Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Intimidation by Music

Father and son.
My second son is a large man.
Six foot eight in his stockinged feet. When he puts boots and a hat on, considerably taller.
And he is a body builder.
He works as a cop in our fair city.
Let me put it this way . . .
No one argues with him.
They just nod politely and do as he asks.
His very first day on the job, he and his partner responded to a knife-wielding incident. When he got out of his car, the 'perp' took one look, dropped the knife and spread-eagled himself on the sidewalk.
Size is important.
But the man inside the uniform is a gentle, loving person.
And tons of fun.
Before he began to serve with the police, he spent eight years with the armed forces, reaching the rank of Sergeant.
And he drove a big truck.
These two points are important.
Moving on . . .
One day, he was on his way home from the army base driving the aforementioned (good word) truck. It was a beautiful, warm day, and his windows were opened wide.
His head was shaved and he had his army kit on.
He looked every inch the soldier he was.
He was 'in the zone'. Listening and moving to his favourite music, blaring from two powerful speakers.
I should mention here that his favourite music probably isn't what people expect to hear from a head-shaved, muscular, giant of a man in army fatigues.
And sunglasses.
In a monster truck.
But pouring from the speakers were The Archies.
And they were singing their hit song, "Sugar, Sugar".
He stopped at a stoplight.
Still grooving.
Then he glanced to his left.
A small pickup was sitting beside him.
With three teenage boys in the seat.
All of whom were staring at him.
Up at him.
Their expressions were . . . interesting.
My son grinned at them and nodded. Still bobbing to the rhythm.
The light changed and he drove on.
But the small truck stayed where it was.
I think he frightened them.
Who says you need a weapon to intimidate?
Sometimes all it takes is the right music.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Who Threw Goo?

There is a toddler golden rule:
Silence is golden, except when you have a toddler. Then it’s suspicious.
I have a new one:
If a toddler is giggling, it could go either way . . .
Our family is large.
Because of that, food is always purchased in quantity.
A little aside here . . . Our youngest daughter had moved out on her own for the first time and was grocery shopping with her roommates. She made a momentous discovery. One that she had to phone home to tell her mother about. “Mom! Did you know that peanut butter and Miracle Whip come in little jars? Really! I had to buy them. They were so cute!”
But I digress . . .
True to form, we purchase many things by the restaurant-sized pail.
There is one drawback.
Buying in quantity isn’t always practical when said substance needs to be refrigerated.
Unless one also possesses a restaurant-sized fridge.
Which we don’t.
For that reason, condiments are quite often stored in the garage. In the sun room. Or right outside, depending on the cycle of the Great Canadian Weather at that particular moment.
Our house has another option. When it was built, the contractor neglected to insulate the floor under the back kitchen entrance.
In winter, that floor gets . . . a tad chilly.
Perfect for extra food storage.
And right off the kitchen.
It was in this area that I had placed a bucket (see above) of ranch dressing.
Okay, yes, it was within perfect reach of Grandson #3 (hereinafter known as GS3), but the lid was on.
And let’s face it, even grandma needed help getting that lid off.
I’ve finally gotten to my story . . .
The family was over.
Dinner was done and the older kids had gone downstairs to play.
The adults and those deemed too young for the hijinks of the older crowd were in the front room.
Visiting/crawling about. Maybe I should clarify. The adults were visiting. The babies were crawling about.
GS3 had disappeared into the kitchen.
We weren’t concerned. Everything was buttoneddown/closed/outofreach.
He was there for some minutes.
Then the giggling started.
A giggling toddler is a happy toddler is a good sign. Right?
Ummm . . .
A few minutes later, his mother went in to check on him.
Mom-speak for, “We’ve just set our levels to def-con one!”
I hurried in.
The walls (and, indeed, every available surface of the back entrance) were heavily spotted in thick, white goo.
GS3 had somehow wrenched the lid off that pail of soppy, white substance. Dunked his little fingers.
Then flung them around.
Numerous times.
Thus, the giggle.
Mom took the toddler for a needed cleaning and Grandma started in on the mess.
I will say this. The coating proclivity of Ranch dressing has never been fully explored. Someone should get a grant and do a study. Preferably a parent . . .
Also: If anyone needs help removing those impossible-to-remove lids, I have a toddler who can help.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Third Time Lucky

