coffee shop

T.J.Children, ParentingLeave a Comment

Coffee Shop

My Coffee Shop:

I drink coffee. Back then, any coffee would do; usually 7-Eleven or McDonalds (open late/early). Even then, I did not like Starbucks (although, I admit, I gave them plenty of opportunities). I could tolerate CoffeeBean; it was mediocre. For some reason, I would always put my cup of coffee into another cup (“double cup”) instead of getting a sleeve. Couldn’t tell you why, but, it did become habit.

After moving within walking distance of Old Town’s Element Coffee, I obviously, at some point, decided to give it a try. Mike (the owner) was behind the counter. I ordered a coffee.

Mike’s first impression of me must have been as bad as my first impression of him.

Element makes each cup of coffee as it is ordered. Beans, that were recently roasted from some of the most recognized and awarded coffee roasters, are measured on a scale. They are then ground in a burr grinder, placed in a filter, then into a Hario dripper. Hot water is then poured over the grounds to let them soak. One minute later, water is poured through the bloom of wet grounds and drips down into a cup below. This was new and odd to me.

Cup of coffee ready, I asked, “Can I have an extra cup?” Getting a weird look from Mike, I clarified, “Instead of the sleeve.”

I know now what I didn’t know then: Mike is a very honest guy. He replied, telling me the extra cup cost money, and his small shop could not afford to give every customer an extra cup as could Starbucks. Mike, without breaking, then told me about the proper temperature of coffee, the temperature the coffee remains in the paper cup, and his experience in testing the theory that coffee stays just as hot in a cup/sleeve as it does in a double cup.

I felt a reply was necessary, “I just like the feel of it better,” while I thought in my head, “last time I come here.” Given the statement of cost, and in an effort to introduce Mike to my personality, I offered to pay for the extra cup and asked how much it would cost. Mike, graciously, did not give into my banter, and gave me an extra cup.

I left with every intention of not coming back. But, the coffee was good. Really good. I then started thinking about what he said. Mike was right about everything he said. The coffee was really good, and I began to realize I was very uneducated about coffee. Mike, on the other hand, was obviously pretty coffee-wise. I also, slowly, appreciated the honesty about cost and the comment about Starbucks (to clarify, I do not like Starbucks).

I went back. Asked to get a second cup again. Mike gave it to me.

I went back. Didn’t ask for a second cup. Didn’t get one.

I have continued to go back. Yes, the coffee is good, but there is a lot more.


The Lessons:

I guess you could call me a regular at the shop, in that I am there regularly. The guys at the shop taught me how to make coffee, which I now do at home, using the same pour-over method as in the shop. They also taught me how to pull an espresso shot to make cappuccinos, lattes, and the lot. Now, they are helping me with latte art. I can make a heart (serious progress).

I would also call Mac a regular. Mac has been coming to the shop since he was about five; five days old. I wanted to share some of the lessons we have learned.

As a disclaimer, Kelli and I are constantly learning. We are by no means claiming to have the magical recipe for perfect parenting. Further, Mac is not a perfect angel who walks around flapping his angel wings spraying gold glitter around. The following is a summary. It highlights the good. Trust me, there is also a lot of not so good.


The shop has been a tool I have used to help teach Mac about boundaries. A few examples: There is an opening, maybe five feet or so, that leads from the customer area to the employee area. Mac made two attempts to cross it when he was about eleven months old. I explained the boundary and Mac has not crossed it since. There are musical instruments at the shop. Mac is allowed to tap on the drums and play the keyboard (which is not on). Mac is not allowed to touch the guitars or bass without my direct supervision. Mac is also not allowed to touch the numerous cables lying around in that corner. He has tried, and there is a consequence. We leave.


The shop has also helped Mac learn about self-control. This is a coffee shop; there are donuts. There are always donuts. Mac rarely gets anything for himself to eat at the coffee shop, let alone donuts. This was a tricky one to teach. I went about it this way:

Before he was a year old, I would ask Mac if he was hungry. Mac knew sign language at the time and would sign if he was hungry. So, I would offer him some food, a banana bread or donut. Since Mac signed, I gave him some food. I slowly stopped asking. At first, Mac would look at me, as if to say, “Aren’t you going to ask me if I am hungry?” He learned to ask on his own. There was a time when he signed as we were walking through the door; every time we walked through the door. I would pretend to not see him, while starting conversation with someone. Mac would get distracted and forget. Now, Mac only asks when he is actually hungry. Except, when he sees the donuts. He always asks for a donut. So, now, I ask, “Is it because you’re hungry or because you just want a donut?” Most of the time, he just wants a donut and does not get it. Sometimes, either because he actually is or is deceiving me, he says he is hungry.


I think children should be rewarded for good, righteous behavior; rewarded for obedience. Training Mac really does have some weird similarities to training a dog. Don’t misunderstand. Yes, we do train Mac.

So, I just talked about donuts, let me continue.

In teaching and training Mac, I have explained a little about consequences for wrong behavior. Well, I also reward for good behavior. The coffee shop is a great place to do that. If I see Mac obeying the rules, being friendly and respectful with the patrons, and not being wild, drawing nicely with the crayons and not all over the table, telling me when he needs to “go potty,” saying please, saying thank you, etc., I love rewarding Mac (hence, his ever-growing collection of “friends,” stuffed animals). At the shop, this means a donut, a pastry, steamed milk, etc.

