Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gotcha Day 2011

Here are my two favorite girls, three years ago on this very day. Today is Gotcha Day, a day we look back and remember the moment we first met our little girl. Things have certainly been "happily ever after."

It has been a quiet day today. Earlier, we posted about the day elsewhere, and got quite a bit of feedback:

We've already gotten some happy wishes. You can click on the image above and it will enlarge so you can read the comments easier.

It's so hard to believe it was three years ago. What a dramatic day. With last year's entry, I typed up what I wrote the night after I first met Madison. If you'd like, you can read it here.

We've been reading the journal of our adventure to Madison each night, and telling her the story of how we first met. So glad we kept the journal - she's listening to every word, from the long airplane adventure to China to riding Dumbo in Hong Kong.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Journey to Nanning, 2008

- Taken from our Travel Journal - June 29, 2008

"We arrived in Nanning today, still nervous and excited. Renting a computer in our rooms, we immediately communicated with everyone back at home and got some responses back. Zena's parents are particularly thrilled. We woke up at 3:15 a.m. today, then had our luggage picked up by 4:00 a.m., ate at the hotel buffet at 4:45 a.m., and left the place by 5:40 a.m. We said goodbye to Beijing and arrived at the airport, an amazing structure. I must say that Beijing has the most incredible architecture I've ever seen. We saw the Bird's Nest Stadium and other Olympic venues, but some of the other buildings are stunning.

It is very humid in Nanning. It is called the "Green City" because of all the lush vegetation. Here, we found our hotel, the Mingyuan Xindu Hotel, where you'll stay with us for the first time. There's a crib in the room and a Mickey Mouse sticker above the bath tub. They must know we're big Disney nuts. We went to the local grocery store and purchased some of the formula you like, and some rice. We got more water and I even tried some savory prawn flavored potato chips. I wouldn't do the pickled chicken feet though! Our family had pizza tonight, ordered from Pizza Hut. It was a quiet meal, we were all so tired. The plane ride was three hours long, but we listened to Perry Stone on the way (hey, it's Sunday!).

Less than twenty-four hours to go. We are filling our time with emails and preparing the room for your arrival. Zena's scurrying about, getting everything set. We've still got money to exchange and forms to fill out (always forms!).

BUT, we are almost there. A three-year journey is nearly about to reach that most important milestone. Know this: we are happy. We love you. You are a blessing in our lives. We have come this far and done this much because we want you and love you so much. We will see you soon..."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Great Wall

- Taken from our Travel Journal - June 28, 2008

"Two days to go! We're worried about things - about how you'll react to us. Have you been around guys before - or only girls? How will you react to me? We hope you don't cry so much, but we understand if you do. You've been taken away from anything and everything you've ever known. We'll try so hard because we already love you so much. It's like I have a crush - I keep going back to that picture of you in my wallet and looking at you with amazement. In just a short time, I'll be a daddy! We're scared because of so much - but there is joy and hope. Just two days to go after waiting and struggling for so long. It is hard to put into words the emotions we feel. Zena has occasional tears in her eyes as she walks around here in China. My mother does too - there's so much nervous energy here, but the adoption agency is keeping us very busy. We woke up very early this morning - the jet lag has us up or sleeping at all sorts of odd hours. Breakfast at our hotel is delicious - we're staying in room 1007 at the Poly Plaza, and we've enjoyed going down for the interesting mix of food. We left as a larger group today - more families arrived last night. We ourselves simply couldn't miss an opportunity for the extra time in Beijing. But there was still so much to do today, as you'll read on the next page. Go ahead, turn it!

Our first destination was Tienemen Square, where we all looked at each other, stunned, and said, "Can you believe we're here?" It is a very large place, and we walked the length of it, marveling at the buildings and large numbers of people moving about. Of course, I took many photos - but the best was yet to come. We traveled under the Chairman's portrait and began our trek into the Forbidden City.

It was an amazing journey into the past, where we saw history meet with architectural beauty through small winding passages and vast stone courtyards. We saw where the Empress ruled for a time, and where the Emperors prepared for ceremonies. A particular favorite was the garden we walked in. The stones were wonderful, and the design of the gardens was so pleasant to walk through. Be sure to look at some of the photos we've taken. Or , look at your grandparents' (my mom and dad's) back yard - they were inspired about all the trees and fountains and ponds. Dad loves gardening, and this has been a great trip for him. We spent quite some time at the Forbidden City, but had to leave to eat at another nice Chinese restaurant a little further away. More good food - though we all agree yesterday's selection was much better. We shopped a bit after that, but everyone was anxious to see our next stop: the Great Wall of China.

