Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gotcha Day 2012

Well, it was a slightly busy day - as we had a new series to set up for, and pretty much everyone Daddy works with was gone for the Forward Conference in Atlanta.  It was a quite day, and we were grateful to be working fervently inside.  Get this:  the temperature outside was close to 110 degrees.  I mean, it's ridiculous enough for us to get up to 100 degrees, but then add another 10 degrees?  Seriously?  This is pretty epic on the hot scale.  The last time I experienced temps like this was in China, and before that the Utah and New Mexico deserts.  But there really is something to this "dry heat" stuff.  The desert heat wasn't as bad as China, and now this.  Everyone is staying indoors - for their own good.  It's actually potentially dangerous for young ones and elderly to be out in this sort of sudden heat.  

Anyway, as mentioned earlier, today was a busy day.  We had a lot of stuff to carry about - even Madison tried to do some weightlifting!

She bends down and gets ready for a clean lift.  It looks like Madison is going to attempt quite a feat here, and Olympic record.  Each one of those weights looks to be about 500 pounds!  And we're not talking English currency here either - if she is successful here, there's no question we'll see her in London competing against the other champions...

And there it is!  She's completely hoisted those weights above her head for a massive record.  Such power!  She's got some serious muscles there, and what a winning smile there too!  She's won the competition, and won the audience over too!

We've had a heavy duty day today, with lots to do.  As you can see above, the new Olympic-themed set is in place, along with a few props.  We'll be celebrating something else here in a bit, but in the meantime, here's an entry in our Olympic-themed devotional, all about weightlifting:

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 NIrV

     It’s time to pump you up!  Do you want to have some serious spiritual muscles?  Do you want to have real strength available when you need it?  If so, then it’s time to get in shape and do some spiritual bodybuilding!
     The exercise part is common sense:  in order to build your spiritual muscles, you have to spend more time with God.  Strength training requires time spent each day working out.  The more you do it, the bigger your muscles.  And the bigger your muscles, the more you’ll feel confidence in every step.
     To get that kind of sureness, there’s a lot of training involved.  In the 2008 Olympic weightlifting competition, the gold medal champion was asked who he thought was the most talented athlete there.  His answer:  himself. 
     Talk about confidence!  But he explained, “It was very hard, I’ve worked very hard for this gold medal for a long time.  I expected the competition to be very difficult, but at home I can lift even heavier.”
      If you want that same walk of confidence, it is key to set aside time each day to read God’s Word, and spend time in prayer at home.  Don’t forget to stretch your faith before each session – God will be your spotter!  He’ll stay by you, closer than a brother, an uplifting source of real power.
      Remember that He is the ultimate weightlifter:  when you are weak, He is strong.  If you are feeling weary and burdened, cast your cares upon Him and He will carry you. 
     Let’s get back to the bench, and start building up those spiritual muscles.  It’s time to pump you up! 


     So here we are four years later already.  Daddy wanted to do something nice today, but we were all so busy with work that we just couldn't celebrate exactly on the day so much.  We did tell her the story, and we did watch the slideshow video that Daddy made - in fact, we must have seen that thing about ten times today!  You can see it for yourself here if you want.

     Madison was quite helpful today putting booklets and pencils in chairs, and helping clean up around the place.  Everything looks ready for tomorrow, and hopefully all will turn out well.  Afterwards, we'll rest a bit and get some time off together.  It'll be a very pleasant next few days, in fact, as we actually don't have any school Monday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.  Additionally, Daddy is off for the Fourth of July, so things are good there for all of us to have a good time doing something - though it may have to be an inside something.  This temperature is HOT!

"Me mind on fire, me soul on fire, feeling hot, hot, hot.  Party people all around me, feeling hot, hot, hot." - Buster Poindexter

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wenlock and Izzy

Part of Mommy's work on the new Olympics-themed display case is an ordered item, a plush version of the London 2012 Olympic mascot, seriously one of the strangest mascots since Izzy in 1996.  Wenlock looks pretty much like a Cyclops Gumby (which would be a great rock band name), and looks a little more like something you'd find in a test tube versus your traditional cuddly little mascot.  Here, take a look at the guy - he's in Madison's clutches:

That one good eye is staring right at you, analyzing your weaknesses!  Like I said, Wenlock is bizarre, but doesn't quite take the cake as worst mascot ever.  That dubious honor would have to go to Izzy, and I'm sad to say that Izzy represented our 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.  Here he is, for those of you who attempted to repress his imagery from your memory:

No one was quite sure what he was, which was part of the concept.  People asked, "What is he?"  Hence the term "Izzy."  And thus, a legend was born!  The thing was, most of us were asking "what is he?" in a not-so-cute sort of way.  It was almost a "Okay, so what on earth is this weird looking thing?"  Looking at it right now, I'm so ashamed to be from Georgia!  This would be okay if we were doing some sort of kindergarten sporting event for a local county festival.

And that's probably some people are saying about Wenlock right now in London.  You British people:  I feel your pain.  It's the pain of having a really odd mascot.  Just four years ago, we had some pretty epic mascots from China.  Remember these mascots?

Yes, now those were cool.  There's Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and Nini.  I remember being in China with Madison when there were actual cartoons with these characters in them.  Sure, there were five, but are five rings so it sort of made sense.  And each one was uniform with the others, yet different enough that you could tell which one was which.  Obviously, I couldn't spout out their names right now, but there's no denying these were good mascots.

