Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat!

Here is Madison's official costume of the 2012 Halloween season.  She's Jasmine!  She's got the purse, shoes and the look.  And, as you can see in the picture above, she's got the hair too!

This is, in fact, the costume she wore to Disney for the Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, so we've gotten quite a bit of mileage out of it already.  Tonight, Hannah and other family members came over to the house for the traditional romp down the street:  it was time to trick-or-treat.  I can't say enough how blessed we were to have the weather we did.  We're still feeling a cold breeze, but it's nothing like the blast of cold air from the north we had yesterday.  Hurricane Sandy was huge - it stretched from Canada all the way down to where we live, swinging around all this cold air.  It was too windy, and it was too cold.  Tonight, however, was fine.  It was cold, sure.  But it wasn't like yesterday.

Madison and Hannah ran down the street together, and once again, they collected their weight in candy.  I was so glad to hear that she was able to go trick-or-treating tonight, and having a great time.  Our neighborhood is loaded with generous people, who go all-out when decorating for this night.  Cobwebs are everywhere, spiders, large inflatable ghosts, and yes, a ginormous raptor from Jurassic Park.  I have no idea why the dinosaur, but it does look cool.

Meanwhile, Daddy spent his birthday at work.  ALL DAY.  Fortunately, we had cake.  Cake tends to be a really helpful remedy to things like that.  Daddy also got his new driver's license, and tag, and all those other last-minute things that we were tending to.  We did make a big decision today, mainly because the white car is giving us a little trouble:  we're getting rid of it.  All of the sudden, there are three specific problems that could cost a little extra money - and that was like a sign for us:  donate the car.  We were going back and forth on this issue and leaning towards keeping it as a back-up, and an option for someone who needs it.  But just like that, we're leaning in the direction of giving it away.

We're donating it to a ministry here, just like we did the previous two cars we had.  The tax write-off is good, but another thought we had was the difficulty the next owner may face with some of the issues we're just starting to deal with.  We know of a ministry that can fix up this car, and it'll be tremendously helpful to everyone involved.  So, that's where we're leaning right now.

Tonight was our Fall Festival at the church.  We had about 1,200 kids show up, which is quite a bit to manage - but it all worked out fine.  They were all in costumes, running around and enjoying all of the inflatables.  It wasn't quite trick-or-treating, but they did all get a bag of candy as they left.  And plenty of memories:  I heard a few kids exclaiming this was the best night ever.  That brought a little warmth on a cold night.

Because Daddy had to work all day on his birthday, he didn't get to see Madison trick-or-treat or really see her much at all.  Madison didn't come to the church's activity because of the hour she has to get up in the morning - so it wasn't exactly the best birthday ever, I suppose.  But we knew this going into it, and that's why we planned a huge, sudden trip to Disney.  And the party we had on Sunday was absolutely perfect as well.  So, as much as one would like to focus on today being a downer in a few areas, it has been a wonderful season for us.  Just look back on this month and see all that's happened, and the simple fact is that although the birthday itself was somewhat of a yucky day, the entire month we had this year was the best October ever.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


This is a funny picture taken tonight in the kitchen:  we sent it as a response to Mary Shannon's email.  She was telling us she couldn't be at church with us this weekend, so we thought we'd send a photo as a response, instead of an email saying, "Do what?"  Not going to church this weekend?  That's unthinkable!

Big day today.  First of all, Mommy and Daddy voted.  Yep, we got that out of the way.  Only four of the positions we voted for had opposition, meaning there were only four places where we had to choose between two (or three) candidates.  The rest of the field ran unopposed.  This is the way it is in Republican-leaning counties like ours:  the real election for local offices takes place back in the summer, with the primaries.  There were a few other issues on the ballot, but all in all, things went fairly quickly.  There were quite a few people there for early voting, which was good to see.  That is, unless they were all voting in a different direction than us!  We're really heavy in spirit about this election, as are most people.  Those of us paying attention are burdened and worried about the direction of this country.  While one direction seems obvious, the other direction seems absolutely unthinkable.

This morning, Madison finally lost her other front bottom tooth.  Fast forward to tonight:  the Tooth Fairy came again, this time with money and glow-bands for going trick-or-treating with.  She even wrote a note that said, "Happy Halloween," and left a lot of fairy dust all around.  That Tooth Fairy is one very sweet, thoughtful, and helpful fairy.

So why is Josh in that picture above, at our house?  Well, we did some filming before bed, this time in Madison's playroom.  As our new series is all about cooking and restaurants, we filmed at her tea table. Daddy, Josh, and our friend Kellan were hosts of a talk show that took place there, and all the while Madison was serving us the play food at our table.  We had fun filming, and Madison really got into serving us drinks:  at one point, Kellan asked her to pretend to fill up his teacup with imaginary tea (for a reshoot).  But Madison said she couldn't because his teacup was still full!  Immediately, he drank it down so she could start again.  By the filming's end, we were all filled with imaginary tea, that's for sure.

