Author: Katherine Bose

Katherine is a mom to a lovable, rambunctious and very curious 3-year old boy. “Why?” is his favorite question of late, which is a fun challenge for mom. Katherine likes to ask “why?” too, which might explain how she ended up as a case writer focused on entrepreneurship for Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB). She enjoys interviewing entrepreneurs and investors to uncover why some businesses succeed and others do not. Before business school, Katherine worked in marketing and branding, sales and business development roles for software maker Marimba, the World Affairs Council of Northern California, and Clorox. She plans to launch a toy company focused on children’s natural exploratory tendencies and parents’ desire to expose their little ones to other cultures, languages, geographies and histories. Katherine received her MBA and BA from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, Katherine studied Communication and International Relations and played on Stanford’s inaugural varsity women’s water polo team. She spent part of her time abroad in Paris, and loved every minute of it.

father’s day hot pants

My 4-year-old son and I recently were shopping on Tea’s website for some new pants and a few tops. He had worn two, giant holes in his only pair of jeans, so when he saw the Sora Denim jeans and the Waves Rider blue hoodie, he shouted, “Those, Mama! I want those, please.” As I was filling our online cart, it hit me—“Yikes, it’s nearly Father’s Day! I need to go shopping for the other man in my life.”

So, with pants on my mind, I browsed to the Bonobos site: www.bonobos.com. If you or a man you love hasn’t experienced Bonobos yet, you should. Founded by two Stanford business school alumni and based in New York City, this company is awesome. They offer a fun assortment of trousers with knock-out names and bold lining, they swear by the fit and comfort, and they extend 100 percent customer satisfaction guarantees. I quickly found some cute corduroys (dubbed “The Cordistans”) and handsome shorts (“Marlins, Long”) that my husband won’t dare wear while mowing the lawn (unlike every other pair of shorts he owns).

It’s pretty hard to beat checking off responsibilities like clothing your family by doing so online. The photography on both the Tea Collection and Bonobos sites is terrific, so you have a solid idea of what you’ll be getting in the mail. The clothes are well-made and attractive, which I just can’t say about the slightly more affordable mass retailers. Finally, I completely trust the companies to exchange anything that doesn’t fit.

How’s that for a happy Father’s Day?

brazil and soccer

With Tea Collection’s launch of its Brazil line, instead of daydreaming about warm, sandy beaches or Mardis Gras and Carnival, my mind wondered to soccer. Let me explain … I have a preschooler in the house.

Our son will be four in a few months, and this fall he participated in soccer school, which involved a 30-minute group lesson once a week. The program was offered by Soccer Shots (www.soccershots.org), and he absolutely loved it. So much so that he asked his grandparents for soccer cleats for Christmas. The shoes did not disappoint—shiny silver with red accents; I want a pair in my size, and I could be the world’s worst soccer player. To round out the outfit, my husband and I added a Francesco Totti jersey and shorts. (Totti is apparently a star player for Italy’s SA Roma team, which of course I didn’t know.)

Sometimes, we spot soccer games on television, occasionally with international teams. Our son is starting to understand what a country is and where a few are located, as we work his world map puzzle (made by Mudpuppy) on the floor a few nights per week. The puzzle has great imagery for kids, including a soccer player situated where Brazil would be. The puzzle does not name countries or include borders; it only names the continents and oceans, which saves space for all of the colorful graphics. It is helpful, though, that soccer is so beloved all over the world, because I have an excuse to explain to him that the game he enjoys so much is also adored by children and adults in almost every other country on the map. I am actually looking forward to next year’s World Cup, both as an opportunity to watch fantastic soccer with my son, but also as a shameless excuse to sneak in some geography lessons. Goooooooooal!

deck the halls—small

After the bubble burst in Silicon Valley early in 2000, people embraced frugality as the new decadence. Many cut back on personal spending in a variety of ways—brewing their morning coffee at home, mowing their own lawns, cleaning their own homes, and stretching the time between haircuts. I’ve heard my friends and colleagues taking those measures again lately, but this year is different. Really different. As we all know by now, the depth and breadth of the current economic crisis is much greater than the one that hit California almost nine years ago. It has clobbered every industry in every country on the planet. And the hits just keep on coming.

Knowing this, what can we parents do to educate our children (and ourselves) as well as protect them through what will likely be a long road to recovery? Further, can and should we start that process during the magical holiday season? It’s tempting on the one hand, because it’s such a rich opportunity to teach lessons of money management, geography, cause and effect, you name it. But, on the other hand, it sure feels “Scrooge-y” to dwell on circumstances completely out of the control of a preschooler, and worse still to somehow “punish” him for it at Christmas time. I read somewhere that parents will cut back their budgets everywhere else first before they touch toys or other holiday presents for their children. Childhood is viewed as sacred and so are the holidays that cater to young spirits.

