Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yad sdrawkcaB

.yhw erus yleritne ton m'I hguohtla ,yaD sdrawkcaB si yadoT !ereht olleH

"?!erutcip eht teg ot gnitrats uoy erA .trats eht ot enil hsinif eht morf ,sdrawkcab emag draob a yalP .sdrawkcab klat ro ,sdrawkcab klaW !nuf llac I tahw s'taht woN .tressed htiw gnitrats ,laem ruoy taE .tnorf eht ni kcab eht htiw trihs ruoy raeW .sdrawkcab gnidaer ro sdrawkcab gnitirw yrT .sdik dega loohcs htiw ralupop yllaicepse s'tI .nuf fo stol eb nac yaD drawkcaB dna ,noitanigami ruoy esU .sdrawkcab gnihtyreve od ot yad a si yaD drawkcaB" :noitpircsed a dnif did I tuB .gnihton :delaever sah hcraeser luferaC

.gnihtemos ro rorrim a ot pu egassem siht dloh dluoc uoy spahrep - daer ot uoy rof tluciffid ti sekam siht wonk I

.yltnerruc reyalp drocer a evah t'nod I derebmemer neht tub ,sdrawkcab drocer a yalp ot detpmet saw I .yldas ,yadot sdrawkcab gnihtyna fo hcum od t'ndid I .oediv ssorK-ssirK a rO .dnalrednoW ni tcefrep eb dluow taht yad fo tros eht si siht ,YAWYNA

.teews oS .su devol ehs su dlot dna revo dellor nosidaM ,pu ekow ew nehw dna ,gninrom siht su htiw deb otni delwarc dah ehS ".uoy evol I" erew em ot sdrow tsrif yrev reh esuaceb teews yllaicepse saw sihT ".uoy evol I" erew thginot sdrow tsal reH .deb ni reh tup dna ,sriatspu ylluferac reh deirrac eW .keew hguor a dah sah gniht roop ehT .niaga hcuoc eht no peels ot ffo detfird tsuj nosidaM tub ,ecno reh ekow ymmoM .gnipeels llits saw ehs dna emoh tog yddaD .tpels dnA .tpels dnA .tpels ehs neht tuB .llew sa "yhW repuS" gnihctaw dna ,gniward emos did ehS .001 tuoba - hgih llits si revef ehT .emoh ta kcis llits ,ymmoM htiw yad reh tneps nosidaM

.riah ym fo tuo eb yllanif lliw ti tub ,deb erofeb emit erom eno ti foorp tsum I .htiw tnetnoc etiuq m'I gnihtemos si ti dna ,lanoitoved eht dehsinif yllanif evah I tuB .gnitirw ,gnitirw ,gnitirw ,krow ta drah neeb sah yddaD

:sdrawrof dna sdrawkcab ,syaw htob tuo krow lliw taht esarhp a depoleved ev'I kniht I :yaD sdrawkcaB no thguoht erom enO

"smart stressed live bats stab evil desserts trams"

".yaD sdrawkcaB" seod rehtien ,niaga neht tuB .esnes fo tib a ekam t'nseod ti ,esruoc fO

".sdnah ruoy no emit eerf fo tol lufwa na evah tsum uoy ,woW"
civoknaY lA drieW -


(translated for your convenience:)

Hello there! Today is Backwards Day, although I'm not entirely sure why.

Careful research has revealed: nothing. But I did find a description: "Backward Day is a day to do everything backwards. Use your imagination, and Backward Day can be lots of fun. It's especially popular with school aged kids. Try writing backwards or reading backwards. Wear your shirt with the back in the front. Eat your meal, starting with dessert. Now that's what I call fun! Walk backwards, or talk backwards. Play a board game backwards, from the finish line to the start. Are you starting to get the picture!?"

I know this makes it difficult for you to read - perhaps you could hold this message up to a mirror or something.

ANYWAY, this is the sort of day that would be perfect in Wonderland. Or a Kriss-Kross video. I didn't do much of anything backwards today, sadly. I was tempted to play a record backwards, but then remembered I don't have a record player currently.

Madison spent her day with Mommy, still sick at home. The fever is still high - about 100. She did some drawing, and watching "Super Why" as well. But then she slept. And slept. And slept. Daddy got home and she was still sleeping. Mommy woke her once, but Madison just drifted off to sleep on the couch again. The poor thing has had a rough week. We carried her carefully upstairs, and put her in bed. Her last words tonight were "I love you." This was especially sweet because her very first words to me were "I love you." She had crawled into bed with us this morning, and when we woke up, Madison rolled over and told us she loved us. So sweet.

Daddy has been hard at work, writing, writing, writing. But I have finally finished the devotional, and it is something I'm quite content with. I must proof it one more time before bed, but it will finally be out of my hair.

One more thought on Backwards Day: I think I've developed a phrase that will work out both ways, backwards and forwards:

"smart stressed live bats stab evil desserts trams"

Of course, it doesn't make a bit of sense. But then again, neither does "Backwards Day."

"Wow, you must have an awful lot of free time on your hands."
- Weird Al Yankovic

Monday, January 30, 2012

Strep Throat

Last night was pretty rough. And scary for us as well, knowing how much of a fever Madison had. At times we thought the thermometer read 104, and checked it again to see - sure enough, it said 104. But these thermometers all have different methods of reading, and we couldn't be 100% sure. Still, regardless, she was suffering with a high enough fever to worry us through the night. We alternated ibuprofen and acetaminophen, with a higher dosage of prayer mixed in.

It all started after the Chinese New Year party - fortunately she got to enjoy that. We noticed during the party that she was a little under the weather, but things really went downhill after that. Daddy stayed with her on the couch for a while, playing games and keeping her still and under the covers. But it as it got dark, it became clear that this was no ordinary moment of feeling sick.

