Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Return to the Book Fair

Another busy Tuesday today, this one punctuated by the return of the Book Fair at school.  Again, no Bookmobile, but rather a converted library.  We got there just in time about fifteen minutes before they closed.  But they stayed open a little later for the larger crowd that was just arriving at the same time as us - apparently a bunch of folks were also just getting off of work, or whatever.

In our case, the "whatever" was ballet class, where Madison was having her picture taken.  Class went on a longer time to get all the girls individually for photographs.  Mommy and Madison then raced over to the school about fifteen minutes before the Book Fair closed.

We didn't see much, so it was okay.  There were a lot of books, of course, but we were looking for some books that Madison could enjoy reading herself.  The "early reader" books are ideal right now for her, and we found a Barbie book with five stories inside that Madison can read herself.  They're simple and fun to read, so when we got home, we went out on the front porch.  The weather was so nice, so we sat there together on the rocking chair there and together read a story with Barbie.

Of course, also in the day there was piano - there are only two weeks left until the recital.  We've been learning to play in d minor lately, which is a fun key to play in.  Everything is melancholy, or at least creepy.  It's especially so when you use the old time organ sound.  Madison was laughing as we played a song "Silly Old Clown" in d minor, making it become "Scary Old Clown."  Daddy remembers a time in high school when we played "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" in d minor - it too sounded macabre.  It's the perfect key for October!

When we got home, Nana and Ba-Ba had a pizza waiting for us - it was from a new pizza place that we've just determined to start getting pizza from.  It's a New York style pizza, which people in the South only vaguely know about.  We have pizza down here, but not real pizza.  So far, our quest for that pizza has limited us to a place called Capozi's in Atlanta, and our traditional stop at a place nearby Nana and Ba-Ba's house in Florida.  But this restaurant in Oakwood seems to get it.  We'll post in the future about our return expedition to this undiscovered country!

Tonight after Madison's bedtime stories and the evening ritual there, Mommy and Daddy watched the original "Ocean's 11" movie with the Rat Pack.  It is somewhat like a historical document, with all those crooners and entertainers planning a heist in Las Vegas of all places.  There is such a glorious retro feel to the lounges, hotel rooms and lobbies - it was fun to watch just for a trip back in time, and only a few short years!

One funny thing that stood out:  a son of one of the characters got $10,000 for his education growing up, and then college too.  Imagine all that paid for with just $10,000!  We'd better start saving some more...

Monday, April 29, 2013

National Shrimp Scampi Day

So today Ba-Ba and Nana arrived, and in celebration, we had ourselves some shrimp scampi.  It was the perfect day to do this, as today was in fact National Shrimp Scampi Day!  Mommy cooked us up a delicious dinner, which delighted everyone.  It was the perfect thing to eat after a long day on the road.

For Mommy and Daddy, it was a perfect thing to eat after a big day.

It was a day off for Mommy and Daddy, although we had agreed to our deal:  we went to the school, and had lunch with Madison.  This meant she got to sit on stage in the cafeteria, which was a big deal to her.  Daddy had his Star Wars lunchbox, and Mommy had one with a rainbow unicorn on it.  Together, we sat at lunch - a really quick lunch at that - and got to see each other in the middle of the school day.  Madison loved it so much, she's wanting to make another deal:  she wants us there having lunch with her on Thursday!

When Madison got home, of course there was piano practice.  But before Nana and Ba-Ba arrived, we spent some time drawing from another book, one dedicated to drawing characters from the movie "Brave."  Obviously, we started with Merida.  Here's Madison's drawing of Merida:

She did a great job!  Again, it's one of those step-by-step things, but you can see her working out each part, from the hair to the arms to the long, flowing dress.  Then came the coloring, and it all started to take shape.  Daddy was sitting beside her, drawing his own version - just like always.  The two of us have had our little art classes, each following the step-by-step directions in drawing some new Disney character.  Recently for Easter, she got a "Brave" themed basket, with a booklet inside it that has different characters from the movie.  Next time, I think we'll be attempting Simba - Madison has been wanting to draw that one as well.

One final note:  the weather.  It's been cool again.  It's been so cool that we had to call Ba-Ba and Nana and warn them to dress appropriately.  Coming from Florida, they were ready to wear shorts and so forth.  After all, it's late spring - almost May.  It's also been pretty warm down there.  But not up here!  It's been downright chilly at night, especially when it is damp as it has been.  In fact, we noticed moss actually growing on a shady spot on our sidewalk in the front yard.  I'm not complaining too much about the temperature, because I like it cool.  And I like the rain (so long as we're not going out to do something fun).  For one, the rain helps drive that pollen down.  Also, the rain has absolutely filled that lake.  Lake Lanier is quite full right now, which is great to see each time we drive over it.

Nana and Ba-Ba arrived with much fanfare, and after a big shrimp dinner, we sat and talked for quite a bit.  It's good to see them back - tomorrow is going to be our usual busy day (most Tuesdays are), but we'll have time together after that.  It's a great way to start the week!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Extreme Ironing

Madison doing some extreme ironing - this sort of activity combines the thrills of extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt.  In this case, it was a bit of top-of-the-car surfing, where she's ready to steam down the road, getting those wrinkles out in style!

Madison wants Mommy and Daddy to come to lunch with her tomorrow at school.  She announced to Mommy that here was the deal:  "You'll come to lunch tomorrow, and we'll sit on the stage at the table up there with the other parents, and we'll eat there together.  Deal?"

Then she grabbed Mommy's hand and firmly shook it.


It was such a funny moment that Daddy had to laugh.  At which point, she reminded us that this is not a joke!

It is Sunday, and the last one of our series Under Construction, which has been a great - but all-to-brief - series.  We'll have a message on Wednesday about earth movers ("moving the earth"), but that's pretty much a bonus message to the series.  It's been great to put on the hard hats again this series, and next month it'll be time to put on the army fatigues again.

Speaking of "fatigue," Daddy's a bit worn out - but that's standard fare for a Sunday, isn't it?  We did some piano, but not much.  A lot of the day, we returned to Gotham City, where we pretty much wrapped up the game.  FINALLY.  This is a pretty huge game, and it has taken Madison and Daddy a really long time to get through it.  Not that it has been a chore, of course.  We have fun playing games together.  But this was just about the right length - it's not that we're completely tired of it yet, but we are ready for something new.

Meanwhile, the reading continues.  Madison loves to read to us.  Lately, she's been reading Bible stories to us - very easy-to-read versions of classic Bible stories.  Next week, we'll have her read to Ba-Ba and Nana too.  Also, together we read comic books, at least the ones that Daddy shares with her.  Of course, they've all been pretty tame.  Sometimes the more goofy they are, the more entertaining they are to read with her.  For example, today, we read a "Earth Day" related comic from Wolverine called "Global Jeopardy."

This is more of a message comic, and one mainly for kids Madison's age, really.  Pretty harmless, and there's one fight scene in there with Namor vs. Wolverine that is amusingly referred to as an "obligatory" battle.  These are what you'd call a lower class comic, and yet they're perfect fun for Madison, because they are pretty harmless.

