Do You Love Your Life?

I walked out the front door this morning on my way to the soaproom.  I was immediately struck with what a beautiful morning it was.  It was nice and cool with a beautiful blue sky with white puffy clouds.  The sun was just coming up over the trees.  The goats were all at the back of the barn waiting for the boys to call their names so they could be milked.  The baby goats were running around.  And I thought to myself…

I love my life.

Jonas Family 2015_05-002

I do.  I love it.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Like everyone else, I have lots of problems.  But problems are a part of life – once one problem is solved, another will quickly rise up to take its place.

It’s not the fact that my life is “perfect” that makes me love it.  It’s the fact that I am finally living the life I’ve always wanted.

It hasn’t always been like this.  There was a time when I was living in Trenton, New Jersey.  Those of you who are familiar with Trenton know that it is about as polar opposite from Indiana as you could possibly be.

We had a big house, but it was on a tiny lot with a small fenced-in back yard.  We had an incredible security system because it wasn’t a safe neighborhood.  In fact, Jim had gone into our basement one day and discovered two homeless people sleeping there.  There was also prostitution further down our street.  And Trenton had a known gang problem.

So why were we living there?  Jim was teaching in inner-city Trenton at a charter school for children who weren’t succeeding.  We lived there for three years and they were great years.  I learned a lot while living there and reaching out to Jim’s students and our neighbors.

But it wasn’t my dream life.

We left New Jersey in 2004 and moved to Charlestown, Indiana.  And I was so much closer to my dream.  We had 3 acres for the children to run around and play on.  I was able to homestead and that’s where I got my first dairy goats and where Goat Milk Stuff was born.  We now had a family business where we could all work together and teach the children about running a business.

But moving to our current farm in Scottsburg, Indiana in 2012 really filled some desires that I had.  I always wanted the children to have woods.  Our Charlestown house only had a couple of pine trees on it.  I wanted them to be able to climb trees and build forts and explore and conquer.

I always wanted the children to have a creek.  I wanted them to watch the water movement and wade in it when it was hot out.

The Scottsburg farm has both woods and a creek.  And that makes me very happy for some silly reason.

What about you?  Where are you in your life?  Are you pleased with where you are?  Or do you have a bigger dream you’re working toward?

It’s important to know that I loved the previous versions of my life as well.  I wasn’t wishing away that present toward a hoped-for future.  But I kept working toward my dream.  I kept moving in the right direction (despite there being some backward steps at times).

I just want to encourage you that if you find yourself not loving your current life, figure out what it is you do want.  And figure out some steps you can take to get there.  It may not happen quickly (in fact, it rarely does).  It took me til my forties to reach where I am right now.

Some people may get to their dreams sooner and some people may get there later.  But if you keep the goal in mind and make small sacrifices along the way to help you get there, it is possible.

Don’t let anyone (including yourself) tell you that it isn’t possible to achieve your dreams.

Simply keep working, keep saving, and keep sacrificing.  And most of all, be patient.  We rarely get out dreams fulfilled as quickly as we would hope.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

My life is so much sweeter because I didn’t get here quickly or easily.  I appreciate it so much more because I know all the blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice that went into it.

What are you working toward?

PJ

 

 

Do The Next Thing

For my family, February is all about one thing – baby goats.  That’s because February is kidding season, when the vast majority of our goats have their babies.

03-hero and havarti

As a result, February is our favorite time of the year.  It is also the most exhausting.  February brings:

The births of baby goats.
The deaths of some of those baby goats.
Easy deliveries.
Hard deliveries.
Lots of extra work.
Not enough sleep.
Baby goats to snuggle.
Baby goats to feed.
Baby goats to clean up after.
Baby goats to feed.
Pregnant goats to care for.
Baby goats to feed.

You get the idea.

This February, we delivered 106 live baby goats.  We have seven more goats to have their babies, but the hard part of kidding season is finished.

That means we’ve survived another kidding season.  A lot of people ask me how we manage to get through the month.  My answer is pretty standard, I tell them that I simply, “Do the next thing.”

Elisabeth Elliot is one of my heroes.  I remember listening to her on the radio one day when Brett and Colter were little.  She was talking about the fact that when she didn’t know if her missionary husband, Jim Elliot, had been killed by the tribe he tried to reach, she got through the days (and the days following his death*) by simply “doing the next thing.”

As a new mother of young children, those words struck a chord with me and I remember them still today.

I do my best when I’m overwhelmed (and when I’m not) to not focus too far ahead.  Instead, I focus on doing the next thing.  Sometimes that’s as simple as taking a deep breath (which may not seem simple at the time).  Sometimes it’s a bit hard such as getting a meal on the table when I’m 3 days past grocery shopping and there is no “quick and easy” food in the house.  And sometimes it’s as difficult as having a goat that needs to be driven 3 hours to Purdue so she can have a c-section in the middle of the night.

I’m not saying that I don’t plan ahead.  I do.  But I only plan so far ahead.  Mostly I just do the next thing.

It helps to keep me sane.

