Stepping in Destiny.

During our 4 day road trip Steve and I had a chance to talk about a lot of things. One of them was about our evenings.

What had begun as a mindful disregard of what the kids were up to in order to encourage their independence had devolved into a chaotic mess.

In short, we had no evening, routine and we were all paying the price. Legos: everywhere. Table: cleared but not CLEAN. Homework: potentially done, but probably not in backpacks. Teeth: brushed in a rush. Books: squeezed in to one kids with the other hopping around on one foot trying to pull up his pjs whining “wait” “Wait” “WAIT”. Contributions: largely ignored until the weekend. Yes, the kids were master of their destiny, but their destiny was getting all over our floor.  And it hurt to step on.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but for a while we really were stumped about what to do.

If only someone had created a family friendly app where you could set a routine, and then make everyone accountable.


So we built a marble jar. And on day three I will tell you things are  great. I broke my own main rule and Steve and I set the thing up without the boys. I plead the “they were being quiet in the car and in 18 hours this was our first peace” argument. Ideally the whole family agrees to the actions together.

Marble Jar Action list for evening routine
If you could scroll down you would see 5 mins general tidy

We added four marbles for the actions that we all needed to take, like clear the table, and 2 for the boys schoolwork, and one for group tasks such as washing the dishes. Each night we fill the jar, and if it is before 7:30 we get free time. Which for the past three nights has been used to watch “performances” where my son who is tone deaf goes on for 17 minutes and my son who can carry a tune goes on for 17 seconds.

The next night we copy the jar and are ready to go again. I wish I had taken a picture of the desk area before night one of the 3 night general tidy. Here it is post night 2: 

Just imagine each and every one of those legos on that rug. Ouch. After three day and 30 minutes a day we also have clean bathrooms,2 folded (and mostly put away) loads of laundry thanks to Oliver, Stainless polished appliances, and nothing at all on the floor of the main level of our house.

But you should see upstairs.

We have also had a great time doing “school stuff” where Oliver does his homework and Leo practices writing. Although it is worksheet central it feels good to have a dedicated time. Despite not creating the list the boys are IN. They like to set the timers, and cheer each other on. During the group cleaning period the first day Leo sat on a bench and opted not to clean. We were a little stumped so we asked the boys how to keep it fair. They decided that not participating during group clean meant that that person had to do double the time cleaning alone when the jar was all full except that one marble. That has worked so far.

Like every tool the marble jar app has come in and out of favor in our household…but there is no questions it is helping us practice a better evening routine, work together, and celebrate each other’s accomplishments.

Upon reflection maybe the “10 Mins School Stuff ” action should have 3 possible marbles not 2.




Inside the App-tors Studio: Blogalicious11 Slides

What works in person…unscripted, non-bullety slides, doesn’t translate so well online. Please ask questions in the comments and we will try to conjure the technomagical moments again. You were an incredible crowd! Thank you.

My totally transparent iPhone app marketing efforts part 1

Wow guys.

What a painful first phase. After spending 6 months scouring the internet for independent developers who were disclosing their marketing secrets and their iPhone app sales numbers I came up with one. So I pledged to add Marble Jar to the general pool of info, which is really more puddle sized.

The app went live in the app store on June 23rd.

In the six months before launch I interviewed several ad networks who place download links for your app within other apps. They use fancy algorithms and promise a .29 cost per click. Or some such. Once I decided to price my app at 2.99 by throwing a dart at the wall. No, there was thought behind it, but that is another post. The return on investment went so far down that they wouldn’t even give me any stats. None. If there is an ad  network out there who can offer stats I would love to interview you, because I am totally open to paying for my success. (In ways other than I am paying for it now.)

So that left grass roots social media efforts pre-launch. Here are my prelaunch efforts. I am defining this time as April 15- June 23rd.

I built a splash page for $1,000. From April 15- June 23rd I had 460 visitors. That’s $2.17/ visitor. Which includes my mom. So probably more like $2.25.

I paid $2,500/ month for PR starting in mid April so that was $6,250 by launch time. In that time we drafted messaging and a press release. No way to calculate an ROI on that yet.

I spent three hours a day five days a week tweeting, RTing, linking to relevant stories from my google reader.

