First garden tomato salad (with fresh, garden basil) of the year! -PJ
Carmela got into the wrong pen, but she obediently followed Jim back to the proper pen!

Don’t Give In to Entropy

My children are growing up.  Jade (the youngest) just turned ten years old!  I no longer have any children in the single digits.  I have three with their driver’s licenses.  By the end of the year, I will even have one who is twenty-one and legally able to consume alcohol.

Life is changing.

In a good way, but it’s still changing.  And because of that change, I’ve been doing some big-picture thinking on our house and how we use it.

I have a large house.  It’s larger than I wanted it to be (I’m a minimalist at heart), because the house is designed to be a bed and breakfast for Goat Milk Stuff once the family is grown and the children have moved on.   But that is years in the future and something I’m not ready to fully think about yet.

Right now, our school room has become a clutter hot spot.  And if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I detest clutter.  In fact, I have 3 podcast episodes on clutter and how to get rid of it.  Here is a link to the first clutter podcast episode.

Now that the children are older, I want to move all of their desks from the schoolroom into their rooms.  Greyden actually moved his to his room over a year ago so he could read his Bible and write in his journal every night.  It’s worked out really well, so we’re going to do that for most of the rest of the children.

The schoolroom will still have my treadmill desk, Jim’s desk, and probably Colter’s desk.  But I’m also going to turn it into our library.  Right now we own way too many books. (I never thought I’d say that!)  Currently, the books are scattered throughout my entire house and business, making it difficult to locate a specific one when I want it.  We also still have all of our baby books and learning to read books out.  We’re past that stage.  I want to put more emphasis on some of the higher reading level books we have that the children haven’t read yet.

As I’m getting ready to make this switch, I’ve been thinking a lot about entropy.  In one of the podcast episodes on clutter, I said this:

My husband will often hear me say that I am convinced that entropy is stronger in my house, this is partly true because I have 8 young entropy magnets and if you don’t remember your high school physics lessons on entropy, entropy simply means that things naturally tend to go from order to disorder and what that means for our day to day lives is that if we don’t interfere, things will progressively become more chaotic and more disordered in our homes all by themselves.

(Sorry for the run-on sentence – I was talking, not writing. LOL)

Other than the fact that the children are a bit older, that statement is just as true now as when I said it several years ago.

The part that I want to repeat and stress is this:  if we don’t interfere, things will progressively become more chaotic and more disordered in our homes all by themselves.

Did you catch the significance of that?  It’s not entirely your fault if your life seems to get chaotic.  Or if your home seems to become disordered.  Especially if you just cleaned and decluttered it!

Chaos and disorder are the natural end result of living.  But just because it is the end result of living, that doesn’t mean disorder and chaos is inevitable.

It’s our jobs to fight the entropy so that we can live the kind of simple, orderly lives we desire.  And we have to keep on fighting it because entropy never quits.

I’m a big believer in the saying, “a place for everything and everything in its place.”  As a Mom and homekeeper, that’s one of my chief jobs – to make sure that not only does everything in our home have a place, but the children (and Jim) know where that place is.  I spend a lot of time training them to put their things in their proper place.

In fact, one of our house rules – “Touch it Once” – is designed with this in mind.  You don’t take your shoes off and leave them on the floor, you put them in your locker where they go.

You don’t get a drink of water and leave your glass out, you put it at your spot at the table if you’re planning to use it later or you put it in the dishwasher.

The list of examples is endless.

I often ask Hewitt to clean off our kitchen table and benches.  It tends to be a dumping ground for stuff that comes into our house (and I admit, lots of it is mine – like my green gardening hat).

I always tell him, “Hewitt, please clean off the table, and if you don’t know where something goes, ask me.”  I’ll be honest, there are often items that he’ll show me that are new and don’t have a place in our house.  I will tell him where to put it while I think about where to keep it.  Sometimes it is easy and sometimes not so easy, but I know that in our home, if I don’t come up with a place for it that makes sense, I’m doomed to trip over it time and time again.

So don’t be discouraged if you’re having trouble maintaining an orderly home!  It’s not easy.  It takes constant effort to maintain.  But I truly believe it is worth the effort, especially if you don’t try to do it all alone.

Involve the family in your decluttering efforts.

