Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Tate: Me and Curtis are going to have a band called Idiot Friends. And our only song is going to go "Idiot friennnndddddsssss!!!" 🎤

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Orthodontic mugshot: The face of a boy who has to get braces.

Sunday, October 09, 2016


Some political advice from a five-year-old wearing a Mario costume: Peyton Manning would make a better president than Trump OR Clinton. Because he's retired. #tatersgonnatate

Friday, September 30, 2016


Bye, bye Alaska. You've been really real.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

That Time When I Faced a Major League Pitcher

Eli, Sam, Grant, and me at Chase Field in Arizona 
 So I got this text message from my brother-in-law the other day:

I was perusing and saw an article that caught my attention -- Can an Ordinary Guy Hit a Major League Pitch. I read the line "if your brother-in-law were plunked down..." only to realize -- wait a minute, that IS my brother-in-law! That must have been a really cool experience. 

Spoiler alert: It was.

The Backstory

My friend Grant: Hey Spencer, do you want to go to an Arizona Diamondbacks game and hit batting practice against Major League pitcher?

Um. Yes, please. That sounds like pretty much the coolest thing I could imagine doing.

Cool. The four of us are going to make the 10-hour drive in a Honda Fit. And then we're all going to sleep in a haunted hotel, in one hotel room with two queen-sized beds. And then we're going to drive 10 hours back. 

Hmm. That's a lot of bodies and a lot of time in a little car. And I haven't shared a bed with another dude since I went to Weezer in New York with Ty. And, before that, since the time I shared a hotel bed in Antwerp with my mission companion (that's another story entirely).

Can I think about it?


I thought about it. And then I said yes.

How it Went Down 

A few months ago, I was sitting at my desk at work. Grant stopped by and said, “Does anybody want to do stand-up comedy with me at open mic night at Wise Guys? I want to check it off my bucket list.”

I said yes. (That’s also another story.)

Then a few months later, my coworker Sam had something on his bucket list. “Hey guys, I’ve always wanted to see if I could hit a Major League fastball.”

Pfff. Like that would ever happen.  

And then it did. A few weeks later Grant said, “Hey guys, I told the Arizona Diamonds that I wanted to write a story for KSL called ‘Can a Regular Guy Hit a Major League Baseball?’ And they said yes! Do you want to go?”

So We Drove to Arizona 

Right before lunch on Friday, Sam, Grant, and I got into to Eli’s Honda Fit. Eight hours of driving and lots of Red Vines later, we had made to Flagstaff, Arizona.

We stayed in the Hotel Monte Vista, known for its spooky history. We were just a few doors down from the Haunted Rocking Chair.

Once featured on the television show "Unsolved Mysteries," room 305 is by far the most active room in the hotel. There are numerous reports of seeing a woman in the rocking chair near the window. Guests and housekeeping have reports of seeing the chair move by itself and knocking coming from inside the closet! History tells us that years ago an elderly woman who was a long-term renter would sit by the window for hours on end. No one knows what she was looking at or looking for. Could it be she is waiting for someone to return, even in death? 

Between being tired from traveling and worried about sharing a bed with another dude, I didn’t have any energy to be haunted by ghosts. Bummer. Next time.

Heading to Phoenix 

We woke up Saturday morning and headed off to the stadium. Thanks to good conversation in the car, the time flew by. But once we hit downtown Phoenix, the nerves started to kick in.

Here’s the thing. I love baseball. I’ve loved baseball since I got my first tee-ball uniform — a yellow Murray Rec t-shirt and a white foam trucker hat; my mom used a stencil and a Sharpie to color in a letter P to make my Phillies uniform come to life. I loved Little League. I loved Babe Ruth. When I can’t sleep at night, I pretend I’m walking out to the mound to pitch under the lights. I love baseball. (Not trying out for the high school team remains one of my biggest regrets.)

So hitting batting practice was kind of a big deal. I didn’t need to be a big hitter. If I could at least not make a fool of myself — maybe a foul bar or two, I’d be happy.

In the Cage

We got to the stadium around 11:00, where we met up with the Diamondbacks’ PR guy. He took us down to the players-only batting cage underneath the stadium and left us alone with the weighted bats and beat up batting helmets while we waited for the pitcher to arrive.

After a few minutes Mark Reed, a former Major Leaguer and current Diamondbacks bullpen catcher, walked in and told us he was going to throw us seven pitches each.

This was getting really real.

Grant went first. He hit almost all of them. Then Sam went. He hit a bunch, too. Now I was really feeling the pressure. What if I got in there and missed everything?

