Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

It isn't just the last half hour of the year - it's the last half hour of the decade! What a decade it has been - this is the one you were born in, Madison. This is the decade we brought you home with us.

You can't sum up a decade that easily, nor can we sum up the entire year of 2009 that easily. I will say that because of Madison, it has been my happiest. It has been the most fulfilling for us, and the most joyous!

Today started like any other day, but with a twist: there was ice on the ground! Where did that come from? These meteorologists: none of them saw it coming!

Anyway, Daddy went to work for a bit, and Mommy did some grocery shopping. It was a pretty normal day. Madison watched the Baby Einstein's "Flight of the Instrument Fairies" in the playroom, and spent some time tackling Daddy. BUT the real fun came for her a little later when together, we all went over to the Canada house.

Getting out of the car, we all looked up: there it was, hanging in the sky - a blue moon. Not that frequent, and not at all frequent on New Year's Eve! When we got inside, Madison put on her tiara and grabbed a party horn. She was ready to party!

The Canadas are some good friends of ours in Forsyth County. They invited us over - along with several others families too. Great food there, and just a good time all around. They had a Nintendo Wii there, so Daddy could say he finally played that game system before the decade was out. We did a whole bunch of Mario Kart while the kids ran around and generally screamed alot. Madison ran about the house tooting her horn and laughing a lot. She had a blast!

The food is always good - always good! But the company was even better, as everyone had a good time. We left a little early because it was time for Madison to get to bed, and got home just in time for midnight. In fact, it's only a few minutes away. 2009 has just ten minutes or so to go, but before I end my last blog of the decade, here's one final picture we took together only moments ago.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How do you get to Wonderland?

The weather outside is frightful, but inside it's sure delightful. We had plans to go out and do a few things this afternoon, but when we started seeing frozen rain we thought better of it. On one hand, there was the safety issue when it came to driving later in the evening.

But the truth of the matter was that today is the sort of day where you just want to hunker down inside and snuggle under the covers. That we did, as we had our third movie night, continuing a fun family tradition.

In February, we're going to Wonderland. For research this week, we listened to Alice in Wonderland (both Zena and I heard the unabridged novel as we were cleaning house). But tonight, we thought we'd take Madison along with us for a journey through the looking glass. We figured it was her unbirthday, so what a perfect way to celebrate!

So how do you get to Wonderland? Simple: snuggle together, and get a great big bowl of popcorn. We watched as Alice entered Wonderland once more, saying hello to the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and poor Bill the Lizard. Madison was very entertained, especially by Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. I think it was their honking noises that cracked her up each time - honk! Slapstick humor gets Madison all the time. As you might suspect, the tea party was a big hit as well: that's Daddy's favorite part too.

Earlier in the evening, there was another kind of party: it was Madison having fun with some of her toys from Christmas. One toy in particular has captured her fancy, and that was the Playful Penguins. The ice was falling down outside, but inside the kitchen the penguins were making the best of the ice - and the automatic escalator that took them up to the top of their slide once more.

You may remember this as the toy she was so fascinated by on our trip to Helen a few months ago. Mommy and Daddy got this and wrapped it up for her, and she very much remembered it Christmas Day as she opened up the box. It is an instant baby sitter, and I can't explain the magic behind it. This is simply one of the most captivating things she's ever seen. Today, for example, she sat and played with this thing for about an hour. Sure, there were interruptions here and there. But she kept coming back to the penguins!

Madison has enjoyed her other Christmas presents as well. A few of her favorite things would include the doll you see here, a gift from her Great Grandma. The zhu-zhu pets are another favorite too. I could go on and on, of course. She's been going from one toy to another - it was a huge Christmas with lots of toys and other childhood delights!

She still plays with last year's toys too! For example, the Princess castle that Ye-Ye and Nana got her is dragged out all the time. Daddy has to go in there on occasion, and the two of us have tea.

It's nothing like the Mad Hatter's Tea Party though. Not yet anyway. After tonight's movie, our tea parties might change a little...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Desperately Seeking Tinkerbell

Here's Madison holding up a copy of Tinkerbell, while dressed up in some holiday cheer. The bow in her hair sort of started falling to one side, and with the extra bracelets on she sort of looked like an eighties movie material girl.

She has seen this movie several more times than us, but "Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure," was actually a pretty fun movie for the whole family.

Speaking of "whole family," today was one of those days where we combined a little work and a little fun. Firstly, we headed into the office to do some cleaning - but straight from there we headed off to the Cracker Barrel to use up some of our gift card balance. Madison ate like a pro! Sometimes you just don't know if she's going to eat all that much, and then there are days like today where she eats everything in sight. For fun, and since she ate all the good foods, Mommy got her some candy buttons for when we got back in the car. She munched and munched until the paper those things were attached to was all mushy - and that's when she just suddenly shut off like a light switch. Full tummy + quiet ride in the car = instant nap.

While she was napping, Mommy got the jumpsuit. It's the Elvis Aloha Heritage Edition Commemorative Jumpsuit in all it's glory, and she even picked up a few other Elvis costuming accessories so that our trip south was a success.

