Looking Back At 2013

Yeah, it’s been quiet in here. I’ll work on that. I’ve spent some of 2013 strengthening my relationships, and forgiving those who have hurt me. Letting go of having everyone like me was a good step forward too. But this year was a really good year for me.

Here are the highlights from 2013.

 

Hoping 2014 is amazing for my family- and yours!

When It Feels Like Too Much

This year is the tenth anniversary of my Dad’s passing. We lost him to a short battle with cancer in October of 2003. Since his birthday is in September, I find I’m more susceptible to being moody during those two months.

This year on his birthday, I got the one-two punch of having friends go through their second miscarriage, and also finding out one of my Dad’s best friends was battling cancer himself.

Now two weeks have gone by, and his friend, Marty has passed away too.

Marty wasn’t just my Dad’s friend, Marty was a very kind man, and he was one of my youth bowling coaches. His kids and I knew each other. Saturday morning bowling kids had each other’s parents as coaches, cheerleaders, or just general support. They cared for us, and wanted us to succeed. At times, they were like extended family.

There’s more, that I’m struggling with today, that I can’t write about publicly. The health of someone I love dearly, and the path that they are on. Couple it to Marty’s death, and I just feel like it’s too much. I want to cry, to have that release.

Mortality stinks. It’s a reality, and losing people sucks.

The only solace to be found, is knowing that truly, to be in glory is far far better than here.

But being here? Makes you want to hug someone hard.

Yellowstone Nat’l Park, Part II

Day Two, and our last full day, meant cramming in as much as we possibly could. We visited Old Faithful and we could not have timed our visit better. We arrived within ten minutes of the eruption. Hundreds of visitors lined the boardwalk, and watched (or timed) the geyser do its thing. The length of the eruption will tell you when the next one will go off. If it lasts less than 2 1/2 minutes, the next time it goes off will be in one hour. If it’s longer than 2 1/2 minutes, you have a 90 minute wait.

The boys cheer for Old Faithful

The boys cheer for Old Faithful

There is more to see at Old Faithful, you can check out other geysers, hot springs and fumeroles. We did the 1.3 mile walk around the Geyser Hill Loop, then headed inside to check out the Visitor Center. We were pretty impressed with the children’s area, which explained all the hydrothermic features. After a quick picnic lunch, we headed back towards Canyon intending to make a few stops. First stop was Midway Geyser Basin, to view Yellowstone’s largest hot spring, Grand Prismatic Spring. Geoff & Miles did this hike, while Elijah said the smell of sulphur was giving him a headache, so we hung out in the shade near the trailhead.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Next stop was Artists Paintpots. Geoff wanted to see mudpots, and this short hike gave great views of our surroundings plus mudpots. The kids were amused by the size and sounds the bubbling mud produced.

Last stop before heading back to camp was snagging a letterbox. I thought it was fate that a box was planted just a few weeks before my visit, and so close to our campsite. We drove back to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, but this time on the other side of the falls we visited the day before. I had not printed the picture that went with the clue, which proved to be the key for me finding my prize. Thank God for cell signal, I pulled up AQ and used the picture to locate the box. All the while I was doing this, the boys heading on a hike on Uncle Tom’s Trail. The hike led them to a rickety metal staircase of 300 steps “attached” to the rock face. But the view of Lower Falls made it worthwhile for them.

Lower Falls, from Uncle Tom's Trail

Lower Falls, from Uncle Tom’s Trail

The rest of the afternoon was resting from all our adventures. After dinner, we treated ourselves to some ice cream in the village. I indulged in Moose Tracks.

Moose Tracks, the finest of flavors.

Moose Tracks, the finest of flavors.

