Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 13: Zoo Lights

The boys love animals more than almost anything (parents included). Marisa loves Christmas lights more than almost anything. So it was pretty much a win-win from the get go:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Days 9, 10, 11, 12

Okay, so to catch everyone up on the nightly events, here's what we did the last half of last week:

Day 9: Introduced the boys to How the Grinch stole Christmas

Day 10: A long line to see Santa at the South Towne Mall:

Day 11: Making Christmas ornaments at Grandma Linda's house

Day 12: Christmas concert sing-a-long at our local LDS stake center.

Day 8: Nativity in the Glen

Just a handful of blocks from our home, there's one night of the Christmas season that we'll make sure to never miss again. The Nativity in the Glen is a collaborative effort, put together jointly by the First Baptist Church, Wasatch Presbyterian Church, St. Ambrose and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Churches, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bonneville Stake.

These four church groups come together to create a live nativity that is wonderfully spiritual, complete with live animals (including camel), a beautiful manger scene, and an impressive cast of well-robed volunteers. Here are a few photos from our memorable evening:
The boys decided they wanted to dress up and go back in time to the nativity

We were lucky enough to have two great family friends come along with us, Amber (Sammy's Primary Teacher) and Jasmine (former Jibe employee)

Oliver is wondering why that shepherd has hockey gloves on

Dave and Jasmine and Oliver and Oliver's cup of hot chocolate

The boys were so excited to see the baby Jesus. Oliver was especially excited to see the donkey that they had parked next door

Day 7: Delivery of Living Christmas Ornaments

With the soon-to-be arrival of Eliot, we decided to take an easier route with this year's neighborhood Christmas gift. With the invaluable assistance of my talented mother-in-law, we crafted Air Plant Christmas Ornaments. Take one glass Christmas Ornament (supposedly they were on sale recently at Michael's), and some "air" moss and plants (purchased at Cactus and Tropicals) and here's what you get basically:

Day 6: Miracle at 2600

Ever since we started this crazy advent calendar idea a week ago, Oliver has been begging to "ride a horsey." It began the Family Home Evening before last when he saw the horse-drawn carriages in front of Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City (another must hit during the advent extravaganza).

Well, his ride finally came at Miracle at 2600, a festive one-night only event in Bountiful. Here's the exciting footage:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 5: First Presidency Christmas Devotional

What's not to love about an apostle of the Lord extensively quoting Dr. Seuss and the Grinch during a Christmas devotional? You can catch the full Christmas message featuring a living prophet, two apostles, and multiple breathtaking numbers by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir by clicking here. 

Did the boys sit still through the entire devotional? Does peanut butter go well with white pepper? They did make it through most of the closing song and prayer, I'll give them that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 4: Santa Claws at PetSmart

Noah can't keep his eyes open such is his excitement for Benny

It was hard to hide the disappointment the boys felt in discovering "Santa Claws"
was not the crustacean cousin they had been hoping to see.
For more info on taking your pooch or kitty or even fishie to the Santa Claws Photo Event (a fundraiser for local animal shelters and PetSmart), go to

Day 3: Live Nativities & Small Boys, Do They Realy Mix?

On the third day of Christmas my three boys gave to me (cue the music in your head) ... a live nay-ee-tiv-vi-ah-tee.

I will now profess to just about understand why people enjoy producing live nativities with small children. My current conclusions on the matter are as follow:
  • Kids dressed up as shepherds, angels, and wise men remind us of the true spirit of the Christmas season. Adults dressed up just remind us of community theater or Halloween.  
  • Costume expenses are cheaper since the actors are 1/2 to 1/3 the size of the adult versions. 
  • The drama of working with the actors during rehearsals can be managed with a healthy dose of suckers and, if necessary, time-outs.
  • Kids are cute when they mess up their cues on stage. Adults just look awkward, then ashamed, then sometimes downright angry.
  • Joseph and Mary were probably closer to my kids age when they starred in the actual live version.
  • Can you really go wrong with farm animals (either real or fake) and small children? If only puppies had been mentioned in the gospels, then you really would have a tour de force.
All that being said, I'm still left wondering "Is it safe to place a long stick with a crook in the hands of my two-year-old and expect him to act like a shepherd?" The only people he really sees holding long stick-like objects are the Jedi and dragon slayers (he's got older brothers, it's my only excuse). At best, he might pretend the cane is a guitar (yes, he's seen School of Rock... my fault) or a really big gun (no, he's not seen Dirty Harry, I'm not that bad).

