That Awkward Moment When You Have to Explain Your Pet's Geeky Name

9/30/2016 House of Geekiness 0 Comments

One of Erik's favorite childhood memories is of dad, Den, taking him to see Return of the Jedi when it was first shown in theaters. While Den isn't a huge Star Wars fan himself, he gets that we are. Den is more of a classic comic book and westerns fan. But we think the fact that our kids' 81 years old grandpa is pretty geeky himself is pretty great. 

Emo Kylo Ren demanding we serve him
The other day, our cat, Emo Kylo Ren (we just call him Kylo), was upset and Erik teased, "You're not a very happy radar technician, are you?" It took me a second before I got it, but Den really didn't understand. If you don't either, that's okay. Most people wouldn't get it. I'll explain. ;)

Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 We told Den how Kylo Ren is the bad guy in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and how he's a big baby, always throwing fits and that Adam Driver, the actor who plays Kylo Ren did a Saturday Night Light sketch:

So, Erik was joking that our cat was Matt the Radar Technician from the skit.

The video made Den laugh (especially the muffin part) but since he hasn't seen the movie yet, we didn't explain why our cat is Emo Kylo Ren.

After seeing the movie, we discovered the funniest Twitter account! "Emo Kylo Ren" claims to be "ren's rights activist" and posts on Twitter on his behalf.  He follows just 2 other Twitter accounts: Darth Vader and Hot Topic. On occasion, there have been some pretty great Twitter battles between Emo Kylo Ren and another account called Very Loney Luke. See for yourself. These are some of my favorite tweets:

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Save Our Dad: Jelly Belly's Candypalooza and A Sweet Miracle

9/25/2016 House of Geekiness 0 Comments

Candypalooza at the Jelly Belly Factory today was a blast! We went on the obligatory factory tour (Erik and I can't even count the times we've been on the tour, we know it by heart), wore the silly paper hats, and got our free package of Jelly Bellies.

Stacked trays of Jelly Bellies in the factory
Any bean counters out there? ;)
I will say that it was very nice being able to walk at our own pace in the tours are self-guided now. The kids loved the activities that have been added but we did miss being able to try the Jelly Belly beans at their different stages. The kids missed hearing about how they make them and especially missed the cowboy Jelly Belly that always showed the welcome sign on the machine he was riding.
Miniature horses from Angels for Minis
There was a fun carnival and car show outside the factory, but the miniature horses were our favorite part. Angels for Minis brought some of their adorable and sweet horses for us to meet. We just discovered them, but Angels for Minis is an incredible nonprofit that not only rescues miniature horses but has therapy programs for special needs children (like our own)!

Since the factory tour involves a lot of walking and standing, Den rode in a wheelchair today. Erik asked if his dad wanted to be moved closer to the horses so he could pet them, he replied, "No, because then I'd want to take one home with me." I tell you, now I really see why my husband is so loveable. He gets it from his dad!
But the ladies of Angels for Minis wouldn't let Den be left out. They offered to bring a horse to him and he loved every second of it.

Our oldest in the cafe section of the Jelly Belly Factory. He's so proud of how tall he's getting!

Now, for the miracle part. I knew that Den was getting better everyday (read about Den's fight against cancer and our family's move to save him), but until I saw this picture, I had no idea. See how filled out he looks? Now, look at this next one from about a month ago, right after we were able to move here to California to take care of him:

You can tell he's a bit thin and he had to wear suspenders because all of his pants were too loose to stay on him. Here's Den just a month before that, when we first saw how sick he was:

 He was so thin and frail and it scared us to death! He couldn't even take a short walk through the grocery store without having to ride in a motor-cart. Now, take a look at the first picture again next to the first:

THIS is our miracle. Just weeks ago, we thought Den, Erik's dad, was going to die from terminal cancer. If you remember, I even wrote a post (which you can read here) about how unfair it was that a man this wonderful who has spent his life serving others could get so sick. But we've (especially Den) trusted in God and He has truly blessed our family. Through the help of friends, family, and even complete strangers, we were able to quickly relocate our family from Utah to California, despite some overwhelming obstacles.

Den has had two rounds of chemo, and, against all odds, has actually gained weight and strength each day. So far, he hasn't had a bit of the nausea, exhaustion, or weight loss we'd been expecting
just some hair loss and occasional fogginess. The suspenders aren't needed anymore and he's getting out almost everyday to play pool with his friends at the senior center. He also gets to go to church every week for the whole three hours, just as he wants. In fact, last Sunday, he ended up spending four hours at church, then coming home for a short rest/lunch before going out to visit some fellow church members!

