Wednesday, April 27, 2016

We really aren't business owners, just have an expensive hobby

I used to tell Mike that he needed to write more in his journal.  More than once a year.  When he had something good happen to him I'd say, "You will forget this, go write it down."  When my kids tell me that they had a spiritual experience, I tell them, "Go write that in your journal."  I have written in a journal consistently since I was 10.  I have always believed in journals and the importance of writing our thoughts and feelings down.  When I started the blog it was mostly to document our lives for my family because we had just moved away and I wanted a way for them to see Will grow and get a glimpse of our lives.  It was fun to write their shenanigans and have a written record of our lives.  When Laila died it was a way for me to express my thoughts.  Sometimes I didn't want to share so I wrote in my journal instead of the blog.  Sometimes I felt I had to share so I wrote what I felt needed to be said.  Life gets busy and I find it harder to set aside time to write.  I post pictures and captions but don't usually write my thoughts and feelings a whole lot anymore.  Sometimes it's just hard to figure it all out and by the time I've figured it out I don't feel the need to write it anymore.  On the flip side, Mike made a goal two Christmases ago to write every day in his journal and he has kept that goal and written faithfully for one and a half years now, only missing a few days.  My journal sits on my nightstand and I write about once a week.  I've been trying to be better and write more and not just the day to day happenings but to open up more and share my thoughts and feelings.  So, that said, I've had something on my mind a lot lately.  I'll start there.

I made the wooden silhouettes when we lived in Colorado.  Some friends expressed interest in them and Mike joked about me making money on the side and selling them.  I didn't see how I could find the time to manage something like.  Cutting them out with the scroll saw took me too much time and I didn't want to take my time from the kids or take my time with Mike after the kids were in bed.  When we moved here our friends who owned two businesses really encouraged us to start making some and selling them.  Mike was convinced and before I knew it he had bought a CNC Router.  We really didn't know what we were doing and made a lot of mistakes and our first items weren't very good.  Family and friends were kind and patient with us as we tried to figure things out and get our processes down and learn to make a really good quality product.

We had some friends ask to join the business as partners.  I won't write a lot about that but at the time I thought it could be a good idea because I didn't want to deal with people.  I didn't want to manage the marketing aspect of the business and didn't have a smart phone for Instagram.  I let my friend manage the website, Etsy, Instagram, facebook page, and emails to and from people.  When the partnership dissolved 8 months later all that fell on me again.  We decided the website was too much to manage so we closed that down but I took over the Facebook page and Etsy.  We paid my sister to help us manage the Instagram account.

Before the partnership dissolved, I tried to just avoid instagram altogether.  Since then I've had more interactions with instagram and Mike bought us smartphones.  I've realized since Instagram has been introduced to my life that I feel unsettled about this business.  First of all, I have my own account and I follow my friends and family but for our business we follow other etsy shop owners or bloggers (most of whom my friend or my sister followed for us when they were in charge of the account).  I realize that these are real people with real life problems but they are also people who are trying to promote their business.  They appear to have perfect hair, clothes, bodies, houses, children, products, etc.  They are witty and cool.  I am not  (any of those things).  For the most part, I feel satisfied with my life and who I am and what I have to offer the world as a person and as a mother but I feel bombarded by thoughts of insecurities and comparisons any time I go onto the business instagram account.  It took me awhile to recognize it was happening but I do now.  As a business owner you have to put your best face forward.  You have to have perfect photos of your products, and make a good image of yourself.  I get that but it is really frustrating for me to feel the pressure to be something I am not.