Madison woke up at Gwinnett Place Mall, which we hadn't been to in years. Madison had never been there at all. It's seen better days. Mommy continued her quest for Bath & Body Works stuff, and finally used up all her gift card balance on bubble baths and soaps. While this was going on, Daddy and Madison were playing around. Together, we roamed the mall looking around for one type of store in particular - but no such luck. I was commenting to Mommy how it was this mall we used to travel to "back in the day." Now I'm not sure if I'll ever want to go back... :(

We decided to go from there to Goodwill, a quick trip down the road to look around. What a blessing: we found some great Elvis shoes there! Mommy had success with more costuming accessories, while Madison and Daddy found some great hardback books, including "Olive the Other Reindeer" and another Sandra Boynton book.


We have a fairly large collection of Sandra Boynton books, and today we added one called "Doggies." It is a simple and quirky book, and a solid one too. By solid, I mean, Madison can chew on it and it will survive! Not that she chews on books anymore. She's been more understanding of books and how delicate they can be as of late. She also has been enjoying them more.

Madison likes the drawings and the humor in these books, and Daddy and Mommy like them too. The one you see pictured here is actually a collection of songs as well, a booklet that comes with a CD with special guest performers like Brian Wilson and Sha Na Na. Daddy's favorite song is the one about "A Parade! A Parade! We're the Uninvited Prestigious Marching Band!" This is one of those authors that the whole family enjoys reading, and in this case listening to. Actually, as next month's "Graceland" theme starts rolling in, it'll be good to plug this one in from time to time: we'll be doo-wopping our way into 2010 and having a swingin' time. I can't wait to see Madison in a poodle skirt!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Naughty Terracotta Warrior

Brrrr! It sure was cold outside, but we had a really nice day, using some gift cards. Mommy and Daddy got a P.F. Chang's gift card for Christmas from Ye-Ye and Nana, so today we combined a little after-Christmas stroll through the mall with a really nice Chinese dinner.

The Mall of Georgia was packed! Despite all the people, we got into the restaurant in about ten minutes. The food was delicious, and we sat right underneath a Terracotta Warrior that just looked at us suspiciously. Our fears were justified rather soon: each time Madison turned around, she discovered that the statue had stolen her plastic bracelet and had put it in his hands! Naughty, naughty! She'd laugh and grab it back, going back to her meal, giving her plate her full attention. But it wasn't long before that warrior somehow mysteriously had her bracelet again!

Madison enjoyed her spring rolls, and liked looking at the statues too. It was almost a year ago that we saw the real Terracotta Warriors when they came marching into Atlanta. It was at the High Museum, an incredible display that was very educational.

We brought Madison through the museum, but weren't allowed to take pictures. We were, however, allowed to take a stroller. Madison did very well in that museum, despite her age. She was only two, but Daddy rolled her around from warrior to warrior as he listened to the headphones the museum attendants gave us at the front door. We didn't want Madison to miss out on this, even if she was only two. In the end, it was a great day for the three of us - and a great experience. Madison never once made a fuss, quietly seated in her stroller, absorbing all she saw before her. The exhibit was huge, and we saw quite a bit of history from Madison's homeland.

Earlier in the year, Nana had given us a miniature Terracotta Warrior (along with another gift card!). To this day, it sits proudly on our mantle. I think Madison recognizes it, and certainly recognized the mischievous little guy we sat next to today!

We wrapped up a great day by watching a classic: "Rudolph's Shiny New Year." That's right: Christmas may be over, but the Rankin Bass machine rolls on! New Year's Eve is only a few days away, and it is up to Rudolph to save the day once more, as the baby New Year is nowhere to be found! Madison, Mommy and Daddy snuggled in the bed and munched on popcorn as we watched this classic television special. Madison enjoyed it very much - just like she enjoyed Tinkerbell last night too. Don't worry: the baby New Year was found, and all eternity was saved just in time for Madison to go to bed. She drank her milk as Rudolph saved the world, and soon was in her crib fast asleep.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pulling out of the Station

We're about to watch the new Tinkerbell movie for the first time. Madison got it for Christmas, and was pretty excited about it. To be honest, Daddy's just as excited as Madison is. We'll all sit together in bed and watch it - our first movie night in quite some time. I'm thinking of popping up some popcorn!

Today was the last service for "All Aboard!" Madison enjoyed the train and the "research" this month, and she's learned the word "train" pretty good.

In one week we begin our new series, "Graceland." It'll be a series with message titles like "Jailhouse Rock" (with Paul and Silas), "You're the Devil in Disguise" (about temptation) and "Don't be Cruel," amongst many other concepts and titles.

We had plans to actually take Madison to Graceland this week, but several factors weighed heavily. Among them was the weather, and also just plain fatigue. We're pooped! Maybe sometime later we'll go. Until then, we'll probably spend January watching some Elvis movies. One of Madison's favorites has been "Lilo & Stitch," which is always a hit!

Today Daddy got home and together we went out to shop for a new calendar and head over to pick up some bubble bath for Mommy. At least we got the calendar. The bubble bath might have to wait until tomorrow. It's a special fragrance that comes out maybe twice a year, called Juniper Breeze. I have no idea why these places discontinue fragrances so quickly. Victoria's Secret had one called Turquoise Paradise, which we got a whole lot of for wedding gifts. Fast forward a few years later and you can't find the stuff anywhere except Ebay. Juniper Breeze is another fragrance that's hard to come by. It's from Bath & Body Works. Today we visited the Lakeshore Mall location, which was typically unhelpful. We may venture out to the Mall of Georgia location tomorrow - after all, we'll be down that way looking for an Elvis jumpsuit!

