by Maryclaire Mayes
One of the joys of childhood is making new discoveries and exciting memories. Over 26 years ago we moved out of the suburbs to the country. We had moved off our 5 acre farm to the suburbs to care for Dean’s father. After that, we moved back to the country.
This time we bought a dilapidated farmhouse on 70 acres. We actually lived in a tent for 4 months while we gutted and renovated the farmhouse. Our kids were 9 and 6 years old. We felt bad for them and they each got a kitten from the pound. So at night we had the 4 of us, our dog and 2 kittens in a tent.
It was a lot of hard work but a fun adventure for the kids. When we first moved to the farm we watched as the kids gleefully ran through the fields. It somehow confirmed that we had made the right decision in buying this money pit of a house even though everyone else thought we were crazy. Now fast forward. Our grandkids are now enjoying the farm to no end.
Now that the grand kids are a little older they are starting to explore further from our house. The last warm day when they were here Miss Number Two discovered the little stream at the bottom of the hill. Soon all the kids were down there with excited laughter and running up to tell us what they had found there. First it was frogs and a little later a snake. They spent hours walking along that little flow of water seeing what new thing they could discover and running back to the house excitedly to tell us.
by Maryclaire Mayes
We just celebrated our 20th year in business as Alabu. We often get questions about how we got started. Way back in February,1997, a friend called, (my goat mentor) asking me for moral support in making goat milk soap. She had 9 milking does and too much goat milk on her hands. She had tried making soap but the chemical reaction burned the milk and it couldn’t be salvaged. She suggested it would be a good home school chemistry project for our 2 children which we had just starting homeschooling. So I packed up our kids and headed to help and learn. The soap making was a success and we enjoyed a pleasant day with my friend. Later, I was so impressed with how nice the soap left my skin feeling, I vowed I would never buy commercial soap again.
Around the same time, my tech savvy and business minded husband, Dean, thought that he would like to launch a family business on the internet. He begged me to make soap that he could sell on the internet just to learn how to do a web business. I was reluctant since I was already filling my days with homeschooling. I eventually said yes and promised 2 batches a week. That added up to 18 bars of goat milk soap. I also liked making candles so Dean put them up on his new page too. Soon he and his partner started a web business called “Simplerway”. They offered to create free webpages to crafters for a small percentage of their sales.
As it turned out the response to our soap was overwhelming. Not only did my family and friends love the way our soap left their skin, so did our new customers. Dean decided to sell his business to his partner so he could fully concentrate on our soap business. The next step was to find a name for our new soap business and incorporate. After lots of brainstorming of names that didn’t work, our daughter came up with Alabu. It was settled on and we became Alabu Inc. in February of 2000. From the very beginning, our children were enthusiastic supporters and valued employees. Both our kids are now busy raising their families, but still support and help as needs arise. We are so thankful for our family and to you our customers for making Alabu such a success.
by Maryclaire Mayes
I love to celebrate. Seasons, holidays, birthdays, another sunrise, it doesn’t matter! My family celebrated holidays and birthdays and always made it feel special, even though they didn’t spend much money on it. My dad made a good living for his family of 8, but my mom always said the paycheck went to the barn. My mom loved horses and passed that down to some of her kids. But that’s a whole nother story. You could say we were horse rich and dirt poor.
Anyway I was a surprised young bride on our first Christmas. Dean wasn’t expressing as much excitement as me, and I was very disappointed when his first gift to me was a bed pillow! What made it worse is he had already told me I needed a new pillow and I told him I loved my pillow and it’s fine, but apparently not to him. We got over that but special days didn’t get any more special.
Next was my birthday, no gift, no card, no special dinner with a cake like my family always had done. He might have said happy birthday, I don’t remember, but I know we did have a discussion and his explanation was his family didn’t do much to celebrate birthdays. And showing a little love on Valentines day? Forget it, the day didn’t exist to Dean.
