This has been the quickest summer break I've ever had.
I actually found a blog post from 2018 (the year I took over my current position at school), that I titled "The Shortest Summer Ever", but I am here now to concede that that statement was inaccurate.
The summer of 2018 was NOT, in fact, the shortest summer ever. It was most definitely the summer of 2023.
I had my last day of work on July 3rd and spent the rest of that week celebrating Independence Day, getting the girls in for orthodontist appointments, and attending an all-day softball tournament that weekend.
The following week, I chaperoned our older two girls in Lincoln, Nebrasks at CIY Move, an amazing conference for teenagers, where they grew in their faith, grew closer to each other, and enjoyed week of dynamic speakers, worship, and relationship-building.
This past week was our church's Vacation Bible School. It was a great week, where we focused on doing what Jesus says, believing who Jesus is, sharing what Jesus did, and going where Jesus leads. It was exhausting and wonderful and so very meaningful to lots of kids and adults.
And now...I have one week left.
I go back to school on August 1st...in eight short days.
And surprisingly...I'm okay with that.
Over my career in public education, I have spent many "final weeks at home" dreading the school year, working to finish all the tasks on my to-do in a frenzy as the summer came to a close, and just not really enjoying very much of it.
However, I have learned a thing or two over the past few years and I want to share some of these things as we close the chapter of summer and move into fall.
1. Self-reflection is key.
We MUST be willing and able to look inside ourselves to reflect on all of the things.
What is driving my internal need to accomplish more and more each day?
Why do I behave the way I do?
Why do I feel that way inside when I think about or see a specific person?
Why does my mind fill with concerns regarding specific parts of my life that I cannot control?
I could continue typing on this list of reflective questions for the next several weeks. The list could go on and on and on.
Here is the kicker though:
When we ask these questions, we have to REALLY take time to listen to our answers to make CHANGES based on those answers.
This is not natural. This is a SKILL that must be practiced.
Here is an example of how I have been working on this skill.
(Fair warning: this is kind of vulnerable for me...I'm just going to lay it all out there!)
I ask myself this question:
What is driving my internal need to accomplish more and more each day?
And then I mull over the question in my head. I even might write something down in response to this. I finally end up with the answer that I feel is the most closely aligned with my truth.
I feel the need to accomplish more and more each day because at some point in my life, I have bought into the idea that my own productivity is tied directly to the happiness of my family. I have thought to myself on many occasions, "Once I accomplish ___, we will be able to live peacefully in our home." Once the house is completely decluttered and organized...once all of the home projects we have on our list are completed...once we have a small business that has a sustainable income to allow us more time at home...once we can afford to retire...THE LIST GOES ON AND ON.
But God has been changing my heart over the last three years.
I could continue to live in this place of wanting things to be perfect before I allow myself to enjoy them completely, or I can be content where He has placed me.
I have had to reflect deep within myself and I have had to make the conscious decision to choose contentment.
We will do what we can with the time we have available, and we will build in intentional time of rest and relaxation. We will do big projects on certain days and we will end those work days with a bonfire or a game of softball in the yard or a night at the drive-in movie.
My self-reflection has led me to focus heavily on balancing the "to do" list and the "to connect" list.
I've also been working on how I interact with others. Sometimes, there are things that I feel the urge to say that do not need to be said. I listen for the still, small voice of God when these things come into my mind and I use self-control to not say them.
And sometimes, there are hard things that NEED to be spoken, in love. I pray for discernment in these situations -- God, is this something you would like me to engage in or are we not ready to have this conversation? Am I in a good place to be able to deliver this message with grace and empathy? Am I in a place to be able to listen with humility?
It is prideful for me to believe that I have all the answers in every situation, so I am working hard to remember that I can listen & learn from others. I don't have to have all the answers. I can gain new information, chew on it for a while, and ask God to help me see where that new information fits into His plan for me.
After studying habits for the last few years, I have finally found a really healthy morning routine that is working well for me. Self-reflection has allowed me to adjust and revise this routine until it clicked into place.
After reading several books by Gretchen Rubin, I've learned that we need to pay attention to the natural rhythms of our bodies when we are planning our activities for the day.
I am a morning person, or a lark, as Rubin calls it. I do my best work in the morning. So after I shower and get ready for the day, if I'm home for the day, I almost always launch straight into my to do list. I try to accomplish a lot before lunch time, so my afternoons can be spent writing, relaxing with the kids, or napping.