Day 3, time to go home. No joke, we considered staying another night. We loved it there, and wished we had made it a longer trip. But reality beckoned us to return to Denver. We had packed up most of our stuff the night before, so we just rolled out of our sleeping bags and headed to the village to meet Gramma and Gary for breakfast at the Canyon Lodge Dining Room. This was a great decision on many levels, one being that the weather was starting to mist. A hot breakfast followed by one last stop at the Visitor Center. I had one more souvenir to pick up, and Miles was ready to become a junior ranger. Miles was tickled to earn his first ever junior ranger badge, and Gramma & Gary awarded him with a junior ranger hat. (*side note, Elijah had not finished his book, it is a little harder for 8 year olds. He earned his badge and hat a few weeks later)

It was time to part company, but the memories we made were amazing.

Group picture

Group picture

 

Was it worth the drive? Yes.

Worth the cost? It was definitely one of our most expensive camping trips when you add up gas and park fees. But since we don’t plan to do it every year, and it was our family vacation for the year, I’m going to say yes.

Should you go? Absolutely! Yellowstone was awesome. We hope to go back in a few years, next time checking out Grand Tetons and the parts of Yellowstone we missed.

For more information, visit Yellowstone’s website.

Yellowstone Nat’l Park, Part I

There seems to be something so Americana about taking a family trip to Yellowstone. A road trip, with two kids, all our camping gear and heading to Wyoming. We settled on this idea a year ago, and made the actual reservations 6 months in advance of our stay. Depending on what accommodations you are looking for, 6 months out is a good marker.

Yellowstone is about a 9 hour drive, if you take the East entrance. We opted to split this into two days driving, staying in Casper, WY the first night. This gave us more time to set up our campsite the next day, and not arrive grumpy or in the dark.

Passing Yellowstone Lake on our way to Canyon.

Passing Yellowstone Lake on our way to Canyon.

We’ve never been to Yellowstone before, so we were unsure what campground we wanted. We decided on Canyon, because it was kind of center of the park, and equal distance for us, and my mom and her husband Gary, driving down from Canada. The campground had all the amenities I require (flush toilets) and with the Canyon Village so close, it was practically glamping.

I’m not exaggerating- we may have had the best site in the campground. We had a water pump right at our site, the bathrooms were over the hill from us, and we had a ton of space between us and the next site. This gave the boys a lot of freedom to play, run, and explore.

Miles shows off our campsite.

Miles shows off our campsite.

My mom and Gary stayed at Canyon Village, in one of the cabins. The sparse rooms offered beds and a bathroom. They loved coming to visit us, hang out by the fire, and eat fire cooked food. I can’t say what the other rooms looked like.

The boys and I went to the ranger talk that night, which was about bears. The talk was very educational, but did not allow for interaction, which disappointed Elijah. Still he learned a lot. Miles got bored early, so we headed back, leaving Elijah to come later with Gramma.

Our first full day there I planned to hike. The 6 of us drove to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. It is a short drive from Canyon. We hiked Brink of Lower Falls, which was a little steep, but everyone was able to do it. There are a lot of places to stop to take pictures and rest. Following that hike, Mom and Gary decided to drive to Brink of Upper Falls, and we would meet there. Our brood of four hiked there, seeing small waterfalls and a deer along the way. Once we were all reunited, the six of us headed down the fully paved, short descent to Brink of Upper Falls. After this, we pawned the kids off on the grandparents, to take them back to camp, while Geoff and I hiked back to our car at Lower Falls. Amazingly, that hike was quieter. :)

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, from Lower Falls

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, from Lower Falls

After lunch, Geoff and I went to the Village to see what was there. A lot of shops, selling EVERYTHING and ANYTHING you could need. It was crazy. We also checked out all the dining options, because we knew we wanted to eat breakfast there our last morning, to make the packing up of the campsite go faster. I was able to procure some souvenirs and mail off some postcards (they have a post office there!).

The rest of the day was chilling. Playing games, and just enjoying being in Yellowstone. As luck would have it, one of my friends from Denver was also camping Yellowstone the same dates as us, so her family joined us for running around and s’more making. This is just what my kids loved, having friends around, even new friends.

