Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fireworks - The Tolley Way

My Husby, loves fire.
Really.When we lived on the farm, our neighbours always knew when he was home. Inevitably, his presence was betrayed by the large column of smoke emanating from our property. And his tall figure silhouetted against the flames, happily poking whatever garbage he had been able to find.Our farm was amazingly trash-free.After our move to the city, his love of fire had, of necessity, to be squelched. For the good of the neighbourhood and our own personal safety.Neighbours can be notoriously crabby when it comes to garbage fires in their back yards.Just FYI.For these reasons, he commuted his love of fire to a love of fire . . . works. They sizzled. They sparked. They exploded. They were a budding ‘pyro’s’ citified dream. They filled the void left by his unfortunate, but necessary, separation from fire.He began a tradition. Fireworks on New Year’s Day. It was a relatively safe time. The world heavily coated in fire retardant – commonly called snow. Everyone in a festive mood, ready to celebrate.Permits and regulations were disregarded. One merely had to invite the mayor and his family over for dinner and a show to get around those. I mean, who’s going to ticket the mayor?We won’t go there . . .There was a large snow bank in a field just outside of the town limits. Perfect for the display. An array of fireworks, chosen specifically from the abundant possibilities, were thrust carefully but firmly into this bank to hold them steady before their spectacular flight.Grant had everything organized. Our second son and his friend were on hand to light things up. Strictly in order.Chaos controlled.Explosions only on his command.The stage was set.The first sparklers went off without a hitch. Starlight exploded in the sky. Red, Green, White, Blue. The display was dazzling. We oohed and aahed on cue. Everything was proceeding well.Then the event.One candle had ideas of its own. Not a good thing when you’re a firework. It went up, but before it could fulfill the measure of its creation, its trajectory . . . changed somewhat. 180 degrees, in fact. Straight into the box of remaining fireworks.For a moment, Grant stared at it, perhaps too shocked and surprised to really take in what had just happened. The firework spluttered warningly.He screamed.Not a good sound in the middle of a fireworks display. In an amazingly graceful leap, he cleared the snow bank, taking the two boys with him. The three of them landed in an ungainly heap.Then, totally abandoning dignity, they scrambled frantically for the snow bank the rest of us hid behind as the real fireworks display began behind them.It was like a scene out of a movie. For several minutes, the crackers fizzed and shot everywhere, sending up showers of sparks from wherever they happened to land. A few even made their way skyward. It was spectacular. Amazing. Fun. Everyone screamed and laughed . . . and ducked.Then . . . silence.After waiting several minutes, Grant finally figured it was safe to move. He crawled behind the snow bank, using knees and elbows. Sort of like a soldier approaching a bunker. A very cold, snowy bunker. With exploding things inside it.Yes, just like a bunker.He emerged some time later holding the still-smoking box, with the remnants of his collection and a very chagrined face.Fortunately, no one was injured. But Grant never again held a fireworks display. For one thing, he was out of fireworks.For another - how could he ever top that?
Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tolley Nutrition

Our family believes in good nutrition.
We do.
It just doesn’t always sound like it . . .
My son and DIL were entertaining.
Dinner was winding down and dessert was being distributed.
Yummy dessert.
With ice cream.
Now, I should probably mention here that their kids are known vegetable/fruit eaters.
Oh, they like other things. It’s just that, if given the choice, they have been known to go for the ‘healthy’ alternative.
But I digress . . .
Their mother had made buttered, dill carrots as one of the vegetable dishes with dinner. A noted family favourite.
Eight-year-old Daughter Number Two, hereinafter known as D2, was agitating for a third helping.
A third helping.
“No,” her mother said. “Your sister hasn’t had seconds yet. I’m not giving you thirds until she has had a chance.”
Still D2 continued.
“No!” her mother said. “Not until everyone has had seconds.”
More coaxing.
“No! Stop asking!”
D2 is nothing, if not persistent.
“Pleeease?”
“Argh!” (real word) “You’re not having more Carrots!”
“But Mom . . .!”
“NO MORE CARROTS! EAT YOUR ICE CREAM!”
Hmm . . . okay . . . not something you hear every day . . .
Sooo . . . which would you choose?


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Watch That Finger!


