There is a metal ornament representing each year of our marriage...starting with a wedding picture from 2004 and going through some of our major life events.
The birth of each of the girls is represented with hospital pictures and 2016 when we took our trip to Florida includes a beach picture.
I love being able to look at the pictures on these ornaments and be taken back immediately to the moment they were photographed.
Some of these photos are professional (thank you, JcPenney, Amy Kostuke Photography, & Spread Your Wings Photography) while others are just snapshots.
It's amazing for me to think that almost fifteen years of marriage can be summed up in these ornaments. What a blessing they are to me.
Reminiscing here at the farmhouse this morning,
PS -- I get my ornaments at Mpix, in case you missed that link above. You can purchase your own right HERE.
Yesterday, my Harlee-girl and I spent the day together.
She slept in while I got my morning routine finished, then I woke her up to head to the school.
I had a few things I needed to get organized before staff and students came back today.
After a few hours in my office, we grabbed some lunch and went to get pedicures...the last little treat for her 12th birthday.
She decided on a manicure and I got my toes done.
When we were finished, there was time for her to spend a gift card that she got for Christmas and to pick up my WalMart grocery order, before heading to get our eyebrows waxed and my hair cut.
Here’s a little before & after of the eyebrows...her first experience having them waxed!
I took off my tennis shoes and peeled off my socks...or tried to.
But they were STUCK to my big toes.
“Oh no. This is not good.” I thought.
Sure enough...my toes had not been dry when I put my socks and shoes back on at the nail salon.
No worries though...I think they’re fine.
Just a little added texture.
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.
I can be going through life just fine and in one quick moment, the memories flood my mind.
It can be a pile of muskmelon or cantaloupe.
Having to pull over on the highway to let a John Deere tractor through.
Or seeing an old man in Key overalls.
Today would have been my Grandpa's 90th birthday.
We lost him in March of 2010.
In some ways, it seems like forever ago.
And in some ways, it seems like yesterday.
When Gerold came along, we played many-a-tennis-ball-baseball game in the back yard.
We took tractor rides during planting and combine rides during harvest.
We went upstairs to get board games out of the small corner storage room and spent many evenings watching MASH from cots on the living room when we spent the night.
We fished with Grandpa and my cousin Brad and when the cousins came from Tennessee, we had picnics in the back of Grandpa's S-10 out in the driveway.
I can still feel his tshirts that I used as a nightgown when I stayed the night.
I'm struggling. Oh, I'm so sorry...I'll be praying for you.
I'm guilty of using these phrases.
Sometimes to avoid a long, drawn-out conversation, we answer a question with a word or two...a word or two that are sometimes far from the truth.
Most of the time, I really am fine. Times that I really am great.
But there are days. There are weeks.
There are moments in life where I am NOT fine.
I am not great.
And yet, to avoid real connection, I just go through life pretending like it's all okay.
I'm afraid this happens more than we would like to admit.
We tell people to "take care" as we leave a conversation and then we walk away and don't even "take care" of ourselves.
People give us a glimpse into their difficult life situations and we promise our prayers and then we walk away with a quick prayer thrown up and don't ever think about it again.
I'm afraid that we are becoming a society who hides behind our smiles and our one word answers to real life questions.
A society who hides behind our computer and cell phones.
A society who would rather pretend it's all going great than connect with someone face-to-face.
I think these social platforms that were created to keep us more connected with one another have caused more division than the creators had ever anticipated.
So let's get real.
This year has been difficult for me.
Trying to transition from a job I absolutely love and adore to another job that I know I will love and adore...eventually.
Navigating the new waters of having a preteen in the house...and a threenager.
Having both of the older girls in the same school as each other...but a different school than me.
Selling a house. Buying a house. Losing weight. Remodeling a house. Farming. Gaining weight. Taking pictures. Teaching. Losing weight (again). Wife-ing. Mom-ing. Gaining weight (again). Blogging. Churching.
And guess what?
It hasn't always been wonderful.
It hasn't even always been good.
It has been hard and complicated and emotional.
It has been beautiful and challenging and full of growth.
My Instagram doesn't always show those difficult days.
My Facebook doesn't always show those difficult days.
This blog doesn't always show those difficult days.
Heck...my own face doesn't always show those difficult days.
So for today, just know...
I'm not always fine.
And that's okay.
You don't have to always be fine either.
Let's be real, friends.
Love & hugs from the Farmhouse.
I hear myself say these simple phrases over and over in a day...even if only inside my head.
"Monday mornings are hard sometimes."
"Too bad a Starbucks caramel macchiato isn't good for you."
