Friday, December 23, 2011

Stupid Prezi ate my newsletter.

I've been working on a Prezi newsletter for the past month that when finished would have family photos, cool captions, little blurbs of our life, and a dizzying visual effect, but...

Stupid Prezi ate my newsletter. That's not entirely accurate. The last few times I brought it up to edit it for final touches, Prezi took FOREVER to load and then froze my computer long enough for me to throw my hands in the air and declare the battle a loss. You win, Prezi. You win.

So here I am, back at my trusty blogger site. I'm just going to give the low-down of my family right here. Where it's safe. And the words don't spin and dip while you read them. (I'm pretty sure the Prezi version would've made my grandma want to hurl.)

So guess who's progeny is into Harry Potter now? Mine. Ugh. How did this happen?
We'll start with Layne. She's 7 and asked me what a period was the other day, so I'm pretty sure she's growing up too damn fast. I mean she graduated from kindergarten in May, for Dr. Seuss' sake! She shouldn't be asking me about that stuff until she's old enough to find Mr. Darcy the most attractive fictional character in print. (And bonus points if she finds him doubly attractive as a zombie-fighting aristocrat.)
Captain Underpants. At least he got over that slight slip of the tongue when he would pronounce "truck" like a very very bad word.

Then there's Gavin. He's 3, almost 4, and is in a punching phase right now. To recap he's also experienced the "spitting phase", "growling phase", "wearing-nothing-but-underwear-all-day" phase, "wearing-only-batman-and-superman-jammie-tops phase", and "threatening-to-hit-you-in-the-face-if-you-don't-turn-on-Toy-Story-right-now phase". He can revert back into any one of these phases depending on his mood and my mood. I just know to clear outta there when he growls, "Hulk Smash".

bad family photos 2011
Cole next. He started blogging a little bit on the side at Political Z-search and Z? I'm not mad! He was also a Payson correspondent for the Daily Herald for 5 months this year and still works full-time for the UVU Library. He got a dog in the summer, which we affectionately named William the Bloody after this William the Bloody, but nick-named him Spike. Unfortunately, right after Cole gave Spike his first bath, Spike has attached himself to me like a feisty Mexican parasite. (Did I mention Spike's part Chihuahua?) Now Spike spends most of his time trying to protect me from the strange cacophony coming from the laundry room on laundry day or biting the hem of my jeans while I'm dancing/doing the dishes in the kitchen.

Then there's me. If you don't know anything about what's going on in my life, then you haven't been reading my blog due to a flare up of Amish-itis. What else could it be? Get well soon, for when you do, here's links to some of the highlights of my year:

What's not to love with a mug like that?
Merry Christmas, e-friends and e-family and real friends and real family.

(See this post for something more reverent.)

Til next year. And sorry you have nothing to hang on the fridge this year. I guess if you're that needy, you could simply print this out, but don't hang it up with that Perky Plumber magnet. That's just tacky. And clearly we are one classy bunch.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The 12 Days of Christmas: a thank you note

They were good kids this year.
It's no secret that we're struggling financially this year. Aside from our own personal day-to-day money struggles, this year we've endured two pay cuts, a job loss, and an errant paycheck. Even without all that drama, I'm a part-time teacher and a writer, for Benjamin's sake. Money is always tight. And Cole has a job with great health insurance (I'm not kidding. It's like he works for the military), but the whole university on a raise-freeze, and there's no opportunities for advancement.

On top of all that we have been trying to eliminate debt. We sold a car to avoid the payment and now spend much of our time bumming rides off our friends--who, I'm sure given a little more time being forced to sit in a vehicle with us during the 20 minute commute, will be soon cured of their toleration for us.

The truth is we've spent several years in a financial rut, and are probably secretly known by our friends and family members as "the charity cases". Even our yard was donated by my mother. And when the washer broke two weeks ago (a 3rd hand washer that I bought off of my sister for a reduced reduced price almost a decade ago), I did wash at my mom's house until luckily and thankfully my grandmother offered to pay for the repairs. One friend bought me an entire Florida vacation for next month, and another offered to pay for a week's worth of hotel costs for a vacation in March. (I turned it down because the plane ticket was too much.) My brother-in-law bought presents for my kids when he heard of our struggles and my colleague bought me a pedicure soak kit (and Lords of Mary Kay know I need it). Clearly, I'm blessed with an awesome family and some kick-ass friends.

My miracle baby. True story.
Anyway, we've had hard Christmases before, but not like this one. My present budget for each of the kids was cut to 1/4 of what I usually spend each year, which wasn't a whole lot to begin with. I found some second-hand stuff, and Cole and I barely got anything for ourselves, instead pushing our funds into the kids' budget. Then when one of my paychecks went AWOL, I thought we were definitely screwed.


Last week we discovered that our family was chosen to be the recipients of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The first day we found a bag of pears on the doorstep. The next day at bag of Dove chocolates and Turtle bars. Each day something fun showed up on our doorstep. The children and I eagerly anticipate that nightly doorbell chime. While the kids bolt to the door and Gavin tries desperately to twist the deadbolt open, I always take my time, because I want our secret Santas to have a chance to get away. I don't want to ruin their surprise.