Luckily, no one was injured in the production of this live nativity with the boys.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Second Day: Old World Market

Anyone who is familiar with myself or Marisa knows we're crazy about Europe. Crazy like pretend we were thirteen-year-olds and Europe was the Jonas brothers kinda crazy. So you can imagine my reaction when I learned the Gateway Mall was hosting the first annual European-esque Christmas Market thru December 4th. I didn't squeal... excitedly squeaked would be a more accurate description.

So following the boys' big live nativity practice (they're performing tomorrow night for the ward Christmas extravaganza), we headed off to the Old World Christmas Market. The atmosphere was quite fun and reminiscent of a European Christmas market, complete with fine chocolate, loads of jewelry, furs,  and at least one stand dedicated to Russian dolls. Following a rousing stroll of the stands (the boys only knocked a few non-fragile things off the tables), we feasted on shortbread, danishes, fresh cider and hot chocolate. Total cost of the evening: $17.50.

Here are a couple poor phone pics from the night's outing:

The First Day of Christmas: Talking Trees

So today I was visited by a sweet little tweet while sitting at my desk. It mentioned how fun it might be to create an "event advent calendar" as opposed to settling for the cheap chocolate and cardboard variety.

"Well," I thought, "We are having a baby somewhere in the middle of the month, but why not give it a go for as much of the season as possible." No sooner had I mentioned my goal freshly shot from the hip, then my dear coworker Cheryl pointed me in the direction of this fine event, located at the end of an unsuspecting cul-de-sac in Murray, Utah:

Needless to say, the kids had a blast and especially appreciated the bubble blower and talking trees. We liked that they got such a kick out of it and it didn't cost a dime more than the gas to drive there.

Marty's website will provide you with all the information you need, including address (click here for Google Map), hours, parking instructions, and tutorials in case you ever want to set up your own Christmas miracle.

NOTE: Not all posts will be this radical. Not all events will be this elaborate. However, at very least you might get some ideas of cool things to do around Salt Lake City this Christmas season.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To the kindergartner who introduced Angry Birds to my Noah

Dear Unknown Kindergartner,

When I was six years old, my father was the mortal manifestation of the supreme creator of the universe. In 1985, he was the only man that could consistently hit a bank-shot three pointer in really ugly knee high socks. He knew how get out of eating peas, let dishes soak for days, and properly use "Reaganomics" in a sentence. How could the man be anything less than a demi-God?! 

It was my father who brought home the bacon and anything else he wanted. If there was something radical or awesome out floating in the collective cosmos, Dad would lasso it, hog-tie it, and heave it onto the dinner table that evening. Sure, Mom might have known all about Olivia Newton John in rainbow leg warmers (Side-note for another post: I'm forever scarred from watching hours of her PBS televised concerts, while trapped in a walker as a toddler), but Dad... Dad introduced me to life's greatest mysteries like The Power of Love and where to go where everybody knows your name.

This was the man I patterned my life after; the man I thought I was becoming, until last night at 8:00 p.m. MST. There I was, sitting in the bathroom with Noah, when I remembered I had a moral obligation to introduce him to a cool "semi-new" app on my Droid: Angry Birds. I'd finally been able to download it (that's how we hog-tie these days), and was now ready to unleash its awesomeness to my first-born. The moment was supposed to be golden, even testosteroniffic, as I opened the app, and said "Noah... Look at THIS!"

Instead, he took one look at the screen and said "Hey, my friend has that game. It's where you launch birds and get to blow up piggies!"

You must be that friend. I ask you sir, why on earth do you have a smartphone in Kindergarten? Are you using apps to cheat on your color by numbers? Are you tweeting your afternoon recess activities with those small semi-opposable thumbs of yours?

Don't you understand? I was supposed to be somebody. I was supposed to be God's representative for all things dangerous, silly, and plain stupid at times. Instead, thanks to you, I've been downgraded to a second positive review for Angry Birds. If I were a lesser man than you've already made me, I'd ask you to meet me after school at the flagpole.

I'm smarter than that though. I know you'd just text all your tough friends and gang up on me.