When I was thinking about Elisabeth Elliott, I was googling and came across this poem which according to the internet meant a lot to her.  I’m copying it here to share with you.

I hope it strikes as much of a chord with you as it does with me.

PJ

 

 

Do The Next Thing

From an old English parsonage,
Down by the sea,
There came in the twilight,
A message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend,
Deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me,
Teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours
The quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration-
DO THE NEXT THING

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment,
Let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity,
Guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows,
Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus,
DO THE NEXT THING

Do it immediately;
Do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence,
Tracing His Hand,
Who placed it before thee with
Earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence,
Safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings,
DO THE NEXT THING

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
(Working or suffering)
Be thy demeanor,
In His dear presence,
The rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance
Be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness,
Praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons thee,
DO THE NEXT THING

-Author unknown

 

 

 

*Amazon Affiliate link to Through Gates of Splendor.  Per Amazon, “Through Gates of Splendor is the true story of five young missionaries who were savagely killed while trying to establish communication with the Auca Indians of Ecuador. The story is told through the eyes of Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of one of the young men who was killed.”

 

 

Why Is It So Painful to Get Rid of Clutter?

A few days ago, I helped Indigo and Jade to declutter their bedroom.  Usually we do this pretty regularly, but with the new building going up at the farm, I haven’t gotten to it in a while.  So it was a pretty painful experience for the girls.

decluttering girls bedroom indigo and jade

I gave them my “usual speech” about the evil of clutter and how it sucks up your personal energy and causes you extra work and stress.  (If you’re not familiar with my clutter speech, you can listen to my podcast series about clutter.  It starts out with me talking with my friend Lori who lost her home and almost all of her possessions in an F4 tornado that hit our area.  It’s one of my most popular podcast episodes).

After listening to my speech, Indigo and Jade still weren’t impressed. LOL

So then I broke out the big guns – a new concept that they’ve never heard me talk about before.  It’s called “loss aversion” and something I’ve been reading up about lately.  It was initially discovered by Daniel Kahneman, who received a 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

The concept is pretty simple and means that people are about twice as unhappy with a loss of x as they are happy with a gain of x.  So  If I lose a $10 bill, I am twice as unhappy as I would be happy if I found a $10 bill.  Most of the articles that I found talking about it discussed loss aversion in terms of investing and finances.

But for me, loss aversion can easily be applied to the clutter we like to hold onto.

As I was researching loss aversion, I came across one definition that defined loss aversion as, “The tendency for people to value possessions far more than if the things were not yet possessed.” (http://www.businessballs.com/nudge-theory.htm)

If you apply the concept and that definition to all the clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn for 2 years, loss aversion would mean that you are twice as unhappy with getting rid of a sweater that you paid money for or might need in the future as you are happy with the satisfaction of gaining a cleaner closet and less stuff that you have to manage – or even being given a new sweater that you would regularly wear.

Indigo and Jade have an incredibly hard time getting rid of clothes they’ve outgrown – “But that’s my FAVORITE dress” – is something I hear a lot from those two.  So in their case, losing the dress (even though they’ve outgrown it and can’t wear it anymore) is more unpleasant than the possibility of making room for a NEW favorite dress.

So they listened very patiently while I gave them this new speech about loss aversion and how it should help them to understand why it’s so painful to get rid of old stuff but that they still needed to do it anyway.

You know what?

They still weren’t impressed.  But about 4 full garbage bags (headed for donation) later… their room looks great!

And they’re learning lessons that will hopefully get easier to apply as they get older.

Because any time you can understand some of the reasoning behind why you’re having so much trouble doing something (such as decluttering), it will hopefully make it just a little bit easier to convince yourself you need to do it anyway.

What are you hanging onto that you are averse to losing?

PJ

 

 

Fail Forward Friday – Buying in Bulk

Failure is a part of life.  I personally think it’s an important part because every failure can teach us something if we’re willing to learn from that failure.  I’m planning on Fridays to share with you something I’ve failed at and the lessons I have learned from those failures.

Because I have such a large family, I tend to buy most food and supply items in bulk.  It’s almost always the best way to save money and reduce the per item cost.  It’s one of the important things to be able to reduce the family’s food budget.

When I began Goat Milk Stuff, I took a lot of the lessons I had learned from supplying a large family and applied it to the business.

I quickly found out that while there are similarities, there are also differences.

Case in point – packaging.  When I first decided to start making liquid soap, I knew that it would be a success because I’d had so many people asking for it repeatedly.  As I was developing the formulas, I was also working on packaging.  I knew I would need to dispense the liquid soap, so I purchased these bottles:

fail forward friday pump bottles

And because an entire case of them was so much cheaper (on a per unit basis), of course I went with the case.

Ummm… big mistake.

Turns out, our liquid soap doesn’t really work well in a pump bottle.  When you pump out the liquid soap, it hits your hands and tends to splatter.  I discovered that the liquid soaps that you buy at the store have chemical thickeners added to them.  Thickeners that I did not want to use on our skin, so they were not something I would include in my liquid soap.