We did get a calendar today, so it wasn't a complete failure. This calendar shows various teapots, and goes very nicely in the kitchen where we have on display all sorts of fancy teapots. The pictures are nice, and it fits right in with our decor.

Tea is one of those things Mommy got us hooked on. Of course, Madison loves to have tea parties, though the cups she serves are usually filled with invisible tea. That's the best kind. She pours it out and makes the appropriate noise to let you know liquid is coming out, and then it is time to sit and have tea together.

It's always nice to have tea with Mrs. Nesbitt!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Today we slept in, but Daddy had to do some work. Mommy had to do some work too - the house has toys and open gifts everywhere! All the while, Madison played with her new toys and had a good time today.

Tonight, Mommy and Daddy went on a date night to see "Cavalia," a horse-themed show in Atlanta. It was pretty good, though we both thought the other show we saw a few years earlier was better. It was called "Cheval," and we saw that up in Nashville.

Regardless, we had a good time tonight, and so did Madison. She went to Ye-Ye and Nana's again, and played with her toys and even got to hang out with her cousins some more. They had dropped by this evening and as you can imagine, the place was a mad house!

It was a slow news day, but the day after Christmas is always one of those types of days. In fact, this entire week should probably be like that. We'll be "recovering" at least until New Year's Eve.

Madison fell asleep early tonight at Ye-Ye's house. Daddy carried her all the way home through the cold and up the stairs and back to her room. She never woke up!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It started early - but not too early! Of course, the weather radio had to go off at 3:00 am, just about an hour after Mommy and Daddy got to bed. But complete lack of sleep on Christmas Eve is something that goes with the territory if you're a parent!

Anyway, something about Christmas got us up at about 7:45 this morning, and we knew we'd better get Madison up if we were going to spend some time beneath our tree. Madison was beyond excited. She rolled her Winnie the Pooh car down the hallway and jumped up!

"What's this? There's presents under the tree!" She squealed and did a little dance in place and nearly fell down the stairs if it weren't for Mommy and Daddy helping her along.

Running up to the tree, she had that same look as last year: she was asking us with her eyes, "Can I? Just one?"

We opened a few presents Christmas morning, and Madison got to play "Santa," stacking everyone's presents in an organized pile. But a little after 8:00, we got the call from next door: Madison's cousins were awake! It was time to open presents over at Ye-Ye's house!

We were just about to head out the door, when Mommy pointed something out:

Santa ate the cookies! Madison looked down at the near-empty plate and shook her finger, saying "Naughty, naughty!" Hilarious! She was getting on to Santa for sneaking in and taking some of her cookies! Never mind the fact that he had left so much under that tree!

Anyway, we gathered ourselves and headed next door, and Daddy made a few trips so he could carry all the presents over. Ye-Ye and Nana's living room is always a huge avalanche of presents on Christmas morning.

Jonathan and David Austen play "Santa" here, and distribute the presents in huge stacks all over the living room. Meanwhile, Nana and Ye-Ye make sure everyone has hot tea or egg nog - and make sure the festive Christmas music is playing.

When Ye-Ye makes the announcement, then it's time to tear into the wrapping paper. And then it starts flying! Madison got caught up in it all, unwrapping gift after gift - she got a ton of stuff this Christmas! She'd be really into one toy, when all of the sudden there'd be another thing to unwrap next. She got a copy of Candyland, a Grooming Salon (complete with thousands of little wires that parents have to unwind to get open), Ni-Hao Kai-Lan Mega Blocks, a ginormous doll house, and of course (wait for it....) a zhu zhu pet. These are little automated hamsters that scurry around, and all the kids had them. It was the big item this Christmas, and it was great to see all the kids got one (thanks to Aunt Shain!).

After opening presents, we all had breakfast together, which was really nice. Ye-Ye goes all out to make sure there is a metric ton of delicious breakfast cakes and fruit out on the table. Madison had a few orange slices and the stollen cake too, which got us all speaking German for a few moments. Achtung! It was a great morning, really!

We left Ye-Ye's for a bit to return to our house and open MORE presents there! As Mommy called her parents on the phone to wish them a Merry Christmas, Madison began giving out the rest of the presents to everyone. Daddy popped in some music and we began to open our gifts, just the three of us. Madison loved her presents from Mommy and Daddy (and Santa) - there was just too much to list here. Plus there was her stocking, filled with great old fashioned toys we purchased on our trip to Helen a few months back. One of her favorite items, however, was a musical instrument that she wouldn't stop blowing into.
It had musical keys, and she was trying out all of the different notes - who knows, maybe we have ourself a musician here?

After a quick nap, we ventured back to Ye-Ye's house to have dinner with Great Grandma, who had just arrived. What a huge meal! It was great being together with family, and it was good to see Great Grandma, who even brought Madison another present! Talk about being overloaded with gifts! Her present from Great Grandma was a special doll that Madison immediately started to rock in her arms.

After that, it was back to those zhu zhu pets. The verdict is in: Madison likes 'em. For the rest of the day, it was playtime - and for the adults, it was time to talk and share. And eat more. There was a lot of food over there.