Our oldest kid enjoying a game of cribbage with Grandpa Den, about 20 days ago
We are so thankful that Heavenly Father given us the privilege of being here with him. He has already been such an example of strength, kindness, and faith to us that he has changed our lives completely. He is such a joy to be around!

The cancer isn't gone yet, but we already consider this a victory. Thank you all for your endless prayers, help, and love. Thank you for being God's hands and helping us save our dad/grandpa! I'll update you again soon.


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    Arabesque Chapter 4

    9/23/2016 House of Geekiness 0 Comments

    I will be sharing parts of my writing every week (alternating between Arabesque and Persephone) as I write them (with the exception of some parts of Arabesque, which were written previously), so please be patient with any errors you may find, as these are a first drafts.

    About the book

    Tatania is tired of living in her sister's shadow but doesn't know about Princess Anna's dark secret. Bound by a sacred oath, Anna's struggles to live a double life that can never be her own. 
    Described as "Sense and Sensibility meets Ever After with ninjas," Arabesque is full of action, romance, intrigue, and betrayal.

    Since I've always been super paranoid, Arabesque was officially copyrighted in 2009. Duplication or use of this work in any other form is prohibited by law.

    Chapter 4
    In town, we had more ideal, secluded locations, secretly owned and maintained by the king, where we could train undiscovered.  While at Licht Haven, our training grounds were located at an unoccupied farm, which belonged to the Ashenhursts. We most often trained inside the old barn, especially during the coldest of times. 
    Our training always presented obvious difficulties in its secretive nature, such as escaping the manor unseen to attend each session.  However, the most irksome of these trials was the irritating restraint each of us were required to maintain.  Each blow had to be carefully placed, not simply to assure that no fatal injuries were inflicted, but to maintain secrecy, injuries could not be visible.   
    Over the years, I had been labeled as particularly clumsy for all of the ridiculously obscure “accidents” that had left me bruised, limping, or otherwise injured.  As a soldier, Henry had fewer difficulties masking his ailments, yet restraint, on my part, was still expected. 
    Last night, we had fought with staves, at which we were fairly evenly matched.  Each step, each blow, came laboriously.  Henry’s strength was superior, but offset by my speed and agility.   
    Wood cracked loudly as our staves met, blocking most hits.  Air rushed out of my lungs uncontrollably as he hit my right side.  No matter how long I had trained, or willed myself against it, I could not help but react, even slightly to the shock of intense pain that such a heavy blow inflicted.   
    It bothered me slightly that Henry did not seem as affected as myself, and always experienced a rush of embarrassment when I displayed such weakness.  Pain had either one of two effects of me.  I tended to either become distracted by my embarrassment, performing even more poorly, or I instantly became more focused and determined—thus improving my performance.  Very seldom could Henry land a blow if the latter occurred. 
    He had struck a rib, but it was only a slight crack, if not a complete break.  My eyes watered, and I struggled to breathe regularly, desperately attempting to ignore the pain.   
    Henry paused his attack to ascertain whether my wound was serious.  Concern and pity filled his eyes.  He began to lower his stave and step toward me. 
    I shook my head, and since I was yet unable to speak, I waved him off. 
    He remained still, but started to say, “My lady, you must attend your wound…” 
    Heat filled my cheeks.  He would never have made such a display for a painful, but minor injury!  I released my side and again took up my stave, whirling with such force that my opponent was hard pressed to defend himself.   
    My mad press was short lived.  Every motion was agony, renewing the hurt to my side time and again.  My breath came nearly in gasps, but I spun and shot a leg out to catch his after I freighted a hit to his shoulder. 
    With great speed, he leapt above my leg, and caught my exposed back with a relatively gentle, but still firm rap. 
    I fell on my face then rose to my knees in silent tears of shame.  In the past few weeks, I had rarely bested him, while he trounced me again and again. 
    Searing pain flared across my body in several places, wounds new and old.  My vision blurred through tears when I opened my eyes, so I kept them closed. 
    While my ragged breathing was the predominant sound, I had no difficulty hearing Henry’s soft, slow steps coming toward me.   
    “Princess Anna…Are you well?” His steady voice asked.
