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.
Well, here we are.
I have been in school for 3 days now and the girls start this Tuesday.
Things are about to get crazy.
The last few years, we have figured out that it works really well for the girls to have a morning, afternoon, and bedtime routine.
They don't always stick to the evening routines, 100%, depending on what activities we have going on after school...practices, piano lessons, games.
However, the morning routine has really become a natural way of life during the school year for us.
And as long as the girls get out of bed when they're asked to (that's a whole other situation), it really helps our mornings to run smoothly.
The two older girls switch back and forth between putting clean dishes away each morning and sweeping the kitchen & dining room (a new chore with all hardwood floors in the farmhouse!).
I've laminated these lists and the girls use a dry-erase marker to mark them every morning. They like the satisfaction of checking off items in a list, just like their mama.
We have done a list like this for every day of the week, including Saturdays. Saturdays also includes what we call a "quick clean" list that we all work on together for an hour or so to get the house spiffied up for a new week.
Sunday has become our "stop day" here at the farmhouse.
I am trying really hard to just have our family enjoy each other through the whole day and just take an hour or so in the evenings to prepare for the next week.
In our world of busy, busy, busy...it's nice to just breathe, breathe, breathe every once in a while.
Just a few years ago, I was trying to squeeze in photography sessions every extra minute I had (including Sunday afternoons) to help pay off debt and to make sure I wasn't disappointing people.
I've learned that no matter how many sessions I squeeze into whatever extra time I have left, people will still be disappointed when I run out of sessions.
And they will still love me.
So it's really okay!
When I finished this (completely simple and totally amateur) project, I decided to try something a little more complicated.
I found a purple cup in the cabinet that I've been wanting to buy some sort of vinyl decal for and I decided to try it myself to start.
I decided I could always peel it off if it didn't work out.
That way, we'll be free to enjoy each other in the evenings and on the weekends...crafting, and playing outside, and making slime.
We tried that once.
I am not the "slime-making" kind of mom.
I've realized that I spent too many years in the old house trying to manage the home, keep up with my small business, and being a teacher...without spending enough of my time and energy making memories with my babies.
Happy Weekend, friends! Make it a good one! ❤️?❤️
We picked clothes first, added shoes & accessories, and then thought about any evening activities.
After our piles were made, we would transfer them to the closet and the girls would bring them out and put them into our hallway landing spot each night to prepare for the next day.
One thing I liked about doing it this way is that we had the big "discussion" about specific outfits that either I didn't really agree with or they didn't really agree with on Sunday night. We compromised.
And eventually, we had five full days worth of outfits and items needed ready for the week.
It's awesome to have this discussion on Sunday evening, instead of throughout the week, each morning, in a panic!
The system has always worked pretty well.
In fact, I was kind of sad to see it go when we moved, as the farmhouse is just set up differently.
And let's be honest...the girls are older now.
They can handle getting up in the morning and getting dressed and ready for school in their bedrooms without much intervention from me.
Let's be honest.
It's not always a big fun event to get the kids to do chores or help out around the house.
However, I really feel like it's necessary. I can't always get everything done that needs to be done without help.
Mr. Farmhouse is a great help-mate and helps inside and outside of the house, but sometimes (during hay season...or calving season...or bean-planting season...or...), we need to have a big marathon cleaning day and I need help from the girls.
Over the years, I've realized that the more fun we can make this process, the quicker it gets done and the less likely I am to scream like a crazy person by the end of the day.
A few winters ago, over Christmas break, when I was trying to get the house back in order to get ready for third quarter at school, I had a breakthrough.
I started to make cleaning a game...for all of us.
I started to think about ways we could make our mundane housekeeping tasks a competition, a team event, a game.
Over the last few years, I've come up with several of these "cleaning games".
I usually let the girls decide which one we do for the day.
I thought today I would share them with you so maybe those cleaning days can be a little more enjoyable for everyone involved!
The Disappearing Post-it Notes is one that the girls really like because you can watch the amount of post-it notes dwindle down to those last few tasks and then BOOM...the fridge is empty!
The rule is that the right side of notes has to be empty before they start on the left door.
The left door includes what I call "finishing" tasks. They are all somehow dependent on the ones on the other door. For example, on the right door is "clean out refrigerator" and "load dirty dishes from sink". So on the left door is "run dishwasher". In other words, they need to gather up all the dirty dishes from anywhere in the house before we run the dishwasher. Other "finishing" tasks would include dusting the flat surfaces in the house, sweeping the floors, putting all the clean clothes away that they have folded on some of the other post-it notes.
2. Note Card Flip
Another task-oriented game that we play sometimes is what I have called "Note Card Flip".
Again, I put all of the tasks on note cards. I have a whole set of these that I created a few summers ago that include basically every task that it would take to do a quick deep-clean of the house.
I add anything that needs to be done that day specifically and then I make some bonus "fun" cards.
I always end with a "last card" that is something fun.
Almost always, it involves a slush or shake Sonic.
Basically for me.
Because Sonic's unsweetened raspberry tea is my favorite beverage EVER.
There is an iPad and iPhone app called 30/30 created by Binary Hammer.
I cannot believe how much it helps our productivity level by keeping us on task and focused when we need to get some serious work done.
I use it in my classroom, when I am working on photography edits, and the girls and I use it when we clean.
When the five minutes is up, the app starts the timer for the next task.
We take our list of things we have to get done and add them to the app.
After every 30-40 minutes, we add a 10-minute break right into the app.
So our whole cleaning spree is timed there.
Sometimes, to keep us on task, we add our "lunch break" and anything else that we know will be taking our time that day.
4. Task Competition
The last one we use at our house is one I've never really named until just now.
And "Task Competition" is probably a boring name...you can rename it at your house if you so desire!
I make a list of tasks in black pen.
There is always an uneven number of tasks.
Beside each task, I draw a box.
Each of the older girls picks her own color of marker and I say "go".
They work until the list is completely done.
Every task they get finished with gets the task's box colored in using their individual color.
When all the boxes get colored, the girl with the most boxes colored gets some silly little prize.
Maybe a popsicle, a piece of candy, or a medium drink instead of a small at Sonic (I told you...I have a problem).
These are all ideas of how we try to make cleaning fun at the Newkirk house.
I hope you've gotten some ideas to use in your own homes!
I'd love to hear any other ideas you have for getting kids involved in the home management process!
Feel free to comment below so others can learn from your knowledge!
Thanks for reading, friends! Happy Friday! ❤️