"One more question...what is your dream job?"
"I really want to be a writer."
Today, I had the privilege of sharing with a college class of educators preparing to go into Special Education Administration.
We had talked about school improvement, and priorities in Special Education programming, and working with staff members, parents, and students. We had talked about a healthy work-home balance, philosophies and beliefs, and a Multi-Tiered System of Supports.
At the very end, one of the class members asked me what my dream job would be and absolutely without hesitation, I said, "I really want to be a writer."
It just rolled off of my tongue.
I didn't think about it or ponder or consider other possibilities -- I just said it very clearly and matter-of-factly, "I really want to be a writer."
Yet, I haven't blogged in almost a year.
I've not published a book in almost a year.
And you know -- that's okay.
I do really want to be a writer.
But for now, in this season of life, I'll continue to collect knowledge, life experiences, and family memories. And someday in the future, I'll use these quips of information to share with the world when I write another book and publish this blog more regularly.
Trying to be present in my current season here in the farmhouse,
I've dreamed for years about writing a book.
In fact, in college, I wrote a children's book about my brother and I that I read every single year to my students. And then they read and reread it.
I never published it though, like my mom said I should. I just ordered it printed through an online scrapbooking site.
For now though, I decided that there's no time like the present to make a dream come true.
In the summer of 2017 (five years ago now!), as we were purchasing and moving into the farmhouse, I started to dream about writing a book for adults.
Just sharing my story and some lessons I've learned on this journey called life.
You might have seen that I've published a morning routine journal this year and I've created a little farmhouse 654 blank notes journal.
And today, I've added a printable eBook to my published books.
In March of 2021, Mr. Farmhouse and I made the decision to schedule a surprise road trip for the girls.
The tail end of their spring break aligned with the beginning of mine, so we took advantage of this and planned a little mini-vacation.
We used AirBNB for the first time and booked our stay at The Old Riverton Post in Riverton, Kansas.
There were a few things that really made this trip fun.
First of all, the girls had no idea we had anything planned until the morning that we were getting ready to head out.
I still had to work that day, so to build their anticipation, I hid bags with clues in them around the house. The clues gave them a little bit of information about the upcoming trip and also had a surprise inside...road trip snacks, a game to play, a small piece of jewelry to wear on the trip, a photograph of some friends we were going to visit...you get the idea.
Secondly, the best part of the scavenger hunt (for Mr. Farmhouse and myself) is that there were chores tied to each of the clues. So once they found a bag containing a clue and some sort of little surprise, they also found a short list of things that needed to be completed before we could leave. By the time I got home from work that day, the house was picked up, the girls were packed, and we could jump in the car and head out!
Finally, we decided to visit little "hole-in-the-wall" joints for meals and we didn't do anything really "touristy" (except for maybe visiting Big Brutus in West Mineral, Kansas). We spent most of our time at the AirBNB, playing board games, reading, and watching movies.
We had such a great time on that trip, that I immediately scheduled another similar getaway for March of 2022.
This time, we visited a cabin in Greenfield, Missouri -- on an unexpected cold and snowy weekend!
The girls were off school on the day we left, so again, I had clues set up and ready for them to find throughout the day! It was a fun and relaxing trip, filled with lots of cozy family time in this beautiful cabin.
One of our family goals that we have set for ourselves is to have lots of experiences for our girls to look back on, especially since our oldest will be graduating in just a few years.
With this in mind, I scheduled a little summer getaway and we ended up in Phillipsburg, Missouri just a few weeks ago. This stay was super-unique -- we slept in a converted grain bin! It was so much fun!
We did have a few more experiences outside of the airBNB during this trip and they were all well-worth the cost!
We have decided that booking a bed & breakfast through AirBNB or VRBO is the way to go for lodging when we travel.
Mr. Farmhouse and the girls love to cook, so they prepare a lot of our meals wherever we travel.
We take board games and our books and spend a lot of time just being together.
One of my favorite parts of each trip is when we're driving home.
Mr. Farmhouse and I sit up front and talk the whole time, as the girls sleep in the back seat, all cuddled up to one another.
