Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Planner News.

This summer has been a summer of many changes in the Newkirk household. 

First of all, I started the KonMari process right when school was out and pared down our clothing, books, paper, and other miscellaneous items throughout the first few weeks of summer.  I am looking forward to doing one more big "purge" before the school year starts, but already the house feels so much more "light & airy".

I also started the Whole30 eating program and began to focus on getting healthy.  I'm still doing the Whole30 and getting ready to begin the 30-day Shred (Jillian Michaels) and the Couch 2 5K walking/jogging plan.

With these improvements in the house and in my lifestyle, I felt I needed to try and find a good way to maintain these changes.  

I started googling lots of organizational strategies and I landed on "bullet journaling".  It worked for the month of June, but I realized that with the way I was doing it, I would only be able to fit all of my information for about 2-3 months in one notebook, which isn't practical.

So I started research the Erin Condren planner.  I found some YouTube videos that gave me some ideas for implementing the bullet journaling method into the EC planner and I loved it.

So I ordered one.

Here it is!

The same day I got the planner in the mail, I got some fun accessories as well.  I had ordered some washi tape from Amazon and picked up some awesome pens from Target.

I started working away to figure out the best way to make my planner work for me!

Here is how I'm using the planner right now.

This is a blank spread of a month.  I'm using this for our budget.  I put our income and expected expenses on here so I can pay bills on specific dates and mark them off as they clear the bank.

I used washi tape to mark off the parts of the page that show the previous and following month, so I can make sure I keep some of those weekly expenses straight (like daycare and fuel).

To the right of each monthly page, there is a little "goals" section.

This is my "monthly to do" list.

I fill this out every time something comes up that I need to get done by the end of the month.  I've also started adding items to future months, such as "schedule session for ___" and "gather tax items".  This is where the bullet-journaling comes in.  In a bullet journal, you have a monthly to do list that you pull items from daily.  I'm doing the same thing in my EC planner.

Here is this week's spread.  There are two separate options for how you want your weekly pages to look...a vertical spread or this version, the horizontal calendar.  I'm not sure if i would stick with the horizontal weekly spread in the future.  I think I'll know more as the year goes on and maybe in 2017, I'll try the vertical pages.

On the left side of the page, I put appointments and special notes.  I also enjoy using washi tape to denote special events and just for decoration.  I use post-it notes for things I'm unsure of and write in pencil if there is a chance an event might change.

On the right side of the page, there is a little box that is just open.  I've been using that to be my "to do" list.  Depending on the time I have available for that day, I add 3-5 items that MUST get done.  This method has caused me to really evaluate what I'm able to get done in one day and it makes me feel pretty accomplished at the end of each day, when I have actually marked off the things I set out to do!  

You might notice some little labels with eight jars on them.  I created some "hydrate" stickers to remind me to drink 8 glasses of water every day!  I haven't done the best at keeping up with them, but I think this will be a huge asset to my health journey during the school year when I try hard to drink water all through the school day.

You can also see some of the stickers I'm using to denote certain events.  The washi tape on the right side of the page is showing when the girls and I will be on vacation with my mom later this week. 

Here is a week that only has school events on there right now.  I am planning to decorate each week the Sunday night before the week starts.  

I'll admit that I am still tracking all appointments on my Google Calendar that syncs with my cell phone.  I really love this app and appreciate the reminders it sends me throughout the day.

However, I have still been putting the appointments on my EC planner, as a reminder of the things I need to prepare for those specific events.

I purchased a cheap menu planner from Michael's this week and am using it in conjunction with this planner.  I think keeping my meals separate from what I've got going on here is going to work for right now.  Maybe if I move to the vertical planner with four separate boxes on each day eventually, I'll start meal-planning right in there.  We shall see!

It's a work in progress, but I am LOVING it so far!  <3

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Halfway There.

July 1st.

We're basically halfway through summer.

Less than a month and I'll most likely be back at school, preparing for the school year.

I've gotten a lot accomplished over the last month and a half.