Speaking of which, we were thinking of showing Madison "Batman and Robin" later on this week if there's time.  Maybe later on if not.  She's loving Batman right now, and obviously we can't show her anything Arkham-related for the X-box, and definitely not the current movie trilogy.  For that matter, the original Tim Burton movies are probably out as well.  BUT... there is that horrendous Joel Schumaker movie "Batman and Robin."  We remember being so excited about seeing this, about Mr. Freeze, about another Batman movie.  Then we saw it.  There were so many plot holes and ridiculous moments and terrible one-liners, we all wondered if it was a bad joke.  Yes, it turns out it was a bad joke:  the movie was trying to be like the Adam West movies (similar to the one we saw last week).  We just weren't expecting that, and to be honest, we just weren't wanting that.  It was quite a turn from the Tim Burton movies!

BUT, that said, time has gone by.  The director apologized for it, and in the right context, this could be an enjoyable movie - for kids, one that's a safer version of Batman.  For adults, something to enjoy on an Ed Wood sort of level, where you groan at this or that.

So time has been good to this movie, in my humble opinion.  It does have a use after all, and no longer sits a top the pile of worst superhero movies ever made (currently, that throne is held by "X-Men 3:  Last Stand").

Tonight we went to bed early, but quite content with a remarkable weekend.  It's been fun here lately, and things are going to pick up a bit with the arrival of Ba-Ba and Nana tomorrow.  Maybe we all can go out and do some more extreme ironing!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sock Monkey

Joining Winter in the upper echelon of stuffed animals is now the sock monkey, who Madison has had all this time - and yet now suddenly appreciates.  Mommy has to take care of Sock Monkey when Madison is gone to school, but the rest of the time, Sock Monkey is with Madison either seated on the couch or upstairs in the bed with her.

Mommy has had sock monkeys for a while - there's actually a sock monkey ornament on the Christmas tree each year.  She also has sock monkey pajamas, which Daddy picked up a while ago.  Nearly everyone loves sock monkeys - Madison may have been inspired by our recent visit to the zoo.

Daddy had to go to work today, as well as visit his friends (and an ailing mother), so it was a day away from the house.  But there was piano practice for Madison, and drawing as well.  Also, some learning on the Kindle and the school's website.

But throughout it all, she had alongside her a new friend, her sock monkey.

     It doesn’t take much to create a Sock Monkey.  In 1932, right in the middle of the Great Depression, these fun stuffed animals began brightening little faces all over Europe and America. 
     Even today, web pages across the internet are dedicated to the creation and travels of Sock Monkeys all over the world.  A Sock Monkey Madness Festival takes place once a year in Illinois, and there’s even a special ministry in Alabama that focuses on bringing a smile to those in need all across the globe, one monkey at a time. 
     The lasting endearing qualities of the Sock Monkey prove to us that it doesn’t take money or technology to bring a bit of joy to the heart.  All it takes is a little thought, a little time, and a little love.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Zoo Tour

Today was a beautiful day - the weather was gorgeous!  We decided to make our way to the zoo, which was a surprise to Madison.  She made a few guesses, but never got it right until we got to the parking lot, where there was a parking spot saved for us nearby a big sign that said, "ZOO."  Yep, you guessed it right, Madison!

Today's highlights were many, one of which involved these below:

Giraffes!  Daddy snapped this photo of them being a little playful, but Madison got to do even more!  Mommy had some spare cash, and Madison was actually able to FEED a giraffe today!  Unfortunately, the employee there seemed to thrive on literally blocking EVERYONE'S attempt at taking a photo for some reason.  It was sort of weird watching parents sort of get all hopeful, and then look all disappointed at the fact that even with a camera, this guy would position his large backside into everyone's photo!  Count Daddy in the "disappointed" category, although the humor of that previous statement is starting to sink in.  Imagine all these photos of a zookeeper's butt...  Anyway, Madison did get to feed a giraffe.  She got a couple branches, and reached up to the giraffe who was wandering towards us, and in seconds the food was gone!  Daddy loves giraffes - in fact, he wrote an entire sermon about these amazing and unique creatures.

There were plenty of other highlights, of course.  Madison was feeding parakeets at one point, and the weather was so cool that for the most part, all of the animals were walking about.  Later on, the warthogs were moving around - but Madison got to see them up close, taking a siesta.  Here's a picture of Madison, Pumbaa, and Shanikwa:

We saw a big tiger close-up, yawning and showing all of those teeth.  Yes, we saw the gorillas too - although Madison was more interested in the statues of gorillas, rather than the LIVE gorillas that were currently being fed.  The elephants were colored red, having rolled in Georgia's famous red clay a lot - they do that to cool off.  The thing is the day was so cool and comfortable today.  That was pretty much the reason for the trip to the zoo (along with the fact that Mommy found a discount).  We'll save our trip to Legoland on a rainy or cool day, but today was such a wonderful day to walk around.  In fact, Daddy got a little too much sun, although we all made sure to put on sun tan lotion beforehand.

The favorite animals for Madison, of course, are the pandas.

There are three there, one of which is a young guy named Po.  He's obviously named after the "Kung Fu Panda" character, and was certainly more active, walking around.  The other two pandas were posing in luxuriant, sprawled out poses.  "Bring me more bamboo!"

It was a great day at the zoo - and despite the traffic (and zookeeper's bottom), we had ourselves a great time.  We got home early enough to do some piano and drawing at the table.  And one more thing too:  it is National Pretzel Day!

Time for some munching!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

World Penguin Day

Today was World Penguin Day, and what better way to celebrate than by watching "Batman:  The Movie!"  Daddy has never seen it before, and obviously neither has Madison.  Daddy has seen a lot of the old television series with Adam West and Burt Ward, but never this masterpiece of a movie!

The shark.  The bomb.  The porpoises!  It's funny how Madison reacted to this - like Daddy was when he was her age, all of it seemed so cool.  These guys were real bad guys and he was Batman, doing battle on the side of the right.  Now that we're "all grown up," it's simply hysterical!  There is so much deadpan and serious acting despite the ridiculousness of it all.  We huddled up on the couch, and Madison was having a great time watching Batman and her favorite villains do battle.  Daddy was cracking up left and right.  Have you seen it yet?  The line about the porpoises might be the best one, and the scene with Batman trying to dispose of a bomb just might be one of the greatest scenes in cinematic history!

It wasn't all penguins today.  Of course, there was a bit of piano practice.  The recital inches closer!  Another thing we did after school today was play tennis!  Although the code to the courts wasn't working, we still had fun practicing tennis a bit on the basketball court.  Madison has a good swing and good timing as well.  Occasionally, she even has good aim!

We had fun at the playground for a bit too.  The weather was so nice outside that we stayed there for a bit, until it was time to go home for dinner.  Mommy had Mexican food ready:  Daddy had tacos, and Madison made herself a Mexican pizza.  She took it upon herself to flatten a tortilla on a plate, cover it with salsa, and then sprinkle cheese on top of that.  It was cut into quarters already, and she was quite proud of her creative idea.  Yes, she ate it all.  The whole family was quite full by the time it was over with!