"Our best requires rest."
"I break into songs at random times throughout the day."
The joy I find in knowing that someone else relates to me on various topics is inspiring.
Just a few simple words of affirmation can speak love and encouragement into my life.
I do think it's wonderful that we have freedom to form our own opinions and share those opinions with others...to be able to disagree with our friends and still BE friends.
I think it's great to have our own thoughts and ideas and judgments.
In fact, I know for certain that I do not agree with every single thing that even my oldest and dearest "best friend forever" thinks and believes.
But sometimes, when we agree on the little things, there's a feeling of support that can carry you through.
And that's the #truth.
Happy New Week from the Farmhouse, friends.
This week, let's focus on finding those things we DO agree on and spread the love.
Isn't it grand?
You wait nine months for this little bundle of joy to be put into your arms and then you question every single decision you make for the next 18 years.
There are so many joy-filled moments that come along with raising kids.
And let's be real...some moments that are, eh...not so wonderful.
Toddler fit-throwing in public.
Eye-rolls from the pre-teen.
Sibling arguments one minute and them teaming up against you in the next.
And perhaps the most difficult of parenting challenges...struggles with friends.
I was a young girl once.
I knew that our girls' friendships wouldn't always be beautiful and wonderful and easy.
After all, we are all human.
However, I have been struggling with something that I believe most parents struggle with...
The tendency to make an excuse.
A few years ago, one of our daughters was having a hard time with a girl who she considered to be a good friend.
This classmate had kind of distanced herself from our daughter and hasn't been the kindest at times.
When I mentioned their friendship, I could tell that there was some tension there...a bit of a strained relationship.
I heard of things the friend had said,
faces she had made,
and other behaviors that would be frustrating for a friend.
However, when I would ask our daughter about her own contribution to the situation,
she admitted that she sometimes snapped back at the friend,
avoided her at times,
and probably was not acting in the way that I would expect her to act...
regardless of how she has been treated.
And my tendency, as a human and as a mother, is to make an excuse for her actions.
But it's not okay.
It's not okay for a child to treat her friend unkindly.
It's not okay for a student to talk back to a teacher.
It's not okay for a player to roll her eyes at the referee...no matter how ridiculous she thinks the call was.
When we, as parents, make excuses for our children's poor behavior, we are reinforcing the choices they are making.
We are justifying the disrespect, the lack of kindness, and the inappropriate behaviors.
I fear that we are raising a generation of entitled youth who don't even understand the concept of respect.
Whether it's respecting their elders,
respecting their peers,
or respecting property.
I'm afraid the concept of respect (even when it's undeserved) has gone out the window some days.
And I'm afraid that every time I make an excuse for my child's lack of respect or justify her actions, I'm contributing to the problem.
Friends, we have to stop the cycle.
I'm not talking about respecting adults who are abusive or pretending like there's no issue with peers who are exhibiting bullying behaviors.
But in the majority of our day-to-day interactions with other human beings, we should be showing kindness...
And we should be teaching our children this attitude, as well.
This week, let's really help our kiddos be accountable for their behavior.
Let's try to not make an excuse when they don't make the right choice.
Let's support that teacher...that coach...that referee.
It's up to us. The parents.
It's not up to the iPad.
Not up to the TV.
Not up to their older siblings.
Not up to their teachers (although we teachers try to set the same expectations in our classrooms).
Let's set an expectation for how they treat people.
Let's work hard to raise a generation that we are proud of.
It's up to us...and it's a challenging and rewarding responsibility.
Happy Tuesday from the Farmhouse, friends.
May the force be with you.
When we first announced to the world (okay, our little world) that we were buying the farmhouse, I posted a picture and a friend of ours tagged Stephanie in it.
She said, "This house looks just like the house I grew up in!"
And at that moment...the story began unfolding.
She and I have been corresponding since we made contact that day about everything from the wells on the property to the way you have to put your hip into the interior doors to get them to close just right.
It has been a joy to have conversation with Stephanie about the home we have come to love and call our own and to get to know her sweet mama through our talks!
We have been saying for the last several months that the next time she was in Adrian, she would have to come visit and this weekend we were able to make that happen!
Stephanie, her brother Keith, and Keith's wife Tracy came out to see the farmhouse this afternoon.
They brought the aerial image you see above of the farm in the 1970's.
Our girls have been looking forward to meeting Stephanie ever since I told them about her several months ago.
Today, it happened.
She and Keith walked them through the house and gave them a tour, sharing details of what the house was like in year's past.
