Monday, September 30, 2013

Back to the Pumpkin Patch

The weather was absolutely perfect after school today, so we made our trip back to Burt's Pumpkin Farm - and everything was just right.  It's still September, and it's a weekday, so there weren't as many people there.  This was just right for us for so many reasons, one of which being a better choice of pumpkins!

Here's Mommy and Madison with some of the larger ones.  We take so many pictures while we are there - it's a very picturesque location, a sea of orange on a crisp fall day.  Also, it's not that far of a drive for us, so it's possible to make a quick trip after school.

Madison found her pumpkins rather quickly, as did Daddy.  He seems to be pretty particular about the pumpkins he chooses, and with such a large selection, he was able to find a great one really quickly.  There were magnificent stems and perfect round ones of all shapes and sizes.  Some were taller and others more squat.  Madison carried hers to the wheelbarrow, and got herself a baby pumpkin too.  It's a tradition to get herself a baby pumpkin each year, one that she keeps with her toys and homework and bedroom and ... well, pretty much everywhere.

Afterwards, we posed for a few photos in the covered bridge - as you can see, Mommy had her dressed so nicely for a pumpkin patch.  She's our little pumpkin!  The other tradition we have is the wheelbarrow ride, which she did not miss either:

It was a wonderful afternoon.  The weather was sunny, and yet cool - we had the Steve Martin banjo music playing all the way there, and of course there was some bluegrass playing over the loudspeakers when we were there.  The sound of the stream nearby just added to the atmosphere, and we had the whole place practically to ourselves.  In just a few weeks, this farm will be completely swamped with visitors looking for the perfect pumpkin.

But we enjoyed ourselves today, one day before October.  Here's Madison with her mini-pumpkin friend, who will hang around with us for a while at the house.  It's going to be a magnificent season, filled with plans for some great events, from fairs to pumpkins to trick-or-treating.  Can't wait!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Making an Impact

Here's Madison using her superpowers at church - it's your standard Crimson Viper ground pound move, which you can see has stunned those around her.  I love that posture she has - Daddy didn't tell her to give the "Iron Man pose," but she sort of did that on her own!

This morning started with church, of course, and the final weekend of our museum series.  We'll miss that old dinosaur skeleton on the stage - he's been a great backdrop for the past eight weeks or so.  During that time, we did make it to a real museum, and of course watched the two "Night at the Museum" movies.  Then there was all the learning along the way - it's been a fun month at KidPak.

We got home this afternoon, probably a little later than usual.  Daddy and Mommy were a little wiped out, but we still managed to get out to pick up some mulch and a new scarecrow for the front yard.  Not that we have any problems with crows - it's that time of year, where you feel compelled to put a scarecrow in your front yard.  Who knows?  As he sits out there now, he's probably scaring away countless mischievous creatures.  While we were out, we also got mums, which Mommy likes to plant in front of the house.  We also got a black cauldron for putting candy into at Halloween.  Madison put this over her head in the store as we rode around.  She sat there amongst the mums with a cauldron helmet, cruising along like some unusual video game cart racer.

We got home and of course had a bit of homework to catch up on.  Also, we had piano practice to catch up on too.  It took a bit of time, but Madison is good to get all of it done without much complaining.  She's also good with her spelling list as well.

Madison got a bit inspired with the Play-doh today, making "pottery" for us all.  She was pretty proud of her creation, a white bowl masterpiece.  The next thing she decided to make were dots - white dots.  Now this was puzzling for Daddy, especially when she lined them all up.  But then she got the yellow Play-Doh and made her own Pac-Man, and it all came together.

We've sort of had Pac Man fever as of late (it's driving me crazy), sort of based on the new upcoming video game series at KidPak.  We had an old copy of Pac Man, so tonight we plugged it in so Madison could experience the classic game for herself.  She and Daddy did that just a few minutes before bedtime - it was a bit of old-school fun with Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde.  Can you believe those guys have been around for over 25 years?  Daddy had bed sheets with Pac Man when he was younger, and was a big fan of the game like everyone else on earth at the time.  Happy memories!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tacodile Supreme

We had a bit of work to do today, but Daddy made sure we all got to see the latest family movie, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2."  Mommy, Madison and Daddy met Nana, Hannah and Aunt Shain at the movies this afternoon for the first showing of the movie, and it was pretty crowded.  This was predictable, as the movie looked pretty fun - and there hasn't been a family movie out in the theater for quite a long time.

We sat in the back with our smuggled candy and huge popcorn tub, enjoying a great afternoon at the movies.  Like I said, it's been a while.  I think the next one with Madison will be in November, which is shaping up to be a busy movie season.

Of course, the Tacodile Supreme was one of the highlights of this movie.  Madison has been repeating this phrase for about a week now (as has Mommy and Daddy).  This food item looks easy to put together, so perhaps we'll be seeing one on our plates in time - although I doubt anyone will have the courage to eat it!

Daddy worked the rest of the day - but so did Madison and Mommy.  Madison has been working on her Kindle - recently we got her a new application that teaches the value of money.  This "game" has a pirate theme, which makes things a bit more fun:  a random pirate voice congratulates her for good answers, and encourages her to try again if she misses out.  The value of coins strangely hasn't gotten to Madison yet, which is odd because she's actually pretty gifted with math.  But with all things, it takes practice, and these applications make practice fun.  She'll get the hang of it.  And soon she'll be asking Daddy for all kinds of coins and bills!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Round and round

Madison ran about nine laps today, which sounds pretty good, doesn't it?  The Fund Run was fun for her - she wore her blue shirt and put on a pair of sneakers, getting ready for the big day.  Daddy didn't get to see it, but she did her running this morning, and all of us were quoting Forrest Gump left and right.