Instead we recommend a foamer bottle for our liquid soap.  It works much better and makes the liquid soap last longer at the same time.

So, I’ve had an entire case of these pump bottles sitting around for years – literally years.  I think there are over 400 of them.

fail forward friday pump bottles_1

Since I’ve spent those years, trying to figure out something else to do with them, and haven’t really figured it out, it’s time to move them out.  I had them on the website for quite a while and only sold a few. So they’re going up for sale on eBay.

The takeaway from this failure is that while buying in bulk can save you money, it only works if you actually use the item.  Sometimes, you should pay the higher per unit price initially until you’re sure you will use the entire quantity.

This also applies to food, it’s no use buying an entire case of bananas if they go bad before you can consume them all.

Did you “fail” at anything and learn from it this week?  I’d love to hear about it!

PJ

 

 

The Power of Small Change

I’m forever driving my family and my employees crazy because I’m constantly changing how we do things both at Goat Milk Stuff and just for the family.  Sometimes these changes are really big – “I know, let’s build a new building and start selling goat milk food products like caramel candy and cheese.”  And sometimes these changes are small – “Instead of canning tomato sauce we’ve made from the garden, we’re going to freeze it this year.”

But it’s still change.

tomatoes the power of small change_blog

Some people in my family are very resistant to change and some people embrace it and it hardly affects them.  I’ve always worked on the children that are change-resistant to learn to accept it without negative emotions even if they’re not quite ready to embrace the change.

There’s a concept that I bring up a lot with the family called “kaizen”.  Kaizen is a Japanese word that embodies the spirit of making continuous, small changes, usually in a business environment, to constantly improve the way things operate.

I’ve definitely used the concept with Goat Milk Stuff, but I find that it applies to our personal and family lives as well.  There’s a book that is currently on my wishlist – One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way* by Robert Maurer.  I haven’t read it yet, because I’ve got about 30 books on my bookshelf that are waiting for my attention.  But it’s the next book I’m going to purchase once I’m caught up.  Normally, I would wait to write a blog post until after I’ve read the book, but I had a Bible verse come to my attention that has had me thinking about this concept a lot.

In the book of Zechariah, chapter 4, verse 10 begins like this, “Who dares despise the day of small things?” (NIV)

That phrase – “small things” is translated that same way “small things” in all the translations I looked at.  So I’ve been thinking a lot about the “small things” that I do in my life.

  • I read something to “improve” myself every day

PJ and Indigo Reading the power of small change_blog

  • I read something of no redeeming value other than I find it enjoyable every day
  • I take five minutes to walk 500 steps multiple times a day (for a total of 10,000+ each day)
  • At random times throughout the day I stop and do squats or jumping jacks or burpees – just something for about 60 seconds
  • I try to look each of my children in the eye and tell them something nice every day
  • I try to spend at least five minutes alone time with Jim every day
  • I eat something fresh out of the garden every day
  • I try to make something on the Goat Milk Stuff website a little bit better every day

Those are just the first things that came to mind.  And do I actually do all of those every single day? Nope, but I do them on most days because they don’t take very much time at all, so it’s easy to make them happen.

I know so many people who feel “trapped” by the circumstances in their lives.  Most of them remain that way for years because they don’t want to make the big changes that they feel are necessary.

But you don’t have to make big changes.  You can make continuous, small changes and they will add up overtime.

I once got criticized on my podcast by somebody who thought that my suggestion of doing 10 squats every time you took a bathroom break was ridiculous.  I found that rather sad that somebody wasn’t willing to take a few moments out of her day to make a small change.  Adding new good habits to your life is really hard to do if you go from never doing the habit to trying to devote an hour of your day to it.  Adding new good habits is a lot easier (and more likely to stay) if instead you baby step your way by just doing a little bit at a time.  And if you can anchor those small things to something you already do – like going to the bathroom – it makes it even more likely that you will succeed.

Another example is gardening.  I have a lot of people who want to start gardening, but are intimidated when they see the size of my garden.

emery gardening_blog

I would never recommend that somebody start gardening on a large scale.  Start with a a couple of plants – whatever it is that you would enjoy eating straight from the garden – cherry tomatoes or sugar snap peas.  Perhaps some basil if you like to cook with it.  That’s it.  Just start small.  Do something you can maintain.  You don’t have to start by planting enough tomatoes that you can put them up for the winter.  Just have enough to enjoy them.  Nothing sets us up for failure like biting off way more than we can chew because we think we “should” do it.

So let me encourage you – if there is something that you don’t like about your life or something you want to change.  Think about the “small thing” that you can start to do.  If you want to pay off your mortgage – start with an extra $5 whenever you can.  If you want to improve your friendships, start by reaching out to one person a week.  It can be something simple like a text or a small handwritten note (yes, people still love to receive notes in the mail).  If you want to become closer to your spouse, try to say one positive thing to him or her everyday without expecting anything in return.

It’s ok to start small.  It’s just important that you start.

After all, don’t be the one “who dares to despise the day of small things!”