Mattie showed them her bedroom and closet (and offered to show them again at least four or five times). The wallpaper that Stephanie picked out as a young girl is still in the closet!
Claire shared the transformation to her girly bedroom from the one that was Keith's bedroom in high school.
Harlee's bedroom wasn't even a room back then...but instead a loft area that overlooked the stairwell. She enjoyed showing off her basketball room and reminding Mr. Farmhouse once again that he still hasn't built her a wall.
What a beautiful snowy day to introduce the girls to the adults who grew up here.
Thanks for coming out, Highley family.
2017 was a wonderful year in so many ways.
But if I'm being honest, it was also a hard year.
In 2017, my mom lost both of her parents.
Of course, this would be a difficult situation for anybody...losing both parents in one year.
But it was especially difficult for us.
A strained family relationship can make loss seem so much greater.
Mom wasn't only grieving for the loss of her parents, but for the absence of a normal functioning family.
Grieving the loss of the chance at reconciliation and healing.
Someday I will tell her story in it's entirety.
But not today.
Today, I want to recognize some of the difference-makers in her life.
Mom can remember going to Vacation Bible School at a very young age with her Aunt Peggy's mother, Mrs. McIntire.
Mrs. McIntire always made Mom feel like she was thrilled to have her there. Mom still thinks of her when she smells koolaid...all these years later.
Mrs. McIntire was difference-maker.
When Mom was about five, she remembers starting to go with her grandma to her adult Sunday school group.
They met at each others' houses.
Mom has fond memories of spending time with her grandma's friends...serving punch and cake and just visiting with them.
These women were difference-makers.
Mom went to church every week as a child with her Grandma Hannah (great name, huh?).
When she was in second grade, she remembers wanting a Bible with her name on it for Christmas.
She got this gift and remembers reading it every night, loving every minute.
Grandma Hannah was a difference-maker.
When Mom's family moved to Adrian her seventh grade year, the Johnson family took her to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night.
It was during this time that she went on a "Youth for Christ" hayride and committed her life to Christ.
Hal & Fern Johnson were difference-makers.
Throughout Mom's middle school and high school years, her friends' mothers became wonderful mentors to her.
These women helped her get through school.
They taught her about honesty and hard work.
They taught her character traits and Christian principles that continue to serve her well, over thirty years later.
Fern Johnson, Darlene Greenwell, Lila Gunn, Jeanie Brewster, Thelma Six, and countless others were difference-makers.
Mom got married in 1980 to my dear ol' dad.
Dad has supported Mom through many insecurities that came from a difficult past.
Together, they have raised two amazing children, if I do say so myself...ha...just kidding.
Because of the difference-makers in Mom's life, she has an amazing story of grace and generosity and love for others.
She and Dad have adopted another daughter and provided for countless other foster children throughout our lives.
She has a heart for children who have been mistreated.
She has served in the Church for in every way imaginable...for all age groups and many ministries.
She sees a need and meets it.
My mom is a difference-maker.
Despite a painful childhood, filled with neglect and abuse...she is a difference-maker.
Despite anxiety and insecurity that comes from her past...she is a difference-maker.
Despite the odds being seemingly stacked against her...she is a difference-maker.
THAT is the power in kindness and compassion.
THAT is the power in really seeing people.
THAT is the power in serving others.
THAT is the power found in the grace of Jesus Christ.
We CAN make a difference, friends.
December 31, 2017 marked the ending of an era in our little town.
My grandma played her final song as the church organist.
She has played the organ at Adrian Christian Church for my whole life.
In fact, the first wedding she played for was for her cousin Ed & his wife, Darlene. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year.
My parents reminded me that when my brother and I were preschool age, we would sometimes go sit at the funeral home on the couch in the piano room while Grandma played for a service.
We must have been pretty good kids, because I cannot imagine having my sweet three-year-old Mattie-girl sitting in the piano room during a funeral!
I can remember Grandma practicing her hymns on the piano in their dining room and the organ that set in their bedroom.
I can remember sitting on the front row on the organ side while Grandma played for the church service every single Sunday for years and years.
Actually...that's still where we sit.
And from now on...she will sit there too.
Surrounded by her children,
by her grandchildren,
and her great-grandchildren.
Surrounded by some of her dearest friends from Sunday school class for the last five decades, or more.
Surrounded by church family...young and not-so-young, new friends and old friends, meeting every week to worship the One who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
If you have any memories to share of Grandma's organ playing years, we would love to compile them for her.
If she played for your wedding, for a funeral of a dear loved one, for your Sunday school class, to accompany you for some sort of special music...please share these stories so we can share them with her.