Saturday, August 31, 2013

Spelling City

Madison is quick.  She did her spelling homework fast - covering all these words with so much ease that we were wondering if this was something a little too easy for her.  And equally great is her piano practice of late.  She covered the chords today very quickly, and did her two songs without too much difficulty.  We were impressed!

We slept in late this morning, and went to work late too.  Daddy spent the day at the office, working on a bit for tomorrow related to museums:  "Ripley's Believe it or Not."  We sort of changed things around to talk about Bible fun facts.  I'll have to come back and list a few, but it was fun creating this one and designing the graphics for it.

Mommy and Daddy go back a ways with Ripley's.  For some reason, this was a travel destination for us in Gatlinburg and St. Augustine.  I think those are the two locations we've been to so far.  Daddy's been by the one in Niagara Falls, and I think we've driven by one in Orlando as well.  We have three Ripley's hard cover books, and I think even an old board game.

For Aunt Shain's birthday one year, we did a "Barbie's Believe it or Not!"  We had all these Barbie dolls in this macabre "museum" at our old house.  They were ordinary Barbie dolls, but we sort of "adjusted" them to fit various themes you'd see at  Ripley's museum.  It was bizarre, but then so are the museums.  We had little labels for each one, fun facts with the unusual story behind this Barbie or that.  At this moment, I'm sort of glad Madison never saw that one.  She was actually compiling her Christmas list a little today, and Barbie was on it - there are a few Barbie movies she's going to ask Santa for.  Yes, she's already beginning to compose her letter to Santa.  You've got to be on top of these things.  She may have one of the earliest letters to Santa this year!

We watched "Wreck-it Ralph" again tonight, this time for research.  Daddy is working on a video-game inspired theme for KidPak in October and November, and the final message will actually be based on the movie.  It's a great flick, I was reminded.  I think the animated movies of 2012 are as a whole, much greater than those in 2013.  I'm talking about "Brave," "Wreck-it Ralph" and "Madagascar 3" in particular.  If you're curious about "Wreck-it Ralph," the points that I developed sort of go like this.  Keep in mind these are rough notes:

  1. Don’t wreck it.  Ralph may play the part of a bad guy, but it was his companions that wrecked everything.  Worse than any cybug is someone who treats people like a glitch.

  2. You’ve got to earn that medal.  Ralph just wants respect, but he goes about it the wrong way.  Trust, respect and friendship are things that take a longer time to win – but can be lost in just a few moments.

  3. You’re no glitch.  You’re royalty!  Vanellope discovered an amazing secret:  we were all programmed for something greater!  Ralph’s companions soon discover that he’s a very important part of the game.  So are you!       

Anyway, it'll be a fun day of course.  Love the movie, and we can't wait to see Ralph again with this series.  Also, we may be seeing him at Christmas time, but that's a story for another post!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Helm's Deep

As darkness set, the orc armies prepared for the onslaught against our fortifications!  Madison and Daddy joined the rest of the human army today, and if you're tracking our progress through the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, then yes, we've just survived the battle of Helm's Deep.

Tonight Daddy came home a little later, but that was because of a special KidPak program that began at 7:00 pm tonight on the KidPak webpage.  It is called "Friday Night Live," although that name is subject to change in the future.  The last Friday of each month, one of our friends is putting together a 15 minute long variety show just aimed at having fun.  Tonight, Madison and Mommy sat together and laughed at the different skits - most of them had Daddy in them in one way or another.  At one point, I was a coach drilled by a football, knocking over a table with water coolers on it.  Another skit had me as a student in a class - alongside a few other students - where the teacher was Mrs. Wigglebottom.  Madison laughed at both of these.

She had a great day at school - she's doing well with her spelling and sight words.  We'll see about her math skills though.  Daddy has to look into that.  I believe this week she's been going over her +1 numbers, which she was able to run through pretty easy with Daddy this evening.

Mommy is still struggling with her tummy issues.  This week has been a tough one for her, but we're still optimistic overall about the initial cause at least.  We're certain it is gluten-related, and therefore there must have been some gluten infiltration in her diet.  Some folks are so sensitive that even cooking something in the same pan that previously featured gluten is hazardous.  Mommy may just be that sensitive, as she's had a pretty severe reaction to something that we can't put our finger on.

Still, we have hope that at least we know what to do now.  At least, for the most part, we've figured out that some strict dietary rules can block out most of the terrible side effects she's been suffering from over the last five years.  Madison prayed for her tonight, and came up to her, wishing her well.  And indeed, tomorrow will be much better we hope.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


So it was Thursday, which you think would have been easier on Mommy and Daddy - but unfortunately, this has been an awful week for Mommy and her health.  For some reason, her digestive troubles are back - despite the fact that she's been watching her diet closely.  On top of this, Madison came home a bit wet, and even had another incident at ballet practice this afternoon.

It was a bummer of a day.  And it's easier for me to put a positive spin on it, because I'm not the one who is going through any severe endurance test.  My spin:  this is the big battle before the breakthrough.  We have to believe in things like that to keep our spirits up.

Madison did her homework as usual, followed by some piano practice.  She's gotten proficient with "Mary had a Little Lamb" with two hands.  This is the only song Daddy ever knew how to play on the piano for ages - that is, until we started taking this class together.  Seriously, we pretty much learn to play piano together, and this is the perfect speed.  I don't care if it takes years:  we'll both practice at the same time, and in about five years, I might be good enough to play "Chopsticks!"

So Labor Day is here again - this weekend.  It's the end of summer, although our definitions of "summer" are pretty broad.  Technically, summer doesn't end until September 22nd.  But the old way of thinking is that summer starts on Memorial Day, and ends on Labor Day.  That coincided with the school seasons where we lived - it was always after Labor Day when we went to school.