I am all for supporting the traditions that contribute to the holiday magic, but not surprisingly, those traditions cost money. Lights on the house and Christmas tree and the energy to help them glow? Check. Said Christmas tree along with a wreath for the front door? Check. Presents for everyone? Check. Extra runs to the grocery and wine stores for parties and entertaining? Check. Holiday cards? Check. I love all this stuff, and it would feel totally alien to cut back at this time of year, but it is just stuff after all.

And, like all parents, my husband and I want to set a good example to our son. Part of that role is being responsible and thoughtful about what we spend money on, what we bring into our home, and what we give away. A small way we’ve tried to do this is by including him in some of the holiday preparations and shopping this year. We all went to get a Christmas tree together, of course, but this year we got a live tree, which we will leave in a planter and then plant in the yard after Christmas. We hope to save money on a tree next year, not to mention avoid cutting down a tree altogether. I understand that in parts of Europe, people decorate large, live, community trees as opposed to cutting down individual trees. I like this tradition.

For presents, my son and I discussed what his cousins, who are his age, enjoy and are interested in right now. For one cousin, it’s ballet. For another, it’s construction and yard work. His oldest cousin is a budding scientist and especially into reptiles. Together my son and I have tried to choose just a few gifts that will pack the most punch. All month at bedtime we’ve been reading books that tell old tales about winter celebrations from around the world. I’m always struck by how excited the children in the stories are to receive the simplest things—oranges, almonds, paper kites, or bamboo flutes. There are no expensive electronics or cartoon-branded gadgets, and it is so refreshing!

Another way I’ve tried to manage our expenses is to literally work for our presents. Part of the reason I decided to contribute to the Tea Collection blog starting in August was the company’s generous offer to exchange gift certificates for blog entries. I figured the entries would add up, which would contribute to getting some great outfits for our growing family (lots of cousins, with more on the way). It truly has been a memorable process and a thoughtful, methodical approach to gift-giving. In addition to the fun I have had writing about my family, travels and recommendations; it’s been incredibly satisfying to buy great quality, beautiful clothes for the littlest relatives in our lives.

So, even with the little things we’re trying to do around our house this season, will the random Snoopy make its way into our son’s stocking this year? Probably. That is OK, because I just want him to learn that while presents are precious and should be appreciated, the people who love him, thought about him, and worked hard to earn the money to buy or make that item for him are so much more precious and deserving of his appreciation

can thanksgiving go international?

I am really looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. Last year, we hosted the event for the first time, and while I was excited to take ownership of the “bird,” lay out the silver and china, and try some new dishes (I baked a chocolate and fig tart, and my husband experimented with a duck on the rotisserie), I am relieved to not have those responsibilities this year. Instead, my sister and her family (bless them) will be hosting. But I’m excited for the day for other reasons too.

As for a lot of people, this has been a really tough year for our family. Even with all of the struggles we experienced, I’m grateful that we will be able to come together and honor each other with a roof over our heads and warm food on the table. We’re also starting to get the formula right for how to make the event fun and less taxing. For example, gone are the days when one family member was on point for the entire meal, a stressful responsibility that, as I recall, left my aunt with a mile-long and food-stained spreadsheet one year—a spreadsheet for a family meal! That’s just madness. Instead, we’ll be taking a pot luck approach.

I am also hopeful that we can experiment a little more with what we are allowed to call “Thanksgiving Dinner.” For some people, it just isn’t Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. Others wouldn’t touch canned cranberries with a ten-foot pole. And then I found there are people who just don’t like turkey. I was shocked when my husband revealed this fact. Needless to say, we get a ham for him now. I gave up meat at the beginning of this year, in large part because we hosted Thanksgiving last year and it totally undid me, so I will be joining my grandmother in line for tofu stuffing (it’s actually really good). In addition, I hope I can contribute something new and tasty to the pot luck that can stay “on brand” with the season. For example, I’d love to be able to copy Andronico’s amazing tortellini with sweet potato salad that it sells from its deli. But beyond my small attempts to diversify the Thanksgiving cornucopia and the usual dish suspects I’m sure are being planned out as we speak, I’m curious if my family—and yours—would be willing to take more risks on the last Thursday in November?