Tonight she was racing Daddy too - we were playing an indie game with little go-karts.  She won one of the races, and had one of the best taunts I've heard.  She turned to me and said, "Poor you!"

Indeed!  This week Madison and her class were talking about "wordless books," with are essentially picture books that tell a story.  They even sort of made one up.  In that spirit, Daddy found a couple of wordless books that we have at the house.  There's an author named David Wiesner who has created a few books that tell wonderful stories with the use of some amazing artwork.

"Flotsam" was the one that captured Madison's attention tonight before bed.  Daddy of course was sort of narrating things a bit, but Madison could see the pictures and figure it all out.  The under-the-sea fantasy pictures are wonderful, but her favorite part might were the pictures-within-pictures.  A child would take a picture of herself holding a picture of the last child taking a picture of herself holding a picture taking a picture of himself holding a picture... and so on and so on.  She thought that was a neat idea - maybe we'll try it some time!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Apple Mater

Here's Madison, doing her best impression of Mater.  This is such a simple craft, but it was lots of fun - Madison got the idea from her teacher today.  They sliced apples, put peanut butter on them for glue, and used marshmallows for teeth.  As you can see, this simple idea was hilarious at the end.

It was Johnny Appleseed Day, so we grabbed some more of the apples we picked the other day and Mommy got to working on the preparation.  While that was going on, Daddy popped in the Disney Johnny Appleseed cartoon from years ago, which Madison has now seen a couple times.  Afterwards, we got to work, and as you can see, Daddy clearly needs to do some flossing:

So does Mommy:

We had fun tonight with this simple craft.  We didn't have as much time as we normally do in the afternoon, but that's because of ballet class.  Madison had her typical Thursday afternoon, coming home from school, eating some snacks and getting ready for ballet.  Daddy got her over to Brenau just in time after that.  Next time, I'll bring a camera.  So many children there, so many tiny ballerinas getting ready for their big practices.  There is a Nutcracker camp in December - we signed her up for this already.  Also, we know when her spring recital is.  This is amazing, as all last year we never really knew when anything was going to be until the last minute.  Now, suddenly we know when practice is for NEXT year's Nutcracker performances!

Anyway, she had a great time this afternoon at class.  While Daddy was waiting for her, he proofed the booklet for our next video-game inspired series.  It should be a lot of fun:  Madison will be seeing a little bit of the guitar hero thing with something we've ordered, plus she'll finally get to see a bit of Pac-Man too.  We've borrowed a copy of that from the church, so she can see a game that Daddy used to play when he was her age.  Hey, at least it's not "Pong."  Although I did notice that a version of "Pong" is on the X-box now.  I'm so totally going to get it - and Madison will so totally be bored with it.  We've come a long way with video games, haven't we?

We read some more Bible before bedtime tonight, but we're nearing the end of this children's Bible.  Madison insists on hearing it each night, so there's not much of an argument from me.  Tomorrow is her big track meet - the "Fund Run."  She'll have a great time with that, we hope.

There's a chill in the air - can you feel it?  Fall is here, and we were half-tempted to pop in an October-themed movie.  We might wait until tomorrow night though - Mommy is anxious to watch Wallace and Gromit again.  We could have other plans tomorrow night, but we don't know at the moment.  I guess we'll all find out again with tomorrow night's posting.

Until then, it's time to hunker down for some more "Monk."  We're somewhere around episode eighty, but it looks like this will be taken off of Netflix on Tuesday.  There's no way we'll make it to the end - this just might be a future Christmas gift.  Mommy has really enjoyed this show a lot.  Daddy too - we're somewhat addicted!

Daddy has been pretty medicated lately.  Madison has been iffy, occasionally showing signs for sickness, but over it much more quickly.  She complained about a headache in an interesting way, mainly because she couldn't just come out and call it a headache.  She said she forgot that she hit her head and it still hurts a bit.  After a bit of conversation, we realized that it was actually just a standard-issue headache, something she's not entirely familiar with yet.  This comes for Daddy - and a lot of people - with a change in the weather.  Also, allergies can wreak havoc.  But again, with all of us, it's not so bad.  Medicine helps clear the sinuses, and chase away the headaches.   We'll be fine!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


There is a wait if you want to sign up for the tennis class that Madison is in.  You can only get in if a slot becomes available when someone drops out - we're not sure again how we got into this class with such a demand, but we're certainly not dropping out.  Madison enjoyed it once again this afternoon, running drills and working on her swings.  It's indoors, so the rain hasn't stopped classes - and neither will cold weather.  During practice, she does a backhand swing and a normal swing, moving from position to position in an attempt to hit the ball.  When she's not swatting the ball back at the instructor, she's collecting the balls that others have hit (just as all the other children do while Madison is hitting the ball).  Her big thing at this point is holding the racket right, perpendicular to the ground.  We'll practice this at our local court - in fact, we'll be heading to a new sporting goods store here soon.  There is a store called "Dick's" that is opening in Gainesville at Lakeshore Mall.

It opens next month, in an interesting attempt to rejuvenate a sad little mall.  We've commented before here about the pathetic state of Lakeshore Mall, and the memories of what it used to be.  We remember seeing "Batman" there, or eating at Ruby Tuesday, and shopping at all these stores.  It was so crowded back then.  Now, as Daddy walks Madison down the mall, he's singing Bruce Springsteen's "My Hometown" to himself.