Mommy had a Divine Bible study this morning, and Daddy spent a lot of time finishing his Twelve Tribe messages.  Yes, they are all done now!  I may post them soon, one at a time.  Very proud that I actually finished them.  Some were quite obscure, but there is enough material in the Bible to have a unique message for each Tribe, and focused towards children.  That's what I set out to do, and I think this turned out pretty good!

Okay, time for bed.  Tomorrow, we're hopefully going to the Zoo.  Pretty excited - and it's a surprise for Madison.  She's been trying to guess all week, and hasn't got it right yet...!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Paper Chase

Daddy made another quick trip home and back - just to see this smiling face.  It's a long work day, but Daddy went home to see Madison and Mommy, who had a marvelous feast prepared for dinner.  While there, Daddy brought a little camera to snap a quick photo of Madison.  She's always ready to pose for a picture now, which is quite a change from a few years ago, where she never wanted to look at the camera, or smile, or do both!  Now, she's asking to take pictures all the time (and steals people's cell phones to take photos of herself).

Tonight, we're continuing our Under Construction series with a message on demolition.  It's a fun one, talking about the walls of Jericho.  It also features a return of Rusty, who helped build this house, but notices that small wood-eating insects called termites have damaged the integrity of this once-fine structure.  So today, he's going to blow it up.

Yes, that video never gets old for Daddy.

I did a lot of writing on messages and skits today.  Also, a bit of proofing for our upcoming series.  It was a fairly busy day, but also a really productive one.  Sadly, that means I didn't get to spend much time with the family (outside of the typical driving Madison to school in the morning).

We've been doing a lot of reading together at night this week, with Madison actually reading Daddy Bible stories from a few of her books.  It's simple reading, but it's great to hear her try her hand at reading to me, instead of the other way around.  Daddy has been reading all sorts of stuff, some stories related to Noah's Ark, and even a penguin book he found by the same author and artist who does Curious George.

Another form of reading that Daddy's been doing is from a journal I kept in 2005-2006.  Those were rough times, though they started out pretty optimistic.  Like this blog, each page was a letter to Madison, written as we were beginning the process of adoption.  We were collecting all the paperwork, going to doctors, and taking classes - all to put together a dossier to send off to China.  Little did we know, cancer was lurking inside of Mommy at that time.  The timing all worked out perfectly though, despite the awful months of emergency surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.  God took us through those years, and it's interesting to read the day-by-day accounts of labor towards getting the dossier together, while trying to figure out why Mommy has been suffering with her health so much.  It all lead up to a fateful day in the early spring of 2006, when finally there came an answer.  It wasn't a good one, but at least we're still here seven years later.  And we're with Madison.

Anyway, here's an entry from September 14, 2005 that sort of cracked me up.  It essentially sums up the "paper chase" of the adoption process - and every word of this is true:

Some things will seem comical years later, but now are simply insane.  Get this:  you order a birth certificate.  Despite the fact that you order it from teh place where you are born, it is not official if you receive the short form.  no, you need to specify the vault long copy when ordering.  That's official.  But not enough.  No, to make it more official you have to have an accompanying letter of exemplification, proving that the person who sent the form really sent it.  THAT, though, is not enough.  The birth certificate must be certified, which means that another person verifies that yes, the person who wrote the letter about sending a birth certificate is in fact the one who sent the right birth certificate.  But this is not enough.  To adopt, remember, the birth certificate must be notarized and authenticated, which basically means the authenticator authenticates that the certifier is certifying the process, certificate, and sender who writes out a letter of exemplification exemplifying that the sender did in fact send a long vault copy instead of one of those unofficial, apparently worthless (although they cost us a lot) birth certificates.  All this to say we got the wrong birth certificates and no letter of exemplification.  We'll have to wait until early next week for Zena's birth certificate.  If we have to wait much longer, we'll both be certifiably insane!

We thought about adopting long before 2005, of course.  When we were married in 2000, we always knew that having children biologically would be somewhat of a miracle.  But Daddy was quite happy to adopt, and not at all worried about biology.  Madison is our daughter, and we are her parents now.  But back then we had many conversations about adoption, particularly where to adopt from.  We did research:  we were uncomfortable with the adoption process in many countries, worried about bribes, extended stays, return visits, fetal alcohol syndrome, and government issues.  Our studying revealed something that we heard before we even began:  China would be the place to be.  But in our hearts, there was already a seed of a thought:  China.  She'll be waiting for us in China.  The invisible red thread was already tied firmly around us.

When we sent off our dossier, we were nervous and excited.  Within a few months, we were frightened.  Mommy's journey to recovery was long and painful. But God's timing was perfect, as mentioned above.  It turned out our wait collectively was extended, and extended by well over a year.  Anyone who sent in a dossier at the same time as us now had to wait, and wait, and wait.  We were okay with the waiting.  It just meant there'd be more time for Mommy to get better.

And she did get better.  In fact, she was completely okay the few weeks we traveled on our adventure to China.  If the trip was a few months earlier, her condition would be questionable.  But she was okay.  The other aspect of that is the simple fact that if we went a few months earlier, it wouldn't be Madison.

When Madison was first carried into the room, Daddy spotted her.  And the simple truth is that of all the babies that were in that room that day, we would have chosen Madison.  It was meant to be.

Here, as I close up, is an excerpt - the very first one - of the book we wrote when we first began the paper chase.  Over time, I'll copy more into the blog.  But this one is significant, as it was somewhat of an official start to it all.

July 18, 2005

Madison.  The name has been on our lips and hearts for quite some time now.  We've been waiting on God's timing - and getting more and more anxious to meet you.  Though there have been many small steps already taken in our journey to be with you, today was significant.  Today at 2:00 pm we made a phone call and discovered that we can send in our application for adoption.  During the phone call itself, it was hard for either of us to keep tears of joy back.  Immediately, we set out to finish the application and placed it in an envelope.  Holding this small seed that contained so many hopes and dreams, we prayed for God's favor and perfect will.  We even anointed it with oil before getting into our car to drive to the post office.  Sure, the mailman would come by tomorrow - but putting in the application one day sooner means seeing you one day sooner.  They say this will take nine to twelve months.  We called family members - my parents and sister rejoiced with us.  We're expecting.  Zena put out the ladybug flag in teh front yard.  In China, the ladybug symbolizes a child is on the way.  That is why on her birthday this year, which fell on Mother's Day, I gave her a package of hundreds of ladybugs.  A child is on the way.  Her name is Madison.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuesday Afternoon

We got an email yesterday:  Madison got her certificate from Locks of Love, so Daddy printed it out for her.  It's been so long since we sent it in that Madison's hair has actually grown back!  Okay, so that's a slight exaggeration.

