I can't remember a time that my brain did not run on a school calendar.
In fact, this calendar is so engrained in my head that I think of August 1st as my "Happy New Year" more than January 1st.
After having what felt like a very short summer break this year, I will go back to work tomorrow morning.
In past years, this would mean that my July 31st would be spend cleaning like a mad woman, convincing our girls that if we could just get the house organized before the first of August, it would never get out of hand during the school year and we would at least appear to have our lives together. It makes me laugh now...this absurd perspective.
The summer of 2023 has been different.
Over the month of July, we have worked on a manageable list of tasks that has really made a difference in how our home feels. We've painted & completely redone three different spaces in this short time. We've switched out a few light fixtures, decluttered several rooms, and have worked hard to set up some sustainable systems that will hopefully carry us through the school year.
Last night, I sat down and adjusted our "master house project list" and came up with a new manageable task list that we should be able to focus on during August, September, and October...even with the busyness of the school year upon us.
So we did.
Now -- I can't complain.
My brother and then his wife contracted the virus. While they did feel kind of crummy for a few days, they experienced mostly mild symptoms as they stayed at home. However, because of the dates of exposure and symptoms and all the rules & recommendations from the CDC, my niece and nephew have to quarantine until August 15th. So -- please be in prayer for them!
Full disclosure here -- as a school administrator, the last six months have been a blur.
I have said several times that I feel like we are living in a movie. This doesn't seem like real life, as we make decisions about how to deliver instruction to children in the safest way over the next school year.
While my 10 1/2 month school-year contract officially ends on June 15th and begins again on August 1st each year, this summer there have been too many decisions to make to really take much of a break.
And then...quarantine happened.
Sure, I continued to work on giving input for school reopening plans and I did continue focusing on some of my school duties over the last few weeks.
But I also spent many hours every single day over the last two weeks working alongside Mr. Farmhouse and the girls to complete projects that we have been planning to get to "someday".
Not being able to leave the house for two weeks isn't ideal.
If we weren't in quarantine, I wouldn't have had to cancel our annual well-child checkups for the girls, piano lessons, & tutoring.
Mr. Farmhouse could have been working and I wouldn't have had to miss a few in-person meetings at school.
We could have allowed being stuck at home for two weeks with no symptoms to be irritating and a reason to complain.
However, last night, as Mr. Farmhouse and I rode the Ranger through the field moving hot-wire for the cows, I looked around and smiled.
Thank you, Lord, for this time we have had together. Thanks for slowing us down and giving us the opportunity to connect deeply before we all head off into the unknown of this school year. Thank you that my brother's family has had mild symptoms and that they have the opportunity to work from home. Just thank you, Lord. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen
Back to the real world today, friends.
Sending gratitude to God from the farmhouse,
There's no question about it.
Autumn is my favorite season.
It's often short-lived here in Missouri and we often spend a day or two each September with a taste of Autumn before jumping back into high temperatures for another week or so.
However, I am hopeful that yesterday was our last day in the 80's for a while.
Bring on the colorful leaves, misty mornings, Pumpkin Spice-everything, scarves, and cozy hooded sweatshirts.
Since making my decision to put down the camera and focus solely on my new role at school this year, I've had a lot more weekend time at home.
It's not basketball season yet and our nephew's football games have been in the evenings, so I have been able to wake up on Saturday mornings and spend some time in the quiet of the farmhouse front porch, taking in the crisp, cool morning breeze.
When the long summer days start to get shorter and the hot, humid days start to get cooler, I feel a renewed sense of urgency for enjoying every moment in my home with Mr. Farmhouse and the girls.
I start to think more about crock pots with simmering soup, evenings spent around the fire pit, and the smell of fresh-baked cookies wafting through the house.
A little over a year ago, we decided to take the plunge and buy an older car and sell our loaded Yukon to get out of debt faster.
We found a 2004 Bonneville at our local car lot and named him “Dave”.
Dave was great.
He was a one-owner vehicle that had mainly been driven on the highway back and forth to the city each day.
He had leather seats and enough room in the backseat that the girls wouldn’t be completely squished when we drove anywhere.
We were giving up heated seats that worked, a DVD player, and lots more room in the name of better gas mileage and debt-reduction.
The Yukon didn’t sell right away, so it sat in our driveway for a few weeks.
This was just enough time for us to realize that Dave had some problems.