Mr. Booger Finger. And Baby Brother.
Photo: Kallie-Jo Tolley Photography
In our house, over the holidays, love and good will abound.
And so does the food.
And the treats.
Especially the chocolate.
With, sometimes, amusing results . . .
A group of us adults were sitting around the table, intent on a game of cards.
Members of the younger set were dashing in and out, intent on activities.
Games.
And snagging treats.
We had just opened a new box of exotic chocolates.
A gift from our dear next-door neighbours.
Five different kinds of luscious, melt-able deliciousness, each in a different (intriguing) shape.
Chocolate mousse.
Crunchy.
Espresso.
Crème Broulee.
And pistachio.
Each more mouth-watering than the last.
Our five-year-old discovered the box and immediately seized it.
“What’s this?!” he said, holding it up.
“Chocolates!” I said. “Really yummy ones!”
“Oooh! What’s this one?!” He jabbed a finger into the chocolate mousse.
“That’s dark chocolate.”
“And this?” Another jab.
“Hey!” his dad said, taking the box. “Don’t touch all of the chocolates with your booger-covered finger!”
Da-ad!” he said, disgusted. “That’s not my booger finger!” He held up his other hand, pointer finger erect. “That one is!”
At least he was honest . . .


Friday, December 27, 2013

The Parent Architect

One of the most beautiful Christmas presents I've ever seen.
Created by my son, Mark, for his wife, Barb . . .

First, the poem:

The Builder
If you’ll ask any builder what
It takes to raise a wall –
They’ll say, “A firm foundation
Will help them to stand tall.

“Some days the effort seems in vain,
Stones crack, or break, or fall,
Some days it might seem there's been
No progress made at all.

“But nothing great was ever built
Within a single day,
Press on, endure, and what is built
Will never fade away.

“And bit by bit the building grows
From one stone to the next,
And many things might come about
That you did not expect.

“It takes so many years to build
A house of wood and stone,
The daily toil and strife and hurt
Seems worth it when it’s done.

“Though 50 years to build, and then
500 it may stand,
The building is a monument

To the builder’s blessed hand.”

Note: They're not finished yet,
But someday they'll be masterpieces!

Then, the pictures:
Architect: Barb Tolley
Structures: Megan: Erected 2003
Kyra: Erected 2005
Jarom: Erected 2009
Leah : Erected 2012



Thursday, December 26, 2013

Santa's Report Card 2013

A guest post by my Husby.
Or 'Santa' as he is so affectionately known . . .

Being married to a writer like my Beloved Diane is a fascinating, fun experience.  We never are bored: there is always a plethora of pedantic words to explore; a new phrase (noun) to, well, phrase (verb); a new bit of Grammar to enforce (especially on Grampar); or a new pun to at which to giggle, like the groaner just inflicted upon you.
One of the fun bits of language-exploration in which we engage every so often is exploring Collective Nouns – those words that describe a group of something or other, usually animals.
A Pride of lions.  A Pod of whales.  A Flock of sheep.  And a Flock of birds.  A Herd of cattle.
One of the most interesting collective nouns is a Murder of Crows.  Now who is it that gets to decide these things, hmmm?  I’m not objecting to calling a bunch of crows a “murder” (because that’s usually what I want to do to them when they sit in the tree outside my bedroom window at four in the morning on what is potentially a beautiful summer day and awaken me to the cacophonous symphony of collective cawing, but in this instance “murder” becomes a very active verb rather than a collective noun) – but why not a Caw of Crows?
Over the years we have invented a few collective nouns of our own.  They haven’t made it into the Oxford English Dictionary yet, but we’re working on it.
 Examples:
A group of two or more five-year-old boys is known as a Chaos of Boys.
A group of more than one teenager of either gender should definitely be known as an Idiot of Teens.
A group of mature women becomes, justifiably, a Flash of Ladies.
Any two men trying to fix something mechanical about which they know nothing is called a Mistake of Men.  (When they can’t fix it, they turn into a Grump of Men).
A bunch of bearded old white-haired guys that should, once again justifiably, be called a Santa of Grandpas.
And so it is, unilaterally claiming the privilege of creating collective nouns, that I offer you my final report card of the special experiences of one Santa and Mrs. Santa for the year 2013.
My Beloved Mrs. Santa and I had the privilege this Christmas season of visiting some thirteen different Christmas functions.  Each of the thirteen was a special experience – you read about some of the more tender ones here.
Since that time, one stuck out in our minds as being especially fun and moving.
We had been invited to a day-care facility containing about 120 children – what we would have called, collectively, a Crown of Children.  Early in the proceedings Santa placed, in turn, each of five five-year-old girls on his knee and had his special visit with them.  Two were named Jenna, then a Katie, a Courtney, and a McKenna, and they were all in the same class and obviously close friends.  Santa inquired of each if she was a Princess, and they all acknowledged that status without hesitation.  Here was Santa, in the midst of a Slipper of Princesses.  (He wasn’t complaining, then or now).  The Princesses didn’t want to leave, not any of the Slipper of them, and the teachers were trying very hard to get individual pictures with each of the other children with Santa and Mrs. Santa, without being picture-bombed by one of the Princesses.  They kept coming back, as often as they could get away with it – and each return brought more hugs and snuggles and words of love and appreciation.
And questions about reindeer.
As is Santa’s wont, he likes to joke and gently tease the kids, and the Princesses became so familiar with it that this became the game every time the Slipper returned – growing and growing with each return.  Each smile and laugh seemed to make them want to stay, more and longer, square in the picture frame, despite the entreaties of the Exasperation of Teachers. And the laughing and the joking and the jolly good time and the countless hugs, the loving and the smiling with the Slipper of Princesses, touched our hearts, deeply.
What a wonderful Christmas gift!
But when does a Slipper of Princesses grow too big to fit the glass slipper?
When they become a Giggle of Girls.
Merry Christmas, everyone.  May you all enjoy the Giggles of joy and happiness and the Chaos of the season.  
See you again next year.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas 
from 
The Tolleys!
PJ's 2013

