June 5th, 2004...the day that I married my high school sweetheart.
Mr. Farmhouse and I had been together for almost four years by that point, and I knew that June 5th was the beginning of our "happily ever after".
Then along came some other important dates.
December 30th. April 6th. June 11th.
The three most important dates in our married lives...the day our sweet girls made their debuts into our family.
My friend, Crystal, at Photography by Crystal captured these amazing images (and several others!) of my girlies this past summer.
Sidenote: I can't wait to share with you some more of her work when my wall art comes in next week!
I have looked through these images over and over and over again.
How is my Harlee-girl almost eleven years old?
When did my Claire-bear become old enough to want to change school districts this year and move away from her mama?
How is it that my Mattie-moo is sleeping in her own bed all night, speaking in complete sentences, and pulling up her favorite song on YouTube all by herself?
These pictures have really reminded me that my babies aren't babies any longer.
The older girls have already had a few "friendship struggles" in the last few years.
Those moments where you want to just rescue your child and tell them exactly what to say and how to handle specific situations when they get their feelings hurt.
Those moments where you are so worried that they are going to or have already hurt someone else's feelings.
Those moments where you just want them to choose the right thing...to say the right thing...
We've all had these moments in parenting, right?
Moments spent praying that they will be a light in a dark world.
That the world won't dim their lights.
That they will shine, even when life gets hard.
I'm not alone in this...this time spent worrying and fretting and praying over my children, right?
As I looked through these photos of my girls Saturday afternoon, I started to subconsciously make a list of my hopes and dreams for them.
1. That they would be kind and encouraging to others.
I want them to be good students and to try hard in their respective activities. I want them to work to be the best athletes they can be and to get good grades, I want them to practice their musical instruments and contribute to keeping our household run smoothly.
But more than that...I want them to be kind. I want them to be a good teammate, to show good sportsmanship. I want them to be includers, not excluders. I want them to see a need in a friend and meet that need. I want them to smile and to encourage and to give of themselves to help others to find good in the world.
2. That they would learn contentment and joy in everyday life.
I want my babies to understand that "stuff" is not important and people are. I want them to be content living in a hundred-year-old farmhouse the same as they would be content if we had built a brand new home.
I want them to know that sometimes playing outside all evening is a better option than saying yes to every single extracurricular activity out there.
I want them to understand that we can find joy in a sunrise or a sunset or laughter spent with sisters.
3. That they would find a passion and pursue it.
At one of the teaching conferences I went to last week, I saw an amazing speaker named Tara Brown speak about educators and parents being a Spark Champion for our children.
I want my girls to find their own sparks and pursue them. What drives them? What are they passionate about? What purpose do they feel they have in the world?
I want them to find these things and to work hard to learn more about them and to use these passions for good.
4. That they would build lasting relationships with a small group of friends.
Some of my very best friends are the girls that I spent my elementary years with. We have connected on facebook, text often, and sometimes don't see each other but a few times a year.
I want this for my girls. I want them to connect on a deep level with a group of girls that they can grow up with. I want them to band together with these girls and share kindness in the public school system. I want them to push each other to work hard and to be their very best.
They are both blessed to already be forming these friendships in their classrooms, in their school, at in our church. I'm so very thankful for this and I pray that these relationships continue to grow through the next several years.
5. That they would meet a faithful & generous man someday who will complement them in marriage the way that their daddy has done for me.
Yep. I'm already praying for their future husbands.
I know that God is preparing someone for each of them.
Someone who will complement their gifts and talents and fill in the gaps where they are lacking.
Someone who will encourage them to love on others and to give of themselves in a dark world.
Someone who will be a daddy to my grandbabies and a helpmate to each of my sweet girls.
I pray daily for my girls.
For the decisions they will have to make on this day.
For their friends.
For their teachers.
For their future husbands.
For their hearts and their minds and their physical protection.
I know that we will fail them miserably sometimes as parents and I just pray that God can move us both through these times and help us grow through all of our mistakes and mishaps.