So this morning and all through last night, New Jersey was getting hammered with Hurricane Sandy.  Or Superstorm Sandy.  Or Frankenstorm.  Whatever you want to call it, the thing is huge - over a thousand miles wide.  It's also a terrible thing:  Atlantic City and many of the other beach areas are devastated.  One of Madison's friends lives up there - a girl also adopted from China the same time as we were.  She's okay, as is her family.  But many others are not okay:  they've lost homes and everything inside.  The early estimate is $20 billion in damage, but I'm sure the loss is even greater than that.  To quote the governor there, it's "unthinkable."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Snack Surprise

Mommy packed a special surprise for Madison today, a Halloween-themed treat!  Mommy packs lunches every day, and dresses Madison so pretty each morning.  It's a good deal of effort, but Mommy is easily the best Mommy on the planet.  You can put that on record.

It was a day of catching up on some work still - we're preparing for a new series this weekend.  We're also trying to winterize the house a tiny bit.  We had to pull in a lot of things from outside, one reason being the tremendous winds sweeping across the land.  Look at the picture below to get the idea there.

After school, Madison had a massive amount of piano practice to catch up with.  That, and she also had actual homework from school to contend with.  She was a busy bee - working hard in that regard.  Which is pretty much the reason the reward of video games was happily given.  We went back to Disney Universe one more time to hit the Nightmare Before Christmas world, where Madison wanted to be Sally, and Daddy was the Mayor.  Afterwards, it was dinnertime, where we had a whole lot of spaghetti!  It was just what we wanted for dinner - and Madison sure ate a lot of it.

It was an early night tonight for bed though:  we're trying to catch up on sleep too.  meanwhile, the wind howls outside.

Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy hit New Jersey today, making us glad we don't live there anymore, and getting us in prayer about the path of this storm more and more.  I guess they're not calling it "Frankenstorm" anymore, as the humor is completely gone for everyone in New Jersey.  The flooding and waves are already overwhelming, as we're hearing from one of our China adoption friends in West Orange that things are pretty intense.  Over the night, we'll hear more and more from friends that live up north about their situation.  Down here, we're feeling lots of wind here.  LOTS of wind.  Ferocious breezes actually knocked our front lounge chair over on the porch, and that thing is big and heavy.  Halloween decor will have to be fixed up after this, as witches will probably be seen flying overhead, silhouetted in front of the full moon.  Meanwhile, images of an abandoned New York City make the place look like that bit in the Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  Or really any other apocalyptic movie showing large buildings and empty streets.

The storm is a thousand miles wide.  Let that sink in a bit, as we try to explain the whole concept to Madison, and why it's important to pray for those in it's way.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

3rd Annual Pumpkin Carving Party

This was by far the best pumpkin carving party we've had.  Take a look at the video above for photos of Mommy's creations, and the carving fun we had.  Also, at the end, there all the pumpkins rested in our fireplace, posing with candles lighting up from the inside.  What a special afternoon we had - the weather was perfect, and everyone had a delightful time.  And, as a bonus, some of the guys stuck around for "I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1"

Mommy made this guacamole, and of course you saw the presentation in the pictures above.  Hilarious!  But even the chips were orange and black.  The cake was perfect, and there was the best hot cider I've ever drank to go with the meal.  Everyone lined up outside on the deck with their pumpkins.  Some spent a while figuring out what to design, while others went straight to it.  Madison designed her own pumpkin - you can see that for yourself, of course.  Daddy did the carving - it was her first pumpkin design ever!  

We kept the pumpkins lit by the fireplace for a good part of the evening - they looked very cool there.  It was not exactly a birthday party for Daddy, but it might as well have been.  Everything was absolutely perfect.

Madison had a great time too, of course.  As mentioned earlier, she did her own pumpkin.  She had fun with the guts, pulling them out - and occasionally sneaking them inside Daddy's pumpkin, or our friend Kellan's pumpkin.  After that part, she watched Daddy carve away the spots she marked.  It didn't take too long - you can see from the slide show which pumpkin was hers.  

With a few other children there, it was an eventful night for her.  After everyone left, it was time for bed for Madison - her tooth is still wiggling!  Earlier in the day, she had her first candied apple from Mommy - you can see that photo as well. We were absolutely convinced she might lose that tooth then, but the stubborn little guy held on!  Madison enjoyed the candied apple, wiggly tooth and all.

Tonight before bed, we said our prayers, grateful for a most pleasant afternoon with great friends.  It was a wonderful pumpkin party!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cat Cookies

Madison and Mommy spent a lot of the day preparing for the big pumpkin carving party tomorrow - you can see her here making some cat cookies.  These are not made with real cats.  Along these lines, Girl Scout cookies aren't made with real girl scouts.  Just saying.

Anyway, meanwhile Daddy worked all day at the mill.  We're editing and handling a current series, while preparing for a new one upcoming - which I'm not entirely sure about.  It's going to be a challenging week, but we'll make it.

It's supposed to get really cold this week too.  Cold, that is, for us.  Windy conditions are coming in, although I don't think that's related to "Frankenstorm."  That monster storm is lurking off the coast, creeping north and due to hit the New England area, with some potential huge implications.  They're in our prayers, of course.  It will affect the election, of course, although we're not entirely sure how.  The key is to be prepared for anything.  Not that we're worrying too much - but there are certainly a few triggers coming up that could cause us problems.  That's why we stack up on food to last us a while, just in case.  Mommy has been good in seeing that we're prepared.

She'll have plenty of cat cookies for us if there are any food or gas shortages!

One more note:  we had a service tonight for KidPak Espanol.  Daddy got to help out with the ministry over there, where we carved our first pumpkin this year - check it out!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Scooby Doo, Where are You?

