Thirteen years ago today, our oldest daughter was born.
We now have a teenager in the house.
It feels like December 30th, 2006 was yesterday.
I was in my first teaching job. I ended up on bed rest for blood pressure issues. On December 29th, I had taken my blood pressure and it was high. I tried all the home remedies to get it to come down, but it wouldn't work. The doctor suggested I come in and soon after that, we were headed to the hospital to be induced. By 1:00 the next morning, she was here.
She used to wear athletic shorts and a tank top when at all possible. She's growing up now though and chooses a dress or skirt often. She still prefers to be working out or playing basketball, hunting or throwing a softball around.
Harlee is the best big sister. She and the other girls have their "sibling moments", but she wants peace and happiness for them both more than anything else.
She is a great cousin and a good friend. She is mature beyond her years in many ways.
Harlee loves Jesus and loves others.
I'm having a hard time believing that our little freckled-face firstborn is 13, but we're trying to enjoy every second we have her in the house.
There are hard days and there are wonderful days.
As I read yesterday -- the best part of parenting is watching your children grow up...and the hardest part of parenting is watching your children grow up.
I thank God for my Harlee-girl and pray that His Will is done through her.
Reminiscing at the farmhouse this morning,
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.
This time of year can be exhausting for teachers.
This year it seems to be even worse...probably because this seems to be the winter that will never end here in the midwest.
A few weeks ago, my throat started to get really sore one afternoon.
In the night, it became so painful that it woke me up.
I decided that morning that I would need to visit the doctor to get a strep test.
After contacting three different offices and not being able to get an appointment, I ended up getting in to a clinic about 11:30 that morning.
Sure enough...the strep test was positive.
I picked up my prescription and was on the road to recovery by noon on Monday.
I went back to school that week and taught like nothing ever happened.
Throughout the week, two of our three girls ended up with strep, as well.
No rest for moms with sick kids, right???
We all did ten days of antibiotic (actually, the girls are still taking theirs!).
I finished my ten days and felt great for three whole days!
Then this last Monday, after teaching all day and speaking at two board meetings that night, I thought I had overdone it.
I tried to rest my voice on Tuesday as much as I could.
However, Wednesday morning, my throat started to feel sore. And more sore. And more sore.
After a quick strep test Wednesday after lunch, it was confirmed...the strep was back.
With strict orders from the doctor, my boss, and most everyone else that I had come into contact with that afternoon...I headed home to rest.
I laid around a lot of the afternoon and took today off, as well.
Sometimes I think our bodies have to force us to rest.
Friends...we HAVE to make time to rest.
I struggle so much with this, but I am going to try very hard to start scheduling in downtime for every member of our family.
Life is too short to be running, running, running...doing, doing, doing.
Take some time to recharge this week, friends.
Love from the farmhouse.
This was supposed to be a checkup.
Sure, I was full-term and sure, Claire's head was NOT small.
I had expected to leave that appointment, do a little shopping, grab some Starbucks and go home to snuggle my Harlee-girl for a few more days.
But that just wouldn't be Claire's style, now would it?
Claire Bear did things her own way then and she does things her own way now.
She is precious and kind and beautiful.
She is independent and stubborn and smart.
She has what we call "second child syndrome".
She often learns things the hard way.
She loves others with her whole entire heart.
She would rather wear a dress and high heels than shorts and a tshirt, yet she's not afraid to get her hands dirty working hard inside or out.
Our life wouldn't be complete without our sweet, sweet Claire Bear.
Happy 9th Birthday, sweet girl. ❤️
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.
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.
I have been using the YouVersion Bible app (by Life.Church) for quite some time now.
For six years, in fact.
However, it was just over the last few months that I have begun making it one of the social media platforms I use to share my Bible study experience with friends and family.
And just in the last three weeks have I become friends with two of the most wonderful little girls you will ever meet...my oldest two daughters.
To be honest, I thought this would be a fun little activity that we could do to spend some time with Jesus and have good conversation about the Bible.
