Sunday, April 24, 2011

Strawberry Picking

The day after I got back from Utah we drove as family to the strawberry patch. We had been planning on doing this for a couple weeks and it just kept getting moved. We finally fit it in and we were so glad we did. The picking wasn't great but the were decent and still on sale if you bought a lot. We certainly bought a lot. We picked 31.5 lbs of strawberries.

It was a perfect day. It got a little warm as the day wore on and we all came home a little pink. It was fun though. I am so glad Hyrum was able to join us. Hannah and Jonathan helped for about 30 minutes and then for the rest of the time made sandcastles and probably would have tried climbing the peach trees had I not stopped them. Charlotte spent most of the morning in the stroller and the last little while in Hyrum's arms.

We finished after picking for 3 hours and then enjoyed a picnic before the two hour drive home. Over the next few days we mashed, sugared, and jammed most of the berries. The best part was that everyone helped. Hyrum spent a bit of time helping my stir and measure in sugar and pour it in jars and wiped them clean for me. I love it when my family helps. We canned over 40 jars of jam and right now my freezer is bursting. We are so excited.

Rexburg or Bust?

My sister graduated from college the first weekend in April. There are a couple more things she has to do to get her diploma but she is done with BYU-Idaho. We are all so happy for her. It has been a long road for her and I am so proud of her hard work.

I talked to my parents as they were preparing to head out for the graduation and I was just so sad that I wouldn't be able to be there to spend the special day with my sister and see my brothers. My whole family hadn't been together since Hyrum and I graduated five years ago. I really wanted to be there. We talked about it and I thought and thought and thought and finally through a lot of praying and thinking decided I could give myself permission to go.

Hyrum's mom watched the kids for us since Hyrum has a crazy weekend that week and I flew out to Utah few days later. It was great. I met my parents at the Salt Lake Airport and we drove north to Rexburg, Idaho. It was snowing, a lot. Charlotte was with me and I was a little worried about how she would do, but she was a great little trooper.

We shared a room in Idaho Falls and surprised my sister Friday morning. We helped her pack and clean her apartment. Then we spent the day running errands and wasting time. We had dinner and watched the snow heavily fall outside. With so much snow we took Kallie home and headed back to our hotel. We enjoyed the Food Network while we were there.

Saturday was graduation, check-out, move-in and the drive back to Provo(again, in the snow). We got up at 5 to be ready to graduation and didn't get to Provo until 9 pm that night. Poor Charlotte was ready for bed. Sunday we spent the day with my brother, Nathan and for the first time in five years my immediate family was together. We missed Hyrum and the other two kids but it was so great to be with my family. I love them and miss them so much.

My niece and nephew loved Charlotte. Quinn just kept stroking her face saying, "cute." They were sweet. She loved it. I think she missed Hannah and Jonathan. Monday we visited Konni, and just hung out with my family. That night we had pizza at Nathan and Emily's. It was great fun. It was so hard to leave that evening.

I had such a blast. It was hard to leave knowing that I will never again be sure when the next time I will see my whole family together again. I am so grateful for the promise of an eternal family. I know that I have to live worthy of those covenants but I know it's possible. I also realized the importance of my own family. I am so grateful for Hyrum, Hannah, Jonathan, and Charlotte. They are such a blessing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The real problem with federal spending

I have some fairly strong opinions about the way government ought to be run, but I usually keep them to myself. I don't know why this particular issue is blog-worthy, but it's something I've been pondering ever since the "Road Construction Ahead" signs went up outside my apartment complex last week.

I am a cyclist. I am a cyclist who commutes daily, often in an urban environment. I ride move than 10 miles on uneven potholed roads while competing for space with cars. About ¼ to ⅓ of the roads I ride on have bike lanes in various states of repair. They are a blessing to both the cyclists and automobile drivers.

The construction signs went up last week on the main street in front of our apartment complex. While it will be a bit of an inconvenience, I'm generally grateful for public works projects which improve infrastructure. However, I was curious what the construction was for. Were they widening the road? Resurfacing? Adding a sidewalk to the north side?

After a bit of searching, I discovered a couple of news stories briefly mentioning the purpose of the construction:
Cyclists in Austin will soon have more room on the road.

Thursday the city council approved a plan to create bike-only lanes along Lake Austin Boulevard at Lyons golf course.

Cyclists say the lanes will tie together pre-existing lanes in West Austin. They say they should also make the road safer for cars and bikes alike.
"Cool!" I think. This is a road I ride multiple times per day, and they are going to improve the bike lanes. What could be bad about that?

