Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fist Bumps. Not Just for Anyone

Selective Sharing

Our family spends lot of time together.
In fact, if I were to pick a favourite activity, it would be that one.
My eldest daughter, Caitlin, and her family were over.
We were having a comfortable gab-fest after a hearty and satisfying dinner together.
Don't I sound like an advertisement for something?
Moving on . . .
Her Baby Daughter, nearly two, was busy playing at our feet.
She managed to put a toy train together.
All by herself.
“Oh, good job!” Caitlin told her. “Fist bumps!”
Baby Daughter grinned, doubled up her hand into a tiny fist and punched Mom gently on her knuckles.
“Yeah!” Caitlin said. “Now go and give Grampa fist bumps!”
I should mention, here, that our grandkids adore their Grampa. He plays with them.
Ponies. Troll under the bridge. Pirates.
But fist bumps?
The grin disappeared.
Baby Daughter gave her Grampa a sidelong glance, then, simply tipped full-length onto the couch and lay there.
Her attitude said it all.
'I . . . would rather . . . die!'
“Hey!” Grampa said. “I want fist bumps!”
His only response was a giggle.
More giggles.
He never got his fist bumps.
I guess you have to be selective about what you share . . .

Friday, September 28, 2012

Hearing Problems

Hearing is important.
Judging by the fact that we have two ears and only one mouth, hearing is twice as important as speaking.
Just FYI.
Our four-year-old eldest son was having hearing troubles.
He couldn't hear me when I spoke to him.
I would call and call and get no reaction.
Often, I would have to touch him before he would turn and look at me.
We decided to get his hearing checked.
Because there were obvious problems.
Dutifully, we reported to the hearing centre and took up residence in one of their little booths.
The specialist put the headphones on my son.
Set a large picture book in front of him.
And started a voice recording.
We heard “Touch the cow.”
Mark complied.
“Touch the cat.”
He did so.
“Touch the monkey.”
The specialist put another set of headphones on herself and plugged them in.
For my Husby and I, the sounds ceased.
But our son kept working so the voice must have continued speaking.
There would be a pause.
Then Mark would point.
In all of his four years, I'd never seen him this obedient.
I should mention that my husband offered to buy the machine.
Back to my story . . .
Every few seconds, the specialist turned the volume knob down.
Our son kept pointing.
She turned the knob again.
Still he pointed.
Finally, she took her headphones off and looked at us. “In my opinion, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this boy's hearing,” she said. “In fact I would say that it's better than excellent. He's still pointing and I haven't been able to hear anything for the last two minutes!”
Okay. So his problem wasn't mechanical.
In fact our son had just introduced us to a new concept in hearing.
He had been, to put it simply, ignoring me.
Quite effectively, in fact.
And with this concept he, and later, his siblings, also brought into our life such wonderful sayings as, “Are your ears painted on?!” or “Ears are purely decorative!” or “I'm sure there's a switch on your bottom that will turn those ears on!”
Moving forward thirty years . . .
We've discovered that our grandchildren suffer from the same malady as our children.
Selective hearing.
It's genetic.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ice Hockey. So To Speak.

