Entrepreneurship, Homeschooling, & the Chef Junior Cookbook

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

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Katie: Hello and welcome to the “Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and wellnesse.com, which is our new line of completely natural and highly effective personal care product like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and now hand sanitizer. Today’s episode of the podcast is a really special one for me because I’m here with a new guest, my oldest son, Anthony, to talk about a project he has been working really hard on the last couple of years, which is a cookbook by kids and for kids. And it’s called “Chef Junior” and it is available anywhere books are sold and it’s scheduled to release on May 19th. In this episode, we talk about his cookbook and answer many of the questions that you guys submitted about what life is like at our house, what I’m actually like as a mom, and our family culture and much more. Anthony did not know the questions ahead of time – he just wanted to get the questions as we went. So these answers are completely unscripted and truthful, and a few of them even surprised me.

Also, before we jump in, I feel it’s important to mention that this is the first time that one of my kids has been public facing on Wellness Mama or visible on the platform. I’ve written before about how I don’t post pictures of my kids on social media, even on my personal accounts. Because I don’t feel it’s my right to do that and I want to respect their privacy and let any online interaction be their decision. Because I got to have a childhood without social media and without being visible online and I wanted to give them the same respected if they wanted. And I don’t say this to judge anyone else who has made a different decision on the matter, it’s just what we’ve chosen for our family and I’ve written about this in the past. So I feel it is important to talk about.

But as my kids get older, I did want it to be their decision of when, how, or if they would engage with the online world and social media. And so now he is a teenager and we feel Anthony should get to make this decision on his own and he’s seen first hand from me being online in this setting the good and the bad parts of social media and the internet. And we talk to him about the risks and the pros and cons and so now my husband and I are supporting him now and having a more public facing presence through his cookbook and his own upcoming podcast. And I just wanted to explain that because I have been very private about my children in the past – you’ve never seen their faces before until now with Anthony. Again, not saying that our decisions is the right one for any other family, but I felt the need to clarify this since I’ve never really shared my kids in a personal way before on the platform and this is the first time and explain why I am comfortable with it now. So, without further ado, I can’t wait to introduce you to and have you enjoy the interview with my son, Anthony.

Anthony, welcome. Thanks for coming on the podcast.

Anthony: Hi.

Katie: This is kind of fun. We haven’t gotten to record a podcast together yet and I know people have a lot of questions about what life is like at our house, and I know that you’ll give probably very brutally truthful answers to that, so it’s gonna be fun for me to hear, too.

Anthony: Yeah, definitely.

Katie: First, let’s talk about “Chef Junior,” which is your cookbook. Tell us the story about the reason that you guys decided to write this book.

Anthony: Well, we do a mastermind, over the years we’ve done a couple in different places. And I remember a few years back, probably four years ago, we were making a bunch of recipes for kids, like chocolate pancakes or coffee pancakes, I don’t remember. It was really crazy but yeah, that really inspired us that it would be really cool to make our own recipes and stuff.

Katie: Yeah. And for people who aren’t familiar, we can explain. So, a mastermind is kind of a thing where you got a group of people together to talk about similar ideas. And this particular one was a family mastermind because your dad and I had been to a mastermind before that that was adults only and I had…I think it was Gigi as a baby or other one of our daughters. And she was teeny tiny and I had her just nursing the whole time. And they told me at the mastermind that she was a distraction even though she wasn’t making any noise. And they told me I couldn’t be in there with her. And it just made me sad that like I had to basically obviously choose to take care of my baby and couldn’t go to mastermind. So, dad and I thought, “What if we could do this but instead of having to go away from our families, what if we could bring the families with us,” because we really think it’s important with business that kids are involved and that you guys learn that and understand that early. So, when you say like we’ve traveled a lot and it was fun, we had this group of, what was it, five families I think?

Anthony: I think it was seven.

Katie: Seven in the beginning, yeah, and five by the end that travel together to multiple countries. We went to Costa Rica and Canada with them, and several places all over the U.S. And while the adults got together and worked on business stuff, you guys kind of created your own sort of mastermind of sorts as well, didn’t you?

Anthony: Yeah. It’s really fun to get to talk to kids with a lot of the same lifestyle and stuff as me.

Katie: Yeah. I feel like probably a lot of things that we do are a little bit weird by normal standards but in the mastermind, we were all kind of on the same page on a lot of that stuff. On the very first one, you guys did something also really cool which is you kinda built your own civilization in the woods. Talk about that.

Anthony: Yeah. So, we called it Terabithia which, at the time, I know there’s a book called “Bridge to Terabithia,” but we didn’t actually name it after that. We just came up with it so that was kind of cool. And, yeah, we would build forts and stuff all day and we had like our currency and stuff. It was a lot of fun.

Katie: Yeah. We didn’t even see you guys because you were playing outside all day. And when we walked outside I think after the first couple of days, we found you guys literally carried tree trunks and built huge teepees, and you each had your own house, and you had elected officers, and you have a whole governing system, and like everybody was working together. You had made, I think, bricks out of mud. It was really impressive, all the things. What inspired that? You guys just thought about it on your own?

Anthony: Yeah. I mean we didn’t have much other to do, like I don’t think there were TV or any of that so we thought it would just be really fun to do something outside.

Katie: It was fun. There were probably, what, 16 of you kids?

Anthony: Twenty-four, I think.

Katie: Twenty-four, yeah. All the way ages from like our youngest being a baby at that one up to you and that are authors of the cookbook that are kind of on the older end, right?

Anthony: Yeah. I think 12 or 13 at that point.

Katie: That’s right. So, I think if I’m remembering right, the idea for the cookbook specifically came when we were at the one in Colorado?

Anthony: Yeah.

Katie: And we had people, a couple of people that would come with us, your aunt was one of them, that would help with the food and also kinda keep an eye on the little kids while the adults worked. But that was overwhelming for 1 person certainly to cook for 30 plus people. So, you guys ended up helping quite a bit, and then I think by the end of that one you guys had actually kind of taken over the food. And the 5 of the older ones were cooking for over 30 people which was really impressive.

