Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Aren't we gorgeous?

We had our pictures taken by my sister-in-law's sister.  Are you confused yet?  Well, They turned out great.  I wish I could post more but I thought posting all these were a bit excessive. Thank you Brandon and Beka Lowe! If you want photos taken, call them.  They are pretty much awesome.

Family Photos

We took a picture with all of Brenden's family one evening.  It was blazing hot and we thought it would be a good idea to take a picture facing the sun. Bad idea.  I am sorry to my family.  I just had to post this.  It is way too funny. 

Here's a real one.  Much better, right? 

Arizona Post #4

Emmie got to spend a lot of time with her cousins.  My sister, Carianne somehow talked her husband, Rusty into hosing a sleepover.  The girls had a blast.  They made fruit pizza, watched movies, and caused all sorts of trouble I am sure!  I love this picture of Emmie.  She was very excited. 

I want to know who invited Brenden!

This might be my favorite picture of Jenna, Emmie, and Cora.  I can only imagine what they are laughing about.  Emmie is so lucky to have such good cousins.

I'm getting toward the end of my pictures.  These next two are of my brother Gregg.   Let's just say he is a good sport. 

We had such a great time.  Thank you to all our family!  I want you all to know you are welcome to visit Kearney anytime!  I know you all want to...

Arizona Post #3

Happy Birthday Emmie!  We had a pink flamingo pool party for Emmie's 4th birthday.  We were so pleased that so many of our family members could make it.  Brenden's parents and grandma were down from Bellingham, WA along with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins from town. As I look at this collage, I notice there aren't pictures of Lorinda and Matthew.  I promise they were there.

My sister and I made these flamingo cake pops after about 4 trips to Michaels for supplies.  They do not look as good as the tutorial and looked more like vultures.  It just wasn't meant to be for these pink beauties.  On the way over they melted and all their heads fell off.  That's ok- they tasted great.

Thank you to all who came.  We appreciate your love and generosity!  Emmie is already talking about next year so get ready!

Arizona post #2

Happy Anniversary!  We spent our anniversary in AZ on June 11th (also Emmie's birthday).  My parents were kind enough to watch the kids while Brenden and I took off on a little day trip to Sedona and Flagstaff.  It was so fun to do what we wanted when we wanted.  There was nothing planned around naps or feeding children.  

We went hiking at Grasshopper point in Oak Creek Canyon, tried to catch some crawdads (crazy), and cliff jumed (double crazy).

Later in the day we drove through the canyon up to Flagstaff where Brenden let me walk around the NAU campus and tell him all sorts of memories.  We ate at Crytal Creek Sandwiches (get the veggie- it is amazing), walked around downtown, drove up the mountain for a quick hike and got burgers for dinner.  It was a relaxing day.  Happy 8 years B!

Arizona Post #1

We have been in Arizona for the past 4 weeks.  It was amazing.  I know what you are thinking... it is 150 degrees in AZ, why would you go there?  Well, we had a family reunion and decided to drive down.  If we were going to drive the 20 hours then we were going to make it worth our while!
 Many fun things were done.  We had a planning party where we took a calendar and planned something fun to do almost every night. Here are some of the favorites:

Swimming lessons.  I can say that Pete will be an excellent swimmer.  He can go underwater, blow bubbles, and jump in without help.  Emmie passed her class!  She is well on her way to swimming on her own.  Her cousin Kate was also in her class.  I feel sorry for their teacher... maybe that's why she passed!

Many afternoons were spent at the splash pad.  Life saver.

We went to see Little Red Riding Hood at the Arizona Puppet Theater.  The kids really liked it.  Emmie thought the puppets were real people and spent the whole show on the Grandma's laps instead of sitting up front with her cousins.  The building was in a beautiful old neighborhood in Phoenix.  You don't see neighborhoods like this very often- it's worth the trip.

 We attended the "free" night at the Phoenix children's museum along with every other kid in the valley.  It was packed!  We lost Pete just after this picture was taken.  I found him about 50 feet away in a pool noodle forest.  The security guard said to my mom, you'd better watch him- someone will take that one.  Yikes.  If I wasn't scared enough!  I would also like to mention we had 2 adults per child which obviously wasn't enough.

Craft night with my favorite ladies.  These are my sisters, cousins, aunts, grandmas and moms.  It was really fun.   I love spending time with these ladies. We made these cute necklaces. I look forward to seeing them every time I come to town. 

