Project Create My Own Job

I believe I can FLYYYYYYY

There are a couple Charleston moments I want to capture here before they disappear into the murky mist that is my brain, but the only one I feel capable of doing justice tonight is this one:

Everyone wanted to know about the bakery and everyone wanted to help. Everyone. Marketing, graphic design, relatives who started coffee shops who'd love to email with me, Kickstarter campaigns, fundraising - Noemi even knows a local coffee distributor. 

POSSIBLY I am tearing up as I write this. I didn't expect anyone to think this was something that might actually happen. Least of all myself, right? Right now this bakery only exists in the imaginations of my sister and me and chances are high it doesn't go anywhere else. But every time I talk about it - which is hard, because ACK, I am publicizing my future FAILURE - it gets a little more real. I have yet to talk to anyone who doesn't think it's a good idea, but you guys make me feel like we could actually pull it off. You're our customers, you're the people we want to be there, you want to come, and you want to help. It's just amazing to me. 

I MIGHT burst into song. 

We're going to call it Thumbprints. I bought a URL. (Don't look. Nothing there.) I started a Twitter account and a Facebook page. I looked into branding packages on Etsy. We know what we want it to look like. (All the visioning Katie and I did two weeks ago came to life when I stepped into the Sugar Bakeshop in Charleston to pick up the Friday night cupcakes. Seriously. I took pictures of their set up. I pestered the staff.) 

I feel like it's a good idea that can only go sour because of the vast inexperience and naive optimism of the CFO, a totally unqualified and un-profit-oriented English major. But thanks for believing in us, Internet, especially you Blatheringers. I am really truly touched. 

In which no one is surprised I like not working

I am really truly super duper SO happy that I did not get that job. Does that sound strange? It does to me. It's the sort of thing I would go around telling people so that I wouldn't feel stupid for NOT getting the job - except this time it's true. It was the perfect job and it was only two and a half days per week and I am so relieved I'm not doing it. 

I love staying home with my kids, that's true, and I'm loving staying home with Emma. And I'm glad our family is still running the way we're used to it running - something that would have changed a lot (even with only two and half days per week) if I were working. 

At the same time, I don't think that's really why I'm relieved. Just that I didn't want to leave my baby or disrupt our life. There's something else, although I'm sort of embarrassed to say it. But I think it's something like: this way all the possibilities are still open. Aiiieeee, I'm a dork! WHAT POSSIBILITIES, you are thinking. YOU ARE A 34-YEAR-OLD SAHM WITH A MORTGAGE AND A PANTRY FULL OF KRAFT MAC & CHEESE. 

So for starters, if I were working, even two and a half days per week, I'm pretty sure I would be totally overwhelmed by this bakery thing (instead of just moderately overwhelmed) and a lot less inclined to investigate it. 

But I think there's also a way I would feel like, "Well, this is what I do now. New phase of life: Part Time Working Mom." I'd want to make friends with everyone at the school. I'd know all the gossip. I would definitely like the paycheck. It would be the thing I talked about. I would like it. I'm pretty sure I would like it a lot and seriously you guys, perfect job for the un-career-minded mom, yes? Yes. 

I just don't think I WANT that yet! Do you know what I mean? Okay, 2 caveats: 1) I am ENTIRELY grateful and very much aware of the privilege I have in getting to choose, I KNOW and 2) it's not like I'm committing to some 10-year plan or something. I could try it for a year and quit! That would be fine! I could do something else!

My brain doesn't really work like that though. I'm the hard core committed sort. I don't really LIKE to dabble or experiment or try things out. God, I sound like a huge entitled idiot. I KNOW THIS. I'm trying to figure out what I mean. Or think. I guess, BECAUSE I didn't get that job I can still potentially do something... crazy. Like open a bakery. 

AND I can go to Charleston for the Blathering, I can say yes to all the prayer retreats and conferences, I can still IMAGINE things. I'm not saying I couldn't imagine things if I were working, or that a job means you're tied down and can't do anything else, but I think for ME, that's sort of how I view it. I'm doing THIS now. I have to put the other things aside. 

Instead I am waking up in the middle of the night stressing about things like five-year financial projections and how much it costs to rent commercial space (omg a lot). I was totally available for a friend who had a family emergency last week. I get to see my sister and my niece all the time. I'm exercising (mostly). I'm helping with a couple different projects that belong to other people and would you believe I've considered writing again? Writing somewhere other than HERE? 