Anthony: Yeah. We were cooking, I think the older ones were, and then the younger ones were waitresses and waiters, which was really fun.

Katie: That was fun, that was really…I think we all have probably really good memories of that. And you guys had a kids party, I think, in that, didn’t you, that was themed murder-mystery type party and the adults had one, too?

Anthony: I think so.

Katie: Yeah. Because the other part of this idea was that we would all rent a house together, so we were all under one roof which got a little chaotic, I think, a few times. But this particular house was really cool because it was almost like a 1950s murder-mystery type house, like very…like what you would see in “Clue.” And also it had a cool game room that had some games from Michael Jackson’s house and just all kinds of stuff. And you guys, again, built some version of Terabithia there, too, didn’t you?

Anthony: We did. Not as…I believe one of the families were missing, one or two, so there were five or six families. So, I think we just built like a pretty large teepee basically and that was it for that one, but it was certainly fun.

Katie: Got it. We were all impressed with the idea that you guys had cooked all the food. I will say one resource that really helped with that because I was usually planning the food for this kind of big things, and how do we feed 30 people 3 times a day, cooking from scratch without ordering food. And so, for anybody listening, I use Real Plans which you know well who’s Tony, the founders of Real Plans. But that tool is great because it’s an app and you can set the serving size. You can find all of your recipes and then just say, “I’m cooking for 32 people,” and adjust your shopping list for all of it. So, we had all these ingredients on hand and you guys took that and ran with it. And then it was there that the idea of a cookbook was born because you said like…I think you guys kind of realized a lot of people you knew your age didn’t know how to cook, and you guys were there cooking for big groups already. Why do you think it’s important for kids to know how to cook?

Anthony: Well, I mean, in the modern day world, I think it just…because we rely so heavily on takeout and restaurants and things like that, and if you learn how to cook, you get to know the food better and it’s much more healthy for you most of the times. And I just feel like you feel much more connected.

Katie: Great. And you definitely delve into this even beyond just writing the book. You have been in the kitchen quite a bit recently, and running kinds of new mediums even…you got sourdough recently which is new. I think in a lot of ways you’re better at cooking than I am, especially baking because you’re much more precise. But what did you learn in researching and writing the book? Was there anything that surprised you?

Anthony: Well, finding a lot of the recipes was kind of fun to do, I thought, because I could look at like not only what I eat a lot but also ones that I thought would be really quirky and fun to do. I don’t think there were too many things that surprised me but, yeah.

Katie: And it seems like from watching you, that kind of sparked an excitement in you about cooking and also about learning about kind of principles of cooking and food. And I know you’ve also now read “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” and we’ve watched some of that series together. And you’ve cooked some of the recipes from that. Talk about some of your favorite cooking experiments.

Anthony: Yeah. I like that book a lot because it doesn’t emphasize so much on following recipes exactly but on using your senses to taste it and like smell and feel it. And because not everything is gonna be perfect, so I think it’s a lot better and that helps, it inspired me to do a lot more like experimental cooking.

Katie: Got it. I’ve got some benefit from that when you’ve done…I think you did duck fat tortillas that were really, really good. You’ve done pasta from scratch. You’ve done all kinds of cool stuff from getting inspired by her. And another fun thing that’s developed because of this is kids cooking, right, at our house. And I know this is on pause right now with quarantine but this is something that you created in our neighborhood with your friends. So, talk about what was the inspiration for that, and how many kids helped, and some of the things you guys cooked?

Anthony: Yeah, I remember. So, it started, I think, probably six months ago. We were making pizza and just a lot of the neighbors were around. So, we were like, “Hey, do you guys wanna help make pizza?” And then it was sourdough pizza. And that was really fun because it has a bunch of different jobs. And then, eventually, we did pizza for probably two months straight and then eventually we decided, “Hey, what if we do different recipes?” And so, what we do is we let everyone that does it, vote and then on…and we have like four different recipes a week. And there are specifically ones that we picked that have a lot of jobs so it’s really fun for everyone.

Katie: You created the sourdough entirely on your own, like you took care of it and made all kinds of recipes with that. And how many kids would you say were cooking by the time…because some of these cooking nights got pretty big?

Anthony: Yeah. I think at one point we had maybe 14, 16 kids like in and out. Some of them…I don’t think they were all there at once but throughout the night…or, yeah, about 16.

Katie: Yeah. You kinda had that up having younger ones even…you had people slicing tomatoes and making like sauces for different things and all kinds of stuff, grating cheese, even the little ones. What were…you probably had the four-year-olds there a couple of times.

Anthony: We did, yeah. They were good at grating cheese and doing little things like that, using a butter knife to cut up vegetables and stuff like that.

Katie: Yeah. I feel like young kids especially don’t often usually maybe get the opportunity to cook or they get to where they kinda make a sandwich or something simple. But definitely our experience and it seems like with you and your cooking nights too is that even young kids can actually be pretty helpful in the kitchen.

Anthony: Yeah. I think that little kids, they really…people don’t think they can do a lot of things when in the kitchen they really can because they can help with simple tasks which really help with the big picture.

Katie: Absolutely. And also like having them help clean as you go and keep organization, you guys had a whole system ready for that. And I think also it’s really important to emphasize, so you’re 13 and not only can you cook entire meals from scratch on your own with planning, but you can organize 16 kids to do that. I think a lot of people don’t even maybe at 13 think their kids are capable of that. But and you’ve even…like you’ve meal planned for our family before and you’ve…I mean, you cooked all kinds of meals. What had been some of your favorite meals you cooked for the family from scratch?

Anthony: So, there’s this Canadian dish called poutine. So, from one of masterminds we were talking about earlier, we went to Canada for one and it’s a Canadian dish. It’s just homemade fries, gravy, and then cheese, and I just love it. It’s super fun to make.

Katie: Nice. What have been some of your favorite mastermind memories?

Anthony: Oh, I don’t know, there’s so many good ones that I think it would take hours to tell all of them, but essentially building like the Terabithias. They’ve all been good throughout. Like we’ve had six, I think, masterminds and we’ve done it for all of those and that was really fun. And cooking at the mastermind, just hanging out, it’s really fun.