Of course, there's no reason to walk Madison down there right now:  they took a wrecking ball to the 80's mall expansion - the part that had the carousel.  That is now replaced with a large sporting goods store that connects Sears to JC Penny, two other places that Madison doesn't exactly need to frequent.  We'll see how things pan out with this latest attempt to draw customers.  Everyone will show up for the grand opening - in fact, Mommy has a coupon and we'll go to Dick's to buy a whole bunch of tennis balls for Madison.  Maybe we'll see some other things there too.

Speaking of "sports," this Friday, there is a fund-raising drive.  It's called the "Fund Run," where we can sponsor the students to run on the track during school time.  It occurs to me that this will be Madison's first official track meet - we'll get her in some intense training tomorrow for the big run!  Or not - this isn't a huge deal.  She is competitive, and likes to run, so this might be something to consider for the future.  Daddy isn't much of a runner, nor is Mommy.  But there are all kinds of running events out there that look like fun.  For example, the Zombie Run, where there are zombies running and survivors fleeing for their lives.  There's also a Krispy Kreme run, where runners go a couple kilometers on foot, straight to a Krispy Kreme doughnut store.  And, of course the neatest race of all - the one at Disney World.  If it's something Madison is into, why not?  Daddy will have a hard time keeping up, obviously!  Unless the race is to Krispy Kreme, in which case it will be a lot closer.

Today we had another onslaught of rain.  Buckets poured down all day long.  I didn't see any cats and dogs falling from the sky, but if someone said it was raining cats and dogs, I would have believed them.  Once again, the ground is saturated.  There was an accident nearby our house that shut down Browns Bridge Road (again), pretty much putting a fork in the day as far as that goes.  It was the kind of day that people would say is a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10.

But it was still a decent day for us.  Daddy did some filming, some work too.  We were safe as we traveled, and at night, we were all together.  Daddy said goodnight in person to Madison this evening - we read some more from the Bible, from the book of Acts.  The Pharisees were questioning this guy who was healed - and they were so close-minded that they missed out on the obvious that was staring them in the face.  This sort of reminds me of another very similar moment in the Bible:

In John 9, Jesus healed this guy who was blind all his life.  Later, the Pharisees, full of knowledge and wisdom, spoke to the ex-blind man and asked him, “What do you think about this Jesus?”  The guy hadn’t a clue.  All he knew was that he was blind but now he sees.  So he told the Pharisees how he was healed and that Jesus must have been a prophet or something.  Of course, the Pharisees, full of knowledge and wisdom, didn’t believe a word this guy said.  So they asked his parents, as if this was going to get a better answer.  And his parents said, “He was blind and now he sees.  Why don’t you ask him about it?”  So the Pharisees, full of knowledge and wisdom, brought back the formerly blind man and asked, “You can’t have been healed by Jesus, because Jesus is a sinner.”  To which the man said, “Look, (you see, I can do that now) I don’t know who this guy is – but as I told you before, I once was blind but now I see!  “We see,” said the Pharisees, who evidently didn’t, “and how did he do that?”  The guy answered, “I just told you!  Do you want to hear it again?  You must want to become disciples or something!”  This was evidently the wrong thing to say.  The angry Pharisees said, “Look, you, we’re disciples of Moses – we don’t even know this Jesus guy!”  To which this man responded, “Well, duh!  You don’t know this guy – and yet, I know I’ve probably said this before some time today, he healed my eyes.  That convinces me right there – this guy’s from God.”
            Who seems to be the smarter one in this story?  What’s funny about this is that this common ordinary man lays the smack-down on all these Pharisees.  There was not a thing they could say that could change the fact that he was blind and now he sees.  It trumped all arguments!  An ounce of experience with Jesus outweighed anything those knowledgeable and wise Pharisees had to say.  You see, with all that knowledge the Pharisees probably had, nothing they knew was more important than knowing Jesus.  The same could be said for you, but I’m sure you know that.  You’re not blind!

Tonight, Madison enjoyed hearing Daddy reading to her.  She once again wanted to hear theses stories from the Bible, which is exciting to know.  Afterwards, we briefly sat and talked about her day, and snuck downstairs afterwards - each of us turning in early for the night.  We're a little under the weather today, but still grateful for the rain and the blessings we have.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Marvel Tuesday

Today was apparently "Marvel Tuesday," as the movie "Iron Man 3" was released on Blu-Ray and the television show "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." premiered on television.  Madison and Daddy marched into Wal-Mart for a copy of the movie on sale - it came with a little advertisement inside to read a free "Iron Man meets the M&Ms" online comic - which you can see above.  It's actually illustrated really well, and was a direct hit with the intended audience:  Madison.  Okay, so Daddy thought it was fun too.  He read it to her this evening, and she was laughing at all the points where Tony Stark's guests wanted to eat the M&M characters.  This brings to mind the problem with any food product that has talking food for a mascot.  Consider for a moment Bar-B-Q places with pictures of happy pigs on the outside.

Anyway, Madison wasn't able to stay up for the "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," as it was just past her bedtime.  But Mommy and Daddy actually went upstairs and watched it, using the big antenna upstairs.  This was somewhat of a momentous occasion, as we haven't really watched live television in our house in a long time (outside of the Olympics last year and the big parades on holidays).  In fact, it was in the nineties - that's how long ago it's been.

As for the program, it was really good.  We both enjoyed it.  Agent Coulson lives, and this adventure is just getting started.

As for Madison's adventure today, it involved school as always. She aced her spelling test by the way.  This was expected.  She's writing sentences out, and her penmanship is getting better and better.  After school, Daddy took her to piano, where we did a few things with rhythm, and a few of the songs we've been practicing at home.  We learned a new key, "F minor," which makes things sound depressing.  It's actually kind of fun, and maybe one we can tinker with as Halloween approaches.

