Well, it's almost July.
Just crazy, in my opinion. The way that time flies when you grow up. Must be all that "adulting".
ANYway, I thought this morning I might share a bit of our financial journey and how some of it has changed through the house-selling and house-purchasing process.
We started practicing Dave Ramsey's financial principles about five years ago pretty heavily. We read the book "The Total Money Makeover" and it really inspired us to make better financial decisions.
At that time, we had no credit card debt, but we did have a mortgage, two car payments, tons of medical bills, and the dreaded student loans.
We started to pay things off with a vengeance, using Dave's debt snowball method. This is where you line all of your debts up, smallest to largest balance, and start attacking the smallest debt with any extra cash that comes in.
We made good progress, until baby #3 was born. Miss Mattie's birth brought more medical bills and since I was unable to schedule photography sessions for that first six weeks, we really struggled.
Soooooo...we have been climbing back out of debt over the last few years.
Last year, we made the decision to sell our loaded Yukon and buy an '04 Bonneville.
The girls and I named the car "Dave" as a reminder that every time we are crunched into this car, we are sacrificing by not having that huge payment and putting that money on debt instead.
And then...the Yukon didn't sell. And then...it needed tires. And a tune-up. So we did those things.
And it's still sitting in my driveway.
A few days ago, Dave started making a funny noise.
And the transmission started slipping.
And I couldn't even get up to 50 mph on the highway.
So Dave is in the driveway now and we are driving the Yukon...who I've kindly named "Ramsey". When I fired it up yesterday to run the girls to town, we realized that the air conditioning isn't working in Ramsey. Naturally.
We have been paying on our house for almost eleven years now. We have paid the mortgage down quite a bit.
When we sell, we hope we will be able to pay off Ramsey, pay off that measley credit card, and put the down payment on the new house.
And then, we are back to gazelle intensity.
Our goal is to have everything, including the farmhouse and student loans, paid off in ten years or less.
As Dave says, we are "sick and tired of being sick and tired."
I can't wait to share our financial freedom story with you as it unfolds! It's coming!
During the process of searching for a home, finding a home, and planning to move into a different home, I have been thinking about several projects that I would like to do at the farmhouse.
A few of these could be completed here at our current home, while we wait to get moved in!
I started today with a project for the top of the stairwell.
When you walk down the stairs, there is a big wall at the farmhouse that you will see. I thought about doing a gallery wall there, but decided instead to do one big canvas print.
Canvas images are expensive, in case you didn't know...so I decided to create my own!
I decided I wanted the girls to have a reminder of the house they have spent the last several years in as they walked down the stairs every morning.
So one night, I had them put on some matchy-match clothes and run out to the corral to try and snap a photo...with my iPhone.
I should really use my big, fancy camera more often when photographing my own children, but the phone is just so convenient.
With Mr. Farmhouse's help, we got a photograph of the girls all three looking at me, with our cows in the background.
I only had to do a little Photoshop work because in the original picture, Mattie's arm was at a really unnatural angle. I just grabbed her arm from another photo and put it on her body.
Here is the image we ended up with from the hundreds we took that night.
And then...I put the gift-wrapping skills that I learned from Grandma Stephens when I was little to good use.
I stapled the two sides up over the frame to start and then did the top and bottom, pulling it tight as I put in each staple.
Admittedly, the iPhone picture was a tiny bit pixelated as a 36" x 48" print (which is to be expected, I suppose).
However, a photo wall-hanging for $37.50, as opposed to the $150-200 that could easily be spent on large canvas wall art is okay with me!
We have now been on summer break for almost a month.
The whole summer I've been working on the moving process.
Pack a whole trailer full of items into tubs.
Schedule inspections at the farmhouse.
Paint the ceilings of the current house for the appraisal.
Purge & organize.
Measure spaces at the farmhouse.
Order some furniture & order some appliances.
Purge some more & organize some more.
Make some decorative purchases for the farmhouse.