We spotted the Wall amongst the misty mountains. It was majestic, but suddenly scary! The section of the wall we were visiting was very, very steep! Nonetheless, we were determined to climb it to a point. We had a group photo before the ascent, and a few with Zena and I. But then it was time for business. Hart pounding, legs like jello, we climbed to our destination at the top. I even got a card to prove it. I savored the view from the top, but knew I had to scurry down and see the other side of the Wall as well. It was an incredible occasion, one we won't forget. Here we were, all the way on the other side of the world on the Great Wall of China."

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Temple of Heaven

- Taken from our Travel Journal - June 27, 2008

"Oh boy - only a few days to go and we're both pretty nervous. We prayed this morning and cried a bit. We're full of joy, yet reality hasn't quite sunk in. The thing is - the other adoptive parents we're traveling with feel just the same. This morning we met with all the other parents-to-be at a unique breakfast here at the hotel. We were up at 4:00 a.m. because of the jet lag, but aside from going to bed really early much later, the lag had little other effect.

Breakfast was good. My parents are really enjoying the trip - but things soon got better for us all. Today we toured Beijing and it was really foggy. But we actually prefer this weather over direct sunlight and the potential of 100 degree summer heat. The first stop on our tour was the Beijing Zoo, where we went to see the pandas.

I've never seen a panda before - but I made up for that today. There were plenty of pandas - all very close and most active, and we've enjoyed it greatly. We got you a panda umbrella and some panda nesting dolls as souvenirs. The recent earthquake has severely affected the region where the pandas are from, so many of them were shipped for their safety to the Beijing Zoo. This explains why we saw so many today - and it was quiet at the zoo too.

After that we journeyed to the Summer Palace, which was beautiful. The architecture and the natural scenery by the lakeside were spectacular. It was an interesting and peaceful walk through history - we saw the marble boat, walked the long walkway and even road on a dragon boat across the lake.

I took some nice photos of the rocks (except the "bad luck" rock) and the temples, especially the largest one there.

Next, we ate a delicious Chinese meal with our group. There was another stop along the way today though - and this was the one I was waiting for: the Temple of Heaven.

It was a lengthy walk, but the views were dramatic and iconic. It was great to stand "at the center of the universe" and walk along the Echo Wall - and eventually go to the tallest building there, positioned high over the entire area.

The location reminded me of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem - large stone courtyards and a large circular building in the center. The hushed reverence at the sight for some added to the atmosphere. We left along a long walkway filled with festive performers, and staggered to the bus, quite exhausted from a full day. We got back to the hotel and fell asleep almost immediately. Big day!"

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Blues

Madison is seen here in this photo, ready to play the blues. She does the harmonica well - at least when compared to Daddy. Which sadly isn't saying much. The most important thing is that she's got soul. You could say she's got a briefcase full of blues.

There is a problem though - she doesn't exactly have anything to be blue about today. This in itself is causing her the blues. Perhaps she could sing a new blues song about not having the blues!

"The Nothin' To Be Blue About Blues"

I woke up this morning,
and I watched some "Blues Clue's."
Said I woke up this morning,
and I watched some old "Blues Clue's."
That's the only thing that's blue today
'cause I've got them "Nothin' To Be Blue About Blues!"

I ate me some breakfast,
with plenty of fruit there to choose.
My Momma dressed me so nicely
From my head down to my shoes.
I'm in such a great mood today...
I've got them "Nothin' To Be Blue About Blues!"

(guitar solo)

Daddy and I had fun today -
We jump on the couch like kangaroos!
If you're looking for some toys and stuff,
I tell ya' - I got more than I can use.
There's absolutely nothing wrong today...
I've got them "Nothin' To Be Blue About Blues!"

Yes, I know. It's a work in progress.


"Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues."
- Albert Collins

Saturday, June 25, 2011


About a week ago, we saw some photos from Yowayowa Camera Woman in Tokyo, Japan - and we sort of got inspired to do our own version of "today's levitation" with Madison. For those of you not familiar with her photography, her name is Natsumi Hayashi, and she has these photographs of herself caught in mid-air, and they look pretty neat. Here are just a few examples:

The lower one is Daddy's favorite. She posts about one a day, and they're all very unique and different from each other. So, as a not-so-subtle tribute to her work, we spent about five minutes in the front yard and did a few photos of Madison in similar manner. Here's another one:

You're probably wondering what exactly it is that makes us soar high as we are. Glad you asked: today was a great day for potty training! Seriously, right in the middle of watching something on the television, Madison jumps up to go to the bathroom. She's wearing big girl pants now, and for the first time, she ran to the bathroom so as not to get them dirty. This was an epic moment! Mommy and Daddy were jumping up and down, celebrating with her.

