Friday, September 30, 2011

You're the Bomb!


Once more, it's "Showtime!" We're doing this annual movie-themed series in October, and as you can see, Mommy's display case is filled with movie-related objects and posters. Madison is such a ham though: she wanted to be in the picture!

One video we shot involved a bomb squad going to diffuse this here:


This is a bomb that Mommy and Daddy made - doesn't it look cool? It's not even close to real, but the excitement in our little mini-movie is electric: do we cut the blue wire or the red wire? Here's where Madison says, "Uh-oh!" Seriously, she does that during the video - she puts her hands over her ears and says, "Uh-oh!" Yes, unfortunately, neither of the bomb squad guys was paying attention in class to their teacher, which just goes to show you how important it just might be to not fool around in class!

Madison doesn't fool around in class, fortunately. Not to say she'd know which wire to cut, but I am saying she's been getting a prize each week for good behavior. Today's prize: a bomb. No, just kidding: a small frisbee with the Disney fairies on it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Annual Trip to the Doctor

This morning we had our annual check-up appointment for Madison, and she did fabulous. She handled everything so well, even the flu shot. It helps that we were sort of acting things out with her toy doctor set - Madison will go around checking temperatures, ears, eyes and her favorite part: giving a shot.

It wasn't really her favorite part at the doctor's office, but she was certainly more fearless than Daddy has ever been. She sort of giggled at the surprise of getting the shot, which cracked everyone up - I think she knew it was a shot, but it was sort of a sudden, scary thing that got her laughing. I'm sure this was the first time they ever gave a shot and the child started laughing afterwards!

As mentioned earlier, she did wonderfully today. Later on, there was ballet practice once more, where she acted as if she were a caterpillar to begin with - and then went into her cocoon. Then, finally, she emerged as a beautiful butterfly, fluttering about.

It was a quiet day for us, as we're all still recovering a bit from illnesses and so forth. Madison got a prescription for her cough, as it may be allergies bothering her this season. Daddy's prescription was different: shepherd's pie. Yes, that's right: shepherd's pie. Mommy made delicious shepherd's pie for lunch, and that's the sort of thing to get everyone feeling better in no time. It worked for Daddy, anyway!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

School Pictures


Today Madison got her first school picture taken - (11/9/11: Daddy has come back a month later to this entry and posted it above*). Mommy dressed Madison up very nicely this morning, but with school pictures I'm beginning to realize that it is somewhat like a hail mary pass, where we send her off to school as neatly as possible, with the desperate hope that they'll make a perfect catch of Madison on film.

But, at the same, Madison is naturally pretty cute!

* Okay, so with our "hail mary pass," we apparently had a little too much faith in our receivers. You can see above that school photos were after recess, and nobody straightened her hair for the photo. And yes, that's a new smile for her - we've never seen it before. It's sort of like the photographer told her to smile like Burgess Merideth! It isn't that bad - but it ain't the best photo either. Anyway, it's ultimately their loss, as we would have bought a bunch more photos. Still, we purchased a few for posterity. This is, after all, her first official school photo. Don't get us wrong: she's adorable in this photo. It's the best of the three choices we were given, and just one of many that make up memories of her first year at school.

___________________________


Today was another one of those epic work days for Daddy, as most Wednesdays tend to be. Mommy and Madison dropped by for lunch, which is always a joy - we sneak off to the recreation room, where Mommy pulls out the picnic she's planned for us. Today's featured selection was by request: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all around! We had snacks on top of that, but this has been a great way to save a little money as of late. Rather than go out to eat all the time, as many others can be prone to do - and as we used to be, it's financially better to pack a lunch. And, if you're looking for atmosphere, why not make it a picnic outside? It was a splendid day for that, actually. The weather has been so nice this fall - so far!

Madison was pretty tired today though. At bedtime, she actually asked to go to bed - now that's pretty tired!

We had a bedtime story that was fun, and it was entirely made up of course. It was based on our recent exploits with Lego Batman. Why not share it here?

It's been a while since we've been making up stories, but that's because Daddy has been reading actual stories from books just before bedtime. Each night, that's just about a requirement actually. But tonight, we made up a story - a very unusual story about ... Bat Girl!



Once upon a time... (that's how all the stories start)... Madison was going to bed after Mommy and Daddy kissed her goodnight. We said our prayers and Madison drank her milk - and soon it was time for Mommy and Daddy to go to sleep themselves.

"Goodnight Madison," they said.

"Goodnight!" she called back.

Then she listened for them to plod down the hall to their bedroom, and then she listened for the door to shut. And that's just about when she saw it: the Bat Signal! That's right, just outside her window shined brightly the Bat Signal, which meant she was desperately needed!

Like a flash, she quietly lept out of bed and snuck down the hall - and then down the stairs. Pressing a secret button that nobody knew about in the wall, she then watched as a hidden door opened up before her: it was the entrance to the Bat Cave!

Moving quickly, she went through the door - remembering to close it behind her. In front of her was a massive slide that she jumped on, and slid all the way down to the Bat Cave! Yes, the Bat Cave was directly below our house!

She had to act fast: she quickly got changed into her Bat Girl costume and went to the computer.

"Bat Girl," Commissioner Gordon called out on a screen at the computer. "We need your help! Several nasty villains have interrupted a party at the Lake Lanier Yacht Club and are holding hostages! Can you help?"

"I'm on it," Madison called out. Er, I meant, Bat Girl.

She flew in a hurry down a corridor, whizzing by Alfred the butler, who just shook his head back and forth with a smile. Bats fluttered all about the cave as Madison leapt in the air and landed inside ...the Bat Boat!