Today was a work day/piano day/ballet day again - and also a day to go out in the front yard and play catch.  We didn't have quite enough time to go down to the tennis courts, so we instead opted for the front yard, throwing a ball back and forth.  Notice I didn't mention "catching" a ball too much - we're still working on that part.  It's more like, "throwing a ball and chasing it down" back and forth.  Madison's arm - when she's not acting crazy - is pretty good.  She's got good aim, and you have to be careful if she's throwing a baseball.  Got to be alert!

We did a lot of things geared towards the piano recital upcoming, and went in a similar direction with ballet as well.  Both recitals are coming up in May, which will be here before you know it.

Madison has a snow day this Friday.  Obviously, it's not going to snow.  Not here, anyway.  But there were a certain amount of days alloted for the kids to take off in case of snow.  Because we didn't use too many of them, Madison gets a free day this Friday - which is something we're all kind of looking forward to.  Mommy got some discounts for zoo tickets, and it'll be a surprise for Madison.  We're heading to the zoo.  It was a toss-up between that, the Botanical Gardens and the new Legoland at Phipps Plaza.  The option with the discount won out!

Anyway, that'll be a fun day upcoming.  The weather should be just right - lately, it's been cool here.  It's that sort of weather across the country.  For example, the Braves game in Colorado today:  coldest MLB game ever on record.  Twenty-three degrees at the starting pitch - and it's almost May.  They won, by the way.

Of course, it'll be perfect weather for World Penguin Day, which is coming up this week.  Seriously, the cool weather has been fantastic outside.  We've been doing all kinds of work outside, fixing up the yard and making things look nice.  Also, we got some stuff to make the inside look nice:  a new piano stand for Madison.  Until recently, we've had that thing propped up on a long table, which just looks ugly.  But now we've cleared that out of the dining room area, and have a simple keyboard stand there. Madison likes it a lot - for one thing, it's adjustable and matches her height better.

Daddy is still writing his messages on the Twelve Tribes of Israel, which looks like it will be a two-month-long series this June-July.  Not so enthused about the this one, but we are learning a lot about the tribes that we didn't know.  The theme will be "Tribes," which covers a different sort of ground with the skits and dramas.  It's almost like "Survivor" with teams of Gladiators, Vikings, Cowboys, Pirates, Ninjas, Superheroes and Luchadores.  Each "tribe" represents a grade level, and just so you know, Madison's grade level are the Vikings.  It's time to start getting out our horned hats...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day

When Madison came home from school, we were ready for a proper "Earth Day" celebration!  Earlier, Mommy and Daddy went over to Lowe's to get some supplies and plants.  Oh, and light bulbs.  Our house is a black hole for light bulbs.  Always look at the amount of light bulbs in a new house - we basically have enough to power a small village.  If we were to turn them on all at the same time, our house would be visible from space.

And that's what Earth Day is all about, right?  No, not really.  It's about conservation or something like that.  But just to get out there in the earth, we got some flowers for the front of the house.  Mommy and Madison dug holes and planted the flowers, while Daddy cleared the garden area, preparing it for more tomatoes!

It was a really nice day outside, so we stayed out a little longer, also cleaning off all the pollen off the porch.  It was literally slick as you walked out there, so we sprayed it down with a hose, and used a rag a lot, trying to wipe the whole thing off.  We got most of it done, I think!

We got a lot done today, actually.  Earlier, Daddy wrote yet another Tribe message, and later, we finished up our piano practice.  For a reward, all of us took time for an epic ice cream break.  Mommy prepared us ice cream, with sprinkles!  And a cherry on top too.  Madison was nice: she walked over to Daddy's ice cream and said, "I'll let you eat your own cherry!"  Uh... yeah.  Thanks, Madison?  It's funny, because we used to let her eat all the cherries on top of the ice creams because she loved them so much.  Now, she thinks they're all hers!

Before bed, Madison spent some time reading to us - she's getting better and better.  She was reading to use he story of Creation from the Bible.  This, I suppose, is the real "earth day" message, isn't it?  She kept repeating what was written time again in the book about God's creation:  "It is good."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Return of :putnam:

It was another morning Under Construction at church, and this one was fun because if featured the return of :putnam:!  This mascot has been hiding for the last year or so, but it was great to see him back in the swing of things, and of course getting thrown off a seven-story building.  Other than that, he's fine...

Madison was at KidPak Jr. this morning, and it was a day to learn about Noah.  He was a builder, of course, which is what our series is all about.

     One of the greatest building projects in the Bible would have to be Noah’s ark.  This ginormous construction made little sense to anyone as it was being built – and yet inside it offered the only hope for all mankind.  In the book of Hebrews, Noah is listed as a man of faith. He’s a hero in history, and one of the greatest construction foremen of all time.  We can certainly learn a lot from him – after all, he’s the reason we’re all still here!  If you’re wanting to build something great with your life, take a look at these simple tips from Noah:
     First, stick to the blueprints.  It was no doubt unusual for Noah to build a huge boat as he did.  But as we go through life, there will be times that we’ll find ourselves doing things differently than the world would.  Just follow God’s plan, because He knows what’s best:  everything will work together for the good of those who love Him.
     Second, remember that God is into the details.  God had precise instructions on how His ark was to be built. No job is too small – could you imagine a small plank of wood not in place on the ark?  The boat could have sunk!  As we do things, we must work in excellence – that way everything can stay afloat.  Consider that others are watching, and know that God is too.
     Finally, get with the right crew.  Noah had a good team to work with.  Are you hanging around the right people?  A sharpening stone will make your tools more effective.  In the same way, a sharp friend will help give you the cutting edge you need to be the person God has called you to be.
     With guidance from God, Noah was able to build something that preserved the whole human race.  And if you’d like to build something great with your life, the best plan is to follow God’s blueprints for success!

To add to the theme of the day, Daddy read to Madison a book about Noah (one by Jan Brett), and in return, Madison read to Daddy the story of Noah from her children's Bible.  That was a pretty awesome moment, to be sure.

We've had plenty of rain lately - although not today.  Today was a downright beautiful day, in fact.  We got home from church, at which time we did a tiny bit of piano practice - but there was a time for rest as well.  Madison, Winter, and Daddy were upstairs taking a short nap for a bit, while Mommy was on the computer downstairs.  The weather is starting to get warmer, to the point that we actually had to turn on the air conditioning somewhat.  But it's been beautiful outside.  Lake Lanier is pretty much full right now, which is somewhat amazing to behold - it looks almost too full!  It's something we're not used to seeing, a lake completely full.  Each time we go over the bridges, we marvel at how much water lies below us.

We'll have rain again later on this week - Wednesday, I think.  It won't be enough for a world-wide flood, but Madison knows for sure that isn't going to happen again.  God promised it when He put up the rainbow, she'll tell us.  Maybe we'll see a rainbow again soon...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Roller Derby

Kids' Day Out was here today, where we met a whole lot of the kids from church at the roller skating rink for a day of fun.  Now Madison has been on roller skates once.  That was a few years ago - still, she did pretty good.  A little shaky at first, but that's to be expected, right?  She was skating with Mommy or Daddy - and sometimes both!