Yes, he is wearing a batman shirt over his superman shirt. That's how we roll, folks.
I don't know if the family helping us has any intentions of revealing their identity, but if they don't, I need them to know how grateful we are.

Every time I give the kids a bath and pour a little of the apple-scented bubble bath from the Seventh Day of Christmas (swans-a-swimming) and watch their little faces light up at the cascades of bubbles or see them make bubble-beards and say "HO HO HO", my heart swells with gratitude.

Every time I pour milk into Elayna's oatmeal or fill Gavin's sippy cup with day 8's Maids-a-Milking gallon of skim milk, I'm reminded of how blessed we are to have people in our lives who care. Who noticed our suffering and literally provided the milk of human kindness.

Christmas play pose.
And as I hid away some of the goodies and tucked the hula hoop away before the kids saw it, I'm thankful to have something to fill stockings with or one more thing to put under the tree on Christmas Eve for my kids. My Christmas angels gave us a little more Christmas this year.

The spirit of Christmas is about giving, after all. I don't know if my kids appreciate it as much as they should. I mean they didn't get teary-eyed at the bag of 5 golden doughnuts or choke up at the sight of 4 calling holiday Peeps like I did, but I'll teach them to see the beauty in giving.

My biggest wish of all this season is not for new shoes.
Or a phone that my students won't make fun of because of because it predates MTV.
Or even that my kids aren't disappointed on Christmas.

Thank you and Merry Christmas! Love, the Smitheys
My biggest wish of all is that one day I can be in a position to give the way our Twelve Days of Christmas family gave to us this year. I hope we can change someone's life too.

Thank you so much.

Rena and Family

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How Americans could be like frogs, and is it ever a good time to kick an old woman? Hilter says "yes".

We're reading Fahrenheit 451 in my junior English class, (side note: it's taken me like 5 years to finally spell Fahrenheit right without a squiggly misspelled indicator under it. Same thing with onomatopoeia) and as I started reading it, learning about how the government has firemen to burn books, I wondered how the devil the government decided it would be a good idea to burn literature. What happened to America that it's problems resulted in the incineration of literature. So, naturally, I had my students discuss and write on it.

I wrote about it too. Here's what I came up with during the Scribble:

Any government with plans to keep their people in line could come to the conclusion of burning books. Controlling which histories are made public and stifling literature that expresses free thought are not new concepts. It's been done for years. Fascists. Nazis. Communist Russia, and for goodness sake the whole Israeli/ Palestinian conflict is the he said-she said argument. So the idea of this happening doesn't surprise me. But I am shocked that it happened in America (Bradbury's fictional dystopian America, that is.)

Would Americans fall for that garbage? That book burning is acceptable and the best solution to a national problem? Would they reject literature and history because some ruler suggested it?! I don't think so.

However, I'm thinking what would really happen is Americans would be lured into giving up higher-level thinking in exchange for the brain-fodder that is reality TV or other mindless sources of entertainment. It's like that old frog story. You can't cook a frog by throwing it into a pot of boiling water, b/c it will jump out. But if you put it in tepid water and start boiling it, the frog will stay there and boil to death before realizing what happened. This is how it would happen in the US.

So how would this evil government do it? They start with the kids.
Convincing the children or new generations that burning books is a worthwhile undertaking would be easy if the government started brainwashing the kids at an early age. Infancy perhaps. They would simply need to endoctrinate them with the billboards of persuasive (pathos-based) arguments. I can picture a PSA that showed students reading books and some minor-chord angry guitar playing as a soundtrack. Then later those "free-thinking" rebel readers are seen kicking an old woman on dialysis. They'd have to go for the heart, and leave out the logic with ads like that. Down with books!, they'd chant. And somehow link reading to cancer and the hunger problems in America.

If you've never read Fahrenheit 451, I highly recommend it. Also, for the younger audience, try Ally Condie's Matched. It explores a similar concept in a similar world.

In Matched, Cassia lives in a world where everything is decided for her because of statistical probabilities researched by the Society. The Society chooses what clothes she wears, which foods are in her diet, and how much she eats, what recreational activities she may participate in, and even who she marries. But when a strange mix up occurs on the day of her Matching, Cassia begins to wonder if maybe the Society got some predictions wrong. It's brilliantly plotted and fast fun twist on a world like Bradbury's in Fahrenheit 451. I give it 4 stars.
Ally Condie just before signing a copy of Matched

Plus, her sequel Crossed is now available too.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You know you want one.

I just got one of these super cute hats from Lettilu for my daughter's Christmas present. She is going to love it. I would've had her model it, but she has to wait until Dec. 25th to see it.

But fortunately, you have me to do the modeling, eh? Yes, they say modeling could've been my 8th career. And by "they" I mean "me and my highly controversial and often debated, warped perception of myself". But you don't have to take my word for it. The proof is in the pictures, baby!
Oh yeah! Sickly, angular pose! "Gimme lame teenage profile pic!" You got it!

Sweet duck-lips pose. Dang that's a cute hat. I shoulda got it for me.

I know you prefer the photos of me in the hat, but here's the item solo. Love it. 
Get yours at Lettilu before the holidays! [click me for fb link]


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