Madison will love this idea.  She's been so into Scooby Doo lately, and tonight we did a video for the church with the theme of Scooby Doo, all on location at a spooky abandoned warehouse!  You can see above, we had characters dressed as Daphne, Fred, Velma, and Shaggy.  And yes, there's even a Scooby Doo!  Daddy will provide the voice for Scooby (the best he can), and also play the role of a police officer.  Somewhere in that warehouse is a spooky ghost - or is it a suspect?  The gang looks for clues, and the villain might just get away with it, if it isn't for those meddling kids - and their dog.

It was a late night, but a fun one.  Still, Daddy is away from Mommy and Madison and misses them dearly.  Mommy made this incredible cake - you'll just have to see it.  The thing looks just like a pumpkin!

She put two bunt cakes together, covered them with orange icing - and then used a ice cream cone for the stem - and that was covered with brown icing.  It'll taste delicious, of course.  But that cake looks really, really good!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Maize Maze

It was such a lovely day today, we just had to do something after school.  Mommy came up with the idea of going to a corn maze, and a brilliant idea it was.  Not that far away from our house, there's a corn maze near Dawsonville, so away we went.

This was a clever sort of maze, that had a game for kids that resembled the game Clue.  As we visited each stop along the way, we had to determine who "kidnapped" a farmer, using what "weapon", and where.  It was the chickens, by the way - and they used a rake.  You have to watch out for those chickens!  Madison's deductive skills were as precise as Sherlock Holmes.  She didn't have a deerstalker hat on though.  It was a corn stalker.

Yes, that joke was corny.  Oh, there I go again.  Anyway, Madison was off at school today, so Mommy and Daddy used a lot of our Disney reward dollars and gift cards to do some Christmas shopping for her.  She's going to be quite happy Christmas morning - it'll be the Bravest Christmas ever!

So we were out and about, and the leaves are just gorgeous here right now.  Both of us were thinking the weather is so idea, it's a shame we don't do something with Madison.  And so we did!  The thinking was that the weather might be different next week.  For one, it's supposed to be pretty chilly.  Another thing is this storm that's coming up:  her name is Sandy.  She's a hurricane, believe it or not.  Pretty late in the season for that sort of thing, but oh-oh here she comes... the people up north are looking at a convergence of weather patterns, and are already calling this one "Frankenstorm."  Obviously that's an homage to the upcoming Halloween holiday, but it's the nature of the thing:  storms meeting up and intensifying.  Add all this to the election season, and you've got all kinds of interesting scenarios next week.

Meanwhile, this week has been more subdued and relaxed.  Today's adventure at the corn maze was just right.  Mommy picked up a few more pumpkins, and Madison did get her homework done:  this week's letter is the letter "P."  We got to bed early tonight afterwards - all of us.  It's going to be a busy week upcoming, and we'll need all the rest we can get!  It's going to be ...amazing!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lego Pool

Madison designed this pool, and planted the Lego tree nearby - and then she filled it with Lego water, as you can clearly see.  The water is a little tumultuous, possibly because Luke Skywalker just did a cannonball in it.  I do not recommend jumping in with a double-sided green lightsaber, by the way.  Just saying.

Today after school, Madison began her month-long enrichment program - "Learning with Legos."  There were other more "girly" classes available, but when we mentioned Legos to Madison, that was that.  She chose this class, because she has an engineering sort of mind - she's a builder!  I'm refraining from any "I built that" jokes right now.

Tonight Daddy had church again, and most of the day was catching up, to be honest.  Lots going on, and still lots to do!  Fortunately, we've got a great team of employees at the church, and everyone is committed and working hard for each goal.  The thing is all about tackling one goal at a time, and with that in mind, today was a fairly productive day.  Daddy gets stressed out a bit thinking long term, but there's your solution:  just keep your mind on the present.

"Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel, don't think. Trust your instincts." 
- Qui-Gon Jinn

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Catching Up

Today we had a bit of catching up to do, and Madison did too.  She had piano and ballet, and Mommy had a lot of unpacking to do as well.  It was a longer day for Daddy at work, mainly because of all the catching up there.  BUT, it was a fun weekend, so it was all worth it in the end.

We went online today, and used our Disney PhotoPass to order a few photos from our trip.  Here's the reason:  there was this was a neat feature they had in front of the Haunted Mansion.  Basically, when you pose in front of the hearse, they insert a hitchhiking ghost into the picture afterwards.  From what I understand, this feature is only available during the Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, so that's the big reason why I had us pose for the photo this weekend.  Our group was too big for one picture, but we did get two pictures taken - and both came out well!  Take a look, foolish mortals!

I love Madison's expression in the bottom one.  We had just gotten off the ride, and Daddy sort of insisted that everyone gather for a group shot.  Glad we did - these two photos were a lot of fun!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Boo to You 2012

It was time to come home, although we did sleep in quite a bit.  Everyone was very well-rested.  We packed everything up, and got in the car - but made one last stop:  the resort's gift shop.  We got a souvenir pin, a few pressed pennies (that Madison loves), and even a book on how to make a lot of the classic Disney characters.  Madison enjoyed drawing Mickey yesterday so much that we'll keep her drawing when we got home.  Daddy will have fun with that too.  Also, Mommy got Daddy a great book about the names on all the windows on Main Street.  Can't wait to read that one!