We left late, and gave Madison a Christmas bath when we arrived home. She had a few of her new bathtub toys with her - these were in her stocking. They're the kind you wind up and watch swim across the tub. She was pretty ready for bed after that. It was such a full day that she fell asleep in Mommy's arms as she was drinking her milk.

This was Madison's second Christmas, and it was one we'll never forget. She had a great time, but so did everyone.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Oh what fun Christmas Eve can be. And how chaotic too! Last minute shoppers everywhere, and Daddy was right out there in the midst of it all, nailing down the last few parts of Mommy's Christmas list. It was a crazy bit of hectic shopping, but not too stressful. The time crunch was close, which is always a bother: if only there were a few more hours to Christmas Eve so we can squeeze in everything we can!

Today after shopping, we made some Christmas cookies for Santa in the kitchen, and Madison had a great time doing it. Mommy cut out shapes of Christmas trees, stars and even candy canes, while Daddy and Madison added sprinkles galore to put all sorts of color and flavor on the cookies.

Mmmm...those cookies were tasty!

Soon after that, we went over to Ye-Ye and Nana's house for Christmas Eve. Everyone greeted each other warmly, and there was plenty of food to eat for all. We all held hands and said grace, and then dug in! Lots of dessert there too: chocolates, marzipan, fudge and candies... you can only imagine what the kids were like!

Madison seemed to really enjoy "The Santa Clause 2," as everyone got together and talked. Madison jumped up and down on Ye-Ye and even Uncle Dave - she was really excited tonight! Soon, it was time to open one present each, but before that moment, Ye-Ye opened up the Bible and read to all of us the reason for the season, the story of Jesus' birth. We sat around the living room, quietly listening as Ye-Ye told the story from Luke, Chapter 2.

Then it was time for presents! The stockings for the kids came first, and Madison went into hers just like all the other kids. It was loaded with stuff for her, and she was really starting to like this Christmas thing even more!

The funny thing is that Madison thought the obvious when she was done emptying the stocking: you're supposed to wear these, right? She put that stocking on and marched about the house, and in moments everyone was laughing. Hey, it's a nice stocking. Probably warm, too! Maybe we all should start wearing them on Christmas Eve!

Madison got from Ye-Ye and Nana a copy of Tinkerbell tonight, along with a nice 3-D pop-up book. Everyone exchanged one gift tonight, as we traditionally do each Christmas Eve. Believe me, there's plenty of gifts left for tomorrow when we wake up!

In fact, that's one reason why Mommy and Daddy came home shortly later. Not only was it time for Madison to go to bed, but we had a bit more wrapping to do tonight before we went off to sleep.

We told Madison that tomorrow was the big day, and before going to her room for a long winter's nap, we made sure we had her leave a plate of cookies for Santa.

She was very considerate not to eat any of the cookies left on his plate. We put them down on a table near the Christmas tree, and snuck upstairs to get ready for bed. Madison fell asleep quickly, I hope with visions of sugar plums dancing in her head!

Quickly, Mommy and Daddy set out to wrap the remaining presents for the family. We didn't have to wrap much for Madison though - because Santa's coming pretty soon. In fact, I'd better get off this computer and head to bed as soon as possible. Moments ago, I just looked up the NORAD Santa tracking radar, and was shocked: Santa's been all over the east coast and is currently in Madison, Wisconsin. He's heading south next, and is sure to make a pass by our place.

We'll check on those cookies tomorrow. Only one more sleep 'til Christmas!

NORAD Santa Tracker

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Christmas Story

Free Chapel's Christmas program was a wonderful event to attend, and be a part of. Look closely above at the Nativity Scene from tonight's program: to the far right you can see our Madison, dressed in a lamb's outfit. She's seated in someone's lap (who you cannot see because of a silhouetted tree).

Madison did so great tonight - we were so proud of her. As thousands of people looked on from the audience, she went to her spot and stayed perfectly still, not making a fuss at all. And she was so cute in that little lamb outfit too!

The children performed the nativity story flawlessly tonight, as Daddy narrated each portion, from Gabriel's message to Mary to the census announcement to the visitation of the Wise Men and shepherds. We set up a nice little Nativity set with all the children right there on the stage, and with that many children dressed up in costumes, you can't go wrong!

For the remainder of the service, the three of us stayed back stage. We told Madison how proud we were of her, and the very first thing she did for Daddy when she saw me was give me a big kiss. How blessed we were tonight! Our whole family got to be in the Christmas Eve performance, one that everyone really enjoyed.

As the candles were lit for the candlelight portion of the service, we sang songs together, a happy family. Only two more sleeps 'til Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

One more practice until the big performance! Madison handled Christmas play practice tonight like a champ. It was three hours, and a lot of waiting back stage where it could be dark and scary. But she did much better today despite the late hours and change of scenery.

In our play, Daddy is the narrator and Mommy portrays his wife, both grandparents entertaining a few small children on Christmas Eve. When the kids want to hear the Christmas story, grandpa is only happy to oblige. As the story moves on, kids dressed up as characters from the story come out and act out their parts.

Madison is a pro. Ask her what a lamb does and she'll go: "Aaaaaaaa!" It's not quite "Baaaaa," but who has ever heard a lamb actually annunciate that opening "b?" REAL lambs go for "aaaaaa!"