If it's a school day, I structure my work day similarly. I try to knock out my biggest tasks early in the work day. I build in a few short breaks for myself throughout the morning, but I try to push through and get a lot accomplished before 1:00. Around 1:00, I try to take time for people. I visit classrooms, make phone calls, and attend meetings. Before I leave for the school day, I prioritize my task list for the following day and clean my office up so I'm ready to start strong the next morning.
So what does all of this mean?
We all have areas in our lives that God is calling us to make some changes. We are too busy or not busy enough. We are prioritizing the wrong activities. We are so staunchly set in certain beliefs about how the world should be that we are unable to connect with people. We are neglecting our Bible study because of other meaningless tasks and when we do study the Bible, we're not applying it to allow God to transform our lives.
We MUST self-reflect.
And in that self-reflection, when we feel that nudge from God to make changes, we have to MOVE.
Soaking up this last week of summer break and reflecting on who I am in Jesus here at the farmhouse,
As most of you know, I am a first year Director of Special Services in the district where I have been teaching for the last ten years.
And it is almost Christmas break.
In fact, our students finished today and tomorrow we'll have a day of professional development and then thirteen days off before we start back in for second semester in January.
As I sat at my desk this afternoon wrapping up things for the first two quarters, I took a moment and looked around.
I had a few thoughts running through my mind.
"This is my office."
"These are my responsibilities."
"I have almost survived the first semester as a school administrator."
And although I'm not quite there...I just ALMOST feel like I know what I'm doing.
This week, on my Facebook memories, a status popped up from two years ago...
At the time, just two short years ago, I had no idea how the opportunities would play out to get me where I am today.
Looking back, I can see the hand of God woven into the whole story...into the big moments and all the little details.
We bought the farmhouse in July of 2017. We sold our home and started doing some updates to the farmhouse. School started in August of 2017 and we were moving full-speed ahead remodeling, moving, and of course...getting ready for the school year.
When my boss asked me if I would be interested in a leadership position and encouraged me to go finish my certification, I wasn't thinking it would be anytime soon.
In fact, I had told Mr. Farmhouse that I was thinking I would probably teach for another 8-10 years and move into administration for the last 3-5 years of my career.
But during the craziness of moving a family of five during "back-to-school time", I got word that the Director of Special Services would be retiring and I was asked if I would be interested in the position.
"Where God guides, He provides." Isaiah 58:11
I have been stretched,
I have been challenged,
and I have been pushed out of my comfort zone.
I've had to learn a lot in a short amount of time and I have made many mistakes.
There are days that I want to cry over every little thing and days that I feel like I might just have this gig figured out.
And through it all...
through the frustrations and the calm...
through the uncertainty and the moments of confidence,
I've never wondered if this is the right place for me.
God has brought guidance, and He is still providing.
In the moment where I am feeling overwhelmed (like today!), the phone rings and a family has brought me a gift to thank me for my tiny part in the success of their babies. (Thanks, B family!)
The second I start to feel worry, my heart fills with peace at the thought that God opened all of the doors necessary to get me to this place.
When I walk down the hallway to bounce an idea off of the elementary principal, I find myself smiling at the thought that God has worked it out that my teaching partner and I have both ended up in leadership positions at the exact same time.
These things are not accidental.
What an encouragement to know that He cares for little ol' me.
Resting in His providence here at 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.
When I knew I was going to be leaving the classroom at the end of last school year, I discovered that there was lots of work to be done...starting with cleaning out 13 years of teaching supplies from my classroom.
I was moving from a room that housed myself, over twenty children at any given time, and years and years of classroom materials, personal belongings, and random items I had kept "just in case".
As I mentioned in my blog post on Monday...usually, "just in case" never came.
I started the process of getting my room emptied just as soon as school was out.
I boxed up.
And I even sold a few items.
By the end of June, all that was left was a pile of tubs in the middle of the room that needed to be moved down to my new office.
On the afternoon of June 29th, I started the process of transforming my new office into my own.
I started to think of my office in terms of the "zones" I would need to have.
With these goals in mind, I started the process of going through every single drawer and shelf in the office.
After I had been through every piece of paper and book in the office, I started to organize what was there.
Finally, I decided what items I would keep from my tubs and sent the rest home or to the donate pile.
When my systems were clear, I was ready to decorate.
Armed with my clearance finds from Hobby Lobby and Big Lots, the transformation was complete.
