Shmallentines day

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A year ago today....was one of the most miserable days of my life.

If you know me, and you're thinking back in history to a year ago, you might be thinking to yourself...miserable?  Really, Leslie?  You were moving into your dream house, out in the country, built to every specification you and your husband could imagine.  Miserable?

Unfortunately, yes.  A year ago today, and the two days previous to it saw me crying more tears than I thought I had.  I cried while I packed.  I cried while I cleaned. I remember the sound of my crying echoing against empty walls, and my tears dripping on the floor I'd just scrubbed. There is nothing more depressing than cleaning an empty house all by yourself, packing it all into a vehicle waiting to drive you into a nightmare.

Two days before closing day last year, we had discovered that our house was overbudget.  Terribly, horribly, sickeningly overbudget.  We had tradespeople waiting impatiently for their wages--tradepeople who had no compunction about suing us or putting a lien on our brand new house.  James dealt daily with their ire, losing 45 pounds in the process.
We had a house that actually wasn't even completed.  As we frantically clawed after further financing to pay these trades, we were turned down, even laughed at, by financial institutions.  Because our house wasn't complete, no one would chance further financing.  The house wouldn't be complete until we got further financing..and so this evil circle warped around us for one...two...three months....

I nearly didn't come home that night, a year ago today.  I packed up that vehicle and considered driving to my parents instead.  Or just finding a place to park and sleeping in the vehicle.  It was a despair like nothing I'd ever known--and people have told me that I've dealt with some pretty hard things in life.

Finally, the house did get completed.  The trades were paid off and ushered out of our lives forever.  But not without considerable damage to our finances, our budget, our entire way of life.  Like ripples in a pond, the repercussions continue to buffet us to this day.

I'd like to say that a year later, things are wonderful and sparkly.  But sadly, I write this now because writing is cathartic for me...and I need a catharsis.

The worst of it is always the effect on children.  They just don't understand.  They don't understand why beloved activities need to be yanked out of their lives.  They don't understand why the answer to every purchase request is 'we don't have the money'.

I watch videos like this one and I think, no, I know that I need to be thankful for the many blessings I have.  But no matter how privileged my family and I might be, the stress of unpaid bills, cars breaking down that we need to get our workplaces and the gradual inability to buy needed schoolbooks is real.  And causes anxiety to the point of physical illness that no one can downplay.  Oh but I forgot, I'm not permitted to whine about our schoolbooks--because that's our choice to homeschool.

We're still looking for answers.  We've become militant with our budget since last spring, and even more so the last few weeks.  Recently we cut out a number of significant budget items.  Verity had been receiving a specialized therapy for her learning disability diagnosed a year ago--this is now canceled.  I got rid of my cell phone, completely.  The only blessing of that action (other than saving the nearly 100$ a month for the plan) was that I was able to get rid of the plan through kijiji and not have to pay the penalty for breaking out of it.  Within four hours from the time I decided to get rid of it, it was gone.

One of my homeschooling philosophies has been to have my kids enrolled in one physical activity and one musical activity.  This has a number of reasons: the social advantages--yes, as much as I scoff that those who freak out about homeschooling because of the 'socialization' concern are overdoing it, there is a [very] small degree of merit there.  As much as I love being at home with my kids, they need to see more than just my face.  There's the obvious physical fitness part of it--and as much as people who don't homeschool spout off that going to a park or running around the backyard should suffice, it just doesn't cut it.  A weekly lesson or practice that's been set up through a third party and paid for is the only way for me to responsibly ensure that my kids are getting their activity in.  Then there's the discipline, perseverance, focus and attention to detail, just to mention a few other worthy character traits that such activities foster.  And don't get me started on the advantages of musical instruction--that's my life.

I manage to get the music activity in with no expenditure (they attend the choir I conduct, and Afton attends the Musikgarten class I teach) and the nice thing is that the three olders go to choir at the same time.  The sports was a little more challenging.  Honour has been taking highland dance for an hour twice a week for about 2.5 years now.  She was competing about once every 6-8 weeks.  Afton was taking the same once a week for an hour, this was her second year.  And then there's Verity.  From very early on in her life, gymnastics seemed to ooze from her pores.  She jumped, climbed, flipped and rolled everywhere she went once she started walking at 8 months old.  I started her in a recreational program once a week when she was three.  This progressed to trying out for the competitive program when she was about five.  At the risk of sounding like a puffed up mom, it was pretty obvious in every class she took that gymnastics was her gift.  Numerous parents of other gymnasts throughout the last five years have commented to us directly, or indirectly (not realizing Verity's parents were right behind them-sort-of-a-thing) that she has something special.  When we moved to this area last year we transferred her to a closer gym and in the fall they upped her training program from four hours a week to 10.  We had been applying for Jumpstart funding through Canadian Tire and had been successfully receiving that; we transferred that funding to Haldimand county last year as well.  We received enough to pay for 2.5 months per year (she trains year round).  In the fall when we felt she needed to begin the educational therapy, I spoke to the gym about cutting back on her training, both for the financial and scheduling considerations.  They were adamant that she was in the program best suited for her needs.  Instead they suggested I apply for in-club funding, which I did, and we were awarded. It pays for about 1/3 of her monthly costs.