But Madison started school essentially at the beginning of August.  And for us, it felt like the end of summer was pretty much when she went back to school.  Our mechanics and way of thinking shifted dramatically as we started thinking about piano, ballet, and of course the different tasks related to school.  The biggest one, of course, involves getting up at 6:02 each morning.  There's significance in choosing that particular time - a reference to "Mary Poppins."

Unlike Mr. Banks, however, Daddy doesn't quite get a surge of deep satisfaction when the alarm goes off.  The life we lead changed quite a bit with school, and although it took some getting used to, we're almost there.  Madison for her part is enjoying school very much, looking forward to each day.  She also looks forward to spending time at home too, which is nice to hear.  But we have our routines, and much earlier bedtimes as well.

Before leaving this blog for the day, a word about spiders:  It's the season of the writing spider.  We don't have any messages written yet, but we do have some amazing accomplishments.  If we could hand out awards, we would.  These spiders spin out cables of silk vast distances, from tree branches several feet away all the way to the house, all over an area nine feet above ground.  Each morning, we discover some new ginormous web, complete with a ginormous spider in the middle of it.  You could be walking along thinking there is NO WAY a spider could put a web here in this big open space, but you'd be wrong.  Twenty feet away is the beginning of a rope of sticky silk, descending down and as taught as a trip wire - and at eye level.  If we didn't know any better, we'd suspect these spiders are going after slightly larger prey.

Hopefully it isn't the chipmunks.  We have a few under our porch - there's one we see frequently, just standing there on the porch, enjoying the view.  That is, until we approach the door from the inside.  We usually spot him from the great room, pointing him out to one another.  So far, no music from him.  This isn't a singing chipmunk, unfortunately.

But that hasn't stopped us from listening to the Chipmunks.  Did we mention that we were given several Alvin and the Chipmunk records?  Yes, we have them at the house now, and yes, Madison has been listening to a few.  One CD she has not listened to yet is "Urban Chipmunk."

Daddy got this one a few years ago, because he had it when he was Madison's age.  That's when it was a record.  But I got it as a CD now, pretty much an impulse buy.  I'll probably start playing it in the car on the way to school in the mornings.  It's essential listening!  It's still one of my favorites - such a fun sing-a-long from Alvin, Simon, and Theodore.  It's hard to pick a favorite song out of the bunch, but what happened to "Luckenbach, Texas" on the CD release?  It was on the record release, but got pulled in favor of a newer "Boot Scootin' Boogie."  Still, the entire thing is classic to hear for me.  Jerry Reed's bit on the song "Lunchbox" is still lots of fun.  Madison sort of likes the Chipmunks, so there's my window to pop in some music that I like too.  Yes, Mommy and Daddy are still big kids at heart!

And with that, I suppose it's time to hit the dusty trail on this post.  It's time to get to sleep - we've got to get enough sleep tonight because tomorrow comes pretty early.  At 6:02, to be precise!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Red Couch Photos

"S-A-T-U-R-N."  Madison is shown above spelling the name of the sixth planet in our solar system.  This is somewhat of a surprise to Daddy, who has seen the curriculum's spelling list:  she's working on words with "at" at the end, including "cat," "sat," "bat," and "hat."  These are the sorts of words she's expected to know, and if she does well enough with those, she can go on to learn the more challenging words.  Words like "matter" and "Saturn."

So today, Mommy called the office on the computer.  Daddy just so happened to have a model of Saturn with him, and Madison just so happened to be able to spell it for the entire office.  As soon as she nailed it, the entire office erupted in cheers!  Way to go, Madison!

Anyway, today was a big day at church as always.  We had a great night, continuing our spirit of adventure, but Mommy and Madison stayed home to get some much-needed rest.  It's just that she has to get up very early, otherwise we'd have her at church very quickly.

Daddy did go home to see everyone, of course.  It was late afternoon, and Daddy raced home to hang around with Mommy and Madison.  We ate together, and had some playtime - but soon Daddy was off and back to work.

So what's with the title of this blog entry?  Recently we were looking at Peggy's old site, where our log-in date families talked with one another and shared photos of the children.  There was one folder that caught my eye, called "Red Couch Folders."

Here's a blast from the past.  It's a "red couch" picture, something traditional that families adopting children from China used to do.  They probably still do, although not as frequently.  At the White Swan hotel in Guangzhou, there's a red couch in the lobby.  It's tradition to dress up all the children being adopted, placing them on the couch for a group photo.  I'm not entirely sure why this is done, but it is a nice thing to do for a group shot.  We all do a day or two before checking out, and going back our separate ways.

Our strategy with restless Madison was effective:  place a container of Cheerios right in front of her.  The other children did not fare so well.  The game plan for this official portrait is simple:  parents put the children in place, and run!  That's when the pictures are snapped, hopefully before the younger ones start to panic and cry.  That doesn't take long at all!  Several of them started wailing, crying for Mommy - but Madison never even flinched.  She just sat there, content with her Cheerios!

It's neat seeing all these children - five years ago.  One is in Oklahoma, another in Texas.  One is in Florida, and another in Pennsylvania, and another is in New Jersey.  There's one in Iowa, and another one in Seattle, Washington.  All different walks of life, all taken around the world - just like that.  One moment, you're listening to a Chinese orphanage director, and five years later you're memorizing the spelling of "Saturn" in English.  What an amazing journey!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Back to piano class today, which Madison enjoys all the time.  A twist:  Daddy made a mistake and had Madison practicing a tune with the wrong chord.  This put Madison's hand positions in the wrong place, which sort of put a sudden bit of worry on Daddy when the class actually started reviewing.  But Madison didn't panic - and in fact, she quickly adapted and got her hands in the right positioning.  This is a big deal, because the 3-5-7 hand position is different with different chords.  The C chord doesn't bother with black keys, whereas other ones do.  Like I said, Madison adjusted a little quicker than I ever could.  Despite a week's practice in the wrong direction, she was able to shift gears, so to speak.