After the pancakes.
Our children learn from what they see. 
And hear.
Most of the time, it's a good thing.
Occasionally, it's not. Sometimes, it's just plain fun . . .
My husby, Grant, had our twenty-month-old son, Mark, in the highchair.
Eating pancakes.
Mark's very favourite.
I was across the room, nursing our two-month-old son, Erik.
All was well.
Everyone was happy.
Then Husby decided to take advantage of Mark's utter absorption in forking pieces of pancake into his mouth and make a quick trip to the euphemism (real word – look it up!).
For a few minutes, Mark was happily engaged. Then, the pancakes ran out.
I looked over at him.
He was waving his little fork in the air.“Daddy!”
No response.
Still no response.
Mark changed tactics.
“Da . . . Gwant!”
Faint sounds from the euphem . . . okay, the bathroom.
Not enough to satisfy Mark, however.
By the way, how did he even know his father's name?
I always called him . . .
Now there were definitely sounds emanating (good word) from the bathroom.
Mark had gotten a reaction. With twenty-month-old persistence, he was going to pursue it.
More laughter. But definitely getting louder.
His father emerged, still chuckling.
“What is it, son?”
“Mo' pancake, Ho-ney!”
We had created a monster.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Cookie Diet

Admit it. You want some . . .
Cookies. The ultimate in snack foods. That perfect balance of sugars, grains, fats, and deliciousness. And the most unique and perfect forum for getting small, semi-disguised chunks of chocolate into your mouth.
Chocolate that you can savour but dismiss as insignificant when tallying your calorie count at day's end.
Or at least I can.
I love cookies. And I make the mistake of baking them on a regular basis.
Call me a glutton for punishment.
Or just a glutton - the shoe fits. (Or did, before I started making cookies.) But I digress . . .
My six children have been raised on my cookies. Mostly with some form of chocolate as a noteworthy ingredient. They love those small handfuls of pure perfection as much as I do.
But life, and reality, tend to sneak up on you and smack you soundly, just when you aren't paying attention. And so it was with my cookie consumption.
I was going merrily along, enjoying my cookie-filled life until, one day, I dragged my favourite and freshly-washed jeans out of the drawer . . . and couldn't do them up.
Now I know this has happened to many of us, and certainly is nothing new, but it was a first time for me.
And it made me . . . unhappy.
To make matters worse, which we all try to do far too often, I decided to step on the scale.
I should note here, that the person who invented the scale, and non-stretchy clothes, was a nasty, evil individual. But again, I digress . . .
I had to make some changes.
Or buy a new wardrobe.
Finances won. Losing weight was in order. And the first thing to go was my mostly-cookie diet.
I baked one last batch . . . and started eating them as though they constituted my last meal on earth.
Finally, heroically, I put the lid on the still-half-full cookie jar and left the room.
But they . . . called to me.
Cookies do that.
Finally, I could stand it no longer. I answered that call.
I went back into the kitchen and discovered that my beloved cookie jar . . . was empty.
At first, dismay. Then, relief.
"Who ate all the cookies?"
From somewhere in the house, my daughter, Tiana's voice, "Tristan!"
Also from the nether regions of said house, my son, Tristan's voice, "Sorry!"
Me. "Oh thank you, thank you, thank you Tristan! I could hug you! I just couldn't leave the silly things alone!"
A pause, then my daughter's voice, "Tiana."
The cookie doesn't fall far from the tree.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Party Kicks