Yes, we were all almost levitating!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cars 2

In honor of seeing "Cars 2," we went to the visit the Georgia Department of Transportation site to vote for a new license plate. There were about eight or ten options, and we let Madison choose which one she thought would be best. The one above is the one she clearly chose - with no hesitation. Even after highlighting the others and seeing the different options, she kept coming back to this one and saying, "That one!"

So that's what we've chosen. I think we find out in July which license plate will be officially chosen. The funny thing is the reason why Madison picked this one. It isn't because "In God We Trust," although Mommy and Daddy like that on the plate. It isn't because of the bold lettering that makes it easy to read. It's because it looks like Halloween! Yes, to her those aren't peaches, but large pumpkins. And I suppose the flowers are faint enough that you can't see them, but rather empty branches because it is close to winter.

I'm sure that's not what the artist intended. At least I
don't really think that was it!
Tonight, we went to see "Cars 2" at the theater, and Madison is a professional movie-goer. Tonight's crowd was the biggest we've seen in a while - a convoy of kids running into the theater. It made for a fun time. It was a good movie, though Mommy and Daddy liked the first one better. Madison had this huge tub of popcorn in her lap, and Mommy smuggled in Twizzlers and Good N Plentys. It's neat to see an exciting children's movie like this in a theater filled with kids. Lots of energy! Some critics were complaining that it was a confusing movie, or that there was too much of Mater in it. I'm no intellectual giant, but I didn't have a hard time following it, and Madison loves Mater. I wouldn't say it is Pixar's best movie, but I won't be trashing it in any way either: Our family had a great time enjoying a good flick!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Tonight before bed, we went out on the front lawn to look at the beautiful sunset. Madison noticed the purples and oranges of the sky and simply had to go outside to look. Daddy joined her, but suddenly there were plenty of other guests: lightning bugs.

Finally, we were catching them left and right. We'd let them go, of course. But the front yard was filled with blinking lights hovering all around us. Then, right on time, there was our neighborhood bat flying overhead, wishing us a goodnight. It was a nice little moment outside on the front lawn.

Here's Madison with one of her birthday presents from Mommy and Daddy. It is a big part of her life this week: a Tag system. It's essentially a pen that says particular words when you put them on the writing on each page. It also speaks when you apply it to pictures. She's seen here using it with her "Tangled" book, but we've also gotten her some other Disney books: "Tinkerbell" and "The Princess and the Frog." This is a great learning tool for recognizing certain words, although the word "Mother" might have negative implications down the road: everytime it is used, there's Mother Gothel, the villain from "Tangled." Fortunately, Mommy's name is quite a bit different and there's no confusion there!

Another item that Ye-Ye and Nana got for Madison's birthday was a map that this pen works with. It's a map of the country which says certain things when you put the pen to it. Daddy is secretly very pleased with this one, as he's a huge geography buff. He's visited pretty much all of the states, which at one point was a big deal early in life: I just wanted to touch every state! I've still got Alaska, North Dakota and Washington to go.

Madison, on the other hand, has quite a few states to go. But, for the record, here's the list: She's touched an airport in Michigan. She's been to Florida quite a few times. She's been to Tennessee and North Carolina. And she lives in Georgia. So that makes five states. Only forty-five to go!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cowabunga, Dudes!

Here she is again, Kung Fu Underwear Head, vigilante of justice! In this particular photo, she's in disguise - merely wearing pajama bottoms on her head. Seriously, I did not put her up to this - and neither did Mommy. We have no idea where the notion of putting underwear or pajama bottoms on your head came from.

Obviously, we're not entirely discouraging it either. In fact, tonight's bedtime story was a tale of Kung Fu Underwear Head, who battled pirates, knocking them all overboard and saving Princess Belle's valuable tea set that was hijacked. Everything went well, of course. Kung Fu Underwear Head always prevails.

Tonight, Mommy and Daddy watched "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," that animated movie from a couple years ago. It might have been a little too intense for Madison, so we're glad we waited until bedtime. It was a decent flick - we're still studying and watching kids' martial arts movies for research. Getting all kinds of good ideas too. By the way, Daddy's favorite turtle has always been Raphael.

We've got ballet class tomorrow night. Sorry, there's no good transition from ninja turtles to ballet. Anyway, Madison enjoys this class a great deal - we're on week three already. We've got a few classes this summer, or at least "camps." The music camp is coming up next month, and of course Summer Xtreme was a big deal as well.

We're keeping busy this summer. Or, as Michelangelo would say, "Cowabunga!"

On the Fritz

TUESDAY, JUNE 21, 2011

So our air conditioner upstairs has been on the fritz*. Not working at all. SO, we've been sleeping downstairs at night, because it has been a pretty hot summer so far. Of course, technically, it isn't summer yet. Which actually is kind of scary, because we're thinking, "Surely it can't get any hotter?"