Can you believe Christmas is almost here? It's seemed at times like a marathon, and at other times it has seemed to whiz by. But there's just two more sleeps 'til Christmas. Daddy still has some shopping to do, and of course the big church service is tomorrow night.

It will be absolutely wonderful!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jingle Bells

Today was Madison's first Christmas play practice. She did okay, although there were some moments where she started to get a little upset at having to move here or there.

It may have had something to do with the green room they have at the church. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a "green room" is where the celebrities spend their time before heading out on stage. Some celebrities are notorious for what they want in their green room: in Madison's case, maybe the poinsettias weren't arranged correctly. Or perhaps she was asked to be picked up in a black s500 at the airport with the interior temperature exactly 71 degrees, and maybe the temperature was 73.

Anyway, you know how these famous people can get. Some you just have to handle with care.

Regardless, for a first night, she did okay. Tomorrow things should go much better, and then the night after that we've got the big show. It's the Christmas performance, and other than the baby Jesus, I'm sure everyone will be looking at our little lamb!

There aren't any big musical performances this year, but no worries: we're working on a show-stopping routine for next year. Take a look, and a listen!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Sweetest Christmas

Madison got some very nice Christmas presents today - in fact, right now she's playing with her new ABC game on the kitchen table. She carried the thing around with her all day, just waiting to get home and open it up. When we arrived at the house, that was the first thing she wanted to do. Forget food: get me that ABC game!

She got her new game from the Pereira Family, posing above with Madison. Another gift they got her was the apron you see Madison wearing in this photo. It is a Christmas apron for making cookies with - we'll be doing that on Thursday.

Don't forget: you have to make cookies for Santa, and only then can it be the sweetest Christmas! And thanks to Marilyn, Alex, Sammi and Danni, we'll also have a nice plate to put those Christmas cookies on.

Santa will know where to find his cookies, because his face is on that plate - along with the nice mug they got us today too. Daddy just might have to sneak a couple drinks out of that one...especially with the weather as chilly as it has been lately.

It was an all-day affair at the church, as Mommy spent quite a bit of time costuming over thirty kids for the upcoming Christmas service performance. All the children above are involved, with Danni (on the right) playing the role of a shepherd.

Hopefully, she'll be a good one, because our little Madison will get to be a little lamb. It'll be a fun job keeping her from going astray!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Naughty or Nice?

It's the end of the year, and Santa's been making a list - was Madison naughty or nice? Some kids might get a little stressed out about this time of year, not knowing which list they're on. Will it be toys and other childhood delights? Or will it be coal?

Fortunately, we were able to do a video conference call with Santa this afternoon and put everyone's minds to ease. I know you were concerned, so I've posted a screen capture below:

Oh, good! She's on the Nice List. But honestly, was there any doubt she'd make it? We were glad to talk to Santa this afternoon - although it was pretty quick. He's a busy guy in December, but he wanted to make sure everyone out there knew Madison was on the Nice List and that Christmas this year is going to be very, very special.

Santa Clause: "I see you when you're sleepin'. I know when you're awake."
Dr. Neil Miller: "Which is a pretty frightening concept when you think about it."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas with the Hitchcocks

It's a wonderful annual tradition to visit with our friends Greg and Judy Hitchcock. The special bond we have with them goes back some time, beginning when we traveled together to Israel nearly ten years ago. Through the years, we followed another similar course though - and that is the journey of adoption.

Greg and Judy went in a different direction, though they did visit the same continent. Whereas we went to China, they went to Russia to adopt their children Abbie and Rachel.

Here they are, Abbie to the left and Rachel to the right. They've just opened some Christmas presents we've exchanged - dolls for everyone. We got the girls a Cinderella doll, and an Aurora doll, which both seemed to like. Cinderella kept losing her shoe - seriously. It must be some new feature on that one. Madison's doll was smarter: it actually says out loud which part of the body her hand happens to be over. "Those are my eyes," or "That is my ears," or "That is my pancreas."

Just kidding about the pancreas.

Seriously, it was great evening to be over at their house. The kids were having a great time, and when we plugged in Rolie Polie Olie's Christmas DVD, everyone settled down and we had a chance to talk a bit and catch up.

Although, I have to admit that as Mommy and Judy talked, Greg and I were quite interested in what Rolie Polie Olie was doing to help Santa!

The grown-ups exchanged gifts tonight as well, and it was nice to be with old friends again. Someday the girls will know how special their connection is, and how each was adopted. But for now, it was just fun seeing them race around the house together, seeing who could speed through the kitchen with their doll stroller the quickest!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Naughty, naughty!

Madison knows the Grinch very well. His soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots. Seriously, he's a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce. She's seen the Grinch a few times this season and instinctively wags her finger at the green guy, telling him "naughty, naughty!" Of course, he never seems to get it - at least not until the end of the cartoon. He's just the type that's into mischief, and maybe that's why we all relate to him so well. He nauseates us with a nauseous super-naus. Yet year after year, we all like to watch the Grinch to see the trouble he gets into.

SPEAKING of WHICH, you'd best keep your eyes on Madison! Mommy was sewing in the basement and letting Madison play around with her new Nativity set, but our little angel decided to sneak off and upstairs to the living room for a bit. Mommy didn't realize why until it was too late: Madison was after a small plate filled with M&M's! She emptied that thing fast - and had chocolate all over her cheeks. No more sweets for you, little girl: you've had enough chocolate to last you until Christmas!