If I give myself a $50/hr rate (lower than I would like but this is Vermont after all) that is $7500 in social media effort in ten weeks for a return of 170 facebook likers and 325 twitter followers. If you assume zero overlap (which is impossible, but it is not worth my $50/hr to figure that out) that is a cost of $15.15/friend. Stats on the value of facebook “likers” change but $3 is about right. So I am off by 5x. Go ahead. Go like the page. I will wait.

During that time I also ran a few facebook test ads. Mostly to determine marketing wording. I budgeted $30/day for 4 days for $120. They resulted in 22 of the above likers which makes those “my time in social media numbers” slightly wrong. So these 22 strangers cost $5.45 each to have on my page. Fixing the above numbers…lets use nine weeks to be consistent. That eliminates 64 likers the 22 from the ad campaign and the 42 I had prior to April 15th. so the fresh numbers are $15.61/ liker from my efforts. I guess advertising pays.

Moving on I decided to sponsor the Type A conference. I felt that the parent bloggers there would be my target audience and it would be fun to launch the app in public. Between sponsorship, mini notepads, plane tickets, hotel rooms, etc etc the conference cost $5000. The ROI is tough to determine.

While I was at the conference the app launched. Which takes us to the next marketing phase. I’ll call that the soft launch 6/23-7/12. I’ll cover that in the next post.



Cockpit Parenting

Christine Hassler’s article

Cockpit Parents: How they are driving 20 somethings into the ground.

in the Huffington Post confirmed my fears about the risks of overparenting.

We have all heard the term helicopter parents, and Christine has coined “cockpit” parents to describe those that do more than hover…but actually work the controls of the plane. Christine’s expertise comes with coaching and counseling 20somethings (often together with their parents), so she can speak directly to the risks of too much intervention.

Our kids are still young (5, 4 for one more week), so it is easy to hide behind actual physical safety as a rationale for intervening in all of our kids activities and choices. Use a sharp knife…not yet, climb those rocks…too high, pack your own lunch…not enough nutrition. It is easy to see how real risks (power tools) can slip slowly into areas that just need some training (using a sharp knife to prepare lunch.)

Our Marble Jar app is designed to start with an assumption of competence. Yes, you can sleep over at a friends house. As soon as you show us that you can respect your bedtime, brush your teeth, and take care of your things. Set a time for your kids to demonstrate that competence (and for you to train them if necessary…what does “respect your bedtime” look and sound like?)5 days in our house. Then you unlock the sleepover jar! YASA (yes as soon as) Woo hoo. We all celebrate.

Our boys (thanks to Parenting On Track) have already begun to develop a healthy relationship with money. They each receive their age in allowance each week. This money is NOT tied to household chores (those contributions are expected daily without compensation, it is simply part of being a family member) but rather to getting through family meeting. With their money they can buy what they want. Traditionally this features legos,or  star wars figures. It has also including donations to school, the food shelf, and each other. ( A worthy cause I guess.)

Spending, saving and giving are complicated life choices, and I really wish I had started practicing at age three. Without such training there are costs more than financial. Here Christine describes on example of a father son duo, whose mutual money entanglement has kept them both grounded.

Daniel, 29, and his father Peter came to me for coaching to work on cutting the purse strings. In our session, Peter confessed that he has realized how supporting Daniel financially has actually cost both of them: “All the while I thought I was helping Daniel by giving him the unconditional support I never got, but always wanted from my own father. Now I realize I have actually crippled my son and put us both in a situation that is hard for us to get out of.”

Like everything worthwhile stepping back, recognizing your kids’ competence and capability and seeing yourself as flight instructor (with a finite number of flying lessons) rather than co-pilot can be difficult for everyone. Christine’s conclusion:

Changing your parenting style may result in your child not liking you as much for a while, but remember that growing pains lead to growth. The job of a parent is not to be liked, but to empower children to learn how to like themselves. I can assert from both personal and professional experience that the 20-somethings who are able to financially and emotionally support themselves have increased levels of self-esteem, happiness and success in their life.

So that is our task parents. If your kids aren’t ready for something, instead of “no” ask each other how to say yes. What is the “as soon as” that will allow them to start practicing all of the skills necessary to fly on their own?