We have twelve more weeks of 2021.
We're over 3/4 the way through this year.
Let me be really frank with you tonight, readers: 2020 was ROUGH, but for me...2021 hasn't been much easier.
As a public school administrator, the pandemic has been difficult to navigate.
Virtual or in-person?
Masks or no masks?
Visitors in the school or no visitors allowed?
So. Many. Decisions.
Some students stayed home for several months and came back in the building with wider learning gaps that they had left us with.
Some students came back to school with anxiety that they had not had before.
Some students have quarantined two, three, or four times (or six -- like our oldest daughter).
This summer, it almost felt like things were getting "back to normal" and I think I breathed a sigh of relief a little prematurely.
The other school district leaders and myself started talking about the school year as if we were going to open normally. We had hopes that things would go on like they have always gone on.
And then...the virus ramped up again in early-August and we were back in the boat we were in over the last 18 months.
Here's the truth:
I have felt like I was treading water since school started on August 23rd.
I have not been able to keep up with anything at home and due to some changes in my responsibilities at work, I'm barely able to keep my head above water there. My office has been a mess. My paperwork is getting done just a day or two before the deadline (I really prefer to be EARLY). I'm not able to give myself to my staff like I like to.
I've been on the struggle bus, folks!
And unfortunately, when one area of our lives is chaotic, it throws the rest of our lives off-balance.
What other areas?
Home organization (don't even get me started on LAUNDRY),
Staying physically healthy,
Sticking to a budget,
Focusing on spiritual growth,
Being a good wife,
Being a good mom.
All. The. Things.
ANYway -- so this weekend, I decided to sit down and make a plan for our next twelve weeks.
I thought it was crazy and neurotic and a little over-the-top, but then I shared it with a few people who actually thought it was kind of helpful.
For those of you that are a little more like me -- grab the document and let's try to get our homes under control over the last quarter of 2021.
Now remember -- tomorrow actually starts WEEK 2, but you should be able to catch up by squeezing Week 1 and Week 2's content into this coming week.
High hopes for a peaceful holiday season from the farmhouse,
You might recall some of my plans for the year 2021 that I wrote about back in January.
I shared about using each week to set goals, breaking down our big projects into smaller, manageable chunks -- instead of setting big annual goals that often seem unattainable.
We are making good progress on several of our goals for the year, by taking an hour or two each week to work on them. Our detached garage/canning kitchen/man cave is almost finished. It's been a long process, but by knocking out a few tasks here and there each week, we're closing in on the finishing touches.
We've done a lot of outdoor clean-up this year, by working for one Saturday a month or so to knock out some big areas of the property.
I wrote daily through March 8th and have 22,179 words in my first draft. My goal is to get to 60,000 words by the end of the year. I think that's still doable. I have six chapters finished, so far.
3. Blog Each Week.
This is only my 10th blog post of the year, so as you can see -- I'm a little behind on that.
After spring break, school became a whirlwind and I just had to put something on the back burner. Unfortunately, it was blogging.
I've got some catching up to do! :)
4. Lose 15 pounds.
Following my experience with COVID-19 in September, I realized I had developed an allergy to dairy and sensitivity to gluten. Changing my diet to not include those things helped me to lose 15 pounds with no problem.
I have slowly started introducing these things back into my diet and I will admit -- I don't feel as well.
So I probably need to remove those things again.
Whole30 coming again in August!
5. Read 40 books.
As of last week, I had finished my 21st book and am almost finished with my 22nd and 23rd.
So I'm right on schedule for the challenge.
Happy Almost August, Friends!
Taking in the last few days of summer break here at the farmhouse,
You might have noticed that I've added a new tab to the blog called "freebies".
I've decided to feature one freebie a week over on my Instagram page.
The printable documents you'll find on the freebie page will range from home management to parenting, from marriage to wall art. I'm just hoping to share some of the tools that I use in my day-to-day life with you all, so be watching for that on Fridays!
Today, I want to showcase a printable I shared a few weeks ago and give a little background as to how it has been helping our family!
We just weren't great at managing all of the ideas and projects we had for our property.
We moved into the farmhouse in summer of 2017 and immediately completed some of our big projects.