She was pretty happy to see Ms. Halston there too, apparently!

It was a great afternoon rolling around.  As you can see in these photos below, Madison was clinging to us for dear life, wanting us to never let go at all.

But soon she was off on her own, trying to get the hang of things.  Of course, she needed a wall (or one of us) nearby all the time...

But it was great seeing her improve, and there was a sweet spirit about the whole afternoon.  She was doing so well, and it was wonderful watching her learn on her own - she was having a great time, even when she fell!

She was with a lot of her friends and family, and it was such a great afternoon together.  Here's a first below:  pinball!

We mentioned on this blog earlier that she's been into video pinball.  But this was the real deal, a pinball table.  So this was her first, and it was so cool that it was a "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme.  She did pretty well for her first try, although she was a bit antsy with the flippers.  She was so excited about that... and excited about this too:

Madison is shooting baskets here, something she was wanting to do over and over again.  She got some tickets afterwards, enough redemption tickets to get a few fake fingernails.  She wore those the rest of the day, quite proud of her winning.

So to sum up, it was a great time at the roller rink.  We had some pizza there, and Madison even won another prize for doing the Hokey Pokey!

When we got back, Daddy had to do a bit of work at the office.  Madison practiced some more, plus did her coloring.  And Mommy did something special:  it's Pineapple Upside-down Cake Day, friends. Tonight, we're going to celebrate!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bedtime Stories

Ever have one of those perfect moments, just like it was in a movie?  We had one tonight, just after watching the movie "Bedtime Stories."  We were carrying Madison up to her bedroom for the night, and she asked us if we ever had a made-up story come true.  We told her yes, that we dreamed someday of going to a place far away to find our little girl... and that little girl was you!

It was one of those super-sweet moments that seemed unreal, but it hit the mark with Madison.  She thought it was very nice, and in fact didn't want us to leave when it was time for bed.

This would be another first:  Madison's first Adam Sandler movie.  You could say she was a Happy Madison after watching it, although I'll go ahead and explain that it's doubtful she'll be seeing any other Adam Sandler movies any time soon.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Crood Humor

So we heard a lot of good things about this latest movie, "The Croods," so after piano practice (and after school), we decided to run out and see a movie.  The price was affordable at our favorite theater - three of us and a tub of popcorn under $20.  It's so great to go out together to see a current movie and such a reasonable price.  Down at the Mall of Georgia, this would probably be a $50 investment.

The movie itself was okay - Madison enjoyed it quite a bit, giggling at parts throughout.  The bit you see above was neat, with characters seeing the amazing night of stars above.  The details and animation was incredible - each year that goes by, the computer animation gets better and better.  In some cases, even if the movie is not that great, it's amazing just to watch.

Still, the big thing was being together as a movie.  It was so nice getting out to see a movie together. There really hasn't been anything for the three of us to go out to see together in quite some time, so that was sort of the genesis of the idea.  The movie's been out for a few weeks, but we finally found time to go and check it out.

Prehistoric cartoon movies (and by that, I mean movies like "Dinosaur," "The Land Before Time," "Ice Age," "Ice Age 2," "Ice Age 3," "Ice Age 4") all seem to have the same story:

1.  Some geological thing happens (earthquake, volcano, comet, and/or large cracks in earth)
2.  People have to move from point A to point B to be safe, or be together.

My general problem with these movies is the unsettling thought that, "Okay, these characters are now at  point B.  Great.  Now who's to say all that stuff that happened at Point A isn't going to now start happening at Point B?"

Which of course is why there's a sequel.  Already, there's talk of a sequel to "The Croods."  So my challenge to you is this, writers:  Can we not have a prehistoric movie that doesn't have earthquakes, volcanoes, comets, and/or large cracks in the earth?

Not to say we didn't enjoy the movie. It was okay - there were a few moments where we were laughing out loud.  But we wouldn't put it up there with "Brave," "Wreck-It Ralph" or "Madagascar 3."

Anyway, we enjoyed our family time together - it was nice to take our spots in the theater with a big tub of popcorn between us.  We saw some previews for upcoming movies - I think there are a few cartoons we'll be seeing this summer based on what we saw.

The rest of the day was somewhat typical of a Thursday - Madison was at school all day.  Can you believe she only has a month or so left of kindergarten?  In about a month, we also have our recitals:  music and ballet.  It'll be a pretty busy time, actually.  Of course, we have birthdays too - Ye-Ye and Mommy have birthdays in May.  But right now, it's kind of quiet - and that may be a good thing.  Daddy and Mommy rested a bit today, although Mommy was catching up with payments and bills, and Daddy was doing a bit of writing for future skits.  We'll be working a bit tomorrow, but we'll also be taking it easy too.

That is, unless there is some sort of earthquake, volcano, comet, and/or large crack in the earth.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Admiral Motti has passed away - or at least the actor who portrayed him did.  For those of you unfamiliar with the character, he's the guy on the Death Star who pushes Darth Vader a bit too far.  The end result is a "force choke," where the poor Admiral learns the importance of keeping your mouth shut.

Apparently, this has reinvigorated a meme that Daddy may have missed out on the first time.  It's called "Vadering."

As you can see here, Madison is testing her powers, and it's not going well for Daddy.  It's a simple enough idea to do when taking the photo - Mommy was behind the camera on this one.  It looks pretty funny, as if Daddy is being lifted upwards.

Bottom line:  don't mess with Madison.  We're hoping she steers away from the Sith side of things a bit, of course.  For what it's worth, Daddy actually has an action figure of Admiral Motti, which is pretty obscure if you ask me.  Not quite as obscure as Wilrow Hood, Jek Porkins or Muftak.  But obscure nonetheless!

Today we got some piano in - the recital is still coming up!  We had some more fun with games and ice pops, and then looked at the weather:  can you believe the temperature is going to plunge again tomorrow?  It won't be bitterly cold or anything, but we're all about to get chilly again!

The day was spent at the office, where we tried some more "Vadering," and had another fun picture:

This was taken at our office, which is pretty much where Daddy spends his Wednesdays.  We had a great night tonight, as we talked about Nehemiah, and his big walls.  Of course, this brings to mind the walls that Daddy has climbed - and just about passed out doing:  the Great Wall of China.

The message was a good one.  Or, at least Daddy was really into it.  We were building walls on the stage and setting up the boundaries in our lives.  That's all part of our adventure at KidPak, while Under Construction.  Of course, we showed the old cartoon we redid the sound for:  it was a cartoon dedicated to Nehemiah (or Nehemiar, if you speak redneck).  Anyway, we took all the audio out, and made it into a goofy cartoon with new voices and new dialogue (and new sound effects and music). 

You can click on this image above if you'd like to see our efforts.  Beware the Giant Webkin!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Purple Rain

We didn't actually mention Purple Rain, Prince, or even that symbol.  Yet this morning before school, Madison feels inspired to use crayons to show us - in her words - Purple Rain!  Needless to say, it cracked us both up.  Why not green rain?  Peter Gabriel would probably appreciate Red Rain, and of course if it were brown, it'd be Chocolate Rain.  But what's up with Purple Rain?  Perhaps Madison is onto something that we've been missing.