Many afternoons were also spent in this kiddie pool.  I love how the water comes out of the hose warm.  Not too refreshing but I love it. Pete was always so excited to get in we would just strip him down and let him go.  It must have been hard holding up that extra 15 pounds of diaper water weight!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Politics, by Brenden

A number of people have asked me how I, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon or LDS) will be voting in the upcoming 2012 Presidential election.  As anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock will note, the presumptive Republican nominee is Mitt Romney, a Mormon.  So, the question is understandable.  I feel this deserves a bit of discussion and disclosure. 

I am a registered “independent.”  The Republican and Democratic platforms both present a number of issues with which I agree and disagree.  However, neither succeeds in representing me well, so I am reticent to throw full weight behind either party.  For anyone who follows my political musings on facebook and elsewhere, you should have sensed a broad disillusionment with the two-party system.  I think hyper-partisanship is preventing our country from properly dealing with a number of severe crises which we face – it stymies communication, cooperation, coordination, compromise and a number of other terms beginning with “co-.”  If you want to get me riled up, put on a cable news talking heads show - MSNBC, CNN, Fox News or others - where pundits bring on politicians and partisans to recite talking points.  I can feel my blood pressure mounting just thinking about it.  It seems that our elected officials are primarily concerned with politics – with being proven right, instead of DOING right – with staying in power – with getting reelected.  99% of their energies are focused on any number of things, other than governing.  Politicking is a career – it is not “public service.”  This frustrates me to no end. The political career takes money - lots of money - and I think that the endless pursuit of money can be a corrupting influence on people, on institutions, on societies.  (1 Timothy 6:10, anyone?)   Don't even get me started on public campaign finance reform and the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. 

“An independent?!” some of you may scoff, decrying supposed dishonesty.   True - you may have also noticed that as of late I have been more vocal about my disdain for the Republican Party.  This, I will frankly admit.  I do not feel that my views have moved markedly to the left in the past 5-6 years, but I do feel that the GOP brand and rhetoric has moved markedly right.  This, however, brings up another point of my frustration.  The concept of a linear left-center-right sliding scale does little justice to complexity of my (or any honest person’s) political beliefs, but it is the parlance with which we are saddled.  It is difficult to find one’s place on the supposed left-right/liberal-conservative (centrist/moderate?) scale.  I have economic, social, cultural, religious, domestic and foreign-policy views that pepper the full spectrum.  Nevertheless, I will reluctantly accept that this is the political lexicon with which we deal and blandly state that I am a “centrist” or “moderate” – whatever that means. 

In more significant terms, I should state that I vehemently disagree and lukewarmly agree with both parties on various issues.  I don’t think I have been shy or coy in expressing this, but I do not voice many specific opinions on specific issues.  I wear my dissatisfaction with American politics on my sleeve – wholeheartedly – but I do not wear my politics on my sleeve.  Why?  Because I increasingly find it difficult to engage in fruitful political dialog with increasingly entrenched partisans.  I try very hard to keep the blinders off, but am saddened when others do not.  My wife is often frustrated when we talk politics because I always seem to play “devil’s advocate,” even when I actually agree with what she is expressing – that is just me trying to weigh, debate and analyze all sides of the argument.  That is the historian in me.  That is my academic training forcing me to strive for objectivity, consider all sides and construct strong arguments in favor of all view points before coming down on conclusions of my own.

So, will I be voting for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?  I am not pro-Obama.  In fact, I am quite frustrated with the man, his leadership and his campaign.  Likewise, I am not pro-Romney.  I strongly disagree with his stated views on domestic and foreign-policy issues and his manner of campaigning.  So the question stands – who am I more “anti”?  Who repulses me more?  Am I anti-Obama or anti-Romney?  It saddens me to say, but this is how I view the election.  I cannot offer a strong voice of support for either candidate and that saddens me.  I wish I could.  As things stand now, my reluctant vote will go to Obama – not because I am enamored with him, but because I am less-enamored with the prospect of a Romney presidency or GOP-controlled executive branch. 

I hope to that in the near future I will be able to give an enthusiastic vote for the Republican or Democratic Party.  I pray that one of them will someday soon express views that more closely mirror my own.  I would love to put bumper stickers on my car, signs in my yard and donate monies to campaigns – for either party!  My vote is here for the wooing.  Woo me!  If the past 6 years of partisan polarization at federal, state and local levels are any indication, however, neither will.  That’s too bad. 

I believe that the United States has the potential to enact serious positive change across the globe and lead to a bright future.  American exceptionalism?  Sure!  The constitutional system put in place over two centuries ago laid the foundation for a potentially exceptional future.  At times, we have risen to meet challenges and done great things, but often we have fallen short.  We have been given quite a bit on a silver platter, and it is a shame to see it squandered.  In many ways, America is great, but we are nowhere near reaching our potential.  For the time being, partisan politics are getting in the way.