Oh – and if you get the book I mentioned and read it, please let me know what you think of it!

PJ

 

Starting the Day Right

I’ve always said that I hate getting up early, but I love being up early.  There are so many benefits to being up early – I’m more productive, I’m happier, and I get a better start to the day. But I have never been what you would call a “morning person”.  Getting up early has always been a struggle, but it’s something that I’m willing to put the effort into.

For about four months now, the family has a new morning routine that is working out really well for everyone (despite the occasional complaint).

I read some studies that showed that getting up at the same time every day is really beneficial for you, so the entire family is now getting up at 6 am, seven days a week (yep, even on the weekends). We have music that comes on throughout the entire house at exactly 6 am.  Everyone then needs to report to the dining room by 6:15, dressed for the day. They might be sleep-walking to the dining room, but they need to be in the dining room!

getting up early_blog

Waking up early for the 5K Color Run.

We have a different “leader of the day” every day.  It starts with Jim, then me, then Brett, Colter, Emery, Fletcher, Greyden, Hewitt, Indigo, then Jade.  And then it starts all over again.

The leader of the day starts by leading 3 minutes of exercises.  This can vary dramatically depending on who is leading.  Several of us do mostly yoga stretches for 3 minutes, but some of us like to get pushups, planks, burpees, and all sorts of exercises into those 3 minutes. After that, we sit down at the kitchen table and the leader of the day shares a Bible verse.  They talk a little bit about why they chose that verse and what it means.  They can also ask questions about it if they’re confused.

Then we go over the weather for the day (because when you’re on a farm, the weather has a big impact) and what’s on the calendar.  We get all of that situated and assign any special tasks or find out if anybody needs help getting their work done that day.

We finish by 7am and then we all head off to our different areas.  The barn crew heads out to milk.  Jim, Brett, and I head downstairs to do yoga (this is currently Brett’s favorite yoga DVD*).  Indigo and Jade get to work on whatever they’ve been assigned – sometimes it’s cleaning up, making bread, or helping the barn crew.

I’m really excited about how well this new routine has been working out for the family.  It really gives us all a chance to start the day with what is important to us – exercise, God, and each other.  Usually we try to put God first, but found the exercise first helped most of us wake up enough to pay attention to God!

How do you start your day?

PJ

 

7 Reasons We Involve Our Children in the Finances

I recently finished reading Sam Walton’s autobiography, Made in America.*  I admit, I’m not a huge Walmart fan, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book.  It was very interesting learning about how hard Sam Walton worked to grow Walmart and how (like us) he involved his family in the business.  I read many parts of the book out loud to Jim, but this one part I read out loud at the dinner table.

7 reasons we involve our children in finances

“As kids, we all worked for the company in one way or another.  I got to work behind the candy counter or run the popcorn stand when I was five years old.  The business was part of life, and it was always included in the dinner conversation.  We heard a lot about the debt it took to open new stores, and I worried about it.  I remember confiding to my girlfriend one time – crying – and saying, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do.  My daddy owes so much money, and he won’t quit opening stores.'” – Alice Walton (daughter)

My children all laughed at that because it was something they could immediately relate to.

Not only have my children been involved in Goat Milk Stuff from the very beginning, but they have been involved in all of the finances and the decision-making as well.  Of course, when they were younger, they didn’t really understand the implications of everything we discussed.  But they knew that they were involved.

Not everyone has a family business (although I would love it if more families started one).  But every family has finances.  We’ve chosen to include our children in our financial discussions for the following reasons.

1. To teach them how to live on a budget.  Budgeting seems to be a lost art for most people.  They just spend what they want without regards to whether or not they have the funds to cover their purchase.  Because credit is so easily accessible via credit cards, many people live beyond their means because they spend their money on purchases that are not necessities and do not build their wealth.

2. To teach them why delayed gratification is important.  One of the greatest lessons that I hope my children fully incorporate into their lives is that it is extremely important to make short-term sacrifices for the sake of their long-term lifestyles.  Discussing the finances with them is a very straight forward way to show them how not spending money on certain items now means we will be in a better financial situation later.

3. To teach them the importance of saving.  Someone once told me, “Save like you’ll live forever” and I’ve found that having a healthy savings account is the best thing I’ve ever done to reduce the stress in my life and my family’s lives.  But not everyone lives that way. According to a 2011 study, “A majority, or 64%, of Americans don’t have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 emergency expense, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, released on Wednesday.” (http://money.cnn.com/2011/08/10/pf/emergency_fund/)  I want my children to understand how important it is to have savings to cover the unexpected costs that always arise in life.

7 reasons we involve our children in finances_1

4. To teach them the difference between appreciating assets and depreciating assets.  We spend a lot of money on Goat Milk Stuff.  And despite the fact that I don’t like debt, we have borrowed to build things.  But we always stress to the children the difference between borrowing for an appreciating asset vs a depreciating asset.  With the exception of the Beast (our leased GMS advertising vehicle), we drive two old vehicles – a 1994 pickup truck and a 2002 Sprinter.  When these finally die, we have savings earmarked toward replacement vehicles.  We will get the best used vehicle we can with the cash we have available.  We don’t borrow to purchase vehicles.