Speaking of which, Halloween is approaching!  Madison is considering the costumes that she'll use for the various trick-or-treat outings.  One current plan is to do Wreck-it Ralph and Vanellope for the cruise.  She still has her Merida costume as well, complete with the wig and the bow.  Also in the running:  a Chun Li costume.  We'd have to work on that one, but she seems interested in doing that one as well.  I think this is so she can use a lightning kick on people.

It was bath night, and there was also some homework to do.  It involved more map skills, but Madison seems to have a gift there.  I'm so incredibly proud of this, as geography is something that comes pretty natural to Daddy.  Madison knows the seven continents, and is pretty good with the oceans too.  Some day you'll get to see the continents, Madison.  Maybe we can even all go to Antarctica together!

Right now, a trip to Paris would be nice.  That was on television tonight - one of those places we've got to go to, right?  One thing at a time:  we'll have to settle for EPCOT's version of Paris for a few more years...

Monday, September 23, 2013


When Madison got home today, we went straight to work on homework and piano.  Homework never takes that long at all - at this point, she's acing spelling tests (this week's words end with "ap," like "snap," "clap," "map," and "cap"), and reading her book assignments pretty well.  Today's reading had to do with maps, and their importance.  Madison read this rather well, and then went on to correctly identify the seven continents.  We could ask her which one had Paris, penguins, or the Great Wall of China, and she gave a correct answer every time.  Homework is amazingly easy to do with her - if anything, she's a bit impatient to get things done.  Her mistakes come now because of speed, so we're trying to emphasize the importance of accuracy over velocity!

Her piano is getting tougher - we're doing this little finger dance to get all eight notes with one hand, and that requires quite a bit of practice for Daddy.  Madison is catching on of course, but we both need to do a lot of practice runs on different songs.  One song is easy on the note scale:  "Morning," by Edvard Grieg.  It's an easy up-and-down-the-scale bit, but it's the finger work that surprises you.  Or, at least, it surprises people like me who don't play very well.

Yesterday was "Hobbit Day."  I think this is because it's Frodo's birthday or something.  THEREFORE, we did some more journeying in Lego Middle Earth, which Madison enjoyed of course.  We did that until dinner time, which was hot dogs, potato salad and corn on the cob.  This wouldn't be the last time we saw these items tonight, as the forecast was looking a little unusual later on.  In fact, I'd say it was looking like it was going to be Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

We got this movie pretty cheap recently - and with the sequel coming out on Friday, it was a fun idea to do some catching up on part one tonight.  Mommy got some popcorn ready, and we once again found ourselves watching a movie together on the couch.

Tonight before bedtime, we reached a part of the Bible reading story that could not be interrupted.  That is to say, Daddy couldn't say, "Let's stop for now and pick up tomorrow."  We read through the story of the crucifixion - but got to the resurrection as well.  It was child-friendly, but it was still heavy and is always hard to get through.  Madison knew the angels were there at the end. She knew they were ready to roll the stone away, and knew that Jesus would be back to let Peter know everything would be okay.  But it's still difficult getting there, isn't it?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Curse of the Black Pearl

These are sort of those moments you relish as a Daddy.  Yes, we have teachable moments, and share important things like Biblical concepts, education, and those seasonal events too.  But this was big:  Madison watched "The Curse of the Black Pearl" with us tonight.  This was her first time getting to see a full movie with Captain Jack Sparrow, and she just loved it.  Not that she's considering a life of piracy right now, but she was a chatterbox after the movie, informing Daddy of all the details he's known since the movie came out in 2002.

Part of our reasoning here was the recent "Talk Like a Pirate Day."  The other event that inspired this viewing is our upcoming cruise, where we hope to once again introduce Madison to Captain Jack Sparrow.

Before this movie came out, pirate-themed flicks seemed to be destined for failure.  We liked "Cutthroat Island" and all of the older classics, but it seemed like we wouldn't get to see a new pirate movie ever.  Nobody wanted to risk making one - until this one.  We always would give a +1 to the score of any pirate movie, just because it was a pirate movie.  But to us, this one was a 10 to begin with - so on a scale of 1 to 10, this movie gets an 11 from us!

This morning, we were back at the museum - not learning about pirates though.  It was a great morning, although a little madcap at points in our drama.  The message was clear in the end though, and suddenly there is only one more weekend left in our museum-themed series.  It's been a great run - Mommy had a funny moment related to the theme this week.  She noted that the current dictator in Syria has a voice that sounds pretty much like the villain in "Night at the Museum 2:"  Kahmunrah.  There was an interview with the guy this past week, and we were trying to figure out the voice, and there it is:  he's COME BACK TO LIFE!

Mommy's got a funny sense of humor!

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Downpours again today, although the rain hasn't been as frequent of late.  Today sort of made up for things though, as it came down in buckets, or torrents, or like cats and dogs - whatever you think fits best.  For this reason Madison pretty much stayed at home all day with Madison.  There's no sense in going out much on a day like this.

A lot was scheduled for this weekend - it was a Saturday, and almost fall.  For example, "Suwanee Day" was today, where our church was scheduled to be involved in a parade and hosting a booth.  The booth was literally flooded at one point, as there was so much rain.

Daddy went to work for a bit today, and he also spent some time with his old friends in Cleveland, celebrating a few birthdays.  One of them was Daddy's - we couldn't meet in October, so we did a bit of celebrating a little early.  "Celebrating" usually means playing video games, which we did largely until it was time to get back home.  It was funny though:  at one point, we were sitting there on a game, and we saw Daddy's video game system come on from our house.  Madison was actually turning it on, and playing at home at the same time, so we saw her turn the system on from where we were.  Then we saw she was playing the same game as we were:  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Out of the Shadows). Anyway, it was time to go home afterwards, and that's when Daddy got home to see the girls.