Prepare for a SECOND appraisal on the current house (long story...).
And wait some more.
To be honest, I woke up this morning feeling differently about the whole situation.
I'm trying to be patient, but I'm tired of waiting.
I don't want the kids to remember this summer as the summer we held our breaths for two months, waiting to get settled in at the farmhouse.
Last night, the girls got home from the softball game and played catch in the backyard until it got dark.
Then they ran around and caught lightning bugs.
It was heavenly.
No worries about when the second appraisal will happen...
When the closing date will happen...
When we will actually move to the farmhouse...
Just three little girls catching lightning in a jar while their parents and Gramps tried to coax a baby kitten out from under the feed truck (also a long story...).
So I decided that today, while the kids are off at science camp, I'm going to get this house put back together and ready for an appraisal.
And then, we're going to stop waiting.
We're going to breathe and enjoy and stop stewing over what could be coming around the corner.
We're going to catch lightning bugs and have movie nights and soak up the last few weeks in the home we've known for almost eleven years.
We're going to enjoy the waiting game.
"Have patience, have patience,
Don't be in such a hurry.
When you get impatient, you only start to worry.
Remember, remember that God is patient, too.
And think of all the times when others have to wait for you."
These aren't the exact lyrics that I remember from the childhood video we used to watch about Herbert the Snail.
However, they do evoke the same feeling inside of me as the somewhat inaccurate words that I sing to my three girls.
We were originally supposed to close on the farmhouse on June 16th.
Then June 30th.
Then July 5th.
Now, it's looking like it won't even happen by then.
Something is going on with the appraisal of our current house and I am waiting for a phone call, as we speak, to see what needs to happen to make that appraisal come through sooner than later.
It has something to do with the hailstorm and our insurance claim.
As I sit here just waiting for that phone to ring, I have a hard time with patience.
I know that in the whole scheme of things, a three to four week delay on closing on a house isn't a huge deal.
In all of life, three to four weeks is gone in the blink of an eye.
However, it makes me start to wonder how things will all work out.
I start to worry, although I know I shouldn't.
I know that God is in control of this situation and that He's got this.
We have a roof over our heads,
three beautiful, healthy daughters,
a wonderful marriage,
and more than we could ever need.
We are loved.
We are blessed.
We are (trying to be) patient.
Sometimes I struggle.
I struggle to keep it all together.
Running a household.
Shaping the minds of third graders.
Keeping up with a photography business.
Serving at church and in the community.
I forget things.
I lose things.
I fly off the deep end in conversation with my husband and children.
There are days that I struggle.
I struggle to feel like what I'm doing is good enough.
I have said "yes" to so many activities and projects and clients that sometimes I haven't been able to say "yes" to my kids.
I have had so many commitments in one week that sometimes I have not been able to give the 110% to each activity.
I have made such a long (and often unrealistic) "to do list" for myself on a given day that sometimes I get overwhelmed and am hardly able to complete even one task on there.
And then, in the midst of what feels like chaos.
In the midst of just trying to get one more thing done before bed.
In the midst of the daily struggle.
I get a glimpse of what life could be.
I find joy in the simplicity of a ride down the lane to the barn with my three girls.
We stop and admire the new babies born this spring.
We photograph the mamas.
We admire the sunset.
We play with the barn kitties.
And for a few moments, I find contentment in doing nothing.
I realize that my most important work is for these three little girls...for their daddy, who works so hard for us.
It's time for a reset.
Time to shift my priorities.
It's time to realize that moments like these...they are good enough.
Even if I sometimes say "I'm sorry...I'm not able to work on that today" or "You'll have to find someone else this time"...I am still good enough.
This simple life is good enough.
And sometimes, good enough can be wonderful.
Our mini-vacation to Oklahoma was so much fun. We leisurely drove down on Thursday afternoon. We missed a turn and kept right on going to find a new route instead of turning around.