5. To help them understand the significance of opportunity cost.  Every dollar that we spend is a dollar that we couldn’t spend on something else.  To continue with the car example, right now the air conditioning in the 2002 Sprinter is broken.  And it is HOT outside.  But we’ve made the decision not to put anymore money into that vehicle because it needs to be replaced.  The children understand this decision and everyone has agreed to be sweaty instead of putting the money into it.  Because they understand that if we spend the money fixing the air conditioning, than we don’t have that money to put toward the replacement vehicle.  It’s an important concept for them to grasp.

6. To teach them how to communicate about finances.  Money issues is often cited as one of the leading causes of divorce.  I want my children to learn how to communicate about money now, so that they will understand how to communicate with their future spouses about money.  With a family of ten, we don’t always agree on how our money should be spent.  But we talk it out til we’ve reached a consensus that everyone can live with.  That’s a really valuable skill to have going into a marriage.

7. To teach them to be a good steward and ultimately trust God with their finances.  This is the biggest reason that we keep the children involved so intimately in the business finances.  I’ve always said that God built Goat Milk Stuff.  There have been so many times when he just supplied us with exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.  One common reason I hear from parents who DON’T discuss the family finances with the children is because they don’t want to worry the children or stress them out.   I believe that if you’re pointing the children (and yourself) toward the fact that God has promised to supply all of our needs (needs, not wants), then that is how you teach them not to stress out about money trouble in their future.  When the business is struggling financially, we present it to the children in a way that causes them to rely more heavily on prayer and God than to be overly burdened.  Hiding the finances never really works out well because if Mom and Dad are completely stressed out about money, don’t you think the children are aware there is a problem anyway?

So those are the major reasons we keep the children involved in the finances.  How do you talk to your children about finances?  If you don’t, I’d love to know why not.

PJ

 

 

Fail Forward Friday – Cold Fudge and Butter

I’m starting a new series on my blog – I’m calling it “Fail Forward Friday”.  I have always been a believer that there is no such thing as failure if you learn from it.  I’ve always encouraged the children (and myself) to “go for it” and to “at least try”.  After all – what’s the worst that can happen?

Utter humiliation?

I suppose that’s possible, but it rarely happens.   And the truth is that some of the most important things I’ve ever learned were a result of what some people would consider failure.

And since I’ve been accused of seeming to be too “perfect” (a claim at which everyone in my family – including myself – laughs at), I’m hoping to regularly share these “Fail Forward Friday” posts about how something didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, and how I learned from this “failure”.

Many of you realize that we are launching a new endeavor for Goat Milk Stuff – goat milk candy.  We’re already offering our goat milk caramels for sale, and I’ve turned my attention to making fudge.

The hardest part to launching any new product (for me) is figuring out the packaging and the labeling.  I’ve been making goat milk fudge for years.  But to figure out how to make it on a larger scale, what shape it will be, how to make it consistent, and how can I safely (and economically) ship it to my customers is taking a LOT more work than I thought it would.

Emery and I have been working on perfecting our fudge recipes on our new commercial equipment.  This equipment is really, really nice.  But it is also really, really different than making fudge in my kitchen for the family.  I feel like a complete newbie with this new equipment!

The other day, we were making peanut butter chocolate fudge.  Simple enough, right?

Wrong.

For the family, a batch of fudge uses about 3 cups of sugar.  On my new equipment, our fudge batch size uses over 8 pounds of sugar!!

Yes, pounds.  That’s a lot of fudge.

Once you’ve mixed all your ingredients and cooked them to the right temp, you have to allow the fudge to cool.  We have a new “cooling table” that circulates water through it just for this purpose.  Well, what Emery didn’t realize, was that you could cool the fudge TOO fast.  Yep, he forgot to turn the water off.  And what should have taken 10-15 minutes to cool took about 2.

And that meant that the butter didn’t have time to melt into the fudge.  So there Emery and I were with over twelve pounds of “cold” fudge, trying to work the cold butter into it.  Not happening.

It was a disaster.  I wish I had gotten pictures of it for you.  After all that work, we had the lumpiest, ugliest, butter-iest fudge you’ve ever seen.  Yep – total disaster.

But… the children, the employees, our friends, and even our chickens have been happy with that ugly, lumpy peanut butter chocolate fudge.

hewitt with fudge_blog

And no worries, I’m not letting a bad batch of fudge (no mater how big the batch was) keep me from making further attempts.

Because despite the failure, Emery learned an important lesson about fudge making. Yes, it has to cool down so you can work it, but it’s better to nudge along the cooling process than to slam it.  That was an important lesson to learn with fudge, but more importantly, it led to a discussion about how the same thing works with people.  When you’re trying to positively influence people to make a good decision, sometimes you have to nudge them in the right direction because they’re not quite ready.  Sometimes (not always) gentle prodding over a longer period is required.  Because if you push too hard and too fast, you’re left with a “cold, lumpy person” who doesn’t want to be worked.