People have started asking Katie and me if we're serious, no really, SERIOUS serious, about the bakery. We say that we are seriously exploring the option. I think if we decide it's possible? Then we're serious. And I love LOVE having the freedom to zoom in on that one thing and give it my all. 

The principal asked me again if I want to sub and maybe I will do that off and on. And maybe there will be another opening next year and maybe I will want it then. I have no idea. Or maybe something entirely different will come up. Or maybe I'll have a giant bank loan in my name and stress ulcers from starting a small business. WHO KNOWS. 

I know I'm so lucky. I know I know. 

Please leave us some Future Bakery feedback!

Katie and I got together this morning and talked a blue streak about our bakery. Also, as we strolled our babies to a coffee shop to discuss the menu, we peeked in the windows of some brand new prime retail space. In a perfect neighborhood. With parking. And the right "look". Having an actual space to envision made it feel that much more real. I keep thinking "we couldn't possibly afford that space/neighborhood" but I kind of think we need that space/neighborhood to be successful. 


I do feel inspired, though. It's exciting. It could HAPPEN.

We talked about everything from hiring someone to write a business plan to what happens if we start fighting to decor. There are a couple things I want to share with you and then I'm hoping you can answer some questions Katie and I came up with, a sort of What Would You Want In Your Bakery Survey. MARKET RESEARCH!

Okay so first of all, here are the things we WANT out of and for our bakery. 

  • Comfortable, welcoming, laid back atmosphere for families. Blah blah blah, you know that already. We've dialed back the play space details, but still intend to have small tables and chairs, toys, books, kid-friendly food. 
  • Active in the community. It would be so awesome if we were successful enough to donate money/product. Be a gathering place for community events. 
  • Treat our employees well. Just a few things from Katie's experience in food service that we want to do better - scheduling, pay, communication, feedback. I read an article in a baking magazine (!) about a shop that keeps even its part time baristas informed about finances and goals and how everyone feels invested. Here I am knowing absolutely nothing about business, but that sounds good to me. 
  • Sell delicious baked goods with a little imagination. Not so much imagination that you're not sure you want to try that scone, but enough to keep things interesting. A good mix of sweet and savory grown up treats and kid-sized/kid-friendly items. We decided it's important to have salads (and probably soup) at lunchtime, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables for our kid bento box lunch ideas, but we're focusing on cookies, quickbreads, scones, muffins, pastry. 
  • Special order cakes. But we have opinions about cake and we don't want to be the shop that transfers Disney princess images onto frosting OR the shop that makes giant architectural displays covered in seamless fondant. We like cakes that look like cake and cakes that taste good. We're going to feel this out as we go, but it's good to have some parameters in mind. (Of course, if it turns out the kinds of cake we like aren't the kinds that sell, we are more than willing to change our minds!)

All that said, Katie and I have a few questions about MENU. If you could answer any of these questions, via comment or email or text or messenger pigeon, we would be so grateful. 

  1. Are you interested in standard well-known items (blueberry muffins) or items with a twist (like, uh, blueberry PEACH muffins)? 
  2. At a bakery cafe, what do you want to buy your child in the morning and what do you want to buy at lunchtime? I am the mom who buys her kid the M&M cookie at 9am at Panera, so I am most interested in the answers to THIS question. ANSWER THIS ONE.
  3. What's your favorite treat to get at bakeries?
  4. Are gluten-free options important? How much of a variety is necessary?
  5. Do you expect your bakery to be Mostly Dessert or have a lot of pastry/savory items as well?
  6. What sorts of things would you want to pick up from a bakery on your way to some place else? Just the other day I wanted to buy a bunch of scones to bring to a friend and couldn't think of anywhere but the grocery store. (Oh, I should mention we are not doing bread.) 

AND! If you have any other ideas/questions/advice/thoughts, please share them! Any time. Whenever. We are interested in everything. Like Katie says "what about noise?" and I say "what about it" and she says "do you think it will be too loud?" and I say "well, the space we're thinking of isn't THAT big and also noise doesn't bother me much" but what do YOU think? 

I will be sitting here investigating financing. BLARGH.

In which THANK GOD I did not sell my double stroller (WAIT. NOT PREGNANT.)

There's this new apartment building nearish my house, one of those huge complexes with commercial space underneath, and I keep wondering how big one of those spaces might be, what the rent is, would it have a kitchen? 

Even though Katie and I are seemingly light years away from opening our own bakery. For one thing, Katie just recently got a job. (MAKING PIE.) And for another, we have very small children. One of whom has been High Needs since birth, another who has only become a clingy separation-anxious mess in the last month or two. I guess I have those two other kids, but they're a breeze compared to the babies. 