Right before Sam finished, Grant hollered to the pitcher, “Hey, do you think you could turn up the heat a little bit?”

Batting practice pitchers don’t stand on the mound. They stand about two-thirds of the way between home plate and the pitching rubber. That way he doesn’t have to throw it as hard to match game speeds.

“Yeah, no problem.” He wound up and threw and it whizzed right past Sam. It was the equivalent of about 90 mph. Whoo. That’s fast.

Then it was my turn.

Luckily, Mark started off slow. He lobbed me a few softies. With each one I hit, my confidence picked up a bit.

I’m doing! I’m hitting it!

And then he turned up the speed.

Whoosh! Right past me. In came the next one, but I was ready this time.

Crack! (Or maybe Ping! Even though we were hitting in the Majors, they let us use an aluminum bat.)

I hit it.

Not hard. Not far. But I hit it. I hit a pitch thrown by a Major League pitcher.

Yes, it was in a batting cage. Yes, it was just a fastball and not a slider or a curve or a knuckle ball. But I did it!

The Professionals

After our batting session was over, we got to see how the big boys do it. We walked through the dugout (which was awesome, by the way) and onto the field to watch the Diamondbacks take batting practice. Batter after batter rocked pitches into the empty seats in the upper deck. Amazing. Then the Dodgers came on and did the same.

As the players walked past us on their way back to clubhouse after batting practice, I was struck by two things: these were big, strong dudes and they were really young. When I get called up to the big leagues (which is pretty much inevitable after my batting cage performance), I’m going to be the elder statesman of the team. I better get used to being called Old Man Utah.

Nice View

The Diamondbacks gave us tickets to the game — and press passes, too! So we wandered everywhere we thought those passes could take us. We eventually ended up in the press box behind home plate.

While the sports reporters sitting next to us were frantically typing up their stories about the game, we were eating ice cream and hoping to catch a foul ball. At one point, I was trying to explain designated hitters to Eli, who, prior to that day, had not hit a baseball since he was six years old.

“You can use a DH in the American League. But in the National League, pitchers have to hit for themselves,” I said.

“Wait, wait, wait. One league is called the American League and the other is the National League?” Eli replied. “Don’t they realize those both mean the same thing?”

Yep, we didn’t stand out in the press room at all.

Heading home

After a night in a (non-haunted) hotel in Phoenix, we headed back home. When we got back in the car, I was still riding high from the baseball experience — but that doesn't make a 10-hour drive any easier.

Fortunately, when you’ve got three guys who can spin yarns about treasure hunting, Scientology, high school misadventures, polygamy, and international escapes from the law, the time passes by pretty quickly. 

Experience of a lifetime.

Here’s Grant’s KSL article.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


First helicopter ride to my first glacier. Fantastic experience.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


When you get all the way to stupid IKEA and your kid says, "I didn't bring any shoes." Ugh.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Automatic Doors

Curtis and Tate talking about minivans with automatic doors. Curtis: You don't even need to use your hands. Tate: Yeah, we need one of those because my hands hurt all the time. Curtis: I'm so tired of all the grabbing and pulling. Me: Yeah, things are rough all over.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Grumpy at Lagoon

Tate: "Is there anything to do at Lagoon BESIDES going on rides?" 

We made it to Lagoon at 11:30 a.m. We went home around 9:30 p.m. Around 8:00 p.m., Tate finally decided that he wanted to go on some rides.

Surprise, surprise. He liked it.

Everyone left happy. (I think) that's all that matters. 

Celebrating Traci's Birthday at Lagoon

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Truth Behind the Picture of the Smiling Kindergartner

One of the criticisms of social media is that people only share the perfect parts of their lives -- the smiling family photos, the vacations, the list of reasons why they love their spouse. And, of course, the first day of school pics.

Sure enough, Tate was smiling in this photo, taken right before he headed off to his second day of kindergarten. But here's the backstory:

This is the first year that all three of our kids are at the same school. That means, instead of driving back and forth all morning, Traci just has to drop them off at the bus stop. Hooray!

But to make sure he ended up where he was supposed to, Traci drove Tate to school on his first day. School went fine but he told us, in no uncertain terms, that he WAS NOT going to take the bus the next day.

Today was the next day.

Because Traci was taking Curtis to the dentist, I was in charge of taking Tate to the bus.

"I'm not going to the bus," he said as he walked out to the car.

"Ha, ha. Sure you are," I assured him.

"I'm not riding the bus," he said as we drove to the stop.

"The bus is the best part of school," I countered.

"You said P.E. was the best part of school."

