Lady on the Hill

Last summer we took the children to visit the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.  We absolutely loved it.

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While shopping at their retail store, I picked up the book, Lady on the Hill* by Howard Covington.   It’s the story of how the Biltmore Estate  managed to stay in the family and become a profitable venture after decades of being a drain on the family’s finances.  I found it one of the most encouraging books I’ve read in a long time.

As a small business owner, it really “spoke” to me.  This is one of my favorite Cecil quotes (Cecil is the man who resurrected the Biltmore and turned it into the profitable venture it is today) from the book:

“There was always this negativism that it can’t be done,” he said. “If you ever want me to do something, just say, ‘It cant be done,'” Cecil said. “Everyone told me it couldn’t be done, so I just stuck my feet in it and I said, ‘We’ll see about that.’ And that is what motivated me.”

It’s that kind of “make it happen” attitude that has made America great. Do you have that kind of attitude?

I generally do.

When I was first making our goat milk soap, I was told point blank, “You can’t support your family making soap.”

When I tried to get a loan to build the soaprooom, I was told by my ex-banker, “You will have to wait years before you can build something like that.”

But I wasn’t willing to accept either of those opinions.  I pressed on and within a year of launching Goat Milk Stuff, Jim was working the business full-time. And within 3 years of talking with that banker, not only had I secured a loan for the soaproom. But I had built the soaproom and fully paid off the entire loan as well.

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Do you know how I was able to do it? Because I was not willing to accept defeat. I was going to make it happen and not let the naysayers discourage me.

What in your life are you being challenged by right now? Are people telling you that it can’t be done? Are you telling yourself that it can’t be done?

I’m here to tell you not to defeat yourself by listening to negative talk.  Don’t give in.  And most definitely don’t quit.

(Of course don’t be stupid. Don’t say,”I can jump off this roof and fly.” In that case it is important to listen to the people who tell you that you can’t fly.)

The road to Goat Milk Stuff success was NOT as easy as we’ve made it look or that you probably think it was. It was filled with excessive hard work, mistakes, wasted money, and tears. But we never let the dream die.

It doesn’t always happen as quickly or as easily as I would like it to happen.  But I have faith in God, prayer, myself, my family, and my business.  And when the going gets hard (which it often does), I just remind myself that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)

I’d love to hear what your biggest challenges are right now!

PJ

 

 

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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!

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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

 

 

 

 

What Kind of Magnet Are You?

A few months ago, we had some teenage girls staying with us for a week.  One evening, I went up and talked with the girls in Brett’s room for several hours.  We had a great conversation and a great time.  One of the girls said to me, “I wish you could come back to where we live and talk to our group.   We couldn’t connect with the last people who talked to us.”

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That comment got me thinking.  I remember playing with magnets as a young child and being amazed that sometimes the ends would attract each other and sometimes the ends would repel each other. And I started wondering – do I attract other people? or do I repel them?  Do people generally think I’m cool? fun? intelligent? loving?  Am I somebody that people want to spend time with and maybe even imitate?  Am I attractive?

I hope so.  

And although I want to be attractive to other people, what I most want to be is attractive to my children.  So I’ve been asking myself this question:  Do my children want to be just like me when they grow up?  

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I hope so.

I want them to think that I work hard, but know how to relax.
I want them to think that I deal with serious issues, but know how to be spontaneous.
I want them to think that I make good financial decisions, but am not stingy.
I want them to think that I discipline them,  but I know how to do it in love.

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Even though there are times in my life when I am stressed out and grumpy, I want my children to know that it is only temporary.  It doesn’t describe who I am.

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Even though there are times when I point out the children’s errors, I want my children to know that I am here to encourage them.  I love them, faults and all.

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Even though there are times when I make them work hard, I want my children to know that I also want us to play together just as hard.  Life is a balance between work and play.

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What about you?  Are you attractive to your children?  

I hope the answer is yes.  But if not, it’s not too late to change and build your relationship with them.  Start saying, “No” to extra commitments and spend extra time just having fun with your children.  Whether they’re toddlers, children, teenagers, or young adults, make sure that you are giving them the positive attention they need.  And then give them a little more.

And by the way, if you’re married, do this for your spouse as well.

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We were recently at the scene of a fatal accident.  It has made me rethink a lot of things.  I don’t want to have any regrets when it comes to my relationships with my family.  My loved ones are what is most important to me.  I’m going to do whatever it takes to be attractive to them.

For me, that means fewer scheduled events on the calendar.  What does it mean for you?

PJ

Alone Time

Ever have those moments where you think you’re talking to someone, only to turn around and discover that you are the only person in the room? I’ve had a few of those lately. It’s making me wonder whether I’m losing my sanity, or just losing my hearing.
 
But it got me thinking…
 
It’s not often that I’m alone. Let’s be honest here. With 10 people in our house and a business on the property, there isn’t much opportunity to be alone. Maybe I have some alone time in the bathroom – maybe. But most of the time, somebody (usually Indigo or Jade) is right there on the other side of the door. Which means that even though I have some privacy, I’m not alone.
 