All this is to say that two weeks ago we realized that we had no other option; the sports had to go.  It was easy enough to email the girls dance teacher and explain the situation--she was very sympathetic, and I left the door open by saying that we had to 'take a break'.  This is what I told the girls as well....I couldn't bear to say they were quitting forever...and besides, I really don't know that, right?
The gymnastics is another issue.  We had just put out $300 for her competitive uniforms and the gym averages the cost of the competitions into the monthly fees.  This meant that Verity's 3 upcoming competitions (her very first 'real' meets she's ever had) were at least partially paid for....and if they weren't we would still be on the hook for paying for them, whether or not she went to them.  We managed to get this months fees paid, but as of right now, it will take something close to a minor miracle to find the money for next month.  I'm fully expecting that when this season is done (she'd have a brief break in June before the summer session would start) we will with extremely heavy hearts be pulling her out.

And that is all.  My kids don't run around to 5 different activities every day.  We've cut everything out that there is to cut.

All these cuts have been painful, and the last is no exception.  We contacted about half of our charitable giving recipients and sadly notified them that we were no longer in a position to support them.

Over the past year we've considered a number of ways to bring in more income.

  • Putting the kids in school and me getting a job.  There are many reasons that this is not feasible, one being the amount of money I'd bring home after day care/after school care costs and the expenses of getting to a job (it's been proven that the more formal wardrobe, more eating out and a number of other costs cut into a working moms salary significantly) would make my take home insignificant.  Another is that we just took Jairus out of school because they can't provide an education for him.  This has not changed.  A third's not worth it.  My house is not worth it. (yes, you read right!)  I would rather be home with my kids and lose this house, rather than be away from them all day.  Twenty years from now, my kids will remember the time I spent with them, not how nice their house was.
  • Worm farming: Ahem.  Yes.  Indeed!  We are, farmers.  James has been spearheading this so I can't give all the income forecasts for this venture, but I'm praying it does work out.
  • Taking in a boarder/international student.  We advertised throughout the summer to no avail.  I think the issue is that we are too far out in the country and an international student would need a vehicle...which international students do not usually have.....
  • Building an apartment in the basement and renting it out.  We even went as far as mapping out the basement for where we would place the rooms.  The upfront cost of building the apartment though, would be fairly significant.  We'd have to borrow (on top of the incredible debt we already carry).  That thought causes me to break out in hives.  
  • Daycare.  I considered it.  End of story.
  • Solar panels: We've been in a limbo of the application process for many months.  It will happen sometime....however since we're going with a program that doesn't require the host house to pay up front for the installation of said panels, the monthly income from this will be small.  But helpful.
  • More music teaching for me: Done, and done.  I started teaching last fall with a new studio down the road (handy) and a few weeks ago upped it to two nights a week.  I was already teaching one night a week in Hamilton at West Highland Academy of Music.  This plus my choir on Mondays means I'm teaching 4 nights a week and Saturday mornings.  I refuse to teach Friday nights as that's been established as family night for a while now.  
  • A weekend job for James: He's considered this a few times now, even the likes of delivering flyers or newspapers.  The problem we encounter is that his recording business is so inconsistent that he couldn't take on a steady weekend job or else have to turn down recording jobs.  Since the long term goal of the JKSS is to take it full time, it shoots him in the foot to turn down recording jobs at this stage.
  • The room rental thing is back: We might possibly be eligible for a program that provides rooms for medical students when they are out doing an internship.  It looks like a great opportunity, but I don't want to count my chickens.
I'm currently sourcing out budgeting programs to see if switching from Mvelopes might be more effective.  I do love my Mvelopes, but there could definitely be some improvements to be had in our day to day budgeting.  Right now YNAB (You need a budget) is looking like something good to try.

If none of this works, we will sadly be putting our house on the market, or looking for a renter. :-(  The next few months will tell us.


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