I hope that makes sense – it did to me and Emery as we stood staring at probably the worst fudge we’d ever made. LOL

How have you failed this week?  Did you learn anything from it?

PJ

 

 

Smile More At The People in Your Life

I’m currently reading the book Why We Buy – The Science of Shopping* by Paco Underhill.  As a business owner, I’m always trying to make things better for my customers.  Since I really don’t have a lot of insight into the “retail world” – except for my own personal experience as a shopper (and as my children like to tell me, “You’re not like other moms, Mom.”) – I thought that I could learn something to help our farm store be a better shopping experience for our GMS customers.

smile more_blog

I’m almost finished with the book and I’ve found it quite fascinating.  Not just with how the author and his team watches and tracks shoppers, but how slight changes can make a big decision in whether or not people make a purchase.

One of the statements made in the book is:

“Our studies show that any contact initiated by a store employee – and I mean even a hello – increases the likelihood that a shopper will buy something.”

That sentence really made me pause.  I’ve always taught my children to smile at our customers.  Even before I began Goat Milk Stuff, I taught my children to look people in the eye, smile, and speak to them.

When we started doing craft festivals, that became even more important.  A smile can make the grumpiest potential customer a happy customer.

But what made me pause while reading the book was not the impact that smiling at our customers could have on our business.  It was the thought that I’ve never really taught my children to smile at EACH OTHER when they are greeting each other.

For whatever reason, that had just never occurred to me.  I wondered how many times one of the children’s bad moods could have been avoided if their sibling had greeted them with a smile instead of a command such as, “You need to milk the goats NOW, you’re late.”

Or how many times Jim’s bad mood could have been avoided if the children had greeted him with a smile instead of an immediate request to help them with whatever they were struggling with.

Or how many times my bad mood could have been avoided if the children could have greeted me with a smile instead of an immediate complaint against one of their siblings.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we smile at each other all the time.  I work hard to make sure we have lots of fun times and do fun things together.  But as many hours as I’ve spent teaching all of the children how to smile and greet strangers, I’m a bit ashamed at how little time I’ve spent teaching them how to smile and greet the people that they spend the most time with – their family.

Definitely something I’m going to have to work on!

Is this something you’ve worked on with your children?  (or your parents taught you?)

PJ

 

 

Do You Take Advantage of Opportunities?

I love the fact that because of Goat Milk Stuff, we’ve been able to take the family on many adventures to many cities.  We’ve been on television in St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Green Bay, and New York City.  Our latest trip brought us to Kansas City.

visiting kansas city_blog

We really enjoy the chance to be on television and share our soaps (and now our caramels) with the television reporters and their viewers.  But our favorite part is getting to explore the city and learn a little about the culture and what makes it special.  After the filming, we headed back to our hotel, got changed, ate “second breakfast”, and then drove around Kansas City before heading to Loose Park.

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visiting kansas city_blog_1

It was beautiful and the weather was perfect!  We then headed to the Kansas City Library where the children thought the large books on the walls of the parking garage were cool:

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There was also a large chess set on the roof of the library that they had fun with:

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The sad part was that Indigo found a book that she’s been coveting and thought she’d be able to “borrow it from the library.”  She started crying when she realized she couldn’t (making the librarian feel pretty bad).

After lunch (yes, Kansas City really does have AWESOME barbeque!) we headed over to the World War I Memorial.

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Then we walked to the Kansas City Federal Reserve and toured the “Money Museum”.  The Fed was pretty cool but I wish that they had some better tools to teach the children about exactly what the Fed does.  There was a video (but I wasn’t impressed).  I spend a lot of time teaching the children about money and borrowing and interest rates and I was hoping they’d have some good books at their little shop.

We were only in Kansas City for a total of about 36 hours, but we got a good overview of the city and their Barbeque!  I thought Kansas City was well kept with friendly people and was surprised by how much elevation there was.  I actually earned a “Redwood Forest” badge from my fitbit* from walking up and down as we walked around the city.

One of the reasons we’re able to enjoy the city so much is because not only are the children older (so they can walk and enjoy the sites), but also because Jim does a lot of prep-work finding out about the city and what our family would enjoy doing before we even arrive.  He had a list of places we could visit and the children got to choose which ones they were most interested in.

You don’t have to be on television to take advantage of the opportunities around you.  I know there are a few dozen things that I want to visit within a two hour radius of our home that I haven’t gotten around to doing – yet!

Where’s the latest place you’ve visited?

PJ

 

 

Three Reasons I Stopped Wearing a Watch

A couple of weeks ago, somebody asked me, “Why don’t you wear a watch?”

This person seemed surprised by the fact that I (a very busy woman with lots to do all the time) did not have this “essential” piece of equipment.  That question was quickly followed by, “Oh, do you use your cell phone?”

Brett thought that second question was very funny and chimed in, “No, Mom never has her cell phone.”

Now the person was really perplexed.  “But how do you know what you’re supposed to be doing and where you’re supposed to be?”