We've been looking at Madison's homework that has been coming home as of late - it's been impressive!  She's a really bright kid, and doesn't have to work too hard to learn certain things.  Sure, we'll drill certain spelling words a few times until she gets them right.  But overall, she's nailed down spelling pretty well, and is above average for her age group.  Math is similar.  And check this out here:

It's the water cycle.  Madison knows evaporation, condensation and precipitation!  These are four-syllable words!  There have been a lot of homework assignments coming back, and she's been able to explain a lot of things to us - things Daddy thought she wouldn't learn until next year or the year after.  But she is such a bright kid!  But then again, after this summer, I'm sure everyone here in the region knows the definition of "precipitation."  We've been hearing it all summer long, and in fact we've had a ton today.  And... there'll be more in the middle of the week.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pink Planet

Madison called Daddy up at work today to let him personally know the big news:  she bought the pink planet.  This was big news - that means she's read quite a few books online, and answered all the questions about them correctly.  She earned enough points to move her space room off one moon to another much more interesting planet.  Daddy sent a message to her via this online game (you can do that).  She'll hopefully get it at school, congratulating her, and asking her if the planet tastes like cotton candy.

Speaking of "at school," here's a picture that Madison's teacher took today.  She had each of the kids line up against the wall for a patriotic shot:

She's got the hula girl shirt on, but she's all about liberty.  Especially when it involves ice cream cone snacks!

Today was a work day for Daddy, and a late one at that.  Madison did do a bit of piano practice, but did a lot of reading as well, as described above.  We're really proud of her - she's doing a fantastic job.

Meanwhile, the harvest moon has been amazing to look at.  It's actually the Autumn Moon Festival time, which means going out to find a moon pie somewhere.  We're pretty busy today and tomorrow, so hopefully we can squeeze that one in on Sunday.  Mommy might not be able to eat a moonpie, but Madison and Daddy could.  We'll read some books about mooncakes and so forth too - Mommy has had Madison coloring in activity sheets related to the Autumn Moon Festival, as well as mooncakes.  She might even cook something up special for us!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Pirate's Quest

Today we sailed into yet another "Talk Like a Pirate Day," which happened to be a day off of sorts - time for a little arrr and arrr, right?

Not quite.  Mommy and Daddy started the day off hearing the worst sound possible:  this would be worse than enemy cannon fire splitting the main mast, or the sound of cursed Aztek gold coins accidentally dropped into the fathoms below.  It was - shudder - the sound of a dentist's drill.  Yes, we both had minor cavities, and both had some work that needed to be done at 8:00 this morning in Alpharetta.  Geesh, I'm glad that's over with.  NOTE TO SELF:  Floss as much as you can.  Believe them when they tell you it's important!!!

Unfortunately, they didn't have any stylish gold fillings to go with the pirate theme today.  Until around 1:00, both Mommy and Daddy had one half of their mouths completely numb.  We matched!

Meanwhile, Madison was having a good day at school.  I know this because Daddy went to a meeting with a few of her teachers.  It was the IEP meeting, where we sort of mapped out her speech therapy for the next year or so.  The great news is that she's been doing wonderfully with her development.  I knew that from the get-go.  We're dropping one class a week, and doing some three drop-ins throughout the week, and concentrating on the letter s, the letter l, and - ironically enough - the letter r.  Arrrr!

Madison's teacher was very complimentary of her efforts at school this year - she said that Madison was above average with math and reading skills.  This is so great to hear.  For a while as parents we were concerned and worried about her simply catching up - after all, the other kids have a two-year head start on the English language.  But in some areas, Madison is actually ahead!  Example: Madison's spelling lists each week.  There is a basic list, and an advanced list.  She actually is getting the advanced list nailed each week, which is great.  Another ironic note about the day:  we're learning about words that end with "ack."  One word on her list is a proper name:  "Jack."  Captain "Jack."

After school there was ballet, which is our usual Thursday routine.  There were ballerinas yelling "scurvy this" or "belay that."  But Daddy did spend the time reading a book about pirates he found a few weeks ago.  It is nonfiction, and while Madison was learning the hop-step (which she showed us later), Daddy was learning about Charles Vane, one of the pirates who hung around Nassau (where we'll be returning soon!).

We got home and had some grub from the ship's galley, served by none other than the Scarlet Blade herself.  A few weeks ago, Daddy also picked up a book for just this day, a great children's book called "A Pirate's Quest," about a poor pirate looking for his family heirloom peg leg.  Madison really enjoyed hearing this read to her, but Daddy enjoyed reading it.  The artwork inside is fantastic, and the story a lot of fun.

I can't help but recommend this, especially if you're into piracy and peg legs.  They even have a song, "The Peg Leg Song," that you can download for free (following a link in the book).  It was fun reading about pirates - and then it was fun playing as pirates with Lego Pirates of the Caribbean.  Yes, we returned to that game once more - Daddy played as Davy Jones while Madison chose Jack Sparrow.  The two of us had a few more adventures along the way until bedtime, which wasn't that far off, really.

It was a good day to be a pirate, and a good day to say "Arrrr!"  This weekend, we decided, if there's time on Sunday, we'll show Madison the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie.  That'll be a big moment:  she gets to see Jack Sparrow again.  Suddenly we'll be leaving Middle Earth behind and heading to the Caribbean...!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Level Up

So here's the banner for our upcoming series, "Level Up."  As described here earlier, it's entirely based on video games - which has been sometimes a bit of a challenge as there are no references to video games in the entire Bible.  At least, none that I've found so far.  Today's message I've been writing is about an "extra life" and a bit about Mario and his creator, who I have a whole lot of respect for.  That one might get posted here - maybe on Friday when it is finished.