Madison has a stuffed version of each, although we don't play around much with them.  They were purchased in China when we were there to meet her for the first time, so they're pretty valuable in our minds - although they were probably made pretty cheaply.  It's funny how much value something gets just because of the association it has with an event in our lives.  We could have picked up a rock while in China, and the thing would have been priceless to us because it was picked up on the day we met Madison.  Speaking of which, guess what tomorrow is?  It's a big day!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rain Forest

Today was Madison's last day at Challenged Child (for Summer School, at least).  She'll be going to speech therapy the next few weeks up until school, and I'm delighted to report that she's been getting better and better each day with her pronunciations.  As a parting gift, she got a "passport," which you can see a page of above - it's the day they talked about the rainforest.  To complete the theme, Daddy read her Jan Brett's book, "The Umbrella," and he even wore his Rainforest Cafe shirt.  Madison remembers the Rainforest Cafe - early on, it was a favorite destination of ours in Orlando.  Although the first time we went there, she'd get upset at the rainstorms and thunder that happened inside.

Today we returned to the library, moving along quite briskly with our reading program.  We've notched off about thirteen books towards our goal of fifty, and at this rate should be done right on time at the end of July.  Madison is very goal oriented, and is quite helpful getting Daddy to input the IBN codes for each book!  

Do you know what we did this afternoon?  Madison and Daddy had a proper thumb-wrestling session. Daddy explained the rules and we were off and going for the gold medal against each other.  What started it all out was Madison's discover of some thumb covers - last seen on the pages of this blog here.  In any event, she slipped on Chun Li over her thumb, and Daddy fought against her using another character.  It was a glorious event filled with quite a bit of action, but Madison wound up on top, pinning Daddy down with some expert moves.  The crowd applauded loudly, and gave her a big thumbs up!

The temperature is climbing out there - this will be a few days where we'll be staying indoors.  The temperature didn't quite break 100 yet, but we're clearly on our way there tomorrow.  Today was only supposed to be 97 or so, but the reading was telling me 99 in the car.  Yikes!  Madison and Daddy were out and about to the bank, library and grocery store - after which Daddy was outside grilling some of the tastiest hot dogs you can imagine.  We had a lovely day as a family!  Mommy and Daddy even had a breakfast date - we dropped Madison off for school this morning and headed over to Chick-Fil-A for some quiet time together.  Immediately after that, while Madison was still in school, Daddy went over to the lung doctor.  Yesterday, Daddy got into an airlock and did all these crazy breathing tests that made him gag a lot.  The end result is an inhaler.


That's about all my experience with an inhaler - watching Mikey from "The Goonies."  The doctor used the phrase "cough variant asthma," which I'm not entirely sure about.  But after the last couple usages, I'm thinking the inhaler helping me out a bit.  I'm still thinking/hoping this is all related to the pancreatitis, and after a bit I'll be back to normal.  But in the meantime, the inhaler is actually helping a bit.

"Goonies never say die!" - Mikey

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Arizona Olympics

We got our Olympic flag pretty quickly, as you can see here.  The idea is to have it on display during our series, unless of course the Olympic Committee comes after us for one reason or another!  They're a bit notorious in this regard, which is why we're avoiding direct references to the words "Olympics" or having the rings in our logos anywhere.  But it should be okay here hopefully!  Take a look at some of Madison's Olympic-themed handiwork of late:

She was particularly proud of the fact that she got the rings in the right place on this one.  Here below is another picture we received from school, a photo of our own little Olympic champion:

You go, girl!  She's earned a gold medal in the "cute" category.  She's faced a lot of stiff competition, but got a world record in cuteness just by showing up!

Today Daddy picked up Madison from school, with just one more day to go at Challenged Child.  On the way home, we stopped by the new Racetrac for some Arizona Ice Tea!

Let me just go ahead and say that I've probably been drinking this tea for longer than you.  Twenty years ago, I thought the bottles were so cool, I started actually collecting them.  The designs and the artwork have always been unique - in fact, it's been mentioned before on this blog.  In any event, today Daddy was a proud parent, because Madison has now sampled her first Arizona Ice Tea - and she likes it!  I'm not keeping the bottle or anything, of course.  But it was one of those Daddy-Madison moments that we got to share together, both sipping away at a sweet tea.  In Madison's own words, "Mmmm!  Delicious!"

Today's theme at school was Hawaii.  It was another excuse to have a wet day, which is always good.  But Mommy dressed Madison in her hula skirt and packed a few Hawaiian items as well.  At school, Madison learned a bit about Hawaii, but had fun with crafts and making a volcano.  When she got home, she was so inspired by Hawaii that she had herself the ultimate Lilo & Stitch marathon.  We had four movies all lined up, and I think she may have watched all of them over the course of the rest of the day.

The reason we headed to the great indoors is this:  it's too hot outside.  Daddy was working, of course.  But outside, the temperature is soaring.  In fact, it's heading to dangerous territory.  This Saturday, some meteorologists are calling for temperatures to be as much as 108 degrees.  That's before the heat index!  That is absolutely insane.  Ironically, the last time I've experienced a temperature that hot outside, it was in China.  I use the word ironically because Saturday is a big day for us:  it's Gotcha Day!

It's this time of year that our thoughts go over to China, and the remarkable journey we took already four years ago.  How time races by!  Four years ago, everyone there was getting ready for the Olympics - and here we are again doing just the same.  Four years ago, we were getting ready to meet Madison - and here we are again, this time more blessed than ever before.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jake et les Pirates du Pays Imaginaire

When Daddy came home, Madison was babbling.  It was a a definite babble though, as if she was trying to tell me something - but Daddy wasn't quite understanding a word of it.  Fortunately Mommy came to the rescue with an explanation:  Madison had accidentally flipped on the French version of "Jake and the Neverland Pirates."  Rather than reset things, Madison told Mommy she wanted to watch it in French!