Starting it up, she called out, "I get to drive!"

Because that's what she always calls out when she sees the Bat Boat.

And as the thrusters were pushed forward, the Bat Boat lurched forward and launched down a cavernous, watery path towards a secret door. Would it open in time?

Of course it would!

Out of seemingly nowhere, Madison was now out, riding in the Bat Boat on Lake Lanier! She zoomed in the darkness towards her destination: the Yacht Club. Even though she didn't know how to spell "yacht" yet. Come to think of it, without spell check, who actually does?

When she arrived, she went into stealth mode. She hopped out of her Bat Boat and snuck along the docks, hoping to catch the villains by surprise. Sure enough, she found her way to the club, and there she saw some mean thugs holding hostages. Her first action - grab the Bat-a-rang! It's like a boomarang, but it knocks people on the head! This is always fun.

One of the baddies spotted her.

"It's Bat Girl!" he cried out.

But it was too late. We uber fast reflexes, Madison threw her Bat-a-rang across the docks.

WHAP! It struck one bad guy, two bad guys, three bad guys right on the head! BONK! And with the sound of a whoosh and whiz, the Bat-a-rang flew right back into Madison's hand.

"Ouch!" they cried. "That's not right!"

Right or not, they knew not to tangle with Bat Girl. Which is probably why they left their hostages alone and ran off into the night. Or at least tried to.

You see, Madison wasn't about to let that happen. She threw her Bat Grapple-and-Hook, which had a long rope on it. This tangled up the bad guys, who fell to the ground, trapped!

"The day is saved," Commissioner Gordon called out. Where had he been hiding all this time?

It didn't matter, because the day was saved! And because Bat Girl is a hero of few words, she smiled briefly at Commissioner Gordon, and turned to leave.

"Until next time," Commissioner Gordon told her. "The city is in gratitude!"

Madison smiled. All in a days work. She waved goodbye, and run back to the Bat Boat, and rode it home as quickly as possible: she had to get back before Mommy and Daddy noticed!

Later on that night in bed, Madison smiled. She had changed out of her outfit and snuck quietly back into bed, without waking Mommy or Daddy.

It was time to get some rest, but the day was saved. And it will be saved again the next time there's a call for... Bat Girl!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Attaboy!

Everyone went back to schedule today - school and work. Mommy and Madison joined Daddy at work for lunch, which is always pleasant. We're still a bit under the weather today, so it was a bit more subdued for Daddy, who has been running a pretty good fever all day.

Madison has been sniffling too, of course. She went to school this morning and seemed to be doing better. While in the car, she's been intrigued with this one comic book Daddy's had in there - it's an old one of the X-Men. It was a throwaway sort of issue, not valuable at all. At least now it isn't! Anyway, while she sits in her car seat, she reads it - or at least looks at the pictures - over and over again. Today, she asked Daddy to read it to her after class. I was quite happy to do so!

It isn't the greatest comic of the collection. In fact, it's towards the bottom. Yet she was fascinated by it, so I told her the story within - in a kid-friendly sort of way so she could understand it better. Some vocabulary was a bit bigger than a five-year-old will understand. The difficult relationship between humans and mutants tends to be one of those discussions you try to save for later! Anyway, it was neat to see her into comics because Daddy was so into them for a while. I think she likes the character Jubilee, who made an appearance in that very comic. Also, she likes Storm.

This week, our "Superheroes" series draws to a conclusion at the church. It has been a lower budget version of something we've done in the past, but although different, it's been very fun to do. You can thank Squirrel Girl for that. I equate it to the last pirate movie, "On Stranger Tides." It had a much lower budget and scale, and yet it was still just as enjoyable. Yeah, it's just like that.

Today's music class went well - Daddy was there this time. Madison has learned the note "sol," which you use your pinky to play. We've learned other things as well, but that's the big advancement for the day. The class is moving along quickly with learning. It won't be too long before Mommy and Daddy will have to practice hard just to keep up! Right now, we're doing fine. Mommy is actually learning a thing or two about notes and such (Daddy has a little experience, so he's got a slight head start!).

We went to bed early tonight, but not before getting a good bath: tomorrow is school picture day. It'll be Madison's first school picture, so that's a fun thing. Mommy picked out a great outfit, red with ladybugs. We'll post it here as soon as we get it. Things have changed so much since we were having our pictures taken at school. For one, they use digital cameras now and can actually see the results immediately after taking pictures! Crazy, huh? It's hard to imagine 35 mm film going the way of polaroids and 110 film. But digital pictures are amazing and easy to do now. We may do 35 mm for fun and to be "old school," but it's all digital from this point on, isn't it?


Tonight Madison watched a bit of Wallace & Gromit again. She's been really into these two. We've got four other shorts that feature this duo, and Madison has been soaking it in. I think her favorite is the story of "The Wrong Trousers" and that naughty penguin.


Once she was in bed, Mommy and Daddy watched "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken." We have a whole lotta' seasonal movies, and we were both in the mood to watch this classic with Don Knotts. If you haven't seen it, you should. They certainly don't make them like they used to. This is a fun movie with a creative concept. We aren't into the gory, uber scary stuff when the season comes around. It's all fun stuff, like "Addams Family," "Ghostbusters," or "Scooby Doo." We've got a list of movies we sort of go through each October - "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," "Nightmare Before Christmas," "The Corpse Bride," "Something Wicked This Way Comes," "Tower of Terror," "Edward Scissorhands," "Haunted Mansion," "Young Frankenstein," "Beetlejuice," "Monsters, Inc." and of course "Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit." Also, there's anything about or by Ed Wood. Goodness, that movie "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is a classic!