So without further ado...here's my farmhouse office.
The new position has been all I had dreamed of and more.
I'm so thankful for God's providence and guidance over the last several years to bring me to the place I am right now.
Happy Sunday night from the farmhouse, friends.
I got here after 10:00 p.m. Monday night.
I got checked in and headed up to my room.
I unpacked for the week and snuggled into my warm, comfy hotel bed to call Mr. Farmhouse and let him know that I arrived safely.
I'm spending my week in a hotel as I attend a conference that will teach me all about the responsibilities that come with my new job.
Tuesday, I was up early and ready to take on the day. After a day full of meetings, I made it back to my room about 4:00 and worked hard on finishing some items on my school to-do list. I met some friends at 6:00 for supper and came back to the room to do some reading, call and visit with the girls, and hit the sack.
This morning, I opened the hotel dresser drawer to get my clothes out and that's when it hit me...hotel life is amazing.
When I was packing to come over here Monday, I packed only what I would need.
I was intentional about what I put into the bag, as I knew I wouldn't want to carry anything extra with me.
I have one outfit for each day, my school bag, my electronics chargers, and the two books I am reading.
And so, as I was getting ready this morning and packing up my bag to take downstairs to the conference, I thought to myself...wouldn't it be wonderful to live like this every day?
Why can't we be intentional with what we have in our home?
Why can't we only keep what we need?
You may recall our KonMari journey that I blogged about when we were still living in the old house.
It was a journey where we looked at all of our belongings and asked ourselves, "Does this spark joy?" If the answer was no...out it went.
Since then, we've moved and we've accumulated more belongings.
I think it's time to go on that journey again.
I would love to walk into the house every single evening and think to myself, "Living the hotel life is really grand."
Happy Wednesday from the 9th floor, friends.
Make it a good one.
This has been a year of transition.
As you might remember, I have officially left the classroom and am now serving as our school district's Director of Special Services.
This new position comes with some new responsibilities and of course much excitement!
Since working on some of my new duties and trying to be very prepared to go into the new school year, I have realized that if I'm going to continue to be the best wife, mom, Christian, and educator that I can be, there will need to be some more changes taking place over the next year.
And so...here is my second big announcement for 2018.
Besides leaving my classroom, I'm also going to put the camera down in the near future.
I have been able to be a part of so many new marriages and family events.
I have spent time with people at the very beginning of their lives and with family members nearing the end of life.
I have captured photos for friends and family members who are preparing for deployment or getting ready to announce a pregnancy.
It has been such an honor for me to be included in these experiences.
But now...it's time to slow down a bit on the home-front as I learn my new position at school.
Of course, I still have some sessions and weddings scheduled for this fall and I still have some friends out there with gift cards waiting to be used, so the camera won't be put away for good...but I won't be scheduling anymore full sessions at this time.
I will still have a fall mini-session to kind of close out the year and I might still do some sports' photos or other mini-sessions here and there, but I need to take a step back and focus on the family, the farmhouse, and my new responsibilities.
I am beyond thankful to all of those clients who have chosen me to capture their memories through the years.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Feeling bittersweet at the farmhouse,
It's been just over a month since I blogged on the last day of school.
I had big summer plans for the blog.
I would share the continuation of our decluttering journey.
I would post about our garden.
I would showcase our farmhouse projects with everyone, as we finally marked some of the items off the list that we've been putting off all school year.
I would finally get those items finished that we had been procrastinating on.
And I will say...we have made progress.
I am so excited and looking forward to my new position for the 2018-2019 school year.
I have thoughts and dreams and a vision for what the Special Education department will look like in the future.
However, there are still some responsibilities lingering from last school year and I would like to take care of these things before going back to school in August.
This is a time of transition and I need to be proactive in my planning and preparing.
I need to be intentional in my learning and my personal summer professional development.
I need to be "vision-minded" as I close out last school year and look forward to next year.
I want to be able to start fresh in August and to offer a fresh start for my staff members and students.
And to do that...the groundwork must be laid now. This summer.
This last Friday was my predecessor's final day.
He's now retired and already enjoying life in Galveston, Texas. (Congratulations, Fred!)
We took him out to eat on Friday and then I went back to school and starting moving my personal belongings down to my new office.
When I walked out of the building that day, I vowed to not come back until July 9th...taking this week to relax and enjoy my family.
Taking this week to watch our town's annual 4th of July parade, to shoot off fireworks, to get some projects completed around the house, to go to the lake, and to just spend time with Mr. Farmhouse and the girls.