When I was driving to work, about the time I hit 60 mph, Dave would start shaking uncontrollably. To fix this problem, I drove 59 for a few weeks. By that time, we were able to afford a few new tires and that seemed to help.
A week or two after that, Dave started having some transmission issues. So we took him to the mechanic’s shop.
Thank goodness we still had the Yukon.
By this time, it was almost comical that we had two vehicles to care for and no less debt than we started with. So as sort of a joke, I named the Yukon “Ramsey”.
We got Dave up and running again, $421 later.
So I listed Ramsey for sale again on Facebook.
I didn’t drive Ramsey for a few weeks, until I needed it to haul a piece of furniture out to the new house.
I started Ramsey’s engine in late June, and realized that something was wrong with his air-conditioning.
So I took down the “for sale” listing and we made an appointment to have the air conditioning fixed.
The AC just needed a charge. Only $125.
After getting that taken care of and using Ramsey to haul things out to the farmhouse when we moved, Mr. Farmhouse and I decided it was time to tell Ramsey goodbye forever and start driving Dave full time.
By the time school started, I had been driving Dave again for a few weeks.
We were going to take Ramsey to CarMax and get rid of him once and for all over one weekend in late-August.
That Friday, Dave started making a funny noise on the way to school. The RPMs would fly up and I started to feel a catch when I tried to accelerated.
It got worse and worse.
So back to the shop with Dave.
We put the sale of Ramsey on hold...again.
I got used to driving Ramsey again. The girls got used to having the DVD player again. I got used to the heated seats when my lower back was bothering me at the beginning of the school year.
And then one morning, I pushed the button to open the back hatch and it didn't work.
Come on, Ramsey!
Sure enough, something was wrong in the power lift gate and we needed to take it in to the shop to get it fixed.
But Dave was in the shop.
So we would just live with it.
At this point, we have figured out that Dave is probably not worth the money we paid for him and the Ramsey is probably not going to get sold either.
We'll just cut our losses, use the debt snowball to pay Ramsey off soon, and drive them both until they physically die.
Last weekend, the girls had a few friends in Ramsey with us as we drove to a volleyball tournament.
Now that we live on gravel, neither vehicle is ever clean.
I pushed the button to spray windshield washer fluid on the back glass and the two girls in the third row seat started saying, "What is that? Something is dripping! I'm getting wet!"
Sure enough...somehow the windshield wiper fluid was spraying into the backseat.
I made a mental note to have Mr. Farmhouse check that little situation out after church the next day.
Several minutes later, I accidentally hit that button again as we were driving down the road.
But no water this time.
Instead, I heard the familiar click and warning sound that the back hatch was opening.
The windshield wiper fluid button had made the power lift gate unlatch.
I admit, I laughed.
What else do you do?
So it seems Dave and Ramsey will both be in the Newkirk family 'til death do us part.
Does anyone else find it difficult to just stop?
Sometimes it's nice to just sit and do nothing.
But if I'm being honest, it's easier said than done.
My first inclination isn't to come straight home after school and sit down with Mr. Farmhouse and talk about our day.
It isn't to grab my book and head to the porch to read.
It isn't to snuggle up on the couch with one of the girls and watch a movie.
Sadly, my first inclination is usually to mentally run through my "to do" list and decide what all I could accomplish in one evening.
It's to throw in a load of laundry or put dishes away or pick up the floor.
It's to sit at my computer and do lesson plans or enter grades in the grade book.
But what if my first inclination is wrong?
I've been very convicted lately, by a few books I have read, some blog posts I've seen shared, and some Christian mentors sharing with me.
I've been convicted about my priorities.
I don't want my babies to feel like I put my school work or photography business above them.
I don't want Mr. Farmhouse to think that having clean laundry or an empty sink is of more value than the time I could spend with him.
I don't want my family to go through life wondering why I put so many other tasks in front of the task of just being with them.
Now friends...let me just tell you.
This shift in thinking.
This change in words and actions.
It has taken some time.
And I have a long way to go.
But for tonight, I made supper, did about 20 minutes of lesson planning, and sat down in the living room with Mr. Farmhouse and the girls to watch Zootopia for the 587th time.
It. Was. Perfect.
Sometimes it's nice to just stop. ❤️🏡❤️
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. ❤️🍂🏡🍁❤️