Madison won't watch many of these this year. Actually, I can only see her watching two or three of these right now. But Mommy and Daddy tend to watch a lot of these each year, almost as much as they watch Christmas movies in December!

It's a fun time of year, no matter what you watch or do. And by gum, we're going to have the best fall season with Madison ever!


"Attaboy Luther!"
- The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

Monday, September 26, 2011

Scarecrow

There were plans to go places today, but with Daddy and Madison both under the weather a bit, we felt it best to stay at home and get some rest. Still, it was a rather productive day - as Daddy noted afterwards, and is noting here:

1. We got some piano practice in. One of Madison's favorite homework assignments is being a conductor of an orchestra, where Daddy and Mommy are musicians (we play different instruments each time: the triangle, tambourine, wood block, etc.). The song is "Old Mr. Knickerbocker's Band," and after each time we play, we trade places. Sometimes Mommy is the conductor or Daddy is. No matter who the conductor is, that's the serious part. You have this little baton that you have to tap before the big performance - and then... it's time to play!

Now, as far as keyboard practice goes, Madison can play "Sugar Cookies" now, which features three of the notes, with different lengths and rests thrown in there. Also, another song to play is the "Hokey Pokey," a somewhat simplified version. Practice is going along very well, certainly with the reward of Mom Bucks as incentive!

2. We got some speech homework done. Daddy read the story of the "Silly Snoring Snake," which features a whole lotta' different "s" sounds. This is a fun story about a snake who snores too loud. The other animals are initially frustrated about this until they build a wall of snow around his home. For future reference, this is a great idea if you have loud neighbors or constantly barking dogs at all hours of the night. By the way, we do not have that here.

3. We watched "The Hungry Caterpillar" again. She enjoyed this story, and enjoys watching it on the big screen again. This went with her book reading at school last week - we've been very much into partnering with the teachers in bringing lessons home with her.

4. We made a movie. After watching "Wallace & Gromit," Daddy and Madison decided to make our own stop motion movie. Basically, Daddy was wanting to show Madison how the movies are created, and after Mommy found a few figures of Wallace and Gromit, we set up the camera on a tripod and stood the figures up. And then, it was lights... camera... action!

video

We didn't spend too much time on it, as evidenced by the length of the video itself. BUT, it was an educational moment that was somewhat fun to try out. The big thing was "keep the camera still, Madison." She had a hard time with that concept. But it was neat to try out! Maybe we have a future master director in our midst!

5. We made a scarecrow. This was the highlight of the day, actually. Mommy got the materials together, and sewed a head, which Madison and she decorated nicely. Take a look at that pretty smile - and hair just like Madison's!


After that, it was time for the stuffin'! Daddy and Madison got a whole lot of newspaper and wadded it up - and then put it in the sleeves and legs of the scarecrow until she looked plump enough to stand on her own...


And that's when it was time to put it all together. Mommy pinned the head to our scarecrow, and also put some flowers in her hand to make her look nice. Madison loves our new scarecrow - we know this because she'd occasionally turn to the scarecrow and say, "I love you," and give her a big hug!


Finally, it was time to put the scarecrow outside. She'll be under the porch by the front door all season long, but as Mommy said earlier, this is probably the start of a new tradition for us. Madison really had a good time making the scarecrow, but so did Mommy and Daddy. It was a lot of fun!


One final note. We didn't plan it this way, but look what we did exactly two years ago this very date.

5. We played "Batman Lego." Okay, so Madison earned a lot of Mom Bucks with her practice and homework, so Daddy was forced to play video games with her. Oh, the humanity. We're nearly finished with this game already. You'd be amazed watching Madison play - she's very bright at figuring things out, and yes, sometimes before Daddy. There are a lot of puzzle elements to these games, so it's neat working together to figure out how to get here or there. Madison also enjoys freezing Daddy all the time with Mr. Freeze. Daddy's favorite Batman character today: Scarecrow.

Mommy found some potentially big leads with her ancestry search - on her dad's side, and Daddy got some work done proofing booklets and whatnot for church, so you can see, it was a fairly big day despite the fact that we didn't go anywhere. It was a nice day, and while we're still coughing and taking medicine to keep the fevers down, it was still a great time.

"Well, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking don't they?"
- Scarecrow, "Wizard of Oz"

"Is your mind playing tricks on you... or am I?"
- Scarecrow, "Batman"

Hush

Two out of three of us are feeling a bit feverish today. Mommy is the one doing okay, but Madison and Daddy have the cough and the fever and all that other stuff. After church today, Daddy came home and didn't accomplish much, unless you count his return to Gotham City with Madison. Yes, we're nearly done with the Lego Batman game, and we've opened the secret villain character "Hush," which Madison takes great delight in saying.


"Hush!" she says, over and over again - placing her index finger over her mouth. "Hush!"

We had plans to go to do some seasonal activities today, and maybe even more than that. But things sort of came crashing down, just like Daddy when he got home. He went straight to the couch after a bit of medication. Mommy spent the next several hours researching ancestry, while Madison and Daddy grabbed the controllers and went to town. "Hush!"

Daddy was a little slow, but Madison is funny though: once the medication kicks in, it's as if there's nothing in the world that's wrong. She'd run around like crazy if we'd let her - that is, until the medication wears off. Fortunately, we don't let her run around. She's coughing a lot lately, which is something of concern. We're going to the doctor's this week for her annual check-up, so the timing should be good in that respect. We'll just make sure everything is okay with her - we're thinking possible allergies or something of that nature.