So we left a little later, and the drive home was uneventful.  Madison was awake the whole journey, watching movies for the most part.  Not surprisingly, she watched all three "Little Mermaid" movies, having gone on the ride and stayed in a hotel with that theme.  She also watched "Nightmare Before Christmas" once again, and really enjoys that one.  She likes Sally - last night just before the fireworks, she got very excited when she saw a girl in a Sally costume.

We stopped at a few rest areas on the way home, and got caught in a bunch of traffic in Atlanta, but the ride home was pretty quiet.  We got home early in the evening, and were ready to get to bed.  It was a sweet moment when we put Madison to bed, a beautiful smile on her face - what a wonderful vacation!

Boo To You 2012

We slept in quite late this morning, which was just fine by all three of us.  We didn't have anywhere we needed to be until 4:00, so this was a perfect opportunity to check out the resort, which we did.  After getting up and getting ready, the first plan of action was to go get some food, which we good.  We got waffles and fruit, and had a nice breakfast at the Landscape of Flavors dining area.  

We walked around the area after that, checking out the statues in the Lion King area, looking at the ginormous Crush in the Finding Nemo section, and of course seeing all the items Ariel collected in our own Little Mermaid area.  Madison ran through the Elephant Boneyard, just like we warned her not to. Fortunately, she got away from the hyenas. 

We decided to take advantage of the Big Blue Pool, a very large pool and a wet play area as well.  Madison loved running around the reef, and running by the large colorful jellyfish.  

Unfortunately, they squirt water out too, and soon Madison and Daddy were pretty wet!  No matter:  we got into that pool and swam all around, and even under the water, where you can hear musical tunes themed to the area.  Seriously, you can hear music under the water.

We hopped out of the pool, and Madison was in the mood for ping pong.  So we played that for a while - until we heard the announcement for Bingo!  Oh boy, that's one thing we don't miss, apparently.  Mommy, Daddy and Madison got the bingo cards ready, each one covered with characters from different Disney movies.  There were only three rounds played this time, because each was so long - but guess what?  Yes, you guessed it:  we won again!  Mommy had the winning card this time, although we gave it to Madison so she could run up and claim a prize.  Her choice:  a beach ball!

Right after that, we had time to head indoors, where an animator was waiting for us.  This was a scheduled little class, where anyone could come and learn step-by-step how to draw a Disney character.  Of course, today's drawing was Mickey!  Mommy, Madison and Daddy sat there with our paper, pencils and easels, following each step of the way.  I say things came out pretty well for everyone.  Madison was so focused on this, following each step very carefully.  She did very good, and the teacher was complimentary of our efforts - even noting that Mommy and Daddy looked like they've had quite a bit of experience doing this.  Not quite - although that was always one of Daddy's little dreams:  to be an animator.

We saw the clock and realized after our art class that we had to get back and get ready for the main event:  Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.  Everyone met there - all eleven of us!

What a big group!  Madison had a lot of family here today, but she was standing next to her favorite from the get-go:  she and Hannah rode a lot of rides together throughout the day.  Actually, we all rode rides together:  our first stop was the Jungle Cruise, where we took up an entire side of the boat.  When we rode "It's a Small World," we took up an entire boat - just like we did when we went aboard for The Pirates of the Caribbean.  This was the perfect night for Madison:  she ran around with a big smile on her face, even when we had to give her a time-out!

She insisted on putting her head through the stocks at Liberty Square, which I suppose is somewhat of a tradition for us.  As you can see below, David and Jonathan couldn't resist either:

You can see everyone is dressed up for the night - it's a Halloween party, so there were a lot of people in costumes tonight.  Aunt Shain, Nana, Ye-Ye, David, and Jonathan all wore steampunk outfits, which were pretty cool.  Hannah was Alice, and Madison was Jasmine.  Mommy and Daddy were pirates - those are easy costumes to put together and move about the park in.

We did a lot of rides:  of course, we went back to the Haunted Mansion.  While the older ones went on Thunder Mountain, the rest of us visited with the Country Bears.  They've shortened the overall show, but it's still fun to see.  Afterwards, we hopped on our boats and went on Daddy's favorite ride, Peter Pan.  The lines were fifteen minutes max all night, which meant we got to do a lot more than expected, including Winnie the Pooh.  And this night, Dumbo was a short line too!  Yes, we all hopped on the elephants again and went for a whirl.  It was a really fun night.

But I haven't mentioned the candy yet, have I?  Trick-or-treat stations were everywhere, and all of us had bags for Madison to hoist up in the air.  She and everyone yelled out, "trick or treat!"  And the candy rained down on us.  We took pictures of the booty afterwards, and the candy could last us a really long time.  We're talking a few pounds!  We're sitting on lots and lots of candy!

We could have kept riding rides, but it was time to get in good position for the best fireworks show Disney does, which is pretty much the best fireworks show any of us have ever seen.  Readers of this blog know we've seen a lot of fireworks displays, but this one is not to miss - it's called Hallowishes, and it is absolutely "spooktacular!"

It was completely epic.  We had a perfect spot, which I am now officially keeping secret!  God's grace was on us the whole night, and we found a place where we didn't have to worry about large crowds pushing against us.  In fact, Madison was even able to stay in the stroller to watch.  It was fantastic - absolutely perfect.  