Katie: I think was it the Michigan one that we looked out the window, and all of you older boys were running around in the snow, jumping in the hot tub?

Anthony: Oh, yeah. We were running around in the snow in our swim suits and then just hopping in the hot tub. That was a lot of fun. It was hard to convince my friends to do it but I loved it.

Katie: Nice. Circle back on the mastermind, so it’s the five of you guys who wrote this cookbook, or basically five kids from five of the different families at the mastermind. And some of your best friends have come from the mastermind too, haven’t they?

Anthony: Yeah. My best friend, so Paul, he was writing the cookbook and then Abby, she did it, her younger brother, Caden, we’re really good friends.

Katie: Got it. And the other thing about this cookbook that I feel like it’s important for people to know is that you guys really did this on your own. It wasn’t like the parents were helping you that much or made you do it. We all run our businesses and have a lot of kids, and so you guys really took the initiative and did this on your own. What was the hardest part of that? Like were there ever organizational issues or logistical issues that made it hard?

Anthony: I mean, I think giving the book, like the publisher to actually do it was hard for a while because that took forever, so it was kind of like, “Oh, is this ever gonna happen?” And all of us, I think, kinda wanted to be in charge which was kind of a problem considering we’re all the oldest so we are all very stubborn. So, I think that was definitely a very challenging part.

Katie: Do you feel like you learned some lessons about navigating relationships and working with people even if you have some of those kind of dynamics through it?

Anthony: Yeah, I think I do. I think it helped to learn that you have to be more accepting and just understand like what point of view someone else is coming from on something.

Katie: Yeah. Now you guys have created this cookbook that’s about to be released. What are some of your favorite recipes from the book?

Anthony: I love Paul’s pizza recipe in there. My favorite recipe that I made myself is the sweet potato fries and the steak in there. I’ve not yet tried it, it’s by Will, I think, but it looks every good and I think I’m gonna try that sometime really soon.

Katie: And the beauty of these recipes, because you’ve cooked a few in our house and there’s definitely a lot more we need to cook from some of the other authors, but you guys talked through the concepts and kind of explained why…like the kitchen basics as well and how to source food. And these recipes are really like amazing recipes that adults would be proud to cook but you simplify them so kids can learn. And then you rate them from like easy or beginner, intermediate, and advanced, right? So, kids, as they kind of go through the process, can tell which recipes to start with.

Anthony: Yeah. So, it’s not really by age so much, it’s, yeah, definitely by skill level. We do try to do it to where you can kind of pick based on your skill level what you wanna cook and then like what meal, if you wanna do a smoothie or breakfast, lunch, all of that. So, I think it’s gonna be really helpful for kids.

Katie: And these are not just like peanut butter jelly sandwich or like, you know, chicken tenders or just kid food recipes. You guys have some really good, like I said, kind of adult recipes that kids also love so this is really fun. And as a parent, I will say it’s really awesome having a kid who understands this and is willing to cook because you definitely make my life easier a lot of times by cooking meals or taking over dinner and so I really appreciate that.

Now, let’s also talk about life a little bit. We can circle back to cooking. Quite a few people wanted me to ask you what life is like at our house and what I’m like as a mom. And you can be completely truthful about this. So, yeah, just tell a little bit about what life is like?

Anthony: Yeah. I think it can be really hectic having five siblings. I think it’s good, it’s kind of crazy a lot of times and you have to learn how to get along with everyone and that’s definitely very challenging. But overall, it’s really fun to have a bunch of best friends in the house.

Katie: Yeah. I mean, you definitely are the leader of the pack with your siblings and also somewhat in our neighborhood where there are…how many kids are in the neighborhood?

Anthony: I think we have between 20 or 30, depending on if you count teenagers or what your age limit is.

Katie: So, that’s kind of gotten not quite as fun right now with quarantine but before that, there’s packs of kids that like you’ve talked about you’ve had cooking nights with and all that. But just as life as the oldest of six kids, what would you say are maybe a hard part about that or an easy part about that?

Anthony: I mean, I think the hard part is definitely that like my siblings, they don’t always listen to me and that’s a little challenging. And sometimes I feel ganged up on because I’m the oldest, and they all kinda think I’m the enemy sometimes. But I mean, that’s pretty rare but it does happen some and I think that’s definitely very challenging. And an easy part, being the oldest, I definitely get more privileges but I also have much more responsibility so I think that’s a privilege.

Katie: Yeah, that’s a great point. And I know we’ve talked about in our family, you probably heard me say before too like there’s that quote that, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and we kinda turned that around and say, “Actually, with great responsibility comes great power.” And so, when you show us that you’re responsible, you get much more freedom and power, and you’ve definitely done a good job of that and of being an example of that to your siblings as well. And one thing I’ve always tried to encourage as a mom is for you to pursue things that interest you. And you can definitely tell the listeners better than I can if I’ve done a good job of that or not but I’d love to talk through a few of the projects that you’ve tried if you’re willing.

Anthony: Yeah. I have a couple of different ones that I’m doing. So, for one, I’m a beekeeper with my grandpa just down the street, and that’s really fun to get because I love insects and we get our own honey every year. So, I think that definitely ties into sustainability, too, which I’m very passionate about, so that’s one. Another is I have a mealworm/superworm project and that is both for digesting plastic. You can find videos and articles about it on the internet, and another is I eat them because I think they actually taste very good and they’re quite useful in cooking.

Katie: Yeah. So, let’s talk a little bit more about those because this has, I think, come up in passing many times on this podcast, and certainly I’ve mentioned it in passing a few times to people and they’ve been like, “What now?” So, when you say this, what you eat, right now there’s, what, a few thousand worms living in your closet in our house?

Anthony: Yeah.

Katie: Yeah. And there’s been some funny moments because the worms themselves are actually the larval stage of…

Anthony: A darkling beetle.

Katie: Okay, darkling beetle. And a couple of times some of these beetles have gotten out. And there had been funny moments, I think, with your sisters screaming in the shower when they found one. I think, is that what happened?

Anthony: Yeah. I think there was one where there was a beetle on the curtain in the shower, and then there was like a mealworm or superworm, I don’t remember which, on like the towel rack and that got some good screams.

