September 2008

I have always (well maybe there were a few off years in my twenties) been intrigued by the idea of “simple living”. Whatever that means, right? i mean, I probably have more stuff to use in homeschooling my three sons (and myself!) than an entire school in Zorrillo, Mexico has. We are very, very materially… encumbered. I hesitate to use the word blessed.

This weekend I spent some time on a “stuff diet”. And my home is a little lighter because of it. I went through closets and drawers, and tackled corners and cupboards that have not seen the light of day in years. Loads were taken to the recycling centre. Clothes were taken to the church building where, on Sunday afternoon, several people spent time organizing and packing up tons of clothes to send to Zambia. It was an exhaustingly satisfying day. We have done this for several years now. A friend who was in Zambia recently commented on the number of Saskatchewan Roughrider T shirts he saw while he was there.

Yes, I feel a little lighter, but there is still much to do. I hope I can get a lot more accomplished this week in my effort to simplify my life by reducing my stuff.

On the lighter side (hee hee), I also did many loads of laundry this weekend as I tried to regroup after being away for a few days. So, Sunday morning I went to have a bath and discovered I was out of water. I was the only one up so I threw a sweatshirt on over my jammies and fired up the Dodge. Now, 99 percent of the time I can drive through, fill the water tank, and leave without seeing another soul. But on the day I am wearing my pink fuzzy jammy bottoms, paired with a red sweatshirt and with a hair do that looks like, well, I just crawled out of bed… You get the picture. Murphy’s Law strikes again.

We are home. Living in the hotel is now just a memory. Reality hit this morning when, for the first time in days, we had to eat breakfast in our own kitchen. The continental breakfast at the Days Inn in Yorkton, Saskatchewan was the ultimate luxury. The woman who ran the little kitchen there was absolutely awesome. She kept everything clean and organized. The boys and I loved eating there each morning.

Lyndon always had to leave early. He would go down for breakfast with the rest of the crew at about 6:30. I would lie in bed for a few more minutes, get up and have a nice long shower (not worrying at all about running out of water!), get dressed, and go downstairs for a cup of coffee while the boys kept snoozing. Then, I’d go back upstairs, rouse the troops and, when all were dressed and ready, we’d take the dog out to the car (so she wouldn’t bark in the room while we were gone), and we would all head downstairs for breakfast.

The boys thought it was great. There were four or five choices of muffins, bagels, yogurt, toast, apple and orange juice, apples and bananas, and… joy of joys… Fruit Loops (hmmm, is that how you spell it?). The cereals were in clear tubes with twisty knobs at the bottoms. You held your bowl under the tube and turned the knob and the cereal poured into your bowel. Carter thought this was the greatest thing. The first morning he went back for more cereal about ten times. He’d put a little in the bottom of his bowl, add milk, and gobble it up so he could go back and get some more. Colton loved the blueberry muffins. He had several each morning. It was a lot of fun.

We also enjoyed the pool and waterslide. We were usually the only ones swimming. Carter talked me into going down the waterslide with him. He wanted us to go together and to go slow, while he told me the story of The Tortoise and The Hare. It was hard work trying to go slow in the slide, and it was a tube-type slide so it was pitch black. We had to kind of hang on to the sides with our hands and feet. About half way through the slide we were both laughing so hard we couldn’t hang on to the edges any more and we slid the rest of the way down.

Although I enjoyed living in a hotel for a few days, it was nice to wake up in my own bed this morning.

Oh my, it took it out of me to get here, but here we are. Yesterday was a looooong day. We left at 5:00 in the morning. We stopped at Kenton and Melanie’s house (which is where Lyndon “camps” when he is in Regina). Lyndon’s buddy picked him up for work shortly after we arrived. The boys and I hung out there for a few minutes until hunger drove us out into the city to forage for food. I was trying for efficiency, so we headed to the Southland Mall where I was hoping to get in for a haircut. The only thing open when we arrived was WalMart, so we went in to eat at the McDonald’s. Although it was early in the morning, the woman at the counter was already grumpy. We waited while she served the person ahead of us, made coffee, got angry at a machine that wasn’t working right. Finally it was our turn.