There is still much to be done...on the farmhouse and in my new office, but those things can wait.
Happy "Stop Week" from the Farmhouse, friends.
And just like that...the last school year of my teaching career is over.
You might remember a few months ago when I announced my new position as the director of special services in my current district.
At the time that I agreed to this position, back in late August of last year, it seemed like a lifetime away.
It seemed like there was so much more time left in my classroom. I mean, nine months is a LONG time, right?
And yet, here we are...the last day of school.
I'd be lying if I said I was over-joyed as I left the school parking lot today.
Yes, I'm excited for my new journey, but I feel like every time a season in our lives comes to an end, there is some grieving that must take place.
I have known that public education was the career choice for me ever since I can remember.
There was never a time in my life that I thought of any other career choice.
I can remember being preschool age and "playing school" with my dolls and stuffed animals in my bedroom. (I always tried to recruit my little brother, but it wasn't quite as enjoyable for him.)
My new role is exciting and refreshing and something I am looking forward to.
But in reality, there are things I am losing.
Things I'm giving up.
Things I am having to let go of.
Building relationships with the same 20-30 kids day-in and day-out.
Being able to make an impact in the daily lives of the students in my classroom.
Creating lessons that are engaging and interesting for my kiddos.
Spending time with some of my dearest friends all day, every day...my hallway colleagues.
Yes, I know I'll still be making a difference.
I know I'll still be able to connect with children.
I know I'll still have an impact.
I know I'll be in the same building I've been in for the last eleven years.
But this afternoon, my students of nine months walked out of my room.
I waved goodbye to my students and headed straight to the cafeteria to set up for the celebration we have at the end of every year.
When the staff get-together was finished, I headed back to my room.
I walked down a mostly empty hallway to my mostly empty classroom.
And it was then that I had a few tears.
Okay, I had a lot of tears.
Even tonight, as I sit here typing this, I have a tear rolling down my cheek.
There are a lot of things to look forward to..
There's a lot to be excited about.
But there are also a lot of things to be sad about...and that's okay.
I think that sometimes we feel like there's something wrong with grief.
Like we shouldn't feel sad when we are moving into something that seems bigger and better. Why would I be sad about this opportunity? Why would I have a hard time moving into a position that seems so perfect for me?
Well...because it's normal.
It's completely natural to grieve the seasons of our lives.
Change is necessary and important...but change can also be difficult and painful.
So as I sit here tonight on the farmhouse front porch, watching the fireflies blinking away in the field across the road...I will just have a good cry. You might remember that I believe ugly-crying is a vitally important part of life.
I will cry for the thirteen years I spent in a classroom.
I will cry for the dear friends and colleagues...my teaching BFFs.
I will cry for lesson planning and connecting with "that one kid" and lightbulb moments for struggling learners.
I will cry for read-aloud chapter books, scented chart markers, and my favorite bright pink fake leather rolling office chair that I bought on clearance for $15 a few years ago.
I will cry for my teaching partner who has become like an older brother to me over the last ten years. I will cry for the comfort and the security and the partnership that will change drastically in the near future.
I will cry and I will smile.
I will look back fondly on the experiences and lessons and memories that have become so important to me inside the walls of my classroom.
I will clean out that classroom over the next few weeks and I will move (some of) my belongings down the hallway to my new office.
I can't promise that there won't be more tears.
And there's nothing wrong with that.
Cherish the seasons, friends. Each of our seasons is filled with important lessons and precious memories.
But grieve the seasons if you have to.
Tears from the farmhouse tonight...and hope for tomorrow.
When I read the book It Starts with Food by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig, over a year ago, I learned about the importance of a "reset" for our bodies.
That's what the Whole30 is all about....resetting your body back to a “whole” diet with all real, clean foods and nothing processed.
After my first two rounds of the Whole30, I gradually fell back into my old eating habits and in turn welcomed back the joint pain, constant exhaustion, and digestive issues that come with eating “Frankenfoods”, as Melissa Hartwig calls them.
About nine months ago, I read Melissa’s second book, Food Freedom Forever.
It was with this book that I really started to understand the process of resetting, occasionally enjoying foods that are “worth” going off plan, and then quickly resetting again.
So you spend most of your time in this "reset" period of eating the foods that are very best for your body.
It was such a novel idea to me after spending years trying to "get healthy" and "lose weight" and "get in shape".