My brother was here in November.  He has started a business and is hugely successful.  He mentioned when he was here that if we really wanted our business to take off we needed to really invest ourselves in marketing and in making this business something great.  I realized talking to him (and now from the instagram stuff) that we aren't ever going to be successful in the typical way people perceive success.  What I told my brother then and feel still is that I am a mom, a wife, a visiting teacher, a friend, a Primary teacher, a homeschool mom, etc.  I cannot put in the time needed in this business to be really successful.  I can't spend the overwhelming amount of time required to research perfect hashtags and style products perfectly.  I can't invest so much time in making connections with strangers on instagram so that I can get loads of comments and followers and thus work the system of the instagram algorithm.  I don't want to spend time doing loop giveways so I can get followers only to lose half or more of them after the giveaway ends.  Not only do I not want to spend the time on those kinds of things, but I am not willing to change who I am.  I get frustrated by the pressure to appear a certain way.  My sister owns a business as well and she had me join this small business own/etsy shop owners group.  There are all kinds of great advice on the group--how to get followers, how to do likes for likes, when you should post to get the most interactions, etc.  They attend bloggers conferences and take selfies with popular bloggers.  My sister is so good at incorporating what they say.  She makes connections and interacts with complete strangers like they are best friends.  She sells at craft markets and builds her brand.  She is doing amazing things and growing her business.  I'm really proud of her and I also see that I am not like that.  I recognize from reading the advice that I am unwilling to do what they say is necessary to grow and get attention.  That is a problem because unless people see your product, they won't know you exist and no matter how great a product you have, no one will buy it if they don't see it.

So, Mike and I have talked a lot about all of this lately.  We realize that what we want is to be ourselves.  We want to learn and grow and perfect our skills.  I feel so much better about what we have to offer than when we started.  We love to work together and we enjoy creating.  What we are doing should be enough but I admit, it is hard to get caught up in the pressure to be more.  I wish I was better at just posting what I want and not worrying about losing followers.  I wish I could just create and improve my art skills without worrying that it's not cool enough or that no one will like it.  I don't want to compare myself to others.  It's just so silly.  It's so silly the pressure I put on myself.

Anyway, all this is to say that I acknowledge that I am not really a business owner, but rather, have a very expensive hobby.  Perhaps one day I will feel ready to put more time and effort into making the business something else but for now, I just want to create and improve my skills and be myself.  I want to focus on my family and my many responsibilities and not add to that the pressure of running a business.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Eli's baptism

Saturday was such a wonderful day.  Eli got baptized at 3:00 on Saturday April 16th.  Grandma and Grandpa Richards came as well as Lance and Nancy and their kids.  We had a hard time getting a straight face from Eli for the pictures because, well, he is Eli.  He asked me to give the talk on Baptism and Mike to give the talk on the Holy Ghost.  He asked Will and Grandma Richards to give the prayers and Grandpa Richards and Lance to be the witnesses.  He also asked Grandpa Richards to confirm him.  Mike was the presiding member of the bishopric, the pianist, and conducted the meeting.  He was busy!  Eli requested mini fruit pizzas for the refreshments so I got up early on Friday and baked all the cookies and then Grandma and Nancy helped me frost and decorate them.  We also had mini brownies, a vegetable platter, a cheese, cracker, and salami platter.  We cut up some lemons and limes and threw in some mint and ice and served that for our drink.  I printed off some pictures I had taken of him in his suit and put those on the refreshment table and the table where the programs were.  

After the baptism we got pictures with family and Eli wanted to eat at Golden Coral so we headed out to dinner after we changed.  The next morning Mike and I gave him a small bag of goodies.  He got gum because we were proud of him for "chewsing the right."  He got a small flashlight to remind him that Jesus is the Light of life and that the Holy Ghost will guide him when he doesn't know what to do.  We got him hot snaps to remind him that the Holy Ghost will bring him warmth and comfort.  We also got him some body wash to remind him that we need to regularly become clean again through repentance.  The Primary Presidency also gave him a journal that they wrote a message in and then had me and Mike, Lance and Nancy, and Grandma and Grandpa Richards write in.  

I think it was a really special day and I hope that even though he is only eight, that he will remember his baptism and that his testimony of baptism will grow and grow.  

Eli is eight!