Today Daddy was at work, getting things ready while Mommy was busy too. Madison has been playing with her Leapster Explorer a lot. For her birthday, her cousins got her "The Princess and the Frog."

It's a good game for her - she's been playing this one and the one for "Tangled" as well. She's learning quite a bit from it, actually. What's neat is that we can come over and help her learn how to do things: count, add, subtract, spell, and so forth. She's been pretty good about learning too - which excites us to no end.

Tonight, Mommy made a wonderful meal for dinner for all of us. We grilled this chicken outside on the grill, and she even had some pineapple upside down cake as well. It was all very good - and very filling.

At bedtime, it's one more night in the crib. We've got a temporary crib set up downstairs until the air conditioning folk come tomorrow. Madison is getting to be such a big girl now!

* No one knows the origin of this phrase. I've looked. There are theories, but nobody knows for sure. Sorry.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ice Cream Parlor

Can you believe we spent the entire day inside today? I think it was about 8:30 that we realized this, as Madison and Daddy bravely stepped outside to walk across the lawn and get the mail from the mailbox.

Earlier in the day, a UPS delivery guy brought Madison some birthday presents, so we did open the door once.

But the rest of the day was spent inside! What did we do today, you ask?

Madison spent most of the day with her new toys. One of which was an instant ice cream parlor that looks somewhat like this:

Madison's ice cream parlor is much, much bigger though. It has THIRTY-FIVE pieces. This used to be something to be amazed at. Like, as in: "Wow, honey, that's a lot of pieces for the money." Now, it's like: "Wow, honey, that's a lot of pieces of plastic all over the floor!"

Still, Madison has been more diligent about keeping this set together. She's been very meticulous about making us ice cream too. She first takes our orders - Daddy gets a mint or sometimes a chocolate. Or sometimes Daddy does an old Albert Finney impersonation and orders a banana ice cream. Next, Madison needs to know should it be served in a cone, or in a bowl? The bowls come with spoons and the cones have paper wrappers that go around the sugar cone portion. One final question: sprinkles? If so, should it be chocolate or rainbow colored? She gets the order together back at the parlor, using a big spoon to scoop out of a box or smaller container - and she never forgets the napkin. Ice cream is served!

She pays attention to all of these details and gets everything covered. And, to our relief, she picks up all the pieces when she's done and puts them where they belong.

In other exciting news, Madison and Daddy defeated Blackbeard tonight. Hold your applause until the end, please. We played Lego pirates some more, and had our bonding time for over an hour. Okay, so it was probably longer than that. The good news is that we discovered the Fountain of Youth and all is well. Explorers can stop looking now.

Speaking of which, Madison got a Leapster Explorer for her birthday. She was using this a lot today, as Daddy got her started on it. She's got games with Tiana, Belle, Cinderella, Tinkerbell and Rapunzel now - and each has some sort of learning application with it. She's really into each of these, and the neat thing is that they both feature some adjustments that make the replay value very good. Madison is clearly at a beginner stage on some of these, learning basic math and language skills. But a peek at some of the more advanced levels of the same stages reveals that she could be playing these same games years from now. And, the bonus is that the graphics and sound are great and she's really into it. So, thumbs up so far!

We had plenty of leftover food from the luau and birthday parties, so there was lots to choose from for lunch. We ate together, and basically lounged about afterwards.

Daddy did do some writing for our new series which starts in two weekends. Mommy has been ordering costuming while Daddy writes - it's going to be a lot of fun. This is a series called, "Kung Pow!"

There will be elements from "Kung Fu Panda" in it and elements of "The Karate Kid" too. All in all, it's shaping up to be an outstanding series, message-wise. Obviously, having been to China will add a bit to the series. More info to come in a bit - but for now, here's one brief description of what's to come:

Bow to your sensai! Everybody is kung fu fighting, as all this series, KidPak becomes the dojo with mojo. We’ll be getting our kicks and earning our belts as we open our Bibles to learn about timeless virtues such as confidence, patience, compassion, self-control and courage. The time has come to face your destiny as a true warrior. Join us for KidPak Adventures: Kung Pow!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Luau

Madison gave Daddy a great Father's Day craft this morning - it was such a precious moment. She was so sweet - she said, "Happy Father's Day!" Then she gave Daddy a craft - and a hug. It was right in front of everyone in the hallway. Everyone said, "Awwwww!"