Katie: So, explain what you mean by that they might be able to help digest plastic.

Anthony: So, there’s a study in 2015 done by researchers after a…there were superworms shipped…or mealworms, sorry, shipped in Styrofoam. And by the time they got shipped all the way to the house, they had eaten through the plastic so that…and this was a researcher so he decided to research it, and then they did a study and found that they can actually digest quite a bit of it within a pretty short amount of time.

Katie: What happens after they digest? Do we know yet? What is it breaking down into or do you know?

Anthony: It’s mostly just broken down into carbon and then there’s…you can even feed them to other animals because they break it down completely and just turn it into carbon, and all the BPAs are turned into their primary elements.

Katie: So, the exciting part of this one is like at scale to potentially dissolve some of the plastic problems, like Styrofoam which you can’t recycle. But if the worms can digest them to just carbon without the BPA, that would be potentially a safe way to neutralize it?

Anthony: Yeah. And this could even be very helpful. As we know that soil deterioration, that’s a very big thing and this is actually very good fertilizer from plastic which I think is really amazing. If we could do this on scale, we could get…I did the math. For mealworms, 40 mealworms, if you can keep those up for one year, they will eat a pound of plastic. So, if you have 40 million mealworms, you’re getting rid of a million pounds of plastic in one year and that would be very scalable. And I think it could also be a very big thing in poor countries to where we could use that and they could use it to feed their livestock and create money for themselves.

Katie: That would be amazing. And so, it’s just the worm, like the larval phase that can eat the plastic, right?

Anthony: Yes. I’m fairly sure what the researchers just come to a conclusion to but I don’t know if they’ve completely tested it. So, I think they have a problem eating it, like I think, in theory, their digestive system could if they were…could eat it. But I don’t think their mandibles are big enough to actually get on to the Styrofoam.

Katie: Okay. Do they know the worms are still safe to eat?

Anthony: Yes. They have a 24-hour period and then everything has been digested and turned into carbon and they’re completely safe up to that point.

Katie: Wow. And how long does the larval phase last?

Anthony: On mealworms, it lasts about three to four months, and on superworms, you can actually get it to last close to a year as they will not pupate again to the beetle phase unless they are not around other superworms. So, you can keep them like that pretty much for close to a year.

Katie: We’ve had them for over a year now, I think, haven’t we?

Anthony: Yeah, about a year and a half.

Katie: Okay. And then you’ve got all the phases of development in your closet, right? So, that once they pupae, you put those in a separate drawer.

Anthony: Yeah. And then once they turn into beetles from that, I put them on the top thing. Their eggs fall through a screen into the bottom one, and then they turn into larva and the process repeats.

Katie: Right. And now, we can maybe take some pictures of that and post as some people are curious what you said. So mealworms and superworms. What are the adult phases of each of those?

Anthony: They’re both species of darkling beetles, I believe they’re from Central America. And a lot of times they’re used for feeding pets like lizards and birds and things.

Katie: And I feel like the other larva, what we’ve had in our house were outside in a garden. But what if…you created some kind of a device, was it soldier flies?

Anthony: Yeah, it was a black soldier fly larva composter and basically you have…so we live in Florida which allows it to be very hot all year around so I can do this. And I put the compost inside a composter and then the flies, they don’t have mouths so they’re actually not bad or anything. And they lay eggs in there, they grow up very quickly, they multiply about a million times their size. And then they eat and convert about 90% of the mass that they eat into body weight. And then by the time they’re done as larva, the pupate and they want to get out of the compost. You can make it to where they automatically harvest themselves and then you can bring them to chickens or ducks. And it’s a great compost, too.

Katie: And those, did you tell me that helps break down compost more quickly? Obviously they break down even like things you wouldn’t normally compost, like meat?

Anthony: Yeah. They can do meat, bones, shells for like egg shells, all kinds of stuff. They can even break down bioplastics which is quite cool.

Katie: Which is interesting tie in there. So, we use bioplastic. Well, we use bioplastics for our compost bags. We also use bioplastics in, well, massive like containers. It’s super amazing that we have insects that can help. I think things like this, it’s really exciting to me and it sounds like to you, too, for the future of sustainability. I think if we can innovate using things like insects or like we’re finding all kinds of cool potential with mushrooms and fungus as well. Let’s talk about the garden a little bit, too, because you are definitely my biggest helper/you take over a lot of this and handle the garden. Tell people about what our garden is like.

Anthony: Yeah. So, we have a pretty large garden and we grow a bunch of different stuff from lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, we grow I think beets, strawberries, a bunch of other stuff. I can’t name all of it, yeah.

Katie: Yeah. And we do it like every year, everywhere we lived, it grows every year. So, this year it’s…I’m really bad at estimating size but I think it’s like 20 feet by 100. It’s big, it’s like almost the whole side yard. And we clean the whole area and then put down a foot of woodchips which you and your friends helped me with a lot of trailers. And then we put mushroom compost, it grows and we put it on that, and it’s been amazing to see how fast, even like trees we’ve planted. When you plant them in compost how fast they grow. And then like you talked about, we have a composting section where all of our food waste goes, and then we mix it with existing compost, and we use the soldier flies and kind of create a sustainable system there. What are some other ways that you think we can focus on sustainability or that are exciting to you right now?

Anthony: Electric cars, I think that’s one that I think is very cool that isn’t talked about. Like sometimes in the health industry, it gets a bad rep, but I mean, it’s keeping emissions out of the atmosphere. It’s actually saving lives because air pollution takes a bit, I think the estimate was about six million lives a year, so I think that’s definitely a very big thing. There’s just tons of things like solar and there’s so much development in the sustainability industry lately that I think that’s very helpful for the future.

Katie: You also mentioned your bees which are obviously, absolutely, bees are vital to our food survival. Remembering, I mean, pollinators touch the vast majority of food that we eat. So, truly without pollinators, our food supply goes away, it’s very important. And you’ve been a beekeeper for probably about, what, four years now?

Anthony: Yeah, four or five.