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Right now, I’m alone at the computer. But the children are playing ball outside (right outside the window I’m at). That means I can hear not just every word they are saying, but I can also hear every time the ball hits the side of the house. And since it just hit the window twice, I had to get up to tell them to stop throwing the ball at the window.
 
So, does that really count as being alone? I don’t think so.
 
Sometimes (maybe once every other month), I will run some errands by myself. But even though I’m without my children, I’m surrounded by other people. Still not alone.
 
Occassionally I will go out to the barn by myself and not tell anyone where I’m going.  I even leave my phone behind so they can’t locate me.  I love time just hanging out with the goats without having to do chores.  Just standing around scratching heads.  But even then, I know it’s just a matter of time before somebody locates me.
 
Alone Time
 
I guess I really can’t remember the last time I was truly alone for an extended period of time. I think it was before Brett was born. I really do.  Back then it was just Jim and I living in Virginia and occasionally we would have different schedules.
 
When I was a teenager, I would often drive to the ocean in the evening or the winter to be alone. Sitting on the shore, staring at the waves, there was nobody around.
 
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But now? Well, now I’m in Indiana. That’s quite a drive to the ocean.
 
Since I’ve established that I’m never alone for long, the question becomes, do I want to be alone?
 
I admit, I don’t know. Being alone can be, well… lonely.
 
And I like spending time with my children (most of the time). And I like spending time with my husband. And I like spending time with my friends and my customers.
 
But I also think that occassional alone time can be healthy and can strengthen your relationship with God.
 
So, I’m going to have to think about this one. Do I want to put in the effort it would take to get some alone time? I mean real alone time. The kind of alone time where I’m not waiting for interruptions? I’m not sure. That would take a lot of effort.  
 
I must admit, I don’t think I do.  I’m in a season of life where I’m surrounded by my children. That is a huge blessing. And before I know it, the children will be all grown up and out of the house and I’ll have many more opportunities for alone time.
 
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And thinking about it for this blog post, I’ve come to realize that I don’t crave alone time.  I don’t find it missing from my life and I don’t think it’s something that I need at this stage.  The only alone time that I crave is time for our family to be alone together without pressure from the outside world.
 
But I’ll let you know if I change my mind.
 
What about you?  Do you ever get real alone time?  If so, what do you do with it?  If not, do you miss it?

PJ

Do Your Children Use Their Brains to Think?

Now that the construction is finished at our new farm, Jim and I have a lot of our time freed up.  We’ve been talking about where to spend some of that time when it comes to Goat Milk Stuff and in what direction we want to take the business. More wholesale? More internet? More agri-tourism?

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Since we’re focusing on big picture stuff, I decided to start reading a book that has been sitting on my book shelf for a couple of years.  Somebody recommended it once, but I’ve never gotten around to reading it.  It’s called The Magic of Thinking Big*, by David J. Schwartz Ph.d.

Once I began reading, I could immediately tell it was an old book, and when I looked at the copyright, it was originally copyrighted in 1959. So it’s a bit dated.  I haven’t finished it, but instead of helping me with my business, the book so far has simply validated my philosophy of education.

I’ve mentioned it before, but my main goal as a homeschooling mom is to teach my children to THINK and SOLVE PROBLEMS.  I want them to love learning and I want them to know how to learn.  I’ve never worried about them memorizing facts.  If you can think and solve problems, you can look up any facts you need whenever you need them.  I’ve always said that we live in the age of spell check, calculators, and Google.  I am fine with my children making use of these tools.

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Since I believe that the main goal of our homeschool is teaching the children to think and problem solve, I absolutely loved this section from The Magic of Thinking Big and wanted to share it with you (the bold font emphasis is mine).

We often hear that knowledge is power.  But this statement is only a half-truth.  Knowledge is only potential power. Knowledge is power only when put to use – and then only when the use made of it is constructive.

The story is told that the great scientist Einstein was once asked how many feet are in a mile.  Einstein’s reply was “I don’t know.  Why should I fill my brain with facts I can find in two minutes in any standard reference book?”

Einstein taught us a big lesson.  He felt it was more important to use your mind to think than to use it as a warehouse for facts.

One time Henry Ford was involved in a libel suit with the Chicago Tribune.  The Tribune had called Ford an ignoramus, and Ford said, in effect, “Prove it.”

The Tribune asked him scores of simple questions such as “Who was Benedict Arnold?” “When was the Revolutionary War fought?” and others, most of which Ford, who had little formal education, could not answer.

Finally he became quite exasperated and said, “I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I could find a man in five minutes who does.”

Henry Ford was never interested in miscellaneous information. He knew what every major executive knows:  that the ability to know how to get information is more important than using the mind as a garage for facts.