Here's a scan of the necktie she designed for Daddy:

Afterwards, it was time for a big afternoon! It was the Third Annual Front Yard Luau! Last year's event was such a success, we simply had to keep it going despite everyone's busy schedules. We went over to Ye-Ye and Nana's house, where they had all sorts of incredible foods available. Obviously, there was plenty of fruit, from watermelon to cantaloupe to pineapple. There were skewers with teriyaki, there were slices of ham, and blackened pork as well.

Next, it was time for the festivities: we played ladder ball - or bolo ball. It's a new game in the line-up this year, but it was actually pretty fun. It's somewhat like horseshoes in scoring and concept, only you throw these bolos and try to hit a target. If the children are bad, you can throw these around their ankles and immobilize them!

When finished with that game, we once again played 'Ulu maika, which a Hawaiian game where you roll something that's basically shaped like a hockey puck - and try to get it in between two bamboo stakes. This was a neat game from last year. Daddy has been practicing since last year, because he got it on the first try. Madison sort of took her time with this one, rolling it. And then rolling it again. And then rolling it again. And then finally rolling it in between the stakes. And then there was much rejoicing! Here's a blurb on this unique game from Hawaiian culture:

'Ulu maika: Rolling stone disks. 'Ulu maika or 'olohu was one of the most popular sports in early Hawai'i. It consisted of rolling carefully crafted playing stones, somewhat resembling modern hockey pucks, on specially prepared courses. The stones were rolled between stakes to test a player's skills or rolled down long courses to show strength. One of the best of the remaining 'ulu maika courses, approximately 500 feet long, is located on the island of Moloka'i.

Of course, not all the games were Hawaiian. One in particular involved taking beach towels and in teams of two, trying to pass - and catch - water balloons. Madison REALLY liked this. She held one side of the beach towel and Hannah held the other. The two worked together to catch balloons and try to pass them on. Obviously, some of the players became a bit devious as the activity went on, and inevitably all of us were a little wet by the time the game was through.

Which of course leads to the complete chaos that is the water gun fight. Or, in Ye-Ye's case: the water hose fight. He got the garden hose and made sure all his grandkids were wet enough. Madison screamed and ran around - she loved it! This squirt gun fight got nearly everyone involved, and nearly everyone soaking wet.

Afterwards, it was time for cake and presents. That's right: presents. Madison got lots more birthday presents today - Leapster games, a play ice-cream parlor, and even a Perry the Platypus. Daddy even got some gifts: boxer shorts from Disney World. You won't be seeing those on this blog! We all gathered around and sang "Happy Birthday" once more, and Madison blew out the candles one last time this year.

We left the luau, still slightly wet and certainly quite tired from a big day. The morning started out at church with a big service, and for the past two weeks we've been running around quite a bit in preparations for Summer Xtreme and Madison's birthday. It's been a splendid time!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

Saturday was a big day for all of us! Madison had a mini-birthday party today at the church, where some of her friends showed up to celebrate and have some fun, fun, fun. We all had a great time - in fact, Madison had her first air hockey game today!

She had a blast. Mommy outdid herself with cupcakes and snacks, which had the theme of a beach day. You can see the flip-flop cookies and the shoreline cupcakes, complete with little umbrellas. What fun! And they tasted good too!

For a craft, we had a "design your own surfboard" area. Daddy got big surfboards out to decorate the table, and all the kids lined up to use markers and stickers to customize their own surfboards.

Even the grown-ups got in on the act!

Afterwards, it was time for the "Happy Birthday" song, complete with the blowing out of the candle, and the opening of presents!

It was a nice time this afternoon - Mommy worked very hard to get it all together. We had tiki torches outside and a trail of balloons to lead the way to the party. Lots of helium - a few of us were talking pretty high-pitched in the morning!

Madison had a good day, but it didn't end with the party. Of course, she went home to play with some of her new toys - but later on, she went over to Ye-Ye and Nana's house (because Mommy and Daddy had to go to a wedding). What a full day it was! Madison got to go see "Mr. Popper's Penguins" with the cousins - while Mommy and Daddy waited out a pretty intense storm with the rest of the wedding party in Buford. It was quite an adventurous day, really.

But tomorrow promises to bring more excitement, as we have another great big birthday party for Madison over at Ye-Ye and Nana's house. Until then, check out this action-packed video of Madison attacking the air hockey table. Let's get ready to rumble!

Scourge of the Seven Seas

FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2011

Mommy had quite a day preparing for tomorrow, while Daddy's been at work, making children's church happen. We have been busy lately, but not too busy to sit down and play Lego Pirates. Got to keep those priorities in check.

