Sometimes life throws us in strange situations that turn out to be the perfect opportunity for learning an important lesson. Homeschooling seems to afford me quite a bit of these timely occasions.

Ketziah is almost one year old and we usually transition to whole milk right around this time. Finding a source of healthy, natural, inexpensive milk is difficult, especially since our family goes through about two gallons of milk a week already. Providentially, or so it seemed at the time, a gentleman from a local milk delivery service stopped by to discuss his company’s dairy products the very afternoon I was heading out to stock up on a few gallons of the stuff. I quickly read the materials he provided and was thrilled to discover a budget-friendly source of fresh milk for my little ones. Before he left, he asked if I’d like to try a sample of the milk. “Sure.” Would you like to try the chocolate? Considering I had the brood of chickadees all around my feet, of course I couldn’t say no. He poured little cups of chocolate for the kids and me. It was absolutely delicious. I said as much and he assured me there was no sugar added to it; it only contained the naturally-occurring sugars found in milk. The sole ingredients in the milk, I was told, was 2% milk and African cocoa beans (whatever that means). I couldn’t believe it and didn’t bother holding myself back from gushing about the amazing flavor. My kids by this time had guzzled the cups of chocolate and were requesting samples of the strawberry milk. Just looking at the container of strawberry milk, I could practically see the molecules of Red 40 floating around in it, but what the heck? A tiny taste couldn’t hurt and it’s not like I’m ordering strawberry milk from the service. “What ingredients are in this milk?” I asked. “Only milk and organic pureed strawberries. You’ll notice the texture is a little thinner due to the water content of the fresh fruit, but it’s delicious, right?” You bet it was! I even told him I could not believe there was no sugar in it. As I am one to often try to force smoothies and shakes (those terms being defined very loosely) down the kids’ throats with no sweetener at all, I couldn’t believe something this decadent even existed. I thought perhaps he had fudged a little and there was surely some carrageenan or some kind of dye or anti-caking agent or something in it, but a salesman can’t really be relied upon to memorize an entire nutrition label, I suppose.

Once I set up my weekly order for the regular plain milk, I thought I’d check out the milk delivery service website. I couldn’t seem to let it pass until I knew exactly what was in that amazing flavored milk. Turns out the salesman was lying through is teeth the entire time. African cocoa beans my REAR END! Sugar was the first ingredient after milk, followed by cornstarch and a host of other unpronounceable ingredients. The strawberry milk had not a hint of real fruit but had plenty of white sugar and “natural stawberry flavor” and yep – carrageenan, Red 40, and an anti-caking agent. Nothing organic about it. I was so astounded that I was laughing out loud, causing a stir with the kids as they never see me this incredulous. I explained the situation to them and it turned into a conversation about how honesty is one of the most important characteristics we can have in our lives and how if we were in the same situation the salesman was in, we would have to be honest about the ingredients of the milk even if we knew it would mean losing a sale (which in my case, it would have). This led into a discussion about paying attention when something doesn’t seem right, as I had felt compelled to look up the ingredients for myself. Often things we see or hear will sound wonderful but turn out to be false, and how important it is to develop that ability to see through a sales pitch. We all had a great laugh about it because the kids had been witness to everything he said. They know I won’t allow them to have white sugar and I could see their little hopeful faces looking up at me as they listened to him explain that indeed these flavored milk products could be a healthy addition to our daily nutrition. Something about knowing he lied to my children rubs me the wrong way. Even as I think about it today, it baffles me that the salesman would go to such length to tell me something completely untrue. Why bother with such a drawn-out spiel? He could have told me he didn’t know the ingredients, pointed me in the direction of the website, or just told me the truth. To be fair, it’s possible he really didn’t know or had been given faulty information. Either way, it seemed a bit like being sold one of those magic, cure-all elixirs that were so popular in the 30s and 40s and which are seen as downright ridiculous today.

Fortunately, the information he gave me about the farm and the cow-milking process they use turned out to be true which means we’ll still be benefited. Though the children were disappointed about not getting to add any chocolate milk to our standing order, I was glad I’d gone through the whole process of verifying information and was able to teach about honesty using a real-world example. These kind of happenings are truly the sizzle of life.

Now, I wonder where I can get some African cocoa beans so I can make my own chocolate milk.