Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Parental Mentors

Neighbor M walks mornings and evenings carrying a small Rubbermaid container with succulent worms nestled in oatmeal. Birds know her and fly along the street, sweeping down to grab a grub that M has tossed and fly back to sit on a telephone line to feast. Some would call her obsessed, but, no, she's the bluebird guardian and teacher in our neighborhood. She has encouraged everyone on the block to place blue bird houses in their yards-- making them herself, and even installing for those who have little time.

This summer I observed a heartwarming situation of how bluebirds have the instinct to take care of their offspring so well.

A few months back a guy bluebird met a girl bluebird and they decided to take a nearby house (in our front yard), free of rent, and make a nest to raise a family. With eggs snug in leaves, moss, and fluff garnered from here and there, girlsoon realized that motherhood didn't agree with her. As she sat on her nest she dreamed of all that was missing in her life. After the babies hatched, she declared "Enough!" leaving crying babies behind to join a fly-by-night group seeking fun. New dad came home after a few days of hunting to find starving babies. Mama's gone! She had been missing so long in getting the kids fed on time, they eventually died.

Rejected boy bluebird flew around the yard, searching for his mate. When he realized she was gone for good, he spent no time before checking out the singles. He spied a young bird with big eyes and soft feathers. She found him handsome and virile. He and she made a nest. Readying for a family, she laid eggs. A few days later he came home late from being out with the guys and found she'd blown the coop! And four eggs churning! Like Superman to the rescue, he took over sitting on the eggs for weeks until one evening they hatched. We were watching from our dining room window, knowing birth time was within the next few days. What excitement! Little dad's journey to feed his brood every 10 minutes began. Back and forth he went constantly, bringing in food, and taking out the dirty diapers. He wasn't accustomed to housecleaning, but he knew the importance of keeping his babes germ free.

We kept a close eye on our cat, Bobbisox, who was keeping track of the birdies. R began to help little daddy by supplying worms between times of neighbor M's schedule. When the birdies began to fly, little dad was there, urging them not to get discouraged. He tucked them in at night and found a few hours rest in the branches above his house.

Bluebird parents have known "tough love" long before the term was used by humans. We turn to self-help books or tutoring from others in our quest to be decent parents. For the blue birds it's natural.

M has observed the antics of birds from the time a couple make a home in her yard to fledgling stage and later as young adults. One afternoon she told me that mamas discipline their kids with certain noises. One is the freezing chirp, used to teach kids manners. If a kid fails to behave, like getting a worm on time, a chirp sounds and the kid freezes in place. M has seen a birdie freeze with wings spread and one foot off the branch, ready to fly when the chirp sounded. If birdie doesn't follow the rules for eating, Chirrrrp! mama swoops down like a dive bomber to prevent the kid from reaching his supper. Mama will see that junior misses a few meals when he misbehaves. Oh, when have we sent our son or daughter to bed without supper or made him/her eat the same plateful at as many meal times as needed until all food is consumed??

Neighbor M has made me more aware of this wondrous aspect of nature through her constant care of/and information about bluebirds. She isn't the only bird lover, she's just the only one I've met. Time to clean out the bird houses so a traveler can find rest overnight.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It's Tea Time!

Nothing tastes better in the summertime than a cold glass of iced tea. Sweet, that is. In most restaurants and food service counters there are two urns for sweet and unsweet teas. Diets have caused this change. However, once your brain is attuned to sweet tea, nothing tastes the same after that moment of discovery.

Every morning after our two mile walk around Strawberry Park, Sis and I hit McD's for breakfast. I love their biscuits and sausage combo and I choose at 7:30 in the morning to have sweetened iced tea. Only at McD's is there no choice. The tea is sweeter than any Easterner can imagine, and almost too sweet for me. I have to add water, maybe a quarter to that super cup. Not one for coffee, I suck the cold tea through the straw relishing the morning pickup it gives.

An article by Lisa Singhania from The Associated Press states this about tea:

"Approximately 85% of tea consumed in the U.S.is iced. No one in the world except for us drinks sweet tea and no one in the U.S sweetens their tea as much as they do in the Southeast."

You have to love sugared tea, or use artificial sweetner, or drink as is. When Easterners think of the South, they imagine us sitting on our front porches (which few of us have now) drinking mint juleps, but you'll only find that on the Cool Drinks Menu of a New Orleans restaurant.

Southerners don't dip into a jar of instant tea--OH, NO! We brew in boiling water either tea bags or leaves to a strong dark, rich color (usually orange pekoe and pekoe), pour into a large pitcher, add sugar (watch it dissolve like magic before your eyes), water and a squeeze of lemon, stir, and pour over as many ice cubes as the tall glass can hold. Or you can put pitcher in the fridge to reduce quick melting of the ice.

A guest in a Southerner's home had better be prepared to forget the soda or wine on a hot summer day. If you're invited to sit on your host's patio with the soft southern breeze drifting across your face, then a tall glass of sweetened iced tea is the recipe for keeping cool.