For a while, she continued speaking "French" to us, and of course we had to respond likewise as best we could.  We threw in an occasional "bonjour" and a "s'il vous plaĆ®t" for good measure.

It's difficult enough for Madison to speak simple English at the moment - we have funny speech exercises with Madison occasionally, where we attempt to tackle certain challenging letters for her.  The letter "R" is a tough one, and sometimes the letter "L."  Daddy was feeling triumphant tonight when Madison said the simple word, "Hello."  Up until recently, it's been pronounced, "Henno."  But Madison smiled and could have danced all night when she realized she was speaking correctly.  And Daddy was exclaiming to the whole house, "We did it!"  

"The French don't care what they do actually, as long as they pronounce it properly." - Professor Henry Higgins

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hitting the Target

After school today we scored a bullseye when we went to see "Brave."  The theater was packed!  It was a fun movie with some scary parts and some funny parts:  Madison really enjoyed it.  For her birthday, she got the Tag book based on the movie, and also the game for her Explorer.  Does it not seem like archery is the theme of the year for movies?

Here's just another example - Madison knows Hawkeye from the movie posters and legos.  We noted this here on our blog a few weeks ago that archery is the weapon of choice for movies this year - maybe we'll take Madison out to an archery range here soon.  OR, we could wait until our next trip to Disney World.  She's old enough now - perhaps we could try our hand with a bow and arrow at Ft. Wilderness?

Today was a school day for Madison, but the rest of the day was fun for the whole family:  we went home after the movie and spent time together playing games, practicing piano and building castles.  Madison has been working on her Lego Empire some more, and has actually built a large castle in front of the fireplace.  Occasionally, the Luxury Assault Vehicle will drive up to visit.

I'd like to say that in honor of our movie today, we had a Scottish feast for dinner.  But I don't think Madison is ready for haggis yet.  Daddy is quite a bit older than she is, and he still isn't ready for haggis yet.  Not with ingredients like these:

  • 1 sheep stomach
  • 1 sheep liver
  • 1 sheep heart
  • 1 sheep tongue
  • 1/2 pound suet, minced
  • 3 medium onions, minced
  • 1/2 pound dry oats, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried ground herbs
Uh... yeah.   Why does it seem that most Scottish cuisine is based on a dare?

"I am Merida, and I'll be shooting for my own hand!" 
- Princess Merida

Coconuts and Bamboo

Here's a photo of Daddy as his character, Professor Wisenheimer.  He seems to be able to create anything at all strictly from coconuts and bamboo.  Sure, occasionally there are other ingredients like shells or pineapples.  But it's all gotta' have coconuts and bamboo in it - and that's just one of the running jokes of the series.

It just so happens that there is, of course, a Professor character on the Gilligan's Island television show.  I'm nothing like Russell Johnson, of course.  But some of our other characters match up pretty well, most notably our Skipper, Mary Anne, Ginger and Mrs. Howell. The kids in our audience have loved this series quite a bit - just about as much as the actors.  What's amazing is that I've basically lifted a lot of the plotlines from actual episodes from the television show.  These kids have not seen those original episodes though, so all of this neat material is completely new to them.  For example, today's skit had to do with our Gilligan character becoming a human radio.  Every time he opened his mouth, a different musical number would play (only to abruptly shut off when he closed his mouth).

Sadly, we've come to the end of this series again - but I've got to say that this was the best version of it we've ever done.  All the actors were splendid.  Hey, you want to know something?  We checked out the real Professor's website, and he's got posted a map of where Gilligan's Island would be on a map, based on a fan's calculations.  Just because I can, here it is below:

To make it easy, I'll tell you where it is:  look to the right of Hawaii.  It's the right-most island there is, just north of the red word "EQUATOR."

Daddy grew up with Gilligan's Island, Get Smart and a bunch of other television shows from that era.  They're still funny too - we're glad they're available on DVD sets.  We plunder these shows for great jokes, one-liners and interesting concepts.  And based on today's reaction from the kids, it's all good!

Shift of gears:  after church today, we met up with a very nice family.  The reason for our meeting:  a discussion about their upcoming trip to China.  Yes, Madison may have a new friend soon, a young boy who just turned four.  He's currently in China, but this family will be heading over there very soon.  We were able to give some limited advice based on our experience, but it's been about four years now since we've gone.  Hopefully we were helpful with a few areas.  As we talked, Madison and their other children played different games in the recreation room of the church.  She was having a great time with them!

We'll meet up with them again soon enough, I'm sure.  For one, Daddy was wanting to put together some Chinese music for them, and maybe find a few children's DVDs that have a Chinese theme.

It'll be good to have another friend from China, although Madison makes friends with anyone pretty quickly.  She'll have her own fan club some day!

Today, Daddy had to finish creating his "Go the Distance" books - our upcoming series has an Olympic series as you can see here:

"Yeah!  I did it!"

We struggled with a title for this one - titles like "Olympia" and "Go for the Gold" were early candidates.  But then right there in the middle of Summer Xtreme we were singing that song from "Hercules" and realized the title would work out pretty well.  Plus, it's tied to one of our favorite Disney movies, and it has that Greek thing going for it too with that tie-in.  So "Go the Distance" it is, and now every time we see that title, we're singing that song...!