And The Tolleys 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Un-Wrapping

I know many of you have read this before.
But it's my favourite Christmas story. :)

In the Tolley household, Christmas . . . the actual ‘business portion’ which includes frantic tearing of colourful papers and scrabbling through mounds of discarded wrapping, was an event on hold until the father of the house finally succumbed to the pleadings of his numerous children and crawled out of bed.
Once he hit the front room, it was every man for himself.
Or every woman . . . or child . . .
You get the picture.
To facilitate the introduction of said father to the ‘action room’, the children, over the years, had graduated from begging to more . . . proactive methods.
As their size and strength increased, they finally achieved the impossible.
Plucking their sire from his warm downy and carrying him, bodily, to his place of honour.
In an attempt to thwart their . . . growing . . . expertise, their father began to incorporate thought into the proceedings.
He resorted to sneakiness.
With varying degrees of success.
Allow me to illustrate . . .
Christmas, 2001, began like many others.
Tiny noises in the bowels of the house which told us that the natives were stirring. And time for any needed preparation was short.
Husby leaped from the bed and, under cover of darkness, began to shed his pajamas.
Not unusual.
However, considering that our children would soon be bounding up the stairs demanding to open presents . . . well . . . okay, unusual.
Sleepily, I noted the sound of fabric sliding over flesh.
He was pulling something else on.
Then, he crawled back into the bed and snuggled close.
Suspicious, I asked him what he was wearing and he chuckled.
“Not much,” he said.
Then the pounding started. “Mom, Dad! Time to open presents!”
“Okay,” he called, cheerfully.
Another sign that all was not as it should be.
The door swung open.
Slowly.
Several suspicious noses poked into the room, the light from the hallway throwing their shadows across the bed. Remember, these children had been exposed to many different devices in an attempt to discourage them from their desired goal.
Duct tape, catapults, booby traps, duct tape, air horns, chains with padlocks, duct tape, yards of medical gauze, mustard, duct tape.
Okay, I admit it. He likes duct tape.
Back to my story . . .
The group stayed huddled for a moment, afraid to pierce the unknown blackness that pervaded our room.
We remained still.
Finally one brave soul reached for the switch, flooding the scene with light and everyone moved slowly forward, still tightly packed.
A group makes a harder target.
Okay the reasoning needs a bit of work, but there is safety in numbers.
They approached the bed.
Still cautious.
Still peering anxiously into the shadows and flinching at every sound.
Finally, they reached their father.
Silence.
Grant’s eyes were closed, a small, blissful smile creasing his face.
Not a good sign.
One of the older boys grabbed the covers, then paused, gaining courage.
The silence stretched.
He threw them back.
And disclosed his portly father clad in a ‘speedo’.
I am not making this up.
It was a bright blue one.
Oh, and a bow-tie. Red. With sequins.
Now I would like to take this opportunity to state that the ‘speedo’ swimsuit was created with speed in mind, hence the name. Comfort is secondary, and looks a far distant third.
Certainly they look . . . ummm . . . delicious on a trim, incredibly fit man.
On a middle aged, fairly Santa-esque male?
Not as good.
But certainly effective.
The kids scattered.
Screaming.
We could hear one of them moaning in the hall. “I don’t want to open presents, do you want to open presents?”
Another, “I can’t un-see it! I can’t un-see it!”
Still another, “Presents? What are those? I’m going back to bed!”
My husband chuckled. “I should have thought of this years ago!” he said.
Mission accomplished.
Okay, you'll have to use your imagination regarding  clothing.
This is the best I can do.

