Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



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.

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