Here's another message for our new series, based on running the race:

      On your mark.  Get set.  GO!  The race is on, and the fastest athletes in the world are competing for the ultimate prize.  Of all the sports mentioned in the Bible, this one may be the biggest and most exciting.  In the New Testament, Paul mentioned racing many times, and in many different books of the Bible.  And as we look to the sport of racing, we too can learn from Paul what it’s like to really run the race!
     For example, one thing Paul told us is this:  Don’t look back.  When running the race, he wrote that we should forget what is behind us – and push hard toward what is ahead.  When we become Christians, our past is past.  Don’t go back to your old way of thinking, and don’t let regret consume you.  It’s time to move forward and win that race!
      Another thing he told us is that there is a crowd of witnesses cheering you on.  Know that you aren’t in this race alone.  People are praying for you, and God Himself wants you to finish that race!  Don’t let anyone down – Olympic history is filled with dramatic stories of athletes who refused to quit, even despite a terrible injury.  Their only thought:  crossing that finish line.  You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!
     As you look to that crowd, remember this: You’re here to represent.  In the Olympics, each nation has sent it’s best and brightest, with the highest hopes of getting gold.  In this lifetime, you represent your family, your church, your nation, and God Himself.  Do your best and don’t let anyone down.  Soon, you’ll be standing on the podium with all eyes on you as your anthem plays – how sweet the sound!
      Paul must have been a runner himself, and no doubt he himself was standing on that champion’s podium, victorious until the end.  And just like with him, everyone will be filled with pride at your accomplishment as well, just so long as you run that race!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Luxury Assault Vehicle

Yesterday, Mommy spotted this opportunity at Lowe's, and Daddy signed us up quicker than you can say, "Afro Circus!"  This morning, he and Madison went downtown to the hardware store in order to create the ultimate project:  A Luxury Assault Vehicle.  The name itself compels you to come, doesn't it?  We extended the invitation to another family, and were delighted they could come - it was a Luxury Assault Vehicle assembly line!  In fact, there were quite a bit of kids there:  nearly twenty or so.

Madison got her own hammer, nails and the different pieces of wood - and then step by step, we began to assemble the perfect LAV.  There were a couple places where Daddy had to drive the nails in, but on the whole I'd say Madison did about 85% of the work on this one.  We were a perfect team, and she had a great time doing some carpentry in the morning.  When she was done, she even got her own merit certificate!

"Sounds like, uh... tiny hammers?"
- The Santa Clause 2

Friday, June 22, 2012


Madison got a birthday present from Florida, a purse/pet that you see below:

We wanted to send a photo to Joanne, the very nice woman who sent Madison her present.  Joanne lives nearby Ba-Ba and Nana, and we get to see her each time we come down for a visit.  She's a sweet woman, and it was nice of her to send Madison something for her birthday.  She named her new pet Violet for some reason - the two are posed outside again, and as you can see, Madison wanted to look all fancy for her portrait:  she has her plastic earrings, and a bit of lip gloss as well.  Both of these are recent birthday presents.

Doesn't she look just fabulous?

"I need a little fabulous, is that so wrong?" 
- Sharpay Evans

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Magical Library

Today we dropped by the library for a routine visit - and lo, it just so happened there was a magician there, about to do a show for the children.  We had not planned this in advance, but it just so happened our schedule was such that we could all stay and enjoy the show.  And boy, did Madison enjoy the show.  Mr. Keith, shown above, had her laughing all the way through with silly tricks, and even some ventriloquism.  What a pleasant surprise!

While we were at the library, we signed Madison up for the summer reading program.  We set a goal, but in retrospect, it was probably a bit on the low side.  We estimated she would read about fifty books from the library.  Today alone she read five - with Mommy's help, of course.  I imagine that in five weeks, we'll have met the goal.  After that it's all bonus:  she gets thirty dollars for each extra book she reads!

Just kidding.  She just gets the satisfaction of completing a big reading goal.  But that's not all - the library will give her the book of her choice (from their selection), and a certificate.  Also, her name goes on a wall of fame.  AND, the fact that she's on a reading program and completing it will be sent to her school, who just might further honor her with something.  We're not sure about that though.

Anyway, today alone she finished five books with Mommy.  Later on, Daddy will input the IBN numbers and she'll have five down on her account.  She'll be reading champion!

Also from the library, we picked up some movies.  One of them was our movie selection for tonight, "The Rescuers."  Do you remember that movie?  Daddy remembers seeing it YEARS ago, and this evening we saw it again.  Everyone got together on the couch, snuggled, ate popcorn and watched Bianca and Bernard go the rescue.  It was a fun movie, though certainly dated.  Still, it was enjoyable for the whole family.

"That's what Rufus said! 'Faith makes things turn out right.'" 
- Penny

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Look at all those rings - our daughter thinks she's Liberace!  She's seen here, practicing a tune about mice that she happens to like a bunch.  Music class doesn't begin for another few months, but Mrs. Pam was good to give us a practice schedule over the summer.  We still reward her with Mom Bucks, which Madison typically turns in for time spent playing video games.  

Madison's been good to practice when instructed.  Her memory in certain areas can be a little rusty, but when she gets the hang of things, she's got it all worked out pretty quickly.  This applies to her speaking ability as well - she needs occasional reminders about pronouncing letters.  Hey, speaking of which, here's an email I got from her:


“I had to dare a little bit. Who am I kidding-I had to dare a lot. Don't wear one ring, wear five or six. People ask how I can play with all those rings, and I reply, "Very well, thank you."”
- Liberace

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Secret World

We had a funny story this morning - a made-up story.  Madison wanted to hear about Indiana Jones, Marion and Short Round (she likes Marion better than Willie).  This is all based on her memory of the Lego Indiana Jones game, where Marion was apparently the queen.  In any event, as with most of the stories, Madison tells part of it:  today she wanted ten robots to battle.  Apparently they were at our community playground, with the sinister purpose of stealing all the slides and jungle gym equipment.  Fortunately, Indiana Jones, Marion and Short Round were there to stop the robots:  and here's where it suddenly turned into a bizarre math lesson!