Spend time training them to “touch it once”.

Create a place for everything and then make sure everyone is putting their things in its place.

And when life happens, and you fall behind, don’t beat yourself up!  Recognize entropy for what it is, and jump back in.  You’re out to win the war – you can afford to lose a few battles!

What’s your biggest struggle with fighting entropy in your life?





Answering What Matters

We have a very public business and my children interact with a lot of new people they only meet once on a daily basis.  Because they’re children, they are generally brutally honest with what they share with people. This usually doesn’t cause a problem at all because we aren’t trying to hide anything.  The fact that the children are so honest is another sign that we are living authentic lives and Goat Milk Stuff is a reflection of how we live.

Unfortunately, there have been some instances where people ask the children (in my opinion) totally inappropriate questions.  I’ve had to do a lot of role playing with the children on how to recognize these types of questions and then how to appropriately and respectfully respond and answer them.

Here are a few examples of questions the children have told me they’ve been asked:

  • “How much money do you get paid?”
  • “Who did your parents vote for in the election?”
  • “Do your parents physically discipline you?”
  • “Which bedroom in the house is yours?”

Teaching the children to discern which questions are safe to answer and which are not takes quite a bit of time.  Some of the children are more intuitive than others and can discern the motive behind the question easily.  Others are not as intuitive and take even more coaching.

The bedroom question would have been really creepy except for the fact that it was asked by a friendly, elderly woman as they were discussing the views from their windows (her window opened onto her garden).  But I bring it up because it was a good lesson for the children that sometimes even simple, innocent questions are best left unanswered.

The standard answer when the children aren’t sure if it is safe ground is simply to say, “That’s private family business, you can ask my Mom or Dad if you want to know.”  The children don’t have to use that phrase often, but they have it memorized so if they are at all unsure, they can whip it out.

I do want to take a moment to say that because my children interact with the public on a regular basis, there are many safety precautions built into our family business that are designed to protect the children and keep them physically and emotionally safe.

But please be aware that all children should be taught to recognize inappropriate questions, even if you don’t have a family business.  Child predators are everywhere and my understanding is that most abuse occurs not from strangers, but from people that are trusted by the parents. Role playing is a great way to help even young children learn how to answer or avoid questions they shouldn’t be comfortable with.

So while we are very up front with how we live our lives, the children are regularly taught and reminded that simply because we have a public family business does not mean that every question a customer asks needs a response.

The one exception to this is questions about our faith in Jesus.  We willingly answer those questions and are happy to talk about our walks with Lord and what the Bible teaches.

A few months ago, Emery asked to talk with Jim and me one evening.  (I don’t know about you, but whenever we get a request like that, our heart rates speed up. LOL)

In this instance, it was very positive.  Emery told us that he wanted to get baptized.  He’d been reading his Bible and God had convicted him that he needed to publicly stand up for his faith in Jesus by being baptized.

We were beyond pleased to hear his decision and told him that we would help him get baptized wherever, whenever, and in front of whomever he wished.

Yesterday was finally the day.  He invited nearby friends and people who were important to him and he was baptized in our pool by someone who has had a great impact in Emery’s life – a close friend and his cross-country coach – Jon Sweetland.

Emery wanted me to share why he believes what he believes.  So after sitting down with our Bibles last night, here it is!

  1. You can trust the Bible to be the accurate word of God.  “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  2. We have all sinned. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
  3. There is a penalty for sin. “For the wages of sin is dealth,” (Romans 6:23)
  4. Jesus is a gift from God. “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
  5. Jesus is the means of eternal salvation. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
  6. Jesus is the only way to be saved. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'” (John 14:6)
  7. You can’t work your way to heaven. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  8. You can receive salvation through Jesus by confessing you are a sinner in need of a Savior. “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Emery told me afterwards that he is really trying to stand up for what he believes in and that he is hoping that being baptized is just the beginning.

Jim and I regularly pray for all of our children that they have the wisdom to share strongly the truths they believe in while having the wisdom to discern what questions are best left unanswered.

What are the questions that are most important to you to answer (or avoid)?




Do Something

Have you ever felt overwhelmed?  I certainly have.  I work very hard to avoid being overwhelmed, but it can (and does) happen despite my best efforts.  When I’m feeling that way, I can often feel paralysed.  I’m not sure which way to turn or what effort to make or how to reduce my stress.