    I found that I still could not reply.  Whimpering nearly inaudibly, I briefly felt his warm, gentle hand on my shoulder, before propriety promptly caused him to remove it.   
    “My lady?” He knelt beside me. 
    I could not bring myself to look into his eyes.  I stared at the straw beneath us.  In my pain, emotions overwhelmed me, and I could not keep silent, though I desperately tried.   
    “I….cannot do this, Henry…” I whispered.  “I have tried but it is just not enough…I am not enough.  I will fail them. ...The king, Tatania, my mother…all of them.” 
    His hand returned to my shoulder, seemingly the only source of warmth remaining in my body. 
    “Princess,” he sighed, “You could never fail them.  You give all that you have, everything that you are, that you have become has been for them!  You give and keep nothing for yourself, give no thought for yourself.”
    “Nothing for myself?  I know the righteousness of my cause, the necessity of my life, yet I take countless hours…hours spent in self-pity, wishing for relief from this burden, for some small escape!”  Hot tears slid down my face.  My hands sought to hide them.
    He slowly moved my hands from my face, seeking my gaze, but my eyes refused to look at him.  He was silent, but still held my hands. 
    After moment, he said, “You, Princess, are the least selfish person in the world.” 
    My eyes shot up, looking at him in confusion.  I had just admitted how loathsome I was, how abominable; he could not think otherwise. 
    “But I am!  I have been given so much, and been asked for so little in return.  A wonderful family, countless opportunities to accomplish so much good…and yet I falter.  I wallow in pity when I should find happiness in every moment.  I toil and reach, yet fall hopelessly short.  I cannot even endure a simply injury without complaint!” 
    To my astonishment, Henry laughed.  “A simple injury?  If I am not mistaken, I believe that rib is cracked.  I have seen grown men cry, curse, or faint when they’ve cracked a rib, yet you simply wince and fight as if you’ve merely stubbed a toe, and almost give me a cracked head in the process!” 
    His hands held my trembling shoulders still, his arms outstretched.  He chuckled, “Oh Princess Anna…how unfairly you judge yourself.  The burdens you bare are heavier than most can imagine.  It is only natural to falter and struggle.  You may stumble, yet you keep doing your best; that is what is important.  Your best is all that anyone, even the king, can ask of you.  It’s all they expect, and all that you can give... 
    He paused briefly then laughed again.  “And no one can expect to enjoy every single moment of their life!  We have to know sorrow to know what happiness feels like.  We need the bad to help us recognize the good when we see it.  Enduring the pain and trials make those moments of joy so much more precious.” 
    His words made sense, but still failed to calm me.  “But if I were to fail… if I could not…what if my best is not enough?” 
    In another bought of self-pity, I shamefully collapsed in his arms, sobbing.  “I have to push myself harder, grow stronger…be better.  If I fail, the whole kingdom falls into turmoil!” 
    His strong arms held me as if I were delicate crystal; cautious, yet with surprising softness.   
    We knelt together, embraced in silence for several minutes before he whispered, “Anna…” 
    He had not called me any title-less name since I was twelve, and the familiar warmth with which he invoked my name was also startling.  He had once spoken this manner frequently, but those days had seemed a closed chapter of my childhood. 
    I looked up at him, my head resting softly on his chest. 
    “Anna, I said that you are the least selfish person in the world, which I believe to be true, but in being so, you take too much upon yourself.  Yes, there are certain expectations of you, but you aren’t expected to do this alone. You have me, my father, and a whole army to help you!  Please…share your burdens with us…let me help you, at least, so you will not feel so alone in this.”  
    Warmth flooded my body and I felt a great weight removed.  Unable to speak, I nodded weakly and smiled, expecting him to let go and help me up.  Instead, he continued to hold me protectively in his arms, and I felt safe. 
    Peace washed over me.  I felt hope as I’d never felt before.  I was not so alone as I’d imagined.  There were so many others who would aide me, who cared for and loved me; who wanted me to succeed.   
    Propriety caught up to us much too soon.  I blushed as he mentioned the late hour.
    Riding back to the house, the cold air could not touch me, nor the dark night frighten me.  I was warmed by my thoughts, but one, above all made me want to laugh and sing to the sky!  Regardless of how imperfect I was, I knew that Henry would never allow me to fail. 

    More coming soon! Read Chapter 5 here or more about my projects here.