Here she is, Madison's pirate. The game includes a "design-your-own-pirate" feature, much later on in the game. We discovered it this week, so Daddy helped Madison make her very own pirate. Yep! She chose the hair, the skin color, the black shirt, black pants, pink sleeves, those brown gloves - and most importantly the weapon. Rather than go with the conventional sword or pistol, I'm rather proud of her: Madison chose something that looks like it came off a swordfish! That's my girl!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kung Fu Underwear Head

Here she is, the Kung Fu Underwear Head. Mommy got her some special underwear for the little princess, partly as incentive to use the potty a bit more effectively. It was actually a really good day in that department, and the end result was something spectacular for all of us: banana splits! I'm serious - Mommy made banana splits for each of us tonight, and these were incredible. I can't tell you the last time I had a banana split, and for posterity purposes, we can all now say that Thursday, June 14th, 2011 was the first time that Madison ever had a banana split. For the record: she loved it. Of course, she loves anything to do with ice cream. It's one of those words that you can't say around her, or she suddenly starts going crazy!

You're probably wondering why she put the underwear on her head. Actually, I don't know either. It was bedtime and therefore time to get changed - so there you go. We had been watching "Kung Fu Panda" again, so Madison was all into the karate posing, which hopefully begins to explain the rather odd photo here. Of course, we have it significantly cropped!

We've been watching a few martial arts movies here and there in preparation for our new series in July. This one will be special: it has a Chinese feel to it, or at least the stage will. Tonight, we watched that movie and another one as well, "Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior." Two nights ago, we watched the new "Karate Kid," which takes place in China largely. It was amazing to see China again in this movie - they captured a lot of Beijing, and the cinematography was very good. We enjoyed the movie too. It was neat going back to China for the evening.

We'll be watching more martial arts movies in the coming days - especially one of Daddy's favorites, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." But after Madison goes to bed. We don't want to be teaching any more special moves to Kung Fu Underwear Head!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, Madison

Today, Madison came by and tried out out stilts - as of late, we in the office have been addicted to marching around on these stilts. We've all become quite good at it, in fact. Now it was Madison's turn. She really enjoyed it, although Daddy was technically doing all the work. Still, she had fun marching along up high like she did. Yet, this is not quite the highlight of the day - this one below just might be it:

Today was Madison's 5th birthday. Ask her how old she is, and she'll hold up her hand and blurt out, "Five!" Daddy has been at work today, so our birthday celebrations will be this weekend coming. Still, it was nice to have everyone in the office to wish her all the best. Daddy had to work today, but it was such a great moment when Madison came in and we all wished her a happy birthday. She hung out with us for just a bit, and then we all moved on with our day pretty much.

It was a day not unlike any other day, but the occasion did give us reason to pause and reflect on the previous birthdays. Can you believe it has been three years with Madison? Here are some brief memories and photos from the birthdays past:

Fourth Birthday
The fourth birthday party had us going to Monkey Joe's, where we got a room and had a day of fun with the inflatables there. It was a very fun time for everyone, even the adults. Madison was quite happy, and queen for a day! This was a fine occasion, where we rented out the place and had a lot of children show up. Madison was delighted, as you can see. It was great to have all the kids surround her and sing happy birthday. This would be the first year that she really "got" it, understanding that today was in fact her birthday. She enjoyed it so much, from opening the countless gifts to eating cake and ice cream to running around and jumping on the inflatables. One of her favorite moments was having everyone sing "Happy Birthday" to her though. Up until this point, she'd been singing it to everyone else, and she didn't quite remember the year before. This picture brings a smile to my face every time!

Madison's Third Birthday
Here she is at the old house with our "Winnie the Pooh" themed party, which was a blast. We threw "bees," which were bean bags shaped like bees, and tried to hit the honeypot. Mommy made some of the most incredible cakes she's ever done. And friends and family celebrated Madison's first birthday with us at the house. Everyone went all-out for her birthday, and for an entire day, Madison got to wear "the hat." This was a special hat we got for the occasion, and Madison never took it off. She wore the thing for a few days afterwards too, from what I remember. She's such a cutey!

Madison's Second Birthday
Happy Birthday, Madison! Our daughter turns five today. Here's a photo of her on her second birthday - it was taken in her orphanage in Cangwu, China. Mommy and Daddy had sent her a cake and a panda as an early gift - and just a few days later we would meet for the first time on "Gotcha Day." It's hard to believe that it's been three years! Though she'll be receiving plenty of birthday presents, Madison is still one of the most wonderful gifts Mommy and Daddy could ever receive.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Iron Chef

