Thursday, February 16, 2017

Migration of the Monarcha Mariposas - Photos

Our Ballard Bunch in the foothills of the Sierra Gorda Mountains in Mexico, Mexico.  These horses were truly 'work horses' as they climbed steep trails in the mountains.  No horse worked harder than Jimmy's horse - Jimmy was about the same size as his horse.  Our littlest man loved riding and was heard saying "YeeHaw" all the way up the mountain - in between petting his horse, Lolita, and telling her that she was dong a good job.  If visiting this beautiful site be sure to bring bandannas to breathe as parts of the trail are extremely dusty.

Before we even arrived at the Piedra Herrada Sanctuary we began  having cars bright light us and we slowed to turn a corner and found clouds of butterflies flocking the road.  All of the cars were driving at a snail pace in order to allow the butterflies the right of way on the road.  The sight was amazing and brought a smile to our faces.

The horses took us three quarters up the mountain.  The final journey was on foot as the actual butterfly migration location was to be kept as silent as possible (we did have a two and four year old) and we were hopeful not to disturb the natural habitat of the butterflies.  As we entered the area I began to see butterflies on the tree trunks and flying through the air.  The guide pointed out to our family that every cluster on the trees were also resting butterflies or butterflies mating.  As the sun lit the area the butterflies take to the air and the resulting display is breathtaking.

Butterflies decorating a beautiful pine tree in the Sierra Gorda Mountains of Mexico, Mexico.

Butterflies would begin to take to the sky as the sun lit and warmed the trees.  As this pine was lit by the sun the butterflies began to take to flight.  

These clusters of trees had not been warmed but the sun yet and you can see the large black clusters of butterflies.  The limbs of the trees were bending with the weight of the butterflies.  As the butterflies took to wing it was amazing to hear the soft beats of their wings - the sheer number of them allowed for us to hear the movement of their wings!

Here, near the forest floor I photographed the flight of the butterflies, nearby were butterflies mating and others (like those pictured on the tree trunk) had died after fulfilling the purpose for their migration.

Our birthday girl (the littlest princess) loved her time riding her horse and seeing the butterflies for her "Butterfly Birthday".  

For our oldest daughter this may well be her 'last ride' in the mountains of Mexico with our family for a time. She is preparing to start her own chapters in life and this picture I took from behind her on the trail captured the upcoming departure of our girl!  She will blaze trails of her own and take her adventures by the reign - we hope she will realize the beauty that she is and the beauty that surrounds her as she heads off on her own.

Overall, our Ballard Bunch enjoyed being outdoors together, loved the beautiful weather in Mexico, the welcoming of the people and the natural elegance and beauty of these amazing creatures.  This is a memory that will not be forgotten.  If you have the opportunity this experience is one that our Bunch highly recommends!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Beauty of the Monarch Butterfly

Stunning, beautiful, fragile, naturally elegant and graceful.  Once again our family was blessed to witness the culmination of the inexplicable Monarch Butterfly Migration in the Sierra Gorda Mountains of Mexico.

We, along with others silently gathered in the dusty, cool, pine woods setting high in the mountains of Mexico.  There as we watched as Monarch Butterflies filled the skies we were witnesses of the majestic beauty of even the simplest of creatures.  What a tremendous creation and an awe inspiring experience.  As the silence of the area penetrated the air we could hear the faint flap of butterfly wings.  Even though we were accompanied by a four year old and her two year old little brother we were able to enjoy the silence and the beauty of the moment.  (Although, in true honesty, with these two little ones it was shorter lived than I would have enjoyed.)

The sky was absolutely filled with Monarch butterflies and the tree branches are drooping with clusters of butterflies in the trees.  After the butterflies mated the males often fell to the ground and died leaving the females to rest then begin their flight back to the plains of Texas, U.S.A. and the preferred milkweed plant to lay their eggs.

As stated, after mating in the mountains of the Sierra Gordas the male species will die and often there are many butterflies littering the ground that have reached the measure of their creation and have died thereafter.  Any and all butterflies you see in these photos either landed on us or were gathered from the ground by our guide - those butterflies that had mated and were dying.

Our littlest princess was celebrating her birthday weekend and enjoyed riding horses up the mountains and seeing all the beautiful butterflies.  She was able to hold a couple of the male species as they were passing away.  It was beautiful to see the gentle touch of a child as they held a fragile creature.

Our Birthday Girl and Her Butterfly!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

We're Back with Two More Little Ones...

Our first few weeks here we traveled to some familiar places and I took a picture or our Ballard Bunch in a similar pose to one taken around eight years ago(2009)!   It is beautiful to see how our children have grown and our family size has grown as well!  This beautiful gazebo is in the colonial town San Miguel de Allende - everywhere we walked we heard our older children pointing out landmarks and remembering. One comment made us smile, "I didn't realize how much Mexico is such a part of me." Our bunch enjoyed our favorite restaurant, walked the plaza and parque and enjoyed taking this second picture with our additional little ones!