When we pull into the driveway, the girls wake up and thank us for the trip and usually say something along the lines of, "Ahhh...home sweet home".
Planning our next little getaway here at the farmhouse,
I have dreamed for many years about writing a book.
I have several manuscripts that are partially finished. It seems that I make significant progress on them and then life kind of takes over for a little while. I hope to finish some of these longer manuscripts in the future to share some of my own thoughts on life.
Some of these checklist items are left a bit open-ended. I personally use my "personal development" time to do my Bible study & prayer time. Some people I've talked to are using this time to read for a certain length of time or a specific amount of pages in a book.
My household chores include emptying the dishwasher and starting one load of laundry.
Next to the morning checklist is a place for the reader to share five things that he or she is grateful for. On the bottom of this page is a place to note a "highlight" and "challenge" from the previous day. It's really just a time of reflection and rememberling.
I've been really pleased with the positive feedback regarding the journal and I can't wait to share with everyone my next book (and eBook), set to release in the beginning of August! If you have purchased the book and have found value in using it, please consider leaving a positive review on Amazon so others can find it a little more easily.
I would also love it if you would take a photo with your book and tag Farmhouse654 on Instagram or Facebook!
If you've not checked it out yet, feel free to pick up a copy here!
So grateful for everyone's support here at the farmhouse,
In some ways, it's hard to believe that I haven't written a blog post since October of 2021.
In other ways, it just makes sense.
Last October, when I wrote that blog post, we were just finishing up the first quarter of this last school year. From that point on, it felt like we were meeting ourselves coming and going.
This school year, we had a child in high school, one in junior high, and one in elementary. This made for some interesting schedules and lots of nights where Mr. Farmhouse and I split up to attend the girls' activities, often accepting help from the grandparents and aunts & uncles to get the third daughter where she needed to go.
I know this is something that parents have accomplished for many, many years...but for us, it was the first time that we were really pulled in three different directions, on top of career and farming duties.
If we're being honest -- our home suffered because of this. I don't think we were ever caught up on laundry or dishes and our mud room became a dumping ground for our belongings as we ran in to change clothes quickly and head out to the next event.
As Gretchen Rubin states in her book, Outer Order, Inner Calm, "it's easier to keep up than to catch up..."
And we are to the point where we desperately need to catch up.
However, we WILL NOT spend the whole summer "catching up".
We have three more summers left with our oldest daughter Harlee here at home, so we are going to work hard to create beautiful family memories in the midst of taking back our house.
Already this summer, we've visited the Kansas City Zoo, toured the Hallmark Visitors' Center & Kaleidoscope, attended a Royals game, and we've taken a mini-vacation to Phillipsburg, Missouri (more on THAT trip later...).
We've also already filled a 6-yard dumpster and gathered up over 20 tubs of belongings to sell or donate. We have gotten almost caught up on laundry and have marked off a few tasks off of our "list of things we have procrastinated on throughout the school year".
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,
You might recall some of my plans for the year 2021 that I wrote about back in January.
I shared about using each week to set goals, breaking down our big projects into smaller, manageable chunks -- instead of setting big annual goals that often seem unattainable.
We are making good progress on several of our goals for the year, by taking an hour or two each week to work on them. Our detached garage/canning kitchen/man cave is almost finished. It's been a long process, but by knocking out a few tasks here and there each week, we're closing in on the finishing touches.
We've done a lot of outdoor clean-up this year, by working for one Saturday a month or so to knock out some big areas of the property.
I wrote daily through March 8th and have 22,179 words in my first draft. My goal is to get to 60,000 words by the end of the year. I think that's still doable. I have six chapters finished, so far.
3. Blog Each Week.
This is only my 10th blog post of the year, so as you can see -- I'm a little behind on that.
After spring break, school became a whirlwind and I just had to put something on the back burner. Unfortunately, it was blogging.
I've got some catching up to do! :)
4. Lose 15 pounds.
Following my experience with COVID-19 in September, I realized I had developed an allergy to dairy and sensitivity to gluten. Changing my diet to not include those things helped me to lose 15 pounds with no problem.