When we finally made it to Bartlesville, where we were staying, we found a Japanese Steakhouse and enjoyed supper together.
No rushing around.
No numerous bathroom trips with various children.
Just peace and quiet...and my first experience with sushi. Still not so sure about THAT.
We got up Friday morning and enjoyed The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and some boutique shopping in downtown Pawhuska.
I made a few purchases for the farmhouse.
We laughed a lot.
Enjoyed some nice food.
And did some serious walking.
We dropped Mom off to get some work done at the hotel and the three of us girls went to the mall.
By mid-afternoon, we were ready to head back to our room..
We spent some time resting and relaxing, watching television, reading, and visiting.
It was strange not having the seven grandkids running around between the two hotel rooms, visiting with Grams and playing noisily.
It was so quiet. Almost TOO quiet.
That evening, after a quick trip to WalMart, we came back to the hotel to sleep.
"I wonder if they would let us check out a day early." Mom said.
"Maybe. We can always go ask."
So we did.
And they did.
Yesterday morning, we woke up and got around slowly.
We stopped and did a little more shopping (yay, Hobby Lobby!).
Besides the canvas United States map I picked up at the Mercantile, the galvanized metal distressed Farmhouse sign was definitely my other favorite purchase.
You can see how wide it is right now, sitting on my piano music stand just waiting for its new home when we move into the farmhouse. It will be the perfect focal point in the new living room (I think...if that's where it ends up).
I got the other three tin quotes on clearance (along with about 5 others) to round out some various gallery walls I have planned for the house. Acts 2:46 will hang in the dining room, "I choose fabulous" will (of course) be in the Claire Bear's room, and Jeremiah 1:5 will hang in the playroom to remind the girls daily that they are set apart for Kingdom work!
After the "brief" Hobby Lobby stop, we loaded the van up and headed home.
Mr. Farmhouse and the kids didn't know we were coming home early.
The kids were out at the annual antique tractor show in our town and Matthew was putting up hay.
So I leisurely unpacked and soaked up a little more of the peace and quiet before I went to pick up the girls from my in-laws.
Three big hugs from three little girls.
Smiles and dancing from the three-year-old.
"I missed you so much," from the older two.
We probably won't have a chance for another "girls' trip" like this for another year or two, but that's okay.
There definitely is no place like home.
After the 30 days of elimination, you begin to introduce foods back into your diet and see how they affect your body. You take notes and make observations to see how you felt physically and mentally when you added back in a specific food group.
My first few rounds were amazing. Thirty days of hardcore focus and great results. I had never felt better. I lost weight, felt less bloated, and had a clear mind.
However, after that reintroduction phase, I would slowly go back to eating how I was before. I was met with fatigue, digestive issues, and just a "blah" feeling.
When I got to feeling bad enough, I would do another Whole30 and reset again.
Enter Food Freedom Forever.
In her newest book, Melissa Hartwig talks to her readers about how to have that feeling of being able to be successful at maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
It all boils down to being intentional about our food choices.
Keep that Whole30 "reset lifestyle" going for the majority of the time, unless you come to a food choice that you deem "worth it" for going off of the plan.
Make it a special occasion.
Think long and hard about your feelings in that moment.
And jump confidently into your decision...free of guilt or questioning.
French Toast Croissants & United States Maps
Marie Kondo inspired me to simplify our possessions.
To be intentional in the items that we allow to take residence in our home.
To ask ourselves if the belongings we own currently and any we purchase in the future really "spark joy" for us.
Dallas & Melissa Hartwig inspired me to be intentional in my food choices.
To think long and hard about whether the food items that we are putting into our bodies are really worth breaking our reset.
This morning, at the Pioneer Woman Mercantile at 7:15 a.m., we broke our Whole30 reset on day 24.
And it was so worth it.
So I got the Croissant French Toast and Ashley got Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes.
We were extremely happy with our breakfast decision.
No hard feelings.
No feeling like we had "ruined our diet" with a "cheat" or a "slip up".