We got home, and Daddy decided to stay there.  We actually cooked out tonight, a huge meal at that.  Burgers, and portobello mushrooms on the grill too!  Plus corn on the cob, and potato salad - it all made for a pretty massive, and pretty tasty, meal.

We practiced our sight words some more, which Madison seems to be nailing.  Of course, she sort of memorizes things in a particular order sometimes, so we have to surprise her a bit in the order we ask her certain words.  But she's almost there with getting all 95 of the sight words for the first quarter.  In fact, Mommy quizzed her on the words for the next quarter, and she's already gotten most of them.  She's in good shape for recognizing sight words.  Next step will be actually SPELLING them!

Yeah, we went back to Middle Earth again tonight.  Let's see, where are we?  Yes, we lost Boromir tonight.  The orcs apparently are pretty deadly with giant bananas.  But we met his brother and Gollum too.  Madison is excited about this game, and it tickles Daddy that someday she'll read this, or review it in school, and she'll already be pretty familiar with the characters - in Lego format.  If she ever reads these books, she'll of course picture these lego block characters acting everything out.

Tennis, anyone?  Mommy signed Madison up for tennis classes today.  These will be on Wednesdays, completing a busy three-day sweep:  Piano, tennis, and ballet.  She'll certainly keep busy.  But Mommy and Daddy will too!

The world news is troubling:  Our nation's involvement with a War in Syria.  Of course, it's been like this for ages.  With my limited knowledge, as I see it:  suddenly a ruthless dictator is killing children in a different way.  Before, it was okay because the bad guys were using plain old bullets and explosives to kill people.  But now, our nation has to get involved because the bad guys are using chemical weapons to kill people.  See the difference there?

So now is the time for the rest of the world to determine if they were just bluffing about doing something about Syria, or are they really going to go in and do something.  This has been going on for years.  But one of the rules about world involvement is that it takes years to actually do anything, particularly anything productive.

Then there's crazy Iran.  If our nation goes in to attack Iran's friends in Syria, they say they'll retaliate by attacking a completely different country:  Israel.  So Israeli people are buying gas masks because Iran says it will launch stuff on them.  Which means we'll suck in two more countries in a larger scale war.

Here's the thing:  whenever Israel is involved in any war, it's the end of the world.

That's the slight spirit in the air right now - everyone wondering if this is the big one?  Anytime Israel is involved in conflict, many folks start studying their prophetic Bible calendars, trying to see how things fit in.  So how does this fit in?  As with every Israeli conflict the past fifty-something years, I have no idea!  It's all interesting, though somewhat troublesome when it happens, and yet we have to keep our peace by remembering to trust God in all things.  Still, it doesn't take much to start a world war.  In 1917, one man was assassinated, and two world wars followed.  The cost can never be calculated, yet the end result was a new world, including the return of the nation of Israel.

This brings us to the slight edge to our recent troubles: this time around China and Russia are apparently warning us not to get involved.  Or what?  What are you going to do about it if we do go in?  And are you actually suggesting you are in favor of using chemical weapons on children?

So here we go again with the cycle.  It's been a few years since we've seen tension in the Middle East, but it is as inevitable as the sun coming up, or setting.  There are all sorts of things causing economic turmoil here, so a war in the Middle East isn't going to help much.  It's that season, and it's time to get ready once more.

When we look at Madison, we always wonder what kind of world we're leaving for our children.  We see these sorts of conflicts, and we see a seemingly unstoppable generational decline.

Tonight Daddy was tired, but he made sure he read the Bible to his little girl before bed.  She was asking for that, and he was grateful to hear it.  We read about Jesus growing with wisdom - Luke 2:52 - and our prayer tonight is that Madison would grow with that wisdom, and a heart that longs to walk with Him.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Bed, Part II

How comfy and glorious is the new bed Madison has!  Daddy spent a good part of the afternoon assembling this masterpiece, just in time for Madison to arrive home from school on the bus.  She immediately went upstairs, discovering there her new bed - complete with Disney princess sheets and pillowcases.  It looks so comfy, and takes up so much space too.  Madison is already asleep in it as I type this out.  She absolutely loves it, and couldn't wait to give it a try.

Years ago, we got the framework for this bed convert.  It started out as the crib - we took away the front part about three years ago.  But we kept it as a footboard, along with the side portions that have been tucked away a really long time.  We just unboxed them this afternoon for the first time, which is something because we bought the whole kit about a year before we even met Madison.  That's 2007, six years ago.  We said it was for our future daughter Madison, so the furniture guys wrote out the name "Mattson" on it.

So today we put that together, and suddenly Madison has all this space to play with.  Lots of room for stuffed animals too!

We did our piano when she got home, and we did some practice with her sight words too.  By the end of this quarter, she needs to have mastery of about 90 sight words on this list that was just sent home.  Madison knows about 84 of the words really well, although we did some drills and she seems to have the hang of the others on the list too.  We'll do that again and again.  Hey, that's funny:  one of the words on the list is "again!"

After practicing a bit, we harvested a lot more of our small tomatoes, and had dinner.  We went back to Middle Earth, and for those of you keeping track at home, we've made it all the way through those Mines of Moria.  Unfortunately, Gandalf seems to have taken a wrong turn.  Madison was a bit worried about the old guy, but in truth, he's not her favorite character.  She seems to like Merry the most, mainly because he can go fishing.