Today at church was our last visit with our Superheroes series, where we had a visit from the Invisible Woman. We had a whole lot of "invisible" gags, which all worked out pretty well. The kids loved the skit a great deal, which is always nice to see. The day on the whole went well though. None of us can believe this series is already at an end - this month has just flown by so quickly to us. But now is the time to savor: it's the beginning of the fall season, before all the festivities begin. When the dull quiet of January hits, this is that one time you wish it were: the end of September and the beginning of October. For that is when the fun begins!

As a reminder though, it's WAY too early to start playing Christmas music. We have a friend at work who is tempted to do that as of late. He's so excited that the season is coming soon, but you don't want to burn out early. That's why we tell him one thing whenever he tries to pop in a Christmas tune: "Hush!"

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Iron Ballerina

Here she is, the legend in Stark technology: the Iron Ballerina. If you're an evil doer, you'd best watch out for her tondu power blasts and spinning neutron arabesques. By day, she goes as mild-mannered Madison, a benevolent heiress with a heart of gold. But when trouble arises, she dons her pink tutu and intimidating mask of iron, and dances into action faster than you can say the name "Mikhail Baryshnikov" three times backwards! Here she is, relaxed and posing in the front yard, but don't be deceived: she's always ready to tip-toe to action! Trust me: you won't want to go toe to toe with the Iron Ballerina!

"Let's face it, this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing."
- Tony Stark

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wallace and Gromit

Here they are, Wallace and Gromit. Once you start seeing these guys at our house, one thing is certain: it's Fall. In fact, today's the first day of our favorite season of the year, although the temperatures don't exactly match up: it's sort of humid out there today. In fact, the weather was foggy this morning, rainy later on, and then it cleared up and was pretty hot - and tonight it is expected to get rather cool. So, I guess there's something for everyone in the forecast! But back to Wallace and Gromit. We love these guys - their movie "Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were Rabbit" is just about as perfect a movie as you can get. Their animated shorts are also genius - you can tell that Mommy and Daddy are big fans. In fact, two years ago for Christmas Daddy got Mommy some Wensleydale Cheese, which is Wallace's favorite cheese. Tonight, Madison will get her exposure to this great team as we pop in their movie and pop up some popcorn.

Today was pajama day for Madison at school, which was a lot of fun. Madison and all the other kids were running around in their pajamas - this made me stop to ponder who exactly came up with this concept? And why don't we have it in all our workplaces? Why not have the President come out in his pajamas and announce to the workforces of America - it's Pajama Day!

Now that's what this country needs! The 2012 Presidential campaign is starting, and it's time for big thinkers to start presenting some real ideas to lead our great nation into the future. We just have to change our way of thinking!


"It's just a bit of...harmless brain alteration, that's all."
- Wallace

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Puppet Master

Today we went to the Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts, which is a mouthful to say, I suspect certainly even moreso if you were a puppet or a ventriloquist. It was a wonderful visit, that is, until a giant twenty-five foot tall Pinocchio crashed through the ceiling and starting tromping towards us. Here's a photo of Daddy and Madison running in terror.


Things calmed down a whole lot after that though, so on the whole, I'd say it was a great visit. We were there to see a performance, "The Old Man and the Monkeys," which I need to go ahead and point out now did not feature Davy Jones.

This performance was Chinese, which was one of the reasons we really wanted to go. Madison enjoyed it - there were five stories told over the course of the production, each one using different puppets. The performers themselves were from the distant land of Oregon. But before that, they came from Beijing. It was a really nice show. The music was great, as were the puppets themselves. Madison enjoyed the whole thing, especially the turtle vs. crane story at the very beginning. The monkeys were cute too, actually. We would have driven down to Atlanta just for this show, but the neat thing about today was that there was an exhibit at the center too - a whole lot of Jim Henson puppets - and muppets. Yes, there was Kermit, and Daddy's favorite: Rowlf the Dog. The Swedish Chef was there too, along with quite a few others. But also there was a legend in puppets: that's right, I'm talking about Emmett Otter.


Doesn't that just put you in the Christmas spirit something fierce? Emmett Otter is a favorite of Mommy and Daddy's, so it was pretty cool to run into this scene down at the museum. But they had other ones too - lots of Fraggles, for instance. And puppets from the movie "Labyrinth." Which Mommy has never seen. And Daddy can never spell right without spellcheck. When it was time to go, Madison made faces at us. Literally:


You see, there was a station where you could design your
very own muppet.
And that's where we were actually going off to: we were heading upstairs to make our own monkey puppet! Madison, Mommy and Daddy sat down for a craft session, making our own puppet for Madison. She even got to try it out behind a curtain, pretending to be a real puppeteer! It was a great experience for Madison this morning - for one, there was some more exposure to her Asian cultural roots. For another, there was learning and experience with puppetry - which was great for all three of us. Finally, it was just plain fun. Here's Madison with her naughty monkey puppet. Watch your hat, or it might steal it!


Afterwards, we came home by way of the Mall of Georgia for a bit. We had to do some shopping for an upcoming series - at the Disney Store. This is always a chore. Just kidding. Madison had a great time - almost as good a time as Daddy. We got some winter clothing there, and saved a lot (but I won't go into the details about reward points and all that). On our way out, we ate at the food court, where Madison had a sample - yes, this is a FIRST moment. She tried a California Roll. It was a sample, and we were delighted that Madison enjoyed her first sushi! Yay!

Okay, so it really isn't that big of a deal.

ANYWAY, ballet practice was next, so as you can see it was a pretty big day! We left pretty early, and returned home to the house much later, quite exhausted from a very full - but very fun - day.