Some of you might remember the book I read in March called "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up", by Marie Kondo.

Well, I read the book in March and didn't really get to "start the process" until school got out.  I'm happy to report that over a three-week time period, I stuck to the plan and "KonMari'd" my whole house.  I have over 30 tubs of items ready to be priced for a garage sale and I sent over 15 big trash bags of trash to the dumpster.

I will admit that now that I'm done, I'm getting ready to go back through the categories one more time before school starts.

It's absolutely addictive.

I've also started the Whole30 program.  My mom and I are on Day 17 of this way of eating and we are feeling great!

The Whole30 is explained in a book called "It Starts with Food", by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig.

The book was so enlightening and I was motivated to start the program immediately, mainly to hopefully help my mom with her joint pain management, due to her diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  It is helping and I'm praying she can stick to it for another 13 days!

After I started getting our house in order and focusing on my health, I began to research a management tool that would allow me to continue my steps in the right direction and that's when I found "bullet-journaling".

Bullet journaling seemed to finally be a planner system that I could make work for me.  I made my own bullet journal and quickly realized that for someone with three kids, a teaching job, a photography business, lots of involvement in the Church, and many other responsibilities...a traditional bullet-journal probably wasn't going to cut it.  When I filled out my first bullet journal, I had already used one notebook just for June & July.

I started searching YouTube for a way to incorporate the bullet journal method with a different type of planner and I found so many great videos.

That's when I decided to dive in head-first and order a new planner.

I ended up with this design and cannot wait for it to arrive this Friday!

Looking forward to sharing how I personalize my EC planner to work for my life over the next few weeks!  Look for a video in the near future.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July, friends!


Saturday, March 28, 2015


After reading the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo, my entire mindset has changed when it comes to decluttering my home, my classroom, and my photography studio. 

It seems as if God continues to put things in my path to remind me that this life is temporary. 

Our stuff doesn't matter much. It definitely doesn't matter as much as the people we love and the experiences we have.

I feel as if I almost became obsessed with our home addition over the last few months. I was just so excited to finally have a little more space to spread out in. I was also looking forward to giving the girls rooms of their own, so they could have a little break from each other.

When we found out we were unable to do the addition, I was disappointed at first. However, after speaking to my husband and a few of my dearest friends, I realized that maybe be home addition is not in God's plan right now.

Matthew and I began to plan to go another route. A route that would not include any more debt for the time being. A route that will include three daughters sharing one bedroom for a few years. A route that, I'm sure, will be forever etched in our memory as a joyful, stressful, and wonderful time of life.

It is also a route that will include living in our current square footage for a little longer than we had anticipated.

Therefore, it is time to truly put the Kon Mari method to work. 

We only have about eight weeks of school left (how is that possible!?!). I have lots of things I would like to accomplish at school during the next eight weeks...finishing the year with a bang, doing some planning for next year, and going through my teaching resources that have sat on a shelf for the last seven years. I would love to get the resources that are gathering dust together and get them in the hands of someone who will use them. 

So we'll finish the school year on May 13th and by the following Wednesday, I would like to have my classroom decluttered and organized for 2015-2016.

Starting the week after that, I am looking forward to getting very serious about purging in my home. I think I will designate those first three weeks of summer to some hardcore decluttering. 

My idea is to go through each room and essentially "move out". When we had satellite television (waste of time and waste of glad we dropped it!), I loved HGTV and other home channels. 

One of my favorite shows was Mission: Organization. On this show, they would move everything out of a bedroom to the yard and put out three big of stuff to keep, one of stuff to sell, and one of stuff to donate. They also had a place for trash. I would love to use this same method this summer, with the Kon Mari way of thinking...pick everything up, check and see if it sparks joy, and if not, GET RID OF IT. 

I'll put everything that sparks joy in the keep pile and box up the sell and donate stuff immediately. My plan is to make a trip to donate things every single day for those three weeks. 

Then I'll deep-clean that room, rearrange if I need to, and put only the items that spark joy back in there. Every single item will get a home. 