There is another movie event for our kids' church coming up, and the powers-that-be are leaning towards the movie "Epic."  We just saw that for Summer Xtreme 2013, but there is literally nothing else for kids that is coming out recently on DVD or Blu Ray.  Everything else is an older flick, and the feeling is that kids will want to see something new.  We'll see how that goes.  Regardless, tonight Daddy, Mommy and Madison once again "screened" the movie before bed.  That is to say, we watched it again on the couch.  It gets better with each viewing, honestly.  The animation is masterfully done, that's for sure.

But after the movie, it was time to test out the new bed.  We stomped up there, which is a reference in the movie.  We, all of those people who are not tiny, are called stompers.  We stomp about and taaaaaallllkkk reeeeeeaaaaaal sllllllooooooooow.  Which is how Madison, Mommy and Daddy were talking after we said our prayers.  Madison said in slow motion:  "I hit my elbow!"  Which is a line from the movie.  And everyone laughed, and said good night to each other in ultra slow motion:

Gooooooood Niiiiiiiiggggghhhhht!

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Frequently on Sundays, Madison spends a few services with KidPak Jr, both the early service and the later service.  So she gets to hear the message twice - not that this is a bad thing.  She enjoys being there, and the added exposure to the different Bible stories is a good thing.

Above you can see a doodle that she did in between services.  She does a lot of artwork on Sundays, some of it related to the topic of the day.  Today's message was about the "Spirit of Adventure," which sort of covered Columbus and Amelia Earhart.  The scene in the movie where the Tukegee Airmen thank Amelia for "clearing the runway" speaks of a good point in our message, how we ourselves can help blaze a trail for others to follow.

It was a good morning again, and a popular series so far.  Next weekend is Labor Day, so things might get a little more calm - but the last few weekends the energy and enthusiasm have been great!

Madison came home with Daddy - Mommy went grocery shopping and picked up some stuff for us.  She also picked up a gift card for Uncle David.  This afternoon, we went together straight after church, over to Nana and Ye-Ye's house, where we celebrated two birthdays:  Uncle David and Nana.  It was great to get together for a meal, and afterwards a gluten-free chocolate birthday cake.  Yummy!  Madison and Hannah spent some time together playing upstairs with their ponies, while the adults - ironically- spent time watching parts of the movie "Epic."  Some of us were napping (it's Sunday afternoon, after all), but everyone was awake for the cake, of course.  We talked about a lot of things, and of course had the usual great time.  It was nice to get together with everyone, as usual.

When Daddy and Madison got home, we did some piano, but we also decided to return to Middle Earth for just a little while.  But soon it was time for bed, this being her last night in her small expanded crib.  She's simply growing up too fast!  Tomorrow, we plan to put together her new bed, which will give her much greater space.  And it'll be nice and comfy too!

So goodnight once again, until tomorrow.  For now, it's time for Mommy and Daddy to plop down on the couch and watch a few more episodes of "Monk" again!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

El Chupacabra

Here he is, the latest creation from Madison and Daddy.  Our visit to Lowe's this morning was one of the more challenging creations, but it still turned out pretty decent - this is El Chupacabra, from the recent movie "Planes."  The most difficult thing about him just may have been the stickers!  But by morning's end, Madison had helped create a new airplane, and gotten herself yet another badge for her apron.  This summer's total of Lowe's badges is four, and one from Home Depot.

For now, our summer of carpentry and crafts is over with, a nice tally at the end this year.  Madison is very proficient reading instructions, paying attention to details such as which nail length to choose, and what pieces go where and when.  This made up for a few of Daddy's boo-boos too!  Daddy is not exactly the best at putting things together, for some reason.  But he did assemble a book shelf for her this week, so at least I can hang my hat on that.

So Madison went with Daddy to work, where Mommy eventually joined us (complete with another amazing lunch!).  We did a lot of putting things away today, from our Roman costume to some football items to some other night guard wear as well.  Madison and Daddy had quite a few breaks together, including one where she did something else for the first time:

Pool!  Can you believe we've never had the chance to teach her pool?  Today Madison had her first round of pool versus Daddy.  Of course, the rules were supremely stretched as Daddy spent a good deal of time attempting to explain how to hit the cue ball, and what's supposed to happen after that.  Madison was very patient, and actually really enjoyed trying - although her form leaves much to be desired at present.  It could be that she's doing all this to set me up though:  maybe the next time she'll ask me to put a little wager on that next game, and then suddenly Daddy will find himself facing a pool shark!

We did some more work in preparation for the new day, but we also spent some time snapping some more photos of Madison around "the museum."  Here are just a few:

Madison is no dum-dum!  She likes gum-gum!
It's a night at the museum.  All is dark and quiet for now, but it won't be long before everything comes to life!
Yes, I'd like a pizza with pepperoni please.  Send it to the museum.  With extra cheese. 
My, what large teeth you have!  Madison's reptilian dentistry skills at work.
An early possibility for a Halloween costume?
We actually had a lot of fun with the camera, snapping all kinds of shots for a bit.  But Daddy did have to work, as did Mommy.  Besides putting various props up, and cleaning the office area up a bit, we also did some recording for the puppet show video.  Madison and Mommy both leant their voices to different characters, and editing started right away for this and several other videos.

We got home a little later, but there was still time for a bit of piano practice.  Afterwards, we started our trip to Middle Earth.  Daddy surprised Madison with the "Lego Lord of the Rings" game, and already we were dealing with those Onion Ringwraiths again.  So far, they've done a good job with the game.  One peculiar thing about it is how serious the tone is, and yet how ridiculous it is that these are Legos trying to go after this cursed ring.