…I spent a very interesting evening with a friend who is the president of a young but rapidly growing manufacturing concern.  The TV set happened to be turned to one of the most popular quiz programs.  The felllow being quizzed had been on the show for several weeks.  He could answer questions on all sorts of subjects, many of which seemed nonsensical.

After the fellow answered a particularly odd question, something about a mountain in Argentina, my host looked at me and said, “How much do you think I’d pay that guy to work for me?”

“How much?” I asked.

“Not a cent over $300 – not per week, not per month, but for life.  I’ve sized him up.  That ‘expert’ can’t think.  He can only memorize.  He’s just a human encyclopedia, and I figure for $300 I can buy a pretty good set of encyclopedias.  In fact, maybe that’s too much.  Ninety percent of what that guy knows I can find in a $2 almanac.

“What I want around me,” he continued, “are people who can solve problems, who can think up ideas.  People who can dream and then develop the dream into a practical application; an idea man can make money with me; a fact man can’t.”

I love that Dr. Schwartz wrote that section over 50 years ago and yet it is still true and applicable today.

So while our children do learn facts –  after all, they can tell you tons of information about birds, books, songs, goats, Alcatraz, the Pilgrims, mythology (Greek, Roman, and Egyptian), homonyms, adverbs, eighths, negative numbers, and lots of other stuff – it is more important that they can think.  And they can solve problems.  Because that, as opposed to memorizing facts, is our main goal.

If you are a parent, how are your children doing with their education?.  Are they just memorizing facts?  Or are they learning to think and problem solve?

PJ

 

 

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Simplify Life by “Batching” Your Decision Making

I don’t know about you, but my day is full of decision making.  From the moment I wake up til the moment I go to sleep (and often while I’m trying to fall asleep) I’m making decisions.  

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Decisions for myself

  • What should I wear?
  • When should I exercise?
  • What should I have for breakfast?
  • What book should I read next?

Decisions for my children

  • What should they be studying?
  • Do they need more jobs?
  • Do they need fewer jobs?
  • What do I need to encourage them in?

Decisions for my business

  • Should I hire an employee?
  • Do we have too many goats and need to sell some?
  • How do I make liquid soap on the scale that’s being demanded?
  • Can the business afford this expansion?

Decisions for my family

  • What should we have for dinner?
  • Should we take a vacation this year?
  • Is the family working too hard?
  • Should we garden more or less this year?

Sometimes the decisions are easy and sometimes they aren’t.

Sometimes the decision making process comes quickly and sometimes I agonize over what to decide.  

Sometimes I make the decision and move on and sometimes after the decision has been made I agonize over whether or not I made the right decision.

But regardless of how the decision making process goes, I always know that there soon will be more decisions for me to make.

Because I have so much going on in my life, I’m always trying to simplify.  And reducing the number of decisions that need to be made daily is a great way to simplify.   So whenever possible I “batch” my decision making.   This means that I make the decisions for a certain topic all at once as opposed to everytime it comes up.  

The easiest example I can think of is meal planning.  Rather that having to decide at breakfast what to make, then at lunch what to make, then at dinner what to make, you can have a monthly meal plan.  If you sit down for a few hours you can set up a meal plan for the entire year.  You can set it up to include holiday meals, seasonal meals (e.g.  more grilling outside in the summer), leftovers, and new meals to try.    

And remember, that just because you have a monthly meal plan written out doesn’t mean you can’t change it.  You can change it whenever you want.  We keep it on excel so it is easily modified and reprinted if we have a new family favorite to add.  But by having a monthly meal plan (which you can keep in your control journal), you don’t have to make a decision multiple times a day unless you decide to.  

Another way to set up a meal plan that isn’t as restrictive is to just set up daily themes.  E.g. Monday is pasta night.  Tuesday is Mexican.  Wednesday is chicken.  Thursday is vegetarian.  Friday is pizza. Saturday is leftovers. Sunday is eating out.  This worked well for us for a number of years.  There was still some decision making to be done, but not nearly as much.

Another great example of batch decision making is to take the time to set up routines.  Having a routine takes out many of the small decisions that we are constantly facing.  This is great, not only for you, but also for your children.  For example, you can go about your morning routine and not have to make decisions.  Should I make the bed first?  When should I get dressed?  When should I brush my teeth? Now? or after I eat?   Instead you can create a routine and stick with it.  

In our house everyone has a morning routine that has a core of similarity as well as individual differences.  Whereas Emery’s morning routine looks like this:

  • Wake up
  • Make the bed
  • Go to the bathroom 
  • Brush teeth
  • Get dressed
  • Clean up bedroom
  • Clean up bathroom
  • Milk the goats

Indigo’s starts the same way, but after “clean up bathroom” her morning routine is different.

On a side note, routines are different from having a schedule.  We don’t stick to a schedule very well around here.  We have way too much that unexpectedly crops up all the time.  Our morning routine can start at 6 am on one day and 9 am on another.  It can also vary for each child as to when they begin their routine.