Some days you just feel like grilling out - and today was one of 'em. Daddy got home in time to cook up some burgers and hot dogs (and Mommy made the perfect burger mix). Madison is Daddy's little helper outside, although we're very careful to keep her away from the hot grill. She just likes to help cook, so she and Daddy spent some time outside watching the hot dogs and hamburgers sizzle. A flame would shoot up here or there and she'd say, "Ouch!" We've been using our new grill for a few weeks now, and it's been great. It's a lot bigger than we need for our little family, but in case we ever have a lot of others over, we're more than ready: this thing is really big! Note the hat that Daddy is wearing - it's from Iron Chef. Daddy is a huge fan of the original Iron Chef television show, where contestants have to make large meals based on one surprise ingredient. Sometimes that ingredient is something obscure like squid - we'll never forget the Squid Ink Sorbet that was made on one episode. Daddy didn't make any squid ink sorbet today, or anything involving squid. I'm not entirely sure Mommy would have eaten that, although Squid-on-the-Barbie might be interesting. Just imagine with me now, the smell of grilled squid floating through the neighborhood... or maybe not.

Madison enjoyed her hot dogs, and more! Mommy made potato salad and macaroni salad, and afterwards we ate the most marvelous watermelons yet. This season, we've had some of the best watermelons I've ever had in my whole entire life. I looked over at Madison as she ate - and that girl was downing slice after slice, juice just dripping all over. Oh well, it washes off easily. She really likes that watermelon!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Get Out of the House Day

Today was a day off, and we pretty much lounged the day away. Mommy signed us up with Netflix, which opened up a whole new world of television for Madison. She's enjoyed the Backyardigans before, and now she can watch zillions of episodes instantly. And Daddy can watch old, obscure television programs like "The Tick," or classics like "The Munsters." Mostly though, it'll be used to watch some current Disney sitcoms to plunder jokes and one-liners for our skits on Sundays.

Just to get out of the house, we went down to Buford today. The primary purpose was to do some shopping for someone's upcoming birthday. But while down there, we decided to visit the Mall of Georgia once again - only we didn't go inside once. The whole purpose was to get wet! Go here, here or even here for some images from our last visit to the Mall of Georgia Fountain - she had just as good a time this visit. Madison was running around in that fountain, screaming and getting wet. To begin with, she was somewhat nervous about it though - that's why Daddy had to lead her through it. She's generally fearless. I suspect it was all an elaborate plan to get Daddy wet too!

No problem. It was a nice summer day, and we had fun at the fountain. While seated on a bench nearby, Daddy and Mommy watched Madison and the other children enjoy themselves cooling off.

Then, it was time for ice cream! Mommy found a gift card we've had for ages: it was for Brewster's Ice Cream. What a perfect way to end the day. We went across the street to Brewster's and each of us got a great big ice cream. Madison sampled a little of everyone's ice cream, but still managed to get every drop of hers: it's the best when it has sprinkles on it!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beware of a T-Rex with Ice Cream

It was a busy day - and Daddy was still pretty exhausted from last week. Madison has these toy dinosaurs - I think you may recall that her favorite is the stegosaurus. With that in mind, tonight's bedtime story had that sort of slant.

Ever since January, these bedtime stories have become mandatory for Madison. She has to hear a bedtime story each night before bed. Obviously, I don't have time to type them all up. But here's tonight's bedtime story, which has an important moral to it as well.

Once upon a time, there was a Mommy Stegosaurus and her little daughter, Cindy - they had some friends over, Freddy the Dimetrodon and Veronica the Lambeosaurus (we just call them Freddy and Veronica).

Anyway, Mommy and the kids had a great time this one evening: they played Candyland, and ate some pizza as well. But soon, Mommy was ready to go to the Dinostore, so she told the kids to have some fun playing video games, but do not under any circumstances open the front door from anyone.

So she went on her way to the Dinostore to pick up some groceries, and maybe rent a movie. And the kids had a great time playing video games - that is, until they heard the doorbell ring.

"Hello?" a voice called out from outside. Cindy, Freddy and Veronica ran to the door and peered out the window. It was a T-Rex.

"Hello," he said. "Can I come in for a few minutes? I am an ice cream salesperson and I wanted to give each of you some delicious free samples!"

Freddy was sorely tempted. That sounded wonderful!

But Cindy obeyed her Mommy. She told the T-Rex, "Maybe sometime later, sir."

The T-Rex was insistent. He said, "Oh, but it's the most tastiest ice cream of all. And, I've also got some free tickets to Dinoland, USA for you. That's just for tasting the ice cream and telling me how much you like it."

At this point, the two dinosaurs thought that perhaps Mommy's rule about not opening the door was there only to keep them from having fun.

"Wow," Veronica cried out. "What an incredible opportunity! Free ice cream and free tickets to Dinoland!"

"Let's go!" Freddy said.

But Cindy was quite hesitant. "No," she told them. "Mommy said to stay inside. We shouldn't get the door."