And I'm babysitting my niece once a week now. I have been ready and willing to do so since she was born, I'm DELIGHTED to spend extra time with her, and one of my great hopes is that she and Emma will be good friends. 

So the first time was two weeks ago and THANK GOD my mom was here. I came down with the worst cold I've had in forever and I could barely take care of my own kids let alone Lil Miss FPC. I basically laid face down on the couch while my sainted mother did all the work. 

Last week my BIL took the day off - no babysitting for me!

THIS week I am back on the schedule and my mom is not going to be here. Fortunately I am feeling much better. Unfortunately Lil Miss FPC is going through an even clingier than usual phase. Fortunately I am prepared with an Ergo, a Baby FPC-friendly agenda, sunshine, and many many cheese cubes. Unfortunately Miss EJ is making me crazy with the clingy. Fortunately I still have my double stroller! Unfortunately EJ isn't particularly fond of being within striking distance of her cousin. Fortunately I've already informed my sister that I may take up day drinking and she was cool with it. 

We'll see, right? I think the largest part of the battle, for me, is just making it abundantly clear to myself that I will get nothing done on Thursday except keep one big girl and two smaller ones fed, clean, dry, and reasonably happy. (If Baby FPC chooses to sob all day long that's just going to be her own fault.) There will be no digging in the yard, no folding clothes, no brilliant blog posts written, at least not between the school day hours when I have Baby FPC. (And let's be honest, it's not like I'm cleaning bathrooms or doing dishes on the other days anyway.)

AND THAT'S FINE. It really is. So many days I want to feel responsible for nothing else except keeping everyone alive and now I get to do that on a regular basis! But I know it's going to be rough, at least until Baby FPC either lightens up or resigns herself to spending a few hours with her horrid aunt once a week. Katie and Baby FPC were just here this afternoon and there was shrieking and howling when Katie got up and went across the ROOM. This does not bode well for the person staying with Baby FPC when Katie is across TOWN. 

She better bring me some pie. 

Anyway, all of that to say: how in the WORLD are the two of us going to find the time and energy to open a BUSINESS? We always knew it was kind of crazypants, but hanging out with our two babies today it felt like triple crazypants. Not that they'll be this way forever, but will there ever be a time when we feel like we HAVE time? I have no idea. A lot of the grand ideas are fleshed out (as fleshed out as they can be at this point) so a lot of the initial excitement has waned. I already know what we're going to serve. I already know what I want it to look like. There's not a whole lot left to imagine. But who knows when we'll be able to start making it REAL. 

Giving myself a coffee shop pep talk

After our foray into Pricing Out Bulk Food Items, I totally lost interest. Well, it was more like the coffee shop idea was a drawer that was half open, and while I was trying to figure out if I wanted to open it all the way, it started closing by itself, slowly, but then tightly. And then, you know, superglued itself shut. 

A thing or two happened in the meantime which gave me a bit of breathing room. Not that I needed it. The excited urgency I felt was gone. Maybe we would do this later, like in a few years, when I was smarter and more capable and knew all the knowledge. 

Then about a week ago I was sitting in one of the few coffee shops we visit that has a kitchen and bakes in house. I watched them do their thing - a family, I think, and covered in flour and very busy, but laughing and cheerful. And I thought: okay, yeah, maybe that still sounds exciting.

And this morning we went to a new bakery (well, new to me) nearby and it was small, but bright and friendly and my coffee was good. It looked like a bubble tea shop, if you've ever been in one, with the couch and the TV and the board games. The owners are Vietnamese and they sell banh mi and steamed buns which Yelp raves about. (It was a smidge too early for banh mi, so I couldn't form my own opinion.) They had a measly and somewhat unattractive array of doughnuts and cookies and I thought: we could do better this. 

While Molly played a game on my phone and Emma drew all over a menu and we killed time before preschool, I sat there rethinking my Stance. I rethinked it all the way to preschool and back. And now I am sitting here writing it out so I can more clearly confront my own self and my deepset terror of Not Being Good At Something. 

Once you tell people you want to open a kid-friendly bakery/coffee shop, everyone starts telling you about the kid-friendly bakery/coffee shops they know. When I thunk up the Original Idea, I knew of two. Now I know... a dozen, seems like. And they're FANCY. They charge fees to play in the play areas. They have classes. They have babysitting nights. They sell T-SHIRTS. One in particular didn't start out charging a fee to play, but now it does. And I started to think: a simple kid-friendly bakery/coffee shop does not appear to be a profitable endeavor. You have to do all this EXTRA stuff to sustain yourself. Hrrmmm.