"Oh, yeah. Well, the bus is the second best part," I hedged.

"I'm NOT going on the bus."

Whether he liked it or not, he was going on the bus. 


When we got to the stop, he happily jumped out of the car with Paige.

I knew he'd get on the bus. 

Not wanting to make any waves, I just stayed in the car and waited for the bus to show up. After about five minutes, Paige and Tate came running back to the car.

"Tate is hitting me and biting me!" Paige screamed.

Oh, great.

"Tate, quit hitting and biting Paige. Go wait for the bus."

"I'm NOT GOING on the bus!"

And then the bus showed up.

"You're getting on the bus."

He wasn't. 


I picked him up and carried him to the bus. He spent the whole time hitting and kicking me. (His little legs are the perfect length to kick me directly in the crotch.)

I stood in line behind the other kids (while my crotch was being kicked) and carried him right through the bus doors and up the stairs. The driver stared blankly at me as I said, "Here you go" and set him down.

The crowd behind us pushed forward and Tate had no choice but to follow Paige to their seat. There was literally no turning back.

I snapped another pic before the bus pulled away but he refused to look at me. (And Paige stuck her tongue out at me.)

And that's what it's really like to send your last kid to kindergarten.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

First Day of Kindergarten

Academic milestone at the Sutherland house: Tate is now a kindergartner, meaning all three kids are now in elementary school.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Two Days in San Francisco (plus two more)

Traci and I don't take a lot of kid-free vacations. If my math is right, we've only spent one night away from the kids since was Tate was born five years ago. So when I had the chance to go to San Francisco for a work conference, Traci and I decided to go a couple of days early and make it into a mini vacation. 

We covered a lot of ground in the 30 hours we had together. 

When you're in San Francisco, you have to take a ride on the trolley, right? Unfortunately, on a Sunday afternoon at the height of tourist season, that means standing in line for an hour-and-a-half. After about 45 minutes, we decided that we didn't want to spend our whole trip waiting. 

We were about to throw our $14 tickets away when the conductor said, "We can fit two more on this one." Traci and I jumped over the rope, past the 100 people in front of us and declared, "There are two of us!" We were then shoved inside the middle of the car, where we could see nothing but the bodies pressed next to us. We'll take the tram next time. 

But the trolley was good enough to take us to Ghirardelli Square, famous for its chocolate ice cream. We took one look at the ice cream line — which was nearly as long as the line for the trolley — and decided to move on. We settled for the Ben and Jerry's shop down the road. No complaints. 

Our original plan was to take the trolley back to the hotel, but we figured we would could walk all way to the hotel in less time than it would take to actually make it to the front of the trolley line. 

We had a lovely stroll through Little Italy, Chinatown, and what I like to call the Convenience District. Who knows when you're going to need a sandwich, some wine, and a notary public all at the same time? San Francisco, you've got it all! 

[Traci on the bridge pic]

By the time we made it back, our feet were pretty tired but our spirits were still high. 

We went to Uncle Vito's Pizzeria for dinner, which resulted in more waiting. I tried to pass the time by eavesdropping on the conversation the Dutch hipsters were having two tables down from the waiting area, but I couldn't really hear what they were saying. 

For the first few years after my mission, I was pretty bold. If I heard someone speaking Dutch, I'd march right up to them and join in the conversation (uninvited). These days, I'm not so confident about my Nederlands. I'll usually still chat with Dutch people, but in English. 

After what seemed like forever, we were finally seated in a three-table section upstairs — right next to another group of Dutch people. 'Tjonge jongen! Maybe it was the hunger talking, but I was brave enough to speak to them in Dutch. It was a little clunky, but I felt like I held my own. I was proud of myself. 

Day Two

The Sutherlands have never been widely known for their adventurous spirit or love until the outdoors. Until now. 

Traci and I decided to rent a bike and ride the eight miles from Fisherman's Wharf, across the Golden Gate Bridge, to Sausalito. 

Outside of the rental shop, we were still a little uncertain. 

"Are you sure want to do this?"

"Um, yeah. I mean. Yeah."

We figured a tandem bike would be the best option. 

The first 20 minutes of the 90-minute trip were a gentle ride along the bay. Despite the chilly wind, it was refreshing and quite lovely. 

Next came the steep, windy, winding trip from the bay up to the bridge. It was hot and sweaty and yell-y. 

Traci: Why do you keep shifting? 
Me: It's not me, the gear won't catch. 

Me: We're never going to make it. 
Traci: We're almost there.
Me: I'm pretty sure I'm having a heart attack. 

Traci: I'm kicking into spinning class gear!