Madison went to bed after a Bible bedtime story:  we read about Jonah tonight.  It's a story she already knew, but we're reading things in order (sort of), so we did that story again.  After prayers, it was time to sleep, sleep, sleep.  We were pleased that Madison seems to be doing better - her runny nose is nearly gone, and her coughing is gone as well.  Currently, she's sleeping soundly upstairs in her room, nice and comfortable.

Meanwhile, Mommy and Daddy have continued a new phase of repeat television.  Rarely do we watch anything that is new.  The one exception is this new "Agents of Shield" show that is set to begin next month.  We rely on a service called Netflix, and watch old shows from start to finish.  As of last week, we've started a new one that we're already addicted to:  "Monk."  We watch a lot of old comedies as well, sort of behind the times on popular shows.  But quite content for the most part.  For over twelve years, we've been unhooked from cable and satellite, which is ironic because Daddy used to sell satellite dishes and service.  But we just haven't needed it.  This new television show next month will be something different for us:  watching something as it happens.  This requires the antenna, a huge robotic thing upstairs that gives us local channels in HD.  To give you an idea of how frequent we need this, the last time it was used was during the Olympics, or maybe New Year's Day.  We also can use it for parades at Thanksgiving and New Years, but that's about it.  But starting next month, Mommy and Daddy will be checking out the antenna once a week.  Daddy's a big Marvel fan, so we don't miss much with Marvel movies and television.

So here we are, late at night.  It's time for bed again.  Daddy is studying his script for tomorrow, and getting ready for another new day.  It's going to be a big day, with Nana's birthday party afterwards.  It should be lots of fun!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stuffed Animal Day

Last night Madison had a bit of a runny nose, and some slight drainage problems at bed.  We were quick to get her some medicine to help with the symptoms, and quick to pray with her about any potential illness.  We were thinking allergies at one point, but it seems a little different and more consistent than that.

It was picture day today - and stuffed animal day too.  So many big events on one day.  She was still a bit stuffy this morning, unfortunately, but she was healthy enough to go off to school.  I think it would have taken a lot more to keep her home, really.  That's the thing about school lately - she's really wanting to go each morning.  Last year, the few times she missed, she was deeply disappointed.

So Mommy dressed her well - we'll be sharing that picture here soon enough.  Each morning, Daddy has been taking a picture of her, just like the one above.  This morning's is a little different simply because she's holding the stuffed animal of her choice in it.  This is Toto, who is wearing a tutu.  So it's Toto, in toto in a tutu.

It was a tough choice as to which stuffed animal to bring along.  Last spring, it would have been Winter, hands down.  Lately, she's been enjoying the company of her two manatees.  But bringing one would have separated the Mommy from the daughter.  So that was clearly out of the question.  So after a bit of deliberation, Madison decided to bring Toto along because, in her words, "I have black hair and so does Toto."

So that was that.

Madison enjoyed school today, remembering her science class in particular.  There was a robot that was teaching everyone about magnetism, and an experiment to see what items would float.  It was determined that anything with air in it would float, which made it a surprise when a piece of wood was placed on the surface of the water.  So, based on this science project, here's some further homework for you at home:

What items below will float on water?
1.  Bread
2.  Apples
3.  Very Small Rocks
4.  A Duck!

Fortunately, there were no witches present.  This would have been problematic, particularly if they weighed as much as a duck.

Beyond the "learning what items float," of course there were the school pictures today.  Madison came home, and it was immediately clear she wasn't feeling on top of her game though.  She didn't eat as much for dinner, and when Daddy came home he had some more medication for her.  We ate together - Mommy made a delicious shrimp dinner, over a bed of gluten-free rice and peas.  It was very good!

Afterwards, we played some more video games for a short while.  Daddy didn't force her to do any piano tonight!  We'll catch up on that tomorrow a bit, as our practice schedule isn't a big one yet.  This works out, considering her current health.  We'll ease a little more into it on Saturday, Sunday and Monday wrapping up.  She's already done a little, so she's on pace to finish with very little problem.  Again, Mrs. Pam is a hero this week for not starting us out with a few pounds of homework.

Speaking of after school things, Mommy has found a great place for Madison to start taking tennis lessons.  Yes, we'll actually be exposing her to the court on Wednesday afternoons.  There's a local program in Forsyth County that might be the perfect thing to introduce her to the rules and gameplay.  This will please her grandparents immensely!  It also fills up her schedule quite a bit.  Tuesday is piano, Wednesday is tennis, and Thursday is ballet.  By the way, the tennis court is indoors, so despite all this recent rain, there will still be tennis practice.

Madison went to bed on time tonight - Daddy read to her last night, but tonight it was straight to bed.  We wanted to make sure she slept well.  We'll pick up the Bible reading again tomorrow night.  Last night, we read from Daniel a bit - kid versions of the fiery furnace story, the lion story, and the creepiest one involving a hand that writes a story of immediate doom upon the wall.

Only a few more nights in this smaller bed.  I'll snap a picture of it for posterity, before we dismantle it. Still can't believe she's growing so fast!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

School of Ballet

This afternoon was Madison's first day at her new School of Ballet.  Yes, we call it the School of Ballet now, which sounds somewhat stuffy - but that's sort of the imagery we get when watching all the PBS ballet specials.  Angelina Ballerina would go to this sort of ballet school, where everyone has to dress just right, and have their hair pulled back just right and... well, you get the idea.

Mommy and Daddy waited in the hallway, playing a decent game of Scrabble while Madison danced inside, doing hop steps and a more formal, regimented sort of ballet class.