Monday, December 23, 2013

5000 Words Worth

A visit with Santa and Mrs.
If a picture is worth 1000 words, here's 5000 words worth . . .
What can I say that could possibly top this?!




Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's a Mystery


Mmmmmm . . .
Every family has customs at Christmas.
Some are fun.
Some funny.
Some weird.
Our family has several that fit into this last category.
One is Christmas stockings.
Okay, yes, I know that many, many families enjoy the custom of stuffing a stocking for each family member.
It's what goes into said stockings that sets our family apart.
Maybe I should explain . . .
On Christmas, after the kids have been shuttled off to bed, Mom and Dad (Spoiler Alert: Alias Santa) bring out the loot.
Erm . . . gifts.
Each stocking is laid out and stuffed full.
I look after the common, everyday, run-of-the-mill gifts:
1.Toothbrushes.
2. Socks.
3. Underwear.
4. The orange in the toe.
My Husby looks after the strange and bizarre:
1. Various styles of catapults.
2. Magnets.
3. Quirky -- ie. strange – books, puzzles and games.
4. Expanding T-shirts. Just add water.
5. And little tins of meat.
I know what you're thinking.
Why on earth would someone give his kids catapults.
You weren't?
My mistake.
Sooo . . . tinned meats.
Every year, each of our children finds a tin of . . . something . . . stuffed into the inner reaches of his or her stocking.
And I'm not talking tuna fish here.
These are tins of something fancifully called: Vienna sausage.
In various flavours.
All neatly and brightly and attractively packaged.
And yes, I realize that there may be people around the world who love Vienna sausage.
My kids were raised on the prairie.
And served beef three meals a day.
With the occasional foray into the world of chicken or pork.
If the animal didn't originally bellow, oink or cluck, they regarded it with deep suspicion.
Or outright revulsion.
Okay, the ingredients listed on the Vienna sausage tins said: beef and/or chicken and/or pork and/or meat.
But it was mechanically de-boned and mixed with . . . other stuff.
So in the words of my kids, mystery meat.
Need I say that my Husby's gifts weren't received with gladness?
Probably not.
Oh, they tried it.
The very first year.
It . . . wasn't popular.
No tin was every willingly opened again.
And when the detritus had been cleared from the front room after the all-important opening of the gifts, the only things remaining were several tins of meat.
Left where they had been dropped upon being discovered.
Husby immediately scooped them up and stowed them carefully away.
Only to bring them out and drop them into another stocking the next year.
One particular tin of sausage re-appeared six years in a row. The last a couple of years ago. In Argentina (where our youngest son was living at the time).
His roommate ate it.
Something we didn't think was possible.
One of our kids asked their father why he kept putting those little tins of -to them- inedible meat in the stockings.
His answer surprised all of us. “Because I want you to appreciate that we live in a place where we have plenty. That tiny tins of mystery meat can be laughed over and disregarded. We are very blessed.”
We truly are.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Memorable For All the Right Reasons