Then I found this little nugget at the end:
The lanes come at a cost of more than $800,000. Federal tax funds will pay for them.
And that's where I have a problem. Neglecting the fact that almost a million dollars will be spent on this project, it's the source of the funding that I really take issue with. Why in the world is the federal government paying for the 1¼ miles of bike lane outside my apartment? How in the world is this remotely related to anybody beyond my immediate locale, and why should they be funding this? If anything, the funding should be coming from city coffers, since it's the citizens of Austin who will benefit, and none of the other 300 million members of our democratic republic.

But you know what? The citizens of Austin probably are paying for this anyway! The city can't raise the money it needs to because of the onerous tax burden placed on its residents by Washington, so they have to get those same dollars by chasing grant money coming from Congress. Instead of keeping the money locally, where is it taxed and spent, it gets to go on a 3,000-mile trip to Washington and back, with dozens of people and organizations taking their cut along the way.

The end result is little accountability, and lots of overhead, meaning that a $800,000 project is probably paid for by taxing 2 or 3 times that.

And that, my friends, is the real problem with federal spending: the fact that the vast majority of it exists at all. It should be local or state spending, but not federal. Unfortunately, the little sentence known as the Tenth Amendment has long ago lost any meaning for the vast majority of American leaders.

(You may now go back to your regularly-scheduled programming. I promise not to wax political for at least a few more months. :) )

Monday, April 4, 2011

April Fool's Day Delight

April Fool's Day is an interesting thing. Most people really don't seem to like it. I'm not into the pranking aspect of it because frankly they generally seem a little mean. I do however love to have fun with food.

We had a silly April Fool's Day Dinner with a bunch of our friends. It was pretty fun to see and hear everyone's reaction to their dinner. We had meatball sandwiches, cupcakes, fruit skewers, and cinnamon rolls, accompanied by berry sodas.

One of the kids was so disturbed when his succulent cinnamon rolls tasted like a cheesy beef roll up that he wouldn't eat anything else. We laughed as the kids tried to suck their berry sodas through the straws and it was fun to have fun with our friends.

My kids keep asking when we get to have a silly dinner again, I think it's just because they liked eating their dessert first.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Camping Trip

We went on our annual camping trip. (Annual in the sense that we go camping about once a year.) The early spring and late fall are the best places to go camping around here because it is so hot in the summer. We camped at Buescher State Park and it was really pretty. We were almost the only ones there. It was funny because we found out the other group was a bunch of LDS homeschooling families from the Houston area. Come to find out we even knew one of the families as they had lived here when we moved in five years ago. Pretty crazy.

We bought fire wood and s'more supplies, along with all our other camping gear and headed out Monday just after lunch. We all slept on the way out except our trusty driver, Hyrum. We set up camp and went to play on the playground at the park. It was a beautiful day, if a little on the cool side, it was still perfect weather for camping. At this point, the only down side was that we couldn't use our fire wood due to a burn ban. For me, camping isn't camping without a camp fire so I was a little disappointed. It was a good thing we brought enough charcoal though so we were still able to enjoy s'mores, and enjoy them we did.

Tuesday morning I woke up early and definitely not bright. I had to take Hannah to the bathroom and felt a slight mist in the air. I was still optimistic it would burn off and we would have a lovely day. Well the mist got a little heavier and soon we had very large rain drops. It wasn't pouring or raining very hard but it rained for a few hours so things got wet. It let up late morning and the kids and Hyrum went for walks while I cleaned up breakfast and waited for Charlotte to wake up from her nap.

We went back to the playground and then ate lunch and mid-afternoon we went for a little walk. It was a little gray still but I hoped we had seen the last of the rain. As we started coals for roasting hot dogs It started to rain again. The only other people there had decided to rent the shelter to keep warm and dry. (You burn fire wood there) They invited us to join them so after eating dinner and cleaning up we went over there. It was nice and warm and because of chimneys, we didn't smell too much like smoke afterwards. We had a bit of excitement that required a shower for Hannah but we made it through the day without too much trouble and a little fun to boot. Everybody slept great that night too.

The next morning was freezing. The wind had blown all night and moved the front through leaving a lot of cold air around. I was grateful that the shelter was still rented and fire was still burning. I made breakfast and we headed over there to enjoy it while the morning warmed up. Hyrum had a couple of call for work that morning but we broke up camp around 11, headed to the playground for last time. We ate lunch there and headed home. We dragged our tired, dirty selves into our apartment about 3 pm on Wednesday afternoon. As quickly as we could we got things cleaned up and by the time everyone went to bed that night I really only had laundry left to do.

It was a good trip. It was nice to be able to spend time together as a family and watch Hyrum with the kids. He was a good help with them while we were camping. I look forward to next time and hopefully rain won't be in the forecast.