Katie: So, talk about that because I think that also sounds like kind of a scary hobby to a lot of people and you’ve been doing it for a while even when you were really young. But just talk about what it’s like to be a beekeeper.

Anthony: I mean, there is a scary sense of it but the bee suits really do protect you and I think it’s so important because pollination, obviously, it’s about a third. If it wasn’t for pollinators, we would lose about a third or a half of our entire food supply. And you’d never have things like apples and things like that. So, I think that’s very important and you get to learn a lot about sustainability just from this and about insects, and it feeds into science and things being homeschooled. I think that’s the large part of a learning in science, that can actually be really helpful, biology. So, I think that’s a very good way to learn.

Katie: That’s cool because it’s tied in with certain other companies that I’ve worked with that we’ve kinda learned from together. Like there’s a company called Beekeeper’s Naturals and they have a spray that’s propolis. And I was familiar with propolis because of you and beekeeping, and it was cool to learn. People like… So, propolis is what the bees use to keep the hive clean and sanitary. So, even if like a mouse gets in the hive, the bees aren’t strong enough to carry the mouse back out but they can encase the mouse in propolis to keep it from getting bacteria to the hive as it breaks down. And also just cool things like honey is one of the few things that literally if it’s an air-free environment, it lasts forever, right, because bacteria can’t grow in it.

Okay. So, also our newest project that we can talk a little bit about in passing is getting ducks and this is happening. Actually, by the time people listen to this, we will have ducks. And for me, part of the reason for this is that one of your sisters can’t handle chicken eggs but she does okay eating duck eggs and they’re hard to find. And also, but there’s a lot of sustainability reasons to have ducks and to have animals in your yard. So, talk about why we’re getting ducks and what you’re excited about there.

Anthony: Yeah. I think ducks get kind of a bad rep compared to chickens even though they are quite a bit better if you look at the facts. So, ducks, they’re much less aggressive and they do not tear up your grass nearly as much. One disadvantage though is they have to have water like constantly to swim in and everything, and they do require more feed but they are a lot better at foraging and have better health so they last longer. So, I think that’s a very good thing. And their poop is quite good in the garden. It’s much better than even chicken poop and composting and for fertilizer in your garden, and does not have to be composted for like a year to get out all of the salmonella and E. coli.

Katie: That’s really cool, I’m excited. We’ll see if we still think it’s such a great idea in a couple of months when they’ve taken over the yard. But I’ve been working on this, we’re building their enclosure and that kind of stuff. And another part of life at our house is I definitely encourage you guys to play outside a lot and you are really good about this. A couple of your siblings don’t like to be outside quite as much. But because of this, we’ve built tree house in the backyard that you guys have even camped out in quite a bit and we have kind of a Ninja Warrior type training course connected to the tree house. And you spend a lot of time biking with your friends or fishing, things like that. Talk about, from a kid’s perspective, what it’s like to be able to have free time outside and why is that important for you?

Anthony: I think that’s definitely important because a lot of kids, if they don’t have access to outside, then they just get caught up in watching TV, on devices, and on those things, and we need to be outside. It’s a healthy part of our lives. And there’s many, many things you can do outside which are very fun compared to TV and things, and like you make your own experiences, so I think that’s very important. And from a kid’s point of view, I have a lot of freedom, I would think, for being outside and doing a lot of things. Like I can go down the street to go fishing if I want, I can ride my bike in different neighborhoods and things like that. And I think that’s very important because it allows me to feel like I have freedom because I’m responsible. So, that makes me feel like if I’m good and do things which are responsible, then I get to do more freedom, but if I’m irresponsible, I do not have that freedom.

Katie: On that note, do you… I’m really curious, actually just as your mom, but I’m curious what you say here. Do you feel like your freedom is limited in a lot of ways or that because of you showing responsibility that you’re able to do those things that you want to do.

Anthony: I feel like a lot of things, yeah. In some ways I feel like it’s a little bit different compared to a lot of my friends go to regular school. So, I feel like sometimes I feel different in that way, but I think it’s a good balance.

Katie: And I’m glad you brought up school. A lot of people ask me about school and what homeschooling is like, maybe I can talk a little bit about it. And we’re at a unique situation in that my parents are both retired teachers and are helping with some of school of you guys. But my focus in creating the curriculum that we use, and you can tell me if you think this is working, was that I didn’t want to just recreate a school environment but at home. Because I think there’s a lot of things about traditional school that are getting to be a little bit outdated, and we talked about some of these sustainability things. And the fact that you guys as the generation, rather than being workers in a desk, we need a lot of you to be innovators and to be thinking outside the box.

And so, your dad and I, when you guys were young, sat down and tried to think what are the qualities that most will help you succeed in life. Because we can’t even predict what life will look like when you…I mean, you’re not too far from adulthood now but when you were young, what it would look like because everything was changing so quickly. So, we wanted to make sure that you guys could maintain things like critical thinking and creativity, innovation, and ability to connect the dots. And so, we thought we don’t want to just have you sit at a desk for eight hours a day and be told what to think. We want you to get through the basics and then be able to do things that help you learn how to think, to help you learn to ask hard questions and to ask why. And as a mom, sometimes it gets a little frustrating because I’ve taught you guys to ask why quite so much. But talk about what your experience of school has been like and if you feel like those things have actually happened for you.

Anthony: Yeah. Our school system, I think, is a lot different from the public school system to where everyone learns the exact same thing. I think ours is more customizable on what we think we wanna do and what we’re interested in at that time. I think that’s very important because our school system is based 150 years ago in the industrial revolution when we needed factory workers, whereas that’s not really the case anymore and we’re still using that school system, which means it’s pretty messed up. And because everyone learns the exact same thing no matter if you like science, if you like math, if you are good at writing. So, I think it’s much more customizable. I think that’s very helpful for like the long-term plan of what I wanna do with my life and especially innovation. That’s what’s gonna be very important, I think, in the next 20, 30, 50 years.

Katie: Something I know you follow pretty closely, but so much traditional jobs, more and more can be outsourced to technology. And what we are to automate which is, on one hand, a big advantage for humanity but also that does take away jobs. Whereas, I feel like things like that creativity and that innovation, and thinking outside the box, like a machine can’t learn how to do that, at least not right now. What are some of your long-term plans for your life?