This morning, Madison went with Mommy to the doctor's, and it was confirmed: Madison has her first strep throat. Or, at least the first that we know of. They picked up the medication from the pharmacy, some liquid that she'll be drinking the next ten days. It's flavored bubble gum, and colored bright pink. This is so she'll always associate bubble gum with being sick!

This morning, we stayed on the couch, under three blankets. Madison chose to watch "Alice in Wonderland," and all the extra features too. But soon, it was time for a nap: Mommy needed one too, after that late night. The two of them are currently upstairs, catching up on some much-needed rest. Daddy, in the meantime, is downstairs, typing up the devotional for our next series: it's deadline is tomorrow, so I'd better get back to it!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

CNY 2012

Today we had a Chinese New Year celebration at our house, where we invited the family over and had an awesome time. Check out the decor Mommy set up in a hurry. Isn't the cupcake dragon brilliant? He's also gone right now: we ate that one up big time. It is the Year of the Dragon, which made this perfect.

Daddy got Chinese takeout from Oriental Garden 2, and Mommy got the rest together. Then the family showed up, and we all had a nice time together. Of course, we did some Kinect bowling and some Fruit Slicer - but the majority of the time was spent at the long table in our dining area. There, we feasted and feasted!

Madison wore her special costume once more - the one from "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." She was looking adorable as always. We had a very nice time together, just hanging out and doing some catching up. This morning Ba-Ba and Nana had left to go home. Madison was very sad to see them go, but they'll be back in about a month, so their absence won't be too long. Unfortunately, they had a terrible drive back home: this morning there was a horrendous series of accidents along the interstate in Florida, which made things so bad that all traffic was still being diverted many hours later. It took Ba-Ba and Nana a really, really long time to get home - but they did arrive safely. And understandably exhausted.

Speaking of which, Madison started to show signs of sickness after the meal tonight. She started running a pretty high fever and pointing to her throat. Oh no, not again. Daddy raced out to the drug store to get some medication for her. Unfortunately, one package was not for her: it was labeled CHILDREN'S MEDICATION, so I picked it up. But the fine print on the back of the box says you have to be six or older to take it. Okay, so what on earth is that about? I'm in a hurry to get medicine to help my little girl, so my natural inclination is to find the CHILDREN'S MEDICATION, as I would tend to classify my daughter as "CHILDREN."

Fortunately, one of the items I did pick up will be useful for her tonight. We have enough to keep watch over her and help keep the fever down. Tomorrow morning, Mommy is taking her to the doctor's office, so we can hopefully have this seen to as soon as possible.

In the meantime, here's something I just scanned: Madison's Chinese name, written in Chinese. We got this last Chinese New Year - it was a nice gift. Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Totally Tubular

Here's Madison's Velvet Belle, a masterpiece of velvet artwork if I do say so myself. We got this for her at Christmastime, and recently she tried coloring it in. She didn't do too bad of a job, actually. We might hang this one up, perhaps in our gallery room, beside the framed velvet Elvis, and the velvet John Wayne. Okay, so those who know Daddy know that he's kidding about having those hanging up in the house - and yet you probably also know that he'd love to have a Velvet Elvis somewhere. To think that these were all over the place, and easy to find. Now, they are probably as valuable as works other fine works of art! But nothing is as valuable as the work Madison puts together - at least to me. That's one reason why I scan a lot of it: just in case we lose it somewhere down the road. Madison has been prolific with drawing and creating art, and we'll have to come up with some effective storage system soon!

Here's a place to put things: it's a tube! Not the Tube. This one is something that Ye-Ye and Nana got for Madison two years ago at Christmas. It rests on the floor beside her pink castle, and serves as a secret side entrance. Or, in this case it serves as a large vertical column of pink. The neat parts are the little windows she can peek out of. She just sort of scoots along and swallows up things on the floor along the way. I think this would be an ideal costume at Halloween, actually. Just deposit the candy in the top, and maybe put some lining around the waist to keep the candy from dropping to the ground. Then, slowly but surely the candy will pile up around you! Oh yeah, I've got it all planned out for sure!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Little Trooper

Here's a movie slide show of Madison with our TMBG paper monster hearse from the other day. Daddy didn't get to see her too much today, as it is late at night and I'm still at the office, plugging away. I did get to see Madison this morning - I drove her in to school. It was cold outside, and I carried her close to me as we crossed the parking lot. As we got closer though, she wanted to walk. Here's a photo that sort of captures that idea, a photo of Daddy and his little trooper:

This was taken by Swedish photographer Kristina Alexanderson, who has a whole bunch of Stormtrooper photos similar to this online. Isn't it great?

Anyway, one of the reasons Madison wants down after we cross the parking lot is this: we race. It's a morning ritual, our race to the big button that opens the front doors. It's set there for those who can't open the door on their own. Madison loves to race Daddy to that point every morning - and golly, she wins a whole lot! This morning she pressed the button, and the two of us raced in as well: that's because it was pretty cold!

Madison had a good day at school, and a good day with Nana and Ba-Ba as well. It is during these busy times that I'm grateful to have them here, so that Madison can have some quality time together her grandparents. Unfortunately, this visit is a short one - they'll be leaving on Sunday. HOWEVER, they will be back in about a month. That's the good news for all of us!

For now, Daddy sure does miss his family though. Still here at work, still typing - but obviously taking a small break from it all. I just know when I see Madison next, it'll look like this:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Board Game Day

Today for some reason became a board game day, which was fine by me. Although I didn't get too much work done on our upcoming series, at least we did get to spend some time together with Ba-Ba, Nana and Madison. One very fun thing we did together was play board games. We played quite a few, actually: we started out with "Trouble," which Madison enjoys because she likes to bump people. "Bump!" she says.

Next, there was "Candy Land," which is one of Madison's favorites. This was a Daddy vs. Madison battle to the finish line. Daddy got the supreme edge when he drew orange as the very first color. This is a big deal in Candy Land, for those of you who don't know the nuances of the game.