I hope that when my girls grow up, they can see that we tried our hardest as parents.
I hope that they realize that they have a built-in best friend in each other and that there is no love like a sibling's love.
And I hope they can see that the best way to live is to love God and to love people.
Gabe & Allison Davis.
It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
When Gabe texted me a few months before his wedding to ask if I would be available to photograph his wedding to his love, Allison, I said "absolutely" and put it on my calendar.
I have known Gabe for basically my whole life.
We share a hometown, a lot of the same friends, and a love for all things black and gold.
I hadn't met Allison until we visited at the wedding venue a few weeks before the ceremony, but I was immediately drawn to her kind smile, and her and Gabe's respect for each other and partnership in making decisions during our conversation that day.
I was excited to meet Allison's sweet son, Hudson, the day of the wedding and capture their wedding day memories alongside them!
Gabe is a talented woodworker and the vision he and Allison had for the ceremony location was just perfect.
From the sign welcoming guests to their "beginning" to the beautiful arbor he built for them to get married under.
Two of my favorite moments in every wedding are when the bride's father walks her down the aisle and "the kiss". Gabe & Allison's wedding was no different.
This moment where Allison's dad said something and they both smiled before they started their journey to Gabe was just precious.
And equally precious was when Hudson had to get a closer look at the kiss! Simply adorable!
I was so thankful to be a part of this beautiful day and pray for God's blessing on you as you continue to serve each other in marriage, Mr. & Mrs. Davis.
Congratulations to you both...and Hudson, too! ❤️
"How many sentences do I need to write to get a good grade?"
One of my third graders asked me this a few weeks ago when we started to write our first big writing assignment...the personal narrative.
"There's not really a certain number of sentences...I just want you to tell the whole story. The beginning, the middle, and the end. I want to be able to picture the story in my head as I read your words and I want you to take your time adding details to help paint a mental picture for your readers."
"Okay," he said, "So how many sentences would that be?"
I wish I could say that it's only 8-year-olds who are asking, "How good is good enough?"
But you and I both know that's not the case.
I think that in most avenues of life, the bare minimum should not be the standard by which we judge ourselves.
For the last four years or so, my teaching partner and I have departmentalized our instruction. He has taught the math and science while I've taught the reading, writing, and social studies.
We were very comfortable in our roles. We worked together to meet the needs of each third grader in our building and we supported each other in our various responsibilities.
To be frank...it worked really well for us.
We had seen growth in our test scores and felt like we were in each of our elements as we shared pertinent information with our third graders, using our own teaching styles and meeting our kids' learning needs.
Last year, a team from our school (including me) visited an elementary building near Columbia, Missouri, to observe how their multi-age model of teaching worked.
We were blown away by so many parts of the program and decided that it was definitely worth looking into for our own school.
We had meetings and planned and talked and spent time hashing out the details of how a program like this would work for our own district.
Ultimately, last winter, we decided to move towards this model for the 2017-2018 school year.
That meant lots of changes for the third grade team.
We were each going to be teaching all subjects.
We were teaming up with two other teachers.
We were moving to a model that would require us to hit both third and fourth grade learning standards during the course of the school year.
It would be a challenge, but we were ready.
We met with our team last spring on several occasions to align our standards, to share resources and teaching strategies, and to decide how our students and teaching responsibilities would be divided.
I was feeling good about the school year going into summer.
And then...our house didn't sell when it was supposed to sell.
We ended up having to jump through a lot of hoops by doing a lot of extra inspections on the farmhouse.
My Dave Ramsey car ("Dave") needed repairs and the air conditioning went out of the Yukon ("Ramsey").
When the first few weeks of the school year came, I didn't feel refreshed or relaxed or prepared in the least.
Nevertheless, we jumped in head first.
Our team refreshed ourselves on everything we had talked about in the spring.
We shared resources and ideas (again) and encouraged one another as we transitioned to this new way of teaching.
I knew the research showed that this model would be the best thing for kids.