The next day...choose a different room and repeat the process all over again. 

I would love to be done with the process in 3 weeks so I can enjoy the rest of the summer with my babies in a clean house, free from clutter that will distract us from each other! 

Anybody else feeling overwhelmed with the "stuff" of life? 

Getting ready to hopefully feel a whole lot lighter,

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Morning Struggles.

I feel like some days I am the worst morning mother ever.

In the whole world.

No, really.

We try so hard at night to be prepared for the 6:30 a.m. "walk out the door".

We lay out clothes.
We pack lunches.
We shower at night and try to get to bed as early as possible (we try for 8:30 and occasionally make it before 9:00...maybe I'm the worst evening mother ever, too!).

But even with all of this preparation...I still turn into a screaming lunatic at some point on many mornings.

In fact, most mornings it goes something like this:

5:50 a.m.  (I'm still sing-songy at this point) -- "Time to get up girls!  Let's make this a good morning!"

No movement.

5:55 a.m. -- "Girls, it's a school day.  Let's get up and get dressed!" (I'm still feeling somewhat sing-songy).

Claire gets up and slowly starts shuffling towards the living room.

6:00 a.m. -- "Harlee, if you're not up by the time I get back in here, we're going to have a big problem." (I'm losing my spunk at this point).

6:05 a.m. -- I shout from the bathroom, "Harlee!  Are you up?"

Harlee answers, as she jumps out of bed before I make it back there, "Yeeeeeesssssss!" (I'm sure she is rolling her eyes at this point, but I try to ignore it.)

6:10 a.m. -- "Girls, we have to leave in 20 minutes.  Let's get dressed a little faster, please."

They are struggling between every article of clothing to not lie back down.

6:20 a.m. -- "Are you dressed?"
"Do you have socks and shoes on?"
"Yes!" (Harlee)
"I'm trying to find them!" (Claire)
"I thought you laid them out last night!"
"I thought so too, but I didn't..."
"Harlee, could you help her find her shoes?"
"I guess!  Every morning, Claire!" (Harlee)

At this point, Claire starts crying and the clock simultaneously changes to 6:30.

I want to start crying, but I am an adult and that would be silly.
It would be ridiculous to cry over a morning like this.

I am dressed and ready.
Claire is crying and getting her shoes on.
Harlee is stomping around impatiently, waiting to go get in the car.

And then it hits me.

We have three children!

"Harlee...please grab the diaper bag!!!  We are so late and I haven't even gotten Mattie up yet!"

The goal is to walk out the door by 6:30 a.m. every morning.

The reality is that I feel pretty darn good if we leave town by 7:00.

Now it's 7:05 and we're driving under the overpass five miles north of town...

"Hey Mom, what should we have for breakfast?"

The morning struggle is real, folks.

Have you ever felt this way?

I'm sure tomorrow will be similar, but at least it will be a FRIDAY morning.

Much love,

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Broken Together.

I am a music person.  I could sit here and name off song after song after song that have touched me in some way.  Songs can sometimes touch me so deeply that I listen to them on repeat for weeks at a time.
Many times, I hear a song that speaks to the core of what I'm feeling inside.
I feel like if Mark Hall (lead singer of Casting Crowns) and I knew each other in real life, we would be great friends.  
Casting Crowns is consistently coming out with songs that speak my heart.
Their newest song is called "Broken Together".
It's actually written about marriage.  I have been very blessed in my almost 11 years of marriage.  We haven't struggled much to "stay in love".  We haven't had any life-altering events that have made us grow apart.  We have had our disagreements here and there, and maybe a dry spell or two, but nothing like what some of my dear, dear friends have encountered in their own marriages.
I do believe that this song has an amazing application to married life.
However, in my own heart, I think of this song as something that truly is written for the Church.
Here are the lyrics.  
If you need the lyrics to speak on marriage right now...listen with those ears.  
But if you're feeling like me, and praying for unity in the Body of Christ, listen in that context.
What do you think about when you look at me?
I know we're not the fairytale you dreamed we'd be.
You wore the veil, you walked the aisle, you took my hand
And we dove into a mystery.
How I wish we could go back to simpler times,
Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light.
Now on this hallowed ground, we've drawn the battle lines.
Will we make it through the night?
It's going to take much more than promises this time,
Only God can change our minds.
Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete.
Could we just be broken together?
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I'll bring mine.
Could healing still be spoken and save us?
The only way we'll last forever is broken together.
How it must have been so lonely by my side.
We were building kingdoms and chasing dreams and left love behind.
I'm praying God will help our broken hearts align,
And we won't give up the fight.
If you have the time, you should watch this video and listen to the beauty in the message.  You won't be disappointed.
Church, we are all broken...let's be broken together.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The best laid plans.