I wasn't prepared for the deep thoughts the girls would share on our shared Bible studies.
After reading her devotional, along with a few scriptures from Hebrews and Romans, my sweet Harlee replied profoundly that faith and trust in God is what makes life worth living.
Wow...what a thought for my barely 11-year-old.
And a wake-up call for her mama.
Since that day, I have taken my Bible study time with her (and her sister) very seriously.
God has used these words to speak to all of us...
To open up conversations on our Bible apps and in person...
To be able to have these teachable conversations through our day-to-day living.
If you are struggling with how to talk to your children, preteens, and teenagers about God's Word and Kingdom Work, I'd strongly recommend meeting your kiddos where they are.
Let's embrace the technology that is so prevalent today and connect with our kids on the matters of God.
Happy Weekend from the farmhouse, friends.
June 5th, 2004...the day that I married my high school sweetheart.
Mr. Farmhouse and I had been together for almost four years by that point, and I knew that June 5th was the beginning of our "happily ever after".
Then along came some other important dates.
December 30th. April 6th. June 11th.
The three most important dates in our married lives...the day our sweet girls made their debuts into our family.
My friend, Crystal, at Photography by Crystal captured these amazing images (and several others!) of my girlies this past summer.
Sidenote: I can't wait to share with you some more of her work when my wall art comes in next week!
I have looked through these images over and over and over again.
How is my Harlee-girl almost eleven years old?
When did my Claire-bear become old enough to want to change school districts this year and move away from her mama?
How is it that my Mattie-moo is sleeping in her own bed all night, speaking in complete sentences, and pulling up her favorite song on YouTube all by herself?
These pictures have really reminded me that my babies aren't babies any longer.
The older girls have already had a few "friendship struggles" in the last few years.
Those moments where you want to just rescue your child and tell them exactly what to say and how to handle specific situations when they get their feelings hurt.
Those moments where you are so worried that they are going to or have already hurt someone else's feelings.
Those moments where you just want them to choose the right thing...to say the right thing...
We've all had these moments in parenting, right?
Moments spent praying that they will be a light in a dark world.
That the world won't dim their lights.
That they will shine, even when life gets hard.
I'm not alone in this...this time spent worrying and fretting and praying over my children, right?
As I looked through these photos of my girls Saturday afternoon, I started to subconsciously make a list of my hopes and dreams for them.
1. That they would be kind and encouraging to others.
I want them to be good students and to try hard in their respective activities. I want them to work to be the best athletes they can be and to get good grades, I want them to practice their musical instruments and contribute to keeping our household run smoothly.
But more than that...I want them to be kind. I want them to be a good teammate, to show good sportsmanship. I want them to be includers, not excluders. I want them to see a need in a friend and meet that need. I want them to smile and to encourage and to give of themselves to help others to find good in the world.
2. That they would learn contentment and joy in everyday life.
I want my babies to understand that "stuff" is not important and people are. I want them to be content living in a hundred-year-old farmhouse the same as they would be content if we had built a brand new home.
I want them to know that sometimes playing outside all evening is a better option than saying yes to every single extracurricular activity out there.
I want them to understand that we can find joy in a sunrise or a sunset or laughter spent with sisters.
3. That they would find a passion and pursue it.
At one of the teaching conferences I went to last week, I saw an amazing speaker named Tara Brown speak about educators and parents being a Spark Champion for our children.
I want my girls to find their own sparks and pursue them. What drives them? What are they passionate about? What purpose do they feel they have in the world?
I want them to find these things and to work hard to learn more about them and to use these passions for good.
4. That they would build lasting relationships with a small group of friends.
Some of my very best friends are the girls that I spent my elementary years with. We have connected on facebook, text often, and sometimes don't see each other but a few times a year.
I want this for my girls. I want them to connect on a deep level with a group of girls that they can grow up with. I want them to band together with these girls and share kindness in the public school system. I want them to push each other to work hard and to be their very best.
They are both blessed to already be forming these friendships in their classrooms, in their school, at in our church. I'm so very thankful for this and I pray that these relationships continue to grow through the next several years.