And even though none of these kid-friendly bakery/coffee shops are anywhere near me, I started to worry about competition and how to stand out. What would WE have that they WOULDN'T HAVE. I didn't worry about having customers, I worried about making sure our customers left and new ones came in. I got bogged down in food details, when that is CLEARLY the FPC's department and SHE is not bogged down. I worried about profit margins and catering to Seattle Moms and birthday parties and disinfectant and paying employees.

But when I started worrying about other coffee shop owners rolling their eyes at us, worrying about People In General thinking this was the dumbest idea ever and I have no experience and why in the world do I think I can pull this off and I CAN'T and OBVS I SHOULD JUST STOP THIS CRAZYTALK! Yeah. That's when I realized, today, that it wasn't really a No Longer Interested it was a Too Scared Of Failure To Be Interested. AKA: The Curse of a Three

A lot of people, I'm sure, would think that is a PERFECTLY acceptable reason to back off. I think it is too. Just not for me. Too many times I let the possibility that I won't get an A+ in something keep me from even trying. It is NOT a good reason for me. Not enough money? Not enough time? Not a GOOD time? Honestly no longer interested? Yes, good reasons. But the fear of looking foolish, the fear of not getting it right the first time, the fear of not being the best - BAD REASONS.

Okay, barfy phrase alert: the "place of growth" for me, is to recognize and "honor" (SORRY AGAIN!) my own wants, without being hampered by what I think other people think I should want (or feel or do or say or be.) 

I still envision a bakery with a huge display case full of goodies. A big space with tables, chairs, couches, and little play centers scattered about. A cheery face behind the counter. A simple coffee menu. Decor by Ikea and my mother's sewing machine. A chill storytime once or twice a week (my mom has already volunteered), but no classes and fees and parents' night outs and special events - hopefully we can make enough money on bacon cheddar scones, bento box kid lunches, peanut butter and jelly muffins, and birthday cake special orders. A place to hang out on a rainy morning. Staffed by family and friends. And, because I want everything I do to glorify God, a place of ministry without it necessarily being Ministry. A place that is good for the community, that gets to know its customers, that donates, is ethical, is open to being something more than a kid-friendly bakery/coffee shop, that can fill a need.

I'm still in. It doesn't have to be like the one in Queen Anne or the one in Bothell or that new one I just heard about in Lynnwood, it can be OURS. It can be what WE want it to be. And if I stop fretting for two minutes, I'm pretty sure that what WE want is a super good thing. 

In which someone needs to pour me a drink and rub my feet

Today I am overwhelmed by the coffee shop idea. I think it has something to do with the aisle - AN ENTIRE AISLE - of Torani drink syrups. 

I want to throw all these thoughts and ideas at you and see what you think. But first I should say that the idea has morphed a little, from a coffee shop with homemade treats, to a bakery that also sells coffee. I suppose this was always the vision, seeing as how both the FPC and I are infinitely more interested in flour, sugar, and butter than we are coffee beans. Also that both of us have worked barista jobs and aren't particularly excited about doing it again. (GOOD PEOPLE TO START A COFFEE SHOP, EH?!) We've had a lot of fun dreaming up a menu - baked goods, snacks, lunchy items, kid-friendly and kid-sized bento boxes even - and the coffee is... well definitely not an AFTERTHOUGHT, but not the focus. I think that's okay. 

And it's not a cafe. We don't want to do REAL food. We will have some TYPES of real food, and things you could order for your kids' lunch that you could feel virtuous about, but we won't be making to-order sandwiches and that sort of thing. After all, the FPC and I are the sort of people who would eat a croissant followed up by a brownie for lunch. Our working name is Little Cousins Bakery & Playroom. Please, I beg you people to think of something better. 

So a BAKERY, that sells coffee and encourages you to sit down in our, hopefully, large space full of chairs and tables and couches and things for your kids to do and play with. Which reminds me of the most troubling aspect of this whole thing - I'm not worried about getting customers, but I AM worried about getting enough customers in and out of the store. From what I've read, coffee shops make money by selling lots of coffee. (You can tell I did not go to business school.) And that means getting people in and out. I can see this being the sort of place where there isn't really a quick turnaround. This is why I think it has to be a pretty large space, to accommodate a lot of people who might want to stay on a rainy day. A large space costs more. So. Blargh. 