We added a bathroom upstairs, tore down an old barn on the property, and made some minor cosmetic changes to the house, in the first few weeks that we owned the house.
And then...it was time for the school year to start.
Every once in a while through the school year, we would find time over a weekend or a break to complete a project or two. However, for every bit of progress we made, we ended up adding three or four new projects to our "to do" list. There was never a time that we felt we had done EVERYthing we needed to do to get the property how we wanted it to be!
Looking back at pictures of what our property looked like back in the 40s, 70s, and even the 90s...I always felt a little ashamed that we could not figure out how to get the whole place the way we wanted for it to be.
Over each summer, when the girls and I were off school, we would try hard to knock out some big projects...but like I said before, we would add several NEW tasks to the list, as we worked through other items.
Fast-forward to 2020.
Due to COVID-19, the girls and I had been doing school and working from home for a few months, so we had been able to get some decluttering & organizing projects complete.
However, Mr. Farmhouse was still working, so some of the bigger projects were still on the back burner -- until May, that is.
Because several people around our house had some storm damage, Mr. Farmhouse drove home on his lunch break to check our place. He called me as he was driving up to the property and said, "You'd better come on home."
One of our barns was blown completely over (as you can see in the photos below). By the end of the insurance inspection, we needed a new roof on the house, new guttering, a new barn, a new carport, a new roof on another one of the sheds, a new swing set, a new basketball goal, and some other items that were broken in the storm.
Sidenote: We feel so very blessed to say that nobody was hurt on our property during this storm. We know that buildings and belongings can be replaced and we are grateful that our most challenging part of this project was cleaning up and rebuilding.
The night of the storm, we began cleaning up and continued through the next few weeks, during our free time.
Parts of our barn were found a few miles away.
The girls' playhouse was in pieces all up and down our road. In fact, we found one of the chairs that was inside the playhouse up IN a tree.
Storms are crazy.
We made steady progress cleaning up from the storm, but honestly -- we were not moving as quickly as I would have hoped and of course, the rebuilding tasks were in addition to the "house projects" list we had started in 2017.
And then came the dreaded q-word -- quarantine.
We were exposed to COVID-19 and had to stay home for fourteen full days...all of us.
It was in the heat of July and we decided to use our time together in a productive way. We started knocking out unfinished projects left and right.
We built a loft playhouse for the girls.
We cleaned out the old barn.
We did all of the dirt work for the new garage we were getting ready to build.
And now...eight months later, we are still making progress.
So how did we do it? And could our method work for YOUR family? I think so.
On the very first day of quarantine, we sat down together and made a list of every single project that we needed to accomplish at the farmhouse -- big and small.
Then we chose what projects we thought we could get finished on Day 1.
We worked through the day and enjoyed our evenings together -- with bonfires, movie nights, and softball games in the yard.
We repeated this process for the fourteen days of quarantine and at the end of the two weeks, it was crazy what we had accomplished.
After we completed so many projects in fourteen days, it really inspired us to continue this journey even when we went back to work.
This is when the four-week plan was born.
Instead of meeting every morning to plan our days out, we started adding this conversation into our Sunday night family meetings. At the beginning of each month, we would use our "four-week plan" worksheet to fill in some goals for the next four weeks. Then we would try to accomplish these items during our free time.
The next Sunday night, we would revisit and revise our list for the upcoming week.
This process served us well over the last six months and we've continued to mark larger tasks off of our lists.
A few months ago, right after Christmas, Mr. Farmhouse and I decided that we should probably refinance the house soon. We talked to our lender and decided that we would try to prepare for an appraisal over my spring break in mid-March.
This decision meant that we wanted to kick our four-week plan concept into high gear over the next few months.
We filled out a four-week plan sheet with every space in the house that we wanted to focus on and then we listed all the tasks we needed to complete in those spaces on a "detailed plans" page. You can find an editable version of this form on my Freebies page or HERE.
If you are like us -- naturally DISorganized and in need of a checklist to work through projects, grab this free printable and start your four-week plan this weekend!
Working hard at the farmhouse,
Over the last few weeks, I've been sharing some lessons from the farmhouse.
Two weeks ago, I talked about some "home" lessons we have learned.
Then last week, I discussed lessons about marriage.