This week at church I had to teach the 11 year olds about adversity.  I got chocked up and started to cry when I told the kids that I knew that God provides ways for us to get through our trials and that he will help us bear our burdens and help to make them feel light.  My heart just felt so tender when I thought about Eli and his birthday and Laila's birthday coming up.  When I woke up the day of his birthday and rolled over to say my morning prayers I also got choked up when I thanked God for my Eli and the chance to celebrate his birthday.  I have mentioned this before, but Eli was a tough toddler.  I had no clue what I was doing with him.  His fire and passion and anger had me stumped.  I just didn't know how to work around his swings of temper fits.  One night before I had Laila Mike gave me a blessing and in the blessing he told me that God had sent Eli to our family at a very specific time for a specific reason and that I had much to learn from him and he had a lot to learn from us.  

After Laila died I realized part of the reason Eli came to our family when he did.  Eli had such passion, curiosity, happiness, and energy.  He was only three and of all my kids he was the most unaffected emotionally by her death.  He missed her and asked about her and he loved her so much but being only three, he didn't quite feel the tragedy the way we all did.  His days required my attention and I truly feel that he saved me in many ways.  I had to get up each day and meet his curiosity and energy.  He brought happiness and joy to me every day.  He used to try and make me laugh and smile every day.  Not only did he bring happiness into our home but he is the most independent of my children so in the moments when I needed to retreat to my room and cry he found things to do to entertain himself until I was ready to face my responsibilities.  

So, here is my Eli turning eight.  Five year later I still get choked up when I think about the blessing this fiery boy has been to me.  Heavenly Father sent Eli to our home at the exact time I needed his bubbly personality.  I can't help but feel a deep gratitude for him and the help he was and is to me.  I love this boy so much.  Eli still has so much passion and happiness.  He still has moments where his body shakes with anger but his ability to work himself out of his anger and manage his feelings has been incredible to watch.  He has grown so much and I can't even believe sometimes that he is the same boy that used to shake his fists at me all day long.  He is truly awesome.

We woke up on Friday and went to get our hives ready.  We joked that it was Eli's "Bee-Day."  We came home and opened presents and then it was a pretty normal day.  The kids had school work (though, we counted our bees as a large portion of our school day) and I had cleaning to do for the family coming in town.  He wanted an army cake and I didn't really have time to make one so I ordered one from Sam's club that was just frosted with no decorations on and then when I got home he wanted to decorate it so I let him go to town with the army guys.  He requested fire so I did the flames but man, it ended up being one of the easiest cakes ever.  I think I will always buy one and then just decorate it myself later!  He wanted me to cut off arms and such to make it look like a real battle but I told him no so when we put the candles on that night he made sure one candle was close enough to an army guy to burn his face.  He thought it was hilarious.  Such a boy.  He also requested hot wings for dinner so Mike ordered some hot wings and then after dinner and cake Grandma and Grandpa showed up!  

Hunny McBuffy Pants and The Thriving Empire of Butter Flutter Pop (or Hobo Bobo)

Mike decided he wanted to keep bees.  Our HOA won't allow bees so Mike talked to our friends who own land and mentioned he wanted some bees.  They said they wanted bees too so we decided to split the cost and all learn together!  I honestly don't care much about bees and would never had done this on my own but I really like to support Mike's hobbies and think having bees will be a good learning experience for all of us.  Plus, I really like our friends and look forward to spending time with them learning about bees.  Mike and Will started attending the Bee Keepers Association (yes, there is such a thing).  They recruited Eli and Isaac to attend the last one and they all came home excited about our bees coming.  We have met together a couple of times to practice using the smoker, find the perfect spot on the land for our bees, and get the hives ready for our Nucs.  