Here's another game we played for a bit: the Disneyland Monorail Game! This is a reproduction of a game that came out in 1960. It's a simple concept, in which we race around Disneyland, against each other and also against the train, which has its own playing piece as well. The game is really simplistic, but it is also really retro - so Daddy likes it. Plus, it's a map of Disneyland, so Madison likes it too. We played this for a bit today too.

Then later on, after ballet, it was time for Barnyard Uno once again. This time, Madison was playing against Ba-Ba and Nana, and absolutely loving it. Was Ba-Ba cheating? No, but Nana was helping Madison out from time to time with some good advice for the win. And oh yes, she did win in the end. "I win!" she cried out. "You lose!"

Ballet was good again. Madison enjoys it so much. Daddy sits in a special spot just outside the room, watching her dance through a window. She and the other students line up, and do their dances together - it is such a small class now, but that's just fine with me: more attention for Madison. It was pouring rain again, and Daddy had to carry her to class and carry her to the car, but all the while she was holding her tiny pink princess umbrella. She really likes umbrellas, and if there is an opportunity to hold one up, she's not going to miss out!

So anyway, here I was sitting and watching her dance. I've got my Sherlock Holmes book, and I'm gazing at her do her spins and twirls, and watching her laugh and smile. She has such a great time in this class.

On the way home, we listened to more children's music: today's selection was "Urban Chipmunk," one of Daddy's favorites growing up. Madison enjoyed it too, especially when Alvin gets in trouble.

Which is pretty much every song.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Night of Heroes

Wednesdays are a long work day for Daddy, and we started out by taking Madison to school first thing. That is the routine for Daddy and Madison. We try to make the best of that drive time too, and this morning was no different. Daddy, Mommy, Ba-Ba and Nana saw "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" again last night, which featured John Lithgow. This prompted Daddy to remember John Lithgow's CD, "Singin' in the Bathtub," which we listened to this morning on the way to school.

This is a really great and really fun one to listen to. I suspect in some ways, Daddy had more fun with it than Madison! But she was listening too, and will again soon. We've got a lot of great children's CDs that Daddy has been popping in for the ride to school. Of course, over December, it was largely Christmas music. But now that we've got a lull in the holidays, there's an opportunity for all kinds of neat music. For example, Lauri Berkner's music. And the Veggie Tales songs. And don't forget the three They Might Be Giants' children's CDs. And another of Daddy's favorites, the Chipmunks! My all-time favorite from when I was younger was "Urban Chipmunk," which I can still listen to. In fact, it's popped in the car right now, ready to play next after the bathtub songs: there are some great songs on that disc!

Madison was picked up from school by Mommy, Ba-Ba and Nana - and then whisked away for a day of shopping. It seems that has been their one big activity this week. But if they're enjoying it, then more power to 'em!

In the meantime, it was work time for Daddy.

Tonight was a church night that Mommy and Daddy could attend in the main sanctuary, so Mommy arrived at church along with Madison, and guess who was dressed up as a superhero? That's right, it was Madison: tonight was a superhero theme night for the pre-schoolers, so all of them were invited to show up dressed as a hero of some sort. Madison wore a black mask, and a bright pink cape that Mommy put together this afternoon - she was cute! Here she is below with Spider-Man, Spider-Man's clone, Superman, Green Captain America and a few other heroes dressed as mild-mannered citizens:

Over the course of the evening, Madison even designed her own new cape. It was a white cape material that she decorated with crayons, one that she put on over her other cape. Then she had two capes!

"No capes!" - Edna Mode

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TMBG Paper Monster Hearse

They Might Be Giants recently made available a papercraft of their monster hearse, so Madison and Daddy spent a little time recently putting it together. The TMBG Paper Monster Hearse came out pretty well, actually - you can see the accompanying boom box in the picture below, and if you look carefully, you'll find the small stand-up of Abraham Lincoln. Just in time for his birthday!

This was a pretty big day for Madison, and just like our 4X4 drive above, we shall tread over some of the day's events below:

WHEEL ONE: Madison's keyboard "recital." This was by no means an official recital, but in piano practice today, Madison knew she had to perform one of the songs from her booklet. She chose the song "Hide and Seek," and volunteered to play her piece first. Quickly, she ran over to the keyboard and nailed it. Daddy was so proud of her! She was practicing this week for the big moment, and things turned out great!

WHEEL TWO: Madison had her first Oreo cookie ever. Why had this moment taken so long to arrive at? I have no idea - we just hadn't really thought of it? Anyway, in class today, Mrs. Pam our teacher mentioned Oreo cookies. And since Daddy was so proud of Madison for her little performance, he thought it would be a neat idea to reward her with that special cookie! Madison's reaction: "Yummy!" She didn't like it dipped in milk so much, but she did love it plain. She wanted more than the two I offered, but Daddy didn't want her having a super sugar rush!

WHEEL THREE: All of us had a great time bowling tonight. Again, it was "Kinect Bowling," so we didn't actually leave the house. But Ba-Ba and Nana had a good time bowling with Mommy and Madison. It was fun to watch everyone get the hang of it, and celebrate wildly after each strike.

WHEEL FOUR: Dinner together was fantastic. Today we went to the crock pot, and Mommy had a perfect roast inside. It was absolutely just right for a day like today - where there's a slight chill in the air. Fortunately, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Yet it was still just cool enough for us all to want to stay inside a bit more. The kind of dinner Mommy had for us was a "comfort food" that warms the soul - and the tummy!

"My mind is a wrecking ball and someday my mind's gonna wreck all y'all."
"Dog Walker," They Might Be Giants

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Year of the Dragon

Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon - it's time to celebrate Chinese New Year! As it fell on our day off, today was actually a rather nice day at home. We couldn't go outdoors much because it was still pouring
quite a lot of rain outside!
We did a lot of the standard things for Chinese New Year, such as eat noodles for lunch. As you can see here, we made sure the noodles were nice and long. This symbolizes long and healthy life. I'm not entirely sure who made that up. It was probably somebody who sold noodles, who made a fortune afterwards. Regardless of how the tradition started, as you can see here, it's also kind of fun to hoist the noodles way up high in the air and let them dangle over your mouth, too! This was just a quick snack at lunchtime - the meal we had later on tonight was a much larger feast. We'll get there soon enough though. First, let's have another game of Go Fish!