5. That they would meet a faithful & generous man someday who will complement them in marriage the way that their daddy has done for me.
Yep. I'm already praying for their future husbands.
I know that God is preparing someone for each of them.
Someone who will complement their gifts and talents and fill in the gaps where they are lacking.
Someone who will encourage them to love on others and to give of themselves in a dark world.
Someone who will be a daddy to my grandbabies and a helpmate to each of my sweet girls.
I pray daily for my girls.
For the decisions they will have to make on this day.
For their friends.
For their teachers.
For their future husbands.
For their hearts and their minds and their physical protection.
I know that we will fail them miserably sometimes as parents and I just pray that God can move us both through these times and help us grow through all of our mistakes and mishaps.
I hope that when my girls grow up, they can see that we tried our hardest as parents.
I hope that they realize that they have a built-in best friend in each other and that there is no love like a sibling's love.
And I hope they can see that the best way to live is to love God and to love people.
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! ❤️?❤️
"Dear Third Grade Parent" is the way I start numerous letters through the school year.
Field trip notes,
notes about grade cards and school events,
and notes including class announcements.
Before the school year begins though, there are different types of things coming to mind when I think about writing a letter to my future students' parents.
We are a team. Please, please, PLEASE hear me on this. I am on your side. I am on your child's side. Every school year, at some point, a difficult conversation will come up. Your child will say or do something that is not appropriate. He will neglect to do his homework. She will make an unkind remark to another student at recess. He will rush through his work without putting forth his best effort. It will happen. Children make mistakes. Teachers make mistakes. Parents make mistakes. We all make mistakes. We have to work together so your students knows that we are fighting for him or her. We expect that he will try hard and be kind and treat others the way he wants to be treated. We expect that she will be responsible and persistent and loving towards others. You know your child better than anyone. You know what makes him tick and what makes her shut down. You are your child's number 1 cheerleader and biggest advocate. Let's team up and help your child to stretch and grow this year. When we expect this TOGETHER, our kids WILL rise up to meet our expectations. Please back me up at home and I promise that I will back you up in the classroom.
There is power in the words and actions of a child in a public school setting. Your child has the ability to change the world with his words. He can encourage and inspire his classmates. She can motivate and include her peers. By being an example of acceptance and humility, your child has the power to be a difference-maker in his school...even at age 8 or 9. Please talk with your child about showing mercy and kindness. I will work hard to build a community of friendship and inclusion in our classroom through the day, but please build on this culture in your home...around the dinner table, in your vehicle, and after ballgames. Remind them that some of their friends might be hurting because of situations at home. They might be feeling left out on the playground, even if nobody is excluding them on purpose. Let's strive to raise kids who are kind and compassionate and who invite other children into their circle.
I am human. Yes, I am a teacher. I have been doing this a long time. I have a degree that says I know how to do this job, but I am human. I mess up. I have a bad day every once in a while. I work hard to meet the needs of every individual student and I still miss the mark sometimes. I forget to do things. I am married and a mother myself. Sometimes, if we're being honest, our mornings do not run as smoothly as I wish they would. Every once in a while, I might still be thinking about something that happened at home when I greet my students in the morning. I should be able to separate my personal life from my school life, but I am human. However, I can promise you this. I will love your child as if he or she were my own. I will worry about him and fret about her. I will see things at WalMart that remind me of my students and make impulse purchases on my grocery trip just to see them smile the next morning. I will have sleepless nights this school year, thinking about whether some of my students are being fed or given appropriate shelter. I will buy book after book on Amazon until I can crack the code of what makes your child love reading. Sometimes, I will find something out about a student and I will contemplate inviting that child to come be a part of our family.
Third Grade Parent, we have about 36 weeks together this year.
Let's work together and make this the best year that we can for your student.
You support me and I will support you, as we support your sweet boy or girl.
Let's give her our very best every single day.
And let's encourage him to give his best every single day, too.
We can do this.