Other worries: 

  • Even if we wipe things down and disinfect the toys ten times a day, is that enough to kill germs/calm the parents?
  • Is it prohibitvely expensive to lease a commercial space with a kitchen? Is this why hardly any of the coffee shops I go to sell their own treats?
  • What kind of liability insurance will this require?
  • What happens if you take out a small business loan and then, ah, can't pay it back? *bats eyelashes*

Honestly, my biggest personal thing to figure out is if I have the TIME. I'm not a total idiot. I know that people who open small businesses are working crazy hours to get it off the ground. Even if they have employees, no one works harder than they do. And I'm also aware that as hard as I think I'll have to work, the truth is that I'll probably have to work twice THAT hard. 

But! In our house, Phillip's career is the priority and because I do what I do, he's able to move up and ahead and do what he needs to do. It would be a big sacrifice for our family, either in terms of time or money or Phillip's commitment to HIS work - likely all three - if I were to devote all my free time and energy (and more than what I currently have free, of course) to opening a bakery with my sister. I'm not sure I want to go there. This isn't my long time pursue-at-all-costs dream. Also, Phillip works a job that pays actual money, whereas I am good at thinking of things to do that will COST us money. 

I can't really figure that out, though, unless I figure out what it will take to open a bakery. Maybe we can hire enough help so that we can still be parents too. Which is why the FPC and I went out to price things today. We meant to price out equipment and ingredients, but the restaurant store isn't open on Sundays. So we went to the Cash 'n Carry instead and maybe it was a good thing that we only did that because DUDE. OVERWHELMED. 

We went to the Cash 'n Carry because the FPC's former boss would go there when that bakery was low on supplies. It was... well you go in sort of expecting everything to be labeled ACME, but to my surprise there were actually a lot of name brand items, as well as things I had absolutely never seen before. Pouches of bavarian creme filling? That are not refrigerated? Powdered lactose-free soft-serve mix. Enormous bags of specialty flour. Vats of frying oil. Buckets of baking powder. And an aisle of Torani drink syrups, every imaginable flavor, four dollars and eight cents each. 

The FPC went down each aisle with her notebook and pen, writing down useful information, while I went around taking photos with Instagram and exclaiming over sizes and amounts and OMG that is a CRAP TON of soy sauce! (Not useful.) 

In the car on the way home we talked about how the FPC would translate her notes into "how much stuff we need and how much it will cost" and it just sounds like... well, for one thing, a lot of math. But everything is an estimation and we've never done this before and I am OVERWHELMED. I keep telling myself that OTHER people open coffee shops and bakeries and they are not ALL smarter than me, but yeah, right now I'm feeling fairly uneducated. 

At least when we go to price out equipment those will be one-time costs and not this, you know, five bags of flour per week or whatever it is that we'll need. 

Since I've been talking about this with real life friends, I've found out that one kid-friendly coffee shop is out of business and one is now charging for playtime. We are not interested in either of those things. I'm worried that this is a great but not terribly profitable idea. 

I'm just overwhelmed. I don't quite know what to do next. I feel like I have to figure out all the stuff that scares me, like the capital and the accounting and insurance and rents and omg buying and learning to use a CASH REGISTER. I can't think about anything FUN because those things are FUN and if all I do is think about the FUN parts I'll never get anywhere. I have to concentrate on how HARD it will be and how TIRING and STRESSFUL and EXPENSIVE and RISKY and then, I suppose, if I'm STILL interested, then I guess I really AM interested. Or I have what it takes. Or I could try and SEE if I have what it takes. 


Okay, so my next steps are: 

1. Invite some friends to dinner, one of whom is writing a business plan to open his own sports bar, for reals. He's currently the assistant manager at an Actual Restaurant and Isn't A Dummy. Pick his brain. 

2. Read. Google. Make lists. 

3. Start putting a business plan together, piece by piece, investigating as we go. Phillip is excited about this part, thank God.

4. Talk to the owner of one of the kid-friendly coffee shops I know about. According to the FPC, people in the food business LOVE to talk about being in the food business and will most likely LOVE being The Expert and telling us all about their experience. 

I think that's what I need/want most. To talk to someone who's done it before. Even if it's not quite exactly the same. Can you be a mom of young children and pull this off? Can you be successful? Can it be simple or do you have to add in birthday parties and classes and other stuff to make money? Do you have to have EVERY flavor of Torani syrup?