Noah's Papa

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Exchange of Good

I'm happy to report that Noah has earned back his stuffed elephant. Here's a video documenting the release of Flower. NOTE: This video is not for the faint of stomach (i.e. I apologize for the very shaky camera):

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fiscal responsibility and a stuffed elephant

Noah learned about money this week. Here's what I attempted to help him learn*:
  • Things cost money. Things like that cool pair of prescription glasses you intentionally busted when you got upset in Kindergarten on Wednesday.
  • You have no money. You're five, after all. Sure, by your age I was selling off my M.U.S.C.L.E. Men action figures at ".25 cents apiece or 3 for $1.00," but I've largely sheltered you from such questionable business practices in hopes that you would shun the business world entirely, become a commercial pilot, and provide a lifetime of flight benefits to your mother and me**.
  • You are responsible for a new pair of glasses. We've discussed this before (check off another classic parent line that has now escaped my lips). 
  • Again, things cost money. Things like Flower, your giant stuffed elephant that you received from Mamie at Christmas (thank goodness Grandma Linda isn't following this blog right now or ever).
  • When you don't have money, you can sell goods or services to make money. There's currently no market for tantrum throwers, tub splashers, or cat terrorists. This means you will sell Flower the stuffed elephant in order to pay for a new pair of glasses.  
  • Banks buys stuffed animals.  
Okay, so the last one might not be pulled straight from your college Econ textbook. Nevertheless, I managed to schedule an appointment at our local Chase branch to sell Flower the stuffed elephant. Noah and I arrived ten minutes before closing, he handed over Flower, and they handed him $20.00 (from the savings account he doesn't know about). They then opened their safe and Noah got to watch Flower go into the Big House, banking style.

"I'll come back for you Flower!" was the last thing the elephant must have heard, quickly followed by the icy clang of the heavy metal gate.

*Learning would, of course, imply that the entire marketplace concept was internalized. I'll hope that the lesson was learned, but am positive at least one thing was internalized: the free cookie at the bank.

**Given the VERY strong prescription Noah is touting currently, I might want to reconsider the pilot career and redirect his life goals towards the medical profession in France (complete with vacation home in the South) or perhaps professional refereeing.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Marisa's Mustachioed Marvel

Marisa has been warning everyone about her husband as of late. Actually, her tone has been more apologetic if anything. I can't seem to get two words into a conversation without her interrupting to explain "My husband doesn't normally look like this. He's usually much less creepy."

It kinda gets to a guy after a while. And "less creepy?!" Doesn't that infer that there's some level of creep in me even without my spasmodic shaving habits?

Judge for yourself. Given that I've been called Mussolini by a friend (a friend not very steeped in history I might add, unless he was referring to a pre-facist Mussolini... in which case I stand molto corrected), a cartoon mouse by my wife, and the ever-popular "child molester" - I'm pretty bulletproof at this point.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dear Mother of Small Boys

Dear Mother of Small Boys,

I can't remember what first caught my attention. Perhaps it was the feet of your second boy bursting up from the behind the church pew like a spirited humpback calf. Perchance it was the infantile yet ultimate-style brawl over colored pencils during the second sermon. Whatever the distraction, it was always to you that my eyes gravitated. You, with your hair yanked out of its ideal placement by hands too small to understand large plastic curlers or sheer volume conditioner. You, with your stunning almond-shaped eyes filled one moment with motherly compassion and ablaze with righteous indignation the next. You, with a blouse spotted with spittle and dried bits of wholesome breakfast cereal. How did my visual periphery ever stand a chance? You were a Norman Rockwell Model and professional wrestling referee wrapped in one. You were loving. You were accommodating. You were potty-training... all within a period of time usually set aside for daytime dramas or a demanding crossword puzzle.

As far as I'm concerned, you're the number one natural wonder of the world. A human being that willingly gives herself up to be loved and hated in love; to be smothered by hugs before snack time and stinky poop midway through. Your bad days are chock full of high-pitched screaming, timeouts, and a constant barrage of projectile objects; your good ones are filled with high-pitched screaming, a few less timeouts, and a constant barrage of slightly softer projectile objects.

Remarkably stable considering you always either have your biggest fans or harshest critics in tow, you constantly look at mothers around you and wonder where you're failing while they look back wondering the same thing about themselves. You're succeeding wonderfully for the simple fact that you care enough about your children to be constantly convinced that you're failing terribly in their upbringing.