She enjoyed it, and wants to keep coming back, so that's great news.  One thing we'll have to adjust to is the time:  we got back a little later, almost nearly time for bed!  We scrambled for dinner, and piano practice and a game or two on the X-box.  

Piano practice is easy this week, which I have to give a shout-out to Mrs. Pam on that.  THANK YOU!  Madison got better on the third try of "Mary Had a Little Lamb."  As mentioned earlier, she's a little rusty.  And this isn't your momma's version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" either, where there's just three notes used.  This one uses two hands, and that 3-5-7 chord on top of all that.  It took Madison one or two tries to catch on, but by attempt #3, she was set.

Speaking of "set," Santa is just about done with Madison's list for Christmas.  We've decided that "Disney Infinity" would be a great thing to find underneath the Christmas tree, so we'll be lobbying Santa for that.  It was pre-ordered way back in June, and we've spotted a couple related items along the way, so a huge chunk of our Christmas shopping for Madison is nearly over with.  Amazing!

Also speaking of "set," Daddy built a new bookshelf for Madison today - and we got the last pieces of Madison's bed this afternoon, so we'll be all set to have her a new bed by this weekend.  This is exciting news!  She's been pretty excited about her bedroom becoming transformed.  She's getting bigger, which of course is one of those things that we feel bittersweet about.  How come our little girl can't say young forever?

Another thing we picked up on the way home was a present for Nana.  She requested the movie "Epic," which came out on DVD/Blu Ray this week.  That was easy to find.  BUT... there's a catch...

Since the mid-90's, every Christmas I give my mother a VHS copy of "Gone with the Wind."  Basically, the root of this was my discovery one November:  we noticed she never watched the movie we gave her the last Christmas.  And she ASKED for it - it's just that she didn't have time to watch it.  So we "borrowed" it from her house, re-wrapped it, and gave it to her the next Christmas!  It was a funny moment.  Of course, I gave her other stuff.  But every year would go by, and the pattern would repeat:  she never watched this movie!  SO each year, we keep giving it to her each Christmas, wrapped in a different way to throw her off a bit.

Well... her birthday was a few days ago, and we're going over to the house this weekend to celebrate.  She asked for the movie "Epic."  We got it for her tonight, but here's the fun part:  Daddy slit the packaging open, and switched out the "Epic" DVD with ANOTHER movie.  

Yes, we put a copy of "Gone with the Wind" in there!  The hardest part is always staying quiet about it, not pushing your hand, and waiting for that phone call!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

So Keep Watch

Here's a screen shot of Madison, helping some of the staff and Miss Halston as they teach the kids the memory verse for this series.  It goes like this:

"So keep watch! You do not know when the owner of the house will come back. It may be in the evening or at midnight." Mark 13:35 NIrV

Madison already had it memorized on weekend #1, as noted here earlier.  I also have to note here that I myself had not memorized the thing yet, so she in fact had it committed to memory a full week and a half before I did.  And I'm the guy who determined this would be the memory verse in the first place!  Don't worry - I've got it down now, and in fact had plans to go over it with the older kids tonight.

Today was obviously a big work day for Daddy.  We did get the "armor of God" outfit together, by the way.  The Roman shield arrived this afternoon, and we assembled it all.  The armor alone is heavier than Madison is.  Here's our friend Chris again, acting as a shield bearer:

Mommy did a fantastic job putting all of this together, didn't she?  It was used in an illustration tonight, and put together under extremely short notice.  But after a lot of research and travel, we got the thing together just in time.

Daddy did go home for a bit this afternoon - it was there that Mommy made this delicious soup.  It was a chicken and vegetable soup, using some vegetables from our garden!  We have squash out there growing, and though Daddy has never been a huge fan of it, this squash tastes pretty decent!  The soup was just the thing for a rainy, cool day like today.  Yes, that's right - we're in rainy weather again.  It's certainly a theme of the summer, isn't it?  Farmers here were grateful to begin with, happy about getting rain.  Now though, there doesn't seem to be time to harvest, and some of the harvest is coming later because of the rain.  Take for example - and a tiny one at that - our blueberries.  These should have been ready by now.  But the rain has delayed that harvest.  We've been walking by our blueberry bushes for a while now, waiting for the berries to turn blue.  And waiting.  And waiting.  Same could be said for other vegetables in our garden.  Wait, wait, wait.  Fortunately, the tomatoes seem to be doing well.

While home, we wrestled for a bit on the couch after eating.  Daddy brought home a warhead for Madison.  She has no problem whatsoever with these sour candies.  She has a blue mouth though - a blue tooth for sure.  Also, her mattress arrived in the mail today, right when Daddy got home too.  It was packed into this tiny box, vacuum-sealed so that when we cut open the airtight packaging, the thing was suddenly exposed to air, expanding right there on the spot.  This may be fairly common, but the three of us were pretty impressed by it all.  Tomorrow, Daddy plans to work on the framework, so that perhaps by tomorrow night Madison will be in her new bed.  She's excited, obviously.

It's been a full day, but tomorrow promises to be a good one too.  Read on to find out what happens next!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dick and Jane

Madison is at a reading level where these books should be easy to finish: we were given about seven or eight Dick and Jane books, which of course are the same exact books many parents and even grandparents were reading when they were in first grade.  Madison was surprised when she woke up this morning to discover the books on her dresser.  She was also surprised when she got home:  we're moving all her furniture around!  We're making her room a bit different so that when her larger mattress comes in, we can have proper spacing of all the furniture.  Right now, everything is looking good!