Tonight Mommy and Daddy went to another Christmas party, and Madison got to spend some time with Nana and Ye-Ye. Yep, that's him to the left there. Or, at least the puppet version. Ye-Ye means "grandfather" in Chinese, and this evening Madison went over to spend some time next door with her grandparents. Always resourceful, Ye-Ye had some paper bag puppet crafts to make from Ni-Hao Kai-Lan, and tonight they glued them together. The example you see there in this photo is identical to the kind Madison made this evening. They watched movies and played with dolls and just had a good time together as always. Madison loves going over there. Simply say the word "Ye-Ye" or "Nana" and she'll start packing her gear, excited to be going over. Once we go over, Madison will just about be pushing us out the door so that we're on our way.

It was another late night again. There's only eight more sleeps 'til Christmas, and still lots of fun on the schedule for all of us. And a lot of shopping still left to do. It's all fun, though there might be a bit of stress here or there between planning a Christmas play and finishing shopping and wrapping and scheduling time for Christmas activities. It's still - as Andy Williams says - the most wonderful time of the year.

It's just that, to quote the great magician Professor Hinkle, we're "busy, busy, busy!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Snow Globe

Here's a snapshot of Madison in her very own snow globe! It's a feature on the internet, one of many this Christmas that allow you to put someone's face in some sort of unusual situation. In this case, it's in an odd outfit, inside a snow globe that you can shake up.

Mommy collects various snow globes, and I would imagine she would snap this one up immediately.

Today was another work day for Daddy, who spent much of his time writing about Elvis, while Mommy got to go out and do more shopping with Madison.

Madison enjoyed her computer again today and is getting really good at it. Just this morning she was matching up pictures of musical instruments, and even navigating from menu to menu to play the different activities with each cartridge. In fact, she even knows how to change the cartridges for the games. We didn't actually take time to show her this - she learned it by watching us.

These games she's playing are good for her. There are motor skills involved, where Madison clicks and drags objects using hand and eye coordination. There are also language skills involved - and there is also the sound of giggling from her playroom from time to time, as she watches characters do silly things. For example, when all the puzzle pieces were put together in one particular game, all the characters would start dancing.

Speaking of dancing, it's time for sugar plums to dance in our heads as we all head off to bed. Only nine more sleeps 'til Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Two-Pound Club

Here Madison is, lifting weights today as we did some Christmas shopping. Just in case you can't read it from the photo, those are in fact two-pound weights she's lifting. That means our little girl is curling about four pounds there: a regular power lifter! Oh yeah!

In fact, we're thinking of starting a gym: Madison's Gym. There you'll find all the latest strength training equipment along with a dynamic exercise program that includes classes like "Muscle Endurance," "Weight Training 101," and "Making Pretty Candy Cane Ornaments."

I'm not going to hold back here: Today we had one of the most intense pillow fights ever known to mankind. Madison vs. Daddy. The Biggest Smackdown of the Decade. I think you already know who won.

About ten years ago, I first started to seriously think about all these bedrooms that have a great big bed with about fifteen pillows on them. You know the kind I'm talking about? Well, we have one of those beds now. It has about fifteen pillows on it.

Growing up, I had one pillow. That's all I needed. That's really all anyone really needs.

But somewhere along the line, I was introduced to the concept of a fancy bedroom with fifteen pillows. I have no idea why a bed needs to have fifteen pillows on it. Maybe there are pillow lobbyists hard at work somewhere, perhaps using subliminal advertising.

Anyway, every time you make our bed each day, that basically means you have to fix up fifteen pillows after you've made the bed. This is all so you can have an aesthetically pleasing configuration of random pillows piled on the bed. I'm sure our visitors over the years have left the house saying to each other, "Now that was an incredible stack of pillows!"

Though this pillow thing is still a foreign concept to me, I have learned to deal with it. But all along, I've always wondered why do people have to put so many pillows on a bed?

I did not know that answer until today. That's when Madison and I got involved in the largest pillow fight this side of the Mississippi. All fifteen of those pillows were flying, hurled at each other with the ferocity of a rugby championship game. It was the sort of pillow fight the neighbors wanted to call the police about. It was the sort of pillow fight that could have been a pay-per-view event. It may have even been the first pillow fight you could see from space!

Again, I probably don't need to tell you who won. After all, she's been lifting a lot of weights lately!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Seeing Stars

Today Madison tried on some of the fun glasses we have, set aside for Christmas. It's a collection of glasses that when put on, will transform the lights - especially Christmas lights - into all kinds of neat shapes. For example, Madison was able to see Santa faces, snowmen, angels, and also stars. You can see the picture here of our tree, actually taken through one of these sets of glasses - each light has turned into a star on the tree!

Some of the glasses even spell out words when you look at the lights. One set will show you the word "JOY" over and over on every light. Another set of glasses will show you the word "JESUS."

Madison tried them all on, one at a time. She sat there and methodically pulled out each set, putting it on and seeing what shapes would show up. Then, when having cycled through each one, she decided to head upstairs to her playroom to check out her own tree and see through the glasses there as well!

We did a little Christmas shopping today, and also went to visit our friends at the Oriental Garden 2. It was a cold and chilly day, perfect weather for some Chinese tea and hot wonton soup!

