Friday, June 08, 2007

Early Summer Vacation

In a couple of hours, when I pick Z up at school, it will be the beginning of his summer vacation. Julie, however, has been on vacation for about a week already. Why, you ask? Over last weekend, Julie started complaining about a sore throat. Then she became extremely tired. Sound familiar?

A couple of visits to the doctor later and Julie had her diagnosis...mono. Mono? Yes, mono...

As we understand it, this first week will be the intense period of exhaustion. As I write this, Julie is laying on the couch watching the second "Princess Diaries" movie, for like the umpteenth time. In fact, she's watching it this time with the director's comments. Wait a minute...the TV just went off. She's now opened up The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, one of her summer reading books. This will definitely pay dividends in August!

It's too bad that Julie has to miss the last, fun week of school, especially given how hard she works all year long. As her teacher put it, this week is the "victory lap." That said, she couldn't have timed things more perfectly...no make up work (yea!) and plenty of time to rest up before the big trip. As usual, Julie puts family ahead of her own wants and needs!

And, oh yeah, happy birthday, Julie! Ai ni!

~Daddy

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Heelin' USA

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 1,600 kids went to the emergency room last year as a result of injuries sustained while wearing Heelys. As I like to put it, there isn't a kid in America under the age of 13 who walks anymore. OK, I exaggerate, but you get the point....Heelys are everywhere...and some kids are ending up worse for wear.

That said, I really hope that we are not on the front end of what turns out to be a strong backlash against Heelys. Yes, there are risks involved, but helmets, wrist protectors, knee and elbow pads all seem to be excessive reactions to the heeling in question. Am I just too accepting of this kind of risk?

One thing I am not accepting of is poor Heelys etiquette. School bans on the use of Heelys make absolute sense to me, as does the idea that kids should not be heeling in crowded places like shopping malls. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I say let Julie and Z heel to their hearts' content up and down the sidewalk on our street and in other wide open places.

Is there a chance they might get injured? Of course there is. But I think it's a childhood chance well worth taking...

~Steve

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ode to Julie

It is difficult to believe that a dozen years have gone by. It seems like only yesterday that I was holding my 10 1/2 pounder for the very first time. I remember heading to Durham Regional Hospital in Durham, NC on a beautiful Sunday morning. The sky was bright blue. Unfortunately, McDonalds was changing over to lunch so a gravy biscuit was out of the question. McDonalds before delivery, you ask? Well I was about to embark on quite an energy-draining experience. Thank goodness they still super-sized at that time so Steve and I could share a 2-cheeseburger meal with sweet tea.

At 2:39pm, a beautiful round-headed, rosebud-lipped, chubby-cheeked ray of sunshine was born and it has been heaven in the Balla household ever since.

As for me, Julie is the perfect daughter to have. "Mini-me with a twist," I always say. A true girly-girl who loves pink, marches to her own beat, and never worries what others will think. Standing up for all she believes to be right and getting the job done deliberately and conscientiously. (Not to mention sporting a conscience the size of Alaska!) The twist? Julie is not afraid to take chances. She'll try new things in a heartbeat, even if it it physically, mentally or sensory-challenging (alligator nuggets, anyone?) No hesitation, no trepidation. I've learned from her how exciting it can be to welcome new experiences openly. For this reason and a million others, Julie is a true blessing!

Happy 12th Birthday to my Spygirl J, my Barbie doll, my Love-bug!

~Mommy

In God's Country

There's one last (but not least) Montana experience I have to talk about. On Sunday morning, I went down into Big Sky for Mass. As you can see, the surroundings are pretty inspirational, with Lone Mountain framing the Big Sky Chapel.

As for the chapel itself, I was surprised when I walked in and couldn't find any holy water to bless myself with. Then I sat down in a pew and discovered there were no kneelers. With that, I started to wonder whether I was in a Catholic chapel or some other Christian denomination's church.

My question was quickly answered when I read through a sheet of paper that had been placed in one of the pew's cubbies. Turns out the Big Sky Chapel holds four different Christian services at different times during the day on Sunday. I was at the Catholic Mass after all, just in a setting without the usual icons and trappings that go with Catholic churches.

This passage from Proverbs was particularly meaningful to me in such a grand, natural setting:

"When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no fountains or springs of water;
before the mountains were settled into place,
before the hills, I was brought forth."

~Steve

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Bee-bar-kay

Contrary to what I've been emphasizing, a lot of my time on this trip has been spent in the Liberty Fund sessions that paid my way out here to Big Sky. Each day, we've had three hour-and-a-half sessions. The sessions are devoted to discussing a particular reading or set of readings on the general topic of bureaucracy, democracy, and judicial review--from Tocqueville all the way to contemporary administrative law.

As you might imagine, with such varied terrain, the discussions range far and wide. With so many professors around the table, the key is design rules that enable the conversation to have some semblance of order. After all, we are not used to sharing the stage with anyone!

So what we do is point a finger up if we want to make a significant point. If we want to say something more focused in reaction to what is currently being discussed, we point one finger down. All of this takes place in a cabin named B-K, affectionately known as "Bee-bar-kay."

The punch line in all of this is that I repeatedly found myself defending the delegation of policymaking authority to bureaucracy. To state it hyperbolically, I tend to view career middle level bureaucrats as the "heroes" of American government today. They are generally hard working and public spirited, although you can certainly find plenty of slackers and those with other motivations. In addition, bureaucrats tend to be responsive to changes in the political winds, which I view as a good thing. Elections should have consequences for what happens inside government agencies, within limits of course.

Anyways, did we figure out how to protect and enhance liberty in today's administrative state? Of course not, but we had fun trying...

~Steve