Madison loved playing this with Nana, and actually was teaching her how to play again, as it's been quite some time since she last played Go Fish. Madison had such a great time playing with Nana: she's really enjoyed seeing her grandparents here this week.


We did some other things with Madison to recognize the start of the new year: Daddy read several children's books about the subject, including "Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance," a sweet book about a boy doing the dragon dance with his grandfather to celebrate the Year of the Dragon.

This is a nice book to read, particularly on Chinese New Year. The neat thing is the timing - once every twelve years it is the start of the Year of the Dragon, which is when this story takes place. And today, of course, was that day. We read it together on the couch along with a few other books. This story is encouraging and a confidence builder. It is also a story about reaching out to help others. Finally, it has plenty of Chinese culture within it, complete with some nice artwork. Madison enjoyed this one, as well as the others.

We also watched Kai-Lan's Chinese New Year episode, where the main characters learn teamwork and each carry the dragon. But soon it was time to head off to eat. Here's a photo of everyone at PF Chang's for dinner: notice how Madison is wearing her pirate queen outfit. She really wanted to wear that to dinner tonight, and we thought: why not!?

We actually bought this costume for her year or two before we met her - it was on the discount rack at the Disney Store after Halloween. We were thinking it might be a fun outfit for Madison someday, even though we hadn't met her yet. Years later, sure enough: she loves this outfit. So much that she wore it to dinner tonight!

We had ourselves a big feast this evening, with dumplings, egg rolls, crab wantons and more. Always there are leftovers. There was just too much food! It was a nice time going out to eat with family, and a chance to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

When we got home, it was time to stuff envelopes: red envelopes, that is. We'll be giving some of those away tomorrow, as it is a tradition to give red envelopes with coins in them. Instead of coins, our flair is to use chocolate coins. Also, we taped chopsticks to the envelopes to make a nice looking presentation. Madison will be handing some of these out tomorrow, and the rest out when she meets up with the rest of the family this weekend.

It was a very foggy night tonight coming home. But it's been that way all month. Dense, thick fog - the kind you usually associate with a mystery from 1800's London. And the rain that came with it was heavy, pouring down all morning long. So far, it's been a very wet year. Ba-Ba and Nana came from Florida where it has been sunny and 80 degrees - and up here, it's been cold and wet all the time. But despite the weather, it's been a warm time together, especially for today. We had a wonderful time making memories together.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy Returns

It was a rather epic day in scale, one that started early with another fantastic service in Wonderland. As you can see above, we had a visit from Mad Hatter once again, along with his friends the March Hare and the Dormouse. Alice was actually crowned Queen Alice today, hence the crown upon her head. It was a very full service, featuring nearly every character from series thus far. Even Absolem the Caterpillar showed up down the hall with the younger children, posing the question once more: "Who are you?"

Once we got home, it was time to get some rest and do a bit of cleaning up - and waiting! Soon enough, the doorbell rang, and Madison squealed: it was Nana and Baba! They had come from Florida this morning through some pretty yucky weather, and made it safe and sound to our door. They were quite cold here, having come from a nice warm temperature - so we set up a fire and turned up the heat a little here for them. Poor Floridians!

It was a nice time for some catching up: we hadn't seen them since this summer. We shared quite a bit, as did they. We even gave them a photo album with highlights of Madison's adventures over the past year - that way they could really see all she's been up to. It turned out to be quite a bit!

Everyone will probably be turning in early tonight. Long drive for some, and early morning full of adventure for others. Madison stayed up late with us because she was so excited to see her grandparents. She kept trying on different costumes to show off, and at one point dragged us all into her playroom so that she could give us a puppet show. She brought out some play cake slices to serve everyone, and had a ball: literally. She was constantly throwing it around to play catch with everyone. She was really keyed up! But when she went to bed, she was zonked and out cold in a hurry. We'll let her sleep in tomorrow for sure, but when she wakes up, I'm sure she'll be just as excited!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Scalene Triangle

I knew my geometry was a bit rusty, but thanks to the Penguins of Madagascar, I now know I need to study up a little more. We remember isosceles triangles and equilateral ones. But scalene triangles? Now, after today, I know what one is. It's a triangle with three unequal sides. BUT, I hadn't even heard the word in many, many, many years!

So Madison was playing her Penguins of Madagascar game on her Explorer, and we keep hearing this word over and over again: Scalene Triangle!

I've got an illustration here to help you see what a scalene triangle actually is. The Penguins are apparently on hand to help here too. The Explorer is a great tool, isn't it? Madison is having a good time playing games with some of her favorite characters - but at the same time, she's being exposed to terms like this, and learning quite a bit along the way. Wins all around!

The sore throats are starting to go away, although it still hurts for us to swallow. This is a great assisting factor while on any kind of fast. People who go through excruciating pain trying to swallow anything at all tend to not want to eat much. That's the general thought, anyway.

Daddy was at work a pretty long time today, making up for lost time yesterday after the quarantine. It sounds like Madison had a good time today, helping Mommy do some spring cleaning. Okay, so it isn't spring yet. But the weather has sure been acting like it: for example, today we had some tornado watches again. The temperature started out warm - but then got downright chilly again at night.

Fortunately, Mommy stayed indoors with Madison for most of the day. In fact, she finished the insulation project all on her own! We'll have to snap a picture of that to share here for sure!

Tomorrow, Ba-Ba and Nana will be arriving from Florida, just in time really. For one, Mommy and Daddy will no longer be contagious. For another, Chinese New Year is Monday, which means we can all go out together to celebrate. The final reason is simple: it's been a lot longer between visits this time - too long. Madison is so excited that she's counting down the sleeps until their arrival. One more sleep to go!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Go Fish

We were card sharks tonight at the kitchen table: Mommy, Daddy and Madison sat around, peering over the fanned out cards in our hands, eyeing each other suspiciously - when all of the sudden Mommy said, "Madison. Do you have Princess Mulan Five?"