Husby is doing much better. Not out of the woods yet, but the forest is thinning . . .
Thank you, everyone for your good wishes.
They really help!
Christmas Elf: Caught in the Act . . .
It started out ordinarily enough.
Dad waving from the driveway as he started the long drive to Lethbridge to begin his Christmas shopping.
I should point out, here, that Dad always began and ended his shopping on the same day.
Christmas Eve.
He had a thing about children sneaking into his closet to peek at presents.
Not that I ever did. Personally, I think it had something to do with his own childhood and his own childhood foibles and tendencies.
Let's not talk about this any more . . .
We waved happily to him, then went back to helping Mom with the Christmas baking.
Our duties were carefully delineated.
She mixed.
We watched/hovered.
She finished mixing and dug out cookie sheets and baking pans.
We tasted.
She shooed us away and began to spoon/scrape.
We watched/hovered.
She turned to put pans into the oven.
We tasted.
She shooed us away and finished spooning/scraping.
She turned to put pans into the oven.
We licked the bowl.
Literally.
She shooed us away and started again.
She mixed.
We watched/hovered . . .
You get the picture.
But when pans started coming out of the oven, yet another duty was added to the roster.
Eating the now-baked deliciousness.
And so it went.
Everyone had their responsibilities clearly outlined and we did them whole-heartedly.
No slackers in this bunch.
Sometimes, though, baked goodies actually made their way past the ravening hordes children to the fancy Christmas platters set out to receive them.
Not often, I will admit, but frequently enough that we realized what those platters were for.
But I digress . . .
Other duties included:
  1. Hiding when the baking was finished and clean up was indicated.
  2. Giggling loudly during hide-age.
  3. Sitting under the tree and periodically shaking/squeezing packages.
  4. Teasing younger siblings that Santa Claus would never be able to find our ranch.
  5. Re-arranging Christmas ornaments.
  6. Breaking said ornaments.
  7. Hiding again.
It was a busy day.
Mostly for my Mom, but why haggle over details?
Finally, just as we were getting ready to climb into bed for the long, sleepless night, we would hear Dad's car pull into the driveway.
And then would begin another whole round of children milling about excitedly.
Sleep was further away than ever.
But, finally, we were herded into our beds and the doors firmly shut against peekage/sneakiness.
The wait was on.
I shared a room with my younger brother, Blair and my younger sister, Anita.
Somehow, I managed to keep them bottled up until some of us (not me) were ready to fizz over.
About 5 AM.
We could wait no longer.
Now the rule in the Stringam household was 'Look, but don't touch until Mom and Dad's feet hit the living room floor'.
On this particular Christmas, looking was especially exciting.
Because Dad had strewn his gifts over the living room floor.
The entire living room floor.
From the soft light of the Christmas tree, we were able to make out strange, long objects arranged at intervals from the doorway all the way to the tree itself.
What could they be?
We knelt down in the doorway, trying to get a better view.
Weird.
Had he opened a crate of something and left the boards flung about like flotsam?
Normally such behavior was reserved for the younger set.
Double weird.
Just when we were ready to burst with the excitement and curiosity, we heard our parents make their way up the hall towards us.
Finally!
Dad reached around the corner and snapped on the light.
Our eyes were glued to the newly-revealed treasures.
Skis!
The entire floor was littered with skis!
Beside each carefully arranged set of skis were a pair of poles and leather ski boots.
We hopped and skipped carefully around the room, checking name tags and finally settling beside the set that bore ours.
Mine were blue.
With long, silver poles.
And black leather ski boots.
I don't remember what else I got that year (sorry, Family).
Nothing could compare with my shiny new and wondrous skis.
Then I discovered that the excitement didn't end there.
The rest of Dad's gift included a week-long family skiing trip to The Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana.
The first of many such trips.
And the beginning of a whole new chapter for the Stringams.
Yup. The best Christmas ever.

Now, it's your turn. What was your best childhood Christmas ever?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pajama Game 2013

We have a tradition in our home.

Well, several, actually.
But I'm only going to talk about this one . . .
Pajamas. On Christmas eve.
And spaghetti, but that is another story.
So . . . pajamas.
Every year, Mom hunts up the most distinctive pattern she can find and everyone is forced excited to wear it.
So, in honour of this very special time, here are a few examples from the past.
Enjoy!
 Christmas, 2002.  And no, that isn't a cow print couch . . .
Christmas 2003. And yes, we do look like escaped prisoners.

2007.  Little jump, here.

2008 and our numbers are increasing.
You can't see the striped socks, but they're there!
2009. Things are changing radically . . .
2010. What a mob!
2011. Well, a small, but important sample.
2012. The year of the polka dot.

And that brings you up to date.
Here is a tiny sample of this year's PJs.
They'll be worth the wait . . .
Pajama factory
AND they glow in the dark!
More pictures to follow . . .
How are your Christmas preparations coming?
I hope they are colourful and bright!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Oh, Christmas Coat!

