Josie couldn't take much time off work, but she was able to join us over the weekend. On Friday morning we went back to visit the various playgrounds in the neighbourhoods near the hotel—and found a cute little frog that we caught to take a picture to send to the kids at home—before heading to the airport to pick up Auntie Josie.
The airport had a lovely little play area to use while waiting for passengers. Zoë and Phoebe made good use of it while Miriam walked around with Naanii.
With Josie in tow, we made a quick stop at Wal-Mart to (1) pick out some shoes to go with Josie's dress since she forgot dress shoes, (2) found Kinder Surprise, and (3) got some lunch at McDonald's.
And then we were on our way south! Zoë played with the camera a bit while we drove and in addition to taking several pictures of her Kinder Surprise toy, she also managed to snap this cute picture of Phoebe:
And this view of Uncle Darrel's gate:
Uncle Darrel is actually my mom's cousin, but we grew up calling him Uncle Darrel and his wife Aunt Dixie. They live in DeWinton, which is just south of Calgary, on a lovely little acreage. We spent quite a lot of time at their house—Josie even took her first steps in their living room!
They always had a menageries of animals—horses, miniature horses, ponies, pot-belly pigs, rabbits, cats, dogs, llamas, sheep... I was terrified of their three-legged dog, Bart. I don't think any of my cousins could ever figure out why I was so afraid of Bart. Even I'm not really sure, although the fact that I'm afraid of most dogs probably has something to do with it, coupled with his way of leaping unpredictably wherever he went.
Bart is long gone, though, so there wasn't much to be afraid of.
Phoebe wanted to go see the horses and jump on the trampoline and do all the fun things that she could see. But first, I told her, we had to go up to the house so we could tell our hosts we'd arrived. In order to do this we had to walk up the garden path. A couple of lawn mowers were parked on the side of the path and Phoebe was terrified of having to walk past those.
"Mow! Mow! Mow!" she said, sounding the alarm.
"It's alright," I assured her. "The lawn mowers aren't going anywhere. We just have to say hi and then we play for a bit, okay?"
"HI!" she said, and immediately started squirming to get down (to go play for a bit, of course).
"No, no, no. We have to say hi to the people who live here, silly goose! And then we can go play!"
As it turns out, Darrel wasn't in the house. He was in the shop. So he didn't come to the door (and neither did Dixie because she's not too mobile these days). But we found him in the shop and he told us to go on into the field to say hello to the horses while he got changed out of his work clothes.
Fortunately we had Josie the horse-whisperer with us because...I've always been a little afraid of horses. Good thing a lot of the horses on Darrel's acreage are of the miniature variety!
Here's Zoë being investigated by one of the horses:
Here's Auntie Josie showing the girls how to calmly approach a horse:
Uncle Darrel brought out a bag of potatoes for the horses to enjoy, though I think Josie was the only one who actually fed the horses anything. The rest of us were too nervous about our fingers and that chestnut miniature was really quite...assertive...about getting his treats. He was pushing other horses out of the way—including the full-sized ones. (Clearly I don't know how to talk about horses).
Here's Josie making sure one of the other horses gets a potato (though I believe this horse dropped the potato and the chestnut horse came in a snatched it away):
Even Bumpa seemed to enjoy visiting the horses!
And here's a picture proving that Miriam was there as well:
She also found the horses to be a bit scary (and pushy) so she didn't approach them very much.
Some of the horses even followed us to the gate. Phoebe was sad about closing the gate and was calling to the horses until this very bravest and most pushy chestnut horse heeded her call.
He stuck his nose through the gate to snuffle her and...
She was not entirely sure about that!
The girls jumped on the trampoline (without a net!) for a few minutes before we went inside to visit.
Inside, Phoebe and Zoë played with some giant exercise balls while the grown ups sat around and chatted. We also had an assortment of cookies and a fruit tray and all sorts of goodies.
Darrel joked that with Dixie feeling so poorly his house has turned into somewhat of a bachelor pad. With only Cory (Darrel's son) and Darrel doing the tidying up, things aren't quite in the order Dixie might have them (and it's true that Miriam sweetly washed a load of dishes to help them get caught up in the kitchen), but he was an excellent host, regardless. And he takes such good care of Dixie, helping her get around the house and making sure she's comfortable (or doing his best to make sure she's comfortable).
It was fun to hear stories about how Darrel used to lock his sisters in the cellar when he felt they weren't accomplishing their chores properly. My mom's aunt Celia had nine children and in my imagination she always ran a tight ship...but I guess her household was a little more chaotic than I had thought! Dixie even said that when she married into the family she pretty much became a second mother to all those children—she planned weddings and baked and babysat (and seemed to communicate that perhaps Celia had bitten off more than she could chew with nine children).
But I guess that's what villages are for—helping to raise all those children.
And, honestly, I think Celia's children all turned out pretty great! She might not have always been on top of chores and baking, but she was a lot of fun and had those kids singing and dancing and roller skating all together!
I am positive that Celia was an excellent mother. I am equally positive that Dixie pitched in and helped a lot. Thank goodness for the women (and men) who teach us how to sing and dance and skate! And thank goodness for the women (and men) who teach us how to cook and clean and bake! And for those who teach us how to add, subtract, and write, and draw, and swim, and think, and...