Indiana Jones used his whip to smack three of the robots into the pool, so how many were left?

Madison:  "Seven!"

Marion bonked two on the head with a frying pan.  How many are left now?

Madison:  "Five!"

Short Round did a karate chop and knocked two into each other.  Now how many are left?

Madison:  "Three!"

Finally, the three heroes each tied up a robot.  How many are left now?

Madison:  "None!"

It seems as if Indiana Jones and company are the heroes of made-up stories lately.  Just last week, we had an fun series of stories where a bad guy took one of the gold medals from the Olympics.  He ran into the gymnastics arena, across the balance beam, over the vault, up on the rings and swinging over to a trampoline.  Of course, our heroes had to follow carefully - you can imagine the descriptions of both of these stories as Madison and Daddy make up the adventure as they go along.  Each day, the bad guy would lead them on a chase through pools, diving boards, cycling tracks, and more.  One day, the bad guy was launching shot puts and discusses at our heroes - but no javelins.

Too bad Daddy has to drop her off at school!  But that's the way the stories work:  there's always a cliffhanger, just like in an old serial television show.  What happens to our heroes?  You'll have to join us tomorrow!

School has been fun for Madison, who has been doing all sorts of crafts - and learning a thing or two in speech class.  Today's lessons were focused on the endings of words, so it's been good practicing with Madison at home.  She is getting better when she puts her attention to pronouncing things correcting - classes help her keep that focus.  She has a ways to go, but there's no question she's been improving gradually.  We're glad to have her in classes.

Daddy had to work much of the day, but tonight he hurried home for spaghetti - and a movie!  It was movie night for the three of us, so together we sat down together with a big tub of popcorn and watched "The Secret World of Arrietty."

It was a fabulous movie that kept the three of us engrossed until the end.  These animated movies are always so different, and such a joy to watch.  This was Madison's first experience with anything animated from Japan, and anything Miyazaki.  Josh and Daddy are big fans of Hayao Miyazaki - and sometime soon, maybe Madison will be enjoying movies like "My Neighbor Totoro" or even Daddy's favorite: "Spirited Away."

Daddy isn't a huge Japanese animation fan, but these movies transcend all that, and are a sheer joy to watch.

Tonight was no different.  It was so nice for the three of us to sit together on the couch and relax.  And munch on popcorn too, of course.  Now, thanks to this movie, we know just what happens to all the little pieces that fall to the floor.  And any other little bits we won't miss...

"My mother, father and I are all borrowers. We borrow things like soap and cookies and sugar - things that beans don't miss if they're gone."
- Arrietty

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wilson the Volleyball

It's an interesting story how Wilson the Volleyball came to be in our hands.  It was some time ago when we were in Hong Kong that we saw the unusual volleyball along the shoreline.  Apparently, he'd been adrift for weeks - maybe more.  Daddy recognized him immediately and we picked the poor guy up.  I mean, seriously, nobody else was willing to take care of the little guy, so there we were.  He'd been floating for quite some time in the water, and was in rather sad shape to be honest.  So, being the big-hearted people we were, we sort of adopted Wilson into our family, thinking some day he'd be ready to move on.

As you can see in the photo above, he's not quite ready to move away from us - he's been happy and smiling ever since.  As Mary Anne dances the hula, Wilson the Volleyball can be seen on our latest set for our series, "Castaway Cove."  It's a perfect fit for him really - he's got the castaway experience, and he's really been a scene stealer as of late!  Speaking of which, check out this picture below:

Here are a couple scene-stealers!  Wilson is enjoying some down time at the house with Madison, out on the front porch.  The two have hit it off together very well - and as you can see in this photo, he's had a pretty good haircut too.  This makes him a bit more manageable around the house, and it also cuts down on our need to vacuum so much.  Plus, we can have fun playing catch!

Daddy has been doing a ton of made-up stories with Madison lately, which challenges and stretches the imagination.  One such story involved Madison and Wilson on a castaway island - and Madison insisted that Storm was there with her.  Yes, it was the three of them:  Madison, Wilson and Storm.  As a reminder for those unfamiliar with Storm, she's one of the X-Men, a superhero with the ability to control certain aspects of the weather.

Needless to say, it was a very unusual story.  It was handy having someone who could control the weather around the place, as whenever you needed rainwater, there it was.  Also, she provided a nice breeze for the sails on their boat when it was constructed.  However, unlike in the movie "Cast Away," Wilson managed to stay on board the boat.

"Hey, you want to hear something funny? My dentist's name is James Spalding."
-Chuck Noland

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day 2012

Happy Father's Day!

We had church this morning, as is our custom - but we were honestly a bit wiped out after such a big day yesterday.  And it's cumulative:  we had a huge week before that with Summer Xtreme.  Still, today's service was really good, with all the people involved coming through in a great way.  The kids had a great time, and it was neat that Madison got to come as well - she was wearing her sparkly bling shirt she got yesterday from one of our friends.  It was glitter, and that glitter was coming off everywhere.  Madison called it "pixie dust," and by my estimation, there's enough on the couch to make it fly out the door and off to Neverland.  Or Mars.

Today we were resting a bit, although Madison wasn't in the mood for that too much - not with so many unexplored birthday presents lurking in the house!  We played Lego Star Wars for a bit, and also used our new Tag book based on the upcoming movie "Brave."