Our entire Ballard Bunch - Chapters One and Two...

Our Ballard Bunch circa 2010

A Family of Tex-Mex

Our Ballard Bunch is again here in the beautiful country of Mexico for an extended stay! We are enjoying our time here - the beautiful country, the wonderful people and the welcoming culture. Our crew has been busy exploring again and introducing our two youngest to our friends here in Mexico. We will again begin posting our experiences to share with friends and family. We look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Expansion of Gambling... You Gotta Know When To "Hold 'Em"

The Texas legislature is only in session for 6 months every two years - this session ends on May 30. In that short amount of time we have MUCH to do and watch over as citizens of this wonderful state!

For now, we must keep fighting! And the fight for today is regarding gambling in TX. You can read the whole sordid story here about how Joe Straus has a personal financial interest in TX gambling and how he is hiding the bill from public view. And after you're done reading, make sure to take action!

Who to call: your State Rep
Contact info: click here to find your representatives
NOW! They are sneaking this in right now!
What to say: We do not want an expansion of gambling in Texas of any kind whatsoever - no race track derbies, no VLT’s, no racinos, no casinos!

Thank you for making your voice heard!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Taking Toll Taxes TOO Far...

Yes, In TEXAS everything (including the highway system) is BIGGER, BETTER... but do we really want to add MORE EXPENSIVE to that list? Take time to read this segment below and contact your representatives on the state level to share your thoughts.

Tomorrow, in Austin, TX the House bill HB 1112 by Texas State Rep. Larry Phillips (R - Sherman) is on the General State Calendar in the House for Wednesday, April 20. TURF (Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom) is urging lawmakers to VOTE NO on HB 1112, which amount to toll taxes in perpetuity.

"This bill makes 'system financing' permissible for Regional Mobility Authorities (or RMAs), which is stealing toll taxes from one corridor and giving it to another corridor (that those same users may not use) as well as to increase the toll on one segment to gain "surplus revenue" to pledge to another and so on, making it virtually impossible to take the tolls off the road."

Under HB 1112, there would no longer be a requirement that toll rates be based on the cost of building the road and retiring the debt nor strictly dedicated to paying the cost of construction and retiring the debt. Also, based on testimony during an exchange between RMA lobbyist Brian Cassidy and Senator Juan Hinojosa in the Senate Transportation Committee March 9, "system financing" indeed means tolls in perpetuity. The Texas Constitution prohibits perpetuities in Art I, Sec. 26. So under "system financing," tolls become a hidden, permanent tax, not a "user fee."

The bill also allows RMAs to borrow money using borrowed money, which are the same multi-leveraging schemes that caused the subprime mortgage crisis and global financial meltdown.

It's like building roads with credit cards," says Hall. "It's dangerous and very risky business, putting the taxpayers on the hook for any bailouts if the traffic doesn't show up. With gas nearing $4 a gallon, toll roads are bleeding traffic. So future bailouts of this multi-leveraged debt is more likely by the day."

HB 1112 also broadens the authority of RMAs to have all the powers of TxDOT, including eminent domain, and Comprehensive Development Agreements (selling off Texas roads to private toll operators) if that authority is granted to the Department. The bill also broadens its authority for toll collection, which has been problematic in every area of the state. HB 1112 allows RMAs to build parking structures and collect "fees" or tolls on parking and parking meters. Phillips argues it's for the Grayson Airport, but the bill doesn't limit it to airport parking.

It would allow the RMAs to raid property tax appraisal increases for its projects, and use toll revenues for "economic development" (which is eminent domain for private gain) and for just about anything it likes. It would also repeal Section 370.317(d), Transportation Code which requires the Department to approve any agreements between a local government and private entity.

It would also let RMAs participate in the State Travel Program. Why would a LOCAL entity to need travel? Perhaps for junkets to "conventions" in Austria as the NTTA did at a cost to taxpayers of $7,000 a ticket? All of this would be done by UN-elected bureaucrats, not elected officials.

"This bill is far from being fiscally responsible much less fiscally conservative," concludes Hall.

Two other organizations besides TURF testified against this bill, Texas Public Interest Research Group and Texans for Accountable Government. Only the RMA lobbyist testified in favor.

Texas TURF is a non-partisan, grassroots, all-volunteer group defending Texans’ concerns with toll road policy, Trans Texas Corridor-style projects like public private partnerships, and eminent domain abuses. TURF promotes non-toll transportation solutions.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Our National Anthem

I have always loved the simple beauty of The National Anthem of the United States of America. I had the chance to sing it before the Houston Astros played the Boston Red Sox (so appropos) at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas this past week. Here is a short video recorded by my wonderful husband!