Afterwards, we had to go and find a spot for the parade, which again is the best Disney does.  We've seen a lot of parades, but the Boo-To-You is certainly the highlight of the evening.  Again, Daddy was concerned about finding a spot, but we started walking the parade route towards Frontierland and found a spot right there at Liberty Square, right in front of the Sleepy Hollow buildings, and right underneath the castle.  This was very cool, because there weren't as many people there - all eleven of us were able to sit and watch the most amazing parade Disney has to offer.  First, and very cool because of the Sleepy Hollow location, we saw the Headless Horseman go by.  Seriously, none of us could see how this guy can see anything as he rides - yes, this is probably because he has no head.  But we've heard that the horse has the route memorized and the driver doesn't actually see anything along the way.  Very cool.  

Next came the parade itself.  Everyone was thrilled when the music started, the theme song of the parade is one that gets stuck in your head - and never leaves.  Even when you wake up the next morning.  Here are a few snaps from the parade, starting with the 100 Acre Woods characters, all dressed up to get some candy.

The highlight for grown-ups might be the haunted mansion gravediggers, a team of spooky guys with shovels that swing about wildly and make dramatic sparks as they spiral, twirl and clang their shovels.  The white ghost dancers are pretty cool too - and of course there's Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa.  The pirates were great - at one point or another some character or another would interact with Madison, Hannah, and even with one of the pirates, Mommy!  The ghosts got close to Nana and Ye-Ye and yelled out "Boo!"  Everyone had a good time, even when the villains arrived.

This was their night after all.  Daddy snapped this picture as the Evil Queen passed by.  As you can see, we were right there at the castle, and it made for a fantastic backdrop.  All the villains were having a good time - even the hyenas from the Lion King were walking along, getting high-fives from Madison and Hannah.  It was a lot of fun, all the way to the very end, where Goofy was ready with even more candy!

The kids (and adults!) had their bags ready, where lots of Goofy's friends were ready to pass out even more candy.  Tonight, we received an amazing amount of candy!

The park was still open a few more hours, but Madison was pretty ready to go by that point.  So were Ba-Ba and Nana, who had to drive back home an hour north of there.  So we parted ways with the rest of the family, concluding a marvelous day.  The others went back to Tomorrowland, while we made our way down Main Street, exiting as that Boo-To-You song played, making sure that everyone would have it stuck in their heads for at least another week.

We rode the ferry across the Seven Seas Lagoon - a beautiful night.  It was quiet on the boat, as I'm guessing everyone there was worn out.  Madison was already asleep.  Daddy carried her on the tram, and we made our way back to ZURG, where had parked once more.  Then, it was time to part ways with Ba-Ba and Nana, as we ourselves went back to the hotel, quite tired.  But we were also quite happy:  it was an incredible day, filled with fun and family.  Unforgettable!

Art of Animation Resort
Today we spent relaxing in the morning.  We basically did absolutely nothing for much of the day, hanging out at Nana and Ba-Ba's house, eating, sleeping in and fooling around with Madison.  We visited with some neighbors, watched television and slowly got ready for a trip back to Orlando.  Even this was a surprise for Madison - we didn't tell her where we were going for the hotel, but when we got there, Madison was quite impressed!

It was the Art of Animation Resort, which just opened.  In fact, the Little Mermaid themed area we were staying at has only been open for a month!  You can see the large figures of Ursula and King Triton there, evidently fighting over the use of the pool in between.  

The rooms have a Little Mermaid theme, as shown in the picture above.  The bathroom shower curtain has the Little Mermaid on it, and the walls of the shower are her treasure trove.  Look at this stuff, isn't it neat?  You can even find a couple Hidden Mickeys in there if you look close enough - we did!

The rooms are nice.  It's a value resort, so it is certainly a step down from the other places we've stayed at recently.  But it's a big step up from most hotels we've ever been at.  In fact, the next day, we spent the morning and afternoon taking advantage of some amenities, having a great time.  Madison likes this one and wants to stay here again some day.  We just might do that:  of all the value resorts, this one seems to be the best.  Although the All Star Movies Resort was a fun one - with a Herbie-themed area too!

Anyway, soon it was time for another surprise:  we got in the car, and made our way over to the Disney Village.  Or Marketplace.  Or whatever they're calling it these days!  It was there that we met Nana and Ye-Ye!  And also Aunt Shain!  And David and Jonathan!  And Hannah!

Madison was thrilled!  She had no idea any of them would be there, so this was a huge surprise for her. How nice to meet down in Florida like that.  Together, we walked all the way across the area to the T-Rex Cafe, where we agreed to have dinner earlier.  Daddy flashed a card, and despite an hour-long wait time, we got right in with some preferential treatment.  I can't recommend that card enough!

Nana and Ye-Ye at T-Rex Cafe.
We all had a marvelous meal - it was a birthday meal for Daddy.  We had all kinds of good food as dinosaurs roared, and a large Ed Wood-like octopus lurked over the bar nearby.  We had a great time, and even after that too.  We walked around the Disney stores, shopping and looking around.  But no visit to the Marketplace is complete without a stop at Ghirardelli's!  The miracle of this stop was that we actually found enough chairs to all sit at tables, eating our ice creams.  It was wonderful.

But it was also late.  We have a big day tomorrow - so we made our way back to the West Side, got to our cars, and headed back to our beds.  In our case, that was the Art of Animation Resort.  The others stayed at Ft. Wilderness, which sounded ideal for the weekend.  Everyone slept well - it was another big day!