There was no breakfast menu on the board so I asked if they served breakfast.

Yes, she replied as if I was mentally challenged.

Umm, what do you have for breakfast?

At that, she jumped up on the counter. I’m not kidding. I thought it was a case of McDonald’s Rage or something, and that she was going to attack me and that later on the news her friends would report that she was a nice, quiet person who kept to herself. But no, she jumped up on the counter and hit the sign above her head with her fist, which caused it to flip over to the breakfast menu. Then she jumped back down and stood there looking at me.

Okay. I timidly ordered something for the older boys, then asked her if they had any muffins.

Again… The Look. I braced myself for her response.

No, they didn’t have any muffins. Couldn’t I see she was the only one working and she didn’t have time to make muffins.

Alrighty. Carter settled for a cinnamon bun, and we sat down to eat.

Then we wandered around WalMart. After the Mall opened, we wandered around there. My hairdresser was in Korea visiting family so I couldn’t get a haircut. The boys spent an hour or so playing Nintendo at EB Games. We wandered some more. I was waiting for Lyndon to call and tell us when and where to meet him so that we could drive to Yorkton with him. Finally, about 12:30 he called to say that they were still going to be a while. I couldn’t stand the Mall any longer, so we drove over to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. We have been there many times, but the boys still love it. Had a drink in the lobby. Waited some more for Lyndon to phone. Took the dog for a run in the grass. Waited some more. Finally, we decided to drive over to the east side of Regina, which was the way we would go anyway to get to Yorkton.

On the east side of town, we stopped at a Tim Horton’s. The early morning and all the wandering and waiting was getting to me. We went in to Tim’s for donuts and drinks. I told the boys to try to make them last because the only other thing to do was more waiting. So we nibbled and sipped and listened to the couple at the table next to us break up. Loudly. Well, she was loud. He was pretty much just sitting there.

Lyndon finally called and said he would be about another half hour. We went back out to the car. The older boys played gameboy in the car, and Carter and I walked Bella on a strip of gravel that edged the parking lot. Then Carter started trying to skip rocks in a puddle. A lady came by and admired Bella for a few minutes. Then Lyndon called, again, to say that – in fact- they had still NOT left the shop and he didn’t know when they would be on their way. I took a deep breath, gathered the boys, and headed into the Victoria Square Mall. I knew there was a pet store in there that would occupy the boys for a while.

Eventually Lyndon did arrive. From then on things got better. Lyndon drove us to Yorkton, we spent a lovely, quiet evening in the hotel room. Everyone slept well, and today has been a great day. Continental breakfast, doing school in bed while watching Discovery Channel, waterslide, vending machine snacks. It’s been fun.

Carter was looking for underwear after his shower. I handed him a pair. He handed them back to me and asked for some “long-sleeved underwear”. Translation: boxer briefs.

We are tagging along with Lyndon this week. He is working in Yorkton and so we will go and stay in the hotel with him. It will be a nice change of scenery. It means we need to leave at about 4:30 in the morning though, so I’d better get to bed.

I had a great visit with a great friend today. I love to go to her house, even though it involves an hour-long drive into, well, the middle of nowhere. But once you get there… ahhhh. Today was no exception. She poured us each a cup of coffee, shooed the kids outside, and we settled in for some serious catching up. Kids, life, God, books… we didn’t run out of things to say for, oh, an hour or four. It was a lovely, lovely day.

One thing she reminded me of, from the book The Shack, was the idea of living with expectancy rather than living with expectation. That rocked me back on my heels. I am going to adopt that as one of my personal Life Rules. I’ll make it… Rule #14. Right after Rule #13: Spend lots and lots of time with wise friends.