Speaking of music, Madison had piano this afternoon, where we listened to a bit of John Philip Sousa, and watched the orchestra play "Stars and Stripes Forever."  Madison enjoyed watching the different instruments play, and then of course soon she was playing the keyboard herself on the different tunes she's been practicing.  She's getting much better with rhythm, exhibited today with "Turkey and the Straw."  She did a great job keeping in time with the tune that was playing elsewhere.

It was a long day for school and practice, but she loves these sorts of days.  Mommy and Daddy are busy meeting up at these places, taking her to and from ballet or piano or school.  We all get home and pretty much take a deep breath.

Although Mommy had hot dogs ready for us.  Yummy!  Yes, it's hot dog season again, as well as hamburger season too!  That doesn't necessarily mean we grilled it out on the deck yet - but it's getting close to that time.

Because of all the practice, and dinner, we just barely had time for a movie.  But Madison really wanted to watch "The Rise of the Guardians" again, so there we were with all the holiday figures Santa, Easter Bunny, Sandman and the Tooth Fairy.  And Jack Frost, of course.  Madison is a big fan of the Tooth Fairy.  She's not quite at the point of losing another tooth yet, but we figure that will be in six months or so!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Death and Taxes

It was that kind of day:

1.  The funeral.  We attended the funeral of a friend - Madison was fortunately at school for this.  It was a good service, for a good person who died way too soon.  No one offered any answers or explanations, which is good because there aren't any.  Only God knows.  They played the song "With Hope" by Steven Curtis Chapman, which speaks so much more than many a spoken message.  But a few of those who spoke today captured the essence of a friend gone - in our hearts - too soon.

2.  The bombs.  Calling them animals is an insult to animals, so we'll stick with "terrorists."  Animals are obedient to God's commands, whereas it seems that many of us do not.  Today there was a coordinated effort to kill people in Boston, setting off bombs at strategic points along a marathon route. It sounds like a plan of an evil villain in a movie, doesn't it?  Yet this was reality, and a lot of people are hurting today.  Some are in eternity.

3.  The poison.  We got a call that Josh's mother was poisoned.  No details at the moment as to the specifics, and after several tense hours at the hospital, it seems as if everything will be okay.  At least one happy resolution there.

4.  The taxes.  We sent those in today after a huge adventure in town.  Lots and lots of traffic in Cumming.  The town is just not designed for cars to go through.  Specifically, making a left turn off of the Tribble Gap Road is a terrible idea.  In fact, traveling down Tribble Gap Road is a bad idea, because so many people want to make a left hand turn from it.  And, because it's a one lane road with no green arrow to give those poor left-turning souls an opportunity to actually turn, you can imagine the back-up is pretty big.  You'd think our taxes (the thing I started talking about with point four here) would help pay for a better system.  Especially as our taxes have gone up.

Madison didn't see much of any of the above today, as she was at school largely.  She had a great day, of course.  Every day is great for her - she loves kindergarten.  She's had a few injuries at school lately, today included.  Her arm got pinched on the swing last week, and today she bumped heads with another classmate.  The nurse fills out a very specific piece of paper to document as much as possible, which is great to see.

Not so great to see were the school photos.  Of course, Madison had just come back to school at the time, having been out sick for the past few days.  Her eyes were still a bit puffy, and they had her positioned oddly, in a way that she doesn't usually stand.  Additionally, she's not really smiling at all.  With the puffy eyes, it actually looks like she's about to cry!

FORTUNATELY, it wasn't the type of day where you had to begin every topic with a word or phrase that conjures up negativity!  Example:  we don't have to buy any of those photos.  Also, we already got our school pictures from the beginning of the year.  The class photos turned out great, so we're okay there.  We just don't need to spend another $50 (or more) on photos that didn't really turn out that great.  It's not Madison's fault, of course.  She was probably still a bit under the weather, and they had her positioned oddly.  It was quite an unusual photo we saw this afternoon.

One great thing we did this afternoon was return to the chiropractor.  Madison had a great time inside, as usual.  We all had our adjustments, and were pretty much on our way back home right afterwards.  Earlier in the afternoon, Mommy and Daddy had a "date," where we went to Red Lobster to eat.  Mommy wanted shrimp, and Daddy got fish and chips - so we were pretty full later on in the afternoon.  The reason for pointing this out is that we seem to always go to Cracker Barrel after the visit to the chiropractor.  They're pretty close, and therefore the idea of comfort food is pretty tempting.  But not today:  we went straight home.

It was there that Madison did a LOT of practice on her piano.  It was a big, big practice session, where Madison was doing a bit of catching up, and practicing for her upcoming recital.  She did well, for the most part.  There's one part that even Daddy was somewhat confused about, but we'll straighten that out in class tomorrow.  Daddy goes to class still, where Madison, Mommy and he learn together.

Practice was so huge that we had the reward of a ice pop.  Or a freezer pop.  Whatever you want to call 'em, they're a perfect snack!  We also played some games - but it was pretty late when we were done, by the time you add up time spent going to Cumming and time spent behind the piano.

So off to bed, where Madison was a little sensitive.  She's been on this, "I'll miss you" thing lately, where she starts crying about the idea of being away from Mommy and Daddy for a time.  Of course, this is all because she's probably pretty tired.  But the sentiment is so sweet.  We were cracking her up with the fake doctor's kit, giving her shots - and she would get us back by giving us shots as well.  Dr. Madison was a mad doctor last night, using the toy syringe to give us shots on our necks, heads, arms, legs, feet, toes, etc.  Lots of giggles, last night.  So, in a way you could call her Dr. Giggles.

But we probably won't.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Still Under Construction

We had a little party for one of our cast members who had a birthday - and of course Madison had to check out the cupcakes Mommy had made.  These were cupcakes cooked within ice cream cones, covered with icing and sprinkles and yes, they were delicious. 

Madison is wearing some of the gear used by our female cast members - pink hardhats, and bejeweled tools.  She enjoyed the service this morning, which had a theme of measuring out.  "You Can't Measure God" is what was spoken for her class, and for the older kids too.  Before service, Madison was having a lot of fun with the castmembers:

Here's Ricke, who has been with us for many years.  He plays a character called Black Bart, who has a tough exterior - and as you can see here, he's just a big softy!

It was a great day this morning, followed by the typical crashing on the couch afterwards.  The variation was the visit to the funeral home this afternoon.  As Mommy was sick, Madison and Daddy dropped by to pay our respects, though quite briefly.  We stayed away from the casket - explaining any of this to Madison started out difficult, and graduated to impossible.  Our visit was mercifully brief, although Madison saw people crying and understood later on why we needed to pray for them, that God would give them peace.

