such a healthy place… his 9th year is set up to be truly fantastic.

So, I can’t wait to celebrate with him this week. On Saturday, we’re hosting a bunch of his friends for an afternoon of Laser Tag and lunch at In-N-Out. Dang, I want to be 9 again!

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
Christian Living

The Prize

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24

Ah, the prize! I am wired to win the prize. Well, sometimes I am.

Can I be honest? I’m better at running really hard than I am at knowing what the prize even is! Paul continues, “No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” Yeah, I’m certainly not beating my body about anything. (In the literal sense.)

I’ve never met anyone who is truly up to that challenge. Sorry Paul.

This passage, as familiar as it is, confuses me. It’s really clear what Paul’s prize is– winning souls. (v. 19) But that passage isn’t prescriptive and the language isn’t inclusive to assume that the prize/goal for every Christian is to preach to win lost souls.

It’s confusing because it is so direct yet so ambiguous.

Yet for the rest of us. For those who aren’t apostles. For those of us who aren’t hard-wired as preachers or evangelists… we want a prize, too!?! 

Get Your Prize!

I’ve learned to love Paul’s ambiguity. While 1 Corinthians describes this prize, Paul life had times where other prizes were his muse. The point wasn’t that his prize was THE prize it’s that God gave him a pursuit and he went after it with his all.

Let’s us cast off the silliness of prescriptive, exacting prizes and recklessly chase the prize God has laid on our hearts for today.

Don’t chase Paul’s prize. Chase yours.

Photo credit: Daniel Coomber via Flickr (Creative Commons)
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Categories
San Diego Living

Paul’s Fishing Trip

Kristen and I decided that we’d give each of the big kids an experience as part of their Christmas. So Megan is going whale watching with mom and I took Paul fishing out on the open ocean.

After a lot of research online I booked our day on the Daily Double out of Point Loma Sportfishing. (Yelp review) It was pretty reasonably priced and the reviews were good, especially for those with kids.

We weren’t disappointed! We both had a great time, made a lot of memories, caught some fish, and had plenty of stories to tell.

(click on the images to see them full-sized, sorry about the upside down ones!)

 

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
Christian Living family

When Daddy is Away

It’s inevitable.

All of the chaos happens when I leave town. 

On Monday afternoon Kristen dropped me off at the San Diego airport. All was calm and under control in the McLane clan. Leaving Kristen for 5 days with Megan, (10) Paul, (7) and Jackson (4 months) was hard. I really didn’t want to leave them. We all wished I didn’t have to do this trip. Not because I was dreading going on the trip or being in Minnesota but simply because it’s been so long since I’ve been away. And I’ve really loved being home more.

At the same time we were prepared for daddy to be gone for a few days and for Kristen to manage the kids, and the house, and her job, and the kids school. (They go year-round, getting out July 15th) The older two are growing very independent… helpful even. In many ways, when I’m gone is like an exam. Can they handle more responsibility? Let’s hope so because they need to! 

I checked in with Kristen Monday night when I landed in Minneapolis. All was calm and everyone was tucked in and sleeping away.

My Tuesday was rushed in visiting with all of my fellow co-workers at YouthWorks, meetings, the normal. Then I got a call from a weird 619 number. I let it go to voice mail but quickly checked it. It said, “Mr. McLane, this is the nurse at Darnall Elementary School. We have Paul here in the office and he’s been injured on the playground. We’ll need you to come get him as soon as possible. Please call us right away.”

My heart leapt and sank at the same time. My instinct told me to grab my keys and go get him. But my reality was that I’m a 4 day drive away. I quickly connected with Kristen, who was dashing to get him.

He had broken his arm in an accident on the playground. Our first ER trip as parents and I missed it.

Kristen and I exchanged a hundred text messages while they were at the ER. Paul and Amy, dear friends, came to the rescue and took Megan and Jackson for the afternoon. While Paul waited nearly 3 hours to get an x-ray and a cast… I wasn’t there. 

It seems like this always happens. Important things happen when daddy is out-of-town. Last year, Kristen was rear-ended while I was on a trip to Washington state. I’ve missed kids losing teeth. Or winning an award at school. Or epic small group nights with major breakthroughs. Doctors appointments when Kristen was pregnant. Bed times, quiet times, crazy times, thrills, spills, shrills, and the immediate stills of realizing it’d all be OK.

When daddy is away stuff happens. Life doesn’t stop at home. It’s inevitable. And it kills me. And while I know Kristen is a trooper/super power mom/amazingly strong woman who can handle it all I want to be there, with her, when these things happen. I want to be there.

What does this have to do with you?

Our Heavenly Father is the same way. While He never leaves us sometimes we go far from Him. And life moves on. Stuff happens, chaos reigns, victories occur, and sometimes bones break. For every bed time, quiet time, crazy time, thrills, spills, shrills, and the immediate stills of realizing it’ll all be OK– Our Heavenly Father wants the intimacy of sharing those moments with us.

His heart breaks for His children when they are away from Him. He wants to be there.

Maybe it’s time for you to come home? 