I have slowly started introducing these things back into my diet and I will admit -- I don't feel as well.
So I probably need to remove those things again.
Whole30 coming again in August!
5. Read 40 books.
As of last week, I had finished my 21st book and am almost finished with my 22nd and 23rd.
So I'm right on schedule for the challenge.
Happy Almost August, Friends!
Taking in the last few days of summer break here at the farmhouse,
You might have noticed that I've added a new tab to the blog called "freebies".
I've decided to feature one freebie a week over on my Instagram page.
The printable documents you'll find on the freebie page will range from home management to parenting, from marriage to wall art. I'm just hoping to share some of the tools that I use in my day-to-day life with you all, so be watching for that on Fridays!
Today, I want to showcase a printable I shared a few weeks ago and give a little background as to how it has been helping our family!
We just weren't great at managing all of the ideas and projects we had for our property.
We moved into the farmhouse in summer of 2017 and immediately completed some of our big projects.
We added a bathroom upstairs, tore down an old barn on the property, and made some minor cosmetic changes to the house, in the first few weeks that we owned the house.
And then...it was time for the school year to start.
Every once in a while through the school year, we would find time over a weekend or a break to complete a project or two. However, for every bit of progress we made, we ended up adding three or four new projects to our "to do" list. There was never a time that we felt we had done EVERYthing we needed to do to get the property how we wanted it to be!
Looking back at pictures of what our property looked like back in the 40s, 70s, and even the 90s...I always felt a little ashamed that we could not figure out how to get the whole place the way we wanted for it to be.
Over each summer, when the girls and I were off school, we would try hard to knock out some big projects...but like I said before, we would add several NEW tasks to the list, as we worked through other items.
Fast-forward to 2020.
Due to COVID-19, the girls and I had been doing school and working from home for a few months, so we had been able to get some decluttering & organizing projects complete.
However, Mr. Farmhouse was still working, so some of the bigger projects were still on the back burner -- until May, that is.
Because several people around our house had some storm damage, Mr. Farmhouse drove home on his lunch break to check our place. He called me as he was driving up to the property and said, "You'd better come on home."
One of our barns was blown completely over (as you can see in the photos below). By the end of the insurance inspection, we needed a new roof on the house, new guttering, a new barn, a new carport, a new roof on another one of the sheds, a new swing set, a new basketball goal, and some other items that were broken in the storm.
Sidenote: We feel so very blessed to say that nobody was hurt on our property during this storm. We know that buildings and belongings can be replaced and we are grateful that our most challenging part of this project was cleaning up and rebuilding.
The night of the storm, we began cleaning up and continued through the next few weeks, during our free time.
Parts of our barn were found a few miles away.
The girls' playhouse was in pieces all up and down our road. In fact, we found one of the chairs that was inside the playhouse up IN a tree.
Storms are crazy.
We made steady progress cleaning up from the storm, but honestly -- we were not moving as quickly as I would have hoped and of course, the rebuilding tasks were in addition to the "house projects" list we had started in 2017.
And then came the dreaded q-word -- quarantine.
We were exposed to COVID-19 and had to stay home for fourteen full days...all of us.
It was in the heat of July and we decided to use our time together in a productive way. We started knocking out unfinished projects left and right.
We built a loft playhouse for the girls.
We cleaned out the old barn.
We did all of the dirt work for the new garage we were getting ready to build.
And now...eight months later, we are still making progress.
So how did we do it? And could our method work for YOUR family? I think so.
On the very first day of quarantine, we sat down together and made a list of every single project that we needed to accomplish at the farmhouse -- big and small.
Then we chose what projects we thought we could get finished on Day 1.
We worked through the day and enjoyed our evenings together -- with bonfires, movie nights, and softball games in the yard.
We repeated this process for the fourteen days of quarantine and at the end of the two weeks, it was crazy what we had accomplished.
After we completed so many projects in fourteen days, it really inspired us to continue this journey even when we went back to work.
This is when the four-week plan was born.