So while we don’t have a schedule, we do have lots of routines.  They make life a lot simpler.

Every day is different and comes with its unique decisions that need to be made for that day.  But if you put some thought into it, you can sit down and batch some of the decisions you find yourself repeatedly making.  The time spent is well worth it!

Do you have any other examples of some decisions that can be batched? 

PJ

 

 

3 Ways To Challenge Your Children

A few months ago, Jim and I had to make a quick run to Sam’s Club.  While we were gone, a goat (Zipporah) unexpectedly went into labor and Emery (age 12) had to deliver his first baby goat with his older siblings cheering him on (and Mom on speaker phone giving him directions).  

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Despite his fear, Emery was able to rise to the challenge.  This got me thinking about how my children are able to handle whatever is thrown at them.  When I thought about why that is, I realized that we’ve never made things intentionally easy for them or put them in situations where they can only succeed.

Instead, we’re constantly challenging the children.  I think this is a better way to build a child’s self-esteem because it teaches them to be capable.  Challenging them shows them how much they can do and what an asset they are to the family.  This gives them a real sense of self worth that nobody can take away.

We regularly practice the following concepts with each child:

1. Push them past their comfort zones.  Nobody knows your child better than you.  What is easy for one of my children is very scary or a real stretch for another child.  I tailor the tasks I give the children so that they aren’t always what they are comfortable with.  For example, Brett is great at answering the phone and answering questions, but she hates taking the initiative and making phone calls.  So I regularly ask her to schedule appointments or order the occasional pizza or contact a customer. 

2. Set them up to possibly fail.  It is extremely important for children to learn how to fail.  They’re not perfect and once they are out of your home, they’re going to find situations in which they don’t excel.  I’d much rather my children learn how to deal with failure in my home, where we can talk things out and help them to understand that failing is a part of life.  Brett got a fortune cookie the other day that I liked.  It said, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”  

I regularly ask the children to make a meal they’ve never made before.  Quite often they get it exactly right and dinner or dessert is wonderful.  But there have been times that it was a complete disaster.  For example, years ago I asked Colter to make Amish friendship bread.  When we ate it, we all started choking.  After some investigating, we discovered that he had used the baking soda bin instead of the sugar bin.  While he failed in that particular instance, he internalized a valuable lesson.  Failing and losing a dessert he was looking forward to eating was a better learning tool than me lecturing him to always double check his ingredients.

3. Expect them to try (not succeed).  With my children, I work hard to stress the fact that they will never get in trouble if they don’t succeed at something.  They will get in trouble if they don’t try with an earnest effort.  When they try and fail, we commiserate with the failure, but we praise them for putting in the effort.  For example, Jim regularly asks Hewitt (8 years old) to help empty the Hulk of all the feed sacks.  Hewitt isn’t capable of carrying 50 pound bags of feed the way Colter is, but Hewitt can drag them.  Even if all Hewitt does is move one bag of feed while Colter moves ten, we expect him to do what he can do.  Then we thank him for helping to get the job done.

I do have to point out that because I’m constantly challenging my children and pushing them to do new things, they aren’t always pleased with me.  It’s a lot easier for them to stick to their comfort zone and do just the things that they’re good at.  It does take extra parenting energy to challenge them.  But parenting isn’t about doing what is easy for your children (or for you).  It’s about what is going to make each of your individual children grow up to be the best person they can possibly be.

What about you?  Do you challenge your children?  I’d love to hear some examples!

PJ

 

 

Privacy Issues

When I first started blogging about my life, I encountered a lot of fear from people that I knew. The general consensus seemed to be that if I put photos of my children and talked about them online, they were going to be stolen or harmed in some way.  And people were very verbal about sharing that fear with me.

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But honestly?  It was never one of my concerns.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a normal mom, and my deepest fear is something happening to my children.  But I learned a long time ago to control that fear and not let it affect my decision making.  

That doesn’t mean I do stupid things like tweet, “My adorable 6 year old daughter Indigo will be playing unattended in the front yard for the next 20 minutes.”  I use wisdom, but I’m not afraid to share our lives.

There are several reasons behind this.  

When we lived in New Jersey, Jim taught at a Charter school in inner-city Trenton.  Not a particularly safe place.  And then we moved our family into Trenton.  That too caused an uproar among people who knew and loved us because there was a lot of violence and drugs and prostitution in the area that we lived.  They feared for our safety.  

And a part of me feared for our safety also.  But we installed a top of the line security system, and the children did not go outside without me.

And do you know what I learned?  I learned that ultimately God is in control of our safety.  Nothing happens to my family without God allowing it to happen.  And that really gave me a lot of peace.  I did my part to be vigilant and do what I could to keep my family safe.  I had a plan for fire and violence.   But I was able to sleep at night resting in the fact that God was watching over us.  My Pastor from New Jersey says, “Safety is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God.