Anthony: So, as we were talking about that superworm/mealworm project, I can actually prove that we could use that to scale. I think it would be very cool to start a company in which I could actually use that. And even in poor countries, create facilities where we do this, creating food for those communities while getting rid of pollution, I think that would be very cool. And things like that, yeah. I have a bunch of different plans for businesses that I could start. I don’t know if they’re all gonna happen but like… I think space exploration is another thing. I know that sounds crazy. Typical kid, space exploration, but I think getting to Mars is going to be crucial if we want to take some of the strain off of the planet. So, I think that’s going to be very cool.

Katie: And I know you and I are both very passionate about reducing a plastic problem. And I’ve written about this on the blog and you have talked about it many, many times. And I had just quoted some of those stats about how much plastic we have in the ocean and there are floating islands the size of the state of Texas. So this is a very massive problem. And I know you know the research, too, about how if we don’t solve this problem, truly like the planet doesn’t have too much longer without addressing this. And so, I think it’s awesome that there are people like you and your generation that are willing to take these on. Because, certainly, we’ve created some problems we got to fix.

Anthony: Yeah. And I think we look at it at the point of that we’re helping the planet, whereas in reality that’s not what’s happening. Because if the planet does die, it’s really not gonna kill the planet. In a million years it will be back to normal completely fine. It’s going to kill us, like the planet is a living ecosystem. It will kick us out if we are bad to it. Like we have to look at it, I think, more of in terms of that. Like it’s not really saving the planet. I mean, it is important to save species but the planet as a whole will be absolutely fine in a million years. It’s us that will have the problem and be dead.

Katie: That makes sense. So, basically, the planet as a whole is like a self-correcting organism that is gonna return to homeostasis eventually, and if we keep sort of making it mad, we might be the casualty of that.

Anthony: Yeah. Like it’s not the problem, like the planet is not what we’re worrying about. What we should be worrying about is that we should be worrying about ourselves and other species which we are killing off because of this.

Katie: And how to live, kind of a harmony with the planets we visit. And we’re seeing kind of examples of this right now with quarantine and how much pollution has reduced just from the month that people have been in quarantine and the water in Venice being clear for the first time and place of history and all kind of stuff. You also mentioned you have a lot of ideas of businesses you want to start. And the listeners have probably heard me talk about our entrepreneurship focus in our family and how we have a contract with you guys, that before you can drive, you have to have a profitable business for a year. And I’m a big believer personally that entrepreneurs have the ability to fix a lot of these problems, some of the ones we’ve just already talked about. But I’m curious if you could talk us through some of through some of the ideas that you’ve had for this and some of the ones you’ve already tried. I won’t say the name yet because it’s not quite ready to launch, but you’re also working. But what are some of these ideas that you’ve thought about? You got a couple of years and you’ll be driving.

Anthony: Yeah. So, a podcast, I think that’s something that I’m…I think it would be very cool to interview people in these fields which I think are very important and innovation. So, it would be a podcast about achieving basically innovation in the world and things like that. And for business ideas, I have quite a few, I think. I have like a list in my room, it’s like 8 or 10 of different ones. I think one of them was to be… So, one problem is it’s hard to get water, especially if you’re in coastal regions of the world, and especially in poor places. And if we could make it to where we could use salt water to where we can boil it and then use the steam to actually create drinking water. And right now that’s way too expensive for many places but if we could innovate that and make it way cheaper, I think that would be very helpful for many countries.

Katie: Yeah. And I think that’s something we’ve talked about, you and I quite a bit in entrepreneurship, it’s you have to find a problem and solve it. And like you’re looking at…I love that you’re looking at big scale problems for the world. I know you started small. You’ve done all kinds of small businesses in our neighborhood and in our community, and I love that you’ve now kind of shifted your focus to the larger scale. One thing that we did with you guys to hopefully help kind of create the ideas for some of these was…this was of the advice of our friend, Naveen, who you also know and are friends with and you visited at his house. He’s the founder of Viome. But his advice was to have kids watch Ted Talks in the morning on three unrelated topics because he said you guys are born naturally so creative and with the ability to find patterns and good to connect the dots. So, if you give lots of ideas and things to look at, you guys will find patterns where there aren’t even probably patterns people have found. And you’ve been better about watching the Ted Talks than with some of your siblings have. I’m curious if you have any of your favorite Ted Talks that come to mind from all the ones we’ve watched over the years.

Anthony: Yeah. My personal favorite Ted Talk I think is one by Elon Musk, I believe it’s called “The Future We’re Building and Boring.” That was really interesting because I think Elon Musk, he has a view for the world in which we can solve these problems and he’s coming up with ways, not necessarily…well, like he’s connecting the dots. Because I think for an entrepreneur, that’s what’s really important. You don’t necessarily have to be the scientist that comes up with the idea but figure out how can we connect these dots and make it work. So, I think that’s very important. And watching Ted Talks, I think that’s given me a lot of inspiration because I’ll watch them on just random topics and it’s helped me see ways that we could look at this differently, how we could change the world just by doing one simple thing.

Katie: Yeah, and it really is kind of amazing to me, I enjoy them too but a lot of these, they’re 60 minutes long and it’s like the best in the world. All of the summary of all the best that we have learned in 60 minutes. And so, you have all of those available at our fingertips, it’s just really, really cool. I know you tend to really enjoy the ones kind of in line with the interest we’ve talked about of sustainability and technology. And so, do you think that these things can go hand in hand because I feel like sometimes people try to make a dichotomy between technology and environmentalism and sustainability. Do you think we can actually use technology to improve the planet?

Anthony: Yeah. I think that’s what’s gonna be the savior of the planet really is because if we look at it if they’re enemies, we’re not going back in time. It’s either we’re going to have to work together or we’re going to die as species. So, I think that’s going to be very important because we can use this technology and come up with ways in which we can bind technology in nature in a way that is helpful for the planet and other species which we want to save and ourselves.