This was much more than just a fun game - this was a neat way to teach Madison some of the letters she's been having difficulty with as of late: "F" in particular, and then the "sh" sound. It was taught to us by Mrs. Wendy, Madison's speech teacher. Each sound has an accompanying hand gesture to help you remember what sound it is supposed to be. At the beginning of the game, we had to use the hand gestures frequently, but by game's end, she was saying "Go Fish!" all on her own. It'll still take some practice, of course.

But the best part of it was that we were all having such a great time playing!

As for the rest of the day, I'm afraid it was a wash. Daddy is quarantined to the house today, along with Mommy. It's like one of those outbreak movies here in North Georgia, as lots of people are apparently having a battle with the Group A Streptococcus Bacteria.

Daddy went to the doctor's today simply to confirm, and yep, the doctor said it was "classic" strep throat. With such a bold declaration, Daddy was hoping he could be on the cover of "Strep Throat Magazine," but alas, all I got were some pats on the back, and of course a prescription.

We got medication for Daddy and Mommy, and hopefully the two of us will be feeling better soon. I have never had a sore throat this bad in my life - or at least, I can't remember it being that way. It's kept waking me up over and over again all night for the past few nights.

In other completely unrelated news, we had some electricians come in today, and just like that all of our problems are solved. Once the other lights were fixed, we all quoted scripture: "And then there was light, and it was good."

And it was indeed good. We've been in the house a little over a year and still have a ways to go on fixing certain things up, but we're well on our way. The plan was to do a bunch of that this week, but then strep throat got in the way for all of us.

Final comments on this thread: Chinese New Year is upon us! It's this Monday, in fact. That means we have some red envelope stuffing to do! One tradition is to get a hair cut on Chinese New Year. This symbolizes a fresh start, according to some stuff I just read. I always new there were hair cuts in China on Chinese New Year, but I never actually read why. Now we know, and so do you!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Quoth the Raven

This morning we slept in, and when I say "slept in," I'm not kidding. Part of the reason is because we've been so much under the weather of late - in fact, Daddy has had the sorest throat he's ever had in his entire life. The word "strep" is floating around - there was a message from the school that a child had it. Tomorrow, one of us will probably be heading to the doctor's office to do a quick check and make sure everything's okay.

In the News: Today the Poe Toast tradition was declared over with, as no Poe Toaster showed up for a third year in a row. Some may think a Poe Toaster is a device that makes toast in the shape of Edgar Allan Poe. No, not quite. It is in fact a mysterious stranger who remains unidentified, creeping into a cemetery in the wee hours of darkness on Edgar Allan Poe's birthday (today), in order to lay out some flowers and a bottle of wine at his grave. Sometimes notes were left, and other times not. For sixty years, this mysterious stranger did his quiet annual work, and then three years ago... it stopped. Quoth the Raven: Nevermore.

Perhaps the publicity got to him. Perhaps he's actually now going over to Dr. Seuss' grave in the middle of the night, in order to leave some green eggs and ham, and a piece of a Truffala tree.

Back to our toaster: this is one of those quirky traditions that ended the year Madison came home to be with us. The two are unrelated. Or are they? Is it that I'm just simply too busy being a Daddy to make that trip up to Baltimore anymore?

As you have probably guessed by this point, today was a largely uneventful day. I did not, I must point out, read ANY Edgar Allan Poe stories to Madison. At present, I couldn't think of a single one that wouldn't have potential to induce nightmares. Daddy was a big fan in college, but I grew out of that phase somewhat - I remember having to memorize "Annabelle Lee," and having books with the stories like "The Masque of the Red Death" inside. But I moved on. Still, I have the first few lines of "Annabelle Lee" permanently etched in my brain. Seriously: can't
ever forget it!
And, once a year in October Mommy and Daddy watch Tim Burton's story about Vincent Malloy - he's the boy that wants to be like Vincent Price, reciting the stories and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. I believe it was Tim Burton's first stop motion animation, a pretty short movie that shows even way back then that this guy was pretty different. Speaking of "different" and "Poe," the Baltimore Ravens are in the AFC Championships this weekend. I'm only talking about football here because it relates to our theme of the day: Poe. Did you know that the Ravens have three mascots? They are, of course, ravens. And do you know what their names are? Answer: "Edgar," "Allan," and "Poe." I have no idea how to tell one from another. Hopefully they're wearing name tags or something.

I happen to like Terry Pratchett's name for a raven, a more creative tribute to Poe: the bird's name is Quoth. Quoth the Raven.

More Poe related stuff: Here's a Poe stamp we have in our stamp collection. Some day, Madison will see this one and others. Not that we're "collect 'em all" sorts of people, but occasionally we see stamps we like and pick up a sheet of them to hold on to. This practice is continued from my grandfather, who passed along some stamp collections from the 70's and 80's - and now we have them all, pretty much, sealed up and protected in a nice tub downstairs. It's nothing of epic proportions, but there are probably some of value down there, and some day it'll be nice to look through them with Madison when she's old enough to appreciate them.

Enough about Poe. And stamps. What did we do today? Well, Madison did a bit of music practice today, and some speech work too. We did not go to ballet tonight though: we decided to give everyone a rest. We need it very much. Daddy has a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning to confirm or deny whatever nasty bug it is that we've got going through the house.

This afternoon, Daddy started writing his devotional for Sherlock Holmes, and Madison spent some time doing math problems on her Explorer. That is a very useful device, and we're thrilled that Madison is having fun and learning with it. With characters like Tinkerbell, and the Penguins from Madagascar, she's learning simple addition, and giving answers fairly quickly. Given her heritage, I suppose one of us should have gotten Madison an abacus. Maybe that's somewhere down the road.