Today, I'm going to finish out this series by sharing five lessons that I've learned about parenting over the last fourteen years.
Disclaimer: Just like I shared a few weeks ago and last week, I am not the perfect housekeeper or the perfect wife. And I am DEFINITELY not the perfect parent.
With that said, we have been parenting for the last fourteen years. We've taken advice from parents whom we love and trust and we've learned through trial and error. So here are some parenting tips that will hopefully be helpful to somebody.
1. Be consistent.
Do what you say you are going to do.
If you offer a consequence for a certain behavior, follow through with that consequence.
And on that note, set realistic consequences from the get-go. When you ask your child to complete a task, with some sort of consequence attached -- make it realistic. There is nothing worse than when you are in the heat of the moment and you threaten some difficult-to-maintain consequence if a child does not comply with the expected behavior.
"If you don't turn the television off, you're going to be grounded for a month."
If the child doesn't turn the television off, the parents are left with one of two choices.
Sure, in the first choice, the child knows you mean business and will likely comply with your directives for a while. However, a month of grounding is pretty substantial for not following one simple direction.
And in the second choice, your child is learning that your words don't really mean much when it comes to consequence for behavior.
In the above example, I would suggest something like "no television for three days". This is a manageable consequence that truly fits the behavior. After the three days is over, the child will likely understand that when you ask him or her to turn it off -- you mean business.
So -- Be consistent. Set boundaries. Follow through.
2. Teach responsibility.
Our girls help us to manage our home.
Our oldest daughter is responsible for one load of laundry a day. She washes, dries, and folds it and then delivers the clothes to the bedrooms where they belong.
Our second daughter is responsible for dishes. She unloads the dishwasher each morning and after we fill it through the day, she washes it at night. She hand-washes any dishes that are left after supper, also.
Our youngest daughter is responsible for gathering laundry from the hampers in the house and taking it to the laundry room each day. She also gathers up shoes that have been left out and puts them on the mud room shelves.
They also have daily chores to help the family out on the farm -- feeding chickens, gathering eggs, taking scraps to the hogs, and whatever else needs to be done.
3. Lead by example.
This is a tough one.
You know that old saying, "Do as I say, not as I do"?
Yeah. That doesn't work.
Your babies will pick up on your ACTIONS, not only your words.
If you want your children to have a relationship with Jesus -- model a relationship with Jesus.
If you want your children to grow up and have a healthy marriage -- model a healthy marriage.
If you want them to speak kindly to their friends -- speak kindly to them and to YOUR friends.
If you want them to be hard workers -- work hard.
If you want them to admit when they are wrong -- admit when you are wrong (this one is NOT easy!).
We could go through hundreds of examples of this.
Lead by example.
4. Be patient & offer grace.
I will be the first to admit that we have ridiculously high standards.
I have had to find a balance between having high expectations and offering grace to our girls.
We all mess up. We all fall short. NONE of us are perfect.
Our kids are learning and exploring and testing boundaries. Their brains are not fully-developed yet and they will make poor decisions sometimes.
We must learn to guide them through these decisions, with grace & mercy.
We must be patient with them as they learn to navigate this life.
5. Be present.
Put the phone away.
Sit down together at the dinner table.
Play in the snow.
Work on household projects together.
Do craft activities.
Do a Bible study together.
Enjoy the time you have with them because it goes so very quickly.
I hope these tips are helpful for you. What would you add?
Enjoying a day with our girls here at the farmhouse,
Today I'm going to continue my little series on a few lessons I've learned through life.
Since tomorrow is Valentine's Day, I decided today I would blog about lessons I've learned about marriage.
For a little backstory, Mr. Farmhouse and I were high school sweethearts. We've been married now for almost 17 years.
We've owned three homes together, we are raising three daughters, and we are still head over heels in love with each other.
I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I do know that it takes hard work to maintain a healthy marriage and I do feel like we've learned some important lessons through the years.
So here are five pieces of advice for keeping a strong marriage.
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
This might seem obvious, but trust me...it's not.
Listen first to understand what your spouse is saying and then talk.
Brené Brown talks about how our brains really crave "a closed loop" in situations, so we sometimes make up stories in our heads to fill in the gaps when we don't know all the details.