So when I moved to the middle of rural Indiana and started a blog, it was very easy for me to trust God in that issue as well.  

Because the main issue is that I believed I was doing what God wanted me to do.  And that doesn’t always make sense to other people.  I believed God wanted us to live in inner-city Trenton and I believed God wanted me to start a blog and share our family with others.  In both instances, I felt (and still do feel) that there were people who needed to see our family in action.  There are people who need to see what a strong family unit can accomplish.  There are people who need to see that training children up and teaching them to work hard produces wonderful children who are not lazy and feel they are entitled to everything.

I do what I can to protect my children, but ultimately, their safety is not in my hands.  And for that I’m very thankful.

So I don’t worry about my privacy.  My life and my family and my business are mostly an open book.  (Which doesn’t mean that I share everything.) 

But I choose to live with this kind of transparency because I believe that it is important.  I try to be the best person I can be because my children are watching.  But I also want to do my part to make this world a better place to live.  And I think that there are so few good role models out there today.   Most celebrities, entertainers, and athletes have deplorable behavior.  It’s my desire to show other new moms out there that you don’t have to succumb to the negative influences in today’s culture.  You can stand out and be different.  And if seeing my life helps you and encourages you to do that, then I will gladly sacrifice my “privacy”.

PJ

 

 

What Nelson Mandela Taught Me About Parenting

I’m always looking for good movies to watch with the children.  I believe that an incredible story with an incredible message can teach and shape and mold the children’s characters.  It can also help them remember what they’ve learned because visual images when connected with emotion are very powerful.

So when Jim and I watched the movie Invictus,* I knew this was one I wanted to share with the children.  If you’ve never seen the movie or read the book, it takes place shortly after Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa.  It is a wonderful story and sparked many discussions in our family about apartheid and imprisonment and forgiveness. 

Shortly after watching the movie, Jim read Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson  Mandela.*  At 656 pages it is a long read, but Jim said the book was worth it and and is “interesting, enlightening, and inspiring”.  When I asked him about Mandela Jim said, “Mandela did a lot of driving.” I’m not sure what that means, but there you have it. LOL

Since yesterday was Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday, I was thinking about him.  As much as Mandela was an incredible leader, he wasn’t the best of fathers.  Not only was he an absent father because of his 27 years in prison, but he then had a troubled country to unite and run.  In fact, Mandela himself eventually wrote about his regret at not devoting himself to his family during the fight against apartheid.

So one might think that Mandela doesn’t have a lot to teach us about being a good parent, and yet I don’t find that to be true.  Because Mandela was an amazing leader.  And I don’t know about you, but I want to be an amazing leader when it comes to my family.  One of Mandela’s quotes that I really take to heart is this one:

“A real leader uses every issue, no matter how serious and sensitive, to ensure that at the end of the debate we should emerge stronger and more united than ever before.”

A lot of people think my children are perfect.  But that simply isn’t true.  They are wonderful, amazing kids… but far from perfect.  One of our biggest struggles with parenting eight children that are close in age (they’re all about 1.5 years apart) stems from that fact that we are raising each and every one of them to be leaders. 

This is a wonderful thing.  I want them to be leaders.  But Jim and I are also leaders.  So when you have a family with ten individuals, living and working together, and all of them display leadership tendencies, it can lead to a LOT of bickering disagreement over the way things should be done.

It is my job (and Jim’s) as the true leaders of the family to take this disagreement and turn it into a debate.  A debate where everybody is allowed to express their opinions and beliefs.  And Mandela teaches me that it is my job to ensure that at the end of the day we emerge as a stronger family that is “more united than ever before”. 

Of course, we’re never going to all agree all the time.  It simply isn’t going to happen.  God created us as individuals and we’re too unique to always agree on every issue.

But I need to teach the children that disagreement is ok.  I need to teach them how to properly disagree (make it about the issue, not the person). But most of all, I need to teach the children how to get past that disagreement and “emerge stronger and more united than ever before”.

After all, we have a lot of years to spend together.  And some day, if more than one of the children decide to take over Goat Milk Stuff (and Jim and I are no longer there to be the mediators/leaders), they will need the skills to handle disagreement and still function as a team. 

Because we are a team.  A strong family.  A united family.  And I don’t ever want that to change.

So thank you to Nelson Mandela for all the work he did and all the sacrifices he made.  He was not a perfect man and he made mistakes.  But he left a mark on this world that we can all learn from.

PJ

 

 

 

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Please note that the photos used here were not taken by me and are the property of Getty Images.

Times of Challenge

Jim decided this past weekend that he was going to get me out of bed at 5:45 every morning so we could go to the YMCA and work out.  Now, anybody who knows me knows I am NOT a morning person. Left to my own, I normally wake up without an alarm clock between 8 and 9 am.  So getting up at 5:45 was not something I wanted to hear.

Goat Milk Stuff

It’s not that I don’t want to be a morning person.  I do.  Because even though I don’t like getting up early, I like being up early.  It’s nice to get so much accomplished early on.