"At this time, I would like to present my rendition of one of the great songs of our time. That ever-popular classic: 'You And I And George.' But why you ask as well you should have I never heard this great song of our times. Fact is nobody has ever heard of this ever popular classic. In its only recording, 'You And I And George' sold two copies. I bought one and George bought one. Where were you?"
- Rowlf the Dog

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do You Want to Be My Friend?

This week at school, Madison is looking at the works of Eric Carle, particularly "The Grouchy Ladybug." She's bringing in a ladybug puppet for show and tell, which mixes a bit of the ladybug with a bit of puppetry - which is foreshadowing what we're doing tomorrow.


At night, we've been reading other books of his, including two favorites, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "Do You Want to Be My Friend?"

Both are simple board books, but as you can see above, it is the artwork that everyone loves. Madison enjoys these stories - in fact, for a bedtime story tonight, she picked out "Do You Want to Be My Friend?"

MADISON'S BOOK CLUB
"Do You Want to Be My Friend?" This is a story of a mouse looking for a friend. Simple concept, but a real page turner. Here's why: on each page, the mouse finds a tail of a creature that could be a friend. But when you turn the page, you discover who the tail belongs to. Will the mouse be a friend with a giraffe? Or a hippo? Or a seal? Page after page of effort is finally rewarded, as the lonely mouse finally happens upon a tiny tail - and the turn of a page reveals it is another mouse. Yes, these two can live happily ever after.


CUE MUSIC TRACK: THREATENING

Now here's the underlying menace to this story. From page one, there's a green, thick line stretching across the pages, one after another. As the mouse meets each new animal, that same green streak is always there at the bottom, from one side of the page to another. And after the two mice meet up and get together, we realize that this green line is in fact a very long tail belonging to... you guessed it... a snake.

CUE MUSIC TRACK: PEACEFUL RESOLUTION

Fortunately, one page back the mice are shown safely inside a burrow, cuddling together and quite happy to have a friend. Of course, the snake is not shown to be any kind of threat or danger. So don't panic! He's a nice snake. That eats vegetables.

Madison enjoys this book because she likes calling out which animals they are based on only seeing a tail. She's pretty good at it too. There are very few words in this book, but there don't need to be many - the idea is simple, and both she and Daddy have a good time reading it together.

A while ago, we got a DVD of "The Hungry Caterpillar." We'll have to check it out sometime this week. That'll be a good wrap-up to an Eric Carle theme...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Gnome-Mobile

It's been a gloomy day, made a bit brighter by the appearance of Mommy and Madison for a very nice lunch. It's been cold inside the office, but Mommy brought brownies that were actually still warm from the oven! Yummy!

Madison had a good day at school today, and at her music class as well. She knows those half notes now, and also "do-re-mi" on the scale. Life is good!

The weather is starting to turn cooler, as fall is on the way. Mommy has put out the fall decor in the house, which looks really nice. Madison likes the pumpkins and the leaves. But one thing we all like is the crock pot: Mommy is making chicken dumplings for us tonight, and pretty much declaring that one night a week be "crock pot night." This, in essence, is because Mommy is gone a large part of the day getting Madison from school and being with her for music class. But no one is complaining. When the weather starts to turn cooler, that sort of food starts getting mighty appealing!


This morning, Daddy played an excerpt or two from the movie "The Gnomemobile" on the computer. Strangely, Madison really likes this song and this movie. We showed it to her Sunday night - this is the first live action movie since "Mary Poppins" to really get her attention.

It all started with a very good friend who had a daughter who herself was quite captivated with "The Gnomemobile." We laughed about it, because of all the movies there are, it was this one that got her attention. He even made a gnome house for her at Christmastime, and we sent her a copy of the movie on DVD. This girl really liked that movie.

SO, after talking with our friend at the wedding this weekend, the story came back up - and Daddy thought he'd see if Madison liked the movie. Sure enough, it was a hit. I just wish I had a recording of her singing along with the theme song. It sort of gets trapped in your head..

"The Gnome-Mobile, the Gnome-Mobile - hunting for gnomes in the Gnomemobile. Sooner or later we feel that we'll find where they are in the Gnome-Mobile!"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pirates and Shields

Today, of course, be "Talk Like a Pirate Day." Therefore, we've been saying "arrr" all day, for fear of being keelhauled or at least laughed at derisively.

Having just watched a ton of pirate movies in May, we didn't go in that direction for the evening. In fact, it was one of those "recovery" days for the three of us, having just endured another sleep-deprived weekend filled with activity.

Madison and Daddy did some speech practice, and Madison is nailing words like "spook," which is just in time for October. The challenge is the "s" at the beginning and the "k" at the end. You probably don't remember the first time you mastered this combination, but if you did, you'd remember that it was actually a pretty big deal. With some help and guidance, she's been able to do the "s" combo words, and many words that end in "k" or "p." We're pretty pleased with this, obviously. There were high-fives all around, and of course an occasional "arrr!"

Here's Madison's latest coloring from Sunday School, colored in just yesterday:


It is a shield of faith that she has brightly colored in. And now, she can carry around a shield like Captain America.

As this blog is largely a letter to Madison about her and us, I suppose it would be good to throw in a reference to our family's coat of arms. This is proudly displayed on our garage door so all the neighbors can see it.