Today was our music day, a return to our piano class with Mrs. Pam.  Yes, everyone was a little rusty playing their keyboards.  But the opening songs weren't a pop quiz:  everything was easy to play, and it'll be good to just ease back into the practice schedule again.  All her class mates are back from last year, so everyone knows each other - we started the class out with some games, and then practiced some songs with two hands.  Madison did okay with both, and yes, everyone in that classroom was a bit rusty.

Speaking of which, here's a soldier that Mommy put together for an illustrated sermon tomorrow:

His shield is on the way tomorrow.  Where else would you order a Roman shield, but from the city of Rome.  Of course, I'm talking about Rome, Georgia.  That's the closest place where we can get the shield on time - there's apparently an armory there.  The place has all these swords and shields - someone is raising an army there!

Madison was helping us assemble our guy up there today, but also a little on the wild side.  All the kids are a little crazy the first couple weeks of school.  Speaking of "school," our official class pictures are scheduled for this Friday.  So soon!

We ate leftovers today, which was fine with everyone involved.  There simply wasn't much time by the time we got home.  It was a busy and long day for all of us, and yes, another rainy one.  But we're thankful for the rain, and thankful for the things we can do.

See Daddy sleep.  See Mommy sleep.  See Madison sleep.  Sleep, family, sleep.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Penguin with a Golf Club

Tonight we were spontaneous, and returned to the Texas Roadhouse, or "that peanut place," as Madison likes to call it.  After school, we had a dentist appointment for her, so the three of us piled in the car and drove across town to her dentist.  Madison enjoys her time there, which is such an odd thing to say right now:  how can you enjoy time at a dentist?  Whatever the tone of the question, the answer is simple:  this dentist allows the kids to be at peace, and entertains them with compliments and good humor.  All the while, the work gets done in a sneaky manner!

Afterwards - exactly 30 minutes afterwards - we went to "that peanut place."  For some reason, there was a miscommunication, and we were actually seated in this entire area all by ourselves, very far from the rest of the crowd at the restaurant.  It was kind of funny there, and in fact, we learned it was a mistake.  For one, none of the waitresses knew we were there initially.  It wasn't that much of a big deal to us, but the staff there made sure all was well with us by giving us a free appetizer.  So we ordered shrimp.  The funny thing is:  we were contemplating getting shrimp while driving home in the car, and here we were getting it for free.  Meanwhile, Madison was munching on an endless supply of peanuts.  She could eat nothing but peanuts for a meal if given the chance.

But we did order real food, of course.  Daddy got salmon, and Mommy got herself a big steak.  She was hankering for one, and Madison was hankering for chicken strips.  When she got her entree, she hoisted one piece up in the air and announced, "This looks like a penguin with a golf club."  Sure enough, this piece of chicken did look like a penguin with a golf club.  But where on earth did she get that idea in her mind?  What a funny thing to just suddenly blurt out about a piece of chicken!

When we got home, it was a little late for a movie, so we did some piano first.  This was key, because tomorrow is her first day back at piano classes.  She's a little rusty there, but I suspect the other kids are too:  it was a long summer.  She was able to play her recital piece with some effort, but it was pushing it to ask her to do some other pieces she could normally play well.  It's okay, because this week we're going to start getting into a more predictable pattern of practice with the return of Mom Bucks as a reward, and video games as a lure.  And oh, the video games that are coming.  Daddy had pre-ordered Disney Infinity, and even ordered the Lone Ranger playset that accompanies the game.  Lots of exciting stuff coming to the X-box for Madison - but you can only play if you do your homework and your practice!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dinosaur Fun

Madison went to KidPak Jr. this morning, where we had part two of our ongoing museum-themed series.  Our theme of the day was dinosaurs, with an extra caveman thrown in for good measure.  You can see him below, along with the rest of the cast.

It was a great morning, and a pretty full day.  Daddy stuck around to help with KidPak Espanol, a service focused on reaching out to the Hispanic community.  While the adults had church in Spanish upstairs, Daddy was helping out with the service downstairs as well.

It was all well and good, but finally Daddy got home, quite tired.  Madison and Daddy did some games, and ate of course.  But it was actually pretty late in the day, so there wasn't time for much before Madison's bedtime.  Still, we did have some time together, so that was good.  In the future, Daddy is shifting the days he works somewhat:  from this point on, most of his Saturdays will hopefully be off, while he works on Mondays.  This may include tomorrow a little, but we'll see.  The point is, from now on, we'll have more time together as a family.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Rainy Saturday Nap

It was a busy work day, but at least we got to spend much of it here at the house.  Above, you can see some of the so-called "work," where we put on probably the biggest puppet show possible with Madison's personal theater.  In fact, here's the script Daddy came up with:

Madison’s Puppet Theater
A Special Visit


NARRATOR: “Once upon a time, there was a nice young girl named Sparkles who had a nice bakery in the land of Rainbows, nearby the Floating Diamond Castle.”


NARRATOR:  “She served everyone cake, and was kind to everyone, including the (list the different puppets that show up, one by one).”

PUPPETS walk in from left, walking off to right.

NARRATOR:  “She was kind with her giving and prayed a lot, and this got God’s attention.  In fact, one special night she heard a voice from above.”




VOICE:  “Hello Sparkles!”

SPARKLES:  “Who said that?”

VOICE:  “Ummm…. Me?”

SPARKLES:  “Oh, YOU!  So… how are things?”

VOICE:  “Fine.  And you?”

SPARKLES: “Pretty good.”

VOICE: “I know.  You are making me very proud.  In fact, I have decided to come and visit you tomorrow.”

SPARKLES:  “What?  Tomorrow?”

VOICE: “Is that a problem?”

SPARKLES: “No sir!  I can’t wait to see you!”

VOICE: “ Great. See you then?”

SPARKLES: “Abso-rifficly!”