This past week was so busy for me and I was really focused on getting everything done for Eli's baptism and family coming into town.  I had three doctors appointments on top of all of the other things to accomplish and by Wed. I was starting to feel like I might actually get everything done.  Late that night we got a phone call from the guy selling us the nucs to tell us that our bees would be there at 7:00 AM Friday morning.  I was really stressing out at that point.  Our hives were not finished and we had a major deadline.  Cally was equally as stressed and busy and the men were at work.  After getting our day of homeschool done, some cleaning, and groceries, the kids and I headed to Cally's house to finish the hives.  Neither of us had any idea what we were doing but eventually we figured it out.  Cally headed to a soccer game with her kids while I headed back home with my kids for dinner.  After dinner we went back to Cally's house to finish the hives while she was at the soccer game.  Kay came over after feeding the missionaries and Conan came back from doing his bishop duties at church.  We went to our designated spot, decided it wasn't a good enough spot and chose a new one, and then proceeded to set up the hives.  It was late when we got home but we were ready for our nucs the following morning. 

I'm not going to lie, there was some grumbling on my part when we realized that all this bee stuff was being flung on us and I had so much to get done without having to deal with bees.  But, it got done. 

Mike and Conan headed to pick up the bees while Cally got her kids off to school and while I got the kids up and fed.  I had time to mix up the sugar cookie dough for the baptism and then we piled in the van and headed to the farm.  Kay had gotten up early that morning as well to make our syrup for the bees and was waiting in full bee garb when we got there.  It was pretty cute to see her waiting there covered head to toe in white with her hands folded on her lap in the middle of a field.  

Mike, Cally, and Conan met us there and we got our hives set up.  Cally and I mostly just stood back because we didn't have any bee clothing on but eventually we decided that we had smoked the bees enough that they were pretty docile and we could get near without getting stung.  All of us got a chance to transfer a frame to the hive.  It really was fascinating to see the thousands of bees.  No one got stung and all the kids got a chance to get close and watch.  

Kay went and checked on the bees throughout the day and reported that they seemed to have settled into their new homes just fine and had already discovered a water source.  We had provided a water source for them by the hives but they had decided they enjoyed the water hose at the garden better.  I guess they will do what they want...

We went to check on them when our family came in town later on Saturday evening and it appeared that one hive was definitely more busy than the other.  When we transferred the frames it looked like the frames in that nuc were not as healthy as the other one so we are guessing it is not doing well.

The other hive was active and busy.  

Cally and her kids named the hives.  The healthy hive is Hunny McBuffy Pants and Hobo Bobo is the less active hive.  I told Cally that they were on strike because they didn't like their hive name so she renamed it The Thriving Empire of Butter Flutter Pop.  I'm sure with a name like that they will be active and happy in no time!  Cally will hopefully paint something on the side of each hive soon.

We are only supposed to open the hives once a week to check on the bees so we have all been watching the bees fly in and out as of now and I think we are all excited to go over on Friday or Saturday and get our first peek inside.  Hopefully The Thriving Empire of Butter Flutter Pop is doing just fine but if not, we have some adjusting of frames to do and some other experiments to make the hive healthy.  

I'm super excited about the kids learning about bees.  

Friday, April 08, 2016


Conference was this past weekend.  It was wonderful.  Last conference I was miscarrying.  I had started to bleed that morning and it was a depressing and difficult week following.  It's strange that it's been six months since then and even more strange that my due date was supposed to be on the 16th--next week, on Eli's baptism date.  It is weird to think about how I would probably have a baby already (since I've never actually gone to my due date).  Life moves on and I think for the most part, I am over the miscarriage but I do think it did some damage there for a bit.  

Anyway, this week was full of doctors appointments for the kids and then this coming week we have even more.  I took Will and Piper in for their year check-ups.  Will and Piper are both tall.  Piper was in the 95th percentile and Will in the 85th.  Will had to get an appointment set up at Children's hospital for a pulmonary test.  He tires easily when exercising and has been on an inhaler for about a year.  It doesn't appear to do much good so they just want to check everything out--cross our t's and dot our i's.  He may just be out of shape but it's better to be safe.  Piper also has an appointment at Children's for endoncrinology.  She still struggles with some cysts and some other endocrine issues that haven't really manifested themselves as issues yet but we keep an eye on her to make sure they don't become issues.  That is all next week along with some appointments for me to get some moles removed.  