Today Daddy came home to see Madison, who had an early release day at school.  This made her after school time a bit less rushed, so she was able to eat and even add some items to her space room.  Yes, that means she's been reading a lot lately.  In fact, she's almost done with her assignment - in less than a week!  It's all because she wants to decorate that room, or buy a pink planet to put it on.

Tomorrow, Daddy will visit with her speech therapist once more, an annual visit to check on progress and map out the future a bit.  So far, Madison has been doing well. She actually reads the above books out loud, and has been getting better with her speech.  A lot better.  It'll be a busy day tomorrow, with more dentist visits in the morning, a speech therapist appointment, ballet in the evening and oh yeah, it's Talk Like a Pirate Day!

But today was fun too.  Tonight's service was hilarious, a mad-lib sort of service that we like to do from time to time.  It features quite a bit of improv, obviously, as the kids fill in the blanks of the story, and the actors have to act it out.

Madison went to tennis this afternoon, which turns out to be a popular class apparently.  We didn't know this when we signed her up for it - but there is a waiting list for this class.  One family is going so far as paying for a month that they won't be there, just to hold the spot for the next month.  How we got into this class we have no idea - just remarkable timing.  Okay, we'll give God the glory for it.  But if you go online to sign up for this class, you won't be able to.  Madison will be able to sign up easily though, because she's already a part of the class and has first dibs.

Tonight we got a call from Nana and Ba-Ba.  But it wasn't on the phone - we were able to talk with them on the computer!  It turns out they got a new computer, and after a bit of finagling, we were talking to one another on the computer and seeing each other's faces.  Madison was already in bed by this time, but you can see how nice this will be for the grandparents to call up and see her from time to time.

As for now at this time, I'm off to bed.  Well, almost time for bed.  "Monk" first, and then bed...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In the Hall of the Mountain King

Mrs. Pam was captivating with the kids this afternoon.  Just one of the many reasons we love having Madison in her music class is the exposure to things beyond the piano keyboard.  Of course, there's the fact that she teaches rhythm, notes, scales and so forth.  And yes, there are the multiple instruments the kids are seeing - some from different cultures.  Many of them are percussion based to help teach rhythm, and of course the kids love using all of them.  While learning rhythm, you're trying a new instrument, and learning about it at the same time.  It's all good.

One of our simpler tunes that Madison will be learning involves the song "Morning" by Edward Grieg. Madison will be learning to play this in time, but one of the fun aspects of this class is learning the story behind the music.  Just before this composition is another famous tune, "In the Hall of the Mountain King."  This is the part where Mrs. Pam played that music, and as it played, she told the dramatic story of Peer Gynt as he attempted to escape from the trolls.  The kids were so focused.  Of course, the music helped, building and building with tension - would the boy escape the trolls?

All the children were so ready to hear the rest of the story - but it was time for us to go for now:  class was over with!

Alas!  'Tis such a short class sometimes.  Madison loved this one even more this afternoon, because she's earned a trip to the treasure box.  That's because she's been doing her homework.  The reward she picked:  a minion from "Despicable Me."  It actually makes noises when you shake it up and down, which she did all the way home!

Tonight, Mommy had a surprise for us all:  do-it-yourself pizza!  Madison and Daddy were master chefs tonight, creating our own pizza.  I'll go ahead and say right now that this pizza came out just great!  We were celebrating our creation, each of us having two slices and unable to finish the whole thing.

Madison read another book online, this one about police officers.  But it's more about getting that space room of hers decorated. She's earning points left and right, and doing well with her reading.  She's also doing well with her spelling.  She's learning her "ack" words, like "snack" or "pack."  She was challenged by "jacket," but after reviewing it over and over again a few times, we think she has that one down too.  Someday we'll get up to the level of "Admiral Ackbar."

Tonight we finished up our "Cars" theme for the most part, with a viewing of "Cars 2."  Madison, Daddy and Mommy had some popcorn and watched the movie together just before bed.  It's actually better the third time around - we enjoyed it.  Madison certainly did.  She loves all the characters.  Daddy thought Francesco was pretty funny in this one.

So it was bedtime after that, and time again for Mommy and Daddy to watch some television, and get some sleep.  We've got a little catching up to do after a rougher night last night.  So with that said, I wish you good night.  Ciao!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fighting the Good Fight

So Mommy and Daddy have to go back to the dentist this Thursday - we both have cavities!  Yikes!  That was bad news, but even worse was later on:  Mommy got a quick stomach flu that frankly gave Daddy the willies!  He was scared/concerned for Mommy, who was suddenly shivering and cold - despite the fact that we put on three blankets and two heated water bottles.

The good news is that she was able to go to sleep, and get over things quickly.  We were praying for Mommy, and others were too - such was the nature of Daddy's little panic session.  Mommy in fact got a better night's rest than Daddy did.

Today was Monday, which means there was nothing to do when Madison got home from school:  no ballet, no music, no tennis.  She worked on her Raz Kids room a little more, reading a few more books just so she could add a desk and chair to her space room.  And also a rocket to one of her shelves.  Yes, the redecorating is coming along nicely!

We also did the last of our practicing for music class, which was paced wonderfully this week.  Daddy had to work today, so we didn't have time to watch a movie or anything when he got home.  Besides, Mommy's condition struck about that time, so it would have been a bad idea anyway.

Daddy wrote a couple messages today, both based on video games (Street Fighter and Guitar Hero).  Both are lots of fun - I think these will be a couple great services, actually.  In fact, here's one of the messages - this one based on the Street Fighter games that Daddy loves so much!