I gave the person the short answer – “There are lots of clocks around if I need to know the time.”

3 reasons I dont wear a watch - clock_blog

But the issue of why I don’t wear a watch is actually pretty foundational to my life philosophy.  So I thought I’d share it.

The truth is, I used to wear a watch when I was a new mom.  I wore one for years.  And then it broke.  And I didn’t have the time or the money to replace it.

And do you know what I discovered?  I was a MUCH better Mom and wife without a watch.  That may seem silly, but it is really true.

When I wore a watch, I was not fully present for my family.  I was always looking at the watch, trying to maintain my schedule and be where I was supposed to be and be ready for the next event that was coming.  I couldn’t take the time to just be in the moment because the watch was dictating where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing at that point in time.  Without a watch, I don’t focus on what time it is.  I just work on what is in front of me and more importantly work with who is in front of me.

When I wore a watch, I was more stressed and anxious because I was focused on what I had to do next.  I had to finish what I was doing because time was passing and the watch was telling me that I had to be ready or get prepared for the next upcoming event.

When I wore a watch, I missed opportunities that spontaneously arose.  I was so focused on time and what was supposed to be happening that I often missed chances to have a special moment with the children or teach them something.  I had to move on to what the watch and schedule said was coming up next.

3 reasons I dont wear a watch - jade_blog

Without a watch, I still have a loose schedule.  Without a watch, I still have time deadlines that I have to meet.  But I am more governed by people and what they need than what my watch demands.

Let me give you a simple example…

I can remember trying to get Brett, Colter, and Emery ready for church when they were little.  My watch kept telling me that the time we had left til we had to leave was dwindling.  So I got anxious and tried to rush and hurry the children.  And as most Moms know, the moment you try to rush your children, everything slows down and takes longer because something goes wacky.  This caused a lot of anxiety for me because “we were going to be late.”  Anxiety meant that I got cranky and became the kind of Mom I didn’t want to be.

Now, it’s a lot more complicated trying to get everyone ready for church.  But I don’t have a watch.  And I’m not constantly looking at it and watching it get later and later.  Do I still sometimes push the children because I know we’re going to be late?  Yes.  But it’s different.  I’m not sure how I can describe it except to say that without a watch, in some way, the people involved are more important than the minutes involved.

I’m not saying that not wearing a watch is going to fix everything (or that you’re a bad parent if you wear one!).  And there are many times I have to find a clock to look at.  But for me, life is much more peaceful and enjoyable without the pressures of having to constantly know what time it is.

So… I no longer wear a watch.  How do you feel about your watch (or lack thereof)?

PJ

 

 

11 Years and Holding

Did you know that our sun is constantly changing?  It has varying levels of radiation, sunspots, flares, and all of the other solar activities that sooner or later have their effects on Earth’s weather, climate, and even the Northern Lights.  Not only do these levels vary, but they do so in something of a pattern, that is called a solar cycle.  These solar cycles have an average duration of about 11 years.

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This cyclical pattern of constant change is something that I can relate to.  Just 11 years ago, I packed my pregnant wife and 5 children into our little red shuttle bus, and left New Jersey to begin a new life in Southern Indiana.  Since we had never met anyone from where we would settle, and had never been there either, we weren’t sure what our lives would be like when we arrived.  We had signed a 3 month lease on a house, and I had made preparations to be employable by getting my Indiana teacher’s licence, but I didn’t have a job lined up.  We didn’t have a lot of answers for our friends and family who had many of the questions that we had asked ourselves about our plans, and perhaps our sanity.  We just didn’t know.

11 years and counting

What we did know, rather I should say WHO we did know, was the One who did know exactly what our lives would be like when we moved to Southern Indiana 11 years ago.  We didn’t have to know the answers.  Like a child with her dad, we just had to know whose hand we were holding as we kept walking.

Creek Walk

As we trusted Jesus through multiple additions to our family, changes in careers, buying and selling and building of houses, not only our family, but also our family business has become established here in Southern Indiana and we could not be more pleased.  We could not have predicted the success, no not even the existence, of Goat Milk Stuff as we pulled out of the church parking lot to head west eleven years ago.  The number of changes in our lives through that time has been too many to count.  The pace of those changes has been nearly constant.  There have been storms, and flares and the intensity has varied, and sooner or later, they have all had effects on our lives.  It has been an unbelievable eleven years.  I’m thankful to have been holding Jesus’ hand- perhaps gripping would be a better description- throughout that time.  I can only imagine, or maybe I can’t, what the next 11 years may bring.  The solar cycle continues on.  Its effects will be felt by your family and mine.  I can’t predict what those effects will be, but may I encourage you?  You can know the One who can.  Hold on to Him.