A little later, we piled into the car and visited with Ye-Ye to wish him a happy Father's Day.  We spent quite a bit of time there, actually.  They're planning a big hike for an entire week along the Appalachian Trail, so we're sort of involved in that, helping with some behind-the-scenes stuff.  That's a big endeavor, one that Mommy and Daddy honestly aren't interested in at this point.  Sure, we'd hike for a day or so - but if we're going to take a week off, we'd probably need to do something a little different.  Still, Ye-Ye and Nana are not doing this alone:  along for the walk are Aunt Shain, David Austin, Jonathan and even Hannah.  They're bringing tents, food, and even a few dogs!  It should be an exciting adventure - hopefully they'll take lots of photos for it.

Our upcoming adventure is going to be a little bit different.  Okay, a lot different:  we're going on that Disney Cruise in less than two months!  We're still waiting on Madison's passport, based on a few technical difficulties we weren't advised about at the office:  we got a letter asking for one document that we actually had with us the day we went to the office to apply!

Still, nothing can dampen our spirits about the upcoming trip.  It should be a remarkable occasion, and we're certainly looking forward to spending time with some of the other families with children from China that we haven't seen in a while.  It's going to be another unforgettable trip!

Meanwhile, the cleaning has begun.  This house, as you can imagine, has been somewhat neglected.  Mommy and Daddy have begun excavating and driving things out - but this will clearly take time.  We'll probably tackle this a bit more when we have more energy.  IF we have more energy.

Tonight before bedtime, Madison gave Daddy his Father's Day present.  All wrapped up in pink tissue paper was the movie, "A Game of Shadows."  Obviously, Mommy had a lot to do with this!  This was one movie we were wanting to watch back in December, but things sort of got sidelined with all the other events going on.  In any event, it was good to finally see the latest Sherlock Holmes movie:  we both enjoyed it quite a lot.  Again, Daddy is a big Sherlock Holmes fan - look back to this past February for further proof of that.

It was a very nice Father's Day when I look back on it.  We had some work and another early day, but it all turned out well, which tends to lift the spirits.  Spending time with family is another thing that does that.  Put that together with Lego Star Wars and Sherlock Holmes, and I'd say it was a perfect Father's Day!

"Slow and steady wins the race." - Sherlock Holmes

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Circus Party!

After Summer Xtreme each year, we're always zapped - but there's one big day left that we need to plan for:  Madison's birthday party!  We pooled our resources and pulled together an amazing event - and we have to give God credit for the grace over this day:  a lot of people came, and we were able to do nearly everything we wanted to, including this idea above:  a circus-themed photo booth.  Mommy had all kinds of props pulled, and everyone posed for clown photos against a backdrop that we bought just yesterday.  Actually, it's more like a tablecloth, but it works!  Even all the adults got into the act:

This was more for Madison's friends, who all came to the church and enjoyed running around playing air hockey and pool, and tag too.  The food was plentiful and delicious - Mommy really outdid herself with a circus-themed presentation that was really creative.  Daddy found the circus peanuts and we also got some animal cracker boxes.  Mommy took ice cream cones and made them into hats, and of course the cupcakes were all AFRO CIRCUS!

There was plenty of fruit and snacks, and of course the official party food:  pizza.  The kids ran around chasing each other as the adults watched nearby, talking and catching up.  Soon, however, it was time to sing Happy Birthday and blow out the candle!

This was the highlight of the day right here:  everyone singing Happy Birthday to Madison.  She laughed and giggled all the way through as we all joined in and sang her our song.  She was so very happy at this moment - it couldn't get any better.  Afterwards, she blew out the candle after a few attempts - and soon it was time for presents!

As you can see, the fun just didn't stop today, did it?  She was having a blast opening presents!  Here she is, discovering that she is now the owner of a Disney Princess Slip and Slide.  Yep, you'll be seeing pictures of that one soon!

After all the presents were opened, it was time for everyone to head off in their different directions.  But we were so grateful that they could all come.  It was such short notice, and Mommy and Daddy were quite weary from Summer Xtreme.  Still, there was so much support and such joy at the church today.  Madison was blessed beyond our expectations - and because of that, we ourselves were so very highly blessed.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Madison!

Guess who turned six years old today?  Daddy asked her last night, how old are you?

She replied, "I'm five."

"How old are you tomorrow?"


"How old the next day?"


At which point I informed her by next week, she'll be a teenager.  Still, that seems to be the way time has flown by lately.  Look at this blog, for example.  It doesn't seem like too long ago that it was started, and yet here we are almost three years later on it alone!

Madison opened her presents this morning - those she got from Mommy and Daddy.  And... that's the last we saw of her!  Seriously, one present - an Explorer game based on the upcoming movie "Brave" - kept her busy the entire day.  This was by design, as we had plenty to do to plan for her birthday party tomorrow.  Mommy did most of this work as Daddy went to church to plan for the weekend's service.  Work goes on - but tomorrow, we'll take a HUGE break to have a party.

Tonight before bedtime, Madison and Daddy played Lego Star Wars - the original version.  She hasn't seen that one yet, and the two of us played for about an hour.  She giggled all the way through, as Daddy realized she's pretty much played nothing but games all day long.  Still, could you imagine a better birthday?

Tomorrow will be great - the party will be so nice for Madison.  Mommy stayed up until 2:00 am working on food items and ideas to get it just right.  We'll need another break after this one!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

You're Not From Texas

Madison is into putting different outfits on her dolls, as seen here above.  It's actually a t-shirt from one of  Aunt Shain's teddy bears.  She happens to be a Texas fan for some reason, not that I have anything against Texas.  I'm not going to get into the Oklahoma vs. Texas sort of fight - I like both states pretty good.