“Fight the Good Fight”

     Are you a world warrior?  As Christians, God has given us special moves to become a champion edition!  This isn’t a six-button hyper fighting match though.  This is real life!  We don’t battle against flesh and blood – it’s a battle of faith.  There’s an enemy out there wanting to do a spinning pile drive on you, and if you’re going to make it to the final round, you’d better be ready to fight the good fight of faith! 
     Your salvation is worth fighting for, and so is seeing your friends and family in heaven.  The Alpha and Omega is ready to tag team with you, so get ready to go a few rounds – turbo style!
     Round One!  If you want to spar like a super street fighter, you have to be ready to block.  Firstly, defense is huge in any match.  The most important part of the battle is in the mind, where you have to be prepared, and disciplined.  Block attacks of temptation by keeping away from sinful situations that can make you weak.  The enemy uses guile, but you can stay on top of your game with prayer and reading God’s Word!
     Round Two!  Give a vicious counterpunch!  History is filled with Christian testimonies of those who took a heavy hit – but used their stories to give a monster counterpunch to the devil.  If you find yourself reeling from an unexpected attack, don’t just drop down for the KO.  Rise up faster than a hadoken dragon punch, and let God use you and your story to make a major impact!
     Round Three – Fight!  Remember, it’s a fight of faith, and you’re in it to win it.  Be ready to block and counterattack faster than a lightning kick, and you’ll have what it takes to be a world warrior, and fight the good fight!

“But you are a man of God. Run away from all of those things. Try hard to do what is right and godly. Have faith, love and gentleness. Hold on to what you believe.  Fight the good fight along with all other believers. Take hold of eternal life. You were chosen for it when you openly told others what you believe. Many witnesses heard you.” 1 Timothy 6:11-12 NIrV

“Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world.” Ephesians 6:12 NIrV

“So don’t let sin rule your body, which is going to die. Don’t obey its evil longings.” Romans 6:12 NIrV

“So obey God. Stand up to the devil. He will run away from you.” James 4:7 NIrV

“But no weapon that is used against you will succeed.” Isaiah 54:17 NIrV

“With your help we push our enemies back.  By your power we walk all over them.” Psalm 44:5 NIrV

“The Lord gives me light and saves me.  Why should I fear anyone?  The Lord is my place of safety.  Why should I be afraid?  My enemies are evil.  They will trip and fall when they attack me and try to eat me alive.  Even if an army attacks me, my heart will not be afraid.  Even if war breaks out against me, I will still trust in God.” Psalm 27:1-3 NIrV

1. ________ the good fight of faith.  Some things in life are worth fighting for.  We don’t battle against flesh and blood – it’s a battle of faith.
"Fight the good fight along with all other believers. Take hold of eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:12 NIrV
a.  Fix                         b. Flee            c. Fight
2.  Be ready to __________. The most important part of the battle is in the mind, where you have to be prepared, and disciplined.  Block attacks of temptation by keeping away from sinful situations that can make you weak.  And stay on top of your game by praying, and reading God’s word!
I am warning you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who try to keep you from staying together. They want to trip you up. They teach you things opposite to what you have learned. Stay away from them.” Romans 16:17 NIrV
a.  throw         b. block                       c. hadoken

3.  Give a __________!  History is filled with Christian testimonies of those who took a heavy hit – but used their stories to give a monster counterpunch to the devil.  If you find yourself reeling from an unexpected attack, don’t just drop down for the KO.  Rise up and let God use you and your story.
So the man went away. In the area known as the Ten Cities, he began to tell how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” Mark 5:20 NIrV
a. counterpunch        b. quarter                   c. defense


After all her homework and practice, we visited Lego Middle Earth again for a bit, where we were able to find Christopher Lee as a playable character.  We haven't had that privilege since Count Dooku, so Daddy was kind of excited about that.  Madison is more excited about playing this Mithril Horn, which again forces everyone to dance uncontrollably around her character.  She has this toot explosion technique where she simply toots once and everyone in a particular radius around her is compelled to get down and boogie.  This is a force more evil than anything Sarumon the White himself could conjure up!

But obviously tonight we were bit preoccupied with Mommy's health, but again - she got better very quickly.  Madison and Daddy prayed for her, and we're very thankful that she's improved so fast.  Tomorrow will be a much better day!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

TAG, you're it

This is a great book for Madison for her TAG pen.  She's been using it a bit more lately, thanks to Daddy and Mommy's pushing in that direction.  The truth is, she's reading better and better, and now she's able to read more from these books than she's ever done before.  Of course, there's more to these books than just the stories that are read to you.  She can point the pen at individual words and have them read, or hit the different pictures with the pen to hear different things.  Also, there are plenty of games to play, and things to search for.  Guided questions help steer her mind towards discovery of various concepts (talk about a vague sentence there!).  Basically, there are different mini games inside each book, and most of them have some educational value.

We'll hit the TAG games here soon enough - there's a board game of the solar system that we'll be playing.  Madison likes playing this one, which is great because we can learn together the different planets.  Or "trans-Neptunian objects" like Pluto and Eris.

This morning we were back at the museum at church, learning about the Declaration of Independence, which actually has three references to God in it.  I was noticing this last year, so I wrote up this short three-point message, which I rather like.