When two people get married they bring many expectations from their upbringing to their union. More than once I have wished Dean was a little more romantic, ok a lot more! But in a day and age when most marriages don’t last, our commitment grows stronger. We have fought through dark days, but stubbornly won’t give up on the vows we made to God and each other. We have had to learn forgiveness is ongoing hard work. We have tried and failed and tried again to work on focusing on the positive. Dean has always been there working hard and providing for me and our family. He believed it was important for me to stay home with our children and I was blessed to be able to be a full time mom. And eventually he supported me in homeschooling our children. He took over teaching them high school math! Dean is a planner and he always tried to make whatever we needed happen, and he succeeded. In time I was able to dial back my expectations for holidays. Dean, to my surprise, has tried to remember those special occasions that mean so much to me. Today we are headed towards celebrating 41 years of marriage.
Like most marriages, there have been times when it was hard to feel like working on our marriage. But trying to work through our struggles together and trying to understand each other has made us even closer. The rewards for staying the course have been multiplied over and over again through the years. There is a comfort that comes with being with someone who knows you so well and growing older together. There is special blessing in watching your kids grow up and now grandchildren too. He has always been there for our kids when they need him. Over the years Dean has softened and even become a little more romantic. Dean loves our family and he knows how blessed we are to have them close and in our lives. I love watching him interact with our grandchildren. I am so grateful for him. Happy Valentines Day Dean!
by Maryclaire Mayes
Dean liked to tell ( or sing) to our kids and now our grandchildren “you can’t always get what you want” Reflecting back on our child rearing years, we knew we did not want to give our kids everything they desired. We thought that if they have everything they want as a child, they might grow up with unrealistic expectations and turn into unhappy adults. We didn’t buy them many toys. I often told Dean I was glad we were poor when the kids were little so we couldn’t buy them all the popular toys. We went so far as to give away toys they had received as gifts from friends and relatives if we didn’t think they were educational or worthwhile. That only worked for a few years though.
When our children were nine and six years old we moved out to the country on a run down farm. They loved the freedom of running through the open fields. We lived in a backpacking tent four months while we gutted and rebuilt the farmhouse. We all worked hard from morning to night, but our children were genuinely happy. We had already decided we would start homeschooling our kids but decided to wait until the next year when the house project was done (or at least further along) and we also could research just how we would go about homeschooling. When September rolled around I cautioned our children to never tell anyone at school you live in a tent. I was concerned someone might want to come investigate our “home”.
Our kids helped in all aspects of gutting and restoring our house. They carried armloads of debris out to the dumpster and even helped with the plumbing.
But it wasn’t all work; we did get them each a kitten, which lived with us, and our dog in our small tent. Sometimes the kids would draw on the backs of the stacks of sheetrock that we were going to put up on the walls. They enjoyed a feeling of accomplishment by helping to measure mark and cut and pitch in with making our house a home. In their spare time we asked our kids to pick up the old rusty nails that littered our driveway. If they picked up a full coffee can of nails, we paid them with a trip to town to get an ice cream at the end of the day.
The next spring we planted a huge garden and our chief planters, weed pullers, and bug pickers were our two kids. I was amazed how hard they worked without complaints. Livestock was the next project on our list. When we finished rebuilding the chicken coop and the barn we bought two goats (my daughter wanted a horse but had to make due with a goat) and several chickens, our kids were responsible for their total care. Our daughter got up early and milked the goat and our son collected eggs, feed and watered the chickens before they went to school. Those years were full of learning difficult lessons by experience and receiving the rewards for their hard work.
Looking back, I see how those hard life lessons were making life better for them as adults. Not really making life easy, but teaching them useful skills. Beyond, plumbing and gardening, it taught them how to work hard, to not be afraid to try, never say can’t and to handle life’s challenges with grace. We are pleased that our children are teaching their kids that they don’t need everything they want and work is good. There is a quote I recently came across that I really like; “Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” Robert A. Heinlein
Now all we have to say to the grandkids is “what does papa say?” and they will sing back to us “you can’t always get what you want”. Sometimes with a pout and sometimes with a smile.