ZURG 104
So we woke up this morning with no plan to go to the Magic Kingdom.  None whatsoever.  But the more we thought about it, the more we thought... why not!?  And the funny thing is that Madison still had no idea!  We took a different route down the road, and approached the sign - that's when we told Madison to take a look.  What did the sign say, Madison?  Here's her reaction:

Yep, we're going to the Magic Kingdom!  This trip, we did something we haven't done in ages.  In fact, it's been so long that I don't actually ever remember it:  we used their parking lot.  The running joke in any parking lot when you want to remember where you park is this:  "Okay, everyone remember we parked in Goofy!"  Well, today we did not park in Goofy.  In fact, there is now a villains section and a heroes section of the lots, and we found ourselves in Zurg.  That's right, Zurg has his own lot.  We were in Zurg 104, which sounds an awful lot like a radio station for some progressive music.

Anyway, soon it was time to go to the park.  But just like in the old days, you had to ride the tram!  Yes, this is technically the first ride at Disney for many.  I remember these things from my youth, which was again pretty much the last time I rode one.  We climbed aboard and went to the transportation center and gave Madison the important choice:  Monorail or Boat.  Madison chose the boat, and soon we were off across Seven Seas Lagoon once again.

We entered the Magic Kingdom for the squillionth time - seriously, we've all lost count.  It was decorated so nicely with carved pumpkins, scarecrows and other fall decorations.  We walked down Main Street, just like always, and went straight for the big moment:  our meeting with Merida!

This was the big one here.  Madison colored a sheet of paper while she waited, and when she got to Merida, she gave it to her as a gift.  She got an autograph, and as you can see above, she posed very nicely for a photograph together.  This would be the only character we met on this trip to Disney, but it was a good one:  Madison could have gone home happy at that point.  But obviously, we didn't!  So much more to do!

In fact, Madison actually went on the Teacups before meeting Merida - what happened was this:  we had different people waiting in line for Madison (Daddy at one point, Mommy and Ba-Ba at another), so she could enjoy the rides as we held a spot in line.  It was about a forty minute line, and that was pretty much the theme of the day.  Very crowded!  In fact, get this:  we went to see the new Dumbo, which is essentially two Dumbos with twice as many elephants.  The wait was seventy-minutes!  We decided to use the fast pass, which told us to come back in two hours or more.  Unbelievable!

We decided we'd go over to Fantasyland and kill our time there for a while, and that was a good choice:  it was there that we saw the new Little Mermaid ride already open!  It's supposed to have a grand opening in December, but apparently it was a soft opening today.  SO, we waited in another epic line there, and had a unique opportunity to ride a brand new ride at the park.  Madison loved it.  It's a theme of the weekend, the Little Mermaid.  She'll see more of Ariel tomorrow, in fact.

Afterwards, we saw Daddy's favorite 3D movie, Mickey's PhilharMagic.  We had a Fast Pass for that, so there wasn't really a line.  Plus, it was inside, which was a big deal.  The temperature in the sun was very, very hot.  Madison loved the movie - she jumped at the popping corks during "Be Our Guest," and really got into the 3D elements.

After that, "It's a Small World."  One funny moment is at the end when the boat is put on the conveyor belt.  It sort of has a roller coaster feel to it, and Madison threw her hands up in the air, making a noise:  "Whoooo!"  It was really funny to watch - where'd she learn that from?

Yet even that ride had an immense line.  Again, most of it is in the shade, so that was a bonus.  Still, we were downgrading our expectations for the day a bit.  It didn't matter, we were all having fun - a nice, relaxing day.  Madison sat with Nana and Mommy for many of these rides, which was great to see.  We had dinner at the Pinocchio Village Haus, and rode on the carousel afterwards.  We even got to have our traditional Mickey-shaped ice cream.  You've got to have one of those when at Disney!

Finally, it was time for Dumbo.  We made our way back to this elephant that everyone seems obsessed with riding.  It's one of those can't-miss rides at the Magic Kingdom, apparently.  Madison rode with Ba-Ba and Nana, which was good.  We decided to wait on the roller coaster ride until next time:  Goofy's Barnstormer looked like fun, but the line was just too darn long.

One new experience for Madison was this one:

But as you can see, Nana and Mommy were having a hilarious time with it.  Mommy couldn't steer quite right - evidently, the car's steering wheel was overdoing it a bit, so the end result was a back-and-forth sort of ride around the track.  Madison was doing the same thing, meanwhile, and everyone really enjoyed the ride.  When asked later, this was one of Madison's favorite rides:  Daddy hit the gas and brake, while Madison steered us around the track.

The next ride was another first for Madison:  The Haunted Mansion.  They have a new area in the line where people can interact with different themed objects, and everyone had a good time there.  But soon it was time for the ride.  Daddy and Mommy were slightly apprehensive, but our fears were unfounded.  Madison had such a good time on this ride.  She screamed a funny scream when the Ghost Host tells everyone, "Of course, there's always my way."  If you've been on the ride, you know what I'm talking about.  Anyway, she hopped in the Doombuggy with Mommy and Nana, and everyone had a great time.

