Small Hands in the Big World

Friday, May 6, 2011

Spring Getaway to Arizona

How many kids are lucky enough to have a happy, healthy Great Grandparent still living? We’re very fortunate that William and Sara are among that privileged bunch. And up until just a few months ago, they had both Great Grandma and Great Grandpa (he would have been 97 this month, just a day before William’s 5th birthday) and thankfully, we enjoyed several nice visits before he passed away. Dear Great Grandma looks better than ever and the kids were so happy to spend several hours with her on the first day we arrived and on our last day before heading home.

In between those visits, we headed to Tucson and stayed at the JW Marriott Starr Pass for the first time. It was magnificent! Tucked into the desert hills beside Tucson Mountain Park is this gorgeous, sprawling adobe compound that was built only 5 years ago. There was a wonderful blend of luxury and family-friendliness. We didn’t have to go far for great food (there are several restaurants on-site and we love not having to drive anywhere to eat dinner) or entertainment (the pools are fantastic). Water fountains that shot up from the ground and moved periodically were the kids’ favorite but we also loved the lazy river which wasn’t so lazy with kids on our laps in inner tubes, doing many laps of chasing each other.

Sara running alongside the lazy river while William and Dad float along

Single or double inner tubes for floating around the lazy river
We also loved that the Marriott was so close to the Saguaro National Park West so we could get an early start to do some exploring before the sun chased us indoors. William was especially eager to earn a Saguaro National Park Junior Ranger badge to add to his growing collection (he has ones from Olympic and North Cascades National Parks already). Before kids, I had never heard of this Junior Ranger program and I’m actually the child of a National Park Service Chief Ranger (darn it, Dad—I would have liked one of those badges myself)! Anyhow, if you aren’t familiar with it, this fun, educational program is absolutely one of the best things around. Kids are given a workbook and asked to complete several nature activities (possibly identifying tracks, going on a scavenger hunt, or writing a haiku). William took his tasks very seriously and stuck with it even after bumping his leg right into a prickly pear! When they’re done, a park ranger reviews their work then asks them to raise their right hand and repeat this pledge:

“I, (fill in name), am proud to be a National Park Service Junior Ranger. I promise to appreciate, respect, and protect all national parks. I also promise to continue learning about the landscape, plants, animals and history of these special places. I will share what I learn with my friends and family.”

How cool is that?! Here is a list of participating parks.

William getting a little help from Bob Cat. Busy Sara helping some birds take flight.

Reciting their pledge with Ranger Donna. When they finished, she made an announcement over the intercom to introduce their newest Junior Rangers. The kids were delighted.
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