We have twelve more weeks of 2021.
We're over 3/4 the way through this year.
Let me be really frank with you tonight, readers: 2020 was ROUGH, but for me...2021 hasn't been much easier.
As a public school administrator, the pandemic has been difficult to navigate.
Virtual or in-person?
Masks or no masks?
Visitors in the school or no visitors allowed?
So. Many. Decisions.
Some students stayed home for several months and came back in the building with wider learning gaps that they had left us with.
Some students came back to school with anxiety that they had not had before.
Some students have quarantined two, three, or four times (or six -- like our oldest daughter).
This summer, it almost felt like things were getting "back to normal" and I think I breathed a sigh of relief a little prematurely.
The other school district leaders and myself started talking about the school year as if we were going to open normally. We had hopes that things would go on like they have always gone on.
And then...the virus ramped up again in early-August and we were back in the boat we were in over the last 18 months.
Here's the truth:
I have felt like I was treading water since school started on August 23rd.
I have not been able to keep up with anything at home and due to some changes in my responsibilities at work, I'm barely able to keep my head above water there. My office has been a mess. My paperwork is getting done just a day or two before the deadline (I really prefer to be EARLY). I'm not able to give myself to my staff like I like to.
I've been on the struggle bus, folks!
And unfortunately, when one area of our lives is chaotic, it throws the rest of our lives off-balance.
What other areas?
Home organization (don't even get me started on LAUNDRY),
Staying physically healthy,
Sticking to a budget,
Focusing on spiritual growth,
Being a good wife,
Being a good mom.
All. The. Things.
ANYway -- so this weekend, I decided to sit down and make a plan for our next twelve weeks.
I thought it was crazy and neurotic and a little over-the-top, but then I shared it with a few people who actually thought it was kind of helpful.
For those of you that are a little more like me -- grab the document and let's try to get our homes under control over the last quarter of 2021.
Now remember -- tomorrow actually starts WEEK 2, but you should be able to catch up by squeezing Week 1 and Week 2's content into this coming week.
High hopes for a peaceful holiday season from the farmhouse,
I love the first day of the year.
I love flipping the calendar over to start a new month.
I love August, the beginning of the new school year.
I love Mondays.
I really love any chance I have to start over.
And so this year -- instead of focusing on New Year's Resolutions for 2021, I've decided to set a few big annual goals and then zoom in and focus on resolutions for every single week this year.
52 weeks to set specific goals.
52 weeks to track success and struggles & make adjustments.
52 chances to start again.
We've been having family meetings for a little over a year on almost every Sunday evening. We plan the menu for the week, look at the upcoming events on the calendar, talk about things we need to get done at home, and tell stories about our weeks.
We will change it and print it each week.
Hopefully, we'll mark everything off of the list, but if not -- it's not to hard to just transfer it to the next week.
We just want to be more intentional with how we are moving towards our faith, family, financial, and career goals.
Hopefully this will be one more tool that we can use to grow in 2021.
Ready for Week 1 of 2021 Growth here at the Farmhouse,
You may remember at the end of 2018 when I shared about my morning routine on the blog.
Although I knew how important a morning routine was, it wasn't until I read The Power of Habit last year that I learned how beautifully automatic mornings could become.
Another example might be reaching for your house keys to unlock the door as you walk to the house when you get home.
ââThese sequences of events are automatic.
You don't even think about them.
There's practically no thought necessary to get the mail from the mailbox or unlock your house.
Did you know that humans are wired to make a specific amount of decisions each day?
We each have a certain decision-making capacity and we often use a lot of our decisions on meaningless activities.
(Sidenote: This is often why people make poor food choices late at night. They've hit their decision quota for the day, so they're unable to effectively decide "no ice cream" is the correct option.)
By creating healthy habits in our morning routines (and in other areas of our lives), we create automatic sequences and cut out decisions.
Make your morning routine a habit.
Here is my morning routine:
Now...in all honesty, over the last few months, my third and fourth steps have gone away.
I injured my hip while training for a half-marathon back in the fall and I wasn't able to workout for several months.
Now I'm healthy again and will need to re-train myself to include that working out habit in the mornings. For now, it's a daily decision.
The beauty of the habit cue is that we have the power to change our habits.
Last summer, I started experimented with habit loops.
