Ryan Strong and Cassie Mills
Photo by Ryan
Now, however, as parents to a five-year-old son and three-year-old twin boys, their priorities have changed. “A few years ago,” Ryan says, “I was most concerned about easy access to mountain bike trails.” He laughs and spread his hands to indicate the rollicking pirate crew in his kitchen. “Now we’re looking at different issues—school funding, for one.”
It is a Sunday afternoon and Ryan picks his way carefully through Jack O’Lanterns, fresh strands of cottony spider webs, and careful groupings of
beloved plastic rats as he passes out sandwiches to three little boys. (In case you hadn’t noticed with the election coming up in 14 days—it is almost Halloween!)
Noah Strong (above and below)
Like most people, Ryan and Cassie feel the impact of a slow economy. Both named budget freezes as a concern. Ryan works for the City of Boise as a paralegal and Cassie is employed at Community Partnerships, where she aids individuals with disabilities in finding employment. “Right now it is definitely more difficult to find jobs for the people I work with,” she says, “and many cuts to services affect those who are most vulnerable.”
The Strongs face specific challenges right now, since their oldest son has recently been diagnosed with Celiac disease. Cassie peels an apple and points out that this gluten-free shift is a lifestyle change for the whole family. Because of the inevitability of cross-contamination it is easier to revamp everyone’s diet. “We are trying to be more of a whole-food family and make more foods from scratch, have a good garden, focus on fruits and vegetables.”
The general concerns on their minds are shared with many other young families: the economy, schools and education, and the quality of air and water. Asked what they envision for the future of Boise, both parents take a moment to think, and the boys are momentarily quiet, sprawled across the kitchen floor creating bright pastel drawings.
Ian Strong (above)
Ian Strong (above)
Ryan speaks first, “I’d like to see public transportation expanded, so the nearby suburbs and towns are all linked.” He appreciates characteristic Boise blend of urban and small town life and a better transportation network is one urban amenity he would like to see expanded.
Cassie nods and adds, “Schools. I’d like to see a greater variety of educational methods incorporated, to serve different styles of learning.” She
smiles, “You definitely start looking at schools differently when you have small children.”
Cassie and Ryan spend a lot of time in the outdoors camping, hiking, and looking for bugs with their children. They agree that Boise is a great place to live and to raise children. Ryan looks around at the art gallery on the floor and the Halloween decorations they have just put up. “We are just an ordinary family,” he says, half apologetically. It is in warm kitchens like this one that generations of Idaho families have been nurtured, and today’s concerns and responsibilities link families across the District and across the city on this Sunday afternoon and on every day of the year.