Husby is very ill.
A repost from a year ago...
Clockwise from right: Aly (Hired man's son),
Anita, Blair, and Me - in my little gold beauty.
It wasn't often that we kids were able to go on a field trip with my Dad.
When it happened, we were eager.
When it happened at Christmas, we were beyond excited.
Ecstatic.
Exuberant.
Exhilarated.
Elated.
Euphoric.
Electrified.
That's all of the 'E' words I can think of.
Except that 'energetic' should be stuck in there somewhere.
And, for me, usually immediately followed by, "Empty all tanks!"
When I think about it, I guess it's not surprising that we didn't go on field trips with my Dad very often.
Back to my story . . .
Dad was taking us four oldest kids to the Sweetgrass Hills to cut down our family's Christmas tree.
It was the 50's.
Families did things like that back then.
But we had to make a quick stop in Milk River at the Robinson's store to get me a winter coat.
I had outgrown my old one and Dad wasn't excited about trailing me through the forest wrapped in my blanket.
Go figure.
So the excitement level for this trip had just been dialed way up.
In fact, I was so elated, that Dad didn't even wait for the 'announcement' (see above), but sat me in the car with a bucket already in my lap.
Smart man.
We made the 20 miles to Milk River without incident. (see above . . . again.)
And entered the store.
I should explain here that the Robinson's Store was the only shop in Milk River that featured clothing.
There were neat piles of everything wearable.
And the wood plank floors creaked delightfully.
And if you were really lucky, you got to watch Theo Barrows gift wrap packages at her counter in the middle of the store.
The curling of the ribbons was especially fascinating.
Where was I  . . .?
Oh, yes.
New coat.
Dad asked the manager where we could find coats in my size and was conducted, with me tagging eagerly behind, to a rack at one side of the store.
My eyes were immediately drawn to a gold, furry, wonderful garment.
I reached out a hand and brushed the soft fur.
Oooooh!
"This one, Daddy! This one!"
"Okay, we'll try this one," Dad said.
I dropped my blanket and slipped my arms into the sleeves.
Perfect!
"I guess we'll take it," Dad said.
Good thing, too, because there was no way they were ever going to pry me out of that coat.
Dad paid and we trooped back out to the car.
The other kids excited now to get to the real reason for this trip.
Me brushing and brushing the soft fur on my arms and chest.
We had fun finding the tree.
I think.
We did end up with one.
I really don't remember much about it.
Me and my coat were happy, sitting in the car together.
And watching through the windshield.
Because, after all - one couldn't wear one's new coat out into nature!
What if it got soiled?
Dad later said something about 'waste of time and money'.
But who listened?
Later:
Blair (in my now-outgrown coat which he hated), and Anita
The original recycling program




Theo Barrows in Robinsons
Just thought you'd like to see . . .

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Love

Little Sister and Christmas. They just go together . . .
Who loves Christmas more?
Where we live, in largely Christian Alberta, it’s a fairly popular holiday.
With a slow build-up in ads and TV spots through October and November until the air waves and print media offer almost exclusive rights to the season by the time December rolls around.
Oh, the TV/Newspaper moguls toss in a bit of news/entertainment as a sop to the die-hard ‘wanna know what’s going on in the world’ people . . .
But who loves Christmas most?
In the Stringam household, Christmas was a season on hold.
Right through August.
I am not making this up.
Little Sister would quite literally come home from her first day of school in September and drag out her Christmas records.
Which she played from then through Christmas.
Yesterday, the song, “Snoopy VS the Red Baron” came on the radio and I knew every word.
Every. Word.
Sigh.
And then she would start wrapping.
She wrapped everything.
Beautifully and often . . . creatively.
Old toys.
Kitchen gadgets.
Books.
Games.
Clothing.
The spoon you had just used to stir your chocolate milk.
If you were slightly inattentive, your glass of chocolate milk.
And the cookie.
If it wasn’t nailed down, or too heavy for her to lift, it got wrapped.
And then, if one wanted to use said-item-that-one-had-just-laid-down-only-a-moment-ago, one had the joy of unwrapping it first.
One year, Mom came up with the startlingly clever idea of giving Little Sister a box of ‘wrapping stuff’.
Paper, tape, scissors, ribbons, bows, tags, etc.
Which was . . . how do I put this . . . well and totally used.
There was an ad on TV some years ago which showed a completely-wrapped dog with an equally wrapped ball.
It was hilarious.
It was shot as our house.
Not really, but you get the picture.
So, back to my question.
Who loves Christmas most?
I’m proposing the name of my Little Sister.
For all of the above . . .