You know that moment when someone doesn't acknowledge you in the grocery store and you think, "Oh no...did I do something to offend that person?" or "I wonder why she doesn't like me."?
This is what Brown is talking about. We don't like unresolved loops in our brain, so we make up stories to fill them in.
And it happens in marriages ALL THE TIME.
So when something is bothering you...talk about it.
When you are unsure of the motive for your spouse's actions...talk about it.
Sit down and have real life conversation.
2. Be Present
This one goes hand-in-hand with number 1.
Put the phone away and be with your spouse.
Turn the television off and be with your spouse.
Carve out time in your day to be together.
When you are with your spouse, be fully there...not distracted by outside influences.
3. Find Out Your Spouse's Love Language
Here is a quiz you can take to find out your love language and the love language of your spouse. TAKE QUIZ HERE
When Mr. Farmhouse and I found out that his love language is quality time and mine is acts of service, this was a game-changer for us.
I learned that I needed to stop multi-tasking and trying to "get stuff done" and just sit down and BE with him.
He learned that doing the dishes or filling my car up with gas before I realize it's empty really fills my cup.
With that said -- I would encourage everybody to take the love language quiz because it is great for ALL relationships -- friendships, parent/child relationships, work relationships, and others!
4. Focus on intimacy
I'll make this short and sweet because I'm pretty sure my parents read my blog.
Ladies, even if your husband's primary love language is not "physical touch", he still craves physical touch.
Wives, commit to initiating an intimate encounter with your husband twice this week and see what happens. I promise, you'll be pleasantly surprised at what it does for your relationship OUTside of the bedroom.
Okay, moving on...
This next piece of advice might step on a few toes and I don't mean to do that, but I think it's a very important point to discuss.
5. Do not elevate your relationship with your children "above" your relationship with your spouse.
I know this is difficult to consider because, my goodness, those sweet babies are just our WORLD!
But there will come a time in 18-20 years, when those babies will grow up and move out.
During this season of the "empty nest", I've known so many couples who feel as if they don't know their spouses without the kids in the house.
Serve your spouse in front of your kids.
Put his or her needs in front of your own needs.
Schedule monthly date nights...just the two of you!
Take trips (after COVID)!
Sit on the porch together after the kids are in bed.
Love your kids well WITH your spouse.
Back each other up! Our kids have known from a very young age that if one of us says "no", the other parent will say "no". There's no reason to even ask. This is not to say they haven't tried!
Your relationship with your spouse will serve as a model for them as they build relationships when they get older. Give them a healthy marriage to watch & model in their formative years.
I hope these five pieces of advice were helpful for you.
What would you add to my list?
Spending this cold, cold day inside with the family here at the farmhouse,
1. Divide and Conquer
Our 14-year-old does at least one load of laundry each day for the whole family...sometimes two. She knows that this is a daily expectation and has built it in as part of her before school and after school schedule. The 6-year-old gathers the laundry from downstairs and takes it to the laundry room to help her big sister out.
Our 11-year-old is in charge of dishes at our house. She runs the dishwasher at night and puts the dishes away before school.
Mr. Farmhouse and I have daily chores that we complete, as well.
As John Heywood said back in the 1500s..."Many hands make light work."
2. Daily Routines are Key
My morning routine is an integral part of every morning. It starts when I make my bed and ends when I finish up my prayer journal before I leave for work. Making my bed takes about 4.2 seconds each day. I get dressed and ready for work by 6:00 and I have half an hour to do my Bible study and prayer time before heading out the door at 6:30.
Our after school routine is just as important -- for me, I walk in, take care of the mail, and get supper going. The girls go ahead and do their farm chores when they get home, then do homework, and relax.
Before bed, we do a quick pick-up (see step 3 below).
3. Quick Pick-Up
Before bed, we do what we call a 15-minute quick pick-up. Basically, we set a timer for 15 minutes and the whole family gets to work picking up the main rooms of the house (living room, dining room, kitchen, mud room, and hallway). Everyone just digs in and picks up whatever has been left out and puts it away. We are usually finished before the 15-minute mark, but this has seriously revolutionized our "house-keeping" when we keep this habit! By picking up each night, we don't let the house get out of control!