Katie: Are you hopeful that like in the near generation we’ll find answers to like the plastic in the ocean problem?

Anthony: I think we can. We have solutions right now, it’s just that they haven’t been implemented in a way that we have been promised. A lot of people, they look at, “Oh, when is the government going to do this?” But I think we look at the government too much because we can do things ourselves. Like you can…sure, it’s hard to start a business but you can do it. And if we had more people coming up with ideas for how we can actually, like start a business and implement these solutions in a way which it is a business, then I think we could solve many of these problems in 30 years’ time.

Katie: I agree with you. And I’m excited to see what your generation can do with that. Maybe a little bit in the same vein, in our family, one of our core values is travel. And we believe that travel is great because it helps you get out of your comfort zone and you learn new skills, and you work through challenges. And when you guys were little, your dad and I realized a lot of how we got where we are in life is because we had challenges earlier in life that made us learn skills and become resilient. And so, we wanted you guys to have that same opportunity but obviously we don’t wanna just make your lives difficult on purpose so that you would have challenges to overcome. And so, travel was one of the solutions to this because when you travel, there’s just kind of built in challenges at times and you have to adapt and learn and be consistent, like all of these lessons we wanted to teach you. I’m curious where have been some of your favorite and least favorite travel experiences?

Anthony: Yeah. So, I think going to Costa Rica, I think that is tied into a lot about like how we’re saying that this technology in superworms, how we can use that to actually help poor countries. I think going there and actually going to the third world country, I think that helped me see it a lot in like a way on how we can help people and combine two things, like a problem and then use it as a solution to that problem, and then also help people in these poorer countries. So, I think that was a very good travel experience and one that was one of my top favorites. And then least favorite ones, I don’t know. There’s no way for me to tell that.

Katie: Yeah. You’ve always kind of enjoyed the travel. I feel like you’re pretty…you guys are all really pretty good travelers actually. And Costa Rica was fun because you got to go there…well, we’ve been there twice but you got to go one of the times with some of your friends from the mastermind. And you older kids even kind of gotten just go out into the local city and even like barter. You learned some Spanish, I think, on that trip and how to negotiate and stuff?

Anthony: Yeah. And I definitely did get to learn how to negotiate and I learned some very basic Spanish, not very good at all, but yeah. And it was cool to just see how things work in another country, how they do things differently, how things are the same between humans everywhere. And another fun thing about that trip which I haven’t mentioned yet is that we went scuba diving, so I think that was suddenly a very cool challenge in some ways but also very fun and it definitely paid off.

Katie: And another motto that we have in our family is that you were made to do hard things which we learned from our friends, the Langfords, and you mentioned you’re good friends with their son, Caden, and their daughter, Abby, is one of the other authors on this cookbook. And that was a great example of where you have to apply that with scuba diving because that is, your dad and I both scuba dive and that is a pretty tough thing to pick up. And you learned right at age 10 with some of your friends, and we’ve now gotten to scuba dive together. What are some other examples of you are made to do hard things in your life?

Anthony: So, last year there’s…around here, we live in Florida, so there’s a junior lifeguard program, and I had done the younger kid one and I was kind of scared to do the older kid one. But it turned out to be very fun even though it was definitely very challenging because you’re having to run multiple miles, swim 300, 500 meters, and board a mile, something like that. So, I think that was definitely very challenging but paid off and was very fun in the end.

Katie: Yeah, that definitely, you guys came home so tired from being in an area like this, because it’s important so we thought you guys should have this to be very proficient in the water, and you guys have the option, if you want to, to be lifeguards when you’re teenagers and to work in the summers that way. Also, a few that come to mind for me because this is definitely, the adults in the family, we’re not exempt from this. We were made to do hard things, too. And so, I tried to look for things that I can learn that are difficult as well and you often were alongside with me. So, a couple of others that come to mind right now are learning Japanese and pole vaulting. So, talk about those because those are not probably normal hobbies that maybe a lot of families have.

Anthony: Yeah. So, pole vaulting, the reason we took that up is that in our local area, about a mile and a half away we have a professional pole vaulter. He was top 10 in the world, I believe, at one point and he lives there and he’s so good at teaching it in a way that makes sense and it’s simple, but it’s also like you’re learning it in a way that is so fun, that I don’t know. There’s just something about pole vaulting. It’s challenging and it’s weird, it’s different but it’s fun because of that, I think. And you’re doing something that’s different and you’re flying over a bar. And then Japanese, one of the pole vaulters, he has someone that lives next to them and he’s also a pole vaulter. He’s training for the Olympics this year for Team USA, and he knows Japanese. And so, he said he could teach us and it’s really fun to see how different that language is because they do it so differently than English but they’re still somewhat the same, that it’s fun to see those differences and how similar they are though as well.

Katie: Yeah. I know we have hoped maybe if our friend made it to the Olympics, that you would be able to go to Japan and watch him. And, of course, now that we’re a little bit up in the air and we’ll have to see next year when Tokyo is rescheduled but we have a little bit more time at least to learn Japanese. But that one has been a challenge for sure for me, too. Because, like you said, it’s totally different character so it’s not like just learning Spanish where at least the letters are the same and there’s some things that sounds somewhat similar. This is like a whole different, the tonality is different and the writing is different, and you have to learn stroke, order, and all kinds of stuff. But it’s been a really fun experience.

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Katie: And another core value in our family is independence. And your dad and I tried really hard to foster self-sufficiency in you guys. And as the oldest, I think you’ve always been the most independent but we’ve seen this even more from you in the last year when you’ve learned how to fix things as they break and vet things to solve problems. For instance, I think one of your more recent projects you’re still working on is learning how to melt down aluminum for a Halloween costume. Explain that to me.

Anthony: Yeah. So, me and my friend in our neighborhood, I won’t say his name because I didn’t get permission to. So, there’s a show called “The Mandalorian” on Disney Plus. A lot of you have probably heard of it. It was really famous last year. And this Mandalorian suit of armor, we thought it would be very cool to try to do a costume like that for Halloween. And all of the film ones, they didn’t look right so we thought, “Well, what if we could do it with metal and aluminum?” I mean, you have tons of aluminum cans everywhere. Tons of people drink out of them and stuff, so it’s an easy resource to get. And if we can melt them, then we could create a really high-quality costume pretty much for free.