When I grow up

Just so you know, I am still "looking into" this bakery cafe playroom thing and I continue to tell more real life people that I am "looking into" it and that's how you know I am still not in posession of my right mind. FYI. 

One thing I realized at Urbana was that if I'd gone as a student I would have FUH-REAKED OUT. I didn't have a husband or kids or a mortgage, no responsibilities, just a totally blank (VERY BLANK) future infinitely before me, like a Personal Antarctica or something. I really had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up (still don't, actually) and the myriad possibilities at Urbana, plus the constant invitation to devote a year or two or ten to missions, plus the pressure I would put on my own self to be what Urbana thought I should be (THREEEEEEEEEEE!!!) I would have self-combusted. I had an excellent time, but I'm glad I experienced it as an adult with a husband and three kids and a mortgage and, therefore, way fewer options. This is a GOOD thing. 

But still, you wonder what you want to be when you grow up. 

The last several years I have tried very very hard to think of myself as a Mother. I mean, I AM a mother and I am very happy with my SAHM status, but "just being a mom" has never EVER felt like The Only Thing I'm Supposed To Do. It's one reason why I stopped reading a lot of blogs where the author was a religious SAH homeschooling mom-of-many, because there was a way I felt like that was the RIGHT way to do the mom thing, and clearly THAT was not going to happen at Chez Cheung. Like that was the way to make the most of your vocation, you know? And I hope you know I am not disparaging those mothers. I stand in awe of them, I bow down, I salute them. The gifts they have are not my gifts.

(Can you even IMAGINE if I tried homeschooling Jack? We would need two padded cells within a week.)

Then again, I've never been the mom who is itching to get back to work or the career, I've never aimed for anything, I am very much an Introspective Slacker, which is obvs how I got into this blogging thing. So it's kind of a weird place to be in, to feel like There Is More To Me Than Being Mom and But Nothing Else Sounds Good/Seems Right. 

Honestly, a Bakery/Cafe/Playspace does not at ALL sound like The Thing I Am Supposed To Do. I know absolutely NOOOOOOTHING about running a business. Pretty much the only thing I know I'd be good at is 1) cleaning and 2) making sure our business has a social media presence. FPC informs me that that's important, but it doesn't feel like quite the right skillset, you know? 

I thought I was supposed to be a writer. 

I thought I was supposed to teach English overseas. 

I thought maybe I should "just be a Mom". 

I thought I was maybe supposed to create a lovely home and support my husband's career. 

I thought I might work for a politician. 

I definitely thought I would travel. 

I suppose the right answer is that we do a lot of things in our lives, that everything has a season, that I can't be everything I'm supposed to be in one year, that I'm not even really SUPPOSED to DO anything. I can do all of that, I can do some or none of it. Though that's the stumbling block for a Three: if she isn't DOING anything (and doing it well), she's pointless, a waste of space, not valued, unloved.

I have an Urbana/prayer/Three/value post in the works. It's hard going, but I'll get it out eventually. What is the thing that I DO? What is the thing that I AM? The end of that post will tell you that right now I'm somehow - miraculously, even - okay with the absence of an answer. 

Or, rather, I am just beginning to comprehend the actual truthful answer. 

I had to sleep on it

I'm coming off a really good day, Internet. Look at that! It happens sometimes!

I wrote a big long introspective navel gazey post last night and I'm glad I didn't publish it. Blargh. It was good and helpful for me to write it, but yeah, I don't need to insta-publish ALL my self-absorption. And today I feel like my head is sitting squarer on my shoulders - probably in large part because I DID write it all out. It was a big angsty mess of Entrepreneurship, Type Three Personality, Things I Know About Myself, Things I Have Yet To Learn. You: sigh of relief! 

But toDAY... yes. Today is better. 

Just so you know, and I will TRY not to make it the topic of every post but it JUST MIGHT BE: 

The cafe idea? I think I'm going to try it. (GAK.) After I was done writing it out and slept on it, I decided my idea is not stupid, has potential, and I'm going to look into it. FOR REALZ. My sister is going to come up with a menu and a list of equipment. I'm going to read more, look more stuff up, and pick the brains of everyone I know. A little later on, if we're still feeling it, I'm going to contact the owner of a similarish establishment and pick HER brain. 