4. When in Doubt, Throw it Out
I used to use this phrase when trying to decide if it would be safe to eat leftover food. However, I have come to use it when discussing random extra items in our home.
By nature, I am a keeper. I have been raised to keep things that we might need in the future, to keep things that have sentimental value, and to keep things that I "hope to accomplish someday".
After reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White, Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith, and Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin, my mindset on this has changed immensely.
We still have "stuff". Our house is definitely not a stereotypical "minimalist" home. However, we are so much more ruthless when it comes to being intentional with what we allow to take up space here at the farmhouse. It we don't love it or need it...out it goes.
5. Make it Look Like a Magazine
This is a phrase I'm borrowing from my dad. Growing up, when we were cleaning house and reported a room finished, Dad would ask us if the room "looked like a magazine" before he came to check it.
Our home doesn't "look like a magazine" all the time, but when we went through and did a huge cleaning and organization project through every room of the house this past year, we tried to get every room to that point. We went through each room and decluttered, completed any undone projects, and decorated the space with finishing touches that made it feel "homey" and "cozy".
When a room is intentionally organized and decorated in this way, it's easier to get it back to that state when cleaning.
So, there are my five tips that are helping us to learn to stay organized!
What would you add to the list?
Tune in the next few weeks for some more "lessons from the farmhouse" in different areas of life!
Working on our refinance list today at the farmhouse,
You might remember three or four years ago when I blogged about the our trip to the Pioneer Woman Mercantile as I was coming straight out of a Whole30 round.
My sister-in-law and I discovered the book It Starts with Food by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Urban several years ago.
The basic premise of this book is that we really should be fueling our bodies with clean & natural foods -- lean meats, fruits, veggies, and nuts -- nothing processed.
In the past, every Whole30 round I have done has been beneficial to me.
I have had a huge reduction in joint pain.
I've lost weight.
My face has been clearer.
I've had more energy.
With all of these benefits, it's hard to believe why anyone would ever go off of the Whole30 plan.
However, lack-of-planning, stress-eating, and sheer convenience has often taken me off track.
In September 2020, I tested positive for COVID-19.
I spent 10 days in my bedroom in isolation, away from Mr. Farmhouse and the girls.
Thankfully, I really didn't get very ill. I had some congestion and a few days of feeling achy, and I tired out quickly.
Other than that, the main lingering symptom I had was digestive issues.
I would have random stomach pains, no matter what I ate.
When my taste finally returned, it was different (it's still different, to be quite honest -- almost five months later).
Sidenote: Reeses Peanut Butter Cups taste like dirt to me now. Actually, all peanut butter products. It. Is. So. Sad.
I had other digestive issues following COVID that caused me to lose 13 pounds there in the first month. I won't give details of that, but let's just say it wasn't good.
And then these issues continued.
Finally, over Christmas break, I decided something had to change.
My brother, sister-in-law, my two older girls, and myself decided to embark upon another Whole30.
With my word of the year this year being "discipline", I figured a Whole30 would a great way to start practicing putting that word into action.
We started on Sunday, January 3rd.
Day 1 was awful.
My digestive issues got worse, not better, as I detoxed from the processed food and sugar that I had eaten over Christmas break.
Day 2 was awful.
The digestive issues continued, plus I was absolutely exhausted.
On Day 3, I woke up a new person...NO DIGESTIVE ISSUES.
Zero, Zilch, Nada.
Day 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28...
I. Feel. Amazing.
The Whole30 is an elimination program where you slowly introduce things back into your diet after the 30 days is up.
You might start with some sort of processed flour item, to see how it affects you. Maybe something with some sort of certain sauce. Or maybe a dairy item.
The whole idea is that you carefully and intentionally begin to add one thing at a time back into your body and become really in-tuned with how it affects you physically, emotionally, and mentally.
I can't even imagine wanting to add anything back in.
I think COVID caused me to develop some sort of gluten or dairy sensitivity and I would rather not find out which one it is.
My Whole30 might just turn into a WholeForever.
Feeling hopeful here at the farmhouse tonight, friends,
You might remember a few weeks ago when I made my "new year's" post that I had decided to focus on 2021 as 52 separate weeks.