I blogged about this a while ago when I talked about Doing the Next Thing.  I basically try to not think too far ahead, but I just concentrate on doing what comes next, however basic that may be.

But there is another point I want to make.  When you’re feeling overwhelmed, what is most important is to simply Do Something.

If you’re overwhelmed, it’s very easy to get stuck in an over-analysing loop.  For me it looks like this:

Picture me muttering to myself:

“There is too much to do.
How did I get myself in this position?
Don’t think about that now.
Just do the next thing.
I need to make dinner.
But the kitchen is a mess.
I should clean the kitchen.
But that will take half an hour.
I’m hungry now.
I should make something quick.
I don’t have anything quick to make.
I should go food shopping.
I don’t have time to go food shopping.
I should send one of the children food shopping.
I don’t know where the children are.
I should have the children clean the house while I go food shopping.
There’s no time for that.
Maybe I should pickup pizza.
I don’t want pizza – I have all of this produce in the garden to be cooked.
I should go pick green beans and cook that.
Jim won’t want just green beans.
I should cook him some protein.
But all the protein is frozen.
Actually I have canned venison.
Maybe I’ll make canned venison with green beans.
But first I need to clean the kitchen. It’s a mess.”

Wow – does that remind anybody other than me of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie*?

It’s so easy when you’re overwhelmed to get in a loop and not accomplish anything. I’ve learned that first I need to figure out what the next thing to do is.  And then I simply Do Something!

In this case, I would have started with cleaning up my kitchen.  It’s a brainless task that keeps my hands busy and keeps me making forward progress.

I’m still able to finish the rest of those thoughts, but while those thoughts are being muttered, I’m accomplishing something.  And when I’ve accomplished something – even if it is simply a cleaned off countertop, the world suddenly looks a little bit less overwhelming.  That little bit of forward progress often breeds further forward progress.

Do you know what makes me feel even better when I’m overwhelmed?

Delegating the “Do Something”.

It looks like this:

Me: “Front and Center!!! (all the children come running – or at least the ones within the sound of my raised voice).
OK, there is too much to do and not enough time to do it.  Let’s act quickly.
Brett – you clean off the table.
Colter – you wipe down the countertops.
Emery – you go pick green beans out of the garden.
Fletcher – you wash the dishes.
Greyden – you wash the cast iron.
Hewitt – you put away the clean dishes Fletcher washes.
Indigo – you empty and reload the dishwasher.
Jade – you start sweeping.
Let’s move people.”

While they all jump to their tasks (yes, they would jump to their tasks but it has taken years of child training to get them to do that!), I would start water boiling.  Water boiling leads to pasta cooking which is always a great solution when I need a quick dinner. Combine it with goat cheese, butter, venison, and green beans and I have a quick and relatively easy and healthy dinner!

That’s one example.

But I want to stress that the important thing when you’re overwhelmed is to just Do Something!  Doing something will break the paralysis that so often accompanies being overwhelmed.

Have you ever had a big project you wanted to tackle, but it overwhelmed you and you didn’t know where to start?  My advice is to just Do Something.  It doesn’t even have to be a very good something.  Just start.

Perhaps your house is full of clutter and you don’t know where to begin.  Just Do Something.  Preferably something easy – pick out a single drawer to declutter.  Or a single shelf.  Lots of times having a small success motivates you to do just a little bit more.  And a little bit more.  And before you know it, you find yourself actually enjoying what you’re doing instead of dreading it.

Or perhaps you are not happy with your relationship with your spouse.  Don’t try to fix it all at once.  Just Do Something.  Try saying one positive thing to your spouse every day.  Look for one nice thing you could do to make his or her life easier.  Just Do Something.  And then keep on doing something* until you start to find that your relationship is improving.

Or perhaps you’re not enjoying your chosen career (or you don’t have a career and are stuck in a meaningless job).  Thinking about doing something different can be completely overwhelming. You don’t have to start with applying to other jobs.  Just Do Something easy.  Talk to people about what they are doing.  Make something fun and try to sell it on etsy or ebay. Write a list of jobs that you find exciting. When you’re doing something you start to become more aware of the opportunities that are out there.