You know what's been the most awesome about the entire thing? Not one single person has said, "Dude, that is a REALLY dumb idea." I don't mean that the cafe is dumb so much as ME RUNNING A BUSINESS is dumb. Which it seems it totally should be. Even the people who KNOW me and should probably know BETTER have been nothing but encouraging. I was totally ready for someone, anyone!, to pop my balloon, but you guys, even my FATHER-IN-LAW told me today that I should look into it. His first recommendation to me was to get liability insurance because what if all those kids get hurt? and also what will I do when one of these crazy American mothers just LEAVES her kid there and DISAPPEARS? it happens! what will I do? probably call the police, but you know, something like that will really ruin my day! OHHHH, FIL. But he also told me I have a "good business angle" which is probably the best compliment he's ever given me. Better, at least, than the time he told me I'm much bigger than Chinese ladies so he hopes that denim vest he bought me in Hong Kong fits. 

The best thing I told myself yesterday was that it's OKAY to THINK. I can't fail at thinking. There is no "right way" to think about something. And I can talk about it without feeling like I'm committing to making it happen. Right? Right. 


Dudes, EJ is moving ALL OVER THE PLACE. Still no walking, and it's kind of sad that we're so excited about this because NEARLY SIXTEEN MONTHS, but she's pulling up! She's kneeling! She's moving forward on hands and knees! It's fun because this is all within the last week, it seems like. Just a giant spurt of FORWARD MOVEMENT and it's fun and exciting and she's super proud of herself. Whenever we try to get her to walk it's hopeless and looks like Hitler Youth goosestepping, but I have hope. HOPE!

Jack is doing MATH and it's AWESOME. Wait, more awesome than that is all the WRITING he does. You know, "writing", but it's still really neat. One of the best things about being a parent so far is seeing how far he's gone in just a few months. We went from resisting any attempt to read to ACTUAL READING. And he's sounding out and spelling and writing words, resulting in a heated discussion the other day re: is nose spelled NOSE or NOZ and guess who was NOT giving in? 

Molly, well, I'm pretty sure there is no kid sweeter than Molly. She can be a huge pill with her refusal to speak or look at you and bursting into tears over nothing all the time, but when she's being sweet she's being THE SWEETEST MOST ADORABLE THING. When we were over at my sister's discussing a cafe menu, I was confessing to the FPC that I treat Molly to something decadent nearly every morning (we HAVE to do something in between drop offs!) and FPC was all, "Whatever! She's four! It's precious!" and I was all, "IT IS!" As much as I feel like an irresponsible frivolous parent who is ignorant of the obesity crisis, I have loved every single minute of hanging out with Molly in coffee shops. I think when she goes to kindergarten I will be BEREFT. EJ better be walking by then. 

It's nice being home. It's nice having Phillip home. We have all these fun weekend plans for January, plans that require babysitters, and it's just FUN. Or today was just a good day. Or today I spur-of-the-moment-ish bought concert tickets for myself and one of my favorite friends from college WHO I HAVE NOT SEEN SINCE THEN and I'm, like, jumping up and down excited about it. Things like that can really improve one's mood. 

Thanks for being so supportive, Internet. I just love you. I hope you don't hate me when it turns out I write about nothing else. 

I made a Why and a Why Not List

I feel like that's a little different from a Pros and Cons. The Pros and Cons are obviousish, but not really helpful in deciding whether to take this idea further. But a WHY and a WHY NOT list... 


  • To create a welcoming community gathering space for, primarily, mothers and young children
  • To have meaningful work when my children are in school
  • To start a family business with my sister (both of us being the sorts who aren't into "real" jobs)
  • To have a space to donate/rent out/provide for meetings, studies, gatherings, retreats, community events
  • To (somehow) (eventually) be a positive force in the neighborhood, to minister to mothers. to make a difference in my community (barf)
  • To contribute financially to my family


  • I'm not sure how I can work the hours required for a start up business when I have a one-year-old at home and I do not want to put her in daycare.
  • Relatedly, a working mom (especially an entrepreneur mom) would mean big lifestyle changes for my family. Do we want that?
  • I am the opposite of a salesperson. No, really. I might be able to sell an idea in writing, but in person? To a lender? HAAAA Not to mention products. For the bazillionth time, I am not profit-oriented. 
  • I am not profit-oriented!
  • I have never managed, trained, supervised, led a staff (okay, even ONE OTHER PERSON). I don't know if I'm a good leader. 
  • Chatting with customers sounds fun - dealing with accountants, lawyers, bankers, maintenance people, wholesalers, etc. sounds intimidating and exhausting. 


