It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas! ~ by Sam

Since the day after Thanksgiving, we have been busy decking our halls.  Not terribly busy.  That is to say I have not been terribly busy.  Shane put up the lights out front, and that took him a couple of days to complete.  He has also been working on another household project that, while not exclusively Christmas-related, will figure in to our holiday decor.  Yes, I will leave you in suspense on that one.  I hung a garland over a doorway, and helped Kaia set up the creche.  I might have stuck another decoration or two to a wall.  I want to do more, but we have had sick kids, rehearsals, many, many classes and so much other stuff going on that it has just not happened.  Oh, and I need to clean the house before I do too much decorating.  No amount of tinsel can really dress up a mess.  There are a few projects I have been wanting to undertake.  Last Thanksgiving, I made a table runner and coordinating napkins, and I wanted to do something similar for Christmastime.  I also wanted to make some kind of throw or cover for the sofa in the parlour that was more festive and Holiday-themed than the plain grey cover we currently have.  I like having a removable cover, because we have cats, and it having something we can take off and throw in the washing machine makes keeping the furry mess to a minimum fairly easy.

So, today, I headed to the fabric store.  I found the perfect fabric for the table runner and napkins.  It literally had my name written all over it.  Those who know me will understand.  But more about that later.  I ended up making another purchase I had not exactly intended.  Instead of getting fabric to make a throw for the parlour sofa, I bought one of those no-sew polar fleece throw kits.  Now, I knew the “kit” contained just two pieces of fabric and instructions.  I know that I could figure out the instructions on my own, and just buy some fabric.  However, thanks to a sale at JoAnn, I couldn’t have bought the fabric for less than the kit ~ and I didn’t find a fabric on the bolt that I like as much as the one that came in the kit, so I figured, “Why not?”

I brought the thing home, opened it, and set to work.  Now, I have rather a short attention span, so I broke the work up by doing other things, like picking up kids from school, folding laundry and making dinner.  Yes, it’s a party up in here.  Anyway, this is a super simple project.  You just lay out your two pieces of fabric, wrong sides together, cut a 5-inch square out of each corner, and then, about 1-inch apart, all the way around the edge of your fabric, you make straight cuts about 5 inches long through both layers of fabric.  Your whole big rectangle of fabric should be edged with little strips when you are done cutting.  All you have to do now is knot the fringe.   You pick up one pair of strips (one from the top, and one from the bottom), and you tie them in a knot.  Repeat this about a gazillion times, and you have an adorable fringed throw.

So, hours and hours of cutting and knotting later, we are almost done.  Yes, I had to enlist the girls’ help, because there were just so many strips.  And I take a lot of breaks.  Like more breaks than work, really.  In the end, I learned something.  You know what’s easier than making a no-sew polar fleece throw?  SEWING.  Seriously.  This is a lot of work!  I’m kidding.  Sorta.  I mean, it’s not HARD work, but it is time consuming, especially is you take frequent breaks.  In the end, however, we will have a positively adorable throw for our sofa.  In the meantime, George has decided that it is a new, luxuriously enormous kitty bed.  We will finish it in the morning…or the afternoon…or sometimes before Christmas, anyway.

(in case you can’t tell: the large dark blob on the city is George)

XmasThrow

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Ups and Downs…and Then More Ups ~ by Sam.

I’m sorry it’s been such a long time since I last updated.  I am also sorry the kids haven’t written many updates recently.  They are far more entertaining than I. They are also quite busy.  I keep thinking, “If we just make it over this next hurdle, things will settle down.”  Who am I kidding?  Things will not settle down.  That’s not how life is.  Things will keep happening, because…well, literally, that’s life!  There’s a lot of good, exciting stuff going on, to be sure.  I organized a fundraiser for the music program at Kaia’s school.  it was a lot of work, but I did it, and it’s nice to know I can still take on something like that and actually be able to handle it.  Kids are busy with rehearsals, schoolwork, music,  theatre, dance, art, college applications…and being sick.  They have all been so sick this season.  I don;t know what is going on, but I just cannot keep these poor kids well.  Right now, Kaia is recovering from pneumonia, Hallie has a terrible sinus infection (the latest in a seemingly endless stream of ailments), Justice recently had a cast removed from her foot (which she broke, believe it or not, doing homework), and now she is feeling poorly, and I am trying not to worry too much, but all of my kids are at high risk for respiratory complications.  And, you know, I’m their mom.  So, I worry.

My foot is out of the its cast (yes, Justice and I had matching casts for a couple of weeks), but it didn’t heal exactly the way we had anticipated.  I seem to have developed rather a rare complication that has resulted in a lot of additional medical treatment for me.  I am in physical therapy, and I have seen some improvement, so I am optimistic.  I’m not going to go in to a lot of detail here, but, suffice it to say, I have also been quite busy.

We have also, in this time, been running up a lot of medical bills, despite finally having medical insurance.  See, we chose the least expensive plan we could, which means more out-of-pocket costs for us.  We are re-thinking that decision, given our past few months, and might be making a change to our plan.

Now, more than ever, we are thrilled if we can find a way to cut back some of of our other expenses, so we were thrilled with two recent developments in that department.

Some of you might remember when I wrote some time ago about a large amount of debt we had run up a few years ago, when a client of Shane’s failed to pay rather a large bill.  We had to live off credit cards, and had wracked up huge bills on several.  We paid off as much as possible as soon as he was being paid again, but were forced to close out two accounts and enter into repayment agreements with those creditors.  We finished paying off the lower (but with the higher interest rate) one of those bills a couple of years ago, but have continued to chip away at the other.  As per our agreement, $213 was automatically debited from our account every month and applied to that bill, to the tune of approx. $16,000.  Yeah.  I know.  That’s a lot.  Well, I am happy to say that, in November, the vey last payment was made.  We are done.  I received a letter that read, in part:

“Our records indicate your participation in the payment arrangement on your _____ Credit Card account has ended.  If you completed the arrangement, congratulations on your accomplishment!”

Thank you.  We’ll take it.  We’re feeling pretty great about this.  Oh, and $213/month richer, thank you very much!

In another exciting development, after more than three years of renting-to-own, Justice is the proud owner of a beautiful new upright bass.  We rented through the same program (Music & Arts) through which Kaia rented her trumpet, but it took her a little longer to get to the ownership level, because the bass was a more expensive instrument than the trumpet.  The way it works is this: you pay monthly for a rental instrument, and, when you are ready to buy, every cent you have paid in rent is applied to the purchase price of the instrument of your choice.  So, on the day we decided to buy, Justice was able to purchase this beautiful instrument for the balance of $7.94.
Justice'sNewBass

Really.  I mean, I know we actually paid 3 years’ rent toward the purchase, but she got value for that rent.  She had a fine instrument to use as though it were her own all that time.  And now, she has a bass that truly is hers.  And we have $65 more each month in our pockets.

So, you know, it’s been a mixed bag.  A lot of good, exciting stuff, and a lot of crazy, hard stuff.  But, again, that’s life.  I have decided I will continue to celebrate all of the good stuff, muddle through all of the challenges, and come up smiling.  It’s not so hard, because my kids are really, really awesome, so I have plenty to smile about.  If that’s not enough, my family is now $278/month richer, and that doesn’t feel bad at all.

Now, I am looking forward to doing lots and lots of baking for the concessions at the play in which Hallie is performing this weekend, attending that play one evening,  and two Winter concerts (Kaia’s and Justice’s) in a couple of weeks.  Oh, and Justice’s school program is having a potluck this Friday at which she is performing, so there’s another show to attend. So, as you can see, there really is a lot of good stuff going on, which helps make all of the hustle & bustle (and stress!) of day-to-day life a little more bearable.  And it will all end in 3 glorious weeks of Winter Vacation.

I can’t wait.