But with all of the stress from the construction and moving, Jim and I have both put on some weight that we want to get rid of.  So today is day 4 of getting up at 5:45 and going to the YMCA.  Brett and Colter go with us on alternating days so the other one can stay home and watch the rest of the children.  Since they both get up that early (all on their own I might add) and work on their computers, it works well.

(Actually – Brett is even less enthusiastic about going to the YMCA in the morning than I am.  She’s started another Camp NaNoWriMo and would rather be writing than working out.)

While I’m on the elliptical, I usually either listen to a podcast or read.  Today I was reading The Compound Effect* by Darren Hardy.  The premise of the book is that the small, daily decisions you make shape the life that you live.  In the book, Darren mentions a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s one that I’ve heard before, but never really thought about. 

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge.”

Since I felt like I was dying on the elliptical (have I mentioned I’m not a morning person and working out before 7 am is a little difficult for me?) the quote struck a nerve with me.  And even though I was definitely being challenged at 6:30 am on the elliptical machine, those weren’t the challenges I was thinking about.

The challenge that I started thinking about was the stressful past year we’ve had dealing with all the ongoing construction for Goat Milk Stuff and our new house.  It was very, very challenging.  Looking back at it, there were times that I did more whining, griping, complaining than I am proud of. 

Did I compromise my principles?  No. 

Did I do anything horrible? No. 

But would I hold up my behavior as something for the children to emulate? 

No.

I think for me I’m fairly good at challenging times of short duration.  But the process of moving to Scottsburg began over 2 years ago.  That’s not a short duration and in hindsight, I think know I could have done a better job.

In all honesty, my challenge was pretty easy.  It was not cancer.  It was not death.  My family was all healthy and safe.  In fact, I’ve said many, many times that I’m thankful for the problems I have.  Life is not without problems, and I’ll take my problems over the problems that other people experience any day.

But I’m going to challenge myself to respond better to the challenging times in my life. 

It doesn’t matter if they are major (like a tornado) or minor (like spilled cocoa) challenges. 

It doesn’t matter if they are short (like sleeping in the soaproom) or long (like building a new house) challenges. 

Afterall, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge.”

Have you had a challenge in your life recently? How have you measured up?

PJ

 

 

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7 Principles for Non-Annoying Bragging

While we were vacationing with my Mom at Disney World, the cast members brought out some hula hoops.  My children all have their own weighted exercise hula hoops and they use them all the time.  So when Indigo saw the hoops, she went running over and started to use one.  

Indigo

We were soon joined by two parents with their single daughter who looked to be about six.  When the daughter started hula hooping, the parents announced to the general public that their daughter is a hula hoop champion.   I just smiled, nodded (they weren’t talking directly to me) and kept watching Indigo.  Then they announced that she had won the hula hoop contest at Fort Wilderness.

Then the Mom repeated it.  Then the daughter repeated it.  Then the Dad repeated it.  At which point some of the other moms and dads just started shifting their weight and looking at each other with a slight eye roll.  

The parents of the “hula hoop champ” were making all of us rather uncomfortable.  So much so, that I later told Jim how awkward it was.  He just laughed and I forgot about the incident until today when I read an article called A Truce in the Bragging Wars by Bruce Feiler.  It instantly reminded me of these parents.  

I admit that I enjoy bragging about my kids.  Blogging about everything we do is a lot of fun for me and recording their accomplishments often occurs.  But I try to be very careful not to regularly cross the line from being proud to bragging.  I know I sometimes do cross the line (don’t most parents?), but I try to keep it in check.  Why?  Because bragging can become very annoying, very quickly. 

I’ve learned to adhere to the following seven bragging principles:

1. Only Brag to People who Care.  There are people in my life (like my mom and my best friend) who enjoy hearing the nitty, gritty details of my children’s accomplishments.  It’s ok to brag to these people as much as I want.   I would caution you to keep your list short, and not assume certain people really care about these details.  It’s not that they don’t love you, it’s a matter of personalities.  Some people (even grandparents) are only being polite and may get tired of hearing all the details.

2. Keep it short and sweet.  When you’re bragging about something, stick with the basics. Don’t tell a long story filled with tangents.  If somebody asks for more details, you can fill them in.  When I brag on one of my children, I make sure to keep the brag amusing and/or to get to the point right away.  Long, drawn out, meaningless bragging is extremely annoying.

3. Don’t “one-up”.  If someone else brags about their child, don’t feel you have to share that your child also did the same thing (better, faster, or earlier).  Let the other person have the spotlight.

4. Don’t put others down with your bragging.  Bragging should never make you feel good at the expense of making someone else feel bad.  Be aware of the people who are listening when you are bragging and make sure you are not rubbing salt into the wound of one of their child’s failures.  For example, let’s say you know that 30 kids tried out for a spot on the local team, and your child was the only one his/her age to make the team.  Don’t brag about your child’s sports prowess to the parents of your child’s friends. 