Tomorrow’s post, what we did with our last full day in Yellowstone.

Getting My Geek On

Anyone who knows me has seen me get a little geeky, a little nerdy about stuff. I like Sci-fi, I like my tv shows that way, and I love pop culture. I have never been to a comic con, but when I saw that Eddie McClintock from Warehouse 13 was coming to Denver Comic Con, I set aside some money to go.

I settled on getting the 3 Day Pass, because it offered flexibility for the price. I paid $40 (buying from a local art store), whereas buying for just Saturday was going to be $25.

Ticket holders were supposed to have the option to exchange their tickets for the badges on the Thursday before the event. I don’t know what went wrong with that, but it wasn’t going to happen. They posted this on Facebook and Twitter. I had not planned on doing that, figuring that I would have time Friday during the registration hours (1pm-3pm), which was two hours before the convention opens (3pm). This was näive on my part, call it a rookie mistake. Partnered with that was the DCC’s underestimating(?), disorganization(?) with the check in process. I took the train downtown and arrived at the Convention Center around 2:20pm. At this point, the line was wrapped around the building once. I was bright enough to see that my best bet was to head in the opposite direction to find the end of the line.

The line grew and grew but we seemed to be moving every 3-5 minutes. I was a little shocked at how long the line was getting. It afforded some great people watching. I made a list of the costumes I saw to share with the kids later. It took me 2.5 hours to get my badge. My plan for Friday was simply to get a lay of the land, find out where panels would be, where I could meet celebrities, and where the shopping would be. I accomplished that. In the end, I had spent more time waiting to get in, than I spent inside. I did snag some photos though, one of a Rose & Doctor (from the episode The Idiot’s Lantern), and one of me with a TARDIS.

Rose & The Doctor

Rose & The Doctor

Me with the TARDIS

Me with the TARDIS

Friday night when I returned home I was checking on Twitter & Facebook to see what people were saying about the Denver Comic Con. The overwhelming response was negative. Many people either left the long lines before getting in, or stood in the line and did not get in. This made me a little nervous about attending Saturday.

But I set off back downtown by train Saturday morning. Pulling into the stop, I could the line was long, and drew a deep breath. I was relieved to discover once I got closer that there were two lines, one for people who already had their badges, and one for guests needing to pick up badges. My wait was only 10 minutes. Once inside, I headed straight for the exhibitors, to seek out the one person I knew at Comic Con, and had seen when I was getting into line. Thousands of people there, I was still able to run into Kayley (@Kayleycane), daughter of my friend Laura.

Kayley is a naked Sim

Kayley is a naked Sim

Next stop, was meeting the stars of Warehouse 13. You know, the whole reason I bought my ticket. I was a little nervous, I’m such a fangirl. Lucky for me, the lines were practically nonexistent, so I could take my time speaking with them.

First, Eddie McClintock. He has done a slew of guest starring roles, but Warehouse 13 was his first chance to be the lead. He’s much like his character Pete Lattimer- a goofy guy who loves comics, wrestling and has much respect for the Marines. He was very nice.

Hugging Eddie McClintock

Hugging Eddie McClintock

Right next to him was Saul Rubinek, also from Warehouse 13. Now Saul has been in so many shows and movies. Since I was the only one in line to see him (what is up with that?!), we spoke for several minutes. We talked about Canada (he’s Canadian), he asked about my kids, and I told him he was wonderful on Psych. “The telemundo episode”-Saul. “Yeah, it’s one of my favorites.”- Me

Meeting Saul Rubinek

Meeting Saul Rubinek

I headed back to the exhibitors hall to get the boys a souvenir, some Doctor Who toys, still giddy at meeting Eddie & Saul. I had time to kill before the Warehouse 13 panel. I grabbed some lunch, and did a lot of people watching. I knew where the panel would be, since I had scoped it out the day before. I waited in an (unorganized) line, maybe 20 minutes beforehand. There were essentially two lines, going in opposite directions. Mildly annoying, but since I was solo, I knew I’d have no problem finding a seat for one. The panel was packed, which I think surprised a lot of people. I’m telling you, this show is awesome.