One final ride:  Pirates of the Caribbean.  They've added a hint of mermaid to it, by the way.  That's new.  Anyway, Madison enjoyed this ride as always, making a big deal about Blackbeard, Captain Barbossa and Jack Sparrow.  She laughed when the cannon fire hits the water, splashing nearby.  She called out, "You missed us!"  She was having a great time!

It was time to go after that - everyone was tired and ready to drive home.  We got on the Monorail, and then found our tram back to Zurg.  And then it was time for the ride back to Summerfield.  What a fun day it was - but the vacation was only just starting!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

50th Day of School

It was the 50th day of school today, and everyone there dressed up in clothing styled from the fifties.  We had a poodle skirt available, and Mommy got her looking really dreamy.  It was a half day today, so we met her at the bus stop, and got her inside quickly, where she got changed and ready for something wonderful...

After School Surprise!

Thursday after school:  Madison didn't know where we were going, but we were all packed and set.  We waited for her to arrive home early from school, ate a small snack - and were on our way!  It didn't take long for her to figure out that this trip was something a little different:  we passed through Atlanta this time and kept on driving.  Yep, we were going to Florida.  Still, she had no idea about the Disney part yet.  It was a nice drive down, made nicer by the fact that we were driving our new car, which is like a tank compared to the other cars.  We made very good time on the way down, and by 7:00 or so we were with Nana at their house in Summerfield.  She had dinner ready, and it was nice to sit and relax and finally shut down mentally.  Time to take a deep breath!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Parent Teacher Conference

As we've got a big hush-hush trip coming up tomorrow, Daddy spent the entire day at work - although we did start out the morning with our first parent-teacher conference.  At 7:00 am this morning.  Good grief, why'd it have to be so early?

Still, there was plenty of good news there!  Madison has to know 50 sight words by the end of the year, and she's already on top of 42.  In other areas, she can write her numbers up until 49 (although she was able to go unofficially to 100 later on in the evening).  Also, she can count by tens to 100, and is doing well in other areas also.  We feel really good about her teacher, Mrs. Garrett, who seems to be always on the ball with creative ideas for learning.

Work at the office went well, so Daddy won't be staying up too late for last-minute arrangements.  Madison and Mommy called us at the office, which was great - Skype is a wonderful tool!

Madison is dressed up like a pirate again.  She has no idea where she's going tomorrow - this is going to be a great surprise!  Mommy spent a lot of the day packing while Madison was at school, and we're all very excited to make a quick trip out of here.  The other thing Mommy did was get insurance and registration taken care of for the new car in the house.  We'll take it on our maiden voyage tomorrow... can't wait!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Madison spent some time with the Humane Society today, where she encountered a R.O.U.S., a rodent of unusual size.  Look at that thing's tail!  She was spending time with Nana and Ye-Ye tonight, while Mommy and Daddy were completing a huge chapter in our lives:  the sale of our old house.  We signed a stack of papers roughly three feet tall, as did the new owners - they seem like nice people.  Of course, we feel they're really nice because they're buying our house.  It's been two years since the house was put on the market, or at least something close to that.  Our new real estate agent last spring estimated the home would sell by October, and look at where we are now:  October.

Although we are both quite sentimental about our first house together, home is where the heart is.  And our heart is in our new home right here.

Tonight, Ba-Ba arrived from Florida - more eventful news there!  He's brought with him our new car, which we're purchasing this week.  We'll have to take care of the arrangements this week, and do so rather quickly - what with an upcoming trip on Thursday in the works.  It's going to be a busy week - and don't get me started about all that has to happen at work.  But it's an eventful week, and a lot of it is good news.

Finally, the debate.  Another one.  This is number two, where both candidates decided to show up.  It was pretty rough to watch if you don't like hearing a big argument go on for an hour and a half.  In the end, I'm not entirely sure if there was a clear winner.  Partisans like myself will claim their candidate won on this or that, but one thing is clear:  this election seems closer than any we've ever seen in our lifetime.  We must continue to pray and fast, or else for the next four years we'll be stuck with a R.O.U.S.

Monday, October 15, 2012

International Air Show

We had a great air show this afternoon when Madison got home from school.  Daddy showed her how to make a paper airplane, and while not a model of perfection, she was air-worthy.  After the folding, next came the decorating, which was just as much fun as actually flying the thing.  Madison, the aerial engineer, was quite into the entire project:  we sat there at the kitchen table, meticulously planning out the design and look of our aircrafts.  But soon it was time for take-off!

We took turns going upstairs to the bridge, and from there it was time to take flight!  Daddy showed Madison the proper way to throw a paper airplane, and once she mastered this, she began tossing her creations into the air, watching them drift and spiral downwards.

"Good landing!" she called out.  She was really into this!

Today was one of those days to chill.  We packed, we cleaned, we prepared.  Madison doesn't know what we're preparing for, of course.  It's still a secret!  But it's a secret that hard to keep.  Less than a week from now, we'll be trick-or-treating in the Magic Kingdom.  Daddy and Mommy are still fuzzy on their costumes - I think we'll wind up being pirates.  It's the simplest thing to wear when moving around a theme park in Florida.  But Madison's costume is nice:  she'll be Jasmine.  Mommy even bought her a Jasmine necklace from the Disney Store online.  Yep, she'll be really surprised at that.  Madison loves the bling.