I knew that we were capable of carrying out this model of teaching.
I knew that I would hold myself to the same standard of excellence that I had insisted on keeping for my whole teaching career.
And then...the students came.
The first few days were great.
We did lots of team-building activities, where all the third and fourth grade students met together. The four of us teachers were able to play off of each other in conversation about being a good leader and being scholarly.
The first few weeks came and went and we split into our own classrooms, teaching our own subjects, to our own specific group of students.
I started to realize that maybe this wasn't going to come as naturally to me as the years before.
A new curriculum.
A new group of students.
A new school for our own two daughters.
A new house (that we weren't all-the-way moved into yet).
I was overwhelmed with being a wife and a mom and a teacher.
I was questioning my own ability in the classroom.
This had literally never happened to me.
I love my job.
I live to go back to school.
I smile and encourage and show enthusiasm.
It's what I do.
Or what I have done every year of my teaching career so far.
But this year...I felt like I was falling behind from the get-go.
In all areas.
Until one day, a friend of mine said to me, "You know...sometimes you just have to let some things go."
Let some things go?
Sorry, that actually doesn't work for me.
I don't just "let things go".
When I took a moment and really thought about it though...she was right.
Sometimes good enough is actually good enough.
Sometimes laundry folded in baskets at the bottom of the stairs instead of put away into drawers is good enough.
Sometimes a Happy Meal from McDonalds on the way home instead of a home-cooked meal is good enough.
Sometimes putting the toddler to bed after wiping her down with a baby wipe instead of actually giving her a bath is good enough.
Sometimes taking one whole Saturday morning to catch up on grading papers instead of doing it every evening is good enough.
I'm not suggesting that we lower the standard for everything in life to "good enough".
I think sometimes we have to realize that even when we're not feeling able to be our very best, we can still do good in the world.
Even when we're struggling to keep afloat, we can make a difference.
Even when we don't feel like we can reach the standard of excellence that we usually strive for...sometimes good enough is good enough.
I told you that I'd be sharing a bit about our financial journey over the next few weeks.
I just almost had a big post complete about my life as a people-pleaser when the electricity flashed due to the thunderstorm and I lost half of it.
So I decided maybe it wasn't time to share all of that this evening.
Instead, I thought I'd give a little explanation about what Dave Ramsey refers to as "sinking funds" and how we use them here at the farmhouse.
Three words. Or two words and a number.
Capital One 360.
I first read about Capital One 360 on a Dave Ramsey Facebook group that I'm a member of.
Someone asked if there was a good savings program online that could be used with sinking funds.
Several members commented about Capital One 360, so I decided to try it out.
And I absolutely LOVE it.
We have it set up to withdraw $30 a month right now from our checking account and just put it into the Disney account for the trip we have planned for 2020.
When we're done with the debt snowball, we'll add more than $30 each month to be able to pay cash for the trip.
Some of our other accounts include "house repairs", "new car", "annual taxes", "hunting trip" and a savings account for each of the girls.
Some of these accounts get a specific amount added to them weekly, some twice a month, and some monthly.
At this point, we don't even think about the debits.
They come out on payday and since they are already taken out of our budget, we don't even miss them.
An added bonus is that Capital One is doing all of the work for us...every single month.
So that's how our sinking funds work.
You can have up to 25 separate "line items" on Capital One 360, so as you can imagine, the savings possibilities are endless. ❤️🏡❤️
Over the last several years, we have tried to dig ourselves out of debt.
Last year, we bought a 2004 Bonneville (named Dave) and planned to sell our loaded GMC Yukon.
The Yukon didn't sell right away.
Then the Bonneville started having some issues and a few times over the last year, I've had to resort to driving the Yukon again. We have now named the Yukon "Ramsey".
"Dave" was out of commission for a little while...needing some work that ended up costing us just shy of $500.
"Ramsey" needed some work on the air conditioner.
As in, we had no AC. During the hottest three weeks of summer.