When my feet hit the floor every morning, I would turn around and make the bed.
Within two minutes of my alarm going off, I have already accomplished something and now every time I walk by the bedroom through the day, I will remember that accomplishment.
As part of my bedtime routine, I've laid out my workout clothes and my clothes for the day.
Once the bed is made, I put on my workout clothes and head outside to run, to the basement to the treadmill, or to the living room to workout with a video.
It is automatic and once those clothes & tennis shoes are on, it sure is easier to get that movement taken care of first thing in the morning instead of having to decide to fit it in later in the evening.
After my workout, I start the coffee pot as I walk to the shower.
When I'm out of the shower and ready for the day, I make coffee and do my Bible study.
Cue (feet hit the floor)
Enjoying my mornings at the farmhouse,
"Everybody up! It's 9:30 and we have things to do!"
Monday was a snow day and the two older girls were still asleep.
"Up and dressed to shoes by 9:45, please!"
I started down the stairs and Harlee shouts from her bed, "Wait...dressed to shoes? What does that even mean?"
So I explained that that meant getting completely dressed and ready, including shoes.
"But we're staying home today." Harlee said (whined?).
"Right, but we have a lot to get done, including work in the basement, and it's just easier to be productive in shoes."
After breakfast, we were downstairs purging and organizing the storage items in the basement and Claire says, "I think you were right...it IS easier to work in shoes!"
In fact, I get so comfortable going from one task to another in my good ol' house-cleaning shoes that I often find myself walking through the grocery store, pumping fuel at the gas station, or even heading into meetings in them.
Thankfully, Crocs are almost back in style these days.
So what about you? Do you wear shoes to clean in? Any specific pair of shoes or just whatever you're planning to wear that day?
Rocking the Crocs at the farmhouse,
Secondly, we have dirty clothes strewn throughout the house. It's like the children get dressed in every corner of the house. And of course, Mr. Farmhouse sometimes drops his dirty clothes DIRECTLY beside the hamper.
And finally...we haven't built a laundry habit that includes at least one load a day.
As part of the 12-week challenge, I chose my January daily habit to be one load of laundry a day...from start to finish.
Through the washer, through the dryer, folded, AND put away.
Last fall, I started to make my bed every single morning. Even if I got nothing else accomplished during the time I had before leaving for work, I still made my bed.
And now...I don't even have to think about it.
Since starting the "one load a day" laundry habit, although I can't say I'm to the point where I'm doing laundry automatically, I can definitely notice a huge difference.
In fact, I only have one load that could even be done right now because we're all caught up on the rest of our clothes.
Some of you might have read my post about zone work this week and thought to yourself, "What? She only dusts once every eight weeks?"
The short answer is "Yep, true story!"
But the long answer is that each week, I try really hard to do a weekly home blessing.
Since we have been picking up (almost) every evening for 15 minutes, the floor and flat surfaces are staying fairly clear (except for the dining room table today...don't look at that until we have time to clear it off tonight!!!).
I read (in the FlyLady's book) about the concept of a Weekly Home Blessing...taking about an hour a week and doing a "clean sweep" through the main rooms of the house.
During the Weekly Home Blessing, you set your timer for 10 minutes and complete one task in each section.
The whole point of the Weekly Home Blessing is not perfection...it's just keeping a basic handle on some of the things we tend to put off.
Plan to find an hour between now and next week to do a Weekly Home Blessing...you won't regret it!
Blessing the Farmhouse ten minutes at a time,
Hello! Welcome back to the Farmhouse654 Christmas Countdown Challenge!
We are getting ready to start week 3, but before I go there with you, I want to be real with you.
I didn't get my kitchen done this week! I got the mudroom finished and the kitchen was on my zone list for this week, too.
I've been catching up on some photography sessions and editing pictures.
I stayed late at school almost every single day this last week and last night, instead of working on the kitchen...I watched a movie with my 10-year-old, Harlee-girl, and one of her besties.
It is what it is.
This is why the countdown concept works for me.
I have now completed my Week 1 challenge of the Living Room and Entry-way.
I have completed half of my Week 2 challenge of the Kitchen and Mudroom.
And I'm (almost) ready to move on to my Week 3 challenge of the Dining Room and my Office.
Instead of just focusing on those two rooms though, I'll move the Kitchen over on my calendar and get them all knocked out this week!