It was a relaxing afternoon - Daddy actually left the cars outside to rinse off the pollen.  There was light rainfall for a good part of the day, and it appears as if the temperature will be rising again this week.  The lake is just spectacular.  It's so full, and so unusual to see that way.  

Before bed tonight, Madison was reading to us from her books, and it just so happens she was reading to us about Moses as a baby.  It was a simple telling of the story, one that Madison could read to us, but she wanted to read it, and was excited about reading words.  The neat thing is that we dedicated our morning at church to talking a bit about Moses.  In fact, here below is something Daddy wrote up about the message, along with a coloring sheet Madison used afterwards:

    Out in the middle of Egypt, the Israelites were involved with one of the most miserable construction projects ever recorded in human history.  It was simply horrible, and they needed help – but who would come to save them?  Every night, they came home sore and weary.  Every night, they cried out to God someone to save them.
    Enter Moses.  Far away, he was at the start of his day, minding his own business.  But suddenly God’s voice was there, speaking to him about rescuing the Israelite slaves. 
     God was asking a lot, and Moses made excuses when he started to think of his own abilities.  But Moses forgot that he was dealing with the great I Am, and if there’s one thing we all need to remember, it’s that you can’t measure God!
    None of us measure up.  Moses made excuses to begin with, but God doesn’t want us to focus on our own shortcomings.  Read your Bible:  God has a history of using those pieces that everyone throws away.  People like Abraham, David, Elijah and Moses were far from perfect.  And yet, God used them in amazing ways throughout the Old Testament.
     So trust your Ruler.  God rules, and He knows more than we could ever measure.  Don’t give Him just an inch.  Give Him everything you can, and watch Him pour out so many blessings that you will not have enough room for them!
     He has big plans.  He has the blueprints for your life all rolled out across the table, and they’re all good!  Don’t measure the size of any challenge in front of you when you’ve got an immeasurable God behind you!
     Moses moved forward in faith because he trusted his Ruler, and watched God’s plans miraculously unfold.  It was an astonishing exit from Egypt, beyond anyone’s greatest expectations.  But that’s what happens when you obey. 
     Remember it’s not by might or power or strength.  It’s all the Great I Am.  And you can’t measure God!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mrs. Nesbitt

Some people get the reference, and others don't.  This blog got its name from a scene in the movie "Toy Story," a clip shown above.  It just so happens that this was recently posted on a social network, so I thought I'd share it here.

Buzz Lightyear is having tea (yes, from a Utah Teapot), and he's had his eyes opened to reality.  It's a bit unnerving, and he's pretty much gone off the deep end.

This is in no way an allegory for what the site is about.  The fact of the matter is that Madison put a funny hat on Daddy, and we were having tea together.  Mommy came by, and Daddy cried out, "Don't you get it?  I'm Mrs. Nesbitt!"

Today was Saturday, and by definition of late, Daddy had to work into the night.  My goodnight to Madison was over Skype, although Daddy was able to come home a little sooner than he usually does. In fact, he had about seven hours of sleep tonight, which is a record for Saturday nights.  A typical Saturday night goes deep into the night.

Speaking of "going deep," the Atlanta Braves are off to a spectacular start.  The dreaded Washington Nationals, who everyone thought was the best team in baseball, have lost two in a row to Atlanta.  We've actually now got the best record in baseball, although we've only played something like eleven total games.  Daddy is convinced we'll be going to one soon, but he's been saying that the last two years.

Mommy spent much of the day finishing up the preparations for taxes, and we all decided to skip the annual community yard sale this year.  For one, it was pretty short notice for us - with all the other stuff going on this week.  The other thing is this:  there is someone having a yard sale to benefit this family that just lost their mother.  We figure we'll donate all our stuff we started packing for the garage sale, and put it together for that yard sale instead.  So it all works out in the end anyway.

Madison read a lot today, and did quite a bit of drawing as well.  She's been copying other things, drawing what she sees.  Then she colors it in with crayons the best she can.  One other thing she started this week that makes Daddy proud:

She's been watching the Powerpuff Girls!  Suddenly, we've had access to a whole lot of Cartoon Network stuff from the nineties, and Madison has hooked herself on some of it right away.  We were always big fans of the girls, so it is great to see it runs in the family:  Madison has been watching one episode after another of this great cartoon.  No doubt, Dexter's Laboratory will come next, and maybe even Johnny Bravo.  Courage the Cowardly Dog is an unusual pick from Daddy, along with Samurai Jack.  There are others that just popped on Netflix, and they should keep us busy for a long, long time.  Great stuff - she sets up her Kindle, and watches a few episodes as she draws or plays with the dolls she has nearby.  Speaking of which, Winter is always nearby.  Winter goes up to bed with her, and comes down each morning at breakfast.  Winter sits on the couch with her, and Winter sometimes goes in the car with her.  Winter has been attached to Madison since we got back from Spring Break!

This morning, Madison asked an unusual question:  "Where do butterflies sleep?"  Our little scientist is starting to investigate the world around her, and that's pretty interesting to see.  Although there is no one specific field she's really into (veterinary, engineering, music, arts), she dabbles in all of them, and is interested enough in all of them to keep returning to projects related to each.  She loves building things, and figuring out puzzles - but she also likes to draw and use colors.  She's growing up fast - she's our little Powerpuff Girl.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Class Photo

Piano practice is getting tougher, but the good news is that Madison is pretty much a master at her recital piece, "Monkey Sounds."  She seems to have that one all figured out, despite three chords on the left hand.  Still, we'll probably practice that one to death before the big recital in one month.

Today, Madison got her class photo.  This was about two weeks ago, before Spring Break and just about the time that many in the school happened to be sick.  Not the best timing for a photo, but who can predict that right as spring is starting, the weather would drop so uncharacteristically low.  In fact, even tonight the temperature is dipping down into the forties.  It's been clear and crisp today, just like a beautiful fall day - the crisp part can be credited to the rain last night, pushing all the pollen down to the ground for a bit.  The cool is because of the strong front that came through.

Anyway, the end result of the cool weather and large amount of illnesses at the school was a class photo that didn't have the whole class in it.  I think there were three or four girls missing, in fact.  Here's the photo below, Madison's first class photo:

She did well, smiling even!  Sometimes she gets a little camera shy, but not for this shot.  Anyway, there it is - her kindergarten class of 2012-13.  It's nearly over, which is somewhat of a shock to the system.  We're already talking about first grade, and then of course second and so on.  How quickly it goes by, which is the theme of all of this, of course.  And more fuel for being sure to write as much down as possible.

Tonight before bed, Madison wanted to watch - for the first time - "Dolphin Tale."  She'd only seem bits and pieces before the trip to Clearwater, and even while there at the museum, she saw a few scenes of the movie.  Tonight, however, we got out the tub of popcorn - and Madison brought down Winter the dolphin, who was now dressed in a formal tutu around her waist (just below the dorsal fin).  She was really into the movie, laughing at the parts where Winter would make funny noises or splash Sawyer with water.  It's a good movie, made more enjoyable by the fact that Winter is an actual dolphin, and that we just saw her last week.