Earlier, we went to church and had a great service for the kids - and shortly after that, we attended our first orientation for the upcoming Christmas play at Free Chapel. It'll be Madison's first performance, her first role in a major drama. She'll be offering her portrayal of a lamb in the stable nearby the baby Jesus the night he was born. She's been practicing her "baaaas," and although a little squeaky at times (and more like "aaaaaaas"), it's sure to get rave reviews! Daddy and Mommy have a pretty big part in it too - but it goes without saying that Madison is going to get all the attention!

Madison's been really learning a lot on this Click-Start computer that she has set up in her room. She is making some major progress learning letters, the way they look and sound. Different games challenge her to press a particular letters on her keyboard, and she's very good at finding them and pressing them. Just as impressive to Daddy, she's been able to use the mouse on this computer to move about and click on items she needs to win each game. She's been playing the Backyardigans, Finding Nemo and of course Ni-Hao Kai-Lan. Each has been great fun, and educational too. Yes, that's a recommendation.
Psssst! Don't tell her this, but I think Santa got her the Disney Princess cartridge for Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Office Party

Here Madison is, getting one of her first gifts this Christmas. She got it at a volunteer dinner that Mommy and Daddy put together for this evening. Along the way, "Aunt" Kelly decided to bless everyone with gifts tonight, including Daddy and Mommy too. But Madison received a special gift as well, which she immediately dragged off and started playing with.

As Madison sleeps tonight, it is currently underneath the tree. Though I doubt it'll stay there long when Madison sees it tomorrow!

Tonight was an enjoyable evening, though a lot of hard work at the front end. Mommy baked a lot yesterday, and today worked hard to bring a lot of the other ingredients together for a great night. Daddy set things up with the tables, chairs, lights, music and such - and went and got all the catered food as well. Mommy wrapped up some extra ornaments for our ornament exchange game this evening, and it worked out that we had exactly the right amount for everyone tonight.

I guess you could say it was Madison's first ornament exchange game. We had a Christmas ornament for her, and she did in fact draw a number (number #17!). This was the sort of game where you steal each other's ornaments one turn at a time, until the end of the game where each family is hopefully left with a good ornament (and probably a not-so-good one!). I think each family wound up with at least one good ornament - Madison got a hippo with skis. It was cute, and when we got home, Madison immediately hung it on our tree.

It was a very pleasant evening with good friends and a nice atmosphere. The weather outside wasn't pleasant though - and we figured it might be best to call it an evening after the ornament game. The temperature is currently hovering around the freezing point and there's still some precipitation coming down.

It was a really sweet atmosphere tonight, and we're grateful for the friends we have. Madison enjoyed herself a lot, but was certainly ready for bed when we left. Actually, we were too!

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Beginning to Smell A Lot Like Christmas

Here Madison is in a serious pose - with a completely silly hat. This is one of Daddy's favorite hats. Madison likes to take it and put it on Daddy's head. She puts the leopard skin Santa hat on Mommy, and keeps the normal one for herself.

Mommy spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen today, cooking up a winter storm! Lots of goodies for Christmas: brownies, cookies, and her world famous reindeer mix (also affectionately called "Christmas Crack" because it is so addictive!). The whole house smells like Christmas cooking - and smells don't get much better than that!

It was quite a busy day today, and another chilly one too! Daddy spent the day filming stuff around trains, and even a bit of a Christmas party with some home school children at the church (they put on a Christmas play!).

Throughout the day, Madison was working on her computer skills a bit, pressing the right letters on her keyboard and having a great time too. She's been into that computer lately: laughing, giggling and learning!

She fell asleep easily tonight, after watching a Spongebob Christmas Special (which had us all giggling!).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Night of Christmas Trees

Mommy and Daddy had a night out this evening, heading over to the Gainesville First Baptist to see their tenth annual Living Christmas Tree performance. It was good as always, a performance with a full choir and orchestra doing great versions of songs like "Go Tell it on the Mountain" and "We Three Kings." The lights and music make for a classy evening we make a point of going to each December.

Tonight as we headed out, we left Madison with Ye-Ye and Nana, who had a fun evening planned. Ye-Ye is always good about planning activities for the night, and tonight was no different. Look at the cardboard Christmas tree that Madison made tonight! It was cardboard shapes made by Ye-Ye, painted green and cut out to resemble sides of a tree. She was given ornaments and styrofoam snow to glue on to the sides, and had a great time putting it together. Taking it home, she was very insistent that she keep it by her side. Daddy and Mommy carried everything else, but Madison treasured her new tree. "Snow Tree," she calls it.

Tonight she watched some Christmas movies as well, such as the cartoon "The Grinch" (at whom Madison wags her finger and says, "naughty, naughty!"). She loves going over to their house!

Today we did some Christmas shopping with Madison at the new Goodwill in Oakwood: great books for Madison there! One of which was another Christmas book by Jan Brett called "The Christmas Trolls." Madison enjoyed hearing the story and looking at the artwork. We got several other books there too, but this one was pretty unique. I mean "trolls" and "Christmas" aren't exactly words that typically go together. That is, unless you're singing "troll the ancient yule tide carol." In any event, it was a fun read for the two of us that told a story about how it is better to give than receive. Great artwork!