The T-Rex continued, "Please let me in. It is so warm out here, and besides, your ice cream is going to melt!"

And that's when Veronica and Freddy made a bad decision: they opened the door and went outside. And that's when the T-Rex roared!

Oh no! The T-Rex really didn't have any ice cream! And he didn't really have tickets to Dinoland! He only wanted them to open the door and come out - so he could eat them!

Cindy screamed, but there was not much she could do. The T-Rex chased Veronica and Freddy all over the front yard, knocking things over and making quite a bit of noise. All hope seemed to be lost - until suddenly, Cindy's mom got home. The station wagon pulled up into the driveway and Cindy's Mom got out of the car as fast as you can say micropachycephalosaurus! The T-Rex stopped chasing the children just in time to see Cindy's Mom bearing down on him - and she did not look happy at all!

She lashed her tail out at him - and everyone knows that isn't a good thing: for a stegosaurus has spikes on it's tail. That's what we call "the business end." And business was bad for the T-Rex! He screamed and cried and jumped up and down. And then... he left. He ran as fast as he could, jumping over the old picket fence and fleeing down the street.

Mommy was very disappointed in the children for opening the door, but she was also very happy they were safe.

"I hope you've learned a valuable lesson," she told them. "When Mommy tells you not to do something, there's a reason for it. It's not that she doesn't want you to have fun. Sometimes she's just trying to protect you."

And with that, she led the three into the house - and locked the door tight. She brought the groceries in - and to everyone's delight, she had purchased ice cream. Everyone knows that dinosaurs love ice cream.

They all had a good night's rest that night, and Mommy seriously considered getting a new state-of-the-art T-Rex alarm system with an electrical fence.

But more important than that, she knew the kids learned a big lesson that day that would keep them much safer. And she knew that they realized that rules aren't there to keep them from having fun - they're there to keep them from getting hurt.

The End


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Wuxi Finger Hold

Tonight when Daddy got home from work, Mommy had dinner ready for us as usual. Madison was showing different bits of sign language that she's learned over time, and also making the shapes of certain letters of the alphabet. Although this latter thing isn't technically sign language, at least she does recognize the shapes of letters and then can make them with her hands, no less.

But one shape kept puzzling Daddy. And to add to all of this, Madison then needed Daddy's index finger to do it. What could this sign possibly be? She made a circle with her thumb and index finger, and used the tips of her fingers to pinch the end of Daddy's index finger. I was completely stumped!

And that's when she raised her pinky. And then it dawned on me. I exclaimed, "The Wushi Finger Hold!"

And Madison smiled and shouted, "Yeah! Got you!"


Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Xtreme - DAY FIVE

Here she is, the Karate Kid. She's about to face off against an opponent, using her crane stance. All I need to say here is WATCH OUT. Daddy knows first hand that this little girl can take you down!

Today, Madison got a visit from a local karate studio. She learned many defensive techniques and stances. Children lined up and attacked defenseless cushions being held by representatives of the karate studio - this picture was taken just before Madison did a roundhouse and knocked that kid in white about eighteen feet backwards!

While Madison was getting her kicks, Daddy was helping out with Summer Xtreme again. This year, we had the tons of waterslides, a firetruck hosing the kids down, and even a helicopter! It was quite a wrap-up to Summer Xtreme. Yes, it's all over now. And now the recovery process begins!

But Madison had a swell time, and that's what's most important. It was a great event that the kids loved, and will be talking about for the rest of the summer. Goodnight!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer Xtreme - DAY FOUR

Mommy has been with Madison all this week - here they are now, watching Wildlife Wonders "bring the zoo to you." They've got all sorts of unique animals that they've brought to the church for the younger children: an alligator, a hedgehog, a skunk, a snake and more. Madison and the children got to touch the animals (don't worry, the alligator's mouth was shut!), and it made for a unique morning for the kids. The typical day at camp usually involves one activity like this, along with a chapel service, crafts, lunch and snacks, recreation time, and of course nap time. That's one of our favorites: nap time. After this week is over, it'll be one big nap time! This is traditionally a very busy week for Daddy - we work incredible hours to get all this done and in place: the activities and service for the older kids is quite elaborate, and takes an intense amount of team effort to pull off. We're talking hundreds of kids. We didn't sleep at all Sunday night, and on Wednesday, Daddy logged in another twenty-three hour work day. Tonight, however, things are starting to wrap up: we'll have a great day tomorrow, and afterwards, everyone will collapse!

Fortunately, there are the smiles on the kids' faces. We get a few pats on the back here and there, but that's our main reward - at least here it is. It's all for the kids, and of course this year it all has new meaning now that Madison too is wearing one of those Summer Xtreme shirts.