You stay up at night worrying about getting accepted to the right kindergarten or having enough clean underwear to last tomorrow.

You're a fierce protector, a lioness that rages when confronted with bullies, narrow-minded people, or inappropriate cartoon characters.

You're your boys first choice for comfort and the last person they want to kiss at night.

You're a short-order cook, housekeeper, teacher, trainer, housekeeper, law enforcer, singer, housekeeper, storyteller, instrumentalist, librarian, playground playmate always waiting for the next role to fill.

You're everything always and invisible often.

You're nothing short of awe-inspiring and awesome and every other adjective closely associated with those two.

You're a mother of three small boys and I couldn't imagine a more perfect woman to have catch my attention.

Father of Small Boys

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Please bless the food

The other night, Noah offered our dinnertime prayer. In the middle of his expressions of gratitude for a myriad of animals, their stuffed counterparts, and imaginary beasts, he managed to bless the food as follows:

"Please bless the food... that it will not be poisonous..."

So let this be a friendly reminder to us all. I think that we're much too eager these days to "bless the food that it will nourish and strengthen," while failing to acknowledge the real possibility that our enemies might have broken into the kitchen in the dead of night and poisoned our pot roast right under our noses. I, for one, am grateful that at least Noah hasn't ruled out middle-age feuding tactics when it comes to family prayers.

Monday, January 4, 2010

B-b-b-benny and the Trax

Who hasn't heard the story of the household canine who gets out of the yard and, like Forrest Gump on all fours, starts running for the closest state line? Been there, read that, right?

Well, in honor of the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, the Smurthwaite household increased it's carbon paw print this past month when Benny, our six year old pup, (a mixture of breeds that defies multiple natural laws and probably even Geneva conventions) used Trax, SLC's lightrail, to get away.*

Now I know what you're thinking. You're probably picturing five little Smurthwaites lined up nicely on a train platform, decked out in matching Burberry winter garb. Snowflakes float down from above like sprinkles of powder sugar while a leashed Benny simultaneously sits and stays close by.

"Choo-choo..." A train approaches and hisses to a stop.

Train doors open. Benny, without provocation, breaks free and hops all aboard. Doors close "thump." Burberry-clad Smurthwaites then run along next to the train, pounding on the side of train like slightly modernized gorillas, pleading with the conductor to open, but to no avail. The train slowly pulls out of the station... "Ding-ding," with Benny's head sticking out a nearby open window, tongue out and ears flapping in the frigid morning air.

That would be a fun mental image, but that's not what happened. Think less "It's a Wonderful Life" and more "The Great Escape." In hindsight, I'm positive that Benny had actually memorized the morning Trax schedule weeks prior. Biding his time like Steve McQueen, he feigns interest in a half-eaten tennis ball until the window of opportunity arrives. Window of opportunity arrives. Benny begins to yodel-lay-hee-howl in his "I really have to go" voice. Marisa (pictured in an SS uniform solely for the purpose of furthering the mental image) reluctantly allows the furry POW out in the backyard, where he breaks for the escape hole he's been digging through the frozen tundra of our backyard.

Hitting no man's land, Benny flies like a furry dart across the neighbors yard, over our busy street, and up to the Trax station. Now an escaped con, he decides not to purchase a ticket via the teller just to stay in character. However, he does simultaneously sit and stay.

"Choo-choo..." A train approaches and hisses to a stop.

Train doors open. Benny trots aboard. Doors close and classic escape music begins playing. At this point, the furry version of Mr. McQueen has got it all. He's heading for who knows where and no one can stop him. He's only forgotten one thing: to ditch his dog tags in the nearest deep puddle. Which is precisely why, 15 minutes later, Marisa (no longer dressed in SS uniform) gets a phone call she never expected. You know, that one where somebody tells you your dog has just taken the train.

Editor's note: It is controversial as to whether Benny actually increased the Smurthwaite household's carbon footprint since public transportation was the escape method used. However, duly noted is the writer's opinion that a canine, having never before used any form of transportation, augments the overall ecological footprint of it's master the moment it decides to take a train, plane, or automobile to further it's own agenda. Had Benny learned to ride a bicycle to escape, greenhouse gas emissions would not have been mentioned in the article.