Jim Signature

 

 

How Much Is Too Much Reality?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good story.  A good story, whether fiction or not, takes us to new worlds.  It introduces us to characters who are interesting, either because we can relate to them, or because they are so different from us, or a combination of the two at times.  A good story invites us to go along for the ride as those characters do unbelievable things and are faced with incredible situations.  Whether it is told to us verbally, read in a book, or seen on a screen, a good story will temporarily remove us from our own reality.

jade reading_blog

Although many lessons can be learned from stories and histories, and be remembered through them, it is the benefit of escape that seems most powerful for the stories I’ve encountered lately.  Our family of 10 always has a lot going on between homeschooling, our goats, and the family business, but add in the annual Spring gardening, and a major construction project and there are even more decisions to be made than usual.  We have all been happy to take a step back from the reality of those pressures for a few hours each week and enjoy a good book, or watch a movie.

greyden reading_blog

I think that’s not only OK, but possibly even healthy.  Sometimes, especially when our realities are stressful, I think a brief escape is good.  Sixteen hours of high-intensity reality every day is probably too much reality to be good.  Assuming there is value in taking some time away from the pressures of life, I wonder though; how far can one go in the other direction before overdoing it?

Perhaps a better question is, “How much is too much fiction?”

indigo  reading_blog

Of course, I’m thrilled that my children love to read.  They read more than any other kids I’ve ever known.  The only person who can rival their appetite for books is my wife.  There are even times when we have to enforce “fiction fasting” to make sure some things get accomplished.  I’m wondering if this is one of those times.  Yesterday in the Beast, the kids were all talking about a character in The Westing Game*, which many of them have read.  I only overheard bits and pieces of the conversation, but I clearly heard Colter ask, “Yeah, what’s her real name?”

“Did you just ask what was the real name of a fictional character?” I interjected.  They confirmed that I had heard correctly, and then continued on in their conversation as if my point was irrelevant.  “You really just asked about the REAL name of a FICTIONAL character,” I interrupted.  They continued to explain how the character is known by a nickname throughout most of the book, but that the character’s “real” name is also used occasionally, so Colter‘s question made total sense to them.  Having satisfactorily explained their position, they continued their conversation.  I went back to driving… and wondering if my children are spending too much time in alternate universes.

Fletcher reading_blog_1

I am certainly in favor of childhood being about play and imagination, fantasy and make-believe, and yes, even escape from reality.  I am also a huge proponent of reading, and even movies to a certain degree, and I’m thrilled that my children talk about the stories to each other as well.  On the other hand, if you know much of anything about my family, you also know that the realities of hard work and ongoing attention to detail define how we live our lives, so we are not always to be found with our noses in books or our heads in the clouds.  Do we spend too much time distracted by good stories, or is it just enough to keep us from being overwhelmed by our reality?

It’s not an easy balancing act to be sure.  How does your family strike that balance?  Do you find yourself escaping more when the realities in your life are more pressing?  How do you know when it is getting out of hand?

 

Jim Signature

 

 

Mean Mom Pledge

Have you ever been accused of being a Mean Mom?  I would certainly hope so!  I know that every time I have been told I’m a Mean Mom, I respond with, “Good.  I’m supposed to be.”

Afterall, It has never been my goal to please my children.  Instead, my goal has always been to raise well-adjusted, loving children that make me proud.  And not proud in a “I graduated from Harvard” kind of way.  I desire proud in a “Mom, I did the right thing even when nobody was looking and even though I didn’t want to” kind of way.

So with that said, I would like to invite you to take the Mean Mom Pledge with me.

 

All you have to do is raise your right hand and repeat (out loud) after me.

  1. I promise to always try to do what is best for my children in the long-term, not what is easiest in the short-term.
  2. I promise not to make things easy on my children, but to let them feel the consequences of their actions.
  3. I promise to teach my children how to take care of themselves (including cooking, cleaning, laundry, and personal hygiene), and not do it all for them.
  4. I promise not to give my children everything they want as soon as they want it.
  5. I promise to not always put my children first, but to teach them that life does not revolve around them.
  6. I promise to teach my children to accept the word “No” without throwing a tantrum.
  7. I promise to teach my children how to live below their means and be responsible with their money.
  8. I promise to teach my children not to whine.
  9. I promise to take care of myself even if that means putting my needs ahead of my children’s needs occasionally.
  10. I promise to teach my children to work, to work hard, and to do it with a good attitude.
  11. I promise to teach my children the difference between a want and a need.
  12. I promise to make sure that my children regularly get enough sleep, even if that means limiting the fun or educational activities we participate in.
  13. I promise to teach my children to eat their vegetables and to enjoy healthy food.

Remember, being a Mean Mom does not imply that you are perfect.  It just means that you are doing your best to raise your children in a way that will help them to become the future adult you want them to be.   Keep the long-term view in mind and it helps with making the right short-term decisions!

mean mom pledge

If you agree with the Mean Mom Pledge, please post it and share it with others. You can copy the code below:

<a title="Mean Mom Pledge" href="http://goatmilkstuff.com/blog/2015/02/03/mean-mom-pledge/" target="_blank"><img class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-21786" src="http://goatmilkstuff.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/mean-mom-pledge-shield-low-275x300.png" alt="mean mom pledge" width="275" height="300" /></a>

And if you have any promises you think should be added to the pledge, please share them in the comments below!

PJ