Mommy did a lot of cleaning today - she was the healthiest of us all. She's trying to get the house ready because we're having some special visitors in just two days. Madison is very excited: she's counting down the sleeps, just like you'd count sleeps until Christmas. It'll be very good to see Mommy's parents again: Baba and Nana are coming up for only one week, but we'll try to squeeze in as much fun and together time as we can. Hopefully everyone will be all better so we don't spread any germs around.

"I wish they'd pack their tiny little bags and move away."
- "Germs," by Weird Al Yankovic

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wonderland's Cat

Tonight we met the Cheshire Cat once more, which has been a great puppet for us, as you can see above. He joined Alice at KidPak, and down the hall for the younger kids too - you should have heard their squeals: "Oh my goodness! A real live cat!"

Today Daddy spent largely at work, but coming home for lunch was a treat: Mommy had French Onion Soup made up, and afterwards Madison and Daddy played a game of Matching with Disney Princess cards. It was a pretty large deck, so it took a while to get all the matches, but it was fun nonetheless.

Daddy got a lot of goodies in the mail: a new driver's license (finally!), and some Mickey headphones (from Disney Movie Rewards - another freebie!), and finally the stuff we ordered for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebration. It kind of all came at the same time - funny how that works. When it rains, it pours. Speaking of which, it stopped raining today, finally. Not that we've minded. The rain has been good for the land. The weather outside has been pretty cold though: this morning before driving Madison in to school, the cars outside were frosted over.

On the way to school, Daddy told a story of the trip Indiana Jones and Marion made to see the Groundhog. It involved Indy, Marion, and their attempts to get the groundhog to come out of his hole. Madison loved it, and Daddy had fun making up things as we went along - with her help, of course. Those are the best kinds of stories. You sort of get that feeling a similar thing was going on with Lewis Carroll when he made up "Alice in Wonderland," so long ago one golden afternoon. Of course, our rambling tale wasn't anything classic as that, but it still is a great touch when Madison adds her ideas to the story, pushing it along with silly fun that everyone can enjoy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Winter Belle

Here's our daughter - wearing in one of her new Christmas dresses, no doubt inspired by the recent viewing of "Beauty and the Beast." Madison has enjoyed her clothes rack, making sure all of her dresses are properly hung and ready for the next wearing. Today was cold again, and as you can see we put another log on the fireplace to warm things up a bit.

The weather is gloomy and overcast, with lots of rain pouring down. Mommy has been sick, closely following Madison's brief illness - and Daddy is starting to feel those same symptoms again. That's the thing about winter, isn't it?

Still, Daddy and Madison did make it out for music practice. Madison has been doing better with notes, and even this morning was playing certain things on her own, reading the sheet music before her. She wants to earn those Mom bucks, but at the same time she's recognizing that she's learning to play a bit. In fact, she's learning to read music about as quickly as she's learning to read words. We're getting there on all fronts, and it is an amazing process to watch. I anticipate lots of learning this year, of course. That's what we're praying for.

On our way out to music class, Daddy had to pick up milk with Madison. We went to the local Food Lion grocery store and picked up a carton of Silk for Madison, and realized the bad news: another grocery store is closing up. They'll be gone by February 15th.

Between speech and music, we did get our "homework" done today, so it was then time for a bit of gaming: back to Disney Universe! Madison and Daddy love this game. In fact, today Daddy bought some more costumes for us to play with, from "The Jungle Book." That's a surprise for Madison later.

We all went to bed early tonight, although Daddy woke up with the beginnings of a remarkably sore throat. Uh-oh. Welcome to Parenthood!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Get a Clue

Here is an early banner design for our upcoming Sherlock Holmes series, "Get a Clue." It's a very unique series, one that I'm fairly proud of now that I've finished the messages for it. We refer to the powers of observation frequently, and even make reference to a few of his most famous cases, although everything is toned down for a more younger audience. I might even post one message below, actually. The research for this has been quite enjoyable, as I've ravenously read just about every Sherlock Holmes story imaginable. I'm reading them all chronologically, and at present have just finished "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes." In this series, we've met Mycroft Holmes and the dastardly Professor Moriarty. Mommy and Daddy have watched several movies thus far, but keep missing opportunities to see the one in the theater right now. That might have to wait until later, I suppose.

Today Madison was on the couch, with the ottoman pushed out a bit to make passage between the two. I still contend that "ottoman" is a weird word. Anyway, she was acting as a toll booth attendant, asking us to pay imaginary money in order to pass by. So like our current administration, we paid her imaginary money - even counting it out. The price kept going up too. She's learning fast! She told us, "Ten money." We argued, but the price was five just moments ago. "Ten money," she repeated. Oh well, we paid her ten imaginary bills and walked through her enterprise.

It was yet another inside day. I'm getting tired of typing that, but the weather outside, while not as formidable as this past Friday, is still not quite the kind to go out and frolic in.

Still, there's plenty to do inside. For example: ballet practice. Madison has her own little bar she drags downstairs, and here she is doing some warm-ups. This is all on her own: maybe she's getting serious about being a ballerina! We've already looked into some schools for this, perhaps to enroll her in a few classes next fall. She really does love ballet - today we had on the background a Chinese New Year celebration gala that we watch once a year, and during that video some ballerinas were dancing onstage. She stopped what she was doing to watch the dancers pose and move about on point. When Daddy attempted the same moves, it didn't quite turn out right...

We continued our Mulan-athon today, finishing up with "Mulan 2," as Mommy and Madison snuggled on the couch. Both have been feeling a bit under the weather, so it was actually best we stay at home today. Initially, we had plans to go out - but it was probably the smarter idea to stay home. Daddy did go out today, getting some more insulation for the house, for our little storage rooms. As much as I type about it, I'll probably have to take a picture of the area in question: it's been quite chilly there this week.