Sitting about 10 rows back, I listened to Eddie & Saul talk about their auditions, the show, how much they love their fans, and what we can do to get a Warehouse 13 movie made. Yeah, the show is ending next season. They said SyFy fought for them to be able to end the show in a good way (versus what had happened to Eureka), so season 5 will have 6 episodes.

Factoring in wait times for panels, I knew I that I had to prioritize what I wanted to hear. The other panel on my Must-Do list was the Phineas & Ferb one. Held in the same room as WH13, I just did a loop of the convention floor before heading back (allowing the next panel to fill up). I returned 45 minutes before P&F was to start, and I was maybe 10th in line. By now, the volunteers figured out they needed to make sure there was only one line. This played well for me, and I scored a seat in the front row.

The Phineas and Ferb panel featured Dee Bradley Baker (voice actor for so many shows & a Coloradoan), who does Perry’s growl, Kelly Hu, who voices Stacy (Candace’s best friend), and Greg Guler (character designer & a Coloradoan)

Phineas and Ferb panel

Phineas and Ferb panel

The moderator was Greg Weisman (writer & producer of some awesome stuff). He mentioned that he & Greg Guler had previously worked together on Gargoyles (insert Melissa and several other fans cheering). They were a little taken back by the response. It was equally as loud when Greg Guler mentioned Darkwing Duck. Now you have an age range of the fans in the room. One of the cool things brought up during the Q&A is the upcoming episode called Mission Marvel. Because Disney owns both Phineas and Ferb and Marvel. Yeah, there is a crossover episode (or episodes) coming (hopefully) in the fall.

It was after this panel that I felt I was done. I’d seen what I wanted to see, and I was ready to go back to the family. I bailed on using my 3 day pass to go Sunday, since it held no panels I was interested in, I had bought my souvenirs and I wanted to avoid the crowd showing up to see William Shatner. I was not willing to pay extra for a Shatner package, or bother taking my chances of getting into one of the rooms showing the simulcast.

Last thoughts:

Would I take the kids? Maybe. I think I would take them while they are still free, and so long as I could obtain the badges early. That first day’s wait would have been too much for my kids, even at ages 6 & 8.

Was it worth the price? I’m going to say yes. I paid $40 for my 3 day pass (which I purchased early and at a local art store). Plus $20 for photos, $40 on souvenirs, $16 on transportation.

Would I go again? Yes. It was delightful and a hoot. I would go again, and wear a costume. I would aim to be dressed as something I didn’t see a lot of (there were a lot of Star Trek officers and Finn from Adventure Time). My attendance would also factor on who the Con was able to get to attend.

Thanks Denver Comic Con, for a fun experience. I hope next year goes smoother for you.

One of my souvenirs- more buttons!

One of my souvenirs- more buttons!

Beautiful Things

“You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us” – Gungor

I’ve been struggling to put into words what the last year has been like, from a church perspective. Some days felt like they held promise, some days felt like a punch in the stomach.

It was in March 2012 that our Pastor left. I wrote about it, and then wrestled with my feelings over his departure, as well as the departure of friends who didn’t want to be at our church anymore.

And that sucked. It really did. It felt like being dumped. But looking back at the Pastor’s leaving, I came to realize something. While I wanted to be angry at him, and I was, he didn’t have any control over the situation. God’s hand was over it. It was God who was guiding our church’s future, it is God who is guiding us. The faithful remnant that remained? We’re stronger, we’re lifting one another up in prayer, in encouragement, in fellowship.