The Arena

It's not what you think . . .
Waiting for your food in a restaurant can be excruciating.
Especially if you're hungry.
And let's face it – if you're sitting in a restaurant, ordering food, you're probably hungry.
Moving on . . .
There are many things to keep you occupied while you wait.
Studying the other diners.
Visiting with your dinner companion/s.
Reading the dessert menu.
I should point out, here, that whoever designs the dessert menus is a certified genius. Everything – everything – looks and sounds stickily, creamily, chocolately, divinely delicious. Mouth-watering descriptions merely add to the pictured perfection of chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate.
With caramel.
And whipped cream.
Where was I?
Oh, yes . . . waiting for food.
My Husby loves watching the people.
But when he starts to receive a few too many irritated, uncomfortable glances, or when his reputation precedes him and we have been seated in a non-viewing zone, he must come up with some other form of entertainment.
That's how he invented 'ice' hockey.
In this activity, one uses the chunks of ice from one's glass and tries to flick them, using finger and/or thumb at one's dinner companion.
Ie. Me.
Whereupon (good word) said companion retaliates.
Because who wants to sit there and merely become a target?
We try to keep the mess to a minimum.
But don't always succeed.
Let me explain . . .
We were waiting for pizza.
It was taking a long time.
Something about the cows needing to be milked so they could begin the lengthy process of turning the milk into cheese for toppings.
Grant was bored.
He got a chunk of ice out of his glass and flicked it in my direction.
I caught it and flicked it back.
He returned fire.
This went on for some time.
He simply couldn't get it past my ultra deft defence.
Finally, he stopped and sat there, frowning at me.
I grinned back at him.
Then he raised his eyebrows in challenge.
He picked up his glass, which, by now contained only ice chunks and . . . upended it onto the table.
Then he fired every single piece – using both hands – at me.
It was an onslaught.
A deluge.
“Excuse me, folks, here's your pizza.”
An embarrassment.
We looked up.
The waiter was standing there, holding our pizza and staring at us.
He looked . . . frightened.
“Oh,” I said.
Grant grinned. “Put it here,” he said, swiping a spot clean.
The waiter gingerly set the hot pan down on the wet table, then beat a hasty retreat.
The pizza was great.
There's nothing like pizza after you've worked up an appetite playing a good game of ice hockey.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Teaching Sons

We have four sons.
From the time they were born, my Husby taught them to honour women.
His approximate words?
“In the creation process, Heavenly Father made the earth and everything on it. With each day, the things He made were more and more beautiful. His final, greatest creation? Woman. How are you going to treat God's greatest creation?”
He also told them that their Father would find someone very special for them to marry.
But they had to pray for her now.
All of them took his teachings to heart.
They treat women – all women - with a kindness and respect that is, unfortunately, seldom seen in the modern world.
Even as small boys, they were gentlemen.
And they prayed.
When our third son, Duff, was eight, his teacher asked her class if they prayed.
It was a class of seven boys.
Each of them nodded.
She handed out pieces of paper and pencils.
“I want you to write down the things that you pray for,” she said.
Dutifully, the boys took their pieces of paper and began to make a list.
When they had finished, their teacher gathered them up and glanced through them.
I should probably note here that the first Nintendo play system was just new.
And wonderful.
And greatly sought after.
Certainly by the small boys in this class.
Back to my story . . .
At the head of every list, each of them had carefully recorded, 'Nintendo'.
Except for one.
At the top of one little eight-year-old boy's list was, 'wife'.
Our son's.
His teacher stared at it.
Then she looked at Duff.
“You're praying for a wife?” she asked, somewhat sceptically.
“Dad told us if we started praying now, we would get someone special,” Duff told her. “Like he did.”
With tears in her eyes, the teacher told us the story.
And brought tears to mine.
I had heard my Husby teaching our children.
But it was at that moment that I realized just what he was teaching them.
And that they were learning it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Right Song - Wrong Words

Okay, yes, I’m on a ‘panty’ kick.
But yesterday’s post reminded me of something . . .

For four years, I had the assignment to lead the music in the children’s organization in our church.
My dream job.
Every Sunday, I got up in front of a group of children, age three to eleven and sang with them.
Have you ever heard a group of three-year-olds singing “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam”?
If you can do it without tears, you are super . . . ummm . . . person.
There is nothing cuter in the world.
And I got to do this every Sunday!
For four years!
Inevitably, there were extra perks.
Because what dream job doesn’t come with unexpected bonuses. (Boni?)
Moving on . . .
Each week, we invited the child/children who was/were celebrating a birthday, to come to the front so the rest of the group could wish them well.
Everyone enjoyed it.
The singers.
And the sing-ee.
Afterwards, I always asked the birthday child what their favourite song was.
And then all of us would sing it.
Normally, this was fairly routine.
They would pick a current favourite.
The pianist would launch in.
The children would follow.
Occasionally, we would encounter a hitch.
Perhaps a song that was a current favourite.
But some where other than the church . . .
Let’s face it, launching into ‘Stairway to Heaven’, though it sounds appropriate, would be anything but.
Ahem . . .
Sometimes, they merely got the name wrong.
Case in point:
We invited little Emily to the front of the room.
Everyone wished her a happy fourth birthday.
At the top of their voices.
She was smiling broadly by the end.
I leaned down. “Emily, what is your favourite song?”
She looked up at me. “Little Purple Panties!” she said excitedly.
“Oh, I said. “Umm . . . yes.” I looked at the pianist, who was staring back, wide-eyed.
“I think what she means is “Little Purple Pansies,” I said.
The woman’s face cleared. “Ah!” She nodded in relief.
We made it through.
Though I must confess that the temptation to sing the wrong words was very strong indeed.
And who knows, maybe a song, ‘Little Purple Panties’ is just what is needed when things get a bit . . . boring . . . in church.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Little Green Panties