Okay, so it isn't. Seriously, Daddy has no idea about our coat of arms for our last name. Or Mommy's last name either. BUT, we do know about some other coats of arms (is that the right way of making it plural?). Further back in the family, Daddy has Irish family heritage galore (that's on Ye Ye's side of the family). Daddy's grandmother (on Ye Ye's side) is a McCann - a pure Irish family, just off the boat. Sort of like Marty McFly's family from "Back to the Future III." Remember the friendly
Irish McFlys?
For those of you at home keeping score, this is Séamus McFly, presumably the father or grandfather of one George McFly. This is notable, as our family in that Irish direction has a large number of Georges: George McCann to be exact. He probably wore a hat just like this. And, his shield (I bet you thought I forgot where all this was going!) looked exactly like this one you see here:


Yes, when he and the other family members came off the boat at Ellis Island, they were carrying a large shield that looked just like that one. They used it to fend off paparazzi and telemarketers, and occasionally used it like a large umbrella with a giant red boar on it.
On Mommy's side, we go back to
Wales. That's on Mommy's mother's side. Here's a shield we found earlier, and proof that the Welsh side of family was fond of albino owls holding roses, playing chess, and Old Spice deodorant. Actually, I have no idea what any of the symbolism means. Maybe that's on the other side of the shield in small print or something. I'm guessing the owl means pure wisdom, the chess pieces mean strength, and the boat means... sailing. See? They spent all this time making this grand design, and could have invested a little bit of that time writing, "Okay, this is what your shield means." And now here I am, a descendant looking at my own shields going, "What on earth is that all about?

Once a year we find ourselves in a Celtic shop in Gatlinburg, and we remind ourselves what these shields look like, as the store seems to have a coat of arms for every family that ever originated from that area of the world. Last year, we got two salt and pepper shakers that look like leprechauns. This year, maybe we'll get a shield. Daddy can carry it around like a Celtic Knight. Which would be a great name for an Irish rock band, by the way.

There is a mystery of the shields. It is with Daddy's father's father and so on. And, Mommy's father's father. There probably is a shield for each, but it certainly isn't one that you can find quickly. There is probably a good reason for this, one that you no doubt have already figured out...Our other ancestors were pirates!


Arrr?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Squirrel Girl



Okay, so there she is: Squirrel Girl. Today, Madison finally met her at church, which was pretty cool, actually. Notice she even has a tail! Mommy used wire hangers and fur to shape a tail that's attached to a belt the actress wears. It's a fun little costume, isn't it? Here are some of the others as well:


As noted earlier, Daddy had been collecting comics for some time, although he stopped a little over ten years ago. Still, he had never actually heard about Squirrel Girl until this year. Apparently, this Marvel character is an inside joke and cult favorite among comic book collectors. One might be tempted to underestimate a hero who has the power of a squirrel, and can talk to squirrels.



But that's the joke: Squirrel Girl has defeated the likes of Thanos, MODOK and Dr. Doom, some pretty mighty villains. She's actually conquered a whole lot more than that, but we don't have that much room to go on and on about it.

ANYWAY, we thought it would be fun to do a whole skit around Squirrel Girl, and Mommy made this wonderful costume that Daddy's just nuts about! The other costumes were made by Mommy as well, each one made for a less than stellar team of superhero wannabes, all about to learn a lesson from Squirrel Girl.

Here's the entry in our devotional this month, completely dedicated to our nutty hero:

______________


“He said to David, "Why are you coming at me with sticks? Do you think I'm only a dog?"
1 Samuel 17:43 NIrV

SQUIRREL GIRL
This is nuts! Can you name the one hero who has single handedly defeated incredibly powerful super villains like Dr. Doom, MODOK, Mandarin, Bi-Beast, and even Thanos?

You might be thinking of Iron Man, Spider-Man, or even Wolverine – but these guys struggle big time when it comes down to those big battles.

Leave it to a plucky girl who is crazy about squirrels to get the job done. Yes, the list of those defeated by Squirrel Girl is epic!

Let’s make this perfectly clear: These are major villains that are capable of defeating entire teams of heroes, and yet Squirrel Girl stands alone, and stands tall after each battle. One might think you’d have to have the strength of the Hulk or the might of Thor to do something like that. But Squirrel Girl’s powers are much simpler: the abilities of a squirrel, and a knack for talking with squirrels.

How could this even happen? Sure, sometimes the villains are weakened from an earlier battle, but most of the time their loss comes because they underestimate Squirrel Girl. She is able to think quickly: just imagine Dr. Doom being defeated by an army of squirrels. Yes, it really happened.

Often times, you yourself might be underestimated. But like Squirrel Girl, you need to keep your faith and a positive attitude. Since the beginning, she has never been defeated. Ever. She’s always humble, always smiling, and always trying to do the right thing, no matter the odds. And… like you can be… she’s always winning.


"I don't need luck. I eat nuts." - Squirrel Girl

Wedding Party

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Today was my good friend Alan's wedding. We go back a long way, Alan and me - the four friends you see in a picture above have been together since high school, which is a little bit longer than I'd care to admit personally. We went to high school together, and have posed for pictures like the one above for many, many years.

It was an epic wedding, the best I've ever attended. Daddy read a scripture from Philippians 4:4-9, and served as a groomsmen, which was an honor. The entire evening was the perfect balance of class, humor, emotion, and tradition - it was a wedding "for the people," as Alan put it, as he wanted the participants to have just a good a time as they were. This was indeed what happened, as there were so many details that when put together created a wonderful occasion. Too many to list here.

Three of the groomsmen have daughters around Madison's age. This made for a poignant (there's that word again) moment, just after the bride's father made his toast. The three of us sat there and imagined making a similar speech some day, versus running up to the future groom and tackling him, screaming at our daughters to make a run for it. No wonder the father was so choked up - it was a beautiful speech he made, and when combined with the emotion he was feeling at the time, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. It was a very happy occasion. My prayers went up immediately for a similar experience with Madison, but one much further down the road. Maybe forty years or so?