Or perhaps you are deeply in debt and don’t know how you’ll ever get out of it.  Don’t despair about paying it all off.  Just Do Something to make progress.  Start keeping track of your expenses.  Create a list of what are your needs and what are your wants. Read a book about budgeting or money management*.  Just Do Something and you can start to turn things around.

It doesn’t matter what the situation is.

Remember that we are all overwhelmed at times in our life.  That’s normal and natural.  You just don’t want to stay there!  Focus on Doing the Next Thing and even if you don’t know exactly what that next thing is, make sure you Do Something!




*Amazon Affiliate Link

Our Favorite Things – Bottle Pourer

Our family is a bit atypical in that we don’t drink soda and we don’t drink juice.  Instead we drink lots of water, goat milk, and smoothies made with either goat milk, goat milk yogurt, or water.  Occasionally we’ll drink coffee or tea, but that’s it.

While we do drink quite a bit of goat milk, we really mostly just drink water.  I must admit that we’re a bit finicky about our water.  We have a really good filter on our drinking water and we’ve become accustomed to water that doesn’t have an “after taste”.  In fact some of us have been caught making faces when we find that water away from home doesn’t taste very good.

Fortunately most of us don’t drink our water plain – we drink our water with lemon. This can mask water that doesn’t taste the way we prefer. We started the lemon water habit more than a decade ago because there are a lot of health benefits to drinking lemon with your water.  Most of the benefits come from using freshly squeezed lemon juice, but to be honest – “ain’t nobody got time (or money) for that!”

Especially not when there are ten of us who drink it.

So instead of using freshly squeezed lemons, we just use a big bottle of lemon juice.  It weighs 32 oz and we go through approximately one of them each week.

I know, that’s a LOT of lemon juice!

One of the children’s jobs is to make sure Mom and Dad always have water with lemon available to us.  Jim is actually really good about stopping what he is doing and getting more water for himself if he runs out.  But me, I’m terrible.  I will go for hours thinking to myself, “I really need to go get a drink of water” and never actually get it!

But if there is water in front of me, I’ll drink it.

It actually totally cracks me up because my family quite often will grab my water if they see it full and then hand it to me with the command, “Drink.”

I dutifully do. LOL

Usually I have a glass that is actually made of glass.  But in the candy kitchen where I spend a lot of my time, I don’t use glass because it is unsafe. Instead I use a Tervis tumbler with a lid*.  I don’t know how many of you use the Tervis tumblers – and if any of you have the same problem as me – but I can’t drink from them when they have a lid on without spilling water down my shirt.  It’s become a big joke in our family.

I digress.

Jim and I (and the children) each prefer our water a different way.  Jim prefers his with ice.  I prefer mine room temperature.  Jim gets 3 capfuls of lemon juice.  I get 2 capfuls of lemon juice.

The children had the entire system down and would dutifully fetch us water with lemon when they saw our glasses were empty or when they were asked.  They all make me proud because they have a real servant’s heart about serving us this way!

This was our system for years. And then about six months ago, Jim came up with a brilliant idea – a bottle pourer* like the ones they use for alcohol.

He got a pack of them and put them on the lemon juice bottles we store in different locations in the house and the business.

They work beautifully!!

Each one pours 1/2 oz of lemon juice, which is a good compromise between our two preferences and works really well if you are using a big glass (20-24 oz) like we do.  If you use a smaller glass, you probably wouldn’t want to pour the whole serving (unless you like it really lemon-y).

It adds about 1.5 inches to the height of the bottle, so you may need slightly more space in your fridge shelf.

I know it sounds simple, but I can’t tell you how much time this has saved us.  All you need to do is fill the glass with water, tip the lemon juice into it, and stop when the pouring stops.

No opening and closing of caps.  No measuring capfuls of lemon juice.  No overpouring so you have more lemon than water.

With how much water with lemon we drink, this one simple tool has saved us hours and hours of time over the past six months.  And with how busy we are, every little bit helps!

I don’t know how many of you add lemon to your water.  And even if you do, you probably don’t go through as much lemon juice as we do – but I definitely wanted to share this trick with everyone and hope you find it helpful!!




*Amazon Affiliate Link