To be honest, this concept has been ah-ma-zing.
Every Sunday afternoon, we sit down for a family meeting, where we go over our menu for the week, make a grocery list, discuss the calendar, and review our annual and weekly goals.
It sounds almost too simple to say that one half-hour meeting on Sunday afternoon has led to three weeks of success in 2021, but it's true!
I thought it might be helpful to run you through the process off our Sunday afternoon meetings, in case you wanted to try something similar with your family.
It might seem like I'm speaking a little too soon on the success of planning weekly and setting 7-day goals instead of annual resolutions, but I can truly feel that something is different this year.
My annual goals seem manageable.
My checklist items are getting marked off.
I'm feeling more productive and peaceful than I have in a while...and we still have time to relax with each other on the weekends and evenings.
Smiling here at the farmhouse today,
On December 25, 2020, I posted a video of Mr. Farmhouse and the girls getting our new puppy, Merle, as a surprise for Christmas.
For some Facebook-algorithm-related reason, this video went viral. It continues to circulate, even now and is up to over 300,000 views.
When the video started making the rounds, I will admit, I didn't tell Mr. Farmhouse right away.
When it finally hit 5,000 views, I decided I should let him know that over 5,000 people had now seen him in his pajamas and chore coat on Christmas morning.
As the numbers kept climbing, I kept him informed.
We were driving home from Christmas dinner at my in-laws house and our 6-year-old daughter, said, "Hey -- are we gonna get merch?"
We all looked at her, confused as to what she was talking about.
She answers, "What? Like merchandise! For the people who watch our videos!"
We laughed this off and explained to her that just because one video I posted is getting a lot of views doesn't mean we're really a "viral" social media family.
Then I posted this story on my personal Facebook page to share with friends because we did think it was adorable.
That's when we were shocked to have several friends and family members say they would buy some of Mattie's merch!
A few days later, a friend reached out with some t-shirt designs and that's when Mattie's merch dreams started to become a reality!
Thanks so much to Sherri at The Old Barn Print Shop for working with me on these t-shirt designs and the adorable mug! You can find her on Facebook and Etsy! Definitely check her out for your printing needs!
Mattie's Merch page is up and running. This is a preorder, so we'll tally the orders here in a few weeks and get them shipped or delivered.
Thanks for loving my girl and making her little merch heart happy.
Feeling grateful at the farmhouse,
"I'm not a runner."
"I'd rather sit on my couch."
"Ha! The gym? Me? Riiiight..."
This used to be how I talked about exercise.
I used to joke about the fact that if people saw me running, they might want to run too because I was likely being chased by something scary.
And then one day, with the encouragement of my sisters-in-law, I decided I might try it.
I used the app "Couch to 5K" and I got to where I was able to jog a whole mile. It wasn't a fast mile, but it was more than I had ever been able to jog without stopping in my entire life.
This was a huge accomplishment for me.
Shortly after I built up this endurance, we found out we were expecting our third daughter.
I was pretty sick for a little while and ended up giving up the running dream until after she was born.
I was shocked at how much I missed running in those last few months of pregnancy.
After I was fully-recovered from my caesarean section and able to leave her for a little while, I started jogging again.
Between 2015 and 2018, I would run for a little while, then fall off the wagon.
My running commitment wasn't really a commitment, but more like a hobby that I would pick up every so often.
Finally, in the summer of 2019, I really got serious about it and started doing a 5K each month.
During the "Run for the Tree Kangaroos" race at the Kansas City Zoo in September, I injured my hip and had to take a pretty significant break.
In March of 2020, just as COVID-19 was starting to make its rounds, I started taking daily walks to clear my mind after school. Being in school administration during a global pandemic is something that takes up a lot of headspace.
These walks were mentally and emotionally healthy, but also started to bring back the positive feelings that I had associated with running in the past.
I love looking at the homemade medal hanger almost as much as I enjoy sifting through all of the medals for the races I did in 2020.
I've set a goal for myself of 20 5Ks in 2021, along with four 10Ks.
Maybe I'll work up to that half-marathon I've been dreaming about for the last few years.
We'll see about the half-marathon, but either way -- today I can say with confidence, "I am a runner."
Taking life one jog at a time here at the farmhouse,