Sunday, November 13, 2016

Another Trip to Disneyland


We survived Disneyland...again. 

Growing up, I went to Disneyland exactly two times: Once as an unknowing baby and once as a angsty teenager. I had no idea that I'd grow up and marry a woman who'd convince me to go to Disneyland four times in eight years. 


This was probably our best California trip so far (and hopefully the last for a long time). 


We started out at Seal Beach. 

Pro traveling tip: If you want the beach to yourself, go at 2 p.m. on weekday afternoon.  


Parenting tip: If it's only 65 degrees on the beach, it's freezing in the water. But luckily kids don't care. 


Even at the happiest place on Earth, our fear is always that our kids will choose to have a lousy time. 

Despite the look of this look of disdain from Curtis, he actually had a really good time. 

I was most worried about Tate. When we went to Lagoon two months ago, he refused to go on any rides for the first eight hours of our ten-hour-visit. But other than one meltdown in the Toy Story Mania line, where he was hitting Traci, scratching Paige, and headbutting me, Tate did just fine. 


This trip also marked Curtis' first foray into big roller coasters. I love the look of fear on his face on Space Mountain. Tate, the littlest guy on the ride, is as happy as could be. 


Paige ruled the park, riding everything and conquering any fear of the scary ones, including California Screamin' (which she loved) and the Tower of Terror (which she hated). 


My trusty Fitbit informed that we walked 12 miles the first day. Tate opted for the stroller. 


After two days at Disneyland, we headed to Universal Studios. The 35 miles from Anaheim to Universal Studios in Hollywood took an hour and 15 minutes.  


Paige's favorite part of Universal was Harry Potter land. 


I had a different favorite. (Simpsons land was kind of what my dreams are like.)


Best. Family portrait. Ever. 


After a good day in the park, we had to brave the drive home. Thanks to two wrecks, combined with Friday night congestion, the 75-minute commute had ballooned to two hours and 15 minutes. After sitting on the freeway for a half hour or so, Siri offered a ray of hope: I have found a route that will save you 18 minutes, she intoned. We took it.

Siri guided us off the freeway and led us on a winding path through who knows where. In two miles, turn right. We did. In 600 feet, turn left. We did. And on and on through the labyrinth of the Los Angeles suburbs. It was maddening. Traci was a powerless navigator. I was a grumpy driver. Tate slept peacefully in his booster seat. When we finally made it to the last turn, the one that would lead to the big short cut, we saw another sign: Road closed.

When we made it back to the hotel, we all fell into the bed, exhausted. We'd walked more than 30 miles in three days.

It was a good trip. As our kids get older, it gets tougher to find things all three of them want to do. One wants to go on the big rides, but the others don't. One wants to go on the kid rides, but the others are too big. One is just grumpy all the time.

But this time around we basically did all the rides together as a family (probably to the lifelong traumatization of Tate; that Jurassic Park ride at Universal is pretty scary) and everyone had a good time.

Maybe we can go back to Disneyland after all.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Manifestogram


Paige rocking a duet at the end of her musical theater class at Hale Center Theatre 🎭

Friday, November 04, 2016

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Manifestogram


Hello, California. #sealbeach

Manifestogram


We're on our way to Disneyland. I got to sit next to Tate on the flight. It's only he's second time on an airplane (he was only three the first time so he doesn't really remember it; I remember, because he threw up on me). I loved watching his eyes light up when he looked out of the plane. "I have my own window. And it's so tiny!" He was even more excited when he realized his chair had its own table. (Also tiny!) Throw in the fact that you get a FREE COOKIE and you have a trifecta of awesomeness. It's good to be Tate.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Manifestogram


Prepping for the last game of the season.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Manifestogram


Looks like someone had a good time at Grandma's.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Manifestogram


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

Manifestogram


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

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Manifestogram


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

Manifestogram


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 KSL.com 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?

Sure. 

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

Chopper



First helicopter ride to my first glacier. Fantastic experience.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Shoes



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.