Speaking of milk, Mac doesn’t drink milk. Namely, because I don’t drink milk. Milk does not do a body good. That is simply a slogan from one of the most successful marketing campaigns of all time. Don’t believe me? Google it. In any case, I do drink milk, just not out of a glass by itself. I drink milk in the form of lattes, and other drinks made with espresso. I also consume milk in the form of ice cream, milk shakes, chocolate, to name a few. At the shop, Mac has learned about steaming milk. So, as a reward, I get Mac a small paper cup of steamed milk. He loves it. Not only that, I was able to teach Mac how to drink out of a normal coffee cup and lid.


I could stay at the shop for hours; I don’t. My life consists of work, for the most part, and then time with Kelli, Mac and (soon) Jane. I really don’t get any free time. The free time I do get is filled with “projects.” Mac has nothing but free time, all the time. So, there comes a point when Mac wants to leave the coffee shop. Sometimes, it is after a few minutes. Other times, it’s when he sees a dog walk by out front. Most the time, after about twenty to forty minutes. I rarely leave when Mac wants to leave. Why? I want to teach Mac patience. This too has evolved over time. Now, Mac will at some point tell me he wants to go. I will ask him to wait one minute while I clean up. Thanks to the time spent training him, he patiently waits, and then we go when I am ready.


Opposite of wanting to leave, is Mac not wanting to leave. I explained in the past about consequences for disobedient and unrighteous acts. I have also eluded and given insight into some of our parenting and training tactics. The shop has really been helpful with that.

Another example: There are crayons at the shop and butcher paper to put out to draw on. Mac knows this. Rarely (because he does not like the consequence), but a couple times, Mac has chosen to take the crayon bucket (not the three or four crayons I provide from the bucket), and draw like a maniac all over the table. He knows he is out of line, so there is a consequence . . . we leave. Trust me, I don’t want to leave. Sometimes I have to leave behind a half of a Gibraltar! Mac really does not want to leave. He is kind of a strong-willed little guy. He is also very sensitive (don’t make fun of him). When he realizes he has done something wrong, he will probably start to cry before the consequence, because he is upset with himself. Leaving the shop has been a helpful consequence. Mac hates leaving the shop before he wants to. I think that is why he rarely breaks the shop rules.


Plain and simple, the shop is a lot of fun. There are crayons, instruments, things to climb on, a hill to run down, a “big potty chair,” food, funny people, funny noises, pictures, the list could go on and on.

On top of all of that, and this is kind of weird, Mac loves coffee. I usually get an empty espresso cup and spoon. I take about a quarter teaspoon of my froth, with some espresso mixed in, and put it in the empty cup. I then give it to Mac who pretends to have an espresso with me. Although Mac could swallow the amount in one go, thanks to the spoon, it is kinda tricky to get out of the tiny espresso cup. Mac tries for a few minutes and then concludes he got all he could, or he sees something more interesting and moves on.


While living in Old Town, I have realized in current times our society has lost what I believe was a vital aspect in our history: community. I, as you know, am not the social type. But, I recognize the importance of community. At work I have made an attempt to bring back a “Parish Constable” type policing. The fact that, in the shop, the owner jokingly calls me “Constable” encourages me that I am doing it right.

Mac is also learning about community. Not just at the shop, but in all of Old Town (to start). Knowing people’s names, who they are, what they do, where they’re from, etc., is important. Mac is well-known by most regulars at the shop. Mac is always introducing himself to new people at the shop.

I wrote a few paragraphs about the staff, wanting to explain what I appreciate about the people who work at the coffee shop. I decided it was a little too personal, so I got rid of it (well, I didn’t post it). Suffice it to say, there are some great people that work at the shop, whose hearts are to sincerely seek God personally, for the shop, and for the community.


The “Yes!” Moment:

There have been two very memorable moments at the shop. These two moments are set apart from all of the other good memories because in a matter of seconds, all of the things I am trying to share came together. Both went something like this:

I was sitting, having a cup of coffee. Mac was off doing his thing, walking up the hill, drawing, whatever it was. Someone comes up to me and asks if Mac is my son. I pause for a moment, look over at Mac, make sure he isn’t hanging from one of the flying pigs (yes, there are flying pigs at the shop), “Yes, that is my son, Mac.” The person continues about how well-behaved he is.

In a matter of seconds, I got to meet someone new, introduce my son, tell them how good the coffee is at this local shop, tell them how much Mac loves the shop, and get the, at times much-needed, encouragement to know that parenting, teaching, and training Mac is working.


All of that to say:

The coffee shop has taught me a lot. There is a lot more to the shop and the people than meets the eye. I’d encourage you, step out of your comfort zone, talk with the patrons and the staff, help build that community that is missing in our town. Take your kids; there are flying pigs to look at.

Whether in reading this or relating it to your own life, recognize the people that make this possible. For me: an amazing wife, great parents, a solid Bible-teaching church, inspirational mentors, and above all else an incredibly gracious God who continues to bless and enrich my life.

Jane was due to arrive April 11th, 2013. When she does decide to arrive, I look forward to introducing her to the coffee shop. Don’t worry, pictures and a post will follow her birth.

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