Sunday, August 30, 2009

Look out!

The last few weeks our son has begun to do a lot of new things. Perhaps his favorite thing to do is imitate others. After Gabs went around the house spraying everyone with a spray bottle, he found the bottle, and pointing it at us, he used his mouth to imitate the sound of the bottle when it sprays.

In a similar scenario, the girls like to throw me kisses after I put them to bed at night or when I'm about to leave to work and school. I act like they are throwing things at me and dodge out of the way. Erik was always "safe," so if I was holding him, their kisses wouldn't affect me. Well, now he has followed suit by throwing kisses of his own. Now I can't even turn to him for help; however, I'm not the only one that has to be careful with the kid. The girls have always loved to dress him up and continue to do so whenever they can.

And even though he doesn't have a whole lot of say in it still, I don't think it will be long before he can hold his own.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Piece of History

This summer Debs and I read all nine of Laura Ingalls' Little House books to our kids. It was fascinating even for us as parents. I ended up going through my grandparents' picture book, their life history, and some license plates from the farm where my paternal grandpa grew up (I was also raised there).
Years ago, right before I went to what was then Ricks College, I went into an old wood shed behind our house (at one time the homestead used before the main farmhouse was built) and grabbed three license plates from a collection of about forty or fifty--two of which are pictured above. The third, and perhaps my favorite comes from 1928. Unfortunately, I don't have it with me. It's still packed away with my things at my parents' place in Idaho, but it looks like the following plate with numbers imprinted over a large potato--yep Idaho was even famous for potatoes back then.

So, where am I going with this? Well, I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Spain for two years shortly after that and somehow never thought to go back and grab the rest of the plates before the farm was sold. I thought each of my siblings might like to have an old, framed license plate from the farm where they grew up, so I resolved to contact the current owner to see if I could purchase some of them. However, when I talked with my mom about my idea, she indicated that they had been sold along with numerous other antiques, tools, and odds and ends; the proceeds of which were to be divided equally between my father and his siblings. Although I'm glad to have the three that I grabbed years ago, I'm disappointed that my brother and sisters won't enjoy the same fortune. I guess those things happen with inheritance.

If I'm not mistaken, the first plates issued in Idaho came out in 1913. I'll probably never know if there was one from that year in my grandpa's collection of plates. My grandpa, who passed away while I was serving my mission in Spain, turned eight years old right after the 1916 plate pictured here came out. In my grandpa's life history, he talks about his "eighth year" and of harrowing in the fields behind a pair of horses, while his father built their house (the house in which I grew up). I've since thought of all the other license plates and the stories from my grandpa's life history that are associated with the years they came out. While it is unfortunate that they will not stay in the family, there is a comical side to all this.

Last Sunday I showed the 1916 license plate to my kids and told them that it was almost 100 years old. Gabs, who just turned six this summer, querried, "From when you were little?" She seems bound and determined to make me out as being older than I really am.

Earlier in the summer, just after we had read Little House in the Big Woods we enjoyed a night together as a family discussing how journals and photo albums help us know our ancestors better. I showed Debs and the kids some pictures taken when my parents were younger with just two or three kids. One of the pictures shows a deer that my dad shot one year during hunting season. That of course led to an explanation about how I used to go hunting each year with my family during the deer hunt, which provided our family with meat for the following year. Gabs seemed to be quite fascinated with the concept, and, more as a comment than a question, she said, "Just like Laura's [Ingalls] dad from Little House in the Big Woods." Both Debra and I confirmed her statement, and with her eyes opening wide, she said, "Whoa! You lived a long time ago!"

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tucson is the top go-to place for simpler living . . . or so they say

About a week ago I was reading in USA Today when I stumbled across an article that caught my eye. The article mentioned that according to the AARP Tucson is the top place to go for simpler living. Apparently the AARP came up with the top twenty-five cities and then picked out some from all the different regions of the U.S. to make sure all areas were represented. They created a "stress index" based on crimes, depression, proximity to a university, affordability, and the multi-cultural feel. They interviewed the mayor, who says he is the mayor of paradise. According to him, Tucson has the highest quality of life of any city in the country, thanks in part to its temperate climate and low crime rate.

"Wow! You've got to be kidding!" I thought. Is this the same Tucson where I live? It had to be. Along with the article it had a picture of the Catalina mountains covered with snow (something that you don't see much here). Thought after thought passed through my mind such as a quote that I have heard attributed to J. Golden Kimball, "If I had a summer home in Tucson and one in Hell, I'd sell the home in Tucson and move to Hell." William Tecumseh Sherman, who succeeded Ulysses S. Grant as the Commanding General of the army, having a similar perception of the region, said, "We had one war with Mexico to take Arizona, and we should have another to make her take it back."

Today I heard someone quote a song that reflected our thoughts about the weather, "Spring has sprung / Fall has fell / Summer is here / and it's hotter than . . . usuel." With the 108° weather we had in Tucson today, combined with the fact that the air conditioner at the church didn't work, you might understand how it was almost hot enough to make a saint swear (but not quite)!

In the last month, we have only had nine days at or above 107° according to the historical weather data on That's accompanied by seventeen days of balmy weather between 100° and 106°. We even had one day top out at a frigid 95°--but that's the exception. On February 23rd of this year we had already topped the ninety degree plateau at 91°, so yes, if you compare us to Phoenix or Death Valley, which usually top us by about five or six degrees, we have quite the temperate climate.

As for the crime rate. Well, last Monday at least four vehicles had their windows smashed in just a block to the north of us. While that may sound pretty bad, it's been a full three months since four vehicles on our street had their windows smashed out. Also on Monday, a friend of mine had his bike stolen after someone cut his bike lock, and it's been over a year since I've had a bike stolen from me. Debs just finished serving on the jury in a first-degree murder trial, but that doesn't happen often--there were only 73 murders in Tucson last year. Per capita that's quite mild, compared with . . . say, Ciudad Jaurez. If you look at the per capita rate of crime compared with other cities in the U.S. you will see that Tucson is quite comparable. Compared with the number four city on AARP's list; Logan, Utah, you can see that Tucson holds its own. There are only five times as many murders per capita. If you live in Tucson, you're only 28 times more likely to have your car stolen, 25.4 times more likely to be the victim of a robbery, or 8.99 times more likely to be the victim of aggravated assault. Take a look for yourself. I've also included El Paso--once again, you are only five times more likely to be murdered in Tucson and just 2.4 times more likely to have your car stolen in Tucson.

Logan/Tucson crime rates El Paso/Tucson Crime

If you take a look at the map showing the crimes/activity reported in Tucson on July 27, you'll see that it's a rather quiet city. If you take a look at the last fourteen days, you'll see an artistic canvas with a few unpainted spots (largely gated communities). These maps only show the crimes that the Tucson City Police dealt with--they don't include the University Police, the South Tucson Police, or even the County Police. Having said that, however, I bet you still can't locate the University on the two week crime map. I've removed the "suspicious activity" from the two week map to remove a layer of paint that would cover everything else.

So, congratulations to us, we live in the city of simpler living where you don't have to wait long before someone knocks out your car windows or steals your bike. If you want to get rid of all that excess in your life, come to Tucson, there seem to be plenty of people that will gladly take it off your hands.

Ok, so maybe I've been overly sarcastic and negative about Tucson, but when a mayor blindly overlooks some things in his community (i.e. crime), it kind of gets your gander up, particularly when we have been the victim of it several times--whereas before, I cannot recall ever being the victim of such crimes.