Katie: And you guys have tried a couple of ways so far, definitely I love it. It’s still in progress. And if we ever do round two, we can update people of how it’s going. And as we record this, we’re getting kinda towards the end, but we are all still in quarantine which is why we have extra time to record this podcast. I’m curious from a kid’s perspective, how has this experience been for you?

Anthony: Quarantine, I think because we’re homeschooled, we’re still doing school and things like that, that it hasn’t been too much different. But like on one side, yeah, it hasn’t been that much different but then on another, it’s been just wildly different because people’s behavior and things. So, it’s really weird.

Katie: Yeah. I think that’s the saddest part for me is to witness. I get that we need physical distancing but to witness how people have changed how they relate to other people and like the fear people have of each other, and I’m hoping that will go away once the quarantine lifts. And look, I think you guys have actually handled it really well and like you said, you do a lot of the things you have already done, you’re still doing school, you still play outside, so get sunshine and all of that. But in many ways, I think this time period right now might kind of define your generation because a lot of changes are gonna come from this and certainly there will be a lot of problems to fix after that.

Anthony: Yeah. I think it’s really important thought that through this, even though it’s a challenge, that we don’t overestimate it and that we are humans. If we unite, we can do pretty much anything. I mean, look at where we are now. We’re a global species and we went from being a global species to…in a 500-year period we went from being in pretty much just Europe and Asia to then being all over the world, and I think that’s really crazy.

Katie: Definitely. As we get to the end, this has been a really fun conversation for me, I’m curious if you have any advice that you would like to give to other kids your age or kids who are a little younger maybe?

Anthony: Don’t be limited by what you think you can… dream big. Don’t think that you can’t do something just because you’re a kid, I mean, you can. Sure, it’s going to be maybe more challenging because you are younger but you definitely can do whatever you set your mind to. I think that’s what kids really have to remember.

Katie: And certainly you guys do have the entire essentially world knowledge at your fingertips through the internet. And even like courses, like MIT open sources their courses now and you watch Ted Talks, so there’s so much knowledge that’s available. What about things that you wish parents knew about what it’s like to be 13 or about letting kids learn or basically things from your perspective?

Anthony: I think parents, one thing that I get kind of annoyed by is that parents, they look at kids and they’re like, “Oh, we have to keep a super close eye on them all the time.” Whereas that’s really, you have to let the kid learn to be responsible and have freedom. Because by the time they’re adults, they’re going to be doing that. And if you haven’t let them learn how to take care of themselves, then they’re just going to go from being watched all the time and having everything done for them to having nothing done for them and having to do everything themselves. So, I think that’s very important from that point of view because you want to be able to give your kids freedom, but you also want them to not give them too much because you don’t want them to be completely wild. It’s a balance.

Katie: Do you feel like because we try really hard not to assert your freedom unless that’s something that’s actually truely a big deal or dangerous. Do you feel like you have more freedom and that you have the ability to learn and make mistakes and gain more responsibility?

Anthony: Yeah. I think I have a good balance to where it’s not like, I like being controlled in a little way to where I know that like I can’t do something super crazy and I’m never going to be forced to do that. But I also like how I do have freedoms to where I can decide things for myself.

Katie: Do you feel like you have any maybe areas where that’s not true, or like areas where you wanna rebel because, I know, when I was a little older than you, there was a lot of rules and I could do a lot of things I wanted to do. And so, I always like was trying to find ways to assert my freedom. And as a parent now, I’ve realized, especially as a teenager, your psychological job actually is to become self-sufficient and to eventually like step back a little bit from your nuclear family and become an adult at some point. So, do you feel like you have any real like areas where you want to rebel, or do you feel like you’re able to exercise your freedom?

Anthony: I think I can use my freedom. So, I think that’s a good way. It’s a balance to where I don’t really rebel that much. That I think because I have the ability to do all of these things that I don’t feel I need to because I can do most of the things I want to.

Katie: That makes sense. What about from like dynamic relationship, dynamic perspective? What are some things that you help…as from a kid’s perspective, that helped have a strong relationship with a parent that make it, where you feel like you can come talk to us if you need us but also that you have freedom?

Anthony: I think it’s just really important that the parent especially let the kid be themself and do kind of what they want, but also let the child know that they are there for them and they’re not going to judge them based on what they do. Like they’re always going to love them no matter what.

Katie: I’m really glad, that makes me so happy as a mom that that’s a lesson that you felt like you learned from us. Also, I know that you’re an avid reader as are pretty much all of us in our family. And this is a question I ask everybody on the podcast at the end about books that they love. And before you answer, I’ll say, of course, the fact that you’ve now written a book, it makes it one of my favorites and that’s really special to me. So, if you guys are listening, it would be awesome if you would check it out. It’s called “Chef Junior” and there will be a link in the show notes. What are some other books that you love?

Anthony: I’ve read so many books over the years that I can’t really boil that down, that book we were talking about earlier, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” and that’s a really good one that I thought was interesting. I absolutely love reading biographies. I read one about Amazon, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, those. And then I do like fiction as well. I think that it kind of lets you see in a world where how it could be reading fiction. So, there’s the Percy Jackson series, “Harry Potter,” of course, that’s a really good one. “Keeper of the Lost City,” that’s another good fictionist. And “Hardy Boys,” I read that one a while ago, that series but I thought that was a really good one, and yeah.

Katie: Awesome. Well, this has been such a fun interview, Anthony, it’s flown by. I can’t believe we’re almost at an hour already. But I just wanna say a couple of things on the record that I am so proud of you and all of the things you’re doing, and not just “Chef Junior” and this project but how great of a sibling you are and all of the ways that you care about other people, and about our planet. And I’m really grateful that you were here with me today.

Anthony: Thanks, Mom.

Katie: And, as always, thanks to all of you for joining us and for sharing one of your most valuable resources, your time with us. We’re both very grateful that you did. And I hope that you will check out “Chef Junior” and I hope you would join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.