I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas morning as a child.
There was the year that we woke up to 10-speed-bikes sitting in front of the tree, surrounding the rest of the gifts for my little brother and me.
There was the year that it was snowy and cold and after all the gifts were opened, we both got carried outside with our eyes closed to find the playhouse they had ready for us. In fact, Mr. Farmhouse and I used that playhouse as our chicken coop until just last year when we moved to the farmhouse.
There was the year that he and I peeked at our gifts and our two "big gifts" were missing on Christmas morning. My mom had saved them for last and had wrapped them up with our parents' names on the tags. We were trying to play it cool like we didn't know they were missing, because we didn't realize they knew we had sneaked out to the shop to look...lesson learned!
Even into adulthood, we have always been provided with everything we ever dreamed of, so naturally I have wanted to provide the same feeling for my own girls.
However, we have some financial goals that we are working towards to be able to provide for them later in life...in high school when they need a vehicle to drive, to help them with college expenses, and of course, when they get married and start having children.
Going into debt or dipping into savings at Christmastime is tempting, but after working so hard for an entire year to save and work the debt snowball, we don't want to lose our progress at the end of the year because of gifts.
I cannot even tell you how amazing the process has been.
The girls couldn't even think of three items for each category.
They were sitting together at the dining room table as they tried to think long and hard about what they truly needed and the conversation they were having warmed my heart.
H: I can't think of anything for "something I need". I don't think I need anything.
C: I put an electric toothbrush because mine broke a few weeks ago.
H: You know, I will be needing a new softball glove this year. I'll put that on there.
The girls are completely aware that we would buy toothbrushes or softball gloves during other times of the year, but instead of using that gift slot for something else, they both decided to use it to replace items that are worn out or too small.
I was able to shop for the gifts without breaking the bank and literally all in one night (Black Friday with my sis-in-law!).
They will each get stocking stuffers and one small gift from Santa and that is IT.
The tree is still pretty.
The farmhouse is still cozy.
The magic of the season is all around us.
With four gifts each.
I can't wait to see their faces on Christmas morning.
Happy December from the farmhouse, friends.
There are 56 days left in 2018.
A few friends and I have been following along with Rachel Hollis's "Last 90 Days", where she has challenged people to make the last 90 days of the year count.
Well, I was successful in following her "Five to Thrive" for about 15 out of 31 days in October.
And now...that 90 days has dwindled down to 56 days.
So this weekend, I've taken some time to regroup and do some planning for the next two months.
The girls and I did some deep-cleaning in our bedrooms and the rest of the house.
I planned out our meals for the next few weeks.
We set some goals for ourselves and made a commitment to make these last few months of the year meaningful.
If you're feeling like things have gotten out-of-control and you just want to gain some peace and calm in the near future, feel free to join me in building some habits in the next 56 days that will help us to enjoy the holiday season.
More info to come in the morning.
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.
I've been listening to the audio-broadcast of a conference called "Masterful Leadership: Leading Like Jesus" on my Audible App as I drive to and from work each day.
It's been enlightening...encouraging...and challenging.
I've paused the "book" to take notes.
I've pushed the "back" button to listen to a specific segment again more times than I can count.
And I've said "yes", "hmmm...", and "preach" right out loud to myself in my car several times.
I listened to one particular section three different times.
This section was on the concept of the "mood elevator", which was developed by a man named Larry Senn.
Larry Senn is a leader in the field of corporate leadership and has written a book called, Up the Mood Elevator to describe and teach this decision-making concept.
The Mood Elevator is a book that, admittedly, I haven't finished yet.
But when I heard the mood elevator concept in the message from the "Lead Like Jesus" conference, I just had to share it because it was mind-blowing to me!
I mean...what mood is there that would be higher on the elevator than joy???
Joy is "a feeling of great pleasure and happiness".
That seemed like the top option, as far as mood is concerned.
Until the speaker shared with the audience that the top of the mood elevator is being grateful.
Gratitude. Thankfulness. Appreciation.
We make the best decisions when we are grateful.
It made so much sense to me that I spoke out loud and said, "Oh, duh!"
I think it's important here that we talk about how quickly we can take a trip up or down the mood elevator, if we're not careful.
We can hear one negative comment that, if left unchecked, can quickly take us spiraling into an irritated, anxious, insecure state of mind that eventually could lead to anger and depression.
It's so necessary that we keep our thoughts in check every day and focus on gratitude.
During this last sermon series at church, our minister preached a sermon called "Don't Forget to Pray".
In this sermon, he talked about staying alert to things in our lives that we need to take to the Father.
He talked about being devoted daily to prayer.
And he also talked about the importance of being thankful.
I deeply appreciated his admission that there are days where it's very hard to find something to be thankful for.
Sometimes we have to open our eyes and look hard to find opportunities to be thankful.
In every circumstance, we can find gratitude.
This attitude of being grateful in all situations goes hand-in-hand with the time we spend at the top of the mood elevator.
And the more time we spend at the top of the mood elevator, the more peace and contentment we will find in our daily lives.
So today and every day, let's be intentional about finding gratitude.
Let's give thanks in all circumstances.
Let's ride that mood elevator to the top floor and be the best we can be.
Giving thanks from the farmhouse tonight.