I don't feel like I'm so overwhelmed by not completing half of the kitchen task to just stop and give up.
Instead, I move the few parts of the kitchen over to this week and work hard to finish all three rooms before Week 4.
This week, outside of our Zone work, we are focusing on our vision for the holidays.
I really feel like it's important to set a goal and make a plan to get there.
Set a goal and make a plan.
I use this phrase in my classroom.
I use it in my budgeting.
I use it when talking to my girls about all areas of life.
So today, we're setting a goal for our holiday season.
What do we want our holidays to look like? To feel like? To smell like?
What do we want our kids...our friends...our families to remember about this special time of year?
What can we start doing over the next few weeks to make these dreams a reality?
Make sure to print out our Week 3 Planning Pages to help keep you on track!
I'm so grateful that we are on this journey together. I love sharing life with all of you!
Happy November from the Farmhouse!
If you're just catching up with the Farmhouse654 Christmas Countdown, feel free to join the Facebook group HERE and print out the Planning Calendar and Week 1 Checklist HERE.
Christmas Countdown Blog Posts
"How many sentences do I need to write to get a good grade?"
One of my third graders asked me this a few weeks ago when we started to write our first big writing assignment...the personal narrative.
"There's not really a certain number of sentences...I just want you to tell the whole story. The beginning, the middle, and the end. I want to be able to picture the story in my head as I read your words and I want you to take your time adding details to help paint a mental picture for your readers."
"Okay," he said, "So how many sentences would that be?"
I wish I could say that it's only 8-year-olds who are asking, "How good is good enough?"
But you and I both know that's not the case.
I think that in most avenues of life, the bare minimum should not be the standard by which we judge ourselves.
For the last four years or so, my teaching partner and I have departmentalized our instruction. He has taught the math and science while I've taught the reading, writing, and social studies.
We were very comfortable in our roles. We worked together to meet the needs of each third grader in our building and we supported each other in our various responsibilities.
To be frank...it worked really well for us.
We had seen growth in our test scores and felt like we were in each of our elements as we shared pertinent information with our third graders, using our own teaching styles and meeting our kids' learning needs.
Last year, a team from our school (including me) visited an elementary building near Columbia, Missouri, to observe how their multi-age model of teaching worked.
We were blown away by so many parts of the program and decided that it was definitely worth looking into for our own school.
We had meetings and planned and talked and spent time hashing out the details of how a program like this would work for our own district.
Ultimately, last winter, we decided to move towards this model for the 2017-2018 school year.
That meant lots of changes for the third grade team.
We were each going to be teaching all subjects.
We were teaming up with two other teachers.
We were moving to a model that would require us to hit both third and fourth grade learning standards during the course of the school year.
It would be a challenge, but we were ready.
We met with our team last spring on several occasions to align our standards, to share resources and teaching strategies, and to decide how our students and teaching responsibilities would be divided.
I was feeling good about the school year going into summer.
And then...our house didn't sell when it was supposed to sell.
We ended up having to jump through a lot of hoops by doing a lot of extra inspections on the farmhouse.
My Dave Ramsey car ("Dave") needed repairs and the air conditioning went out of the Yukon ("Ramsey").
When the first few weeks of the school year came, I didn't feel refreshed or relaxed or prepared in the least.
Nevertheless, we jumped in head first.
Our team refreshed ourselves on everything we had talked about in the spring.
We shared resources and ideas (again) and encouraged one another as we transitioned to this new way of teaching.
I knew the research showed that this model would be the best thing for kids.
I knew that we were capable of carrying out this model of teaching.
I knew that I would hold myself to the same standard of excellence that I had insisted on keeping for my whole teaching career.
And then...the students came.
The first few days were great.
We did lots of team-building activities, where all the third and fourth grade students met together. The four of us teachers were able to play off of each other in conversation about being a good leader and being scholarly.
The first few weeks came and went and we split into our own classrooms, teaching our own subjects, to our own specific group of students.
I started to realize that maybe this wasn't going to come as naturally to me as the years before.
A new curriculum.
A new group of students.
A new school for our own two daughters.
A new house (that we weren't all-the-way moved into yet).
I was overwhelmed with being a wife and a mom and a teacher.
I was questioning my own ability in the classroom.