Research shows that calorie-restriction (or the complete restriction of specific foods) does not promote a sustainable lifestyle.
It makes so much more sense to live in a place of "reset" with an occasional jump off-track here and there.
And then this week, as I was trying to stay caught up with classroom planning, home responsibilities, and three little farm girls, it hit me...I should be living most of my life in a place of "reset".
I think we've been getting it wrong all these years.
Instead of mirroring that "reset" lifestyle, where we focus on the basic principles of sustenance, we overindulge in every way, every day.
And I'm not just talking about food.
I'm talking about the over-connectedness we have by being in constant communication with those around us by texting and social media accounts.
I'm talking about saying "yes" to every single request to volunteer or spend time on various projects outside of the home.
...about having so many belongings in our homes that we are slaves to them...spending every extra minute in life cleaning and maintaining them.
...about eating out three or four times a week because everyone won't be home all at the same time or early enough to eat supper at the table.
...about being so involved in every extracurricular activity offered to your family that you don't have time to just be home with those you love or to spend time with your church family.
Sidenote: Check out our minister's blog post from today...crazy timing, considering most of this post was already written!
I think the struggle is that these things I just mentioned above are THE NORM.
In the average American family, times of "reset" seem to be few and far between...only happening on a rare weekend when there is nothing else going on.
The problem with this is that we NEED more "reset" than that.
A healthy physical, mental, and spiritual life is promoted when the "reset" becomes the regular.
When we spend time sitting at home, instead of rushing from 'Point A' to 'Point B'.
When we purge unloved and unneeded items, instead of letting them control our homes where we must organize them and clean around them constantly.
When we have the freedom to say "no" to activities and even volunteer opportunities because we know that it would not put us in a healthy state of mind.
When we have time to plan a healthy weekly menu and make food (or enjoy Mr. Farmhouse making the food) for our family each night instead of taking advantage of the drive-through whenever it's available.
In order to make this work, we have to be intentional.
It will take carefully calculated decisions each and every day to find that "reset" life.
However, I'm looking forward to taking these next six months to really hone in on what are the most important parts of our life at the farmhouse and starting to weed away everything else.
I need a reset.
How about you?
I've got some new readers, so I thought I might take the opportunity to introduce myself a little more formally and give a little background on life as we know it.
My name is Hannah and this is my blog...Farmhouse654.
I've been married to Mr. Farmhouse for almost 14 years. We started out life in an adorable two-bedroom home in town and stayed there for over two years, before moving to a ranch-style home on four acres outside of town. We did lots of updates to that home and property and absolutely loved every minute there. We were completely content, except for the fact that our three girls shared two bedrooms and it was getting just a little bit tight as they continued to grow.
We had so many great memories in that house.
We brought all three of our daughters home there.
We raised bottle-calves, pigs, and chickens there.
We spent 10 Christmas mornings there.
We made updates to the house, added a few outbuildings, and even survived a tornado that picked up one of our barns and threw it to the other side of the property.
Our second home was such a special part of our journey.
However, in May of 2017, an opportunity presented itself for us to sell that home and buy a farmhouse on ten acres.
So in July of last year (after some bumps in the road), we made the farmhouse our home.
And that was the start of Farmhouse654.
Now...a little background on the wife & mom of the family who lives here.
Mr. Farmhouse and I grew up right here in this town.
We are hometown kids and I can't imagine raising our girls anywhere else.
Our girls are eleven, (almost) nine, and three.
They are so alike and so different in so many ways.
We love Jesus and love our church.
We believe that God's calling for us is to love Him and to love people.
We try hard to do this, but fail miserably a lot of the time. We're thankful for grace!
I've been a teacher for the last twelve years and will be leaving the classroom in May to move into the position of the Director of Special Services in the district where I currently teach. I run a photography business on the side and work for my parents, who own group homes for adults with disabilities.
We are busy and blessed.
The girls are involved in our church, play sports, take dance classes, and enjoy piano & guitar lessons once a week.
We love to be outdoors and spend time often just sitting around in lawn chairs in the back yard watching the girls play basketball or shoot skeet.
When I have some free time, I like to document our journey through this blog.
So there you have it.
Some of where we've been and where we are now.
Someday I'll tell you all about where we're headed...our goals and dreams for the farmhouse.
But for today, I'll just go rock our sweet Mattie-girl while we watch another Barbie movie.
Make it a great Monday, friends.