Spring has exploded in Tennessee.  I think it is my favorite time of year here and is definitely the prettiest place I've lived at Spring time.  Everything is green and growing.  This year our wisteria bush was so overgrown and collecting so many bugs that I threatened to cut it down but decided to give it one last chance.  I read online that you should trim it in Feb. and July so I trimmed the heck out of it.  We went on Spring Break and came back to a bush full of buds.  I was so excited!  A couple of days later we had a frost and I didn't even think about it but woke up the next morning to discover that the majority of the buds had frozen and died.  I was so bummed.  Not all was lost, however, and more survived than I thought and while the majority still died, the ones that survived have bloomed and they smell so good and are so pretty.  Maybe I'll keep it another year!  

 We bought a huge amount of mulch for the garden and flower beds.  It took us hours--six, I think.  It was such hard work.  The boys all helped and we shoveled and moved mulch until the mountain was gone.  I don't remember being so tired and sore in my life.  I hurt in every single muscle of my body.  I hurt in muscles I didn't even know existed!  There are still weeds trying to peek out but I think it looks much better now.  My sister said she had never seen a picture of our house so I decided to take one.  It looks big.  Mainly it looks big because the garage is on the side of the house instead of in the front.  I will miss that when we move.  I hate garages in the front!  It's a pretty house--more Mike's style than mine.  He likes big, formidable houses.  I like country, relaxed, welcoming homes.  Ranches are great.  Mike likes brick and columns and formality.  I do love the shutters on the house.
 This week my in-laws are coming for Eli's baptism and since next week is filled with appointments I have been trying to declutter and get things ready for them to show up.  The guest room has been half-painted for a year now.  I painted everything but around the bed because the bed is just a mattress laying on top of a stack of food storage and I didn't want to move all that food storage.  People have come and stayed in the room with half painted a light, peaceful blue and the other half a dark brown.  Finally, I decided to just get the job done.  Mike moved all the boxes and he helped get all the high parts by the ceiling and it was painted in about an hour!  It is nice to have it done finally.  I have slowly been decorating in there and found this window at an antique store.  I originally had pictures in the frames but they would not stay up no matter what I did to try and make them stay.  Finally, I just decided to go a different route and hung mason jars with flowers in them.  I love how it turned out.
 I also have been drooling over all the dogwood trees that are in bloom.  They are the most gorgeous trees and they line the roads and make it hard to focus on driving because I just want to look at all the blossoms.  I have three of them in my yard.  Dogwoods are white or reddish/pink.  I only have white ones.  I decided to bring some of them into the house so I could enjoy them inside too.
Finally, school is almost done.  The boys only really have Math and English that is required and then the rest is up to me.  We have been doing science projects and reviewing history and then I throw in art projects from time to time.  This week I had the kids make Mayan masks.  We also have done a lot of PE--running and basketball mostly.  Aside from that they do reading, scriptures, Spanish, and piano.  They have two weeks left of English and a couple more after that of Math.  I can't believe we have almost finished an entire year of homeschool!

Field Journals

The week before Spring Break we decided to do some research on Oceans.  Each of the boys chose a different level of the ocean sea floor and researched it.  I had them draw big pictures of what they discovered.  This was a fun thing for them to work on. 

I thought we could use our trip to the beach as a homeschool day and call it a field trip.  When we got there we took pictures of all kinds of things we found on the beach.  When we got home I had each boy choose the pictures he wanted to use and then we printed them off and they glued them into their field journals.  Then, they did more research.  They looked up about the life cycle of crabs, what are the predators of crabs, and what sand is made of,  Isaac wanted to know about sharks and riptides. Will and Eli researched various ocean fish.  I didn't know if this would be an activity the boys would enjoy or not and was pleased to discover that they were looking forward to it every day.  I loved having them come find me and say, "Mom, did you know that...............!"  I didn't worry about neatness or even super detailed entries.  It was more important to me that they pick topics and research them.