I still don’t know what the future holds for Creekside. But this body of believers are united. We are seeking His face, His will, serving each other, serving our neighbors. We have a new Pastor now, and it seems he & his family are ready to jump in with both feet and stand side by side with us. And that, I thank God for. If the pain of change meant the reward of fellow servants joining Creekside, I thank you Lord for taking us through this.

 

WiiU: Not Just For Kids

This weekend, we hosted a party to get in some play time with our friends. The WiiU we received for Christmas was the focus of the event, though our friend Chris said he came for the food.

WiiU Party

WiiU Party

The kids took turns with the game pad, hiding in the corner while they plotted to capture their friends (Luigi’s Ghost Mansion) or escape them (Mario Chase). There are 12 mini games on Nintendo Land, but these were the ones the kids enjoyed the most.

The kids are engrossed in the game

The kids are engrossed in the game

At one point, the kids went outside to run around, and the adults grabbed the microphones and sang their hearts out. Even those who didn’t want to sing were happy to be background dancers. Right now Sing Party comes with 50 songs, but new songs will be available to download soon. We had a competition of guys vs girls, and while the guys won, their performance didn’t get rated “glorious”.

As promised, a small snippet of one performance from the party. I would have taken more pics and videos, but I was laughing, singing and dancing so much I plum forgot. :)

(disclosure: As a Nintendo Ambassador, I was given a WiiU and some games to play with. All opinions are my own)

Holiday Chocolate Festival

When it comes to the holidays, I’m all for trying new things along with maintaining traditions. This year, I’m excited to check out the Holiday Chocolate Festival, Sunday December 9th from 11am-6pm, at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.

This is the fourth year for the festival, which features chocolate in so many different flavors and concoctions from truffles to chocolate martinis to over 70 varieties of fudge.

You’ll want to buy advance tickets by December 8th to get a discount. Admission is $5, kids 12 and under are free. Taste Tickets are available in pre-sale for one ticket for $1, 12 tickets for $10 and 30 tickets for $25. At the door tickets will be $1 per ticket. Buy tickets to sample all the treats, or simply check out the entertainment and shopping from local businesses. Entertainment will include wine and chocolate tastings by the Chocolate Therapist Julie Pech, holiday cupcake decorating ideas and practice with the Dessert Stand, Teresa Farney’s live interview with the owner of Sugar Loco, truffle & cake competitions, artist Noami Foster painting with real chocolate and so much more.

Does it get any better than that?

WiiU

I don’t think I can put into words how excited the family was to check out the new WiiU system, being released later this year. We’re BIG Nintendo fans- it’s the only system we own. It’s a brand I trust to put out a good product, and one I feel is a good fit for our family. I would admit that years before I became a Brand Ambassador.

We use our Wii weekly, so going into the play session I wondered if we would need a new system. Would any changes they’ve made make it worth our money?

The answer is yes. With the WiiU being backwards compatible, all our current games will be playable on the new system. And the new control pad (which feels like a cross between a classic controller and an iPad) makes things interesting. When the kids tried the new Super Mario Bros U, I was able to play along as a “helper”, adding platforms to help them reach more coins, knock out adversaries, and avoid pitfalls.

Miles getting help on the controller to play Scribblenauts Unlimited

One of my kids favorite games was Nintendoland, featuring Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, Luigi’s Ghost House, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, and many more. The other game they liked was Scribblenauts Unlimited. We were previously unfamiliar with the game, but even I’m sold on getting the game (and a version for my DS).

My favorite game was Just Dance 4. I do not own any of the previous versions, but I’m sold on picking some up now. What a hoot to be dancing and singing along with other Nintendo nuts! If you have friends who like to cut loose, this game is one you should add to any party.

No Nintendo event is complete without a visit from Mario. If I could have got us all in one shot, I promise that would have been our Christmas card for 2012. :)

Geoff: Hey Mario, here’s a mushroom…

 

Me: Dude, you just put a mushroom in front of my face!

 

Finally getting our nice picture taken with Mario