Madison has been to neither so far.  Although it would be safe to say that she'd be in Texas before Oklahoma.  Size of the state alone would make that more probable.  That, and there's a whole lot more to do in Texas than Oklahoma.  Again, we'll chalk that up to state size.

A few years ago, Daddy went with some others in college to Oklahoma for a spring break.  While everyone else was heading to Daytona Beach or Panama City Beach, we went to Oklahoma.  Yes, we knew some people out there - it was somewhat odd to do this, but we were wanting to go do something different:  so there we were in Oklahoma.  It was a great visit, one that I'll never forget, actually.  And though the beach was a bit closer, I think we made the best choice.  Hopefully I'll scan some of those old photos to put here - it was a really fun trip!

As for Texas, we've been there plenty of times as well.  One time we flew there with the yearbook staff in high school to see the book publishing company.  I don't remember much from that trip except for the belgium waffles at a nice restaurant in Dallas.  I also remember the flight back from Dallas as one of the scariest I've ever experienced.  The turbulence was legendary, as were the long slow approaches to Atlanta (we made several attempts to land - the weather was so rough).  It was a fun trip, but it did put a dent in me when it comes to flying.  I'm not big on air travel, but I'm not like William Shatner in that Twilight Zone episode either.

Daddy's favorite parts of Texas are in the west, towards El Paso.  There's a middle-of-nowhere town called Van Horn which is pretty amazing.  Nearby is Guadeloupe Peak, the tallest point in Texas.  Yes, Daddy climbed that.  It was a while ago on a trip with Nana - we saw a bunch of New Mexico on that trip, but as you can expect, any journey west is going to include a lot of views of Texas.  It's a really big state.

Someday Madison will get to see Texas I'm sure.  Daddy is itching to take Madison out west, to get the cowboy hat on and see a dramatic change of scenery.  We'll stop by in Oklahoma too!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Blueberry Harvest

It wasn't too long ago that there was a neat discovery on our property:

Blueberries!  We've been watching them carefully over the past few months, just waiting for the moment that they'd be good enough to pick, so Daddy went out once again to check - and here's what we saw:

Don't they look delicious!  Yes, not all of them are ready yet, but there were certainly enough to gather!  So Mommy got a basket for Madison, and together we went to the blueberry bushes to collect yet another harvest!

Madison enjoyed picking the blue ones, but she never once gave in to the temptation to eat any.  Instead, she placed them in the basket that Mommy gave her, and circled the bushes, gathering the ones that looked the best - while avoiding those that weren't quite ready yet.  And speaking of ready, soon it was time to go inside and eat them!

We washed off the blueberries and placed them in a bowl for a healthy snack.  Madison was enjoying them quite a bit - she proclaimed to the entire room, "Dee-licious!"  Daddy and Mommy were outside (Daddy grilling hot dogs, while Mommy was fixing up the tomato garden), and by the time we got back inside, there weren't any blueberries left!

Mommy and Daddy complained, "But we wanted to try some of the blueberries!"

Madison smiled, and apologized by saying, "Too late!"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Madison vs. The Incredible Scorch

We had some fun with the Kinect again tonight, as you can see above.  There were some new applications in Kinect Labs, and we had a lot of fun trying them out.  We also had some fun sampling a few new game previews - one of them being Kinect Star Wars.  Daddy was not very good at pod racing, but Madison has apparently has a high midi-chlorian count:  she won first place a few times, where Daddy could never even crack the top three.  Go figure!

While serving up milk tonight, Daddy decided it would be fun to show that scene in Episode I:  the great pod race.  Madison enjoyed it very much, eyes glued to the big television.

Work today was somewhat like this:

As you can see, we're all still quite tired.  Mentally too - Summer Xtreme really took us out, and it might take a week to recover!  But there isn't much time for that:  we've got to prepare for a new series. Because our friend Josh loves the movie, we're going with the title "Go the Distance."  It's an Olympic-themed series, something Madison is just learning about in Summer School now:  she's made some crafts (first a torch, and now the Olympic rings using paint).  No doubt she'll be seeing a lot more of the Olympics - and so will you on these pages.  Daddy and Mommy have been to one Olympic Games, as we were blessed to have them so close in Atlanta.  Daddy used up all his vacation time to go to various events throughout the games:  basketball, dressage, jumping, rowing, track and field, baseball, soccer, and more.  The Olympics went to Australia and Greece next, but in 2008, they were hosted by China.  And lo, there Mommy and Daddy were again right in the middle of things.  We arrived just before the Olympic games and all the excitement that surrounds it - only we weren't there to see any sporting events.  We were there to see our little girl for the first time.

That was four years ago.  Can you believe it?  How it all goes by so fast.  Everyone knew London would host the next Olympics, but we never knew four years would go by so soon!

Daddy always wanted to go to the Olympics growing up.  There was something about the way it appeared on television, and something that drew me there.  What a dream it would be to actually travel to an Olympic Games.  When we discovered that Atlanta would host it, everyone scrambled for tickets.  What an amazing once-in-a-lifetime chance!  I remember not getting much initially when we hooked up with the lottery for tickets in advance.  I think we got rowing and equestrian dressage.  Still, that was an  honor to go.  But what happened next was odd to me:  tickets were available the day of the events, just by going to a venue and seeing what was available.  In that way, Daddy would wake up early each morning and make the drive to the rowing venue (Gainesville College back then).  He would stand in line and see what was available.

I remember Ye-Ye wanted to see the Men's Swimming competition most of all.  That's because he is a swimmer himself.  When the lottery determined that they weren't going to get these tickets, it was somewhat of a bummer.