Imagine the joy I will experience, when I let go of expectations (in my husband, kids, friends, lifestyle) and instead approach the people/circumstances/things in my life with a sense of wonder, possibility. Here is a quote from the book:

“…if you and I are friends, there is an expectancy that exists within our relationship. When we see each other or are apart, there is expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that ‘expectancy’ to an ‘expectation’ – spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations . Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and me, but about what friends are supposed to do, or the responsibilities of a good friend.”

Imagine the disappointment and hurt that would be avoided, simply by living with a sense of expectancy rather than a list of expectations. Freedom!

Today was a beautiful, warm Fall day. So why am I thinking about Christmas? I had an interesting  conversation with the boys the other day and it got me to pondering. We were chatting about our upcoming trip to Mexico, where, like last year, we plan to build a school. I was asking the boys how they felt about last year’s trip. Overall, their responses were very positive and they are looking forward to going again. The only negative feelings were about Christmas. Although Colton said it was actually better than he expected!

Last year we deliberately attempted a scaled-down Christmas. So, we didn’t have much for presents. And because we were leaving early on the 26th, we didn’t do much on Christmas day. The boys opened the gifts in their stockings and the gifts their grandparents sent them. I spent most of the day packing and getting ready for the trip. I remember that we had tacos for Christmas dinner. Truthfully, Christmas was pretty, well, blah.

As we talked more about last year, the feeling I got was that the boys didn’t miss the presents. They loved that we spent a day at Sea World in San Diego and they recognized that that was a special gift that they would always remember. What they did miss, I think, was the feeling of celebration that is usually a part of Christmas. I missed it, too. I think I was so concerned about the trip the next day that Christmas day was not a special day for us. I don’t want to make that mistake again. Although we really want to take the materialism out of Christmas, we don’t want to take the Christmas out of Christmas. So, lesson learned, I hope.

Christmas will be well-celebrated by the Rosses this year. We’ll do pancakes, and turkey, and stockings from Santa. We will decorate, bake, and remember our Saviour’s birth. And then, on the 26th, we’ll head off on another Grand Adventure that will become a part of the fabric of my children’s childhood memories.

Silent night, holy night!

The outside is coming in. We have been hosting a variety of house guests lately. Little red beetles, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and (of course) the annoying flies. Every time the door opens, more wildlife migrates into my house. It is the time of year when Saskatchewan teems with bugs. Mowing the grass is like going into combat. You practically need protective clothing to survive the grasshopper missiles. And what’s up with those red bugs this year. They are everywhere.

The other day the boys brought in some pale, tan coloured crickets. Never seen such a thing before. And then they found some that looked like a cross between the light and dark crickets. They were dark brown with white wings. Bizarre.

The boys like to catch grasshoppers to feed to the gerbils. For some strange reason the gerbils only eat grasshopper heads. Very gross. The grasshoppers, crickets, and spiders are HUGE right now. Like, too big to step on. Carter caught a Wolf spider and kept it in a jar for a few days. He threw a cricket in the jar to see what would happen. The spider jumped on it, stabbed it with some crazy mouth thingee, and dined on cricket juice. The kids were fascinated. We checked Wolf spiders out online. They are hunters, pouncing on prey rather than building webs.

This afternoon I walked into the living room and saw Carter on the couch. He was so still and quiet… it was, well, unnatural. He didn’t say anything, just slowly lifted up his shirt so that I could see two fuzzy, yellow caterpillars curled up on his tummy.

We also witnessed our large apple snail laying eggs. Colton was checking out his tank and couldn’t find the snail. I suggested that perhaps it had crawled up on the underside of the tank’s lid. He checked and sure enought, there it was. It was in the process of squirting out a long stream of white, gooey stuff that we assume are snail eggs. If they survive, we will have what looks like millions of baby snails. I have no clue how snail procreation works, so we will just wait and see what happens.

This discussion reminds me that I forgot to report on the Science program the boys are using this year. Both Tyson and Colton are using curriculum from Aoplogia (Jay Wile). Colton is using Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, and Tyson is using Physical Science. They are more text book-y than we have used before but so far, we are all enjoying them.

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