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      Mario Bros Inspired Perler Beadsprites

      9/23/2016 House of Geekiness 3 Comments

      Mario Bros inspired Star

      All the moving, organizing, and unpacking, I haven't gotten much chance to do anything with Perler Beads lately. So, it was lots of fun to bust them out and create some beadsprites. I didn't have much time, so I did some basic fun designs based off the Mario Bros. 
      Mario Bros inspired Goomba
      Mario Bros inspired Bob-omb
      Mario Bros inspired Cloud Block
      Don't worry, there are more Mario Bros beadsprites to come!
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        my battle for better health,

        Rush Ranch: Challenging Disabilities

        9/18/2016 House of Geekiness 0 Comments

        Stonewall sporthorses at Rush Ranch
         Our family spent a fun Saturday at Rush Ranch, a 2070 acre preserve in the Suisun Marsh (California Bay Area) and it's one of my new favorite places. I spent many childhood summers visiting my aunts' and uncles' ranches, spending as much time with the animals (especially the horses) as possible and have wanted my kids to experience it was well. My husband used to visit the ranch as a kid (he grew up in the area) and he knew we'd love it. I had no idea how amazing Rush Ranch would be and I'm more than a little bit upset that I didn't know about it all those years we lived here before!

        After gawking at the Stonewall Sporthorses and Halflinger horses, we started our day at the blacksmith shop.

        Our youngest was scared at first that the sparks would get him, so Erik helped at first
        The blacksmith was making leaves for a trellis and let the kids pound out part of it. But for fun, he let them pound flat the ends of nails and let the kids keep them.

        Our youngest with his flattened nail, in front of the blacksmith shop
        The blacksmith shop's building is well over 100 years old and they do demonstrations there about once a month.

        Before we left, I thought we'd practically have to drag Den there (read about how we moved to California to live with him here), but he was extremely excited to go. He got back to his roots there. He used this same sort of machine to sharpen scythes back at the farm he worked on when he was young. It was so neat to have him tell us about it and how he worked with horses. I'd heard him lament before that he wished he could have had one last horseback ride in his life (which is body will not currently allow, read about his battle with cancer here). 

        Den is doing amazingly well with chemo, better than we ever imagined he could! Instead of no energy and/or not being able to eat, the only side effects we've seen so far after two rounds of chemotherapy are that he's starting to lose his hair and has occasional brain fogginess. He's more active than he's been in over a year and gaining weight!

        We got to watch this young horse, named Tango, work out. His owner here was teaching him to work in a harness so he can pull carriages.

        My daughter absolutely LOVED petting Tango and the Halflinger that was in the corral next to him. (So did I, of course.)

        Grandpa Den petting the two Percheron mares that pulled our carriage
        Finally, we got to our main attraction, the carriage ride. I wasn't sure that Den would be able to climb up into the carriage but he declined the use of their wheel chair lift and hoisted himself up into the cart.

        I wish I'd gotten a better picture of the marsh, but riding the trail around it felt like we were in Anne of Green Gables, on Prince Edward Island. Such pretty wetlands!

        Erik and his dad wait for us as we board the carriage for one last ride
        Despite the early morning, it was already starting to get hot and Den's medications don't allow him to be in the sun for long, so we had to limit our rides. Next time, we'll remember to bring hats...

         I didn't pay much attention to the shirts of the people working there that said Access Adventure, but when a one armed man (who I thought was just another tourist) got on board and they let him drive, I did a bit of a double take. I found out that Access Adventure is an incredible non-profit organization whose mission is: Enriching the lives of people with disabilities and other underserved members of our community by providing outdoor recreation, open space access, education and therapy, through a working partnership with horses

        No wonder the carriage had a wheelchair lift in the back! I'd thought it was pretty neat but didn't think on it much. Access Adventure specializes in Therapeutic Driving and do more than a hundred events every years, serving thousands of people, all for FREE!

        We spoke to some of the organizers about volunteering and they actually need people to feed the horses! I was like, "Where do I sign up??" I've been wanting to get our family involved with horses but thought I'd have to pay for lessons or something, which we can't afford (and aren't likely to for years). We are so excited to get started working and volunteering!
        We all loved going to Rush Ranch so much and I'm sure we'll be regulars there soon. It was especially neat to see Grandpa Den being able to enjoy being with horses despite his current disabilities. It was something I really enjoyed as well. Since my own health problems and weight have restricted my activities (no horseback riding when you're obese because it's too hard on the horses), this is great way for me to be able to get out and be in an environment I love. We'll probably start out slow (about one to three times a month) and work our way up to more, but it's something we'll all look forward to!
        My goals

        I want to have energy to spend time and actually do activities with my family.
        I want to be able to be physically active. I’m not saying I plan on running marathons, but being able to exercise and do basic housecleaning on a daily basis would be nice.
        I want my mind to feel less foggy all the time so I can do my job well and enjoy being in the profession I love.
        I want to be healthy and be at a healthy weight.
        I want my life back! I will look for the best in my life and realize what I truly have, always striving to make it better.
        I will accept myself as I am.
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