Speaking of "flying" and "air show," tonight we finished our first Disney Fairy story, "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg."  It was the largest book she's ever listened to - and she was quite focused when the action started.  She really enjoyed this story quite a bit, so much so that we'll have to go get part two relatively soon.  Daddy has a copy of it at the house, but there's something unique about listening to the audio version of it from the library.  Some time ago, before the Tinkerbell movies, this was the official Disney Fairy series.  These books feature characters that aren't in the Tinkerbell movies - in fact the main fairy in this story is one named Prilla, who I don't think is in any of the movies.

Madison has been listening to the adventures of Prilla, Rani and Vidia for the past month, which is a story I first read a long time ago. It's a good read.  In fact, I purchased a Prilla doll long before we met Madison.  We bought nearly the entire series' worth of dolls - except Vidia (couldn't find her).  We also bought a lot of paperback books of the series, with the thought that someday Madison could read the individual adventures of the fairies.  Or, at least Daddy could read them to her at night.

This was so long ago, years before we actually met Madison.  And yet here we are coming upon the time where I'll actually sit and read some of these stories to her.  How time flies - in many ways, when investing in the books, I pictured myself someday sitting with our daughter, reading.  It was all a vague dream of the future - and yet here we are now:  the future has arrived.  Our dreams have taken flight!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Spooky Brownies

When Daddy got home from church late this afternoon, Madison was anxious to get ready to decorate!  Mommy recently picked up some brownie pans in the shape of houses - and with October here, there's only one real way to decorate them:  with spiders, webs, creepy eyes, pumpkins and of course candy corn!

Daddy and Madison making spooky brownies - sweet and scary!
What a fun thing at family time.  Mommy had it all set up for us, and so all we had to do was start decorating.  Daddy and Mommy helped Madison out a little, but once we got her started, she created a masterpiece largely on her own.  Want to see it?

Madison designed her own brownie, complete with spiders, webs, creepy eyes and an entrance with plenty of doorknobs! 

Meanwhile, Daddy was making his creation as well - here it is:

Daddy's brownie:  the only thing you have to fear here are the calories!
It was this sort of afternoon - after piano practice, it was time for another first for Madison:

We finally let her see "The Nightmare Before Christmas."  She got her customary large tub of popcorn (everything is large to her!), and hunkered down for a night in front of our movie screen.  Everyone loved the movie - it's one of Daddy's favorites.  She likes Sally, of course, and was immediately worried when Sally and Santa had to be rescued - but she knew that Jack would come back for them.  Daddy's favorite character is the Mayor. 

Here's a guy you can depend on.  Sure, he starts to panic a little easily - but he's also a natural leader, and a guy who likes to get things done.  Best of all, I've seen absolutely no negative campaigning from him.  Sure, some folks might think he's two-faced, and just another politician.  But having two faces is a good thing:  you see both sides of every issue! 

"What a splendid idea!  This Christmas sounds fun.  I fully endorse it - let's try it at once!"
- The Mayor

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Mommy purchased a new seasonal wreath for the front door, which completes the look of our home rather nicely.  We don't do the skeletons, ginormous cats or graveyards in the front - it's more of a fall celebration look, really.  Our neighborhood does go overboard though - it's almost like Christmas, but with Halloween lights.  Not that this is a complaint - it's a fun atmosphere.  It's just not our particular style:  around Christmas time we don't put out any large inflatable Santa or Snowman.  Although Daddy has been tempted to get a Frosty to put on the roof.

Today was a long, long day for Daddy, who worked early and then went to a friend's house in Hartwell for an early birthday celebration.  It was nice to get back with the fellas, but I sure did miss my family back at home.  Couldn't wait to get back to 'em, in fact!

Friday, October 12, 2012

An Ice Surprise

We didn't tell Madison where we were going tonight - we told her it was a surprise.  She saw we were in Atlanta - she recognized Atlanta.  But she didn't know exactly why - although I'm pretty sure she figured it out when we got inside Philip's Arena. 

Mommy recently got some discounted tickets to Disney on Ice, and although I think we knew what section we were sitting in, we had no idea we'd be as close as we were.  We're talking fourth row!  Daddy brought along a cheap, small camera to snap a few photos - rather than carry along the bigger one.  Still, there were a couple decent shots.

That's Ariel in the photo above, doing some aerial work.  She's an aerial Ariel!  It's not necessarily about photography, but rather getting ideas from costumes and presentation.  For example, check out the triplets below:

Great, creative costuming idea there!  As you can imagine, when the second half of the show started, and Princess Merida came out, Madison's eyes were glued to the ice.  She was watching all the Celtic dancers and archery and so on, and absolutely loving it.  We asked her later what her favorite part was, and we already knew the answer.  It was the segment of the show inspired by the movie "Brave."  Yes,  Madison was quite the happy audience member tonight!

Of course, there were other bits as well.  They did a longer segment dedicated to "Tangled," and "The Little Mermaid," and "Beauty and the Beast."

We were so blessed, and Madison had such a great time.  She was pretty zonked when all was said and done though - Daddy carried her to the car, where she pretty much immediately fell asleep.  God's grace has been so generous - we had a safe journey there and home yet once more.  How often we take for granted protection on our journeys to and fro.  Daddy wasn't that tired on the way home, nor did anything out of the ordinary occur.  But that's just the point.

Tonight was just one surprise, of course.  Madison still has no idea that in less than a week, we'll be in Florida for a much greater surprise.  She'll hopefully see Merida again, and probably much more up close this next time!