We were driving the loaded Yukon with the windows down, on gravel...sweating our behinds off, trying to wait to get the air conditioning fixed until we closed on the house.
Eventually, we bit the bullet and got it fixed.
Just in time for us to start driving "Dave" again.
ANYway, I thought it might be a time for a little update on the ol' debt snowball.
We have had to make LOTS of changes and additions and deletions from the snowball over the last year, with changes to our income and our expenses.
With the sale of the old house finally going through last week, I was able to do some extra work on the budget and get the snowball set back up with all of our new information in there.
When we decided to buy the farmhouse instead of buying land and building, the debt snowball began to roll much more quickly!
As of right now, with NO extra payments, except the snowball we have already started, we'll be debt-free, including the house in eight years.
Even if we stick to this exact plan and don't pay any extra on the snowball, Harlee will be barely graduated from high school and we will be debt-free.
I'm telling you...the snowball works.
With some planning and self-control, you too could be debt-free.
If you're interested in hearing more about how the Newkirks "tell our money where to go", keep an eye on the blog in the next few weeks.
Labor Day Weekend marks the unofficial beginning of my very favorite season.
For the last few years, it has become a tradition to put out all my fall decorations on Labor Day.
This year was no different.
Wait, yes it was.
This year was very different.
This year, I spent Labor Day getting the last of the "back to school madness" organized and ready for the bulk of the school year that is upon us.
This year, I was planning to have time to search the garage to find the fall decorations.
And I didn't have time.
So when I went to Dollar General to grab a foil pan for Matthew to put the brisket in that he was making for supper tonight, I spent $10 and bought a few fall items.
I spent yesterday afternoon cleaning house to prepare for the decorating process, but didn't get finished.
Sunday evening, I changed all the Scentsy in my house to fall scents and this morning, I lit my fall candles.
I drank my coffee in the quiet this morning and prepared for a long day of transforming the farmhouse to a peaceful fall sanctuary.
Mr. Farmhouse was off work too, so he started smoking a brisket early this morning and he and my brother got to work bringing some more of our outside belongings from the old house.
By 11:30, I realized that all of the fall decorations might not be coming out today.
I had made a huge dent in the laundry, finished up the dishes, and done a quick run-through of the rest of the downstairs.
I hung some pictures in our bedroom and in the living room that I had been putting off and made some notes about the week coming up.
I worked on some school plans for this week and edited a few photography sessions.
I enjoyed some more coffee about mid-afternoon.
I organized Mattie's room and contemplated hanging some of her wall art, even though we'll be redoing the sheetrock in a month or two.
Decided against it, lol.
Now, I'm drinking coffee again and listening to Matthew & the girls play outside while I grade some papers.
This is the life.
Whether I live in a fully-decorated fall farmhouse or not. ❤️🍂🏡🍁❤️
Something really big happened on Friday.
You might remember that we have owned the old house and the farmhouse for the last month.
We went ahead and purchased the farmhouse so our sellers could move along with their lives and were still waiting on our sale to go through.
We knew it was happening, just didn't know when.
And then...last Monday, we got a phone call.
It was happening.
It was time to sign papers and officially sell our house!
This process that started last spring was finally coming to a close.
It was a long-awaited phone call.
A huge relief.
A blessing to finally get rid of the feeling that we were holding our breaths until everything came to a close.
We signed Friday after school to finalize the sale.
Earlier that day, on Friday morning, sweet Dylan & Bailey went and signed the papers (how stinking cute are they???) to start making the house we had loved for so long into their own home.
It's a joy to see these "kids" who share so much of our story jumping in and making our old house their home.
We are excited for them to finally be through this process, even if they are having to keep Harlee's LeBron James cutout on the wall for a few more weeks until we can get her wall built and move him to his forever home!
Thanks for sticking with us through this process, faithful readers!
Can't wait to share the future of the farmhouse as we start to transform the upstairs with a few extra walls and a bathroom!
Coming soon! ❤️🏡❤️