  • Capital. I mean, I don't HAVE any, but if this is something I really want to do, I'm pretty sure I can find a way. Loans, investors, even federal grants for women-owned small businesses that benefit the community. 
  • The risk. I know. But if you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know my anxiety is triggered by things that happened forever ago that I can't change, not REAL things, like money or time. Eh! It all works out! (Phillip: CRINGING.)
  • The idea. I don't just want to open a coffee shop, I want to open a welcoming space to one demographic in particular, in an area where something similar does not exist. I feel like this is a GOOD IDEA. I think people would SHOW UP. One thing I never liked about my real jobs was that I never felt like I was doing something worthwhile. Even if I'm mopping my cafe bathroom, I feel like I'd be mopping my cafe bathroom for the benefit of, and because I care about, tired moms who just need to get out of their own houses. Does that make sense? 
  • Getting along with my sister. I mean, I'm sure there will be Strife, but it also sounds FUN and exciting and full of potential. Not to mention she makes AWESOME treats. 

And I'm sorry guys, I know you're probably all THREE DAYS OF THIS NONSENSE?! but it's just ON MY BRAIN and this is where I process everything! I bought small business how to books today! I still don't know if this is just another thing that I'm overly excited about (that I will, soon enough, become overly eye rolly about) (I have a lot of those things) or if it's something ... REAL. I have to write through it. 

By the way, I have loved - LOVED - every single suggestion and thought you've given me. I've put them all in a spreadsheet. Oh yes I have. So if you have more, don't be shy! Or if you have actually opened a cafe before and you're all, "OH GOD, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!" please send that along as well. 

Attention Deficit Disorder

You guuuuuys I am ALL OVER THE PLACE. The kids went back to school today and it seems like everything should be going back to NORMAL, but NO, I cannot focus on ANYTHING! This morning I'm all, "Let's buy all th plastic storage bins at Target and ORGANIZE!" Then I get home and google "how to open a coffee shop". Then I remember I'm supposed to be working on the Blathering website. And oh yeah, I signed up for the Biggest Blogging Loser and it starts today! Throw away those leftover tortilla chips! Wait, I really wanted to fix up Emma's room. Shoot, my paint Groupon expires in a week! I have to go buy paint! I have to paint my entry way! I wrote WHOLE BLOG POSTS about PAINTING MY ENTRY WAY! Ooh, someone sent me an email about coffee shops! Let's see what the other mom-friendly coffee shops are doing! Except maybe I will look at hotels in Leavenworth for a potential mid-winter break getaway with the kids? Do you think my parents would want to come? Or my sister? Is Leavenworth even all that FUN? Where should we go on our anniversary trip? CAN we go on an anniversary trip? Wait, didn't I just get back from Urbana? Where I had lots of thinky thoughts? Maybe I'm distracting myself with all this other unimportant stuff and I need to think about CHARACTER GROWTH and GOD.


Seriously, though, I don't know where to look first. In a way it's kind of nice, actually. I have stuff to do! And think about! And be excited about! PROJECTS! But I know I can't do everything, I also have three children, including a baby who continues to punish me for leaving her. Between the intense clinginess, the apparent (and most likely endless) transitioning to one nap, and the massive red lumps in her gums, she is sort of a mess. Which makes me feel like a mess. Also: this morning I had everyone in the car when I remembered I didn't pack Jack a lunch. Perhaps THAT'S the sort of thing that should be at the forefront of my mind. 

Right now I am still thinking about coffee shops. I wish I could know if this was Something Worth Thinking About or Something So Totally Ridiculous I Should Stop Wasting My Precious Brain Time. Last night I was all, "Phillip, you KNOW ME. Do you hear this coming out of my mouth and you are thinking to yourself OH WHATEVER, CRAZY WIFE!" 

Phillip, however, being a very diplomatic and middle-of-the-road and sees-both-sides type of person (a NINE) was all, "Welllllll, this is what *I* was thinking you'd have to do first" and THERE I GO AGAIN! NOT HELPFUL!

I can't do this right now. I need to work on a website. Jennie and Elizabeth have DEADLINES. 

This was a really bad time to stop eating sugar. (Not that I've done so great at that today. Of course.)

This morning we chose one of our not-perfect coffee shops to hang out in before preschool drop off. We were situated with our decaf drip and our blueberry scone and I was reading "The Poky Little Puppy" because this coffee shop has a little cabinet full of kid books, AND THEN. This lady came in with her two-year-old and struggled with him while she ordered coffee and a croissant and then tried to figure out which table would be the easiest with a baby and everyone else was focused on their laptops and my brain went all crazy bouncy again. 

Actually, what I really have to do is make dinner. Chicken stirfry with mushrooms and snap peas. HERE I GO.