Madison was at school for most of the day, of course.  And meanwhile, Daddy was doing yet another thing on that checklist of life.  Although I didn't personally get to race one around versus another, I was pretty much part of the filming crew of our own improvised lawnmower race.

Yeah, that happened today.  It was such a beautiful day too - somewhat breezy and perfect for kites!  In fact, that's just what we did in that great big, open field.  Can't wait to fly a kite with Madison again - maybe we'll get to do that this weekend.

Anyway, the race went pretty well.  One of those mowers had a definite edge to it, and I'm not talking about the blades used to cut the grass.  As this was a video for the kids on Sunday, it has somewhat of a comical end to it, and yes, it's all pretty much taken from those classic episodes of "Home Improvement."  But as we're doing an "Under Construction" series, we thought it only fitting to hop in some lawnmowers, find a field, and go at it!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Robo Squirrel Pajama Party

Tax season is here, where if every American were actually forced to pay close attention to how much it is they actually have to send in, there'd be some sort of revolt.  Or, at least a mild annoying protest or collective whine.

A quick scan of the internet, and I've discovered that Tax Freedom Day is April 18th this year.  That's five days later than last year, representing a slight increase in how much all of us pay.  Yes, we all pay more taxes this year.  That's how I read that, don't you?  Based on this logic, if we pay more, then the assumption is that taxes went up for all of us.  Okay, and with that settled, I can move on:

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of Tax Freedom Day, it's this:  every day this year until April 18th, all the money made by you from four months at work... belongs to the government.  It's not yours.  Instead, it's sent in (by Monday), and used for useful endeavors, such as:

* $50 million for an indoor rainforest in Iowa
* $1 million for the Waterfree Urinal Conservation Initiative
* $211,509 for olive fruit fly research
* $700,000 for a science-based musical that features flying monkey poop
* part of $13.5 million for the World Toilet Summit
* $500,000 for the Sparta Teapot Museum
* $1 million to develop a decent menu of food to eat on Mars
* $25,000 for a study on mariachi music 
*$1.7 million for animal waste research
* And of course many more. 

Personally, Daddy is thrilled to know that his money is being used in such a frugal way, as are many Americans.  Those wackos who think these projects are unnecessary are probably just some right wing tea party extremists, because here's the big question for you:  how can any of us possibly live without these?

Still, maybe the government could send us free passes to the Iowa rainforest, the World Toilet Summit, or that musical.  But the thing Daddy is probably most interested in seeing is the Robosquirrel.  If I could check off where exactly I want all my tax money sent this year, I would tell the government to please invest it all into this amazing robotic squirrel.  Now that's valuable research!  Schools charge a zillion dollars for students just to attend, and yet on top of that our government still gives them $325,000 to develop a robot squirrel designed to "test the interaction between rattlesnakes and squirrels."

Critics complain that this is wasteful spending and not exactly something we Americans should have to pay for with our taxes.  But those critics are crazy heads.  I mean, look at that little guy - he's cute!  And the name "Robo Squirrel" is pretty awesome, you have to admit.  It sort of conjures up images of some cross between Robocop and a small, furry rodent.  Perhaps he's out for justice, defending all the squirrels in his crime-stricken neighborhood from the evils of nefarious rattlesnakes.  On paper, the official explanation for $325,000 is this:

The robosquirrel research project, in which robosquirrel is used and developed, has four aims: (1) to establish collaborations between ecologists and engineers to develop next generation robotic technology for studying predator-prey communication behavior, (2) to increase minority participation in science, (3) to develop public outreach, and (4) to support undergraduate and graduate education in biology and engineering.

That's the official entry on Wikipedia.  But that is all nice wording to cover up the real motivation.  Here's how I would phrase it:

The robosquirrel research project, in which robosquirrel is used and developed, has two aims: (1) to make a cool robotic squirrel, (2) and have somebody else pay for it.

So, to sum up:  Mommy's doing taxes this year.  She's a bit busy in that regard, counting up medical bills and so forth.  We all pay more this year, but maybe we've been setting aside too much, and maybe we'll actually get a refund.  We'll see - it would be nice to get some extra cash back.  We could spend it on useful things like our debt, or food.  Or we could use government logic and skip those necessities, and spend it on robotic squirrels!

All day long we were tracking a slow moving, yet powerful wave of storms that were crossing the entire Southeast.  Tornado watches were in effect, and hail was falling everywhere as this monster storm system plowed it's way across Mississippi, Alabama and then Georgia.  Yet a strange thing happened to us where we live.  Though warnings and hail were ten miles east and ten miles west of us, we didn't even see rain until later on in the night.  It's as if we're in this little zone that slips through the cracks - somewhat like that time we saw two springs ago.  We're not complaining in the slightest.  Daddy stayed up for a bit, and as there was nothing to worry about for Madison before bedtime, she was off to sleep before any of the rain or thunder ever made noise.

In fact, Mommy and Daddy were in the mood for a Beach Party!  Still in our Annette Funicello Tribute Week, Mommy and Daddy have been watching the "Beach Party" movies at night this week, and tonight's feature, "Pajama Party" might be a contender for a low point in the series - which is saying a lot.  Most of these are goofy fun, but at least they're coherent.  Not "Pajama Party."  There are times where we were asking ourselves what exactly is going on?  Which, considering the series itself, is saying a lot.

We're leading up to a big weekend again, although we dropped hope of setting up for the yard sale this Saturday.  The community is having its annual yard sale, but we didn't find out about it until too late - there's just not enough time to gather up all the stuff to put out in a decent presentation.  Besides, there as been a tragedy in our church:

This is Beth.  This picture was taken the night of Mommy and Daddy's wedding rehearsal dinner.  She did something wonderful - back then, O'Charley's was a new and popular restaurant, very busy.  It was where Daddy wanted the wedding rehearsal dinner, and Beth arranged for us to have the whole patio area to ourselves.  We decorated it, and God arranged some perfect weather.

She pushed it all along, reserving a patio on a Friday night (at the time a really popular restaurant), despite annoyances from management and complaints from other customers.

She was such a carefree spirit, and a genuinely funny person.  After our time working together, she went off to Hawaii to live in a camp, and I could never do that at the time.  I was so uptight and worried about stuff, and she was so optimistic and full of faith in life.  She was so free!  I was so jealous of her ability to release and float through it all.

Of course, she faced problems like everyone else.  Some of them put a damper on that spirit somewhat, and there's no question the weight of all the prayers of her worried mother pushed her back home.  But that became here at Free Chapel.  And it was here that she would make sure her kids heard from God.  Despite any troubles, she was beginning to lift above it all, and become free again.  She was creating good memories for her children, building on a firm foundation for her family.

This morning, it is my understanding that the children heard for the first time that Mommy is with God.  And our hearts are so heavy.

She had three children.  One of her friends is having a yard sale this next week, where she'll raise money for the family (and there are other fund-raising efforts going on as well).  We'll be donating our yard sale stuff to the cause, and although it's not much, it all adds up.