5. Let others do the bragging for you.  The really good stuff gets shared by other people.  Give them the opportunity to speak of it first.

6. Help other braggarts out.  When someone is going overboard, help them avoid making everyone uncomfortable by completing it, and continuing on.  Braggarts need to feel appreciated, or impressive, or superior for some reason.  Figure out why they are bragging, help them fulfill their need, then move on.  Don’t let them stay stuck on bragging. For example, I could have said to the hula hoop champ’s mom, “Wow, she really is talented.  Have you considered getting her an exercise hoop so she can continue to get better?”  This would have acknowledged how impressive her daughter was (at least to her) and moved the conversation on to a new level of hooping, beyond the contest she won.  By not engaging her, all of us within earshot just left this mom in the rut of bragging.  

7. Teach your kids how to brag appropriately.  The only thing worse than annoying parents who brag are annoying children who brag.  Like everything else I talk about, if we want our children to display proper behavior, we not only have to train them on it, but we have to model it for them.  

Remember that so much of “bragging” is contextual and depends on the situation, the people involved, and the tone used.  If you have something to share, be aware of the situation before you start bragging.  Know your audience and watch their reactions so you know when you’ve said enough. Know whether or not it is appropriate to “brag”, and do it in an appropriate manner.  If you’re not sure, keep quiet about it.

What about you?  Do you have difficulty with too much bragging – either yourself or someone else in your life?  I’d love to hear how you handle it.

PJ

 

 

Expectations vs Reality

When we first got goats 7 years ago, we were completely new to farm animals.  I read a lot of books and did a lot of online research, and thought I was prepared and knew exactly what to expect.  Hah!

goats

I soon discovered that despite all my “preparation” I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.  Most of the stuff that I read was theoretical and pretty “fluffy”  It told me things like what to feed a goat (hay – duh!) and about how many square feet of space a goat was “supposed” to have.

But it didn’t tell me that different feeding plans work better in different regions of the country.  It didn’t tell me that our area was selenium defficient and I’d need to booster my animals.  It didn’t tell me that  even if  I gave the goats more than the recommended square feet each I had wasted barn space because they sleep practically on top of each other in one little area.  The books certainly didn’t tell me how muddy it was going to get right outside of the stall doors or how difficult it would be to keep the spent bedding from building up right outside that door.  They also didn’t tell me how hard it would be to keep their water from freezing in the winter.

Part of me thinks it’s a good thing I didn’t know all of those difficulties, because I might not have been so enthusiastic about bringing those first goats home.  And Jim (who certainly was not enthusiastic about the goats initially) might not have gone along with my plan.  But I was ignorant and naive and those first two goats (Sassy and Melody) led to our current herd of 27 and to Goat Milk Stuff.

I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about our goat adventures as we are building our new barn and I’m correcting all the problems and deficits that exist in my current barn setup.   As I reflect on our journey, I can’t help but think how much becoming a new goat farmer  is similar to becoming a new parent.

So many first time parents find out they’re pregnant and start reading all the baby and parenting books.  We think we’ve got it figured out.  We start looking at other parents with children and we can instantly point out all the things they’re doing wrong.

And then our first baby is born.  And you don’t get enough sleep and the baby doesn’t respond the way the books say they’re supposed to.  

I remember reading that newborns weren’t really hungry until mom’s milk came in.  When I brought Brett home from the hospital, my milk hadn’t come in yet.  We went to bed that first night and she started screaming.  And I nursed her.  And she kept screaming.  And I nursed her.  And she kept screaming.  And my Mom and Jim’s Mom said, “She’s hungry”.    And I said something (stupid) like, “No, she won’t be hungry until my milk comes in.”  Four hours  and 2 oz of formula from the hospital later, she was sleeping peacefully.

Wow.  You can’t believe everything you read in books – did you know that?

The reality is that no amount of reading or prep work can take the place of experience.  Yes, it’s a positive step to read and seek information.  Just remember that reading about something and doing it are two completely different things.

PJ

 

 

Limiting Technology and Encouraging Creativity

Being a homeschooling mom, I work hard to make sure that my children reach their full potential.  To me, that means giving them many opportunities to work hard, a wide selection of good books to read, and plenty of down time to be creative.

Goat Milk Soap

Most of you are aware of the childrens’ roles in Goat Milk Stuff (our family business).  You know that my children are very hard workers and opportunities to prove that abound.  I’ve also dedicated a lot of time and money to making sure that we have an entire library of great books.

To make sure the children have plenty of time to be creative, we limit the technology they have access to.  In our house, there are no video games.  The children don’t have personal game devices.  They also don’t have any toys with batteries.  If the toy requires a battery to make it operational or fun, it doesn’t earn a place in our house.