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cheap But Expensive


Skier Extraordinaire!
We have snow here in Edmonton, Alberta.
A significant amount.
The skiers are ecstatic.
And that reminds me of a story . . .
My siblings and I loved to ski.
Our Dad had introduced us to it the winter I turned eight and it had become a . . . habit.
Well, actually more of a fixation, but we'll go with habit.
We went every chance we could get.
And scoured the catalogs for new and wonderful accessories for our grand passion.
I had just made my first official 'ski' purchase.
New ski pants.
They were expensive.
But gorgeous.
Dark brown.
Perfect fit.
I was going to wow everyone on that hill!
I couldn't do it with my skiing.
This was the next best thing.
I should explain, here, that ski pants in the 60s weren't the stretchable remarkable cloth that we have now.
In fact, they were distinctly . . . un-stretchable.
Something which will figure largely in my story later.
But they had little side zippers at the ankles.
And they had little elastics that slid under your foot.
They were nifty (real word).
Happily, I donned them and my brother and I were off.
Now, I should explain, here, that Big Mountain in Whitefish Montana was a wonderful place to ski.
There were numerous slopes.
Each with its own particular brand of ski tow.
I always chose the expert slope.
Not that I could actually ski the expert slope.
For two other reasons.
  1. It had a ski trail that wound around behind and through the wonderful forest, and
  2. The trail came out at the top of the Intermediate slope, allowing the skier to then ski to the bottom.
  3. Comparatively unharmed.
It was the best of all worlds.
I made my first run to the top of the expert slope.
Disembarked.
Well, slid off the chairlift into a heap.
But to one side, away from the traffic.
An important point.
I got my limbs more-or-less together and headed for the mouth of the trail.
It was stunningly beautiful.
The sun was shining.
There had just been a fresh fall of snow.
Over a foot of sparkling, fluffy whiteness blanketed the landscape.
I took a deep, satisfying breath of the spicy air and slid onto the trail.
For the next 20 minutes, I was in heaven.
Finally, the trail ended.
I slid quickly out onto the slope.
Only to discover that it hadn't yet been touched by . . . anything.
It was still in it's pristine, just-been-snowed-on condition.
It took me a few moments to discover that this could present a problem.
The trail I had been on had been fairly packed.
My skis were still on that level.
They hadn't yet adjusted to the extra foot of fluffy snow.
I was sliding along with everything below my knees hidden in the fresh stuff.
For a second, it was fun.
Then I hit something.
I never discovered what it was.
A rock.
A lump of ice.
Whatever.
It stopped me.
Instantly.
I wasn't prepared.
My body, already bent forward in my best 'snowplow' position, bent further.
In fact, I whacked my forehead on my knees.
Something I wish I could do today.
But I digress . . .
My glasses popped off into the deep snow.
Oh, rats.
I rubbed my head and scrabbled around in the snow, finally, triumphantly extracting my glasses.
Then I straightened.
And felt a draft.
Oh-oh.
Remember what I had said about my ski pants being - not stretchy?
This would be where that fact comes into play.
When my body had done its 'fold-in-half' trick, it proved to be something my new pants had been completely unprepared for.
They split from waistband to waistband, right along the crotch.
I was now effectively wearing two pant legs.
Held up with a narrow strip of cloth at the top.
I definitely needed a longer coat.
Or a loincloth.
And this was the first run of the day.
Sigh.
I made the run down the slope as carefully and unobtrusively as possible, then sneaked to the car and my suitcase.
The change from my new, albeit flimsy, ski pants to my usual jeans was accomplished in a minimum of time and a maximum of scrambling. In the wide rear seat.
I mean the wide rear seat.
Not the wide rear seat.
Never mind . . .
And I was back on the slope.
For the first few runs, I carefully peered at people to see if anyone recognized me as the almost-pantless girl who had been on the slope a short time earlier.
But, as no one seemed to be paying much attention to me, I finally relaxed.
I learned something that day.
Expensive can sometimes mean cheap.
It just costs more.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Walking With Daddy


My Hero
December. My four-year-old mind was a haze
I’d been locked in the house as it snowed for three days.
Then quite suddenly, magically, sunlight appeared,
And my Daddy was pulling on snow boots. And gear.