And zoom! Up we went. 

Once we made it to the actual bridge, the ride was much easier — though it was hard to not run into/over the throngs of bridge walkers or get distracted by the suicide hotline signs posted every few hundred yards. After about an hour, we had made it to the other side of the bridge and were able to enjoy the descent into Sausalito, which was absolutely gorgeous. 

Our legs were tired and our butts were sore. But we made it! 

We rewarded ourselves with a delicious lunch and some window shopping in Sausalito and then took the ferry back to Fisherman's wharf. 

(The views of the bridge from the boat were pretty fantastic. But they didn't beat the satisfaction of actually riding the bike across the thing. Maybe this is why people, you know, do athletic stuff.)  

Back on dry land, we needed to get from Fisherman's Wharf to the hotel to get ready for Traci's flight home. We decided to walk again — taking almost the same route as the day before. We had no idea that by choosing one street over we would forgo the relative flatness of the prior day for an enormous, hilly climb. 

By the time we made it back to the hotel, we could barely move. 

Throughout the day, we'd been following the airline news. A power outage in Atlanta resulted in all of Delta's computer systems going down, which then led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights and delays for the rest. 

We were hoping that that everything would work itself out before Traci had to leave, though that seemed unlikely. (I didn't want to make Traci's parents tend our kids for another night, but I was secretly hoping that her flight would be cancelled and we'd have one more night together.)

My wish almost came true. Right as Traci was about to step into the airport shuttle bus, the Delta app dinged and said the flight was delayed two hours. That gave us just enough time to eat dinner in Union Square. Thanks for the bonus time, Delta! 

Day 3

Traci's departure meant that I actually had to start working. I ironed my pants, tucked in my shirt, put on my backpack, and marched off the social media conference like a big boy. 

At the end of the first day of the conference, there was a networking event with hors d'oeuvres and drinks. I skipped it so I could watch baseball. 

Despite being directionally challenged, I was confident that I could find my way to the Oakland Coliseum for the A's game. 

I made it to Oakland without any problems. Sure, it took me three tries to figure out how to print my ticket and I had to ask for help to find the right train, but I was feeling pretty good about my navigation skills. 

Twenty minutes later, I stepped out of the train, bought a ticket from a scalper and headed for the first stadium entrance I could find. 

When I walked in, I realized I hadn't gone in the main entrance. Instead, I was in the concourse behind the suites. And apparently, my scalped ticket gave me access to the Jewish Appreciation Night dinner. The next thing I knew, I was eating a free hummus wrap with some very friendly Jewish folks and listening to a klezmer band.  

(I also stood in line to get a free A's blanket, complete with a Hebrew logo, but my scalped ticket did not include the blanket voucher. Bummer.) 

Pleased with the hospitality and the company, but not satisfied by the hummus, I bought a bratwurst and headed to my seat. Luckily, I had eaten all of it before I realized that I was sitting in the Jewish Appreciation Night section. #ReligiousSensitivityFail

Currently in last place in the division, the A's are not much of fan draw these days. The Jewish section, however, was nearly full. Not only did that mean that I got to sit by a lot of very nice people (the Israeli girl with a piercing on the skin above her teeth shared her peanuts with me) but I made it on the Jumbotron as well. 

The trip back to San Francisco wasn't quite as smooth. Knowing my tendency to get lost, before I left the hotel, I specifically asked the concierge how to get back from the game. 

"Oh, it's easy," she assured me. "All the trains head back to San Francisco." 


I found the station. Sweet. I found my the platform. Yes. Trusting the concierge, I took the first train I saw. I was so proud of my navigation skills, I didn't even bother wondering if I was going the right direction for a few stops. That's when I decided to take a quick look at the map. Nope. Not going the right way. Going the entirely wrong way. 

Knowing I was in trouble, I asked a very nice couple for help. They told me I could just take the next stop and head the other direction. (Rightfully) not trusting myself, I instead rode a few stops further and transferred when they did to make sure I got to the right place. 

BART, you may have won this time. But I'll be back. 

Day 4

After the second day of the conference, I decided to stick a little closer to the hotel. I had a lovely stroll through Chinatown.  

I couldn't resist buying some knockoff Golden State Warriors t-shirts (for the boys) and a solar-powered waving-kitty (for myself).  Then I forced myself to leave because I kind of wanted to buy everything. 

Then, just like that, the trip was over. 

Though it was short, it was great to spend some alone time with Traci. 

It was nice to step away from the office and get a bit of creative fresh air. 

And it was great to wander around the city and find some inspiration. 

I guess I need to get out more.