Instead of meeting every morning to plan our days out, we started adding this conversation into our Sunday night family meetings. At the beginning of each month, we would use our "four-week plan" worksheet to fill in some goals for the next four weeks. Then we would try to accomplish these items during our free time.
The next Sunday night, we would revisit and revise our list for the upcoming week.
This process served us well over the last six months and we've continued to mark larger tasks off of our lists.
A few months ago, right after Christmas, Mr. Farmhouse and I decided that we should probably refinance the house soon. We talked to our lender and decided that we would try to prepare for an appraisal over my spring break in mid-March.
This decision meant that we wanted to kick our four-week plan concept into high gear over the next few months.
We filled out a four-week plan sheet with every space in the house that we wanted to focus on and then we listed all the tasks we needed to complete in those spaces on a "detailed plans" page. You can find an editable version of this form on my Freebies page or HERE.
If you are like us -- naturally DISorganized and in need of a checklist to work through projects, grab this free printable and start your four-week plan this weekend!
Working hard at the farmhouse,
Over the last few weeks, I've been sharing some lessons from the farmhouse.
Two weeks ago, I talked about some "home" lessons we have learned.
Then last week, I discussed lessons about marriage.
Today, I'm going to finish out this series by sharing five lessons that I've learned about parenting over the last fourteen years.
Disclaimer: Just like I shared a few weeks ago and last week, I am not the perfect housekeeper or the perfect wife. And I am DEFINITELY not the perfect parent.
With that said, we have been parenting for the last fourteen years. We've taken advice from parents whom we love and trust and we've learned through trial and error. So here are some parenting tips that will hopefully be helpful to somebody.
1. Be consistent.
Do what you say you are going to do.
If you offer a consequence for a certain behavior, follow through with that consequence.
And on that note, set realistic consequences from the get-go. When you ask your child to complete a task, with some sort of consequence attached -- make it realistic. There is nothing worse than when you are in the heat of the moment and you threaten some difficult-to-maintain consequence if a child does not comply with the expected behavior.
"If you don't turn the television off, you're going to be grounded for a month."
If the child doesn't turn the television off, the parents are left with one of two choices.
Sure, in the first choice, the child knows you mean business and will likely comply with your directives for a while. However, a month of grounding is pretty substantial for not following one simple direction.
And in the second choice, your child is learning that your words don't really mean much when it comes to consequence for behavior.
In the above example, I would suggest something like "no television for three days". This is a manageable consequence that truly fits the behavior. After the three days is over, the child will likely understand that when you ask him or her to turn it off -- you mean business.
So -- Be consistent. Set boundaries. Follow through.
2. Teach responsibility.
Our girls help us to manage our home.
Our oldest daughter is responsible for one load of laundry a day. She washes, dries, and folds it and then delivers the clothes to the bedrooms where they belong.
Our second daughter is responsible for dishes. She unloads the dishwasher each morning and after we fill it through the day, she washes it at night. She hand-washes any dishes that are left after supper, also.
Our youngest daughter is responsible for gathering laundry from the hampers in the house and taking it to the laundry room each day. She also gathers up shoes that have been left out and puts them on the mud room shelves.
They also have daily chores to help the family out on the farm -- feeding chickens, gathering eggs, taking scraps to the hogs, and whatever else needs to be done.
3. Lead by example.
This is a tough one.
You know that old saying, "Do as I say, not as I do"?
Yeah. That doesn't work.
Your babies will pick up on your ACTIONS, not only your words.
If you want your children to have a relationship with Jesus -- model a relationship with Jesus.
If you want your children to grow up and have a healthy marriage -- model a healthy marriage.
If you want them to speak kindly to their friends -- speak kindly to them and to YOUR friends.
If you want them to be hard workers -- work hard.
If you want them to admit when they are wrong -- admit when you are wrong (this one is NOT easy!).
We could go through hundreds of examples of this.
Lead by example.
4. Be patient & offer grace.
I will be the first to admit that we have ridiculously high standards.
I have had to find a balance between having high expectations and offering grace to our girls.