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

I’m going home tomorrow to Kristen and the kids. But maybe today you need to go home and be with your Father? 

Categories
Church Leadership family management

You need clarity and focus

Paul’s teacher has been on us for a few months to get his eyes checked out. She’d tell us, “He squints to see the board” or “He says he has to sit up front. I think he needs glasses.

I assumed, just like his big sister, that he’d need glasses eventually. Everyone in my family wears glasses. It’s an inevitability for McLane’s.

Until recently, he never complained about not being able to see well. When we asked him to read a sign or move back from the TV he’d just roll his eyes. In truth, there are a number of behavior issues we are dealing with, so we thought this stubbornness about sitting near the TV was just part of his personality.

It all made sense when I took him to Lenscrafters on Saturday. He was very excited and talkative about the appointment. As we waited for the doctor to see him, he was a nervous kind of chipper that we rarely see.

Then he did the pre-screening. He seemed to instantly shut down. There were four machines with simple tasks. In each of them he was excited to do it. But in each of them when the doctor asked him questions he just didn’t answer.

Uh oh, this isn’t going well.” I sent Kristen a text.

When the pre-screening was over I asked him why he didn’t answer any of the questions. “She was trying to trick me. I never saw anything like she was saying I should. I’m not going to answer and get an answer wrong, I only like correct answers.

That’s when I started to worry. It hit me. It’s not that he wasn’t trying. It’s that he had just failed all four of the pre-screening tests. Had we somehow missed something all along? Does my son have a vision problem?

My mind raced to connect the dots.

Then we went into the big room. The one with the hydraulic chair and big eyeglass contraption. The chair was on one wall and the chart with all the letters was on the other.

Paul, there are no wrong answers. This isn’t an eye test. We’re just seeing how we can help you see better. Is that OK?” He shook his head affirmatively.

She explained what all of the instruments were in the room– so he wouldn’t be surprised by anything. (My heart was pumping a million miles per hour!)

Paul, can you tell me if you see any letter on the wall right in front of you?

Letters? All I see is a white wall.”

She pulled a pen from her pocket and held it about 2 feet from his face.

Can you read the letters on this pen?

Of course I can, duh!” He was starting to have fun.

Within a few minutes she started dialing her contraption to discover the right lenses which would help Paul.

She flashed the first set in front of his face.

Ha! Ha! Now I see the poster on the wall. You weren’t tricking me.

On and on this went. Within a few minutes he was able to read the smallest letters on the chart with ease. First with one eye, then the other.

Finally, she made some measurements and pulled out two lenses from desk. Just as she was putting them in front of his eyes she said, “OK Paul, tell me what you can see now?

His face lit up. He quickly started looking around the room. “Wow! I can see everything.”

A smile was plastered on his face like one I’d rarely seen.

I beamed at his discovery.

The doctor turned to me and said, “Your son is profoundly nearsighted. But he doesn’t have a vision problem. He has a clarity and focus problem. Glasses are going to change everything.

That was a lightbulb moment for me. My mind started to race at all the times I’d taken him to sporting events or movies and he’d turned to me and said, “Can we leave? This is boring.” Or all of the blank stares when we pointed out historic sites. Or why he burned through quarter after quarter looking at New York City through those big binoculars. Or why he hated playing catch with me in the backyard. Or why riding his bike had always seemed so scary. On and on– the dots began to connect.

How many of the behavior problems that we pull our hair out over are tied to this one simple thing… He couldn’t see?

We will soon find out.

The hour between ordering his glasses and picking them up might have been the longest 60 minutes of his life. We wondered the mall aimlessly. And about every 2 minutes he’d ask… “How much longer?

Finally, the time came and the lab technician called his name. As he put the glasses on his face and the technician made adjustments to the frames, I could see his eyes shooting all over. He was reading and discovering everything in the room. It was a brand new world!

As we left the store he grabbed my arm. “Dad, look at those clouds!

What the moral of the story?

There’s a lot of talk in leadership circles about having strong vision. But vision without clarity and focus on purpose will lead you, your organization, and your teams to become near-sighted.

It’s one thing to have big vision. It’s another thing to back that up with clarity and focus.

Categories
family

Poll: Does Paul look like Harry Potter?

Categories
family San Diego Living Sports

Late night at SDSU vs. TCU

Paul pic, originally uploaded by mclanea.

We had a good time at the game last night. But a 7:30 PM tip off is just a little too late for a 7 year old.

Context: This picture was taken after everyone had left the sold out arena. We were seated directly next to the student section. They were loud and crazy from 30 minutes before tip off until the game was over. Like 100+ decibels.

Paul passed out at halftime. Yeah, right after Coach Steve Fisher caused the place to nearly explode by arguing to get the final play of the half reversed and SDSU to make a tip in basket. And he slept through the whole second half.

I carried him on my shoulders about a mile to our car. Through campus and rowdy students, over the bridge, and past all of the freshmen dorms. (Because I’m too cheap to pay to park in the lot.)

This morning, he was bewildered at how he got from the arena to the car. But I didn’t carry him because he can’t remember that.

I wouldn’t have traded time with him for the world.