NARRATOR:  “Sparkles was thrilled.”

SPARKLES: “I’m thrilled!”

NARRATOR:  “She suddenly found new energy, and got to work straight away, baking late into the night.”

SPARKLES looks busy, using cooking instruments.

NARRATOR:  “But then she got tired.  She stretched, and yawned, and decided it was time to go to bed.”

SPARKLES: “I’m going to bed!”

SPARKLES exits to right.

NARRATOR:  “The next morning, the rooster crowed.”

BUMBLE BEE rises up and crows.


NARRATOR:  “And the little chef Sparkles immediately got to work setting things up for her very special guest.”

SPARKLES appears busy.

NARRATOR:  “Suddenly, the door bell rang.”


NARRATOR:  “And there at the door… was a special visitor.”


SPARKLES gasps and shakes with anticipation

LAMBCHOP pops up


LAMBCHOP:  “Hello there!”


LAMBCHOP:  “What’s-a-matter?”

SPARKLES:  “It’s just that I was… expecting someone else.”

LAMBCHOP:  “Sorry.  Hey, is that a cake I smell?  I’m sooooooo hungry!”

NARRATOR:  “Sparkles was a little disappointed to say the least.”

SPARKLES:  “I’m a little disappointed to say the least, but I’ve got some cake for you.”


SPARKLES gives LAMBCHOP a cake.  Somehow.

NARRATOR: “So Sparkles took good care of her new friend, who then went on her way.”


SPARKLES:  “Well now!  Now with that out of the way, I can get ready for my special visitor!”

NARRATOR:  “Indeed!  And soon enough, behold the doorbell rang once again.”


SPARKLES:  “Oh boy!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!”

NARRATOR:  “Sparkles looked up, and there at the door was…”

GIRAFFE appears.

NARRATOR:  “A giraffe.”

GIRAFFE:  “Hello.  I’m a giraffe.  And I’m not feeling well.”

SPARKLES:  “I’m so sorry to hear that.  Here, have some cake!”

NARRATOR: “So the good Sparkles gave the giraffe some delicious cake, and sure enough, the giraffe started to feel better.”

GIRAFFE:  “I feel better!”

NARRATOR:  “The giraffe gave Sparkles a big hug.”’

GIRAFFE gets close, and having no arms, simply leans into SPARKLES, then exits.

NARRATOR:  “Then the giraffe went on his way.”

GIRAFFE pops up into frame.

GIRAFFE:  “Her way.”

NARRATOR:  “Uh, yes.  Sorry.  Her way.”

GIRAFFE exits.

NARRATOR:  “And Sparkles was left wondering at what time her special visitor would come.”


SPARKLES shrieks!

NARRATOR:  “Suddenly, the doorbell rang once more!  This had to be it!  The moment her special visitor had arrived!”

SPARKLES:  “Could it be?  Is it He?”

CUE SOUNDTRACK: “Christmas music”


SPARKLES:  “Well aren’t you cute!”

RUDOLPH:  “She thinks I’m cuuuuuuute!”

NARRATOR:  “But it still was not who Sparkles was expecting.  Still, she showed kindness to her visitor, by serving her some cake.”

SPARKLES gives RUDOLPH some cake.

SPARKLES:  “I hope you enjoy some of my delicious cake!”

RUDOLPH looks outwards, and opens mouth.


NARRATOR:  “And Rudolph went on his way.”

RUDOLPH:  “Thanks for the cake.  Got to fly!”

RUDOLPH disappears.


NARRATOR: “And Sparkles was left all alone.  And sad.”


NARRATOR:  “Soon it grew dark.”

CUT TO SHOT OF MADISON shutting off lightswitch.

LIGHTS grow dim again.

NARRATOR:  “And Sparkles was wondering what happened.  Did she miss God?  She waited all day for Him to show up, so what is going on?”

SPARKLES: “What is going on?”



VOICE:  “Hello Sparkles!”

SPARKLES:  “Who said that?”

VOICE:  “Ummm…. Me?  Why are you so sad, Sparkles?”

SPARKLES:  “I was thinking you were going to show up today, so I made this great cake and had everything prepared and I was going to play music and release balloons and invite a dancing clown over and…”

VOICE:  “Sparkles?”


VOICE:  “I was there.”

SPARKLES:  “No you weren’t.”

VOICE:  “Was too.”

SPARKLES:  “Was not.”

VOICE:  “Was too infinity.”

SPARKLES:  “Okay, where were you?  I looked everywhere – were you hiding behind the mixing bowl?”

VOICE: “No.”

SPARKLES:  “The flower pots?”

VOICE: “No.”

SPARKLES:  “The subatomic particulator?”

VOICE: “ No, Sparkles.  I was actually visiting three times today.  And each time, you fed me, and took care of me.”

SPARKLES:  “When did I do that?”

VOICE: “Three friends showed up today, and you took care of them.  And whatever you’ve done for those that need help… you’ve done for me.”

NARRATOR:  “Suddenly, Sparkles understood.”

SPARKLES nods pleasantly, slowly.

VOICE:  “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

SPARKLES: “ My pleasure!”


NARRATOR: “What I’m about to tell you is true.  Anything you did for oen of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”

SPARKLES pops in front of slide.

SPARKLES:  “The end!”

NARRATOR:  “I… I was going to say that.” 

Hopefully we'll have it all edited by the end of the week - we'll see.  

Right around noon, Mommy had cooked up for five of us an epic Mexican feast, with tacos and chips and more.  Everyone ate and ate and ate, as outside, the rain poured down.  Yes, more rain.  But on a Saturday afternoon with full tummies, you can imagine it was difficult to not take a little nap: