Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Spirit

I didn't have much. I was feeling downright grinch-like, to be honest. At this time last year, we were hoping the new year would bring some relief to our woes, but the year started off telling us otherwise, with my sewing machine breaking down and our water heater dying in the first two days of the year.

And so it went, one thing after another, fighting fires, taking care of the most pressing matters as we were able, letting the other slide until money was available.

As we headed into December, I knew it would be another year where we wondered where the Christmas money was coming from. As late as mid-month, we were wondering if there would be any at all. I planned well with my groceries and was able to plan our Christmas feast and cookie making without adding too much extra to my grocery bill, for that I was really thankful. One of the highlights of Christmas for my kids is dinner.

Last Tuesday, I got the surprise of my life. Noah's mom called to ask me if I was free for dinner when she picked him up. Amazingly I was, my kids are usually busy most evenings and I don't often have someone available to watch the younger kids. Her mom met us at Panera (her mom is our pastor's wife and a good friend) and we enjoyed a nice meal together. I was then told they had additional plans. They wanted to take me shopping. I guess each year they pick someone to surprise with something special and this year it was me. Citing the fact that moms are always the last to get what they need, they wanted to spruce up my wardrobe.

Anyone watch What Not To Wear? It felt like that, without all the criticism. I didn't even know where to begin, but they got a feel for what I might like and they started pulling things off the racks and I went to the dressing room and tried on all different things. There was the "doesn't fit and/or we don't really like it" pile and the pile of things that we all liked. I went out to show them everything that fit at their request.

Now initially, I was horribly uncomfortable. I didn't feel deserving of it and wondered how in the world I choose when someone else's money is being spent. I need not have worried, they had a plan. They took the pile of things we liked and, while I danced Noah around the store (it was getting late and he was getting tired) they picked out what they wanted to buy.

The bottoms are basics. Nicely fitting jeans, a pair of black slacks, and a black tulip skirt, just below the knee with a little flare at the bottom.

These are the jackets. Each very different, each usable with all 3 bottoms.

These are the casual shirts. Again, each a different style and each one usable with all 3 bottoms.

And the dressy shirts. The one on the left has a metallic gold accent running through it and the one on the right has little sequins.

Finally, the accessories. We were finished with the clothing and I was about to begin walking around with Noah when I heard "shoes!" and we headed to the shoe department. The necklace was a little added surprise in the bags.

It was a mind boggling night. I had forgotten what it was like to really get dressed and not just throw on a pair of jeans and a big shirt in the morning. It was also a little bittersweet. I had just been given a marvelous Christmas when I was wondering how to provide Christmas for our kids.

Sometimes I feel like God's most unfaithful child. While we had less than usual to spend, we did have some money by Friday and I worked on my Christmas list to make the most of it. Monday was to be the big shopping day. I needed to take Jonathan to shop for his siblings, bring him home and then take Lucas to shop. I would then leave to do mine, needing to be home by 6:00 so Rachel could babysit and the boys could leave for a planned outing.

But Sunday night Joshua's car wouldn't start, which means he needed Rachel's car, which meant I didn't have a car to use until my husband was home between jobs. I could then take him to work and get started...at 2:00 in the afternoon! Sunday was also bitterly cold and windy and Monday was expected to be the same. It was daunting to think of doing so many errands on such a day, and trying to fit them in so little time seemed impossible.

Rebekah and her boyfriend have been sharing her vehicle as his wasn't working. He got his fixed, though, and she showed up at home Sunday night with her truck. I didn't know until Monday morning, but an early start was again possible.

I left at 9:30 in the morning with Jonathan, brought him home and picked up Lucas, finished with him and picked up Rebekah, who helped me with grocery shopping and picking out a few things for Rachel. I dropped her off at home and picked up Rachel, who also had an errand she needed to run, then she helped me pick out some things. I brought her home and headed back out for the few things she couldn't be with me while I bought. I finally arrived home for the night at 9:00pm. Rachel's babysitting was canceled and the boys opted to stay home which allowed me to shop until I finished.

EVERYTHING was done. The Christmas shopping, the grocery shopping, every bit of it. I found so many good sales that I felt like the boy with the loaves and fishes, the money we had seemed to go so much farther than I expected it would. I had assumed I'd have to go back out today, but when the car issues cropped up I knew it would be best if I got everything finished.

So today, I should be able to get everything finished that I thought I'd have to cram into today (around shopping trips) and tomorrow morning. The wrapping is already finished as I woke very early with aching legs and feet and couldn't get back to sleep. I figured I might as well get up and get started! I have laundry to do, laundry soap to make, two pans of cookie bars plus bread to bake, and I still have to do the homemade marshmallows. As time permits, there is also picking up and vacuuming and bathrooms to be cleaned.

My husband told me to try to lay down for a while, even if I can't sleep, but there likely won't be time for that. If I get it all done today, though, tomorrow can be spent relaxing!

So my Christmas spirit, while a long time in coming, is here in full force and I'm so very thankful for that. I also figured out the nice thing about shopping so late...I don't have so long to wait to see them open their gifts!

I hope this Christmas season find you all happy, healthy and rejoicing that God sent His son.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Making Progress

I had a busy and productive weekend. My hunters were at it again, leaving my days quite free, but my evenings more hectic and full of clutter as the hunting gear was piled in my sewing area before dinner and on the dining table after since it was needed very early each morning.

I was able to piece, mark and baste the two sets of four placemats. I still have a sewing mat to make and a set of six placemats, but am feeling more confident that I will be able to finish them all.

I had given myself until the end of this week to get the first set finished and was hoping to finish a bit earlier so I could start on the next ones and keep a good pace. Much to my surprise, the first set quilted up much more quickly than I anticipated and I just finished binding them a few minutes ago.

There are two of each color combination to make up the set. I'm so glad to have these done already and will move on to the Christmas set as soon as I'm finished here.

Rebekah and I sat and visited on Thursday, opening day for hunting, and were thrilled to get text messages shortly after lunchtime that both Joshua and RACHEL had each gotten a deer. It was Rachel's first year hunting and she's one of the only girls hunting here through the conservation district, so everyone was quite excited when she had to check it in at the checkpoint. Joshua got a second one on Saturday, making 11 for him in 8 years. He's becoming quite the prolific hunter and my freezer thanks him!

Ruthie has seen just about everyone in the house hold up quilts for me as I've taken pictures, so she decided it was her turn. She took Noah's off of the table and was holding it, we quickly figured out she wanted to hold it for a picture.

Ruthie is still heavily into writing and remarkably rarely will write on something she shouldn't. She holds a pencil perfectly (most of the time) and draws a "kercle" (circle) pretty well. She writes more and more strokes that look like beginning writing strokes, so now when she hands over the pencil and it's my turn, I draw stick figures and write her name, etc, hoping to start to see some of that come from her pencil.

We have a big box of old computer paper with the "tractor" holes on the side, so Ruthie has all the paper she needs for a while. We actually pull off the holes and use it in our printer, she knows to go take a sheet or two out when she wants to write.

With much more quilting to do, and some dishes waiting to be wiped I need to run or I'll sit here until I'm too tired to do anything else!
Happy Quilting!
Sue and Ruthie

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Plan B...

is both stressful and exciting. It figures, just yesterday I wrote that I had little Christmas sewing and while laying awake at 5am, unable to go back to sleep, I realized I really did need to do a few things.

I have a small quilting bee once a month with two very dear friends. They are both older than I, having children around my age. We mostly talk, we sew a bit and have a treat. We meet the last Friday of the month, but our November meeting nearly always falls the day after Thanksgiving so we move it to the first week of December, go out for lunch and exchange small gifts.

Gifts. Usually I make something, but didn't even know what to do this time. I was going to buy something, but really there isn't money for that and there is nothing small that I could buy for them that I know they would really like and would be useful. I was in denial. As I lay awake in bed this morning, the worries came flooding in. I hate that! Somehow things that don't seem quite as daunting in the light of day seem so ominous in those wee hours of the morning.

As I ticked through all the things that we need money for in the next month, I knew that careful planning would be of the essence. I have to squeeze every bit I can out of what money will be available for Christmas. The better I've planned it, the less stressful it will be. The listmaking will likely begin today.

One thing I can do something about right away is these gifts. I remembered a pattern set I bought long ago, it had paper piecing patterns for 6 different placemats, enough to make 6 of each. I'm wimping out and making the two easiest ones in the package, the flying geese (upper right) and single braid (lower right.) I think that my two friends will each get 4 the same and my inlaws will get two of each. I thought of giving them each two of each one, but don't want my friends' gifts to be exactly the same.

I finally gave up trying to sleep at about 6:30 and tried to get myself going for the day. It took a couple of jump starts, I felt too tired a couple of times and laid back down only to realize that I wasn't going to fall back to sleep. I got my cup of coffee and started to look for the pattern, which thankfully was right where I expected it to be. I've pulled the pattern pieces and will be pulling fabric when I'm done here.

The magnitude of this last minute project is hitting me, I have two weeks to finish the 12 placemats. One set needs to be in the mail next week (which if I'm on target to finish should be no problem.)

What is the problem is Lucas got what I had and I think Ruthie is next. Lucas has been a trooper and really just wants to just lay on the couch and rest and watch TV, but if Ruthie gets it, too, I don't really know what to expect. If she needs lots of lap time, that will mean some very late nights for me and I'm still coughing quite a lot, too. My husband, two older sons, and middle daughter are all hunting again this weekend. Should they be successful (and we REALLY hope they are) that means processing deer in my dining room for several days after the hunt. Most of the work is done by my husband and oldest son, but I am "on call" for if they need anything or are ready to package up meat.

Still, I feel more optimistic than I was feeling at 5am. One way or another things always seem to work themselves out and I'm sure they will again. With that, I'm going to run, I have work to do! Hopefully Miss Ruthie will be as happy as she is in this picture so Mom can get some work done!
Happy Quilting!
Sue and Ruthie

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quilting and Recovering

I still have a horrible cough. I feel good, mostly have energy but, at times, feel like I'll cough out a lung! Today seems better, not as much coughing and not as hard, so I think it's finally on it's way out. Unfortunately Lucas has now come down with it and Ruthie is coughing a bit, though, as usual, she seems to have escaped the worst of it. God truly watches over our little angel, she is supposed to have a propensity for ear and respiratory infections and not only has not had either, but is, so far, the healthiest of our children.

Our Thanksgiving was wonderful, just us minus one daughter, plus one boyfriend. I ended up not quite as busy as I expected for the weekend, which means more quilting time than I anticipated so Noah's quilt is DONE! I put the last stitch in the binding last night.

I'm now back to quilting on the joyful quilt, feeling like I want to finish this one before moving on to the ring quilt. Aside from a few small sewing projects, I have nothing else to sew for Christmas which means working on whatever I'd like through the holidays. This is the first year since I've started quilting, I think, that I didn't have a Christmas crunch of sewing projects.

I'm nearly done with block number 9 out of 20, and hoping that two weeks at the most and this one will be finished, also. I think I have enough batting here to baste another small quilt and I may do that while my table is still relatively clear so I still have a couple of smaller things to work on. The ring quilt will be fun, but tedious and large. There are times I don't feel like wrestling with a big quilt.

We have another hunting weekend coming up, this one here in Illinois, so there should be some good sewing time this weekend as well. My four hunters will be gone during the day Thursday through Sunday, home for the evening, but hopefully processing deer and then early to bed for early rise the next day.

I'm still a little shocked that Christmas is now less than a month away and am in serious denial. Thankfully I only have to shop for my kids and husband, with a little something for the boyfriends. I will likely be shopping at the last minute, not ideal as that is when I normally bake. Somehow it will all get done and even though it will be busy, it will likely not be nearly as stressful without a bunch of sewing to finish!
Ruthie loves the computer. She can't do much on it, yet, but loves looking at "babies" which is what she says when she wants to see HER file of pictures. This includes any pictures I take with people she knows in them. She knows which keys to push to change the picture if they aren't going fast enough for her.

She loves pretending to type. We also have a game that she thinks she's playing, and she can click around with the mouse. I'm working on getting her to realize that the mouse controls the cursor and then the sky will be the limit and we'll be finding some age appropriate learning (and just fun) games for her to play.

In the meantime, these little activites on the computer can keep her quite happy while I'm trying to get a few things done!

Now, off to quilting. I worked on "Joyful" for a nice little chunk of time this morning, have now done a few chores, made a few lunches and got dishes in to soak so I can relax and sew for a while before cleaning off the dishes and doing a few more quick chores. I hope to spend my evening in a comfortable chair quilting and watching some favorite shows.

I hope the same for you, a relaxing evening and time with needle and thread!
Sue and Ruthie