And yet, the day of the event, Daddy got in line and saw the FINALS for this event available to buy!  Six in the morning!  Getting up early was finally paying off.  Daddy snatched those up so fast, and was honored to bless Ye-Ye and Nana with tickets to the Men's Swimming Finals.  I remember the moment I told Ye-Ye.  He already had tickets to rowing that day, and he wanted Daddy to go see the swimming instead.  But I wasn't having any of that:  Ye-Ye and Nana were going to go see the Men's Swmming Finals!

They told me that on their way in, people were offering all kinds of ridiculous money for their tickets - but they just kept walking by, and walking in to a seat at the place of  history.  America whooped up again!  They saw the event they always wanted to (while Daddy went to go see rowing with Aunt Shain and Uncle David).  I don't know who was happier - them, for getting to go, or me, for finding those tickets for them.  That was definitely a God moment - we were all so blessed.

As I said earlier, you'll be reading more as the Olympics approach, and maybe seeing some photos I'll scan as well.  In the meantime, here is the first message I've prepared for our upcoming series based on the Olympic Games, called "The Edge."  I sort of hit on the concept of archery a bit - it seems as if Hollywood is into the bow and arrow this year... here's the message:

     Easily one of the most thrilling events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was the Men’s 4X100 freestyle relay.  Each country had four swimmers swimming across the pool at amazing speeds, and many of those teams were way ahead of the world record.  By the last lap, it seemed as if the French team had things all wrapped up.  The announcers were already calling it a gold medal for France, who had a team member earlier exclaim that they would crush the United States in a race.  Yet, despite being a full body length back, U.S. team anchor Jason Lezak did the impossible:  he completed the fastest 100 meter freestyle split in history, and in the most thrilling finish of the Games, he helped the United States team win the gold by eight tenths of a second.     
     Eight tenths of a second:  that’s all that separated these two teams from gold and silver.  It’s such a sliver of time – it’s such an edge.  But that’s what it took to win.  And that’s what it will take for you to win:  the edge.
      How do you get this edge?  It takes something more.  More practice, more effort, more determination, more of everything.  If you want something you’ve never had before, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done before.  Like an Olympic athlete, you’ve got to train hard – and if you want gold, you’ll have to do more than anyone else.
      A long time ago, a king was asked by the prophet Elisha to do something simple:  get a bow, shoot an arrow, and strike the ground.  At this point, an Olympic archer would be delighted and filled with enthusiasm.  The king did as requested, but only struck the ground three times.  No doubt he felt foolish.  But the truth of the matter is he should have struck it many more times.  He should have done what God said with more passion, energy and determination.  Sadly, the king did not have that edge – and Elisha saw this.  More importantly, God saw too.
      The difference between those who win in life, and those who don’t, is the edge.  An archer aims for the target and will do all it takes to get a bulls eye.  You don’t have to be a hawk eye to be a champion – all you need is willpower, a sight set on the target, and faith in God to see you through.  All you need…is the edge. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Double Rainbow

Whoa, that's a whole rainbow - all the way!  It was actually a double rainbow, although that might not pick up in the photo so well.  Ye-Ye and Nana were on the phone with Daddy as they drove down the road not far from our house - they told us to go see if we could see what they were looking at:  a pretty strong rainbow.  Daddy went outside, and whoa!  That's a whole rainbow - all the way!

What does it mean?  It's so bright, so vivid.  So intense!

Mommy and Madison came out to look at it, as did a few of the neighbors.  This was one of those rainbows that had that kind of effect:  you just sat there for a long while and admired it.  I think this may be the strongest one we've seen since Hawaii, if that tells you something.

It was a fantastic day, one that saw quite a bit of rain - but still quite a bit of a good time with Madison.  Why is that?  Well, simply put it was finally time for us to join the Afro Circus!

This was an ongoing theme of Summer Xtreme, the quick soundbite "Afro Circus"has sort of been given a life of it's own.  It gets stuck in your head, the little song Marty the Zebra sings as he puts on the rainbow wig.  Friday, the kids all got to see that for Summer Xtreme - the older ones.  Today, Mommy, Madison and Daddy went to see the movie, and thought it was pretty good!  Actually, the more I think about it, the more I feel it is the best of the three movies.  Madison loved it too - she's been singing "Afro Circus" for the past few days, occasionally replacing the word "Afro" with "Apple."  Or "Banana."  One thing is clear:  she loves the Afro Circus.  Speaking of which, here's another rainbow!

This morning was the first day of Summer School, and once again we met Mrs. Julie and her new teacher's assistant, Mrs. Julie.  That's right, there are two Mrs. Julies.  And, in the class there are now three Madisons!  Yikes!  In class today, Madison made an Olympic torch out of a paper towel tube and some orange and yellow crepe paper.  The Olympics are going to be here pretty soon!

For dinner, we spent a gift card Mommy got for her birthday - it was for the Cracker Barrel.  Yummy!  We always enjoy eating there, and just like the last time, as soon as we got in, the rain poured down in a mighty way outside.  But don't worry.  We managed to stay dry, and made it home just in time to see it:  the double rainbow.  So intense!  What does it mean?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Our First Harvest

"To veg (informal) is to spend time relaxing and doing very little, or be engaged in a mindless activity that does not require one to think."

Veg is pretty much all we did today - and speaking of that word, check out our first harvest! 

The little garden has grown quite since we first started it.  Take a look at the photo we took this morning from the deck looking down.

Now that's grown quite a bit!!  I feel like a real farmer now, and for lunch today, Madison got to eat the first tomatoes from our garden.  Her review:  "They're delicious!"