You un-decorate how you want and I'll un-decorate how I want.
It was a party.
And all sorts of things happen at a party, right . . .?
Becoming a teenager was a big thing.
Well, it was to me.
And I was having a party to celebrate.
A different party from any I had had before.
This party was going to include *dun-dun-duuuunnnn!* boys!
I had planned carefully. Games of pool and ping-pong. Music. Dancing.
I had even decorated with streamers and balloons and invited everyone – jocks. Cool kids. Regular Joes (my group).
And, wonder of wonders, they were all coming.
It was going to be great.
It was great.
Competitions ongoing in both the ping-pong and pool rooms.
Kids dancing in the family room.
Kids circling the food table.
But nothing is so good that it can’t be made just a bit better, right?
Toward the end of the evening, I was in the ping-pong room.
A final match had just ended and the champion crowned.
The lights had been dimmed.
Did I mention that I had decorated with balloons?
I did.
That is important here . . .
Suddenly, I had the fun idea of ending the evening by breaking up the decorations.
And what would I use? My foot.
Okay, I can see the look on your face. But it honestly made sense at the time.
I chose my target - one of the lower balloons fastened to the wall. I took aim.
And kicked.
The balloon gave a satisfying ‘pop’ as it expired.
But it remained fastened where it was, making a dark shadow on the wall.
A large black shadow.
Before I could investigate, one of the cool boys I had been trying to impress all evening decided to take my example and kicked the balloon next to mine.
His results were even more dramatic. His balloon also perished on a lively note. But it must have been a vastly larger balloon because it left a vastly larger shadow.
A foot-shaped shadow.
On closer inspection, it turned out that, not only had our balloons been destroyed.
But the wall behind them had, too.
Yep. My party had just turned a corner. The one wherein property damage is considered in the cost.
I managed to stop anyone else from following in my footsteps – so to speak.
But the damage was there for anyone to see.
My dad is in that group.
Shortly after that, the party broke up and peace once more settled across the Stringam household.
I managed to keep my mom out of that room for the remainder of the evening by offering to clean it myself. (Yeah, she was surprised, too.) Alone in there, I turned the lights up and examined the damage.
Then I noticed that the drywall (the renovations were ongoing and the taping and mudding and painting had not yet been completed) was a yellow colour.
Hmmm . . . almost the exact colour of the pads of yellow, legal-sized paper on my dad’s desk.
I dashed upstairs and secured two sheets of the stuff and some glue.
Hurrying back to the scene of the crime, I held one of them up to the wall. Eureka! (Don’t you just love words?!) It was almost the exact same colour!
Quickly applying glue, I fastened a sheet of paper over each gaping hole.
I will mention here that my parents never mentioned it there.
I mean, the person who finally did the finishing on that wall must have discovered my oh-so-clever camouflage. But my parents sold the house shortly after my party and the paper was still on the wall the day we moved out.
To this day, I don’t know if they ever knew.
I was always afraid to ask.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Feeding the Masses

Mark and half of his family. Feeding the next generation . . .
It only ever happened once.
But I’ll remember it forever.
Maybe I should explain . . .
My Husby and I raised six children.
Four of them, sons.
They are, all of them, tall people, ranging in height from six feet to six feet, eight inches.
They were, all of them, big eaters.
And that’s where my story starts . . .
My oldest boy, Mark, ate like a bird. And by that, I mean he consumed his weight in food every. Single. Day.
His next brother, Erik, wasn’t far behind.
We used to joke that we simply gave each of them a trough and a shovel.
And watched the food magically disappear.
The two of them easily ate as much as the rest of the family combined.
It’s true.
In fact, when Mark moved out, our food bill was cut in half.
When Erik moved out, ditto.
But back to that day . . .
It was a coupon day at the local McD’s. Two-for-one.
My Husby (a coupon collector extraordinaire) had managed to hoard a mittful of the colourful, valuable bits of paper.
We loaded the kids into the car for a rare, but fun, family treat.
And we were off.
Feeling distinctly magnanimous, we told the kids to order what they liked.
And Mark did.
His order? Four Big Macs. Two large orders of fries. Two large drinks. And four apple pies.
Did he eat them?
He did.
And, swallowing the last bite of apple pie, he turned to me and said something I’d never heard.
Before or since.
“I’m full.”
I stared at him. Had I heard correctly?
He nodded and patted his stomach.
Who says miracles no longer happen?!

There is a little addendum:
As we were leaving the restaurant, I had linked arms with each of my tall eldest sons. We were laughing about something that one of them said. Full and happy.
A woman seated near the doors looked up and smiled. “I just love seeing brothers and sisters such good friends!” she said. “It’s inspiring!”
We smiled back and thanked her, not bothering to explain that one of those ‘siblings’ was, in fact, the mom.
A good day on sooooo many levels.

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