This had literally never happened to me.
I love my job.
I live to go back to school.
I smile and encourage and show enthusiasm.
It's what I do.
Or what I have done every year of my teaching career so far.
But this year...I felt like I was falling behind from the get-go.
In all areas.
Until one day, a friend of mine said to me, "You know...sometimes you just have to let some things go."
Let some things go?
Sorry, that actually doesn't work for me.
I don't just "let things go".
When I took a moment and really thought about it though...she was right.
Sometimes good enough is actually good enough.
Sometimes laundry folded in baskets at the bottom of the stairs instead of put away into drawers is good enough.
Sometimes a Happy Meal from McDonalds on the way home instead of a home-cooked meal is good enough.
Sometimes putting the toddler to bed after wiping her down with a baby wipe instead of actually giving her a bath is good enough.
Sometimes taking one whole Saturday morning to catch up on grading papers instead of doing it every evening is good enough.
I'm not suggesting that we lower the standard for everything in life to "good enough".
I think sometimes we have to realize that even when we're not feeling able to be our very best, we can still do good in the world.
Even when we're struggling to keep afloat, we can make a difference.
Even when we don't feel like we can reach the standard of excellence that we usually strive for...sometimes good enough is good enough.
I told you that I'd be sharing a bit about our financial journey over the next few weeks.
I just almost had a big post complete about my life as a people-pleaser when the electricity flashed due to the thunderstorm and I lost half of it.
So I decided maybe it wasn't time to share all of that this evening.
Instead, I thought I'd give a little explanation about what Dave Ramsey refers to as "sinking funds" and how we use them here at the farmhouse.
Three words. Or two words and a number.
Capital One 360.
I first read about Capital One 360 on a Dave Ramsey Facebook group that I'm a member of.
Someone asked if there was a good savings program online that could be used with sinking funds.
Several members commented about Capital One 360, so I decided to try it out.
And I absolutely LOVE it.
We have it set up to withdraw $30 a month right now from our checking account and just put it into the Disney account for the trip we have planned for 2020.
When we're done with the debt snowball, we'll add more than $30 each month to be able to pay cash for the trip.
Some of our other accounts include "house repairs", "new car", "annual taxes", "hunting trip" and a savings account for each of the girls.
Some of these accounts get a specific amount added to them weekly, some twice a month, and some monthly.
At this point, we don't even think about the debits.
They come out on payday and since they are already taken out of our budget, we don't even miss them.
An added bonus is that Capital One is doing all of the work for us...every single month.
So that's how our sinking funds work.
You can have up to 25 separate "line items" on Capital One 360, so as you can imagine, the savings possibilities are endless. ❤️🏡❤️
Over the last several years, we have tried to dig ourselves out of debt.
Last year, we bought a 2004 Bonneville (named Dave) and planned to sell our loaded GMC Yukon.
The Yukon didn't sell right away.
Then the Bonneville started having some issues and a few times over the last year, I've had to resort to driving the Yukon again. We have now named the Yukon "Ramsey".
"Dave" was out of commission for a little while...needing some work that ended up costing us just shy of $500.
"Ramsey" needed some work on the air conditioner.
As in, we had no AC. During the hottest three weeks of summer.
We were driving the loaded Yukon with the windows down, on gravel...sweating our behinds off, trying to wait to get the air conditioning fixed until we closed on the house.
Eventually, we bit the bullet and got it fixed.
Just in time for us to start driving "Dave" again.
ANYway, I thought it might be a time for a little update on the ol' debt snowball.
We have had to make LOTS of changes and additions and deletions from the snowball over the last year, with changes to our income and our expenses.
With the sale of the old house finally going through last week, I was able to do some extra work on the budget and get the snowball set back up with all of our new information in there.
When we decided to buy the farmhouse instead of buying land and building, the debt snowball began to roll much more quickly!
As of right now, with NO extra payments, except the snowball we have already started, we'll be debt-free, including the house in eight years.
Even if we stick to this exact plan and don't pay any extra on the snowball, Harlee will be barely graduated from high school and we will be debt-free.
I'm telling you...the snowball works.
With some planning and self-control, you too could be debt-free.
If you're interested in hearing more about how the Newkirks "tell our money where to go", keep an eye on the blog in the next few weeks.