Meanwhile at home, Madison and Mommy spent the day together. Mommy has been making a brilliant costume that you'll just have to see. In fact, you will see it - but you'll have to wait another day for that. It's so obscure, but we're going to have fun with it.

Madison was busy with piano practice and speech homework, and doing some drawing. Here is the latest self portrait she has done. You can clearly see it is a self portrait because the girl in the drawing has BLACK hair. She made a point of noting this to us, so I felt it important to write down as well!


_________


Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Breezy

We had a rehearsal dinner this evening, deep in the heart of Atlanta. It was a very nice affair, followed by a pretty amazing dinner at an upscale restaurant. Enjoyed it very much, but didn't have as much time with Madison and Mommy today, which always makes me glum.

Earlier in the day, they did drop by for lunch. Mommy had prepared a nice picnic for us - she had a blanket out on the grass outside. It was a great spread, and so very sweet to be able to spend time outside and get a breath of fresh air. Together, we had our lunch outside in such nice weather. That's the one thing that's been amazing this week: the weather. It's been so cool, and so breezy. In other words, fall is coming soon.

We're having fun with bringing an obscure superhero to KidPak this weekend. You'll find out soon enough who it is, but Mommy is spending a good deal of time today making the costume itself. It's still a bit last minute, but I'm sure she'll do something great. Just as a hint, it involves a lot of fur!

Speaking of "creating things," let me share with you something Madison made for "Grandparents Day." This was last Sunday, which I have scanned as I do all things Madison makes for us. This year, Grandparents Day happened to fall on the tenth anniversary of 9-11, so it sort of got lost in the mix. But fortunately we have good teachers at the school Madison is going too - they remember stuff like this, and helped Madison make this nice little card:


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hook

How looking at a clothes hanger can lead you to dress up like a pirate and watch "Peter Pan?" That should be fairly obvious, and certainly if you're a five-year old. Madison saw Mommy hanging up some clothing, and pointed to the hook on the clothes hanger. She said dramatically, "Hook!" She even got the "k" part right (speech therapy is working out great!). And suddenly, a thought occurred to her.

And the seed was planted. She wanted to go put on her pirate outfit, and then she wanted to watch "Peter Pan" and "Return to Neverland." It's funny how the mind works.

Mom bucks have been a huge success lately. Madison wanted to play "Batman" with Daddy for a bit, but we told her she had to earn some Mom bucks first - and that's how she wound up doing some more speech therapy exercises, and practicing on the piano for a long, long time. She enjoys playing the piano, as limited as it is right now. Daddy was so very happy when I heard her perform today: she did the "Singing Sounds" song exactly right. She got the notes right, she got the half notes and whole notes right, and she even got the rests right. I was very proud of her!

Yes, we played "Lego Batman" later. She earned it!

"Long live the Hook!" - Tinkles the Pirate

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wonder Woman


In size and shape, she looks somewhat like the Alice doll, and perhaps that's what drew Madison to her - she's a Wonder Woman doll.

We found this one at Goodwill before doing the "Superheroes" series, and brought it out to use. But it never made it out of the house, as Madison has embraced it, and kept it close. We had a funny moment where Madison was making a new dress for Wonder Woman - she was making it out of wrapping paper (with "Cars" characters on it, no less!). She was getting frustrated about getting the entire concept to work, so Daddy came in to the rescue. First of all, we made it into a shorter skirt. Riiiip! Then, through the magic of scotch tape, we were like expert seamstresses: yes, soon we had ourselves a genuine "Cars" wrapping paper dress! Wonder Woman wore that dress all day.

One thing she does that bothers us is something she did to Wonder Woman, earlier in the day. With a rubber band, she bound her hands behind her back. Why do this? She's done it with other dolls before (although not that frequently). This sometimes leaves us to wonder if this is any residual from life before meeting Mommy and Daddy. Certainly a disturbing thought, but one worth noting. We love our little girl, and hate thinking that anything significantly bad happened during her first two years alive. We always want to think that it was a simple case of a loving mother who could not keep a baby, and left her at the gate to the orphanage, who almost immediately found her and took her in. Nice and smooth. But nobody will ever really know, which is something that haunts us because of our deepest love for Madison. One thing we do know: she will always know love and caring in this house.

Madison has a nagging cough again - it sounds like she's trying to clear out some congestion. We've been giving her some child's medication, but this may put a damper on any plans for Thursday. It might be another "stay at home" day. That's okay though, as we've got plenty to do (finish painting the deck!). It's the season: lots of people have been sick lately, and it sort of passes around. With Madison at school, she has exposure to more kids, which means of course more opportunities. Like I wrote earlier, Mommy and Daddy will take care of her, but even so: she's a warrior!

Just as an FYI, the name Madison actually means, "Child of a Warrior." Or, it could be just "warrior." When combined with her middle name "Mei," her full name means "beautiful warrior." See? Madison is a Wonder Woman!

"All the world is waiting for you, and the power you possess." - lyrics from "Wonder Woman" tv theme song

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tikki tikki tembo nosa rembo chari bari ruchi pip pen pembo

MADISON'S BOOK CLUB
This book explains why Chinese people do not have long names, after the whole incident with Tikki tikki tembo nosa rembo chari bari ruchi pip pen pembo and all. What? Have you not heard about Tikki tikki tembo nosa rembo chari bari ruchi pip pen pembo? It's a tale of near tragedy! His brother Chang falls into a well, and well, everything turns out okay. Why? Because it is easy to go and tell everyone "Chang has fallen into a well." But when Tikki tikki tembo nosa rembo chari bari ruchi pip pen pembo falls into a well, that's another matter. Poor Chang has to keep going to different people in order to tell them, "Tikki tikki tembo nosa rembo chari bari ruchi pip pen pembo has fallen into a well!" My first thoughts when reading this to Madison were firstly, why not go straight to the guy with the ladder, rather than trying to say all that to your mother? Second, and probably most importantly, why not simply say to everyone along the way, "My brother has fallen into a well?"