We all mess up. We all fall short. NONE of us are perfect.
Our kids are learning and exploring and testing boundaries. Their brains are not fully-developed yet and they will make poor decisions sometimes.
We must learn to guide them through these decisions, with grace & mercy.
We must be patient with them as they learn to navigate this life.
5. Be present.
Put the phone away.
Sit down together at the dinner table.
Play in the snow.
Work on household projects together.
Do craft activities.
Do a Bible study together.
Enjoy the time you have with them because it goes so very quickly.
I hope these tips are helpful for you. What would you add?
Enjoying a day with our girls here at the farmhouse,
Today I'm going to continue my little series on a few lessons I've learned through life.
Since tomorrow is Valentine's Day, I decided today I would blog about lessons I've learned about marriage.
For a little backstory, Mr. Farmhouse and I were high school sweethearts. We've been married now for almost 17 years.
We've owned three homes together, we are raising three daughters, and we are still head over heels in love with each other.
I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I do know that it takes hard work to maintain a healthy marriage and I do feel like we've learned some important lessons through the years.
So here are five pieces of advice for keeping a strong marriage.
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
This might seem obvious, but trust me...it's not.
Listen first to understand what your spouse is saying and then talk.
Brené Brown talks about how our brains really crave "a closed loop" in situations, so we sometimes make up stories in our heads to fill in the gaps when we don't know all the details.
You know that moment when someone doesn't acknowledge you in the grocery store and you think, "Oh no...did I do something to offend that person?" or "I wonder why she doesn't like me."?
This is what Brown is talking about. We don't like unresolved loops in our brain, so we make up stories to fill them in.
And it happens in marriages ALL THE TIME.
So when something is bothering you...talk about it.
When you are unsure of the motive for your spouse's actions...talk about it.
Sit down and have real life conversation.
2. Be Present
This one goes hand-in-hand with number 1.
Put the phone away and be with your spouse.
Turn the television off and be with your spouse.
Carve out time in your day to be together.
When you are with your spouse, be fully there...not distracted by outside influences.
3. Find Out Your Spouse's Love Language
Here is a quiz you can take to find out your love language and the love language of your spouse. TAKE QUIZ HERE
When Mr. Farmhouse and I found out that his love language is quality time and mine is acts of service, this was a game-changer for us.
I learned that I needed to stop multi-tasking and trying to "get stuff done" and just sit down and BE with him.
He learned that doing the dishes or filling my car up with gas before I realize it's empty really fills my cup.
With that said -- I would encourage everybody to take the love language quiz because it is great for ALL relationships -- friendships, parent/child relationships, work relationships, and others!
4. Focus on intimacy
I'll make this short and sweet because I'm pretty sure my parents read my blog.
Ladies, even if your husband's primary love language is not "physical touch", he still craves physical touch.
Wives, commit to initiating an intimate encounter with your husband twice this week and see what happens. I promise, you'll be pleasantly surprised at what it does for your relationship OUTside of the bedroom.
Okay, moving on...
This next piece of advice might step on a few toes and I don't mean to do that, but I think it's a very important point to discuss.
5. Do not elevate your relationship with your children "above" your relationship with your spouse.
I know this is difficult to consider because, my goodness, those sweet babies are just our WORLD!
But there will come a time in 18-20 years, when those babies will grow up and move out.
During this season of the "empty nest", I've known so many couples who feel as if they don't know their spouses without the kids in the house.
Serve your spouse in front of your kids.
Put his or her needs in front of your own needs.
Schedule monthly date nights...just the two of you!
Take trips (after COVID)!
Sit on the porch together after the kids are in bed.
Love your kids well WITH your spouse.
Back each other up! Our kids have known from a very young age that if one of us says "no", the other parent will say "no". There's no reason to even ask. This is not to say they haven't tried!
Your relationship with your spouse will serve as a model for them as they build relationships when they get older. Give them a healthy marriage to watch & model in their formative years.
I hope these five pieces of advice were helpful for you.
What would you add to my list?
Spending this cold, cold day inside with the family here at the farmhouse,