I just couldn’t stand the house one minute more.
I had to get out. I’d help Dad with the chores!
So I zippered and buttoned and pulled on and tied,
Then stood by my Daddy with little-girl pride.

“I’m ready,” I shouted. “Let’s go milk the cows!”
I was set for adventure, quite done with the house.
He smiled and then, turning, stepped into the snow.
And I walked alongside. It seemed quite apropos.

At first the bright sparkles and crisp winter air
Made our walking, adventure, and senses aware.
But then I discovered as most children do,
That snow, though quite pretty, was hard to get through.

I struggled and grunted, broke into a sweat,
Then looked for the barn that we hadn’t reached yet.
My Daddy smiled down at my efforts inept,
“It’d be easier if you tried to step where I step.”

So I did. And my progress was much better then,
Soon we two reached the barn, and the cozy cow pens.
I sat perched on a stool and watched Daddy do chores,
Then followed him home, just like I’d done before.

I learned something that day, as we walked through the yard,
If I stayed in his footsteps, then things weren’t as hard.
His skill and experience, and his guidance, too,
Would make everything easier my whole life through.

Now, to my own kids, when there’s woe to be had
I give bits of advice that I learned from my Dad.
When Life dishes out dollops of good or of ill,
I find that I’m walking in Dad’s footsteps still.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Night Before Christmas - Female Version

On the night before Christmas, long hours ahead
The toddler still up, I’d just got her to bed.
The stockings were hung in a haphazard row,
While Mama assembled new toys just below.

The kids were asleep, well, except for the last,
Just waiting for morning to get downstairs fast.
I toiled on alone, ‘cause there wasn’t a dad.
I had broken a nail and my language was bad.

Then out on the lawn rose a terrible noise,
A talent that only my oldest employs.
I flew to the window, and thought as I ran,
‘What can he be up to, my nine-year-old man?’

It was bright (as can only the moon on snow be),
And I narrowed my eyes to be able to see.
And what did I glimpse, coming over the way?
But some deer, all in harness, and a stout little sleigh.

With someone in a coat that looked comfy and soft,
And clearly some magic to keep them aloft.
They flew like a Michael Schumacher on course,
While the driver attempted some will to enforce.

"Now Sprinter! Now, Jazz! Now, Frolic and Jolly!
On, Cherub! On, Angel! On, Kitten and Wally!
I need you to get to the rooftop this time!
And a fine, gentle landing would be so sublime!"

To say that they flew like some leaves past the attic,
Would be perfectly true, it was quite that erratic.
I was holding my breath as they shot toward the sky,
And prayed that my windows and roof would survive.

Then finally, thankfully, up on the top
I heard stomping and - oh, dear - at least one small ‘plop’!
Then some noise in the chimney I’d not heard before,
And then someone emerged, on their knees, on the floor.

The figure was dressed in a warm, sooty coat,
With some Uggs on their feet and scarf round their throat.
With toys, books and clothes in a gi-normous sack,
Which they dropped to the floor with the words, “Oh, my back!”.

And then sparkling eyes were directed at me!
From under a hat that was worn with esprit.
I surprisingly saw, not a man, but a miss,
With no  beard (though a tweezer would not go amiss).

In white teeth, she had clutched a short pencil end,
And a notebook, she held in one mittened hand.
Her round, wrinkled face shone with laughter and fun,
And I don’t think her happy laugh could be outdone!

She was joyful and glad, and just a bit plump,
Her smile made me smile, and her laugh made me jump!
She gave me a grin and then winked an eye,
All my fears passed away and I waved them goodbye.

She didn’t say much, simply nodded my way,
And I watched as she worked – like a pudgy ballet.
She finished her job, made a note in her book,
Then nodded and smiled and her exit she took!

I heard her footsteps as she ran to her sleigh,
Heard her call to her team as they all flew away.
Then my new Goddess shouted, as she flew o’er the town,
"Happy Christmas to all, don’t let life get you down!"

Delores of Under the Porch Light has done it again. 
This week's challenge: Sparkling, pudgy, goddess, surprising, wrinkledtalent
What else could it be but another poem?!
Thank you, dear friend! This is so much fun!

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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