“A Firm Reliance”
     It was a Thursday afternoon in November when President Lincoln stepped up to speak. The audience had just heard a two-hour speech by one gentleman – and that’s when the President shocked everyone: he said everything that needed to be said in just a few moments. They were standing on the battlefield of Gettysburg, where just four months earlier, thousands of soldiers gave their lives. Sadly, it was just one battle in a long Civil War that put to the test if this great country could endure.
     Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address honored the fallen soldiers, resolving that they would not have died in vain. But his speech reminded the audience – and us – about this nation, under God, and its founding.
     Four score and seven years before, the President said, the United States of America was born, “conceived in liberty.” This liberty – or freedom – came at a terrible cost, one that we must never forget.
     In that war and many others, soldiers gave their lives so that we could enjoy the freedom we have in our nation. The world can never forget what they did.
     But only the blood of Jesus could give us freedom from death and the grave. Only His sacrifice could bring about the grace that can cover all of our sins, not just those of the select few.
     During his short speech, President Lincoln remembered this cost, and reminded everyone that our nation was dedicated to the thought that all men are created equal. This was a major issue during the Civil War, but it still persists today in many ways. Why is this so? God calls us all His children, and treats everyone the same. Shouldn’t we do likewise?
     Just before he finished speaking, the President once again reminded everyone of the obvious: this nation is under God, and would have a new birth of freedom. As he spoke then, and as we read this today, America is a nation under God. On July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, Benjamin Franklin, and many more signed the Declaration of Independence. It declared our independence from another country, but at the same time reaffirmed our nation’s dependence on God. They even signed it “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”
     In simpler terms, our Founding Fathers desperately counted on God, pledging to each other their lives, fortune and honor. It is a message that persists even today: we should always trust in the Lord with all our hearts.
     Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was epic because it was perfectly clear: though through the years we have been tested, we the people must always remember we are all equal, and never forget the tremendous cost of our freedom. And no matter what, we should always remember that upon God Himself, we must have a firm reliance. 

This afternoon, Daddy discovered that an upcoming performance of "Alice in Wonderland" by the Gainesville Theatre Alliance will actually take place on 10/6, which is Mad Hatter Day.  That said, we bought tickets.  Yes, we're going to see "Alice in Wonderland" on Mad Hatter Day.  What a fun day that will be - and unbirthday present for all of us!

The weather is turning more fall-like, which is good because fall actually starts next weekend.  It was such a pretty day outside today.  We enjoyed it a little - certainly a lot more yesterday - but were pretty wiped out from all the activity.  Madison did more of her homework, and more of her music practice, which she's pretty much got a handle on right now.  Daddy and she will occasionally play duets, and the hard part is getting her to be patient and slow down to play the music to the rhythm written.  The good part is she can find the notes quickly, in some cases quicker than Daddy can.

So all in all, it was a great weekend.  Tomorrow we start school again, and - shudder - Mommy and Daddy go to the dentist.  It's still a great month though.  Despite the lack of holidays, and the end of summer months, September is a time filled with hope of a new season to come, with a cool, fresh breeze of change in the air.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Apple Picking Day

The weather this afternoon was so nice - we went over to Ellijah again (as did a whole lot of other people), where everything was just perfect for some apple pickin'!  We popped in the banjo music and some other seasonal music, and made the drive over to Pickens county where the pickins were easy.  Lately, we've chosen an orchard called "Red Apple Barn."

This is a nice one, where they have to drive you out to the orchard.  It's a hay ride, where all the families pile into a trailer being pulled along by a monster tractor.  As we rode through the trail in the woods, kids threw hay and looked out on the other crops:  particularly a pumpkin patch that looked just about ready to harvest.  It was a sea of green and orange, and a reminder that October is just around the corner for us.  But today was all about the apples!

And as for the apples, this was a nice trip.  It's a steep trip, but the apples are plentiful.  There were all kinds of different apples, so we had an opportunity to sample some different flavors.  Ultimately though, the Rome apples and the red delicious flavors are the favorites.

Madison makes friends easily - there was another boy there about her age (maybe younger).  The two hit it off right away, fooling around and playing games before the trip to the orchard.  There was a corn hole toss and horseshoes, so there was plenty to do before we started collecting apples.

Afterwards, we went to the store up on top of the hill, where we got our apple cider and apple cinnamon doughnuts.  We also got some peanut brittle too - we munched on some snacks at the picnic tables there as we overlooked the fields below.

It was a pleasant day for doing this sort of thing - the weather has cooled off a bit.  In fact, in just a week, we're looking at the first day of Fall.  We took our apples home, where it was time to do some more of the regular things:  homework, piano practice, and video games.  Not much time for all of that, as we did spend quite a bit of time out on the road today.  But that was okay - it was a great day!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fall Movie Bash 2013

Tonight was another big night for the kids.  Everyone gathered for a classic movie at the auditorium, watching the movie "Cars."  It's been a while since Madison has seen the movie, so she enjoyed it a lot.  We were hoping something similar for a lot of the other kids too.  We were in a unique position this time around because there weren't any new movies out for home release, other than "Epic," which the kids already saw at Summer Xtreme earlier.  So we went with an older movie, which turned out to be okay.

Madison and all the other kids had popcorn, candy, drinks, and a fun time!  We asked trivia questions - like what was Mater's original color?  We gave away prizes and just had a good time watching the movie.  Afterwards, there was quite a bit of popcorn to clean up!

The rest of the day, we spent at school or work.  It was a fun day for Madison, who enjoyed school today.  Madison had science today, talking about animals.  SPEAKING of which, we have seen this week both a DEER in our front yard and a TURTLE!  Daddy was a bit more excited about the turtle, even wanting to name it Yertle or something like that.  Daddy walked Madison over to the tree in the front yard, telling her to look for an animal of some sort.  She yelped when she saw the turtle.  He was a big box turtle, somewhat nervous about us as most turtles are.  Still, he marched along and off into the woods.

Life is full of teachable moments - it was nice little treat on the way to the movies.