The answer should be obvious: "Tikki tikki tembo nosa rembo chari bari ruchi pip pen pembo" is a fun thing to say over and over again. I know it's fun to type over and over again!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A New Heart


Firstly, here's the latest scan of a project by Madison. I'm like Mr. Spock on the old Star Trek, always "scanning." Yesterday, even Madison corrected Mommy when she was about to hang this on the refrigerator first - she told Mommy that Daddy needs it first. He's got to scan it first!

For the younger children, this is picture helps emphasize that a real hero is defined by his heart within. This is illustrated by the story of Samuel finding David amongst all his other brothers, who of course all looked more like kings than he did.

We'll be hitting on this "heart" concept later in the month with the hero Iron Man, who himself had a change of heart:

*************************************

“God, create a pure heart in me. Give me a new spirit that is faithful to you.”

Psalm 51:10 NIrV


Tony Stark is a guy with big money and an even bigger ego. It used to be much, much bigger before a tragic accident left him with a different heart – literally. His old heart, damaged and broken, had to be replaced with something altogether new.


It was a tense and scary time, but fortunately, a kind doctor had managed to save his life. Sadly, it was just before sacrificing his own, to save that of Tony Stark’s.


His life changed. His eyes were opened. His heart was new. As soon as he was able to recover, Stark determined that from this point on, he would use all of his abilities and finances to fight injustice and make a difference for others. He developed and put on an amazing suit of armor, powered by his new heart. He became the Invincible Iron Man.



Once we’ve become Christians, we too have a change of heart. Our old nature is gone, and people should tell a difference in the way we go about our day. We should look different, starting off each day by putting on the full armor of God, and taking on the

battle like Iron Man.


There should be a stark contrast between our old life and our new one. Jesus makes this possible, because he now lives in our hearts. And that’s where the real power comes from.


*************************************

Speaking of which, Mommy and Daddy watched "Iron Man 2" again tonight before bed, but we were both pretty drained of our powers: it was a full day. We got in a little painting, and a return visit to Dr. Williams, our creepy chiropractor. We call him that because we've been holding on to a sign that we found at Big Lots last year after Halloween. They had all their Halloween stuff on clearance, and we spotted this big sign that read "Creepy Chiropractor," and had some decorations about it with references to "bone crunching" and so forth. It's the sort of sign you put in front of your office, and it was so specific and cheap that we picked it up and have been holding on to it for nearly a year. Needless to say, he appreciated it - especially when it was Madison who brought it to him. The best kind of gift is the one that comes from the heart...!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Pet Goat

So here we are, ten years later. I suppose I'm supposed to say something poignant about the ten year anniversary of one of the most tragic events in our country's history. I'm honestly not sure what to say: like many, many other Americans, we've been watching videos and reading more stories - essentially reliving the day through many different eyes, some with good outcomes, but most of them heartbreaking.

For some odd reason, with Madison in kindergarten next year, Daddy's focus has been on the moment the President heard, "we are under attack." Most of you know he was in a classroom, reading to children slightly older than Madison right now. They were reading the story of "The Pet Goat."

Some make a big deal out of the seven minutes he spent listening to the children, attempting to project calm, while inside he knew a tragic event beyond imagination was unfolding. As if there was no other human being, let alone the entire government, already racing to action to find answers and present options.

President George W. Bush was in office when Madison was born, and also when she came to our country for the first time. I hope someday she knows that's something to be proud of, although someday, this may be merely be the answer to a trivia question about her life. *

I've often wondered about the story of "The Pet Goat," and how it reads. I understand it's the story of a redeemed pet that the owners complain about - until it turns and saves the day. It's such an obscure piece of literature brought to the forefront of history...


THE PET GOAT

Once upon a time there was a family divided about what kind of pet to get. Half wanted a goat, and the other half wanted something else entirely different. The half that wanted the goat got their way, and as you can imagine, the other half wanted the goat gone and were looking for reasons to complain about the goat from day one.

One day, trouble came: bad men came to the house. They were very bad men.

Fortunately, the family had a goat. This was pretty much established with paragraph one. Anyway, this goat did something the other pet probably wouldn't do: it used its head. It butted the bad guys all over the place. But it wasn't content with butting these bad guys once they left the house. This goat followed them all over the world, butting them time and time again, and letting them and others know this simple fact: come to the house once more, and you will be hurt. Bad.

For seven years, the bad guys never returned. Yet this was not the focus of half of the family. Nor was there focus on the fact that things could be a whole lot worse, and that the family was in fact doing rather well - all things considered. Instead, they just wanted to get rid of that goat. They were worried what about the neighbors would think, all this butting. They worried about all sorts of things.

So the goat left. And the family decided to get a new pet. We won't go into details about the type of pet this one was. **

The point is that things didn't get any better when they got a new pet. The bad guys were still scared. Yet everything else was exactly the same as it was before, if not a little worse.

You see, I suppose the point is that some folks will always blame the pet goat, instead of blaming themselves. They'll blame the goat instead of realizing how good they have it. It's just easier to blame the goat.

________________________

* Daddy was born when Richard Nixon was president. Mommy was born when Dwight Eisenhower was president. I like Ike.

** That's described in the sequel, "The Pet Reptile"