Me - at my best . . .
A reworked post for a busy Sabbath.

I hated them.
Maybe it was the color. Yucky green.
Maybe it was the fit. Tight elastic on the legs.
I only wore them under duress, when there was simply nothing else in my drawer. And following a highly intellectual and diverting argument with my Mom . . .
"Put them on, Diane!"
"Put them on!"
Being the semi-obedient four-year-old that I was - and because 'going commando' hadn't been invented yet - I would haul my little green panties out from under the bed where I had hidden them and . . . shudder . . . pull them on.
Quickly, I would then hide them under a pair of blue jeans and try to put them out of my mind by heading outside to play. 
They itched.
They crawled into unwanted places.
They made me sweaty.
Sighing, I ignored them and joined the group of kids on the corner.

Now a couple of points of background . . .
In 1959, as in every neighborhood in Canada, weather permitting, we local kids gathered. Play commenced. As our mothers were working busily in their homes, we kids ran up and down the street, engaged in one of a thousand different imaginative schemes. At lunchtime, we were called home. We ate as quickly as we could, then returned to the street. Our mothers cleaned up and went back to their ironing or canning or one of hundreds of other chores. We kids played until supper was announced. 
When the lunchtime scenario was again enacted.
Actual physical parental supervision was unheard of. We policed ourselves. Tattled on each other. Looked after each other. When Kenny fell and broke his arm, an army of kids ran to his house and brought his mother. When Brenda got sick on the merry-go-round, same thing. 
It was a wonderful, carefree way to grow up.
Also, at this particular time, my Dad and older brothers had put up our family's brown canvas tent in the back yard.
I know this doesn't sound like an actual part of the story, but wait for it.
Now, back to my story . . .
My best friend and next door neighbor was Laurie. A sweet-tempered, agreeable girl just a bit younger than me. 
She followed me in everything.
Not always a good idea.
By early afternoon, I had been wearing the dreaded panties for much of the day. They had been my largely unwelcome companions while running, climbing, crawling, doing gymnastics, climbing, rolling, spinning, climbing . . . okay, I did a lot of climbing, but that is another story. 
They were really starting to bug me.
But there was no way I would ever be able to sneak into the house to remove them.
And then it hit me! 
If I ducked into the tent, I could shed the dreaded panties and my Mom would never know!
It was a brilliant plan. Awe inspiring.
Completely fool proof.
I acted immediately.
"Were are we going?" Laurie was right behind me, as usual.
"Into the tent."
"What are we going to do?"
"Take off our panties."
Did I mention that I often got Laurie into a lot of trouble?
In a few seconds, the deed was done. I wadded my cast-offs into a little ball and stuffed them down into a hidden corner of the tent.
Laurie did the same.
Then I pulled on my jeans and headed back outside.
Laurie followed.
Hah! Mission accomplished. No one would ever know.
Our friends were sitting around in my front yard, breathing hard from yet another race up and down the street. I pranced to the middle of the circle with Laurie close behind.
"We're not wearing any panties!" I sang out.
Okay, so, secret agent material, I wasn't.
"Panties!" Laurie echoed.
And suddenly, Laurie's mom was there, grabbing her little daughter and running with her towards their house.
I watched them go, wondering at the shocked and dismayed expression on Laurie's mom's face.
What on earth was wrong with her?
Maybe I should point out here that Laurie's mom always dressed her in frilly, feminine dresses.
Short-skirted dresses.
I got a lecture. Something about modesty and being a good example.
Who listened.
Parents are so weird.

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