No one person can teach a child everything they might need to know. So thank goodness for families and communities! I'm glad that these fine people are part of mine:
|In the back: Naanii, Auntie Josie, Phoebe, Me, Bumpa, Miriam, Zoë. Middle: Dixie, Darrel, and Rod. Front: Heather and Lori|
Here's one with Jim in it (he had been taking the picture of everyone else before):
I appreciated hearing about how Darrel and Dixie met. I guess all of Celia's kids would head up to Banff to work in the summers. Darrel led tours. Others worked at shops and things. (I'm sure Benjamin would have found the conversations riveting). Dixie had also gone up to Banff to work, but was also still recovering from a terrible car accident. I don't know the whole story—something about a drunk driver—but I think Dixie spent most of her life trying to recover from that accident.
Both she and Darrel were in the same ward, and when they showed up to church the first week of their employment, Darrel saw Dixie and thought she was divine. Dixie was suffering in the pew, however, and kept squirming around, trying to figure out how to sit comfortably for the duration of the meeting.
So Darrel cheekishly asked, "Would you like to sit in my lap?"
Dixie was not impressed.
But eventually Darrel won her over.
Here we are gathered around Dixie once again, just as we were saying goodbye:
And here's a picture of my mom with Loni:
Loni had wanted to come visit with everyone but had her first teacher work day of the school year (though kids weren't in the classroom yet). She drove over after work, arriving just as I was buckling Phoebe into her carseat, so I ran to the back parking lot to say hello with my mom. It was fun to see her after so many years!
We drove to High River and checked into The Heritage Inn. I had never actually been inside the Heritage before, but it was the fanciest hotel in town the entire time I was living there. Once the Harlem Globe Trotters stayed at the hotel and we went over to take pictures in front of their tour bus. I don't know where those pictures are but...I remember doing it.
When I told Miriam this was once the fanciest hotel in town she was a little shocked because...it looks like it may have been fancy in the 1990s...but doesn't look like it's super fancy today.
But they have a pool in their atrium—which was a lot warmer than Piper's pool—so we enjoyed that while my parents and Josie settled into their hotel room. We didn't spend much time settling into our hotel room because...I can think of few worse things to do than to hang out in a hotel room with a toddler.
After swimming we headed over to Tim Horton's for dinner. Technically, the girls and I only had doughnut holes (we had soup in our hotel room).
And then we took a walk to the lakes with Auntie Josie. Along the way we helped ourselves to a book from a Little Free Library and a handful of crab apples from a box in someone's yard marked "free."
My sister Abra thought it was really weird that we took crab apples from a stranger's yard, and asked whether we would do that in Atlanta. I answered that if we were in our own neighbourhood we probably (definitely) would, but I might be more hesitant to do so outside of our immediate area. Though, I mean, fruit is fruit. Like, who even knows who has touched the fruit we get at the grocery store.
Anyway, I tend to be a little less paranoid than Abra can be. So we took the crab apples, we ate the crab apples, we loved the crab apples.
Miriam was hesitant to try them; she thought I was tricking her into eating something super sour or bitter or something:
But, as it turns out, crab apples are good! We ended up returning to the box several times over our short stay in High River. My kids really appreciate fresh fruits and vegetables (to a frankly surprising degree) and miss having access to produce while traveling.
Speaking of food, The Heritage Inn had amazing breakfasts! Our rooms came with vouchers to use in the restaurant and we got to choose from an admittedly simplified menu (as in, not the full menu that actual paying customers got to order from...not that we weren't paying customers since I'm sure they factored breakfast into our room price, but...anyway). The breakfasts were either some sort of egg and meat combo with a generous side of hashed browns, or two of the biggest pancakes I've ever seen in my life!
On our first morning, Zoë ordered a fried egg and it came over easy, which she wasn't happy about. Luckily Abra is a chef (who happens to know the staff at the Heritage personally since she used to work there) and helped Zoë flag down the waitress to ask for her eggs to be fried "hard." They happily brought out freshly fried (and, in Zoë's eyes, edible) eggs. On the second morning, she didn't want to have to bother with remembering to tell the waitress how she wanted her eggs, so she went with the pancakes and—holy mackerel!
It would have taken her days to finish eating those things!
Anyway, we munched on crab apples as we made our way to Emerson Lake:
You'll have to excuse our hair. It is always windy in southern Alberta.
We walked from Emerson Lake over to Sunshine Lake to let Phoebe have a little swinging time before bed. Here she is having found a yellow leaf:
And here she is saying, "Hand! Hand!"
Here she is having found a big stick to carry around:
And here she is enjoying that swing I'd promised her:
And one last picture with Auntie Josie as we were getting ready to leave the park to head back to the hotel:
We walked past our old house, which is just a five minute walk from this park, and stopped by the park on our street (a literal one minute walk from our house)* so Josie could see where she used to play all the time. Back when we lived there, Sunshine Lake didn't have a playground. It was just a lake with a walking trail (which is fun enough). Emerson Lake had a playground, though that was a bit of a longer walk. Anyway, when Josie would "run away" from home while I was watching her during the day (because I attended a "virtual academy" for two years in grades 7 and 8, and Josie stayed home with me most days), she was usually either heading toward the little park near our house (the much safer option) or to the lake (the much more dangerous option).
I was forever chasing that little girl down! She was such an escape artist! We had baby locks and everything, but she was still always busting out of the house to go adventuring on her own! All the neighbours knew to just point in the direction she ran so that I (or whoever happened to be chasing her that day) could start running in the right direction.
Anyway, a lot of the playground was very much the same. Josie took some pictures of the girls playing around since my phone had frozen for whatever reason. It was fun to take a literal walk down memory lane!
* So you can see why it's so hard for me here, where the closest park to us is a half-hour walk (up a huge hill) or a forty-minute walk (across a huge road). Everywhere else I've lived I've had a park within a ten-minute walk from my house. There is no where to walk within ten minutes of my house here.