Pure joy that we have the freedom to make a food decision responsibly every once in awhile.
ANYway, enough about our amazing breakfast choices.
Oh yeah...I bought myself four wonderful shirts on clearance today. I love them all...joy-sparkers all around! The one on the left has CAMERAS on it! Yes! Cameras!
And I also picked up a Benjamin Franklin finger puppet at the Mercantile for my third grade classroom. Who doesn't need a Ben Franklin finger puppet?
It was a great day.
It's late and I'm tired, but it was all worth it. So worth it.
A few months ago, my sister, my sister-in-law, my mom, and I planned a road trip to Pawhuska, Oklahoma to visit the Pioneer Woman Mercantile.
Originally, with our closing date being June 16th, we were planning to be moved into the farmhouse and ready for a relaxing weekend girls' trip.
Since life didn't quite work out like that, we'll be relaxing on the girls' trip and also planning excitedly for the moving process and decorating the farmhouse. I'm hoping to pick up some vintage goodies on the trip, like a square cast-iron baking dish, a strawberry can for above my kitchen cabinets, or some cow plates for my sweet Mattie Moo.
We're leaving in a few hours to head south for the weekend.
I'll let you know what treasures we discover!
Ten years old.
This one has been a big one for us. It seems like just yesterday we were living in a little two-bedroom house in town and I was revealing to Matthew that we were expecting a baby. That was June of 2006.
Fast-forward a few months to September. We purchased our current house and started to make it work for what was to become our family of three.
And on December 30, 2006, a little girl came into our lives. Harlee Kathleen. Our oldest daughter.
This isn't what I want them to remember.
And I think that's one of the reasons that the farmhouse is so exciting to me.
It's a reset. We can start over. We can be very picky about what we take into the new house. About what we choose to give our time to. Because our time raising these sweet babies is precious and limited.
Less stuff, more life.
Several years ago, I embarked on a new adventure.
I opened my own photography business.
Our daughter was just turning a year old and I was sharing some photos I had taken of her with some friends. A few of them asked me to take some pictures of their children and told me that I had an eye for photography. They suggested that I could make a little extra income in this way.
I truly never thought it would turn into a full-fledged job, but lo' and behold...here we are.
This year, Newkirk Photography is turning ten.
My mission for Newkirk Photography is really two-fold:
Through the years, I've had many opportunities to capture important moments in life for friends and family members and eventually for people I had never met before.
A few teachers in my hometown asked me to do some senior photos for a senior girl who would never have the opportunity to have them done otherwise. It was the end of April before her graduation in mid-May.
A few sessions have been with families who had a family member on the brink of losing his or her battle with some sort of chronic illness. We captured memories that they can now relive over and over.
I've photographed families with foster-babies, adopted kiddos, five generations, and deployed family members.
My business has changed over the last ten years.
I started shooting in our spare bedroom before Baby #2 came along.
Then we built a wall in our detached garage and called one side of it a studio.
I eventually moved into a studio space in town and then another space and finally a third.
Last week, I moved out of the third studio space because in the farmhouse, I'll be able to shoot right in the living room, until we are able to pay off the rest of our small debt.
And then, if all goes as planned, I'll spend my time making memories and capturing my family's journey, with no need for a small business to make ends meet.
The studio started in our home and things have come full-circle as I downsize and move it back home.
P.S. I love how you can also see the transformation of my logo through the years.
At first, I didn't even have a logo, as I thought I would just be photographing for a few friends and family members. When I realized this venture would become a business and I got my first studio, I would just throw some text over the image to post them on Facebook, with no rhyme or reason.
I finally started using a cute little watermark with that pink scrolly design behind it, but eventually I realized that I wanted my logo to have more meaning. You can read more about that here.
When I created my own logo and included the two hearts to represent our two daughters, I knew that it would stick. In 2014, when we had Mattie, I added the third heart to my logo and that's how it is today.