Specifically, I’m recalling last year’s Christmas Eve dinner at my sister’s house, when her Italian mother-in-law cooked up the simplest and most amazing dinner ever—cioppino. That’s right, instead of a pheasant or turkey or stuffing, we had an Italian-inspired, tomato-based seafood stew over a bed of perfectly-cooked vermicelli. There was also a beautiful endive salad with some cheese and fresh bread—torn, not sliced—in the center of the table. Add in some great wine and voila! Done. As you probably suspected, my sister’s mother-in-law is a wonderful lady, and she can cook like nobody’s business. And for dessert? That goddess gave us all home-made bottles of limoncello, a sweet lemon liqueur originated from Southern Italy. Oh yes, she did.

I do not know if my family is ready to trade in a juicy turkey, my dad’s amazing garlic and cream mashed potatoes, my sister’s French bread stuffing or my mom’s amazing salads for an international experiment. However, after last year’s home run on Christmas, I know we are all a lot more likely to be curious and adventurous even on the most American of holidays. Cheers to you and yours!

halloween visitors

For Halloween this year, our friends graciously hosted our family for a truly one-of-a-kind event: their annual neighborhood trick-or-treat extravaganza and “competition.” We didn’t believe Lana and Sean when they told us about the tradition last year. “We had over 800 trick-or-treaters come to our house—we counted, and so did our neighbors,” Sean said proudly over dinner last fall. “We have a friendly competition for which house gets the most,” said Lana. “We gave out 10 5-lb bags of candy,” she added. “Eight hundred trick-or-treaters?” my husband and I repeated in amazement, “how is that even possible?”

We were thrilled when we were given the chance to find out. And, since this year Halloween fell on a Friday, we pictured the streets around Lana and Sean’s house would be packed to the gills with giddy revelers, something like we had seen the one time we were in New York City on New Year’s Eve. I imagined a sea of kids walking shoulder to shoulder, a parade of parents toting flashlights, and a never-ending turn-style of door-bell ringing and shouts of “trick-or treat!” In short, I was very excited, and so was my preschooler. Even my husband, who never dresses up, got into the spirit. Because our son went as a football player, my husband donned his old referee uniform, and I dressed up as a cheerleader (for the record, my costume was a rental).

Our friends were just as motivated. Our son’s friend, Sara, went as a pink Supergirl. Her big sister was a witch, and her brother was Darth Vader. Lana had the best 1960’s outfit I’ve ever seen, with 3-inch white plastic go-go boots, big hair—the works. Sean didn’t dress up, but he was busy staffing the door and playing bartender. His gin and tonics are legendary in the neighborhood, and so Halloween “water” gets handed out to all of the parents who need a little something to get them in the spirit too.

When the night kicked off and our children were all dressed up and getting ready to hit the streets, everything started quite calmly, much like every other Halloween I have seen. At first, while the sun was still up, a few young parents with little tiny babies and toddlers rang the doorbell here and there. Gradually, as the sun set, traffic picked up, and we began to see just how it was possible to fill the streets with the number of people Lana and Sean had predicted.

When it was time for us to venture out with our children, the neighbors put on quite a show. The decorations were amazing. Hand-carved pumpkins by children, moms and dads were by far my favorite part. Scary ghosts hanging in trees, spooky sounds floating from outdoor speakers, and creatures and tombstones scattered on lawns were everywhere. One house went a step further. The parents set up an American Idol table with themselves and their adult friends as judges, asking trick-or-treaters to “audition” for their candy. It was great, and music (good and bad) filled the streets.

At one house, we ran into a couple that was all dressed up in Renaissance clothes. They looked amazing, and we soon learned that they were from Italy. The woman told me, “I have never experienced a Halloween before,” and she was as starry-eyed and happy as the 3-year-olds holding Lana’s and my hands. It was such a treat to see grownups as excited as children on a night that did not disappoint.

barefoot books

Last week a wonderful thing happened—our local representative from Barefoot Books (www.barefoot-books.com ) visited our son’s preschool. The entire lobby was canvassed with the most beautiful, diverse and intriguing books, music CDs, artwork and toys. It was all I could do to control my retail impulses. But that’s the great thing about buying books—no guilt!

With Halloween coming up quickly and the Holidays right around the corner, it’s fun for me to get in the gift-giving mood now. Like everyone else, our family has been impacted by the economy, so it feels smart to zero in on presents that help us celebrate our loved ones without going broke. Plus, there is something magical about buying and giving books to children. When I find a great story, I feel just as great about sharing it. Books are cost-effective, provide endless entertainment, and often generate opportunities for children and parents to discuss new topics that were inspired by the stories in greater depth.

