Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Lessons Learned

The equation has forever changed. Sharon and I are no longer baby-sitting the grandchildren. At ten, twelve and fifteen respectively, they’ve moved past the need for constant adult supervision. At this stage in their young lives, Sharon and I feel that life experiences were far more important than material things.

When both families came to Palm Springs to celebrate Thanksgiving, the adults agreed that we would not venture out unless it was for something special. That worked out well for all of us, but especially the children.

What better way to acknowledge their growing up than to create a dorm-like setting for them instead of bunking with their parents. Sharon decided to take one of our bedrooms we labeled as the ‘purple room’ because of the decor and turn it into the ‘quiet room.’

We assembled six bunk beds, had new paint and carpeting, drawers for their clothes, a night light and a reminder on the credenza that this was ‘The Quiet Room’. It worked. When the kids hit their beds, they were out in minutes.

Then the experience chain began each morning when a different child was paired with an adult to make breakfast. That new tradition continued on for lunch and dinner. The kids were expected to set the table, lay out the dishware and help prepare the meal.

As a special treat, the kids then made four different types of candy for our guests at the third annual scripted-reading of a new play that Papa wrote just for the occasion. Each guest was given a box of candy as they left the performance.

For our thanksgiving meal, Nana brought out her finest china and crystal and the kids learned how to set a table; positioning the china, silverware, crystal, etc.

This year with one child in high school, three in middle school and one in grade school, Nana decided it was a good time for them to start thinking about college and how to prepare for it. So, she held a class in resume writing.

The lesson covered resume-writing, how to prepare for a test, how to apply for college, asking for reference letters, the question of academics vs. the arts vs. athletic endeavors. In addition, there was an assortment of other topics all geared to making them ‘think’ about how to prepare for college.

To lighten the pace, there was a lot of poker playing for skittles.

Our pool, once again, proved to be the highlight of their visit. The kids found dozens of ways to use pool pads, boogie boards and other toys for made-up games.

New this year were several remote-controlled speedboats.

Continuing a tradition, several family members ran in the Annual 5k Palm Springs Turkey Trot (three mile) race in downtown Palm Springs.

But the highlight of the week was riding dune buggies for all five grandchildren AND our own two kids.

Maya put a little video clip together to capture the excitement the kids felt flying across the dunes.

The entire week was full of activities designed to inform, educate, entertain, and draw family members together. It only happens once or twice a year and it’s a wonderful exercise in family bonding. We are all very fortunate in being able to do that.

As an added bonus, Melanie and Amy (the moms) took a lot of their own pictures. Here are some of their best.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Adventures of Sugar and Pequeño

Over the years, Sharon and I have discovered we have a bit of a menagerie here in the desert. This assortment of curious critters ranges from the ever-elusive road runner to egrets, amorous bunnies, high-flying hawks and crows, bold coyotes, an occasional bobcat and lots of hummingbirds.

Wikipedia does a great job of describing our fascinating aerial interlopers:

Hummingbirds are birds native to the Americas and comprise the biological family Trochilidae. With about 360 species, they occur from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, but the vast majority of the species are found in the tropics. They are small birds, with most species measuring 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in) in length. The smallest extant hummingbird species is the 5 cm (2.0 in) bee hummingbird, which weighs less than 2.0 g (0.07 oz). The largest hummingbird species is the 23 cm (9.1 in) giant hummingbird, weighing 18–24 grams (0.63–0.85 oz). They are specialized for feeding on flower nectar, but all species consume flying insects or spiders.

The common ancestor of extant hummingbirds is estimated to have lived 22 million years ago in South America. They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound created by their beating wings, which flap at high frequencies audible to humans. They hover in midair at rapid wing-flapping rates, which vary from around 12 beats per second in the largest species to around 80 per second in small hummingbirds. Of those species that have been measured during flying in wind tunnels, their top speeds exceed 15 m/s (54 km/h; 34 mph). During courtship, some male species dive from 30 metres (100 ft) of height above a female at speeds around 23 m/s (83 km/h; 51 mph)’.

In years past, our hummingbirds usually showed up around February or March when our flowers began to bloom. We would put out a couple of feeders but they never seemed to attract the small birds any earlier.

Eventually as we got used to the birds and they to us, Sharon and I began to pay more attention to those tiny elusive creatures. Then on day, we stumbled upon one of their nests in our front yard. For some strange reason a mother hummingbird decided that a cactus by our door was the perfect place to build a nest and start a family.

When we discovered the nest, it became a game hide and seek between us and mother. Either Sharon or her friend Linda would slowly, carefully slide up to the cactus and try to photograph mom and her babies. It became a game of cat and mouse or more appropriately, Sharon, her friend Linda and mother hummingbird. Both Sharon and Linda were dive-bombed several times when they got too close to the nest. But their efforts were worth it.

Then last summer we began to grow our extended family of hummingbirds in our backyard. In our absence, Linda spent a lot of time around our house, using our pool, working, reading and relaxing. She put up several hummingbird feeders and watched in amazement as a whole family of the tiny buzzing birds began to descend on our property. In short order, we had a family of more than a half dozen hummingbirds safely ensconced around our backyard.

The year before, Charlotte had named one of the birds Sugar and that name stuck. So, it became a game of finding and identifying Sugar as the birds buzzed above our heads or sat on the outdoor fan and looked down on all of us.

Linda decided to name one of the most beautiful birds of the group: Pequeño. This hummingbird has a beautiful vest of deep reflective purple that also quickly identified her as the most aggressive feeder closest to our back slider.

When the kids came here for Thanksgiving, Nana had finger food rings for each grandchild to wear in hopes of feeding the tiny birds. Maya was the most patient and she was able to capture on film and video, herself feeding Pequeño.

We were also able to capture a mother hummingbird feeding her newborn. It was a marvelous picture of nature and the bond between mother and her youngest offspring. Even in the bird world, some things never change.