We're not building on right now.

We were unable to get the loan at this time.

It's funny how you think you've got everything covered...and really, you don't.

House plans...check.
Debt snowball paid down...check.
Proof that we can easily make the payments...check.

Approval for a loan...not check.

After some frustration and disappointment, we reworked our plan.

We've decided to save what would have been our payment and do a few things to our current structure.

We will add a bathroom in our closet first.

Then we'll redo our current bathroom.

Finally, we'll remodel the kitchen.

The plan is to save cash for these projects and then do them.  We should be able to get them done in 2015, if we don't have any big financial surprises.

That will either raise the appraisal value enough to get the home addition loan, or it will make our house more marketable if we decide to sell and go buy or build somewhere.

The best laid plans.

There "they" are again with those cliches...

We're still blessed and content, but I'm planning another HUGE decluttering session coming up since we're not building on a playroom anytime soon.

Have a great rest of the week, friends.

Monday, March 16, 2015


This is a blog post that is a long time coming, as they say. Whoever "they" is.

This has been quite the year for me.

Just in case you don't know me, let me tell you a little bit about myself… I am a people pleaser. It's me.

I will do whatever it takes to make someone else like me. If I feel like someone is mad at me, it absolutely eats me up.

Even if I should not value that person's opinion of me, for some reason, I just want people to know who I am and what is on my heart.

Let me tell you, for me, this leads to much exhaustion, and even some heartache.

Without disclosing the full details of what happened in my life about a year ago, I will just tell you, I lost some friends. Some lifelong friends.

And this isn't just people I grew up with. These are people who were in my wedding. People who visited the hospital when we had our children. People who held my hand through the loss of my grandfather, and I held their hands through many trials in their own lives. People who taught me things that I still apply to life today. Some of my oldest and dearest companions.

People who knew (probably still know) me better than most of the general population.

Things were said.
Feelings were hurt.
And then, they were gone.

Just gone.

No "can we work through this?"
No "can we sit down and talk?"
No "can we try to figure this out?"


I spent many sleepless nights trying to solve the problem on my own.

I penned a few emails (only one that I actually sent).

And finally, I came to the conclusion, that it just wasn't going to happen. At least not right now.

I needed to, as the old saying goes, "let go and let God."

And so I did.

I let go.

And God came through in a big way.

In the depths of sorrow at the loss of these dear, dear friends (really family members), God came through.

In the midst of pain and heartache, God came through.

As I tried to find my new "normal" without these people in my life, God really, really came through.

Fast-forward to now.

My heart still hurts.

I still am holding out hope for reconciliation some day.

But I can honestly look back at our memories through the years fondly.

I can think of these friends now, and feel a peace in my heart about the situation. I can see those moments through the past year, where God has used specific situations to give me hope for the future.

I have seen my ministry change, and I am serving joyfully again. I don't feel unsettled, unnerved, or angry. I have seen the Lord fill the hole in my heart left by these individuals.

If you would have told me a few years ago that these people wouldn't be a part of my life at this point in time, I never would have believed you.

But things change.
People change.

At the end of the day, the only One who is unchanging is God.

He is unchanging and He is here.

And I am thankful.

Thanks for reading,