Instead, we have items which encourage creativity:

  • lots and lots (way too many) legos
  • playmobil
  • pattern blocks
  • art and drawing supplies
  • playdoh (despite the mess)
  • tools
  • a huge backyard

Do my children interact with technology?  Of course.  It’s a part of the world we live in.  They need to know how to use it.  But we treat technology as a tool.  It is a piece of their lives, not the most important part.  We are teaching them (particularly Brett who is the oldest) to keep things in balance.  Sometimes she is tempted to spend too much time online with her blog or social media.  When she questions why I limit her use, I explain it’s because she needs to learn that while the internet may seem essential to modern living, it is not all positive.

In a recent Newsweek article titled “Is the Web Driving Us Mad?” it says:

Now, however, the proof is starting to pile up. The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.

It’s a really good reminder that we need to control our use of technology so that it doesn’t control us.  Right now we do that by giving the children (and ourselves) plenty of things to do as a family, so we don’t become engrossed in technology.

What about you?  Is technology and the internet used properly in your home?  Or do you think it’s out of control?

PJ

 

 

Teamwork

I received a phone call last week from a woman who had just discovered we were building a new soap room in Scottsburg.  We had a nice conversation and then she made a comment that stuck with me.  She asked me how long we had been in business and when I told her four years she said something like, “How did you manage that?  I’ve been in business for 10-15 years and haven’t had that much success.”

I’m not sure exactly how I responded, but I probably said something like, “It was God’s grace and a lot of hard work.”   While those are the basic reasons, the real answer is much more complex than that.  There are a lot of factors that have gone into our success, and I’ve been thinking about those reasons.

Last night I was reading two online articles from Success Magazine about  The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family by Patrick Lencioni.  They quote him as saying:

The first and most important thing is to have a rally cry for your family. A rally cry is your family’s primary goal or top priority for the next one to six months. (Shorter than that is a fire drill and much longer than that is difficult to focus on.)  Families function most productively when they have a common goal to achieve. Both short-term goals like taking a summer vacation or long-term goals like improving family communications help bring a family together. It gives them a rally cry to understand why “we’re all in this together,” Lencioni says.

This jumped out at me so strongly because this completely describes our family.  Our family has always functioned as a very tight unit.  We’re a team and we operate as a team.  We are all individuals and have individual interests, but we’ve always rallied around the family’s goals.
 
For many years, the family’s main goal was to pay off the mortgage.  Then the main goal was to bring Daddy home.  Then the main goal was to make a success of Goat Milk Stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, we did a lot of other things, but those goals were central and all our decisions were based on those over-arching goals. We prayed about them, we worked toward them, and we never lost sight of them.
 
And you know what?  Having a unified focus for intelligent, hard-working, and ambitious people produces amazing results.  [Click to Tweet]
 
We paid off the mortgage.  
 
We brought Daddy home.  
 
Goat Milk Stuff is a success.
 
Teamwork really is a wonderful thing.   And you don’t need as many children as we have to accomplish great things.  But you do need to function as a team.
 
What about you? Does your family have a goal or rally cry that you’re working toward?  Please leave me a comment and let me know what it is.  
 
If you don’t have a family goal, what are you waiting for?

PJ

 

 

Are Children Ever Too Young to Work?

I took the youngest five children (Fletcher, Greyden, Hewitt, Indigo, and Jade) food shopping with me the other day.   I pushed a cart, Greyden pushed a cart, Hewitt pushed the “car” cart holding the girls, and Fletcher walked on his crutches.  I sent Greyden and Fletcher off to fill their cart with cereal, oatmeal, and other staples while the rest of us got all the fruits and veggies. 

Bagging Soap

When we convened at the checkout aisle, the children started unloading the carts.  Once the first one was filled with bagged groceries, I sent the oldest three out to start transferring it all to the Hulk, where Jim was waiting.  Meanwhile, Jade and Indigo kept unloading the carts.  The checkout guy (older teenager) looked at the girls and said to me, “They’re too young to be working.”  

I looked at him and replied with a smile, “They’re more capable than you would think.”

But it got me thinking.  

Is that really how most Americans think?  Are we really that unusual?

We teach our children to work hard and don’t use work as a punishment.  To us work is not something that magically starts when you hit a certain age.  It’s not something that is just for adults.  It is something that all children need to be taught.  If children don’t learn to work and work hard, they can easily become teenagers (and adults) who are always trying to avoid work and expecting other people to do the work for them.  

Oprah Winfrey once said, “The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.”

We’re teaching the children to believe that they can do anything and that hard work will help them achieve their dreams and goals.   They realize that very few people are handed success and lots of money, and those who are (such as lottery winners) often lose everything that they were given.  There are very few shortcuts to success.  

I have a Thomas Jefferson quote on the wall in my office.  It says, “I am a great believer in luck.  And I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”  We actively teach this mentality to our children.  After all, the tagline for Goat Milk Stuff is  “Work hard. Get dirty. Use good soap.”  That’s our life.

What about you?  What are your thoughts on hard work?  Something to be embraced or avoided?

PJ