Madison went to bed late again tonight, but she took a good nap this afternoon and we've no big plans tomorrow morning. She slipped off to sleep quickly, and Mommy and Daddy slipped off to watch another Christmas movie - "The Muppets Christmas Carol." Classic stuff!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Candy Train

Windy day today. One of the large Christmas trees in front of the church blew over, and that thing was very heavy! We were under a severe weather alert for wind, and although someone said it was "good kite" weather, I'd tend to disagree: if you held on to a kite, it'd probably take you flying in the air until you landed in South Carolina!

Madison came to church tonight and had a good time again. In fact, you can see here that she built her own train. How creative is that? The body is a lifesaver package, the wheels are peppermints, the smokestack is a Hershey's kiss, and the place where the engineer sits is a caramel candy piece and a small chocolate bar. I'm surprised this train made it home!

It was cold again, though not the bitter cold we had the last few days. We're dreaming of a White Christmas around here - if we could only drop the temperature another six degrees last night, we would have had buckets of snow. In fact, further north there have been blizzard conditions already. I think we'll see a little of that snow this winter - I hope so, because we can't wait to see Madison tromp around in it!

In the front yard, one of our wise men blew over. I think it was Balthazar. Madison saw this from inside and said, "oh no!" When she was able to make it outside, she quickly helped the fallen king to his feet so he could pay his respects to the baby Jesus. But that's when Madison noticed the stable was a little untidy. All this wind had blown a large amount of leaves in there. So she immediately got inside and started cleaning up the place. Mary was no help, she just kneeled there with a vacant look on her face - so Madison did all the work, and in no time the Nativity Scene was spotless.

Daddy was really blessed at work today - he fell a pretty good distance in the dark, and landed funny. Yet he's still able to walk around, only slightly bruised. Seriously, I could broken several bones - and yet I was able to keep going. We'll see what tomorrow brings...I think I might be a bit sore.

The wind still howls outside, but we're all snug and warm inside. Madison is already asleep - it was late when we got home and it didn't take long for her to drift off to sleep. Mommy and Daddy will be right behind her. Tonight we're snuggling in bed and watching cheesy 80's Christmas specials! That's been fun this year: Mommy has all these VHS tapes with stuff that's just not on DVD yet. Stuff like "The Night They Saved Christmas," or "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," or "The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold," or even "Smoky Mountain Christmas." Every year we catch the classics, like "The Santa Clause," "The Grinch," "Miracle on 34th Street," or even "The Polar Express."

But movies like "Santa Claus vs. The Martians" are a lot of fun too! Just be sure to lower your expectations a tiny bit at the door...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Seasons Eatings!

One year ago, Madison met Gingy (the Gingerbread Man), and had a great time building him a house at Christmas time. With a little help from Daddy and Mommy, the two constructed a masterpiece! Seriously, this was the sort of sweet mansion that anyone would want to live in. All those other gingerbread men were probably really bitter and jealous!

Here we were last year, building a firm foundation and tasting all the concrete.

Well, this year it was time for Gingy to have a new house. If you're looking for a new home, this current market is just for you. We decided to do things the old-fashioned way, by actually building him a new one. But before we head in that direction, it's time for another installment of:

This month is a great month for Christmas books. One book in particular has been fun to read with Madison, by the author Jan Brett, one of Mommy's favorites. We love the artwork in all her books, and this one is no different.

Each page of "Gingerbread Baby" tells a simple, but beautiful story of a gingerbread baby that runs so fast that no one can catch him. Unfortunately, he starts to get winded - and he worries that a fox will catch him and eat him. The good news is that a boy has built for him a gingerbread house to run inside. Madison enjoyed hearing the story today. In fact, Mommy read it to her this morning and Daddy read it in the evening, as Mommy was getting the supplies ready in the kitchen.

It was amazing that Madison knew what to do when we mentioned the word "gingerbread house." She knew to go into the pantry and find the big box with the gingerbread house inside it. She knew how to use the white candy frosting, inside the bowl (as glue). And she didn't even have to be told to put the white paste on the pieces of candy and stick them on the side of the house. She just knew! We haven't done this since last year - she must have remembered it from a year ago!

We had a great time tonight, decorating our new house. Of course, with a three-year-old, you're not aiming for any sort of precision. It was more about trying to cover every square inch with all sorts of candy. And then lick your fingers a lot. We all did that!

Madison put M&Ms all over the roof, along with gumdrops and those little round candies that are so small and hard that little toy soldiers use them for bullets. Along the way, everyone got sticky. The white frosting was so delicious, and this was heard over and over again tonight: "Put the candy on the house, not in your mouth please."

Of course, Mommy was saying that to Daddy too! After creating our wonderful gingerbread house, it was clearly time for a bath. Mommy cleaned up the kitchen while Daddy gave Madison a good scrubbing, trying to get all the icing out of her hair!

When bedtime came, Madison took her stuffed gingerbread man - that's Gingy - and put him into the crib, telling him to be quiet. After Mommy and Daddy left her in the nursery, you could still hear the two chatting about their adventure tonight, and his tasty new house.

All in all, it was a very special night. We made a pretty house for Gingy that will look nice in the dining room. It isn't anything you'd see on the cover of Gingerbread Weekly Magazine, but it sure looks delicious - and it certainly brings back sweet memories!