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.
This is a big one, folks.
This post will be unlike any post I've ever written.
Yesterday, a student asked me about the situation and I decided it was probably time to let the cat out of the bag.
My colleagues and my family, along with some friends, already know my big news.
However, I feel like posting it on the blog makes it public knowledge and that can only mean one thing...
This is really happening.
After thirteen years as a teacher of one kind or another, I'll be leaving the classroom.
I wanted to be the reason that a student with special needs felt successful in the general education classroom.
When my former students were asked later in life who their favorite teacher was...I wanted to make that list.
I wanted my kiddos to look back on their time with Mrs. Newkirk as their teacher and say, "She played a small part of who I am today."
I'm hopeful that I've been able to make a difference like this in the lives of kids and families over the last thirteen years.
However, the Lord has also given me a passion for people with special needs.
My parents opened up a group home for adults with disabilities when I was in upper-elementary school.
What started out as four adult women with various needs living with us in our home from then until my high school years has now grown to three separate group homes in our small town, where we provide housing and community habilitation services for twelve ladies.
Growing up in the group home led me to pursue a double-major in college...elementary education and special education.
In fact, I started my career in the special education classroom and only transitioned into the general education classroom because of a series of crazy events that I believe the Lord orchestrated to give me general education experience, to allow me to meet and work with some of my very best friends in the world, and to give me an opportunity to touch the lives of many children over the last ten years.
Almost nine years ago, I graduated with my masters degree in Education Administration.
My plan was to continue teaching for several years and then hopefully find an elementary principal's job to finish out my career...but not for a looooooong while.
And then, a few years ago, my principal (a mentor and friend to me) said, "Have you ever thought about going into special education administration?"
Well, I hadn't really considered that and honestly didn't even want to think about going back to school.
(Okay, in the interest of full disclosure...I didn't want to think about PAYING to go back to school.)
However, the administrative team encouraged me to not dismiss the idea immediately, but instead to call and see what classes I would need to fulfill the requirements necessary for a job in special education administration.
So in April of 2016, I called.
And I needed two classes. Two.
I needed one class that was offered only a 45-minute drive away, over three weekends that next summer. Three weekends that were open on our family calendar.
I also needed an internship class that I could do right there in my home district with the Director of Special Services.
And we could pay for them both in cash. No more student loans.
That seemed easy enough. So I signed up, thinking it would be good to have options for my very distant future.
I finished up the class over the summer of 2016 and finished the internship in the spring of 2017.
Fast-forward to this past August...the beginning of this school year.
Our superintendent calls me into his office to tell me that our current Director of Special Services is retiring at the end of the year and he would like me to be ready to present to the school board about the possibility of stepping into that position for the next school year.
WHAT!?! Like NEXT YEAR!?!
His idea was that I could be trained during this school year...to shadow our current director, to prepare to take that role the following August.
Long story short, Mr. Farmhouse and I prayed about it.
A host of family and friends prayed about it with us and for us.
We had lots and lots of conversation about it.
I talked for hours about the possibility to my current teaching partner.
I contacted friends of mine who are special education directors for support and answers to my questions.
I presented to the board.
They offered me the job.
And I accepted.
I believe that I will be able to use my leadership skills, my passion for education, and my knowledge and experience working with my students and the adults in our group home with special needs in this new role.
I believe that this is just another place that God can use me to make a difference in the lives of children and families.
There are things about this transition that will not be easy.
With any transition, there will be some sorrow...some difficulty.
But there will also be joy, excitement, reflection, and new ideas.
I am so thankful to be able to stay in my current district. I've grown so much as an educator and met so many people who are near and dear to my heart.
I'm grateful to my principal for pushing me to go back to school,
our superintendent for encouraging me to move forward,
our school board for giving me this opportunity,
our current special education director for training me,
my mentor special education director from my alma mater,
my colleagues (current and former) for believing in me,
the two fourth grade teachers in my building that make up the other half of our team for offering so much encouragement this year,
my teaching partner for all of his support through the years...especially this year,
my family...our parents, grandparents, and siblings,
my dear Mr. Farmhouse and our three sweet girls.
I'm grateful for my students & their parents through all of my teaching years.
For the life lessons that I have learned standing in front of that classroom.
For the opportunities to grow and develop into the educator I am today.
I'm just so very grateful.
Life will be different here in the farmhouse in just a few short months.
For now though, I'm going to enjoy the time I have left this year with my darling third graders...shaping young minds. Laughing with them and cheering with them. Helping them along and making sure to let them know how much they help me along, too.