I was doubly excited about Barefoot Books when I saw an entire table of titles with an international theme. Some were fables and legends lifted directly from other cultures, like Russia, Japan, India, France, Senegal and Polynesia. Others were focused more on teaching American children about foreign geographies, histories, cultures and languages. Some of my favorites combined multiple short stories into single volumes, such as “Grandmothers’ Stories: Wise Woman Tales from Many Cultures,” which included a read-along CD narrated by Olympia Dukakis. Another colorful book, called “Elephant Dance,” is a perfect fit for our family, because it is about a little boy “interviewing” his grandfather who comes from India.

There are so many ways to introduce little ones to other cultures: food, movies, music, museums, and of course travel. From my perspective, all of those efforts are worthwhile and complemented perfectly by a bookshelf full of fun and interesting stories. I hope we’re fostering a curiosity about the world in our son as well as a love for reading. I also hope that both become lifelong passions that inspire him to run barefoot whenever he can.

investigating international schools

After a trip to the local ice cream parlor one evening recently, our neighbors stopped by our house to share some ice cream sandwiches with us. Their oldest daughter Lila is in first grade, and their youngest Janie is in our son’s preschool class. The children immediately started playing together, and the adults got to talking. As it is the fall, the conversation turned to the new school year.

Lila is enrolled at a nearby international school, where she is studying French and seems to enjoy it. I asked the girls’ mother if she plans to enroll Janie at the same school as her sister when she is ready for kindergarten. She said yes, and that’s when she explained that the school has two immersion programs: French and Mandarin. “How did you choose French over Mandarin?” I asked her. Her answer was as interesting as it was thought-provoking.

“Well, we were initially most intrigued by Mandarin,” she said. “But when we visited the school, we experienced this very strict, regimented approach even with the little ones. There was a lot of pointing and direction, ‘you sit there! You sit over there! Ok, now we are going to count to ten!’ The French program, while academic, wasn’t nearly so structured. Also, both of us [pointing to her husband] speak French, so we felt we could help Lila if she ran into anything she didn’t understand. But with Mandarin, we’d be as lost as her. We felt that it was enough of a culture shock to enroll her in an immersion program, but then to offer no safety net at home seemed too much to ask of a 5 year old.”

All of that made sense to me, and frankly I could relate, since both my husband and I studied French too. My elementary school also introduced a foreign language in kindergarten (French), but it was a 30-minute class, certainly nothing close to an immersion program. That same school is now on our short list for when our son is ready for school. But, as their family said good-night and we thanked them for the ice cream, I was feeling ambivalent. How did I really feel about language immersion for our son?

On the one hand, I am definitely in favor of having him study a foreign language starting at an early age. My husband and I would certainly prefer a school that offered a class as part of the curriculum to one that didn’t. But somehow immersion feels a little bit “hard core.” How would we have felt about it when we were kids?

Currently, our son attends a play-based preschool that we love, but some might call it a little bit “crunchy.” Kids can’t run around naked…but almost. There is an organic garden growing in the play yard, which the children water and maintain. The philosophy of the school is one of enabling children, who are viewed as capable, competent, self-motivated learners. When my friend and neighbor mentioned culture shock, I wondered how our son would manage a transition from “crunchy” to “foreign.”

One reasonable answer is that starting a new school can be challenging for any child, and if we choose immersion or not, our son won’t know anything different. Choosing immersion, however, is not without its drawbacks. There is research (academic and anecdotal) to suggest that immersion programs often slow down children’s English language advancement. My friend and neighbor said herself that Lila’s rate of mastery of English vocabulary slowed measurably in her first year at the international school. After that initial year or so, though, I found very little to suggest that there are any long-term drawbacks to being bilingual. Quite the contrary, which of course largely explains the draw and why the waiting lists for public and private immersion programs in the Bay Area are as long as they are.

However, my husband and I do have a secret, nagging fear that if our son was so focused on learning a new language that he might not be able to devote equal attention to reading, math, science, etc. Will the immersion program be so all-consuming that other disciplines will get short-shrift?

So, really it comes down to our motivations as parents for considering such a track for our son. Is it to give him an advantage that other children might not have? Maybe, a little, sure. Is it to expose him and his brain to another way of thinking, speaking, conjugating, communicating and expressing himself? Absolutely. But, assuming the immersion program doesn’t shine in all subjects, is it worth it? And if we decide that it is, are we as parents prepared to pick up the slack at home? I’m glad our son still has a little time, because I haven’t made up my mind just yet.