We did do quite a bit of piano practice, and Madison spent some time coloring on the computer using a painting program. Before bed tonight we had a funny moment where Madison had to change her baby's diaper. She clenched her fingers over her nose and indicated to us that there was a stinky diaper there. We patiently waited for Madison to change the diaper and put the baby's new pajamas on - and then it was time for bed for everyone. That's right: Daddy got into bed, turned his nightstand light on, and started plowing into yet another Sherlock Holmes adventure!

In one most curious case, our great detective discovers a mystery: where is the decent man with a sterling reputation? And just who is this other unusual person that wears a twisted lip, and is found nearby the place where our good gentleman disappeared?

The solution to the puzzle is remarkable: they are both one and the same! This individual was wearing a disguise! At night, the culprit is a faithful husband and family man. But during the day he transforms into something else entirely.

As devious as this rascal may seem, the truth of the matter is this: we all have a temptation to live a double life. Know this: God can see through any disguise. If you think you’re fooling everyone, you need to get a clue! It’s time for us to take off the masks with one another, and show ourselves as we truly are.

We all want to appear as perfect Christians, but the facts sometimes may not match up. That’s why it’s best to be honest with one another. In our Bibles, James said it best when he told us to admit to each other our shortcomings – and pray with one another.

God puts people in our lives for just this purpose. Imagine Sherlock Holmes without his good friend Dr. James Watson. The good doctor is on hand to help, and believe it or not, to even scold his companion from time to time when he is not behaving right. Do you have a good friend, someone you can confide in? Is it someone who will speak honestly with you, and straighten you out when you go off the right path? Look around and pray: God will send you a sidekick!

As the nighttime descends on Victorian London’s underworld, the fog rolls across the cityscape, hiding a great many misdeeds. That’s usually when it is up to our team of heroes to catch those villains in the murky darkness. You can help: Don’t let the sun go down on your sinful nature – and don’t give the devil a chance. Stop sin’s diabolical plans, and you too can be like our hero in his battle against the gloomy shadows.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


As is our custom once a year around Chinese New Year, we popped in "Mulan," to be followed by "Mulan 2" tomorrow night. Madison has been sniffly again, so Mommy stayed home with her this morning when it was church time. It was a good service too, featuring a message "Who are You?" As we were with our Wonderland theme, the skit character was Absolem, played by Daddy who was dressed up as a giant caterpillar. It went really well, actually!

But before leaving for church, I told Madison we'd be watching "Mulan" later on. SO, the first outfit she put on was her Mulan dress. Incidentally, it looks nice on a new clothes rack that Mommy put in the play room. She got a smaller clothes rack so that Madison could hang all of her princess dresses on it. It's actually pretty full. Madison told me today though that her Alice dress doesn't fit anymore. We'll check on that - it'd be a pity not to be able to wear it one more time for this series we're doing at church.

Tonight, Madison seems to be doing better. She got lots of rest today, tucking herself in on the couch under some blankets and watching some television. We didn't do much that required movement today, Madison's health was one concern. The other reason was that Daddy was pretty worn out from another big work day yesterday. Madison's prayer this morning, "Help Daddy and the others at work."

She's such a sweetie!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Newspaper Rock

These appear to have been found on the rock side wall, deep within a canyon that has been only recently discovered. It sort of reminded Daddy of the petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock:

Of course, the drawings at the top were created by Madison. There is a lot unknown about the people who drew the petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock. But, based on this comparison, it is apparent that these drawings were made by Navajo children in pre-k. Newspaper Rock just so happened to be nearby their classroom, and the teacher was letting them draw for a bit to kill some spare time. That's my theory, anyway.

Though we may never know the real reason for Newspaper Rock, we do know what the creation at the top is: this is Madison's first attempt at a Valentine's Day card. You can see "I U" and all sorts of smiling faces. Also, on the other side of this, Madison wrote her own name. She's getting better and better at doing this, in fact. Here below are some more Valentines that Madison has made (that Daddy loves):

These show pictures of the three of us together, a happy family. And a random My Little Pony. It is such a blessing to see her rush toward us and thrust these at us, pointing out who is who on the drawings. There we are all, smiling together...

Today was a work day for Daddy, and a rather extensive one at that to boot. Madison spent the day with Mommy today, and is apparently a bit under the weather once more. She's getting the whole "sick thing" down though: she wants her cough syrup before bedtime, Mommy rubs a little vapor rub on her chest, and we even set up the vaporizer by her bed. It's this futuristic device that gurgles as it sits and watches over her sleeping, like some sort of watchful droid.

We'll take care of her, and keep her inside out of the cold tomorrow if need be. It's been quite a turn in the weather - yesterday was so bitterly cold. But it may be too little, too late: the precipitation isn't timing out with the cold weather this year, and so far, we've seen very little of the white stuff falling from the skies. This shows just how much of an amazing event it was to have such a White Christmas last year, and how blessed we were. This year, we just have cold and wet. But we're still nonetheless grateful for the rain: Lake Lanier is back to being terribly low.

Some days are like this, somewhat gloomy or sickly. Yet we search for the bright spots in each one, otherwise you sink into the mire yourself. The bright spot for us, of course, is always Madison. And today's bright spot are these wonderful little cards she was making.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Be Our Guest

Tonight we treated ourselves to the movies. We hadn't been since "The Muppets" in November, and part of that was due to our busy schedule. Another part may have been trying to find something appropriate that Madison can watch. The final part may be the price: going to the movies is a big commitment! For the three of us to go tonight (with one popcorn and a drink to share), it cost us $50. For comparison, we recently bought tickets to Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey's Circus for three of us. Yes, we took advantage of a sale, but still: that was actually cheaper.

So we don't go to the movies as much. Which is why this one was pretty special. Mommy and Madison met Daddy outside the church, waiting in the car, and looking like this. They had their animal hats on, and both looked adorable!

We drove over to the theater together and got our spots in the back row. Daddy got a tub of popcorn roughly the size of Madison, and placed it in her lap - where it would stay the rest of the night. We did not finish that popcorn!

The movie was good. Of course, it was! How many times had we seen "Beauty and the Beast" before? Plenty. But it still had a different look about it, so vibrant and clear. It made you notice things you hadn't before, which is a good thing. Madison was completely focused, sitting there with her 3D glasses on with an oversized tub of popcorn in her lap. I wish I had a camera for that image, but I don't think I'll forget it either.

Coincidentally, it was 365 days ago that we saw "Beauty and the Beast," but in an altogether different format: on stage. It was quite an adventure of a night, and quite a memory! It is certainly unusual timing though - perhaps we should call today "Beauty and the Beast Day."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Crazy Windy!

Good golly, this has got to be the windiest day I've ever experienced in my lifetime. Just listen to it roar out there - I know we've got hurricane winds and the sorts of winds that come in on you when it is getting stormy outside. But those are brief compared to this assault we've endured here. It is so windy outside that there is a breeze coming through our master bathroom upstairs - I kid you not! We haven't finished the insulation in those storage areas yet, and the end result is a cold breeze coming out of a closet, going into that bathroom and now under the door into our master bedroom. We've actually got towels rolled up and wedged under the doors to barricade ourselves from the frigid onslaught. This is quite amazing!

I suppose we have it coming though. I mean, the temperature has been so warm lately that one of these fronts had to come through and punish us. You can see old Snow Miser getting ticked off at his brother for stepping in on his turf here.

It is under this sort of template that Madison and Daddy braved the elements to go out and practice ballet. As I carried her across the parking lot, she threw her arms into my jacket and burrowed her head into my neck and shoulders as best as she could. The funny thing was that it was pretty warm - and rainy - this morning. Now winter is ticked off!

This sort of weather didn't come along until late afternoon/early evening, so we did spend a bit of time on the road today. Stop #1 was Madison's dentist. There are still some areas of concern, but overall, she's doing fine. Madison got an "Ariel" toothbrush, choosing that one over "Belle." This may be significant - we'll keep you posted with further updates here. All kids get "the bag." You know the one: it has floss in it, toothpaste, and some sort of treat picked out of the treasure chest. Madison remembered the treasure chest vividly. This morning before we even got there at the dentist - keep in mind her last visit was several months ago - she was talking about that treasure chest. It's a funny thing how some kids now actually want to go to the dentist. I'm not sure if I ever did. But then again, we were never catered to. I still recall some of the horrors to this day, and it pleases us to no end that Madison doesn't mind getting her teeth looked at so much. Of course, with life in an orphanage for two years, you can expect some catching up to do in that department. This is why we're making sure she gets to the dentist frequently.

We did some Kinect games today, and had a funny moment: Mommy had a visit to the hair salon this morning, and was talking to her hair stylist about the game system. It turns out this other person has one too. Anyway, this person said that she thought all Kinect systems come with this particular game: "Kinect Adventures." Well, on Christmas day, Daddy opened our system and found it came with two games, but didn't look any further for this one. With Madison and Mommy looking on, today I opened the box once more and whoa! There's an entire other video game in there! We never even saw it. I just think that's funny because the thing has been sitting in there since Christmas and we've had no idea.

Moving on: Daddy wrote another message today, totaling six that are related to the upcoming theme: "Get a Clue." Simultaneously, he's been reading TONS of material by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have nearly all the books of Sherlock Holmes read. During ballet practice, late at night, early in the morning - it's a sort of addiction. It's also "research," so that makes it okay. In the meantime, we've been watching all sorts of related movies as well. Tonight's feature was "Sheerluck Holmes," featuring the characters from Veggie Tales. Madison and Daddy watched it as the wind roared outside.

Certain areas are seeing snow tonight - not sure if that'll be us. I suppose we'll find out tomorrow. One thing's for sure, I'm not going out there tonight. I might get blown away!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cabbages and Kings

"The Walrus and the Carpenter." Okay, so this is one strange story. Stranger still is the fact that Daddy used it to make a point with in tonight's children's service. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum returned to tell Alice the unusual tale, which featured a walrus, a carpenter, and about five brave oysters. We had fun with this skit today, actually, and the kids in the audience seemed to really respond to it as well. Actually, this is clearly the best series we've ever done with the kids. I had that feeling the last time we did it, and it's back. I just love Wonderland for some reason.

Madison does too, of course. We were there a few times this morning, via the Kinect system and a Disneyland game. It's been fun going about Disneyland, and of course Wonderland, exploring and meeting new characters. Madison is especially good at spotting Hidden Mickeys. This is something she gets from her Mommy and Daddy. We've been experts at finding them every time we go to the park. We have checklists and books, and Madison is along for the fun. It isn't necessarily and obsession, mind you. It's just something that's a little fun to do while going around the parks and resorts.

Speaking of Disney, today at lunch Daddy came home to find Madison in her Cinderella dress again. If there's one thing to get her at Christmas time, it's a new princess dress. This year we didn't have an opportunity to find her one (although we did get her the Cinderella dress just prior to going to Disney). Still, Daddy sort of wished he got her a new dress. God is good: Madison got a few new princess dresses this year, these from the Irlbecks when we visited. Their girls had grown out of them, and what better place to donate some beautiful dresses than to Madison? It was so nice to see.

Madison looks radiant in her princess dresses. She chooses different ones to wear each week, depending on her frame of mind. She doesn't wear them all day, but does want to wear them frequently during the week, maybe for an hour or two. She'll even wear the shoes - you can hear her clip-clopping on the hard floor around the house!

What a moment as Daddy is about to rush back to work - he turns to see our Cinderella sort of standing there by herself in the great room. And she wants her Daddy. Immediately, the song "Cinderella," by Steven Curtis Chapman comes to mind, doesn't it? It did for me. The point of the song is to cherish every moment with our daughter, which Daddy did: I danced with Cinderella. I got down on my knees so I was roughly her height, and the two of us embraced, and slowly twirled to the music of our imagination.